Profiling Impostors: Uncle Billy Boutwell (a Lone Survivor’s Story)
“Uncle Billy” Boutwell – Survivor, Witness
Though Boutwell might be a contestant for the role of “eyewitness,” he was not likely to have been involved in any of the fighting.
According to Boutwell, he and his fellow prospectors witnessed Custer and his men being ambushed in a narrow canyon. Boutwell said his fellow prospectors were killed during the battle after seeking protection from the 7th Cavalry against rampaging Sioux war parties. He claimed to have been hit in the head with a war club during the overwhelming onslaught of the Indians. He awoke to find everyone around him dead with the exception of one other prospecting buddy, who promptly died.
Among the interviews of Army and Indian survivors, there is no testimony giving credence to Boutwell’s claim. Before the arrival of the 7th Cavalry, there was no other fighting in the area. After the battle, there were no other pockets of dead or dying white men except for US Army Soldiers. There is simply no external, verifiable evidence suggesting or even hinting at the validity of Uncle Billy Boutwell.
Boutwell’s story seems like the anti-type of the “rescue party” theme found in the tales of other supposed survivors. Instead of coming to the aid of Custer, Uncle Billy’s group sought the aid of the 7th Cavalry, providing a twist on the typical rescue party versions.29
Brian Dippie, author of Custer’s Last Stand: Anatomy of an American Myth, succinctly reasons: “While the idea of a man or group of men struggling to reach the Seventh before it perishes has always been popular, it is without historical justification.”30
29 Holbrook, Stewart I. “Phonies of the Old West,” American Mercury, Vol. 68 (Feb. 1949). 534-235. Cited in Dippie, Brian W. Custer’s Last Stand. 108.
30 Dippie, Brian W. Custer’s Last Stand. 108.
For more information on “Lone Survivors” of Custer’s Last Stand, see the two volumes of Ethan E. Harris’s research on Amazon:
1. 11 Lone Survivors (volume 1 of Custer Survivors 101: The Impostor Roster)
2. 33 Lone Survivors (volume 1 of Custer Survivors 101: The Impostor Roster)
and for the complete roster, with a list of all aliases of every participating United States member in the battle, check
The Bare Bones List: A Roster of Custer’s 7th Cavalry in 1876