b. 15/03/1839 Michigan. d. 18/07/1925 Seiling, Oklahoma.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 12/09/1874 Washita River, Texas.
Chapman was born in 1837 in Michigan, to white and Native American parents. He began acting as a scout for the U.S. Army and settlers in the 1860s. In 1868 he moved to Oklahoma, and was attached to the Seventh Cavalry during General Alfred Sully’s actions against the Cheyenne out of Fort Dodge. Subsequently, Camp Supply was set up and Chapman worked there as an interpreter.
He married Mary Longneck, the daughter of the Cheyenne Chief Stone Calf, and had six children with her. He lived for a time with her tribe. In July 1874, he volunteered to scout for the U.S. Army once more, and scouted for Lt. Frank Baldwin. On 12 September, he was involved in an action which would earn him a Medal of Honor. Chapman, fellow civilian Billy Dixon and four soldiers were confronted with a force of over a hundred Comanches and Kiowas. At Battle of Buffalo wallow, as it became known, the small group made its way to a defensive position in a buffalo wallow, where it held out until the weather caused the Native American force to break off their attack. What happened during the battle is disputed. At one point either Dixon or Chapman was injured and stranded outside of the wallow and the other ventured out to retrieve his fellow scout. Chapman’s story goes that he pulled Dixon up onto his back, and had to stop on his return several times to eliminate the Native Americans who were attempting to shoot him and Dixon. With a quarter of a mile to go before they reached the wallow, Chapman was shot in shin on his right leg, which shattered the bone. He continued to drag himself and Dixon the rest of the way back to the wallow, whilst under fire. However, Dixon’s story is that Chapman was already injured and Dixon retrieved him and pulled him back to the wallow. Lieutenant General Nelson A. Miles would later say of Chapman’s actions that they were “one of the bravest deeds in the annals of the army.” Chapman’s leg was amputated by a surgeon at Camp Supply, and all the survivors were awarded a Medal of Honor.
Chapman subsequently wore a prosthetic leg, and continued to serve as camp interpreter during the commotion following the Dull Knife Fight in 1879. The Native Americans referred to him as Tam-e-yukh-tah, which translated as “the man with the cut off leg”. He later retired from service and settled with his wife and family near Seiling, Oklahoma. He reportedly still slept on occasion in a teepee. Chapman would visit Miles annually in Washington. He died on 18 July 1925 as a result of injuries suffered from a wagon accident. He was due to speak as part of the lyceum circuit at the time of his death. Chapman’s medal was revoked in a review in 1916–17, along with several other awards made to civilian scouts. It was restored in 1989.
Gallantry in action. (In 1916, the general review of all Medals of Honor deemed 900 unwarranted. This recipient was one of them. In June 1989, the U.S. Army Board of Correction of Records restored the medal to this recipient.)
BURIAL LOCATION: BRUMFIELD CEMETERY, SEILING, OKLAHOMA.
SECTION C, LOT 132
LOCATION OF MEDAL: OKLAHOMA HISTORICAL SOCIETY, STATE CAPITOL, OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA.