Harry Hawthorne

Harry Hawthorne

Information comes from an article published in Pieces of the Past, Volume 2, page 56-59 by Jim Reis and used with his permission.

Harry Hawthorne was born in 1856 in Winona, Minnesota to Leroy Hawthorne and Louise Smith.   His father, Leroy Hawthorne was born August 9, 1829 in Morgantown Virginia (now West Virginia) to Robert Hawthorne and Nancy Kiger.  Harry's grandfather, Robert was a native of Londonderry Northern Ireland.  Robert came to America in the early 1800s, settled in Virginia married Nancy Kiger and moved to Morgantown.

In 1861 Harry and his family moved back to Newport, Kentucky. Harry entered the naval academy at Annapolis and graduated on June 9, 1882.  He was assigned a two-year tour of duty as a cadet engineer on the steamer Iroquois patrolling the west coast.  The Kentucky State Journal reported that on July 1, 1884, Harry was home on leave.  At that time, the Hawthornes lived at the northeast corner of York and Southgate streets in Newport.

Harry became a second lieutenant in the artillery on October 30, 1884 and was assigned eventually to the Mount Vernon Barracks in Alabama, near Mobile, where he met Belle Sinclair, the daughter of a major at Mount Vernon.  Harry and Belle were married December 11, 1887. 

In the winter of 1890, Harry was serving as a first lieutenant with the 7th Cavalry.  The unit had been rebuilt after the battle at Little Big Horn in 1876 in which General George Armstrong Custer and 250 of his men were killed.  By 1890 however, the Indian wars were practically over.  Sitting Bull, the most famous of the Indian chiefs at the time, was shot and killed by Indian police in December 1890 as the army was attempting to round up the last of his people not yet on reservations.

In that set of circumstances, Harry Hawthorne's unit, the 7th Cavalry, found and surrounded a band of 330 Miniconjoy Indians near Pine Ridge, South Dakota.  The Indians were under the leadership of Big Foot and the troops were under Major Samuel Whitside.  They were given food and tents and a stove was place in the tent of Big Foot, who had pneumonia.

During the night Captain James W Forsythe arrived and assumed command.  His orders were to disarm the Indians and march them to the Union Pacific Railroad lines for shipment to a military prison at Omaha, Neb.  Accounts differ on what actually happened but 146 Indians, 44 women and 18 children were massacred.  Of the 40 soldiers wounded, Lt. Harry Hawthorne was one.  He suffered his leg wound in the crossfire.  He was treated at an Army field hospital and attended by Dr. F A Davis in Newport during a visit home.

Hawthorne received the Congressional Medal of Honor on October 11, 1892 for his actions at Wounded Knee.  He was promoted to major in the Army artillery corps and was stationed in Portland, Ore.  He retired from the Army there in May 1901.

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