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Career soldier stationed in N.D. lucked out in life

A career soldier stationed in what is now North Dakota had his life spared on two occasions because of decisions made by two individuals. On March 14, 1858, Charles DeRudio received a reprieve from Empress Eugenie as he stood next to a guillotine...

A career soldier stationed in what is now North Dakota had his life spared on two occasions because of decisions made by two individuals.

On March 14, 1858, Charles DeRudio received a reprieve from Empress Eugenie as he stood next to a guillotine in France waiting for the blade to be dropped on his neck.

Nearly 20 years later, Lt. DeRudio was in command of Company E of the 7th Cavalry as it was about to proceed with Col. George Custer to the Little Bighorn. Just before the expedition got under way, Custer replaced DeRudio with Lt. Algernon Smith and made DeRudio executive officer of Company A.

Smith was killed during the battle.

Carlo Camillo di Rudio was born Aug. 26, 1832, in Belluno, Italy. He attended an Austrian military academy in Milan and at the age of 16 left to join the Italian patriots in their revolt against Austria. When the revolt failed, he fought to defend the Roman Republic against French and papal troops.


In 1851, di Rudio went to France and fought with those opposed to Louis Napoleon, who was crowned Napoleon III, emperor of France. When that failed, di Rudio went into hiding. In 1855, he traveled to England and married Eliza Booth. While in England, he met Felice Orsini, who was plotting to assassinate Napoleon III.

Early in 1858, di Rudio assumed the alias of "Da Selva," a Portuguese beer salesman, and entered France. On Jan. 14, he and two other conspirators hurled bombs at the royal procession in which Napoleon III and Eugenie were riding.

More than 100 were killed or wounded.

The plotters were captured and tried.

Di Rudio was sentenced to execution along with co-conspirators Orsini and Giuseppi Pieri. Pieri was beheaded on March 14, to be followed by di Rudio.

Eugenie issued a reprieve after listening to a tearful plea from Eliza.

After a second trial, di Rudio was sentenced to life imprisonment on Devils Island in French Guyana.

Di Rudio escaped after a year, seized a fishing boat and sailed to British Guyana, where he was given asylum. He rejoined his family in England.


Di Rudio went on the lecture circuit and raised enough money to take his family to America in 1864.

When he arrived in New York, he anglicized his name to Charles DeRudio.

The Civil War was being fought at the time. He hated slavery, so he enlisted with the 79th New York Volunteers as a private.

On Nov. 11, 1864, he was commissioned second lieutenant and served with the 2nd U.S. Colored Infantry until he was mustered out of the service on Jan. 5, 1866.

After the war, DeRudio requested appointment to the regular army and was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant. On July 14, 1869, he was assigned to Custer's 7th Cavalry at Fort Riley, Kan., serving in Company H, commanded by Capt. Frederick Benteen.

In 1873, the 7th was reassigned to Fort Rice in Dakota Territory and later to Fort Abraham Lincoln.

On Dec. 15, 1875, DeRudio was promoted to 1st lieutenant and assigned as commander of Company E.

Because of the rush into the Black Hills by settlers and gold seekers, many of the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians led an open rebellion because that land had been promised to them by treaty.


The military, led by George Crook, John Gibbon and Alfred Terry, made plans to put down the rebellion. Custer's 7th Cavalry was to be under the overall campaign of Gen. Terry as they proceeded to the Little Big Horn in Montana Territory.

On May 17, 1876, Custer transferred DeRudio from Company E and to Company A.

On June 25, 1876, Maj. Marcus Reno was sent with Company A and two other companies to cross the river and attack the southern end of the Indian camp.

Custer, with Company E and four other companies, led an attack on the upper part of the camp.

As Reno led his troops toward the encampment, a rapidly growing band of warriors rode out to meet him.

Reno ordered his men to dismount and they were driven back into the woods. DeRudio and a private were separated from the others. The two hid in bushes near the river until the next day when they rejoined Reno and Benteen.

In 1877, Company E was re-constituted and DeRudio was put in command. On Jan. 29-31, 1879, he testified before the Reno Court of Inquiry, in which Reno was charged and cleared of cowardice at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. DeRudio remained with the 7th Cavalry.

While stationed at Fort Meade in southern Dakota Territory, he was promoted to captain on Dec. 17, 1882.


After a recruiting tour in New York, DeRudio was sent to Fort Yates on the Standing Rock Reservation in 1886.

He later served at Fort Sam Houston in Texas and at Fort Bavard in New Mexico Territory.

DeRudio retired from the military in August 1896. He died on Nov. 1, 1910.

"Did You Know That" is written by Curt Eriksmoen and edited by Jan Eriksmoen of Fargo. Send your suggestions for columns, comments or corrections to the Eriksmoens at cjeriksmoen@cableone.net

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