Seventh Cavalry Objects
A childhood spent in northwestern Kansas lead one man to build a collection associated with the area's history. These Seventh Cavalry objects are just a few of the pieces he collected.
Ray Sparks grew up on his grandfather's cattle ranch in Mitchell County, Kansas, listening to the older gentleman tell stories about the Indian Wars and pioneer hardships. Some of these stories centered on the Battle of Beecher Island and Colonel Forsyth's Scouts—many of whom the grandfather knew personally.
It is perhaps no surprise that Sparks took a lifelong interest in the region's history. He made trips to significant sites in western Kansas, recovering and locating objects relating to the stories he'd heard as a child. Many of these items are now in the collections of the Kansas Historical Society. They speak to the history of the west and events that were quite real, not the stuff of Hollywood.
Battle of Beecher Island
Colonel George Forsyth recruited frontiersmen to be scouts in the summer of 1868. With these men he engaged a band of Cheyenne who had raided a wagon train near Fort Wallace, meeting them in battle on a sandy island in the Arickaree Fork of the Republican River, just inside the Colorado border. Forsyth's men dug in on the island and were besieged from September 17 to 25 until a rescue force from Fort Wallace arrived. Forsyth lost five men and another sixteen were wounded. It is not known how many Cheyenne were lost, but the warrior Roman Nose was killed.
On one of his examinations of the site many years later, Sparks found the remains of two Colt Model 1860 Army revolvers (pictured top, right), rusted and with the grips rotted away, assumed to have been used by the Forsyth Scouts. On one firearm the initials "T.H." are stamped on the frame, however, no one with those initials appears on the list of the Scouts.
One legendary army unit of the west was the Seventh United States Cavalry, known for its flamboyant Lieutenant Colonel, George Armstrong Custer, and the battle at the Little Big Horn. But well before that fateful battle, the Seventh resided in Kansas. It was organized in 1866 at Fort Riley and served in the state until 1871.
Among the items Sparks collected with a connection to the Seventh Cavalry are a forage cap and a mug. The white ceramic mug has no makers' marks, but its sides do offer a faded image of crossed swords, the number 7, and the letter B (indicating the company).
The cap retains much of the makers label, indicating it was made by "Bent & Bush, Manufacturers and Dealers in Military, Navy Goods, 387 Washington Street, Boston." It also has in ink the name "Farnsworth," presumably the soldier it belonged to, and the insignia of Company F of the Seventh. Here's a side view of the cap.
These are just four of 73 valuable historical objects now in the collections of the Kansas Museum of History, donated in 2003 by Sparks' stepson, Thomas Ferguson.
Entry: Seventh Cavalry Objects
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: June 2003
Date Modified: December 2014
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.