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Forget Custer

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JewishTreats.org

Hungarian immigrant and apprentice cigar maker, Sigmund Shlesinger (1848-1928) probably never expected to become a frontiersman. After he ended up in Kansas and had several business ventures fail, Shlesinger applied for a position under General George Forsyth, who was seeking 50 new frontiersmen to fight the Cheyenne and Sioux Indians (who were attacking white settlers). Shlesinger, who had almost no experience with either horses or guns, was hired only because there were not enough applicants.

After several minor engagements, Forsyth’s Scouts, as his troop was known, were set upon by the Cheyenne warrior Roman (Hook) Nose. For nine days the Scouts were trapped at the Arikaree Fork of the Republican River. They ran out of food and clean water, and 19 scouts were killed before the Scouts were finally able to vanquish their enemy. And while he received several bullet wounds, Shlesinger survived the “Battle of Beecher Island,” which would be known only because of the death of the famed Indian warrior, Roman Nose.

Shlesinger left frontier life shortly after Beecher Island, settling eventually in Cleveland, Ohio, where he opened a successful cigar store and was an active member of the Jewish community.

In response to an inquiry by Rabbi Henry Cohen of Galveston, Texas (the reason for the inquiry is no longer known), Shlesinger’s general recalled his valiant deeds and wrote:

“He had never been in action prior to our fight with the Indians and throughout the whole engagement which was one of the hardest…he behaved with great courage, cool persistence and a dogged determination that won my unstinted admiration as well as that of his comrades… I especially mention the pluck and endurance of this young man of Israel and speak of him as a worthy descendant of King David.”

Copyright © 2010 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

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