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John Gregory Bourke
[[Image:File:John Gregory Bourke.jpg|center|200px|border]]John Gregory Bourke
Personal Information
Born: June 23, 1843(1843-06-23)
Place of Birth: {{{place of birth}}}
Died: June 8, 1896 (aged 52)
Place of Death: {{{place of death}}}
Nickname: {{{nickname}}}
Birth Name: {{{birth name}}}
Other Information
Allegiance: United States of America
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Branch: United States Army
Union Army
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Rank: Captain
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Unit: 15th Pennsylvania Cavalry
Third U.S. Cavalry
Commands: Chief of Scouts during the Apache Wars
Battles: American Civil War
Awards: Medal of Honor
Relations: {{{relations}}}
Other work: {{{otherwork}}}

John Gregory Bourke (June 23, 1843 – June 8, 1896) was a captain in the United States Army and a prolific postbellum diarist and author focusing on the American Old West. He received the Medal of Honor for his actions while a cavalryman in the Union Army during the American Civil War.


John G. Bourke was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Irish immigrant parents, Edward Joseph and Anna (Morton) Bourke. His early education was extensive and included Latin, Greek, and Gaelic. When the Civil War began, John Bourke was fourteen. At sixteen he ran away and lied about his age. Swearing that he was nineteen, he enlisted in the Fifteenth Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry, in which he served until July 1865. He received a Medal of Honor for "gallantry in action" at the Battle of Stones River, Tennessee, in December 1862.[1] He later saw action at the Battle of Chickamauga.

His commander, Major General George H. Thomas, nominated Bourke for West Point. He was appointed cadet in the United States Military Academy on October 17, 1865. He graduated on June 15, 1869, and was assigned as a second lieutenant in the Third U.S. Cavalry. He served with his regiment at Fort Craig, New Mexico Territory, from September 29, 1869 to February 19, 1870.

He served as an aide to General George Crook in the Apache Wars from 1870 to 1886. As Crook's aide, Bourke had the opportunity to witness every facet of life in the Old West—the battles, wildlife, the internal squabbling between the military, the Indian Agency, settlers, and Native Americans. An avid diarist, he wrote in sequential journals throughout his adult life. It is from these notes that his later monographs and writings originated. No less than Sigmund Freud wrote the preface for his work: Scatologic Rites of Nations.

He was recognized in his own time for his ethnological writings on various indigenous peoples of the North American Southwest, particularly Apachean groups.

Bourke married Mary F. Horbach of Omaha, Nebraska, on July 25, 1883. The couple later had three daughters.

Bourke died in the Polyclinic Hospital in Philadelphia on June 8, 1896, and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery. His wife is buried with him.


  • Bourke, John Gregory; Ranald Slidell Mackenzie (1890). Mackenzie's Last Fight with the Cheyennes: A Winter Campaign in Wyoming and Montana. 
  • Bourke, John Gregory (1891). Scatalogic Rites of All Nations. Washington, D.C.: Lowdermilk. 
  • Bourke, John Gregory; Edited by Charles M. Robinson III. The Diaries of John Gregory Bourke: Vol. I - November 20, 1872, to July 28, 1876, Vol. II - July 29, 1876 to April 7, 1878, Vol. III - June 1, 1878 to June 22, 1880. 

See also[]

  • List of Medal of Honor recipients
  • List of American Civil War Medal of Honor recipients: A–F


PD-icon This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the United States Army Center of Military History.
  1. "Medal of Honor recipients, Civil War (A-L)". United States Army Center of Military History. Retrieved 2009-04-04. 
  • John Gregory Bourke by F. W. Hodge in the American Anthropologist journal Vol. 9, No. 7 (July, 1896), pp. 245–248 accessed July 7, 2007

External links[]

Further reading[]

  • Bell, William G. (1978). John Gregory Bourke: A soldier-scientist of the frontier. Washington: Potomac Corral, The Westerners.
  • Bourke, John G; & Condie, Carol J. (1980). Vocabulary of the Apache or 'Indé language of Arizona & New Mexico. Greeley, CO: Museum of Anthropology, University of Northern Colorado.
  • Porter, Joseph C. (1980). John Gregory Bourke: Biographical notes. Greeley, CO: University of Northern Colorado, Museum of Anthropology.

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