Sergeant; Chief Trumpeter
Born: December 13, 1850 [another source lists 1849] (Basle,
Died: December 1, 1927 (Whitewood, South Dakota)
Grave location: Whitewood Cemetery, Whitewood, South Dakota
Grave GPS Coordinates: N44 27.705 W103 37.991
John Burri came to America shortly after the Civil War, arriving in
St. Louis in 1867. Four years later, on March 13, 1871, he
enlisted in the 7th U.S. Cavalry at St Louis, Missouri. He was
detailed to Company G under Lieutenant McIntosh, where he served 5
years. At the expiration of this term he re-enlisted in the
same regiment but was assigned to Company I under Captain Henry J.
Nowlan, serving another 5 years.
Following this second enlistment, he again cast his fortunes with
the 7th by organizing the military band of the regiment and brought
this band’s reputation up to one of the best in the service,
retiring from there and the service after four years and three
months, making a grand total of 14 years and 3 months with the army,
every day of which was spent in the western service.
He came to Dakota with Custer in 1873. In that same year, he
was stationed along the Union Pacific Railroad in Nebraska and
Wyoming and often told of the many skirmishes with the Indians
there. He was again with Custer in 1874 on the expedition into
the Black Hills. In 1876 he was on furlough, visiting his
sister who was ill, and missed the Battle of the Little Big Horn.
In 1877, while taking part in a campaign against the Nez Perce
Indians of Idaho and Montana, Burri was cited for bravery. In
1878 he was with the command in one of the last decisive battles
against the Indians on the present site of the city of Chadron,
Nebraska, where it met and vanquished some 4,000 red men.
He often spoke of Mrs. Custer for whom he had only the finest words
and with whom he came much in contact for as a musician he helped
the general while away many a lonesome evening by playing for him
and Mrs. Custer on his zither, an instrument with which he was
remarkably proficient. In “Boots and Saddles” Mrs. Custer
makes mention of this several times.
He married Mary Hath [sic, Haack] (widow of fellow 7th Cavalryman
Henry Haack) on December 8, 1881, at Fort Totten. His widow and a
daughter survived him. After retirement from the Army at Fort
Meade in 1885, Burri located on a ranch west of Bear Butte where he
resided until he moved to Whitewood in 1899 where he made his home
until his death.
Among his civil honors may be cited his yearly presence in the
Museum building during the “Days of ‘76” celebration in Deadwood
each year since its establishment where he helped to entertain
visitors to the Black Hills with sketches of early frontier life,
both military and civil, and it should be said that his statements
could never be questioned.
His funeral was a full military funeral by a detachment from Fort
Meade. The funeral services were conducted at the Presbyterian
Church in Whitewood by Chaplain Albert K. Mathews, U.S. Army.
At the funeral, a march composed by the deceased, “The Black Hills
March”, was played by the 4th Cavalry band. This march was
also played by Burri himself at the 50th anniversary of the Little
Big Horn fight. “Taps” was sounded by Corporal Bugler Swift,
4th Cavalry, with the bugle so often used by the deceased. As
he was also a charter member of the Black Hills Society of Pioneers,
they assisted at the funeral services.