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Custer's Bugler, Playing the Subway?
The New York Times ^ | July 29, 2003 | RANDY KENNEDY

Posted on 07/29/2003 6:24:27 PM PDT by Pharmboy


Nancy Siesel/The New York Times
John Martin's grave at Cypress Hills National
Cemetery in Brooklyn.

The Cypress Hills National Cemetery in Brooklyn is the final resting place of several long-dead luminaries, among them a few Medal of Honor winners and a Fiji cannibal chief named Vendovi, who was said to have eaten up to a dozen American sailors before his capture.

But undoubtedly the cemetery's oddest historical attraction can be found off by himself, at grave No. 8865, in a section few people visit anymore, where squirrels leap from headstone to headstone.

Here lies John Martin, arguably the most fascinating subway employee who ever lived.

Of course, there is nothing to that effect carved into his pale grave marker. In fact, until the early 1990's, no one visiting the grave would have known any more than these unremarkable facts: "Italy. Sgt. 90 Coast Artillery. Dec. 24, 1922."

But then a group of professional and amateur historians put up a granite headstone that provided a more pertinent detail about Mr. Martin's life:

"Carried Gen. Custer's last message, Battle of Little Big Horn, June 25, 1876."

In other words, while dozens claimed to have been the last survivors of that lopsided fight, Mr. Martin, a bugler, was actually one of the lucky few. On that deadly day in Montana, as the bullets began to fly, he rode away with orders for the reinforcements that came too late.

His route from the Seventh Cavalry to the New York City subway to the subject of this column came about in a way almost as circuitous as his life itself.

During an interview a few weeks ago, the jazz trumpeter Randy Sandke — his "Subway Ballet" made its debut last month — mentioned that he had read about a bugler for Custer who later ended up working in the subway.

It sounded beautifully far-fetched, like all great historical fiction, a crazy New York twist on Thomas Berger's "Little Big Man." But it being summer and practically the 127th anniversary of the battle, it seemed as good a time as any to unravel a historical thread. And so the search for John Martin, subway worker extraordinaire, began.

It led first to the Brooklyn Public Library and the archives of The Brooklyn Eagle, which picks up the story of Mr. Martin about 1908 and establishes that even before he ended up at Custer's side, he had already lived the equivalent of a couple of lives.

He had been born Giovanni Martini, possibly in Sala, Italy, and as a teenager had been a drummer boy for Garibaldi before deciding to decamp for America.

As it turned out, it was not the best time to come: he arrived in Brooklyn during a severe national recession and had little choice but to enlist, according to William F. Walbesser, a former New York State police officer and amateur historical sleuth who has blazed the Martin trail.

At some point he appears to have rejoined the Seventh Cavalry and, as if he had not tempted fate enough, served in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. Then later, some say because he missed hearing the Italian spoken back in Brooklyn, he apparently left his wife and three small children at Fort McHenry in Baltimore and rented a furnished room at 168 Prospect Street, in the neighborhood now known as Dumbo.

By 1908, according to The Eagle, the police had managed to track him down at Mrs. Martin's behest. "Martin said that he had no feeling against his wife," a reporter wrote, "and he seemed to be really pleased to hear that she was alive and well." But he said that she had run him off and he told the reporter that marital relations were beyond repair.

"He was not going back to her, he said, and that was the end of it," the reporter added.

It was at some point in this phase of Mr. Martin's life that he bridged two remarkable historical eras, taking a job with the then brand-new New York City subway and exchanging his cavalry uniform for that of ticket-chopper at the 103rd Street station on the Upper West Side. (Before turnstiles, subway rides required a ticket, which was then chopped, or shredded, upon entry.)

Lost to history, maybe forever, is the answer to the question of whether Mr. Martin was any good as a subway worker. Some idea of his income can be gleaned from the fact that he regularly earned extra money in these years by appearing in New York stage productions, often playing bugle calls between acts or telling war stories.

Did he relish playing a bit part in the birth of modern New York? If so, he apparently did not care to relish it for long. As his small fame began to grow, he readily traded in his subway job for a better one at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where he spent the rest of his working days.

John Martin's sturdy luck finally ran out one December on a Brooklyn street: he was run down by a beer truck and succumbed a few days later to his injuries, finally joining, as one sign at the Cypress Hills cemetery eloquently puts it, "the bivouac of the dead."

"It's a pretty colorful story, isn't it?" said Robert W. Tilley, an amateur historian. "Here he is riding across the Old West. And then there he is, down in the subway."


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; Government; US: Montana; US: New York
KEYWORDS: cavalry; italianamericans; luck; subway
This story was too good not to post. How did kattracks miss it?
1 posted on 07/29/2003 6:24:28 PM PDT by Pharmboy
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To: Sparta
Please ping your western civ list for this one...
2 posted on 07/29/2003 6:29:22 PM PDT by Pharmboy (Dems lie 'cause they have to...)
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To: Pharmboy
5,000 Sioux couldn't get him but a beer truck did. Bummer.
3 posted on 07/29/2003 6:31:00 PM PDT by SnuffaBolshevik
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To: SnuffaBolshevik
LOL! That, unfortunately, sums it up...
4 posted on 07/29/2003 6:33:44 PM PDT by Pharmboy (Dems lie 'cause they have to...)
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To: Pharmboy
... on a Brooklyn street: he was run down by a beer truck and succumbed a few days later to his injuries.

Run down by a beer truck ... ignoble perhaps, but for an old soldier not exactly the worse way to go.

5 posted on 07/29/2003 6:35:48 PM PDT by BluH2o
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To: risk; RaceBannon; ALOHA RONNIE; thefactor
Ping
6 posted on 07/29/2003 6:37:00 PM PDT by Pharmboy (Dems lie 'cause they have to...)
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To: Pharmboy
This is wild. I thought I was the only one with a relative like this.

I had a great (great, great?) uncle who fought with Garibaldi (Cavalry officer) and then came to the States and, according to family legend, fought in the US Army against the plains Indians.

He returned to Scicily in the 1890's but his son fought in the Spanish American War. He too returned to Scicily, in the 1920's. My father was about 10 or 12 at the time and remembers the fellow quite well.

I wonder how many other Italians/Scicilians found themselves in the military during this period?
7 posted on 07/29/2003 6:37:34 PM PDT by x1stcav ( HOOAHH!)
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To: BluH2o
Certainly better than a milk truck...
8 posted on 07/29/2003 6:37:59 PM PDT by Pharmboy (Dems lie 'cause they have to...)
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To: x1stcav
Well, the timing was right, and if you wanted to fight and you were Italian, and the Garibaldi thing was over...YOU CAME HERE!

A bit of American history that I was unaware of--thanks for your most interesting addition.

9 posted on 07/29/2003 6:40:11 PM PDT by Pharmboy (Dems lie 'cause they have to...)
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To: Pharmboy
Well Billy the Kid was born in Brooklyn and Pat Garrett ended up working for a New York newspaper.
10 posted on 07/29/2003 6:41:12 PM PDT by U S Army EOD (Served in Vietnam and Korea and still fighting America's enemies on the home front)
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To: sphinx; Toirdhealbheach Beucail; curmudgeonII; roderick; Notforprophet; river rat; csvset; ...
If you want on or off the Western Civilization Military History ping list, let me know.
11 posted on 07/29/2003 6:45:41 PM PDT by Sparta (A liberal is a conservative minus logic and morals.)
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To: Sparta
Thanks, man...
12 posted on 07/29/2003 6:46:36 PM PDT by Pharmboy (Dems lie 'cause they have to...)
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To: Pharmboy
Certainly better than a milk truck...

Or having your scalp hanging from an Indians (excuse me ... native Americans) trophy spear.

13 posted on 07/29/2003 6:53:23 PM PDT by BluH2o
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To: blam; aculeus
I guess this would be really extended news...
14 posted on 07/29/2003 6:54:03 PM PDT by Pharmboy (Dems lie 'cause they have to...)
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To: Sparta
Thanks for the ping.

A beer truck. I'll be darned.
15 posted on 07/29/2003 6:57:16 PM PDT by snippy_about_it (Pray for our Troops)
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To: Sparta; Pharmboy
Thanks for the ping Sparta.

Intersesting story Pharmboy, thanks for the post.
16 posted on 07/29/2003 7:09:01 PM PDT by SAMWolf (Drilling for oil is boring.)
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To: SAMWolf
You're most welcome. When it comes to stories like this, it's hard to beat the NY Times. If they only would keep their opinions to themselves...
17 posted on 07/29/2003 7:11:02 PM PDT by Pharmboy (Dems lie 'cause they have to...)
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To: Pharmboy
WHOA! WHOA! Horsies!
18 posted on 07/29/2003 7:12:29 PM PDT by budwiesest (Gladly, the cross-eyed bear.)
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To: U S Army EOD
Are you sure you're not writing about Bat Masterson who ended up as a New York Sports Writer?

Christopher Spencer of the famous carbine ended his career working on helicopters. At age 89, before his death in 1922 he was able to take flying lessons.

19 posted on 07/29/2003 7:20:37 PM PDT by Shooter 2.5 (Don't punch holes in the lifeboat)
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To: Pharmboy
Jeremiah[Liver eatin'] Johnson visited his sister in California and mentioned he didn't want to be buried there.

Oops. He was buried in L.A.

When the movie came out, there was enough interest to re-bury the body in a more suitable place. He was buried in Cody, Wyoming and Robert Redford was one of the pallbearers.
20 posted on 07/29/2003 7:25:47 PM PDT by Shooter 2.5 (Don't punch holes in the lifeboat)
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To: Shooter 2.5
Spenser's son designed the Republic SeaBee just after WWII. He later redesigned it as a homebuilt seaplane Spenser Airphibian ?). I saw him talk at Oshkosh 20 or 25 years ago. He talked a bit about his father and the Civil War repeating rifle. Amazing.
21 posted on 07/29/2003 7:27:49 PM PDT by jim_trent
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To: Shooter 2.5
I suspect you are correct, one of those guys anyway. I do know for a fact Custer didn't do anything else.
22 posted on 07/29/2003 7:28:09 PM PDT by U S Army EOD (Served in Vietnam and Korea and still fighting America's enemies on the home front)
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To: Pharmboy
"I guess this would be really extended news..."

When I was a kid I always liked to read a section called, Believe It Or Not. Sounds like one of their stories. Thanks.

23 posted on 07/29/2003 7:28:23 PM PDT by blam
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To: U S Army EOD
There is a burial fact about Custer. There is a gravestone on Custer Hill with his name on it but he's not there. He's buried at West Point.

His rank at death was Lieutenant Colonel Brevet Major General.
24 posted on 07/29/2003 7:35:46 PM PDT by Shooter 2.5 (Don't punch holes in the lifeboat)
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To: jim_trent
It's amazing you were able to talk to his son.

That's pretty cool.
25 posted on 07/29/2003 7:37:30 PM PDT by Shooter 2.5 (Don't punch holes in the lifeboat)
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To: Pharmboy
Great story!
26 posted on 07/29/2003 7:41:36 PM PDT by risk
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To: Pharmboy
Great post, thanks for finding this...
27 posted on 07/29/2003 8:01:29 PM PDT by cavtrooper21 (The chair is against the wall, The chair is against the wall. John has a long mustache.)
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To: Pharmboy
Good one!
28 posted on 07/29/2003 8:14:00 PM PDT by aculeus ("Lawyers are freelance bureaucrats." Ronald Bailey)
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To: Pharmboy
Certainly better than a milk truck...

Or

Crushed beneath a produce truck

In a Yugo

29 posted on 07/29/2003 8:22:20 PM PDT by Erasmus
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To: Pharmboy
NEVER FORGET



...T'was US at the OSCARS...

...supporting our U.S. 7th Cavalry's...

... heroically bringing FREEDOM to Iraq.


http://www.tripflicks.com/pro/
(The Photos)



Signed:.."ALOHA RONNIE" Guyer / Golden Yellow Jacket Vet-U.S. 7th Cavalry's Opening Days of the Vietnam War 1965-66


http://www.lzxray.com/guyer_collection.htm
(The Photos)



NEVER FORGET
30 posted on 07/29/2003 8:28:26 PM PDT by ALOHA RONNIE (Vet-Battle of IA DRANG-1965 www.LZXRAY.com ..)
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To: U S Army EOD; Pharmboy; Fred Mertz; VOA; 68-69TonkinGulfYatchClub; Freedom'sWorthIt; NYer; ...
NEVER FORGET

...After the U.S. 7th Cavalry's Victory at the 1st Major Battle of the Vietnam War in the Valley of Death known as the IA DRANG of 1965...


...Lifesaving Hero Lt. RICK RESCORLA picked up the defeated North Vietnamese Army's French Bugle that they had picked up from the defeated French Army in 1954.

...RICK RESCORLA went on become 1st Vice-President of Security for the Morgan Stanley Brokerage House in the middle 20 stories of the New York City World Trade Center's Tower 2.

...It was Lifesaving RICK RESCORLA that got everybody out of Tower 2 after the World Trade Center Bombing of 1963.

...It was Lifesaving RICK RESCORLA who again got almost everyone else out of Tower 2 after the Airstrikes on the World Trade Center in 2001 ...when Tower 2 came crashing down on him.


To sign our U.S. 7th Cavalry's Petition for President BUSH to award the Presidential Medal of FREEDOM to Lifetime Lifesaving Hero RICK RESCORLA ..see:

http://www.lzxray.com


NEVER FORGET
31 posted on 07/29/2003 8:50:24 PM PDT by ALOHA RONNIE (Vet-Battle of IA DRANG-1965 www.LZXRAY.com ..)
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To: All; Pharmboy; Fred Mertz; VOA; 68-69TonkinGulfYatchClub
NEVER FORGET


...WHY did HILLARY RODHAM -&- BILL CLINTON refuse 3 No-Strings Offers during the 1990's to extradite OSAMA bin LADEN from the Sudan to a U.S. Jail -&- Trial that would have prevented the Attacks on us -&- RICK RESCORLA on September 11, 2001..?


NEVER FORGET
32 posted on 07/29/2003 8:55:43 PM PDT by ALOHA RONNIE (Vet-Battle of IA DRANG-1965 www.LZXRAY.com ..)
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To: Sparta
Thanks for the ping. one to be bookmarked.
33 posted on 07/29/2003 8:56:08 PM PDT by Valin (America is a vast conspiracy to make you happy.)
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To: Sparta
...Please see Post No.'s 30-31-32...

ALOHA
34 posted on 07/29/2003 9:04:21 PM PDT by ALOHA RONNIE (Vet-Battle of IA DRANG-1965 www.LZXRAY.com ..)
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To: U S Army EOD
wasn't pat garrett killed in new mexico by outlaws? i know bat masterson ended up writing for a paper in New York, but i hadn't heard that garrett made it this far east.
35 posted on 07/29/2003 9:28:17 PM PDT by drhogan
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To: U S Army EOD
sorry--i hadn't read this far down when i posted.
36 posted on 07/29/2003 9:32:27 PM PDT by drhogan
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To: U S Army EOD; MeeknMing





Bat Masterson later worked on a New York newspaper too.

His personal scam was to sell old used Colt one-piece wood grips that he notched himself.


A great book on the ol' west is "Age of the Gunfighter".

All the old stories and great double page color photo trucks of all the firearms used out west.


It's real keeper and a fine reference work.

Do not draw on the gunslinger below.







37 posted on 07/29/2003 11:55:17 PM PDT by autoresponder (PETA TERRORISTS .wav file: BRUCE FRIEDRICH: http://tinyurl.com/hjhd)
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To: Sparta
Interesting. Thanks for the ping.
38 posted on 07/30/2003 2:13:02 AM PDT by sistergoldenhair (Don't be a sheep. People hate sheep. They eat sheep.)
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To: risk; Sparta; Pharmboy; Slam
....U.S. 7th Cavalry's Website.....

http://us7thCavalry.com


GARRY OWEN, Sir (Salute)
39 posted on 07/30/2003 7:06:41 AM PDT by ALOHA RONNIE (Vet-Battle of IA DRANG-1965 www.LZXRAY.com ..)
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To: Sparta
I would like to be on the West. Civ. Military History ping list, please. Thanks.
40 posted on 07/30/2003 7:16:31 AM PDT by Spok
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To: Temple Owl
ping
41 posted on 07/30/2003 7:19:08 AM PDT by Tribune7
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To: Pharmboy
Was he sent back with the note to Benteen to bring up the packs? Custer knew Terry was coming up the river-in fact, may have been in a hurry to attack the 'big village' before Terry arrived.
42 posted on 07/30/2003 7:20:51 AM PDT by Spok
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To: autoresponder
hehe ! Interesting post, thanks !

43 posted on 07/30/2003 7:54:30 AM PDT by MeekOneGOP (Bu-bye Dixie Chimps! / Coming Soon !: Freeper site on Comcast. Found the URL. Gotta fix it now.)
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