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Hermann Ziegner
Born 1864
Died September 9, 1898(1898-09-09) (aged 34)
Place of birth Weimar, Saxony, Germany
Place of death Brooklyn, New York, United States
Place of burial Calvary Cemetery
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Cavalry
Years of service c. 1882–1898
Rank First Sergeant
Unit 7th U.S. Cavalry
71st New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment
Battles/wars Indian Wars
Spanish-American War
Awards Medal of Honor
Other work Equitable Building night watchman

Herman or Hermann Ziegner (1864 – September 9, 1898) was a German-American soldier who served in the U.S. Army during the Indian Wars and the Spanish-American War. In 1891, he was one of 18 men to receive the Medal of Honor at the Battle of Wounded Knee, more commonly known as the Wounded Knee Massacre.[1][2][3][4] He was also a noted officer of 71st New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, taking part in the Santiago campaign and the charge up San Juan Hill, and was one of many regimental members who died from malnourishment and malaria prior to and shortly after returning to the United States.[5]


Hermann Ziegner was born in Weimar, Germany[6] in 1864. He emigrated to the United States when he was 14 years old and later enlisted in the U.S. Army. Ziegner served with the 7th U.S. Cavalry for several years as a private in Troop E. At the Wounded Knee Massacre, he was cited for "conspicuous bravery"[1][2][3] against attacking Sioux, concealed in a ravine, at Wounded Knee Creek on December 29 and again while defending a hill near the Catholic mission at White Clay Creek on December 30, 1890. Ziegner was promoted to the rank of corporal and was one of 18 men to receive the Medal of Honor.[7] He officially received the award from Congress on June 23, 1891.[4] After eight years on the American frontier, Ziegner was honorably discharged and settled in New York City. He worked as a night watchman at the safe deposit vaults in the Equitable Building. He married in 1894 and lived with his wife on 124th Street, between Seventh and Lenox avenues, in Manhattan. At the start of the Spanish-American War, Ziegner was one of the first men to join the 71st New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He served as a first sergeant of Company E during the Santiago campaign and "suffered all the privation and hardship endured by the members of the Seventy-first" during that time.[7] Ziegner was one of the officers to led Company E up San Juan Hill, alongside personal friend Captain Malcolm J. Rafferty of Company F, and according to his commanding officer Lieutenant William R. Hill "there was no braver man in the company".[6]

Two weeks after the regiment landed at Montauk, he came to Long Island City on a furlough, suffering from pernicious malaria. His salary had been discontinued after leaving the regiment, and his wife was forced to give up their home. They had been staying at the home of a family friend, Mrs. E. Bracken, at 86 Seventh Street before he was taken to St. John's Hospital in Brooklyn. He was able to sit up unassisted during his first two days, and hoped to return to work, but his condition grew steadily worse over the next two weeks. Doctor Frank E. Brennan treated Ziegner during his time in Long Island City free of charge and providing for the medicine. He also assisted his wife in getting Ziegner admitted to a private hospital but found difficulty in arraigning a carriage. The hospital then had no ambulance, and the Red Cross were unavailable to assist. Local liverymen sometimes hired out their carriages, but none were willing to carry a malaria patient. By the time one was brought around to the house, Ziegner was too weak to ride. After nearly a week and a half, he was finally brought to St. John's Hospital in Brooklyn on the night of September 8, 1898. His wife accompanied her husband to the hospital and was allowed to remain at his bedside until he died the next evening.[5] His funeral was held at Mrs. Bracken's home on Sunday afternoon, and he was then buried in Calvary Cemetery. Though they had no children, his wife was expecting their first child at the time of his death.[7]

Ziegner had been generally described as "a fine specimen of manhood, over six feet in height and possessing a splendid physique", but his appearance as well as his health had declined after his return. In his final weeks, he expressed to his wife his belief of the government's poor treatment of the 71st and other returning veterans. He was also of the belief that his illness, as those of the regiment, were exacerbated by government-issued hardtack and bacon army rations and, had they been provided with better food, they would not have been in such a weakened condition by the time the regiment had returned to New York. His wife later issued a statement to The New York Times expressing her late husband's views, telling one reporter,

My husband was starved to death. Think of it, for eight years he was in the service of the United States Army, and fought at Santiago leading Company E up San Juan Hill side by side with Capt. Rafferty, his friend - and now in return for his bravery and courage this Government starves him to death.
He returned two weeks ago, a skeleton of his former self. The Government of those four months paid him just $18. How do they expect a man, who for patriotism and love for his country fight for her in time of need, can support his family and live himself on $18 in four months?

The Red Cross Society, upon hearing of her circumstances, organized for money and other services to be provided for Mrs. Ziegner.[6]

On July 29, 1993, during a congressional hearing on the Wounded Knee National Memorial, Ziegner's status as an MOH recipient was questioned by Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell, who suggested that the soldiers who received the award at Wounded Knee should have their medals rescinded.[8]

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 Beyer, Walter F. and Oscar Frederick Keydel, ed. Deeds of Valor: From Records in the Archives of the United States Government; how American Heroes Won the Medal of Honor; History of Our Recent Wars and Explorations, from Personal Reminiscences and Records of Officers and Enlisted Men who Were Rewarded by Congress for Most Conspicuous Acts of Bravery on the Battle-field, on the High Seas and in Arctic Explorations. Vol. 2. Detroit: Perrien-Keydel Company, 1906. (pg. 325)
  2. 2.0 2.1 Konstantin, Phil. This Day in North American Indian History: Important Dates in the History of North America's Native Peoples for Every Calendar Day. New York: Da Capo Press, 2002. (pg. 361) ISBN 0-306-81170-7
  3. 3.0 3.1 Nunnally, Michael L. American Indian Wars: A Chronology of Confrontations between Native Peoples and Settlers and the United States Military, 1500s-1901. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 2007. (pg. 125) ISBN 0-7864-2936-4
  4. 4.0 4.1 Sterner, C. Douglas (1999). "MOH Citation for Hermann Ziegner". MOH Recipients: Indian Campaigns. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 New York State Historian. New York and the War with Spain: History of the Empire State Regiments. Albany: The Argus Company, Printers, 1903. (pg. 249)
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 "Sergt. Ziegner's Death". 1898-09-10. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "Death of a Hero; First Sergeant Herman Ziegner of the Seventy-first Passes Away". 1898-09-10. 
  8. Gonzalez, Mario and Elizabeth Cook-Lynn. The Politics of Hallowed Ground: Wounded Knee and the Struggle for Indian Sovereignty. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1999. (pg. 392) ISBN 0-252-06669-3

Further readingEdit

  • Beyer, W. F. and O. F. Keybel. Acts of Bravery: Deeds of Extraordinary American Heroism. Ann Arbor, Michigan: Borders Press, 1993. ISBN 0-681-45504-7
  • Johansen, Bruce E. The Native Peoples of North America: A History, Volume 2. New York: Praeger Publishers, 2005. ISBN 0-275-98159-2

External linksEdit

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