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First Name: David

Last Name: Brainard

Birthplace: Norway, NY, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Army (1784 - present)

Middle Name: Legg

Date of Birth: 21 December 1856

Date of Death: 23 March 1946

Rank: Brigadier General

Years Served:
David Legg Brainard

•  Indian Wars (1775 - 1924) intermittent


David Legg Brainard
Brigadier General, U.S. Army

David Legg Brainard was born on 21 December 1856 in Norway, NY.

On 18 September 1876, he enlisted in the U.S. Army, and was assigned to the 2nd Cavalry, stationed at Fort Ellis, MT. He saw action in the Indian campaigns under General Nelson Miles. He was wounded in the face while fighting the Sioux at Muddy Creek, MT, on 7 May 1877. In August of 1878, he was one of the four men selected to escort General William T. Sherman and others in Sherman's tour through the National Park.

In July 1879, he was promoted to Sergeant and in May 1880, he was recommended as a member on the Howgate Polar Expedition. The Expedition was abandoned and he returned to his regiment. Early in the spring of the following year he was again ordered to Washington and made First Sergeant (chief of the enlisted men) of the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition under Lieutenant Adolphus W. Greely. He served in this post during three years of Arctic service, being in command of many important boat and sledge expeditions. He was associated with Lieutenant James B. Lockwood in all the important geographical work, and was one of the three who, on 15 May 1882, attained the highest northern point on the globe ever reached by man.

The party desperately waited for the arrival of the Proteus, which was an ironclad whaler that had dropped the party off to its encampment the previous year, and was now scheduled to bring much needed supplies to the starving party. In the meantime, he fished for shrimp and prolonged the lives of the party for about seventy days. It was later learned that Proteus had sunk in the Arctic waters on its journey to meet the party. Trapped in the Arctic for another winter, food was rationed in the hope that a second vessel would soon arrive. That ship too never arrived and the men were forced to abandon their camp. In the end, after much hardship in which they had to eat their own boots and remnants of their seal skin clothing to stay alive, the party was rescued on 23 June 1884, by the ship Thetis under the command of Winfield Scott Schley. He and the rest of the expedition returned to a somber, but happy, welcome in the U.S.

For his survival efforts, he received from the Royal Geographical Society of Great Britain, a testimonial consisting of an elegant gold watch, with accompanying diploma. He chose to make the U.S. Army his career. When he retired at the rank of Brigadier General, he was famous worldwide as the only living man whose foot had trod the highest point in the mysterious Arctic circle.

Death and Burial

Brigadier General David Legg Brainard died on 23 March 1946. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, VA.

Honoree ID: 2277   Created by: MHOH




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