Owen Hale

Owen Hale (First Lieutenant, 7th U.S. Cavalry)

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This descendant of American patriot Nathan Hale was born in Troy, New York, on July 23, 1843. During the Civil War, he served as a sergeant major with the 1st New York Mounted Rifles and later with the 7th New York Cavalry until May 8, 1863, when he received a commission to second lieutenant. Hale was promoted to fire lieutenant on October 19, 1864, and brevetted captain on March 13, 1865.

Hale was one of the original officers in the newly formed 7th U.S. Cavalry when he was appointed a first lieutenant on July 28, 1866. He became fondly known as "Holy Owen" due to his personification of the ideal army officer.

During the Battle of the Washita on November 27, 1868, Hale commanded Troop M under Major Joel H. Elliott in the Washita campaign, and was the last officer to see Major Elliot alive. Elliott was said to have called out to Hale in passing, "Here goes for a brevet or a coffin." Hale was promoted to captain in 1869 and participated in every major 7th Cavalry campaign, as commander of Company K, until the Battle of the Little Bighorn, which he missed while on detached duty at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri.

In September 1877, Hale and the 7th U.S. Cavalry accompanied General Nelson Miles in pursuit of Nez Perce Chief Joseph. The inclement weather on the morning of September 30th, led Hale to say, "My God! Have I got to go out and be killed in such cold weather!" Later in the day, Hale led a squadron on the first charge into Chief Joseph's encampment at Snake Creek near the Bear Paw Mountain, Montana. He was within twenty yards of the Indians when he was killed by a bullet in the neck.

Owen Hale, who was never married, was buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Troy, New York. The post at Lower Brule Agency, Dakota Territory, was named Fort Hale in his honor in 1879.


Greene, Jerome A. Washita: The U.S. Army and the Southern Cheyennes, 1867-1869.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004. (pgs 90-91, 97, 112, 172, 174, 253)

Hardoff, Richard. Washita memories: eyewitness views of Custer's attack on Black Kettle's village.
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2008. (pgs 18, 140, 146-47, 152, 190, 193, 199, 201, 243, 249, 256, 258, 262, 375-76, 384)

Last updated: February 5, 2018

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