Santa Cruz County History - People

Old Soldiers: Santa Cruz County Civil War Veterans


Santa Cruz Sentinel (April 9, 1885)

Fought "Mit Zigel"
Frank La Gova's Service During the War - Wounded Many Times - A Survivor of the Custer Massacre

"Frank, come out here; a gentleman wishes to have a talk with you," said Mrs. E.S. Gilbert, to a man who was at work in the barn in the rear of her residence on the corner of Locust and Mission streets Tuesday afternoon. The man addressed dropped the rope with which he was leading a cow, and came running out of the barn. At the same time his wife also came out of the kitchen, and casting furtive glances at the innocent looking Sentinel reporter, and an inquisitive look at Mrs. Gilbert, she seemed to suspect an officer of the law had come after her husband.

The wife was assured by Mrs. Gilbert that the reporter was not the Sheriff or Chief of Police, and only came to have a talk with her liege lord and master. With this assurance she returned into the house, but still could not refrain from peeping through the window blinds, her suspicion that the reporter was an officer hardly being removed by Mrs. G's assurance or the reporter‘s modest demeanor.

Frank LaGova, for such is his full name, looks just like hundreds of other laboring men, yet he has fought, bled and almost died for this country, as was learned from a brief conversation with him. He is a native of France and enlisted in the Union service in Missouri in '61. He served in the First Missouri Cavalry and was one of the boys who fought "Mit Zigel." In '63 LaGova was wounded in both legs in the battle of Greensburg Alabama. He served under "Fighting Jo" Hooker, and General Fitzpatrick, and was engaged in many battles. After the war he enlisted in the regular service and joined the Second Cavalry under Col. Palmer. At the battle of Little Big Horn in Wyoming Territory, he was wounded in the side and head. The bullets were extracted, but the wound in the head was not entirely healed. He served with Custer, and was with him at the gallant soldier's last battle, when he and nearly all his command were massacred by the Indians. LaGova was one of the very few soldiers who managed to escape. He hid for days and days in the swamp until the Indians disappeared from sight, when after many hardships he made his way back to civilization. The cavalryman relates an incident that came under his observation. An Indian agent had been complained of for not giving the Indians rations allowed them by the Government, and wishing to be revenged on the "dusky braves" he ordered a number of those who complained the loudest to haul a cannon up a hill. A rope was attached to the cannon, the muzzle of which faced the unsuspecting red men. After proceeding a short distance the cannon was discharged and every Indian who had hold of the rope became what Gen. Sherman calls the best kind of an Indian - a dead one.

LaGova was discharged in 1871 and returned to his former home in St. Louis. He arrived in California some years ago, and has been in this city about six weeks. Being unable to find work he subsisted on one meal a day in all that time. His wife out of her scanty earnings sent him a small sum of money necessary to purchase a meal a day. To his credit, be it said, he would not beg. When his wife arrived in this city she obtained employment at the residence of Mrs. Gilbert. LaGova, who came to see his wife was asked to help in carrying articles and laying carpet, and willingly consented. It was noticed that he was so weak he could hardly lift up the end of a carpet. His pale and emaciated look excited the interest of Mrs. Gilbert, and by close questioning she learned that the man was actually on the verge of starvation, which accounted for his weakened condition. He was given employment and has now recovered from the pangs of hunger, and is regaining his strength.

Although he has been many times wounded he receives no pension.

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