Thursday, May 05, 2011

The Story of Frank Finkle

Those of you who aren't old west aficionados will want to ignore this but I saw a cool TV show on the History Channel last night. Custer's Last Man was a 2 hour show about a guy that supposedly survived the Battle of Little Big Horn. Frank Finkle died around 1930 and a lot of people seem to believe he really was there.

The show left me skeptical, although if it was balanced either way I'd say it was in favor of him being there. After reading
some comments from other people I almost can't help but feel the same way but, nope, you can still paint me skeptical for a number of reasons. I still have a lot of questions, some of which just can't be answered.

The show will repeat this Saturday (History Channel). If any of you old west fans out there decide to watch it, let me know how you feel about Frank "August" Finkle having actually survived the Little Big Horn fight.


At 8:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Try the link above, it is an artical written by John Koster. He gives a lot more details about the story that were not on the show last night. I enjoyed the show, it did seem belivable to me.

At 7:12 AM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

Your link doesn't seem to work for me, but it looks like the same link I already used in my post. The problem with Koster's piece is he is a believer in Finkel's story so you don't get the other side. The comments also tend to be from believers.

Nothing wrong with that but I'd like to see something with a little more skepticism, which the TV show brought out a little of.

At 4:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

one thing that caught my attention is that they kept saying company C.. after 4 yrs in the cav. I know that no cav unit is called a company. cav units are called troops.. infintry is a company

At 4:57 PM, Blogger KB said...

hard to decide yes or no

JimB, central Florida

At 5:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The show,which i just watched was fascinating. Here are my observations and questions.
The show never went into his scars. He had to have one in his side and one around the foot. Why would they ignore this?
Another thing they didn't touch on that follows from the closing comments that he may have been a deserter twice. If his story is so accurate then why couldn't he have been another person from C troop? He got away,he knew August Finckle and took part of his name for his identity?
I think i have the easiest time believing that he wasn't August but he was there. I felt the hand writing expert pretty much blew that idea,that they were one and the same,out of the water.
I was not impressed with Koster making out like he was a hand writing expert. Of everything on that show that was the one fact that would be admissible in a court of law.

At 6:39 PM, Blogger Fred Mangels said...

I wondered about the scars myself. In checking this out I found a statement by someone saying he had a scar on his forehead from the gunstock blowing up in his face that he had until he died. The TV show did show a picture of him and I didn't notice that scar.

Besides, any scar could have come from just about anything. It would have been nice evidence to corroborate his story but a scar doesn't prove anything in and of itself.

As far as the handwriting expert saying the signatures didn't match, maybe so, but I thought they were close enough. Especially when you consider the age difference between the signatures. I know my signature doesn't look anything like my signature from even 20 years ago.

Oh, and I just stumbled on to this partial list of guys who have claimed to survived the Big Horn massacre. Finkel is amongst them:

At 8:09 AM, Anonymous Fletch F. Fletch said...

Koster speculates way too often for my likes. An example would be all of the "stretches" he makes to link Frank Finkel to August Finckle. To answer why Frank Finkel was so low key about his "fame" I could see him having a few brews and being annoyed by his neighbors and their bickering, makes up the story about being there to produce instant credibility. After the heat of the moment and being an honorable man, he doesn't pursue notoriety. Koster is passionate, but the facts aren't there to back him. Nonetheless, it is a great story.

At 4:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One scar at any rate is circumstantial. The other more serious wounds had to leave larger scars. I'm far more interested in those.
I'm still thinking it's more likely if he was there that he took someone else name who he knew had not gotten away.

At 9:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few answers.
1. Cavalry units were indeed known as "companies" in 1876, just as buglers were called trumpeters. Check any standard history.
2. Frank Finkel walked with a limp for 40 years in Dayton and had a slug removed from his body around 1910. Newspapers mentioned this.
3. The handwriting sample supplied to the analyst, John Reznikoff, was actually the signature of a clerk in Walla Walla, Washington in 1885. Finckle's/Finkel's authentic signatures appear in "Custer Survivor." Renikoff was correct -- the clerk's signature and Finkel's are not the same. However, the 1872 Finckle enlistment signature and the 1921 signatures on the probate of Finkel's first wife's will have been authenticated by a psychiatrist specializing in Civil War manuscripts and a police chief with FBI training in criminology. We also recently found a photo from "August Finckle" send from the Army to his Ohio family wearing a civilian coat and "imperial" beard(as his first sergeant did in a similar photo)but cavalry vest and boots, looking 10 years younger than photographs of "Frank Finkel" from Dayton that take up in 1886.
John Koster.

At 9:16 AM, Anonymous John Koster said...

This sounds rather too convenient, but it's true. John Reznikoff was correct -- they were not the same signatures. Howeverm the signature supplied to Reznikoff was from a clerk in Walla Walla and not in Finkel's own handwriting. The comparable signatures -- copies are shown in "Custer Survivor" were identified by a psychiatrist and an FBI-trained criminologist wthe pre-med training as from the same person. Finkel also walked with a limp all his life and a slug was removed from his abdomen many years after the battle. This too is in the book. John Koster

At 12:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The handwriting was similar, but not exactly the same. My german born mothers, writing looked similar also. They skirted over the issue of the scars. That should have been easy to document, from medical records. Has anyone ever tried to trace August Finkle. He should be in a census, military records, family tree, etc. If found, a DNA test, of his relatives would prove if he died at Little Big Horn or not. No real proof or documentation, to back this claim. Of course, the author wants to sell books.

At 7:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey people....learn to spell if you want to post
Infantry is spelled with an "A" not an "I".
So hero I also served in the cav and in the war of lost causes I flew many missions and be darn we did have Companies

At 5:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I too am skeptical with no report of scars from large caliber bullets having struck him in the foot and abdomen. There should be ample documentation of this, such as a certificate of death, or a statement from one of his wives. Additionally, there would be plenty of time for him to visit the site between the time of the battle to become familiar with terrain and the release of info of his presence at the battle. Wonder also why the "miner" was never identified after a four month stay to supposedly recuperate from injuries


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