1st Battalion 22nd Infantry
Letter From A Frontier Fort - Killed In Action 1869
Elias H. Prall, Wagoner, Company F 22nd Infantry 1867-1869
Elias H. Prall
Photo from American West magazine Volume V, Number 5, September 1968
Elias Huston Prall of Company F
22nd Infantry was killed by Sioux Indians on March 16, 1869,
while on a wood gathering forage near Fort Randall, Dakota Territory.
In some accounts his middle name
is spelled Houston and apparently his family called him Houston,
favoring that name over Elias.
There is conflicting information
as to what was his place and year of birth. Family trees posted
on Ancestry.com give
his place of birth as Clark County, Indiana and his year of birth as 1848. The 1850 census gives his place of birth as
Indiana and his year of birth as 1848. The 1860 census gives his place of birth as Pennsylvania and his year of birth
as 1849. His enlistment record in the 22nd Infantry gives his place of birth as Clark County, Indiana and
his year of birth as 1846.
One article posted on
Ancestry.com about the Prall family states that during the Civil
War Elias "was too young
to get into the fighting." However, the Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Indiana Volume V 1861-1865
published in 1866 states otherwise.
Elias H. Prall is listed as
having served in the 52nd Indiana Volunteer Infantry during the
Civil War. ¹
He was mustered in to Company A of the 52nd Indiana V.I. on September 18, 1864 and mustered out
when the Regiment was dissolved on September 10, 1865. If 1848 is the correct year of his birth then he
would have been sixteen years old when he enlisted in the 52nd Indiana V.I.
His brother, David Prall, was a
corporal in the 23rd Indiana Infantry and was killed on August
during the siege of Atlanta.
Elias H. Prall enlisted in the
United States Army as a Private for a period of 3 years on
February 18, 1867
at Louisville, Kentucky. His enlistment record indicated that he stood 5 feet 9 ½ inches tall, had brown hair,
hazel eyes and a light complexion. His previous occupation was listed as Farmer. He was assigned to the
22nd Infantry and joined Company F on May 23, 1867 at Fort Randall, Dakota Territory.
Fort Randall, Dakota
Territory, was situated along the Missouri River,
right near what is now the border between South Dakota and Nebraska
Photo from the National Archives
In September 1867 Prall was one
of four men in his Company detailed on extra duty as teamsters.
The entry in the Returns of the 22nd Infantry noting this did not specify if these men were detailed as
teamsters for their own Company or if they were detailed to the Quartermaster Department to serve as
teamsters for the Regiment.
In the Returns of the 22nd
Infantry for the month of November 1867 it was noted that Private
along with one other Private from his Company were on Detached Service at Fort Thompson, Dakota
Territory since October 29, 1867. The Returns for December 1867 indicated that Private Prall and one
other Private from his Company were on Detached Service as Mail Carriers from Fort Randall to Fort Thompson.
The Returns for January 1868
indicated that Private Prall and one other Private from his
Company were on Detached Service
as Mail Carriers from Fort Randall to American Creek, Dakota Territory since January 26, 1868.
Sometime between January 1868 and January 1869 Prall was assigned as Wagoner for Company F.
The Returns of the 22nd Infantry
for the month of January 1869 indicated that Sergeant Morgan S.
and Wagoner Elias H. Prall were on Detached Service escorting a prisoner from Fort Randall to Stillwater, Minnesota
on January 17, 1869. It is the first entry in the Returns giving Prall's rank as Wagoner instead of Private and the only
entry for his name in the Returns from January 1868 to January 1869.
The position of Wagoner included
more duties and responsibilities than a normal Infantry Private.
was responsible for taking care of a team of horses or mules and a wagon. He had to groom, water, feed, and care for
his animals, clean and care for vehicles, harness, and equipment and have a thorough knowledge of adjustment of the harness,
driving, and the methods of receiving, stowing, and caring for cargo, and of securing loads on the wagon.
On March 16, 1869 Wagoner Prall was killed in action when attacked by Indians near Fort Randall.
Above: The entry for
Elias H. Prall in the Returns of the 22nd Infantry for the month
of March 1869
indicating that he was "Killed in action with Indians near Ft. Randall D.T. " Note that immediately
to the right of his name his rank is given as Wagoner of Company F.
Elias H. Prall sat for
this formal portrait in an undated studio photograph.
On the back of the photo is written "Shot by Indians/March 16, 1869/At Fort Randall/DT".
Ed., The original of the above
photo was listed at Cowan's Auctions
Photo from the Cowan's Auctions website
Mrs. Ralph Hodges, the former
Cora Prall whose father was first cousin to Elias H. Prall was
featured in an article about the
Prall family in the Martinsville, Indiana newspaper in 1959, some ninety years after the death of Elias H. Prall. In the article
she related some of the contents of the letter of condolence sent to the Prall's sister Elizabeth by Captain Joseph Bush,
Elias H. Prall's Commanding Officer in Company F 22nd Infantry:
told how a party of soldiers had gone out almost three quarters
of a mile from the fort the afternoon of
March 16 to get wood and were attacked by a band of Sioux. "Elias was Killed," he wrote, "while bravely trying to
extricate his team. He was shot in the head with a pistol and died instantly.
"I take pride in saying that he was one of the best men in my Company. He had lately been made wagoner
at his own request, which will explain how he was with a team."
Mrs. Hodges explained further that Houston "had a four-horse team of white horses of which he was very proud,
and which also appealed strongly to the Indians." ²
The following is an article from the magazine American West Volume V, Number 5, September 1968.
The day after the death of Elias
H. Prall his friend and First Sergeant from Company F
Morgan S. Wright, wrote a letter to Elias Prall's sister Elizabeth.
Elias H. Prall
Photos from American West Magazine Volume V, Number 5, September 1968
PORTRAITS FOR A WESTERN ALBUM V
Letter from a Frontier Fort
PRESENTED BY IVAN E. PRALL
Prall, who had already served in the Union Army during the Civil
War, was twenty-one years old when he was killed in a
skirmish with Sioux Indians near Fort Randall, Dakota Territory. The news of his death was conveyed to his sister in Indiana by two letters
one from Sergeant Morgan S. Wright, a close friend, and the other from Prall's captain, who tried to clothe his regret
in the standard military officialese representative of an army officer's need to ritualize death as a fact of life.
Wright's letter begins in correct form, rationalizing that any
soldier stationed in the troublous Indian country had to expect
his own and that of othersas a matter of course, and had to know what to do and say when it came. Yet even as he wrote, the enormity
of his friend's death seemed to seize hold of his mind and drive him to the edge of despair. The handwriting in the original letter,
at first formal and controlled, steadily declined to an almost hysterical script. It is a reminder that all the military form and "correctness"
in the world has never been enough to soften the brutal finality of a bullet through the head of a friend, and would seem to indicate
that even men professionally accustomed to violent death can be shaken to their souls by the mechanics of war. T. H.W. (T.H. Watkins)
Ivan E. Prall,
who possesses the original letter and tintypes, passes along the
aftermath of young Prall's death:
"What the letter does not tell are the final details. Elias' father, Thomas Prall, ruled that since one son, David, lay buried in Georgia
[killed during the siege of Atlanta], it would be unfair now to send for the body of Elias. Today, he lies in the military cemetary
of the Little Big Horn, where soldier corpses from all the frontier forts have been gathered for their final resting place."
(Ed., It appears from the above
narrative, that Elias Prall was at one time buried in the
cemetery of the Little Big Horn
[Custer National Cemetery]. The 1st Battalion website could not confirm this. He is listed at the Fort Randall memorial as
having been buried in the Post Cemetery at Fort Randall, and re-interred in June 1893 in the Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery
at Fort Leavenworth, Leavenworth County, Kansas.)
Portion of the original
letter sent to Elias' sister Elizabeth
by First Sergeant Morgan S. Wright of Company F 22nd Infantry.
Photo from American West Magazine Volume V, Number 5, September 1968
(Ed., - Below is the letter written to
Elizabeth Prall by her brother's friend and 1st SGT, complete
with the original spelling,
and underlined words. The following words in "bold" are words that 1st SGT Wright underlined twice.)
March the 17th, 1869
Mrs. Elizabeth A. Prall
It becomes my
sad and very painful duty to inform you that your brother (a
member of my Company) was yesterday (the 16th of March)
killed by a band of hostile Indians while engaged in hauling wood for the Post; he was the Wagoner of my Company; and was shot about a mile
from the Post; he was killed almost instantly having been shot with a pistol ball through the head; the Major & myself came too the conclusion
that you would send for his remains & have them Interred near the home of his Childhood; & we have had him dressed
in his best "Uniform" & he will be buried tomorrow.
As he and I were
very close friends ever since he came to the Company; so much
so that I could not feel any worse than I do,
if it had been my own brother, (whom I have not seen for many years or but once during my twelve years Service in the Army)
and scarcely a day has passed during those two years of Brotherly friendship that I have not told him time after time too always be on his guard;
for I know full well the "treacherous Red Skins" must be watched always, for you know not when they mean mischief,
but he was too self-confident & innocent of anything too once think that those Indians that he met with day after day would ever hurt him
("God have mercy on his soul,") pray for him, Oh! I beseech you, pray for him on the receipt of this, Have his father & mother all, all,
pray earnestly & long for our departed Brother; All yesterday evening & last night I Sent up my prayer to the God of Mercy;
for my Dear very best & Dear Comrade; I hope, & believe; my prayers have been answered,
He has often
talked too me about you all very often Indeed; I know he loved
you all very much, it was but Sunday last when he came too me
in my room and talked about home, and that he had but Eleven months more too stay; & he would then go home & never more
leave his Father, Mother, Brother & Sisters again; (Poor Boy, God of heaven & earth have mercy upon his soul) little did I think
that it would be my duty, painful duty; to inform his kindred of his fearful death, away, so far away from home & Friends;
He has often
expressed, & I know it too be his wish if he should fall in
battle or in the Service of his Country; that his kindred
and remove his remains to his dear "Childhood's home" & I that loved him as a brother beseech and entreat you too so impress it
upon your Father & Mother, & Friends too comply with this request; do not, Oh! I pray you do not let him lie in this wild & desolate country;
his comrades all are shrouded in gloom over his untimely death; they all expect your father too come after his body.
I have packed up
everything that belonged too him; ready when you come to take
with you as I know you all will keep them
as a mementoe of your Dear Brother, & our much lamented Comrade, the members of his Company will give you all their aid and assistance
in their power too give; toward the removal of his remains.
Oh! I again
beseech you, one and all too pray for his soul;
snatched away without a warning in the full bloom
of early manhood;
I cannot now scarcely realize, that he is gone, it seemed almost impossible; that he was dead; until he was brought in a corpse;
I had seen him not 1½ hours before; just after dinner & he was so full of life, and vigor, that it crushed my heart at once to hear that he was killed
he had I have taken every care to pack them in a box all together
& will guard them well
till we see some of his family come for him.
ask you, to do not let him
lie in this wild
dreary & desolate
Country, no matter what the
trouble may be to bring them home;
his home, near the home of his fathers and alls those that were near and dear too him; for you perhaps know not how often,
very often he talked too me about his Dear Sister Elizabeth and all the family
It has been very trying too me too pen these lines I am wholly overcome with grief for our Dear Dear Brother
I am, With the
Sympathy Your sincere Friend
Morgan S. Wright
1st Serg't "F" Company
( Ed., 1st Sergeant Morgan S.
Wright who wrote the above letter enlisted in the 13th Infantry
in 1861 and served with that
organization during the Civil War. He was transferred to the 22nd Infantry in 1866 when the 2nd Battalion of the 13th Infantry
was re-designated as the 22nd Infantry. 1st Sergeant Wright was discharged with a surgeon's certificate of disability at Fort Randall
on October 5, 1870. )
Elias H. Prall was buried in the
Post Cemetery at Fort Randall, Dakota Territory
in grave # 64. In June 1893 he was re-interred in the Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery.
Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery
Plot: Section G, site 2972
Grave marker for Elias H. Prall
Photo by KAB from the Find A Grave website
¹ The Civil War Index
² By gegan2 from Ancestry.com
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