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The 7th Cavalry Regiment: Custer's 'Black Hills Expedition' 1874
Elihu Franklin Clear

B: 1843 Randolph County, IN
D: June 25, 1876 Little Big Horn
Buried: Little Bighorn Battlefield, Montana


Elihu Clear enlisted in the Seventh Cavalry as a private in January of 1867. He was a member of 7th Cavalry's L Troop, which was commanded by Lt James Calhoun, Custer's brother-in-law. Elihu was a sharpshooter, and regarded by the officers as one of the best marksmen in the regiment. At the Battle of the Little Bighorn, L Troop was attached to Custer's Battalion, and Elihu was an orderly - either for Lieutenant James Calhoun, or Lieutenant Hare. He was shot and killed by the Indians during Reno's retreat across the Little Bighorn. After the battle, Elihu Clear's body was found at the foot of the bluffs near the Little Bighorn River. 


Elihu Franlmin Clear is mentioned many times in a variety of books on Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Following are several excerpts:

'Where Custer Fell' by James S. Brust, Brian C. Pohanka, Sandy Barnard

Page 59: ....Prominent in the modern photo is a second marble marker to the right of DeWolf's (see plate 6.12B) It was placed at that spot to commemorate the death site of Private Elihu Clear, assumed to be DeWolf's orderly and to have been killed alongside him in the ascent of the bluffs. The accuracy of that story is in question, however. The source of the DeWolf-Clear association seems to have been Godfrey , who identified the enlisted man as the doctor's orderly. According to one account of Godfrey 's, Clear was killed about the same time as the doctor, and according to a second version, the two perished near each other but on opposite sides of a ravine. No other primary source agrees with this assertion. At the 1879 Reno Court of Inquiry, Lieutenant Hare testified that Clear was his orderly, a fact confirmed by Sergeant Edward Davern . Clear did perish in the retreat, though accounts of the location of his death vary from the timber to the river to the bluffs. To add to the confusion, Hare at one point said that Clear was killed coming out of the timber and at another time implied that he was killed near the river. To further complicate the story, one witness, Lieutenant Varnum , asserted that DeWolf's orderly rejoined the column after the doctor's death. Since it seems almost certain that Clear was in fact Hare's orderly, not DeWolf's, the surgeon likely had a different man assigned to him.A possible candidate is Private Harry Abbotts of Company E, who was DeWolf's orderly when he left Fort Totten to accompany the Seventh Cavalry on the 1876 campaign and was assigned as hospital attendant. Abbotts survived the battle. All told, the evidence that Elihu Clear died next to Doctor DeWolf is not strong, but the placement of his marker on that little knoll has brought him to the attention of battlefield visitors.

'Son of the Morning Star' by Evan S. Connell

Page 56: ....Two surgeons, James DeWolf and Henry Porter , had accompanied Reno 's battalion into the valley. DeWolf was killed while scrambling up the bluff. Followed by his orderly, Pvt. Elihu Clear, he thought he could make better time by following a ravine two or three hundred yards north of the one used by most of the men during the retreat. Today, looking down this brush-choked ravine from the top of Reno Hill, it is difficult to imagine why he chose it; but he did, and there they caught him. Nearby troopers saw an Indian take his scalp.

'They Died with Custer' by Douglas D. Scott, P. Willey, Melissa A. Connor

Page 224: ....Other individuals known to have been killed in this vicinity are Private Henry Gordon, who was 5' 6” tall, Private Elihu Clear, who was 5' 6½ inches tall, and Corporal Henry Cody (aka Scollin) who was 5' 7 inches tall.

'To Hell with Honor' by Larry Sklenar

Page 250: ....According to Lieutenant Hare, his orderly - Elihu Clear - who had brought Hare's horse so that he might escape - was killed shortly after leaving the woods...

The Battlefield Dispatch

A Quarterly Newsletter of the Custer Battlefield Historical & Museum Association, Inc.
Fall 2007, Volume 26, No. 4

“....Sixth, at almost no cost, change the locations of several of the markers that historians know are not correctly located. For example, the Elihu Clear marker should be located near that of Lieut. Benjamin Hodgson near the river bank at the Reno retreat crossing.....”

Note: In November of 1868, Custer and his men attacked Black Kettle's Cheyenne camp on the Washita River. In this engagement, Elihu Clear is credited with killing Black Kettle's daughter. It is unclear if this is indeed true, as there seems to be little historical evidence to support this claim. The assertion that Elihu Clear is responsible for this death apparently stems from an interview with Edward S. Godfrey, a career officer in the Seventh Cavalry. The interview, however, was conducted 49 years AFTER the Washita battle. The account of the killing is mentioned in the book 'Washita Memories', which follows:

'Washita Memories' by Richard G. Hardoff

[....Regarding] Sergeant E.F. Clear. While we were charging out of the village [we] came across two Indians. I saw they were women and one of them threw up [her] hands and at once said “Don't Shoot!”, but just at that instant Clear fired with his pistol and killed her. This was Black Kettle's daughter.