Battle of Little Bighorn Coverup

Editor’s note: Like many George Armstrong Custer defenders, the author of the following article believes that Major Marcus Reno and Captain Frederick Benteen were to blame for the 7th Cavalry’s failure in Montana 120 years ago. And, like some of those Custer defenders, the author believes that Reno and Benteen tried to hide the truth. Part of that truth, the author suggests, may have been that Colonel Custer actually crossed the Little Bighorn River and fought in the Indian village.

June 25, 1876. It has become a day of myth and mystery. On that date, Lieutenant Colonel (Brevet Major General) George Armstrong Custer and the 7th Cavalry fought perhaps the biggest alliance of Plains Indians hostile to the government that had ever gathered in one place. As every student of the American West knows, the 7th Cavalry lost that battle, and Custer’s personal command, about 210 soldiers, was wiped out. Without a survivor of Custer’s command to tell the story, with the possible exception of the young Crow scout Curley, it is only natural that the dramatic event would trigger more debate and conjecture than any other battle in U.S. history.

The entire 7th Cavalry was not destroyed in the desperate fighting. Under the command of Major Marcus Reno and Captain Frederick Benteen, about 400 soldiers and scouts survived a two-day siege on a bluff about four miles from where Custer was annihilated. On June 27, reinforcements commanded by Brig. Gen. Alfred Terry arrived on the battlefield to rescue the survivors and bury the dead of the 7th Cavalry. A coverup of the facts of the battle immediately began–a coverup endorsed by many, but orchestrated first and foremost by Major Reno and Captain Benteen.

Custer’s political difficulties during the spring of 1876 and his testimony in Washington, D.C., concerning governmental corruption on the frontier also kept the authorities from pursuing an investigation that might clear up some of the mystery. It was an election year, and President Ulysses S. Grant and his administration had no desire to elevate Custer from his former status of political enemy to that of martyr. Even General Terry confused the issues by inventing a charge that Custer disobeyed orders–a charge still frequently repeated despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Orders were disobeyed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, but not by Custer. Reno and Benteen had been ordered forward to attack the Indian village. Not only did the two officers fail to carry out those orders but they also failed to carry out the spirit of military duty as it exists historically in any military structure. Reno and Benteen, to protect themselves, went far in confusing the issues of the battle.

It was early morning on June 25 when, from the divide between the Rosebud Creek and Little Bighorn River valleys, Custer was informed by his scouts of the location of an enormous camp of hostile Indians, mostly Sioux and Cheyenne. Custer was also informed that the 7th Cavalry was under observation by hostile scouts. Because the Indians in the camp might escape–the greatest concern to the frontier army while on campaign–Custer ordered his force forward to the attack. Custer could do so with confidence, for there was no record up to that date of Plains Indians ever having confronted an entire regiment of U.S. cavalry, much less defeating them.

Dividing the regiment into four elements, Custer began the advance into the Little Bighorn Valley. The Indians were camped some 12 miles away. Custer himself commanded two battalions–five companies–and Reno commanded a third battalion of three companies. These three battalions made up the main force of the advance, while Benteen and three companies were sent on a controversial and somewhat mysterious’scout’ to the left (south) of the main advance. One company and several picked soldiers from each of the other companies made up the rear guard and pack-train escort.

As Custer’s and Reno’s forces neared the valley, hostile war parties were observed, as well as dust rising from the valley, indicating that there was activity in the village–probably that the Indians were preparing to flee. Reno was ordered to advance directly into the valley, while Custer turned to the right and took a route parallel to Reno’s advance.

While Custer has been criticized for his tactics in the battle, this maneuver was, in fact, a standard cavalry tactic. Both Custer and Reno were experienced Civil War cavalry officers and would have been very familiar with it. The official manual of the time (used during the Civil War and in the postwar period) was Cavalry Tactics and Regulations of the United States Army, written by Philip St. George Crook. Regulation 561 of that manual states, ‘If possible, at the moment of a charge, assail your enemy in the flank when [the enemy] is engaged in the front.’ Reno’s attack in the valley was to be a diversion, the ‘anvil’ so to speak, while Custer maneuvered to strike the flank, or be the ‘hammer’ of the combined attacks. Custer’s maneuver was straight out of the book.

Two messages are known to have been sent by Custer before his command was destroyed. The first message was brought by Sergeant Daniel Kanipe to the pack train, and the second message was sent with Private John Martin to Captain Benteen. Both messages ordered these forces to quickly advance to support the attack on the Indian village. It is after this point that many details of the battle become obscured, especially the movements of Custer and his five companies.

Although there are conflicting accounts by the survivors of Reno’s command about times and distances involved in the valley attack, it is known that after reaching the valley and advancing toward the camp for perhaps up to two miles, Reno halted his advance and deployed his soldiers as skirmishers, while the mounts were sent into a sheltered wooded area on the right of his line. When the now-alerted Indian warriors began to advance and flank his line, Reno withdrew his men to the wooded area and had them remount. After a bullet struck an Arikara scout, Bloody Knife, in the head, sending a shower of gore into Reno’s face, Reno led a disorganized retreat out of the woods and to the rear. The retreat turned into a total rout, during which Reno lost about a third of his command killed, wounded or missing.

Advancing toward the battlefield, Benteen witnessed Reno’s retreat and then joined Reno and his command on the bluffs. Custer had passed this very spot on his advance to attack the village, and farther downstream (at the position now known as Weir Peak, or Weir Point), Custer had been seen by members of Reno’s command before they retreated from the valley. The pack train soon joined Reno and Benteen on the bluff position, and all the hostile Indian forces that were in the area left. It was also about this time that the sound of gunfire, volley fire, was heard downstream.

At the Reno court of inquiry in 1879–the only ‘official’ investigation of the battle–nearly every participant that testified said he heard gunfire from downstream, and only Reno and Benteen claimed this gunfire did not occur. Among those who heard the gunfire were Lieutenant George Wallace, Lieutenant Charles Varnum, Captain Myles Moylan, Lieutenant Luther Hare and Lieutenant Winfield Edgerly. Most of these soldiers mentioned hearing ‘volley’ fire, which would indicate that Custer’s force was engaged.

The only known position that Custer and his soldiers fought at is on and around the hill (today called Custer Hill, or Last Stand Hill) where the soldiers were killed. This position is 4.1 miles from the Reno position (now known as Reno Hill), where the gunfire was heard. A mile north of the Reno position stands Weir Peak, a geographical formation that might affect any sound from Custer Hill. From the position of the bodies found on Custer Hill, it would appear most of the soldiers were fighting in skirmish formation and not close together–unlike how they would have stood if firing volleys under the direction of an officer. Background noise on Reno Hill, where there were more than 400 men and almost 600 horses and mules, must have affected the hearing of the soldiers there.

To further explore such matters, I created a task force of experts in 1994. Steve Fjstad, firearms expert and author of the Blue Book of Guns, was consulted concerning the question of the gunfire heard. In November 1994, Fjstad directed a sound test using a Springfield carbine and ammunition with powder loads that were similar to those used in 1876 (the cavalrymen at the Little Bighorn used .45-caliber Springfield single-shot carbines). Rick Van Doren, an acoustics expert, provided testing equipment; John Allan, another firearms expert, conducted the actual firing; and firing range supervision was provided by legal investigator John Swanson. Also attending the test was Edward Zimmerman, a lawyer and military law specialist. The results of this test indicate that it was unlikely the gunfire heard on Reno Hill originated from Custer Hill.

Terry Flower, a physics professor at the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul, Minn., conducted a second test in 1995, again using a Springfield carbine and appropriate powder loads. In a 25-page report on his test, Flower wrote, ‘Volleys heard at Reno Hill most probably did not originate from Last Stand Hill [about 7,000 meters away].’ Only on-site testing will answer the question with certainty, but such testing has not as yet been permitted at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument (known until 1991 as the Custer Battlefield National Monument).

Still, if it is probable that gunfire from Custer Hill could not have been heard on Reno Hill on July 25, 1876, then where could the sound of gunfire have come from? Interestingly enough, there is testimony from the Reno court of inquiry that may suggest an answer. Sergeant Edward Davern testified: ‘Shortly after reaching the top [of Reno Hill], I heard volley firing from downstream….I could see Indians circling around in the bottom on the right, way down and raising a big dust….I spoke to Captain [Thomas] Weir about it. I said, ‘That must be General Custer fighting down in the bottom.’ He asked me where and I showed him. He said, ‘Yes, I believe it is.” Statements made by Lieutenant Edward Mathey and Lieutenant Edgerly supported Sergeant Davern’s observation.

The ‘bottom’ is, of course, where the Indian village was located. If Davern’s observation was correct, then it would indicate Custer had conducted a successful charge across the river–probably at Medicine Tail Ford, also known as Minneconjou Ford–and into the Indian camp. The testing done by Terry Flower indicates that shots fired near that ford could have been heard on Reno Hill. ‘U.S. Government Survey maps indicate that the Minneconjou Ford is located about 4,300 meters from the Reno entrenchment,’ Flower said. ‘While single shots could marginally be heard, volleys and multiple firings could most likely be identified.’ There are statements from Indians who were in the camp that seem to indicate soldiers were in the camp and fighting there. Indian participants such as Gall, Red Horse, Kill Eagle and Thunder Hawk mentioned women and children being killed and tepees set afire. There is no evidence that this killing and tepee-burning was done by Reno’s men, and most accounts from survivors of his command say Reno’s charge was stopped short of the village. Stray bullets could kill women and children, but they would not set tepees afire.

In his official report of the battle, Reno mentioned that Custer may have crossed the river and attacked the camp, but he later changed this view. Benteen, in a letter to his wife, also mentioned the possibility that Custer got across, but by the time of the Reno court of inquiry, he had changed his view: ‘I can’t think he [Custer] got within three furlongs of the ford.’

The distortions and untruths told by Reno and Benteen about the Battle of the Little Bighorn are so many and so obvious that almost everything they said about it becomes suspect. These ‘errors’ have been pointed out by many researchers. ‘There are many elements to this story that indicate that others besides Reno and Benteen were involved in a coverup of the facts, distortions and outright criminal acts,’ Zimmerman said. ‘Some of these issues require a more in-depth investigation to expose the truth.’

Zimmerman has made a detailed comparison of the map presented at the Reno court of inquiry with the map drawn by Lieutenant Edward Maguire, who was a member of General Terry’s command that arrived at the battlefield on June 27, 1876. Cartographer Phil Swartzberg discovered 10 noteworthy changes. Some of these may have been innocent in nature. Others, such as the addition of a spur to the bluffs between Reno’s hill position and the Indian village, seem to have been deliberately made. An enlisted men’s petition, signed by 236 surviving soldiers of the 7th Cavalry days after the battle, requested that Reno and Benteen be promoted. This petition was presented at the inquiry. A Federal Bureau of Investigation examination of this petition, dated November 2, 1954, discovered that a large number of the names were probably forgeries. The petition, along with the altered map, suggest there was a well-thought-out military coverup designed to discredit Custer–call it ‘Custergate.’

Zimmerman is now pursuing a legal appeal to the court’s finding that ‘the conduct of the officers throughout was excellent and while subordinates in some instances did more for the safety of the command by brilliant displays of courage than did Major Reno, there was nothing in his conduct which requires animadversion of the court.’ If Custer did cross the river and fight in the Indian camp, that would be something Reno and Benteen would desperately try to hide, for if Custer was fighting in the village and they failed to come to his assistance, then any rational defense of their actions becomes impossible. And if Custer did fight in the village, then all the many accounts of the battle to date are incomplete. Only further on-site research and study, with the scientific tools of the 20th century, will shed more light on this possibility. In June 1996, Flower will conduct more acoustics tests near the battlefield. The tests, according to the professor, will not conclusively confirm where Custer was when the shots were heard on Reno Hill, but they will’say which positions could be eliminated from consideration. And that should take us one step closer to understanding the sequence of events of June 25, 1876.’

This article was written by Robert Nightengale and originally appeared in the June 1996 issue of Wild West.For more great articles be sure to subscribe to Wild West magazine today!

128 Responses

  1. jeffrey tassey

    it seems to me Custer was in the wrong and had to comit sucicde to cover up the fact that he was in the wrong and to cover this up that Reno and Benteen seemed to hold back the men in their comand was part of this cover up and the fact thaythey only lost a few men kind of sums that up!

    • andrew woolf

      Custers death is historically documented, and has been since the 50th anniversary of Little Big Horn. At that anniversary, held at the battle sight, the then chief of the Sioux White Bull was asked by US Army Officers to identify th eplace where Custers Body had been found, which he did. His account of Custers death immediatly following the battle- and he had not known at the time that it was Custer that he shot- was that he and three other warriors had fired upon a group of soldiers attempting to cross The LBH River. White Bull said that he had fired upon one of them, and that the man fell from his horse-he also described the horse, specifically mentioning its markings. Though he had no idea at the time of the account that he had shot Custer, his description of the horse- which had unique markings out of any in the 7th, exactly matches the animal ridden by GAC.
      Further, White Bulls account fits as the missing piece of the Battles Chronology. WB recounted that after the ‘Trooper’ fell from his mount, that the column of men faltered, then stopped dead, mid charge, and that the mans comrades (one of whom would have been Custers own Brother) dismounted and pulled the man from the river. Needless to say, such a behavior under fire- the complete abandonment of a charge midway in order to assist a wounded man, whilst under active fire themselves, would be the last thing any US Cavalry detatchment would ever do- unless that man happened to be their commanding officer. The Indians at the river went on to describe how at that moment, the American Soldiers seemed to
      be in confusion and disarray, and unable to reform in a cohesive manner.
      This account taken as a whole, both the post battle one by White Bull describing Custers Horse, and also the Chiefs correctly identifying the spot where Custer was shot (which in fact was known by the Army) 50 years later, was evidently ‘lost’ in the subsequent popular mythology that
      GAC fought ‘to the last man’ with his comrades in Arms. In fact, assuming the above to be true- and theres no reason not to since it is a verifiably fact supported documentable account, then GAC would have met his fate barely 15 minutes into first contact with The Indians, rather than, as popular legend would have it, at the final conculsion of LBH.

      As for the assertions here that Benteen and Reno were negligent in coming to Custers aid, once again, the facts on that day do not support such an assertion. In a letter to his Wife shortly after the engagement,dated July 4th 1876, Benteen decribes how first Reno, then he himself followed Custers orders to follow him into the hills to the left and that for 10 miles they rode up and down the steep hills and ravines, until their mounts were exhausted, having met no sign of Custer or his men. Finally, they spotted Reno (who had gone ahead also at Custers request to reform with his GAC and his men), in the process of being routed by an overwhelming numeration of Braves- with no sign of GAC. Documentary fact now enters the picture, in the form of a note (that was supposed lost to a fire at Benteens home, but which he had actually given to a comrade after the war, from which it passed into the hands of a collector, and now resides in the West Point Museum). In a hasty looking scrawl, the hand of W.W. Cook who was with Custer, it requests the following:

      “Benteen. Come on. Big village. Be quick, bring packs.
      W. W. Cooke.
      (P. S. Bring pac-s)”

      Rather than wait for the Benteen and Reno Detatchments to meet him and regroup for frontal attack on the ‘Big Village’ (which was actually at least 9 and probably more Tribes at a mass pow wow), which would have been the correct by the book strategy under such a set of circumstances, Instead, Custer had for his own reasons (and those we shall never know) decided to advance his own detatchments of The 7th 4 miles ahead of both his Commanders, and to engage The Indians at the edge of the Village head on. Weather he actually made it across the LBH river seems doubtfull, in that a brave named White Bull (Sitting Bulls Son) in an immediate post battle account, describes shooting a ‘Trooper’ out of his saddle as the man and his comrades rode cheering into the waters, and that is was a man whose uniquely marked horse,as he describes it (he had no idea who was riding it) matches that of GAC’s exactly. What is for cirtain is that GAC had led his detatchment-one has to assume unwittingly- into an ‘encampment’ that was far more than the Village they supposed it to be. And that, alerted in advance by the cheering men, an overwhelming number of Braves were already there to meet them, with more on the way.

      In conclusion, and given the evidence here, its clear that the fault on that day resides squarely on the shoulders of George Armstrong Custer, and nobody else. His initial decision to halt 15 miles from the Indians Encampment, and wait for his Commanders, Benteen and Reno, and to reform with them and mount a combined assult was a correct one. His second decision to advance ahead of both men and engage instead with his own detatchment alone, against a numerically vastly superior force was a fatal one, and his third decision to not inform them of his change of plan until he himself and his men had actually reached the Ford 3 miles from the Indian Encampment effectivly sealed the fates of all concerned on that day.
      The real question is not how he died- he was shot at the mouth of LBH River as his men attempted to cross 15 minutes into the engagement-but rather why a Custer himself, a seasoned if spirited General, an out of the box thinker but cirtainly not a fool, decided to lead his men into what was basically a bear trap waiting to spring shut on them on that day. Clues to a plausible answer lie in The Generals own behavior, if one pauses for a moment to read between the lines. Obviously Custer would never have led what he knew in advance to be a suicidal charge against an enemy that he also knew would overwhelm them all, in less than an hour. So by deduction, one must therefore infer that GAC, for whatever reason, either chose to disregard the reports of his own Indian Scouts (perhaps he thought they were exagerated) and proceed on alone. This supposition is further supported by Custers not bothering to inform either of his Execs of this decision, until actually reaching the encampment and- as cooks last note to them directly states on GAC’s behalf- ‘Come on-Big Village.’
      Its a matter of historical fact that Custer at that point in his Career, was particularly hungry for dramatic victorys in the Plains War, and that further had eyes on a possible Presidential Candidacy in Washington. So its likely
      that The General also led his men into that fatefull charge, on that day, with a mind half on what he was doing, and the other half already contemplating a life of privalege that lay just beyond the victory that would attain it, just ahead of The Little Big Horn Ford….

      • James Ombrello

        Some of your statements are truly opinions, and not historical “facts”.

        Recent archeological finds and past research have opened the possibility that the soldier shot in mid-stream was shot at the second attempted crossing north of “Custer Hill”, below the cemetery. I have no personal opinion yet, as I am not up-to-date on very recent thinking and scholarship.

        Many students of the battle believe that it was young Jack Sturgis shot at Medicine Tail Ford, not Custer. Sturgis’ binoculars and case were found in the village, along with what probably was his severed and burned head, along with some of his clothing. Custer was much more likely to have been on high ground, supervising and controlling the movements of his companies. The scout known as Curley clearly identified E troop as galloping toward the ford as he prepared to leave the battle. Most historians accept that the move toward the ford was a probe, or feint, to relieve pressure on Reno’s struggling men, and that Custer led the movement that reunited-as planned-with E and F on Calhoun Hill. Some have speculated that it was Algernon Smith shot at Medicine Tail. I believe that it was Sturgis but it is my opinion, not established fact.

        White Bull also described a hand-to-hand fight with a soldier on “Custer hill” that he felt was GAC.

        Army personnel re-burying remains claim to have cut off the hooves of Custer’s horse, and preserved them as inkwells. Indian accounts say one of Inkpaduta’s sons rode the horse after the battle. I don’t know.

        That idea that Custer had presidential aspirations is silly. He may have desired a top position in the Dept. of the Interior because he spoke publicly about corruption of Indian Agents and mistreatment of Indians. He blamed the outbreak of warfare on corruption by government officials in front of the U.S. Congress, including Grant’s own son! If he did suggest to his Indian scouts that he would become the “father” or something, he was probably referring to a high position in the Indian Bureau. I have no idea if that conversation occurred, and if it did it would have had to have been translated by Bouyer or someone else. It has the ring of falseness to me.

        White Bull and every other Indian in this battle could not have identified George Custer. They did not even know the dead soldiers were led by him after the battle. I don’t think they cared. I do believe that some survivors (captives especially) of the Washita village may have recognized his body. I tend to place a lot of credence on Kate Bighead’s account.

        I appreciate your passion and respect your views, but those of us trained in history know that all opinions should be left open-ended, pending new and convincing evidence. You may be correct, but there is not enough evidence, and much counter-evidence to your views and opinions. Best, Jim

      • Andrew Woolf

        Reply to James Ombrello.

        Yes, James I have opinions on the fate of Custer like anyone else interested in the subject does.

        The facts, as stated in my account, are facts, and are available for anyone to cross reference online and verify.

        Your account of GAC, on the other hand, is largely conjecture, (either yours or that of others), and thus is for the most part, not verifiable.

        Paragraph one:
        * ‘Recent Archeological finds, and past research have opened the possibility that….’ – Which ‘Archeological finds’, and whose ‘past research’ (?) Neither has any attribution, or even a description here as to what these so called ‘finds’ were.

        Paragraph two:
        * ‘Many Students of the Battle believe that….’ – an unsupported argument. Who are these ‘many students’ you refer to, whose ‘belief’ we are asked by you to accept in support of your claims here. None of the ‘many’ are even named.

        Paragraph 3:
        White Bull also described a hand-to-hand fight with a soldier on “Custer hill” that he felt was GAC. – this is true, however what you do not mention is that he made this claim 50 years after the battle, at its 50th memorial, and that this decades later account contradicts his origional post battle account in which he describes simply shooting a mounted ‘Trooper’ out of his saddle attempting to cross the LBH river, and that the man then ‘fell into the water.’
        In this paragraph, you also ommit the fact that in his origional account, both WB, and surviving accounts of other braves at the scene of the infamous crossing describe their own amazement at observing, upon the mortal wounding of the ‘Trooper’ that the entire contingent of E Troop came to a complete standstill mid charge, mid stream- an unheard of thing for a US Cavalry detatchment to do whilst in mid charge and under fire – and instead went to the aid of the wounded man, fishing him from the waters. The Indians then go on to describe the entire troop from that moment as acting in disarray, with no seeming itinery, and in complete confusion for the remainder of their 45 minutes on earth. Of course there is no way (short of going back in time) to actually relive that particular 45 minutes, but the eyewitness description of both WB, and the other braves present at the ford, and the completly anomalous behavior of the men of E Troop in response to the wounding of the ‘Trooper’ at the Ford of LBH River are all highly compelling arguments that that the man shot from his saddle was in fact George Armstrong Custer.
        As to WB’s conflicting pre and post accounts of his role in all of this, I am going to make a supposition here, and say that his latter account, full of drama and bluster, and so unlike its origional (in which he says he didnt even know the mans name whom he shot), was simply a ‘big fish’ elaboration, over time. White Bull was proud of what turned out to be his ‘catch,’ and over the years his origional humble account became (maybe even in his own mind and with increasing years), a struggle of heroes instead. Its not an unheard of thing, with men and their ‘fish.’

        Paragraph 4: Vic. – Yes, the fate of Custers favourite Horse, or one of them- ( the other, ‘Dandy’ was returned to the Custer Estate post war and died there). is unknown. I have not been able to find the account of the ‘army personnel’ you claim to have access to, in which you say that Vic ended up as four inkwells. I do know that the Indian who claims to have confiscated Vic after the Battle was named Walks-Under-The-Ground.

        In either event, This horse was being ridden by the ‘Trooper’ who was shot
        from his saddle by White Bull at the LBH Ford- he describes its exact markings. And its extremly doubtful that GAC would have decided to pass his favourite mount – which by the way was also an asset- Vic was a very fast and sturdy horse- to an unamed Trooper on a whim, moments before an active engagement with the enemy. There can be little doubt that the man who fell from the horse identified by WB on that day was Custer…the man was riding Custers horse.

        Paragraph 5: -Custers Presidential Aspirations. – You describe the idea of GAC’s aspiring to the nations highest office as ‘silly.’ Again, thats a personal opinion, and like the majority of your rebuttal here, as such verifiable neither way.
        What is known of that time is that Custer and Grant became sparring partners- both men, through force of historical circumstance, became obstructions to the others agendas, and both took steps in public and political forums to offset that on their own behalf. That, had he succeeded in securing his objectives in The Indian Wars, that Custer would cirtainly have returned home as a National Hero is also a strong probability. That this was a man of consuming ambition is also hardly in doubt. And that there are precidents and subsequent examples of United States Generals becoming Presidents (including Grant Himself) is also a matter of record. Given Custers partiality to acclaim and of course, aquisition of personal power, it is not in fact so far fetched, and cirtainly not ‘silly’ to suppose that such a man, offered the nations highest laurels by his peers, would not have refused them.

        Paragraph 6: – ‘White Bull could not have known…” – Yes, he could not have known, and he didn’t know who the man was (read your history).
        What he does do in his account (which is witnessed by 9 other Braves),
        is identify the man as one who was shot whilst riding at the head of his troops, whilst riding a “sorrel horse with… four white stockings.” This was Custers Horse Vic, clearly identified, and the only one bearing these marks.
        Weather or not the Braves, as you suggest ‘cared’ at the time who they were shooting at is no doubt a safe assumption. Would you care about pausing to reflect on ‘who’ a man was who was trying to kill you? Probably not (lol). But that has no bearing on anything here, and neither does the fact that WB had no idea either of whom he downed. All he says is that it was a man riding at the head of his troops, on a horse which matches exactly the horse ridden into Battle by GAC on that day. Thats the facts. Your subjective opinion as to everybodys ‘feelings’ at the time, and the presantation of such as support for a factual claim have no real bearing here, and are not relevant to an historical discussion.
        For the record, here is a summation of what happened at the ford, at the time, from 10 individuals who were there, and all of whom describe seeing the same sequence of events unfold:

        1) White Cow Bull said the ford where Custer tried to cross the Little Bighorn was very thinly defended by the Sioux and Cheyenne (witnessed by: Bobtailed Horse, White Shield, He Dog, Wooden Leg, George Bird Grinnell)…

        2) White Cow Bull said he was one of the few warriors there when Custer charged into the river and the Indians opened fire (witnessed by: Bobtailed Horse)…

        3) White Cow Bull said that when the Americans tried to charge across the river at Medicine Tail Coulee, Custer rode at the head of the attack formation with the flag bearer and a “small man on a dark horse,” probably half-Sioux interpreter/scout Mitch Bouyer (witnessed by: Pretty Shield)…

        4)White Cow Bull said a couple Seventh Cavalry troopers were shot out of the saddle and fell in the Little Bighorn before Custer’s men could get across the river (witnessed by: Curley, Horned Horse, Pretty Shield, Soldier Wolf, Elk Head, Thomas LaForge, plus Sage, Hollow Horn Eagle and Brave Bird reported wounded American soldiers at the river after the battle, including Mitch Bouyer, the half-Sioux interpreter/scout whom Pretty Shield said rode at Custer’s side)…

        5) White Cow Bull said Custer — the officer on the “sorrel horse with… four white stockings” — was one of those shot while crossing the Little Bighorn River (witnessed by: Pretty Shield)…

        6)White Cow Bull said Custer “fell in the water” of the Little Bighorn River (witnessed by: Pretty Shield)…

        7) White Cow Bull said Custer’s charge at Medicine Tail Coulee was suddenly stopped and repulsed mid-river by the Cheyenne and Sioux defenders (witnessed by: Curley, George Glenn, Jacob Adams)…

        ..I hope the above cross referenced accounts are a benefit to your own historical research, as a man of Historical learning.

        Paragraph 7: – ‘I appreciate your passion, and respect your views..’
        Many thanks, and likewise….everybody has opinions. “Us trained in History” as you put it, would include myself also…I inherited that passion from my Grandfather, Walter O’Meara, who is a well known Author of American Historical Novels.

        In closing, and as I’m sure you are aware, as an academic yourself, History is a Detectives open casebook…and as such the events its
        must analyze and report on are only so good as the substantive and verifiable facts there to support them. That said, that is also not (italics) an excuse for discounting hard evidence because ‘new facts may (italics) come to light to disprove them.’ At some point, the buck stops, because (like any court case) an overwhelming amount of evidence has been collected, over time, to support it.
        The facts surrounding GAC and his demise have always been there- they were there at the conclusion of the Battle of LBH, and they remain unchanged to this day. However, as we know, the notion of Custer as a Hero, fighting at the head of his Troops to the last man, is one of the most charged and potent iconic images that American ‘History’ has to offer. Its a cornerstone, and a sacred one at that. But, unless we want to live in a dream world, in which real fundamental truths, no matter how unpleasant they may be, or however much they may even damage our image of ourselves, we owe it to ourselves to accept and embrace truths about who we are, and where we came from. To do otherwise is self deception, and that is not an option if we want longevity for ourselves, our offspring, and their offspring.
        The Custer Myth is just that..a Myth like any other, embelished upon and distorted through time. It began the moment Grant recieved the news of the
        decimation and rout at LBH, and it has persisted ever since. Popular notions, especially when touted by The Media as being true, tend to be accepted without question by everyone else down the line. People like to have their heros, and they don’t like to hear anything to the contrary. Reading the other accounts here on GAC, one can see that that holds still,
        135 Years later. Custers actual record shows that he by no means a coward, but that he was also very much an opportunist, and definatly a person who let that side of his personality cloud the judgement of the other.
        Hero’s are people like anyone else, and people are flawed and imperfect creatures. Everybody makes mistakes at some point in their life, and their stature when that inevitability occurs, will also determine how hard they fall.
        This, if anything, is the lesson that History teaches us, about George Armstrong Custer.

        Many Thanks for your reply, and best also. Andrew.

      • Terry

        that was NOT Custer shot at the ford as his body was found among his men on LSH with a hole in his heart and one in his temple .. Indian witnesses also confirm that forensic FACT

      • Historian Brent

        You are an absolute clown. I’m not sure any serious historian could value a word you said. From the varied and changing stories of Reno and Benteen over several army inquires to the bullet findings at the Little Big Horn it is clear the myth of a route that happened quickly has been displayed even to the most ardent Custer hater. My suggestion is you go back to school.

      • Historian Brent

        I find so many amateur statements and assertions not backed up by logic or fact I don’t even know where to begin. One has to ask, have you even bothered to fully research the Battle and all the events and inquires that took place after? A person fully educated on the subject simply could not make some of the more asinine statements you made. Let us start with these ridiculous statements that it was ” a historical fact” you saying it doesn’t make it an acceptable and historical fact. Statements by an Indian 50 years after the fact would in and of themselves be deemed completely unreliable by any reasonable gauge. In this case they are even more so as the individual referenced gave testimony shortly after the actual battle in which he stated much different facts. Even the famous Sitting Bull gave testimony that the battle lasted close to 3hrs and was not the disorganized mayhem it is portrayed to be by left wing sycophants and revisionist historians. The citation of a letter to a man’s wife as some kind of defacto proof that Reno and Benteen were not guilty of gross misconduct as officers. Let us for a moment skip the fact that you cite such rubbish as historical proof. A court of inquiry was convened to determine if Reno should be charged with cowardice and dereliction of duty. Several Army inquires into the cause of the defeat were held stretching several decades. The US Army does not now nor did it in 1879 call a court of inquiry over a few allegations without substantial cause. You assertion that neither Reno nor Benteen did anything wrong is not SUPPORTED by historical fact as you are so fond of saying. the Army felt there was cause and enough soldiers demanded it to facilitate an investigation. Your statements about the tactics or more appropriately the actions of some of the men show a gross ignorance to not only the cavalry tactics of the day but how men in COMBAT react. Your arm chair historian assertions are just that.

  2. Allen Williams

    What rational person commits suicide to cover up his mistakes? If that was true both Clinton and Gore would have shot themselves.

    The article was a well researched account, looking at the available evidence and developing a rational scenario, unlike the history revionist accounts fed into the ‘mush minds’ of the public school kids.

    In every account of the Little Bighorn battle, there is reason to suspect that at the very least Reno and Beneteen were either incompetant officers or were content to let Custer be ‘hung out to dry.’

    • Terry

      try this for a cover-up ..

      President Grant and the War Department wanted the “hostile” Indian bands (those legally hunting off the reservation according to the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868) in Montana rounded up and returned to their reservations by January 1876.

      In early March 1876 Gen. Sheridan ordered Gen. Crook to probe the Wolf Mountains and the river systems of northern Wy/southern Mt area for the up-coming spring/summer campaign. (knowing the Indians would be camping along a river)

      On March 17, 1876 Gen. Crook and his 2nd in command Col. Reynolds encountered an Indian camp in which the Battle of Powder River ensued. Expecting to find 500 to 800 warriors under the leadership of the Sioux chief Crazy Horse. But Cheyenne warrior Wooden Leg, in his biography by Thomas B. Maquis, said it was his band led by chief Two Moon that was camped along the Powder River and that they were only 40 lodges – maybe 60 warriors.

      In May 1876 Gen. Sheridan conceived a “three-pronged movement”;
      Beginning with Gen Gibbon’s column being dispatched from Ft Ellis from the west moving east along the Yellow River, to meet up with Gen. Terry’s column (with the attached LtCol. Custer’s command) being dispatched from Ft Lincoln from the east moving west along the Yellow River. This would insure that the “renegade” Indians had not moved any camps/villages up onto the Yellow river.
      When Gen. Gibbon’s column met Gen. Terry’s column at the Yellowstone River/Rosebud Creek junction, LtCol Custer was ordered to begin his part of the “three-pronged movement” (the “/” part of the “Y” shape) which was to follow the Rosebud Creek from the northeast moving southwest. This would insure that the “renegade” Indians had not moved any camps/villages up onto the Rosebud Creek.
      Next Gen. Gibbon’s column and Gen. Terry’s column doubled back west on the Yellow River back to the Yellowstone River/Bighorn River junction, and began their part of the “three-pronged movement” (the “\” part of the “Y” shape) which was to follow the Bighorn River from the northeast moving southwest. This would insure that the “renegade” Indians had not moved any camps/villages up onto the upper Bighorn River.
      while Gen. Crook’s column was to be dispatched from the south and move north along the lower Bighorn River, which was his part of the “three-pronged movement” (the lower “|” part of the “Y” shape) This would insure that the “renegade” Indians had not moved any camps/villages up onto the lower Bighorn River. with all three meeting in the center where the rivers all merged (Little Bighorn/Reno Creek area) as the most likely location of the “renegades”.
      If LtCol. Custer continued following the Rosebud Creek southwest he would have reached the spot Gen. Crook’s column fought Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse one week earlier. Instead LtCol. Custer followed orders and turned west at Davis Creek moving towards the Reno Creek/Little Bighorn River/lower Bighorn River junction, where he was to meet up with Gen. Gibbon’s and Gen. Terry’s columns as they followed the upper Bighorn River southeast to the Little Bighorn which connects to the lower Bighorn River.
      note: the two Bighorn rivers (designated by me as upper and lower) appear to be two separate rivers connected together in-between by the Little Bighorn River.

      on June 17, 1876 Gen. Crook, while moving north along the Rosebud Creek, encountered the large camp/village of the “renegade” with Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. the Battle of the Rosebud ensued ..
      Estimates of the Sioux and Cheyenne force ranged between 1,000 and 1,500 warriors. The battle raged through six hours with soldiers and Indians advancing and retreating over the battlefield.
      The Cheyenne call the battle site Kase’eetsevo’ – Where the Girl Saved Her Brother. The name comes from the actions of Buffalo Calf Trail Woman, who rescued her brother, Chief Comes In Sight, when his horse was shot out from under him.
      By 2:30 that afternoon, with no clear victory for either side, the battle wound down. Gen. Crook lost 10 men and 21 more were wounded. The Sioux lost about 25 warriors and one Cheyenne was killed. Crazy Horse estimated the wounded at 63.
      The major result was that Gen. George Crook withdrew his column to Wyoming, spoiling the government’s plan for a three-pronged assault.
      A week later, and about 30 miles north, the same alliance of Sioux and Cheyenne (now with Arrapaho as well) were camped along the Little Bighorn River when LtCol. George Custer initiated the objective to the mission ordered by Gen. Sherman and the War Dept.

      note: the distance covered by Gen. Gibbon and Gen. Terry’s columns (including doubling back west to begin their part of the “Y”, the “\”

      on June 25, 1876 the epic Battle of the Little Bighorn took it’s place in history.

      LtCol. Custer’s command: a total of xxx soldiers.
      which he divided into standard fighting formation as such:
      1) under LtCol. Custer, companies C, E, F, I & L – 208 soldiers (right flank)(the hammer and main blow to the enemy)
      2) under Maj. Reno companies A, G & M – 142 soldiers (center)(in a supporting role to either flank, and to insure the Indians did not exit between the left and right flanks)
      (also Maj. Reno would be the “command post” able to communicate with either flank and order up reserve soldiers and additional ammo if requested)
      3) under Capt. Benteen, companies H, D & K – 118 soldiers (left flank)(the anvil first put stationary in place)
      4) under Capt. McDougall, Company B – 50 soldiers (rearguard/reserve)(a mandatory strategy used to plug any holes created in their lines by casualties with)
      5) under 1stLt. Mathey, company X – 84 soldiers (with the pack train behind Capt. McDougall)(also can be used as reserves if the situation warrants it)
      (each soldier carried 100 rounds, with an additional 100 rounds per soldier on a caisson wagon as part of the pack train)
      (the pack train also consisted of other wagons which carried supplies like food, tents etc and were pulled by mules)
      note: communication is a vital part of coordinating an attack and mandatory between the command post (which was 2nd in command Maj. Reno) and the mobile units on a battle field.

      The Indians may have fielded over 1800 warriors.
      Historian Gregory Michno settles on a low number around 1000 based on contemporary Lakota testimony, but other sources place the number at 1800 or 2000, especially in the works by Utley and Fox.
      The 1800–2000 figure is substantially lower than the higher numbers of 3500 average postulated by Ambrose, Gray, Scott, and others.

      Some of the other participants in the battle gave these estimates:
      Spotted Horn Bull – 5,000 braves and chiefs
      Maj. Reno – 2,500 to 5,000 warriors
      Capt. Moylan – 3,500 to 4,000
      Lt. Hare – not under 4,000
      Lt. Godfrey – minimum between 2,500 and 3,000
      Lt. Edgerly – 4,000
      Lt. Varnum – not less than 4,000
      Sgt. Kanipe – fully 4,000
      George Herendeen – fully 3,000
      Fred Gerard – 2,500 to 3,000

      note: a village of 6000 would yield approx 1800 warriors ( women, children and elders)

      quote: Indian witnesses said: “Those who saw the assembled encampment said they had never seen one larger. It had come together in March or April, even before the plains started to green up, according to the Oglala warrior He Dog. Indians arriving from distant reservations on the Missouri River had reported that soldiers were coming out to fight, so the various camps made a point of keeping close together. There were at least six, perhaps seven, cheek by jowl, with the Cheyennes at the northern, or downriver, end near the broad ford where Medicine Tail Coulee and Muskrat Creek emptied into the Little Bighorn River.
      Among the Sioux, the Hunkpapas were at the southern end. Between them along the river’s bends and loops were the Sans Arc, Brulé, Minneconjou, Santee and Oglala.
      Some said the Oglala were the biggest group, the Hunkpapa next, with perhaps 700 lodges between them. The other circles might have totaled 500 to 600 lodges.” That would suggest as many as 6,000 to 7,000 people in all, a third of them men or boys of fighting age. Confusing the question of numbers was the constant arrival and departure of people from the reservations. The travelers, hunters from the camps, women out gathering roots and herbs and seekers of lost horses were part of an informal early-warning system.

      note: the average number of inhabitants per lodge was 5. (including men, women, children and elders)
      note: Gen. Sherman and the War Department’s intel to LtCol. Custer was 500-600 warriors (same as his force) with 800 as a maximum.

      quotes: The roaming Indians were reported by the Indian Department to number 2500 to 3000, which meant a fighting force of 600 possibly 800. The information from other sources did not indicate any excess over this figure.
      On March 22, Gen. Crook reporting the attack on Crazy Horse’s village said: “Crazy Horse had with him the Northern Cheyennes and Minneconjous, probably in all one half the Indians off the reservation.” This camp consisted of 110 lodges, or less than 600 people. From this statement it would appear that the military expected a hostile force of not to exceed 1,200, or a fighting force not to exceed 400.
      On April 1, Agent Howard of Spotted Tail agency replying to Gen. Crook’s report said: “Very few, if any, of these Indians have been north this season, and I have heard of none who were in co-partnership with those of the North.”
      On April 3, Agent Hastings of Red Cloud agency in a similar communication said: “The agency Indians appear to take but little interest in what has transpired north; but the disastrous result may have a tendency to awaken the old feeling of superiority. I have experienced no difficulty whatever in taking the census, but have been somewhat delayed on account of the weather.” There was in these reports no cause to anticipate that the hostiles would be materially reinforced from these agencies.
      On June 22, Gen. Sherman, whose position put him in possession of all the information that could be had, referring to LtCol. Custer’s departure said: “Up to this moment there was nothing official or private to justify an officer to expect that any detachment could encounter more than 500, or, at the maximum, 800 hostile warriors.” There was nothing, after that moment, from which Custer or any of his officers had any reason to change that estimate, until they were fairly within the clutches of the enemy.”

      note: the US Army policy was to ALWAYS match or exceed the manpower of the enemy when going into a conflict/battle, the reason is a force with a matched strength presents no logic to fight if neither can win. (both would lose)

      note: the US Army policy was to ALWAYS match or exceed the manpower of the enemy when going into a conflict/battle, the reason is a force with a matched strength presents no logic to fight if neither can win. (both would lose)
      Logic dictates that a equal or slightly superior force insures mainly posturing only positions (intimidation) by both forces until one side cedes the battle field. This is known as a tactical victory and can be seen in all the battles of 1876 with the Sioux and Cheyenne surrounding the Battle of the Little Big Horn. (note the very few casualties regardless of force size) The object of war, in any army, is a minimum loss of life with strategic gains. the only time you can fight all out (without jeopardizing losing your army and thus your cause) is when you KNOW you can win with a minimum or acceptable loss of life, and the total destruction of the enemy. Custer expected to intimidate the Indians with little loss to either force (Indian & US Army) and thus take control of the battle field. (village)

      questions: If the “three-prong” movement was suppose to be timed so all three “prongs” met in the middle at the same time, why was Gen Crook only 30 miles away from the point a week in advance ???
      Would that not have left him without support for 6 days ???
      Also Why would Gen. Sheridan under orders from Gen. Sherman and the War Dept. dispatch Gen. Terry’s column (with LtCol. Custer’s command attached) on June 22, five days after Gen. Crook encountered the large camp/village of “renegades” ???
      Did Gen. Crook not report it to Gen Sheridan, or did he, and that is why LtCol. Custer’s command was ordered to take that route, when two whole columns took the safe route ???
      Why wasn’t Lodge Grass Creek, lower Bighorn River, Tongue River or Otter Creek involved in the original strategy, and only a “Y” strategy which suggests Gen. Sherman and the War Dept. knew the EXACT location of the camp/village of “renegades” ???
      And most important, WHO’s decision was it to make LtCol. the right/east flank of the “Y” with a force only 1/6 that of the left/west flank ???
      Gen. Terry’s ???
      Gen. Sheridan’s ???
      Gen. Sherman’s and the War Dept. ???
      President Grant’s ???

      Gen Terry SHOULD HAVE BEEN the right/east flank, with three Generals commanding three columns, one on each part of the “three-prong movement” !!!
      Gen. Terry’s orders were obviously to accompany Gen. Gibbon which he did, or he would have been court-martialed for it. something is VERY wrong !!!

      note: I believe Capt. Benteen’s orders from LtCol. Custer was to charge in and then dismount 500 yards short of the village forming skirmish lines (which he did) as the Indians would then be facing them (the anvil).
      LtCol. Custer would then come from their rear (right flank) with an even a larger force causing the Indians to panic and flee westward abandoning the village, to which the Army would then destroy it.

      note: Gen. Custer used this same strategy on Gen. Robert E Lee, leaving Gen. Lee’s Army provision-less. In 1865 Gen. Custer captured Gen. Lee’s four trains of provisions, leaving Gen. Lee’s army cold, hungry and ammunition-less. Therefore Gen. Custer “FORCED” Gen. Robert E Lee to surrender. Take a good look and see who was at Appromatax when Lee surrendered :)
      note: Custer also is responsible for Gen. Lee not capturing Gen. Meade at Gettysburg. Gen. Lee attacked with a large infantry on the west side/flank (Pickets Charge) while his cavalry (JEB Steuart who had never been beaten) on the east side/flank, both aimed directly at Gen. Meade’s HQ .. it was Custer who stopped the east attack, leaving only a west flank (1 directional) defense needed to protect Gen. Meade. Gen. Lee had “gambled” JEB Stuart would penetrate Gen. Meade’s defense (or apply enough pressure his flanking infantry could) but JEB Stuart was not able. Thus Custer is responsible for turning the tide of the war. If one, or both flanking forces on Gen. Meade succeeded, Gen. Meade would have been captured or killed, and the outcome would have then been a march on Washington by Gen. Lee.
      note: Why all the conflicting testimony unless someone was lying ???
      why didn’t the 1877 & 1879 testimony by Capt. Benteen at the inquiry, and the maps he presented match ???
      why can you stand on Weir point and see the LSH monument from there (without field glasses) yet Capt. Benteen said he had no idea where Custer was ???
      why did Capt. Benteen write letters saying he was glad LtCol. Custer was dead ???
      etc, etc, etc ..

      question: So should LtCol. Custer have scouted the village for two days waiting for Gen. Gibbon’s and Gen. Terry’s columns, or did he believe his force was equal to the Indians and capable of obtaining the objective alone ???

      note: according to Indian witnesses, what infuriated them causing them to attack, was when Capt. Benteen made his original charge into the village, that they fired on women and children.
      If Capt. Benteen came in shooting and hollering on one flank (intimidating and not killing) and LtCol. Custer came in shooting and hollering from the other flank (intimidating and not killing) then neither side should have needed support, but rather they would have “herded” the Indians out of the village and taking command of the village.
      Thus lacking food, clothing and shelter, the Indians would have been FORCED to return to their reservations, as would be the logical plan if the War Dept. actually wanted the Indians to return to the reservation. Either that or the War Dept wanted the Indians killed, and thus ordered the US Army to engage and use whatever strategic tactics were useful in destroying the “renegades”.
      The decision not to bring gatling guns by Gen. Crook, Gen. Gibbons and Gen. Terry suggest it was not a seek and destroy mission but rather a one to “drive” the “renegades” back to the reservation as was stated by Grant in January.

      Some may say by waiting, LtCol. Custer would have lost the element of surprise, and the Indians may have organized a defense instead of panicking them as was intended.
      Some may say waiting for Gen. Terry and allowing the Indians to form a defense may have cost many US Army lives if they decided to hold their ground and fight.
      Some may say waiting and allowing a matched force to arrive would cause the Indians not to want to fight, but also lose the objective to causing a panic, and they could leave with their provisions and would not be forced to return to the reservations

      We will never know ..
      However we do know that LtCol. Custer’s strategy against the Indians on the 25th of June was the same strategy as the strategy initiated by Gen. Sherman for the campaign, a three pronged offense. Flank them from the left and right basically at the same time, with the third in the center to support either side and hold the middle.
      The only difference was that Gen. Crook was suppose to be in the middle on the opposite side of the river as the flanking forces, but he instead “turned tail” and ran when he met up with the same camp 30 miles south a week earlier (June 17) and NEVER told either Gen. Gibbons, Gen. Terry or LtCol. Custer how big the village really was.
      Whereas Maj. Reno was located on the same side of the river as both Capt. Benteen and LtCol. Custer were flanking the village from.

      LtCol. Custer was sent to the exact location of the Indian camp/village with bad intel on camp/village size.
      LtCol. Custer was unsupported by all three columns, that of Gen Crook, Gen. Gibbons and Gen. Terry, when the distance was the same traveled, and all should have converged at the center of the “Y” at the same time.
      LtCol. Custer was unsupported by his own unit.
      Maj. Reno was 2nd in command, and had command of the center along with the rearguard/reserve and the pack train.
      Maj. Reno should have divided the ammunition and men to support both flanks.
      Maj. Reno and his 142 men to support LtCol. Custer, Capt. McDougall and his 50 soldiers along with 1stLt. Mathey 84 soldiers to support Capt. Benteen.
      Capt. Benteen provoked the Indians to fight by killing women and children.

      Food for Thought ..
      note: for YEARS the NY Times (as well as all other newspapers) sang Gen. Custer’s praises about how brilliant he was, as well as the fact that Gen. Custer captured more artillery, flags and took more prisoners then any other General. Foolish or stupid ??? .. not even
      SET UP by a long jealous rival who had just stripped him of rank and who tried to have him arrested in Chicago after he left Washington for testifying on one of the many graft scandals ??? .. for sure
      so where did the Indians who were said to be about 600 and were really 1800, get all those new high tech repeating rifles while LtCol. Custer’s men were armed with single shot rifles from ???
      Sorry, archeology does not lie. Those wanting LtCol. Custer dead did lie. To set LtCol. Custer up to be killed is one thing, but the needlessly death of his men too ???
      Grant should not have accused LtCol. Custer of the “needless deaths of his men” when it was President Grant who ordered it, and should have owned up to his treachery. Little wonder he died with a broken hip, 120 lbs and with throat cancer.
      note: Gen. Terry was Gen. Grant’s buddy during “Reconstruction” (or should I say military occupation) and was in command of Alabama.
      note: I think Lincoln was killed because he wanted to let the South rejoin the union asap and have their own state governments again, as well as Congressional representation again .. whereas “other factions” (military and radical Republicans) wanted to prolong “Reconstruction” because there was a lot of money to be made without dissenting votes to block their agendas. (see Mr Vanderbuilt and the railroad, also see Black Friday gold market crash followed by the Black Hills gold rush)
      BTW: HOW did Mrs. Grant’s brother come up with 3 MILLION dollars to invest in gold just before the gold crash ???
      Also why would Grant turn down President Lincoln’s offer to go to the theater with him when the publicity of that would only be favorable for his intended political career ???
      note: Booth’s meeting with Congressional members (radical Republican) is documented, as did he also say the conspiracy included very high profile people. His diary was found years later in Mr Stanton’s file box, with half the pages ripped out according to the FBI.
      Also if Vice-President Johnson was also assassinated (as intended) would give the Military a “free-hand” in control of “Reconstruction” since it was already under military occupation (martial law) which meant absolute control of half the nation.

      • Terry

        look at the force of both sides and the casualties .. equal forces equals only posturing until one side cedes the battle field ..

        – The Battle of Powder River – March 1876
        Cheyenne vs United States
        Little Wolf vs George Crook/Joseph Reynolds
        225 vs 300
        1 killed, 1 wounded vs 4 killed, 6 wounded
        – Battle of the Rosebud – June 17, 1876
        Sioux & Cheyenne vs United States
        Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse vs George Crook
        1,500 vs 1,300
        10 killed, 21 wounded vs 32 killed, 21 wounded
        – Battle of Little Big Horn – June 25, 1876
        Lakota, Cheyenne, Arapaho & Sioux vs United States
        Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Chief Gall vs George Custer †
        1,800-2000 vs 647
        236 killed, 168 wounded vs 268 killed, 55 wounded
        – Battle of Warbonnet Creek – July 17, 1876
        Cheyenne vs United States
        Lone Wolf vs Wesley Merritt
        200-300 vs 350
        1 killed, unknown wounded vs none killed or wounded
        – Battle of Slim Buttes – September 1876
        Lakota vs United States
        American Horse & Crazy Horse vs George Crook
        600-800 vs 1,000
        10 killed, unknown wounded, 23 captured vs 3 killed, 13 wounded
        – Battle of Cedar Creek – October 1876
        Sioux vs United States, Shoshone & Crow
        Sitting Bull vs Nelson Miles
        300 vs 398
        5 killed, unknown wounded vs 2 killed, 2 wounded
        – Dull Knife Fight – October 1876
        Cheyenne vs United States
        Little Wolf vs Ranald Mackenzie
        400 vs 1,000
        25 killed, unknown wounded vs 9 killed, 26 wounded
        – Battle of Wolf Mountain – January 1877
        Sioux & Cheyenne vs United States
        Crazy Horse & Two Moons vs Nelson Miles
        500 vs 436
        3 killed, unknown wounded vs 5 killed, 8 wounded

  3. Ann

    Actually, General Custer was not “wrong”. He was an officer in the United States Military and was sent by our governement, with “two other Generals”, Crook and Terry to the Little Big Horn. The Sioux under Sitting Bull were murdering settlers/people looking for gold. The army was sent to take measures against them. In essence, he was doing his job.
    Abandonded by Reno and Benteen, Custer and five companies of soldiers (240 men) were killed (with the exception six soldiers). Those six soldiers according to a white captive named Ridgely, who escaped when (the braves got drunk and the squaws went to multilate and rob the bodieswith Custer)were tied to stakes and burned to death while Indian boys fired red hot arrows into their flesh. They were kept burning for more than an hour.

    There has been much written about the dishonesty of the the army…however, of all the evil deeds between the government and the Indian nations during that time were done by both sides.
    Whites killed Indians and Indian killed whites. My great grandfather was left for dead after his mother and siblings were murdered and mutilated ..and considered him to small to for scalping to be worth while so he survived. It would have been better if he hadn’t.
    We all just need to move on…

    • Mark Harper

      To say Sitting Bull was murdering people looking for gold or his people were murdering people may be wrong. Many treaties signed with the U.S. Gov. game Indian People the right to do as they wish with anyone caught on their
      (Indian Land). If these folks hunting gold were not on U.S. soil but rather Indiana Land……….how can that be murder. ? Read some of the treaties. You will be shocked .

  4. crzhrs

    The Sioux under Sitting Bull “murdering” settlers/people?

    They settlers/people were illegally trespassing on Sioux land. The US military was suppose to keep all whites off Indian land and failed and/or refused to do so.

    Just who is this ‘white captive” ridgely?

    I have never heard of any white captives in the village . . . nor has anyone ever mentioned it in the many books or articles I’ve read about the LBH.

    There was a red-headed Frenchman supposedly in the village . . . but he was not a captive.

  5. Ann

    First of all, CR…yes the Sioux murdered people and it wasn’t always over land. I understand that the government did not deal honorably with the Indians. And, it isnt just a matter of Indians killing whites, Indians killed other Indians from different tribes. They also hired themselves out has mercenaries for the French a matter of fact…even in many treaty meeting between the various tripes and the Army…on numerous occassions at the end of the meeting…the whites who were conducting the meeting were often shot and killed by the indians who were under a flagof truce.
    The Indians didnt only kill whites on who were “trespassing” they had did many other killing excursions.. for example… leaving their own land to attack stage coaches for the money, horses and women to take as prisoners, “To the Sioux the highest virtue was to kill men..the greatest hero was he who had the most featherson his head as tokens of the number of his murders.”

    The Indians are no more or les s noble than any other race of people…they were just out numbered.
    CR, the military could not possibly keep all whites out of all Indian territory…there was too much of it.

    Back to the Little Big Horn….there were actually three white captives in Sitting Bull’s camp Ridgely and two companions. Ridgely
    I believe this is confirmed by information at the Library of Congress. However, it is also documented in a couple of if you research it properly, Im sure you’ll find it.


  6. austin

    you need more info about little bighorn

    • Terry

      These are extracts from Reno’s official report
      (which is like a testimony under oath in the military)
      and his testimony under oath at the Court of Inquiry in 1879.
      Please remark the huge differences.

      1876: [On Reno Hill,] we heard firing in that direction [Medicine Tail Ford] and knew it could only be Custer.
      1879: I do not remember anyone reporting to me that he heard firing. I heard no such firing.

      1876: In a short time, the pack train came up.
      1879: In about an hour and a half, the pack train would come up.

      1876: Custer intended to support me by moving further down the stream and attacking the village in the flank.
      1879: I had no reason to believe that General Custer would support me in other manner than from the rear […] Custer had no plan.

      • Terry

        At the only official inquiry on the Little Bighorn, Major Reno and Captain Benteen presented a false exhibit

        Major Reno’s lawyer showed three exhibits in the Reno Court of Inquiry.

        #1 was the report, which contradicts the very testimony Reno gave in the Commission!
        #2 was a map which was an alleged copy of Lieutenant Maguire map of the battle of the Little Bighorn.
        #3 was an alleged enlisted petition by soldiers who said that Major Reno and Captain Benteen were their saviours and should be promoted.
        There is evidence that two exhibits were forgeries, which is a criminal offence.

        November 5 1954:
        letter from the FBI to the Superintendent (file 95-3820, Labo. N. D-123677 DG, November 20 1950):
        “Variations were noted in the signatures listed below and the corresponding known signatures which suggests the probability that the signatures on the petition are forgeries”
        List of 80 names (variations), plus 17 names (individuals who signed they payroll with a “x”. But their names appeared on the petition), plus 6 names (handwritings samples unavailable)

        September 20 1954:
        E. S. Luce, Little Big Horn Battlefield Superintendent
        “There are quite a number of apparent “forgeries” and irregularities that show up on comparing signatures on the Petition with the signatures on the Muster and Pay Rolls. One irregularity that can easily be seen are those of the troopers who were unable to write their own names. The name would be written in the signatures column with the notation “His Mark X” and then would be initialed by the troop commander. On the Petition these names were written by some one, but not verified. […]

        For many years it has been known by the military as well by historians, that there was “something rotten in Denmark”.
        […] Many historians have written me during the years that I have been here, as to why we (The National Park Service) are covering up this deception.
        […] There has been rumors in the regiment for many years that both Reno and Benteen used pressure tactics to get the men to sign such a petition.
        The other officers refused to sign the petition but, in troop H, more than other troopers was the pressure used.” Presumably by Captain Benteen.”

        April 5 1995:
        Chief Historian Douglas C. McChristian
        “The results of the examination were inconclusive, yet the limited handwritings samples available to them suggested that many, if not most, of the signatures were forgeries. There was some evidence to suggest that First Sergeant Joseph McCurry wrote the names, but this could not be determined with certainty because of the paucity of samples of his handwritings.”

      • Terry

        “There were 1,500 warriors in the village.”
        Captain Benteen’s private letter, 1876
        “There were 9,000 warriors in the village”
        Captain Benteen’s testimony in court, 1879

      • Terry

        The Reno Court of Inquiry was the only official inquiry on Little Bighorn, convened three years after the battle (!) because of public pressure. However, the court was an hoax, as acknowledged the main recorder of witnesses, Lieutenant Jesse Lee, to Walter Camp (interview, October 27, 1912) :
        “Gen [Wesley Merritt], who drew up the conclusions of the Reno Court of Inquiry, said to him [Jesse Lee], when the decision of the Court was announced: “We have politely cursed him (Reno) and whitewashed it over.”

        “(Benteen’s tesimony at the Court) shifted about constantly with half-truths, evasions and falsehoods : by the time the Inquiry ended he had spread enough whitewash to cover Chicago.”

        “The Recorder (of the Court) asked Major (Reno) if he had read Custer’s order to Benteen. Reno replied he had and although he couldn’t repeat the exact “phraseology” as he remembered, it said to come on, there was a big village and to bring the packs. Reno was asked if the message didn’t have the words “be quick”.

        Reno casually said: “Yes, I do, now that you called my attention to it.”

        Reno had previously told the court about the “immense” number of Indians he had faced alone in the valley, and the Recorder asked:

        “From the number of Indians you saw around you and you estimate of the number that were there, did it occur to you at the time that, with only 225 men, (Custer) might need someone to “be quick”?
        The junior major of the 7th Cavalry looked at the Court and then the Recorder, and answered:

        “It never occurred to me at all.”

        No further comment is necessary on Benteen and Reno’s testimony regarding “Custer’s last message”; it defies coherent description.”



    • joe

      I have also read several accounts of the Battle of LBH and I also believe LC Custer was shot at the river. The thing that is so oblivious to me is that the 7th attacked a force with the advantage of overwhelming numbers fighting on their turf defending their families. Custer did not want to fight on the 25th because his men and horses were worn out, he had planned to attack the next day but the 7th had been discovered after killing a boy who found a box of hardtack dropped by the supply train. I have been to the LBH and while I have no love for Custer over time I at least see more strategy to his actions than before. The bottom line to me is that they attacked a superior force and the rest of the 7th was lucky that they didn’t share Custer’s fate.

      • Terry

        source: Gregory Michno, Lakota Noon, the Indian narrative of Custer’s defeat, Mountain Press, 1997

        Crow King, Sioux hunkpapa warchief (Michno, p.178):
        Riderless mounts scattered across the hills and ran to the river but the soldiers kept in order and fought like brave warriors.

        Moving Robe, Sioux hunkpapa woman who eventually fought at the battle (Michno, p.179) :
        It was a hotly contested battle.

        Eagle Elk, Sioux oglala warrior (Michno, p.186):
        The shootings [by the soldiers] Eagle Elk had witnessed within the last minutes had been enough to convince him of the good sense in staying away from the front lines.

        Red Horse, Sioux Minneconjou warchief (Michno, p.204):
        Even tough virtually surrounded, the soldiers put up a stiff resistance, for it was in this charge [chief Lame White Man’s charge] that the Lakotas lost more of their men. Red Horse thought that 136 Indians were killed and 160 were wounded in that phase of the battle.

        Hollow Horn Bear, Sioux Brule warrior (Michno, p.177):
        In fact, Hollow Horn Bear believed that the troops were in good order at the start of the fight, and kept their organization even while moving from point to point.

        Sitting Bull, famous Sioux hunkpapa chief (Jones, Custer’s Horses, p.104):
        There was so much doubt about the outcome [of the battle] that I told the squaws to break the camp and be ready to leave.

        Red Hawk, Sioux oglala warrior, speaking about the Last Stand (Michno, p.252):
        Here the soldiers made a desperate fight.

        Iron Hawk, Sioux hunkpapa warrior, speaking about the Last Stand (Michno, p.254):
        The Indians pressed and crowded right in around Custer Hill. But the soldiers weren’t ready to die. We stood there a long time.

        Thunder Hawk’s wife:
        “It was quite a fight” (on Custer Hill)

        Wooden Leg could see “that all the soldiers were killed except for a band that remained hidden behind their dead horses.”

        Flying By:
        “(the stand) was made in the place where Custer would be killed, down at the end of the long ridge.”

        Flying Hawk:
        “Custer made a stand on his hill.”

        Gall neared the end of the ridge where the last soldiers were making a stand. “They were fighting good” he said.

        he could see the soldiers who had fled the Keogh fight joining those making the stand on the hill.

        Two Eagles:
        The most stubborn stand the soldiers made was on Custer Hill. From his position a short way north and west of that point, Two Eagles noticed the hilltop was very level and the soldiers took the spot to continue their defense. (…) “They were killed on top of the ridge” Two Eagles declared.

        Red Hawk:
        The bluecoats were “falling back steadily to Custer Hill where another stand was made”, said Red Hawk. “Here the soldiers made a desperate fight.”

        Two Moon:
        (…) Two Moon turned back to watch the fight. (…) The “grey bunch” was still fighting.

        Standing Bear:
        Moving north along the ridge to where he could see better, Standing Bear noticed dismounted soldiers holding their horses by the bridles. “They were ready for us”, he said, and they began to shoot, “the bullets were just raining”. (…) Bear Horn rode up too close (to the last stand) and was himself shot down.

        Iron Hawk:
        On Last Stand Hill, Iron Hawk saw about twenty men on horseback and about thirty men on foot. “The Indians pressed and crowded right in and around them on Custer Hill” But the soldiers weren’t ready to die. Said Iron Hawk,“We stood there a long time.”

        Big Beaver:
        Big Beaver crawled back down the coulee to put a bit more distance between himself and the deadly soldiers bullets. (…) The Indians were rushing toward the hill where the soldiers were making their desperate fight.

    • Terry

      Burteen was a twisted old man ..

      source: The Benteen-Goldin letters
      Gossips and lies spread on Custer’s name by Captain Benteen in his letters
      Custer was a womanizer, he slept with his black cook, with an Indian captive, with other women, he was a criminal, a monkey, his wife was a whore, he was a fool, a coward…

      “There he is, God damn him. He will never fight anymore.”
      Captain Benteen when he first saw General Custer’s dead body on the battlefield, June 27, 1876
      “I’ve been a loser in a way, all my life by rubbing a bit against the angles- or hair–of folks, instead of going with their whims; but I couldn’t go otherwise –‘twould be against the grain of myself.”
      Capt Frederick Benteen to Pvt Theodore Goldin

      “In Russia, I would be a Nihilist, sure!”
      Captain Benteen, explaining his hatred to almost everybody else.

      “I am like a moose doing his mess on moonlight.”
      Captain Benteen on his use of defamatory gossips on General Custer.

      “They were a crowd of chumps.”
      Captain Benteen on all the officers of the 7th cavalry.

      “I thought that Custer could take care of himself .”
      Captain Benteen to the Court of Inquiry, explaining why he ignored Custer’s orders to “come on” and “be quick”.

      “What a big winner the U.S. government would have been if only Custer and his gang could have been taken. The Lord, in his own good time, had at last rounded the scoundrels up, taking, however, many good and innocent men with them!”
      Letter by Captain Benteen to Lieutenant Maguire celebrating his betrayal and the death of Custer and his family.

      Ultimate words of a frustrated loser:
      “Custer liked me for it (for hating him), and I always surmised what I afterwards learned, de facto, that he wanted me badly for a friend; but I could not be (…)”
      Capt Frederick Benteen

  8. J. Helmer

    I find it interesting that the Custer’s suicide myth still persists. Having been employed there for 10 years I have heard and responded to many of these questions in the past. This nation has been so jilted by its politicians (pick a party, it doesn’t matter) since the Kennedy assassination and the Watergate break-in, that conspiracy theories still tend to run rampant.

    Maybe Mr. Tassey has had past experience constructing tangled webs of government/conspiracy thought sometime in the past, but I doubt he was being shot at when doing so. George Custer had two mortal wounds (left temple, and left breast), hardly the side of the body for a right-handed person. Or is that also part of the conspiracy?

    Custer’s command perished with 210 men to be exact (13 officers, 193 enlisted men, and four civilians). I am unaware of a man named Ridgely even being on the payroll in 1876. However there has a tendency to be more survivors of the battle than there has been people killed at it.

    Iroquoian tribes often burned their enemies at the stake, the Lakota and Tsitsita (that’s the Sheyhela (Cheyenne) word for themselves for you novices trying to keep score here) did not. By 1876, killing your enemy on the battlefield was more favorable than dragging them back to camp for some sort of fiendish torture.

    David Humphrey’s Miller’s book does not cite one Indian source, therefore it is not worth the paper it is printed on and should be disregarded as a scholastic interpretation. Use it at your own peril, for in forums such as this, you will be made to look rather foolish, and in record time.

    All of you who believe there were any whites at all in the Sioux/Cheyenne camp on 25 June 1876 had better read (and I mean read, just don’t buy it and then let it collect dust) Wooden Leg : A Warrior Who Fought Custer by Thomas Marquis. Marquis was a doctor for the Cheyenne in the late 1800-early 1900’s. Many of the battle combatants communicated there experiences with Marquis through sign language. Wooden Leg, 18 at the time of the fight, stated without hesitation, there were no whites in the camp.

    Custer’s orders to Reno were to attack and that Custer would support him (Reno), not back him up. Reno was the first to use the word “support” but that was during the Court of Inquiry at the Palmer House in Chicago in January 1879. Since no one knew where the village was, and if it was moving, it was very difficult to give exact orders at to Reno’s specific movement.

    Curley, the Crow Scout, was with Custer when the left and right wings of the battalion met on Calhoun Hill. If Custer was wounded, then Curley would have mentioned it to Russell White Bear and Walter Camp. The fact that it was omitted and that Custer was with the right wing on Nye-Cartwright Ridge obviates the fact that he was wounded (or killed) at the river. The officer of which you speak was most likely Algernon Smith, whose body was found on Last Stand Hill near Dr. Porter, whereas his company was found scattered between 300-400 yards from his corpse.

  9. Mike

    I am not an historian, but Custer and this battle fascinate me. Custer was a 19th century rock star, on the eve of being a 19th century Kennedy or Obama. (Plenty of discusson of Dem’s considering running him for pres in the next election.)

    If asked 6 hourse before the battle, I believe Custer would have said his greatest fear would be that the indians would escape. I agree with a recent commenter that Reno was sent forward to scout. But, having recognized the battlefield, I agree with the author’s point that Custer then attempted a flanking manuever and expected Maj Reno to recognize and react or at least hold.

    Had Reno held his position in the timbers things would have been very different. Warriors would have had to deal with a two pronged attack. Many women and children were fleeing to the west. It’s even conceivable that the bulk of the warriors may have followed to protect them. Custer wrote of this tactic in a previous battle.

    If guilty of anything, Reno may be guilty of being drunk on duty, emotionally tramatized beyond an ability to command and failure to recognize and react in an appropriate military manner.

    I believe arceological finds have demonstrated that Custer deployed elements of his command in pickets. Horses were slain to provide fighting positions. Custer’s demise bears all the signs of a military command to the end.

    Reno’s every man for himself retreat from the timbers, to me, is the most terrifying part of the battle. As men were funneled into choke points trying to ford the river and being cut down one by one… terrifying!

    Benteen failed Custer’s command to “come quick”. Benteen stopped at Reno and did not come to Custer’s aid as directed. This is clear violation of his commanders orders. While with Reno, Benteeen did command the defense as Reno was ineffective. Men with them said Benteen was responsible for their survival. While this defense in commendable, Bentenns jealousy and hatred of Custer led him to abandon his commander and his men to their fate.

    I do not intend to disparage the valor or effectiveness of the warriors during the battle. I only write this becamse Custer has been intolerably smeared by history and the two culprits, Reno and Benteen, got off scott free.

    Thanks to our author for highlighting these important issues and keeping the discussion alive!

  10. s.harris

    Thank You Mr Helmer some of the posts listed here were way off and highly fabricated myths and stories.

  11. Ron Webb

    It’s time to realize that, in 1876, Custer is the only one who did that which he was sent to do, that being to locate the enemy and bring them to battle. Crook didn’t do it, they (the Indians brought the battle to him, Terry didn’t do it, nor Gibbon. Only Custer fulfilled his duty and he did so realizing that he was making the ultimate sacrifice to his duty, honor, and service to his country, while surrounded by treachery from all sides, from the president on down. When you look at the contribution that he made during the Civil War to keep this union together, we have to wonder why he was so maligned during the 1876 campaign. There can be no further question as to his allegiance to the US, he proved this on many fields of battle. Reno & Benteen simply could not stand to contribute to Custer having yet another victory….they were so jealous of him….and yet they had no right to ever try to compare their military worth with his, as they never were in his league. This soldier Custer deserves to rest in peace along with his companions….no one ever questioned his bravery, so why should the survivors question his service to his country.

  12. Paul Tisdel

    I have just come from a survey of the Little Big Horn Battlefield.
    Testimomy from historians and on site rangers support the fact that Custer divided his force into five groups: pack train, Reno, Benteen, one group that attacked at the ford and one group sent further north. In the face of an enemy force of the size reported,this was not sound. The flank attack at the ford was a good idea, but should have been executed with Custer’s full five companies.

    The exhaustion of the cavalry horses and the ground (4-5 miles of hills and gulleys) bwtween the Reno group and the Custer group prohibited any mutual support of each other and the inability to message each other was a guarantee that the groups could be defeated in detail.

    When the Custer group began its retreat, they went NORTH rather than south toward the Reno and Benteen groups thus extending the distance between the groups rather than going SOUTH toward a link-up.

    The distribution of the sites of the deaths of the troopers with Custer reveals that they as a group made no proper defense of themselves with the exception of one group. It also shows that Custer’s two groups did link up as well, but were defeated in detail.

    There is no issue of any one’s courage, but there is clearly an issue that Custer’s leadership was lacking and his assumption that the Indians would run was flawed. They didn’t come together to be wimps. They came together to fight and did. The won two major battles in one week.

    • roger Caudill

      I was under the impression custer split his force to allow reno hit the end of the village and he had designs on crossing the ford and hitting the other end. He realized at the ford that he had not reached the end of the village and retreated. Would his chances have not greatly improved if he had proceeded to ride through the turmoil of the village and link up with reno? Was this not his original plan?

      • Terry

        4.10 PM – 6.20 PM
        Waiting on Reno Hill
        “We must support Custer!” Captain Weir’s several attempts to stop the betrayal. When he reached Weir Point, Custer was still fighting

  13. Paul Tisdel

    Please note that I left out the word “not” in the next to last paragraph of my comment. Custer’s two groups did NOT successfully link up.

    • Terry

      sure they did .. Reno with Burteen .. Reno being 2nd in command should have ordered Burteen and his three companies to support Custer along with him and his three companies once the indians left and all went after Custer ..

      One of Custer’s last messengers explained the betrayal to his son
      source: William F. Boyes, Custer’s Battle Plan for 25 June 1876, in the Little Big Horn Associates Research Review, volume 22, no1, Winter 2008, page 16

      Sergeant Daniel Kanipe, Company C, brought Custer’s first orders (“come quickly”) to Benteen and McDougall during the battle of the Little Bighorn.
      Here is what he said to his son J. E Kanipe:

      “(Daniel Kanipe) declared reapeatedly to me that he had ample opportunity to obtain a clear and full understanding of what (plan) General Custer contemplated. (…) (Sergeant Kanipe told his son that,) a man would know then that he (Custer) had intended to strike the Indian village at three places at the same time to stampede the warriors.”

      Sergeant Kanipe also wrote to his son “a long statement concerning that (1876) campaign”, and in that document he wrote this:
      “Custer and his five troops would not have met their fate had Reno and Benteen carried out their orders.”

  14. Muhamad

    Way to go Mr. Tisdel. No one else gave an account of the fatigue factor of the movement for vthe horses. A “CAVALRY” is dead without fresh mounts. And when you exercise a “pincer” movement you do not divide your force into five groups. Reno was incompetent. He had been disciplined before; why trust such an important mission to him in the first place? Custer was brash and brave but NOT a military genious. He had a GOOD record during the Civil War not a GREAT record. He underestimated the resolve and strength of his adversary and paid dearly.

    • Paul Tisdel

      Reno definitely lost his nerve, but his military record was not one of incompetence. If he had continued his first withdrawal all the way across the river instead of stopping first in the trees, he would have made his defensive position a lot sounder. His whole behavior after his group got into the trees shows he was mentally in trouble. I suspect that his company commanders did a good basic job of getting the river bluff set up.

      I had a chance to go over the Reno Benteen position, and there is no question but that the arrival of Beteen and his troopers saved the situation. Beteen was a sound tactician and was in self control. His disposition of troops in that ground was very good. Interestingly, he was more in control of the situation than Reno when he arrived.

      When the pack train company arrived with ammunition and supplies, they had no trouble defending their position. The one anomally was the abortive attempt to rescue Custer.

    • Terry

      once again Gen Custer had the BEST record in the Civil War .. turning the tide at Gettysburg, and forcing Lee to surrender to Grant .. Gen Custer captured more artillery, flags and prisoners then any other General .. so HOW can you say not a great record ???

      • Terry

        Gen Custer turns the tide at Gettysburg & Appromatix

        GRANT’S ARMY.; Record of the Operations of Our Cavalry. Another Brilliant Affair by Gen. Custer Capture of Three Railway Trains, 25 Pieces Artillery, 200 Wagons, &c., by the Third Division. Details of the Surrender of Lee’s Army. After the Surrender Order from General Custer.

        Published: April 20, 1865
        From Our Own Correspondent.

        NEAR SAWNEY’s CREEK, APPOMATTOX CO., Va., Saturday, April 8 — 2 o’clock P.M.

        Up to the hour I write, there has been no fighting to-day. The result of the cavalry operations up to this time is, that not less than 15,000 of the men with which LEE left Richmond and Petersburgh have been captured, together with thirty or more pieces of artillery, several hundred wagons and 2,000 mules and horses; but these captures, large and satisfactory as they are, do not begin in importance as affecting the final result, or the fact that LEE has been forced to change his line of retreat. The testimony is conclusive, that when he set out on his retreat, Danville was his destination. The successful battle at Five Forks, followed up by the still grander affair on HARPER’s plantation, near Little Sailor Creek, enabled the Second Cavalry Division (Gen. CROOK’s) alone, yesterday, to force what troops LEE had on this side across the Appomattox, and he is now making indecent haste toward Lynchburgh, with the whole of GRANT’s army at his heels and left flank. At this moment, the cavalry is about thirty miles from Lynchburgh, while LEE, on the Buckingham road, eight miles to our right, has thirty-five miles to make before he can gain that point. Deserters, or men “going home” without leave and men “coming in” to give themselves up, are picked up by the cavalry in every direction; and if the statements made by these men are reliable — and there is no reason to doubt them — what yet remains of LEE’s grand army is little else than a disorganized mob. Out of supplies — having had no rations issued since the retreat was commenced on the 1st instant — laboring under the depressing influence of numerous defeats and disasters, it is not to be wondered at that the army is demoralized, and LEE for once at a loss what to do, as that is evidently his condition just now.

        The Second Division, under Gen. COOK, went to Farmingdale Station yesterday, when SMITH’s brigade charged through the village, and within sight of the enemy’s wagon train. In this charge about one hundred prisoners were captured, and several flags. The enemy’s infantry guarding the train, hurried to the spot, when Gen. GREGG charged with his brigade, and was repulsed. LORD’s battery got into position, and shelled Gen. LEE’s headquarters, and made the whole staff “get up and get.” The enemy having burned the splendid bridges at this point to prevent pursuit, the river had to be forded at a very bad place, the water being so deep that the gun carriages were entirely submerged while crossing. Gen. DAVIES’ brigade covered the movement; but when the rebel infantry came up in force, our cavalry retired. The losses of Monday will not exceed 75 men, 40 of whom were prisoners, and among the latter was Gen. GREGG and Lieut. PAYNE, Eighth Pennsylvania, of his Staff, who got cutoff. Gen. EVANS, it is said, commanded the enemy.

        Most of the prisoners captured appeared to be clerks from Richmond — at all events a majority of them have never been exposed much to the sun’s rays. One of the prisoners was an insane man, who, after his capture pulled out a bag of gold, and distributed its contents among the soldiers; he also tore up a large number of Confederate bonds — saying, as he did so, “that was the way he would serve the so-called.” Insane men are found everywhere in this section; most of them, it is alleged, were made so by trials and suffering brought on by the war.

        LEE to-day, according to the report of deserters and prisoners, captured by scouts, has scattered his artillery and supply trains in every direction. It is not possible for them all to escape.

        E.A. PAUL.


        Saturday, April, 8 — 10 o’clock P.M.

        I have just witnessed another brilliant and successful dash by Gen. CUSTER, at the head of the Third Cavalry Division.

        The cavalry left camp near Prospect Station this morning, the First and Third Divisions on one road — the latter division in advance, the Second Division taking a road to the left — all destined for this point On the road a large number of straggling soldiers were picked up, some of whom were cut off from their column by the burning of the Appomattox bridges at Farmingdale, yesterday, and others who were on their way home without leave. From these men it was ascertained that a large number of stragglers, and possibly a train, might be found at the station. Just as this fact had been ascertained, Gen. MERRITT sent an order to Gen. CUSTER to halt and mass his command. CUSTER told the aid the information he had obtained and that he should press on as rapidly as possible unless the order was repeated. No further order was received and the column made all speed possible. When the advance guard, Capt. RENNINGTON’s squadron Second New-York, (Harris Light,) had arrived within two miles of the station, it was ascertained that there were several supply trains on the track and a park of artillery in the vicinity. The advance, accompanied by Lieut.-Col. BIRDSEY and Major GLOVER of the same regiment, made a dash upon the station. Some 300 rebel soldiers made for the woods without firing a shot, leaving upon the main track and switches three large freight trains and one other train with locomotives attached and steam up. The engineer attempted to run the train off, but upon call moved the trains back to the depot again. Men were at once found in the Second New-York capable of running engines, who were detached to take the trains toward Burkeville Junction — to a place of safety. Three long trains filled with supplies of all kinds were thus run off before the enemy could recover from their first surprise, and a fourth was subsequently burned, with the depot. The balance of the Second New-York, Col. RANDAL, was quickly pushed forward to support Capt. RENNINGTON’s squadron. By this time the enemy had rallied, and the balance of PENNINGTON’s brigade, (composed of the Third New-Jersey, Col. ROBSON, Second Ohio, Col. NETTLETON,) dashed in upon the run, followed immediately by WELLS’ brigade, composed of the Eighth New-York, Maj. BLISS; Fifteenth New-York, Col. COPPINGER and First Vermont Lieut.-Col. HALL, and CAPEHART’s brigade, First Virginia, Leut.-Col. CAPEHART; Second Virginia, Lieut.-Col. ALLEN; First New-York, (Lincoln,) Capt. STEVENS. By the time CAPEHART’s brigade dashed in, the enemy rallied in strong force and opened fire from a park of artillery. This artillery, rebel prisoners assert, consisted of forty pieces, and was parked in a circle, and every piece shotted ready for use. After a brief skirmishing, WOODRUFF got his battery into position, and opened a rapid fire at short range. Several advances were made and repulsed, until finally, Gen. CUSTER, seizing upon a favorable opportunity, made a grand dash, just as the First Division was moving in upon his right. CUSTER never made a halt until he had reached Appomattox Court-house, three miles distant where he found his command mixed up with a large force of panic-stricken infantry, supposed to be two divisions under LONGSTREET. Night coming on, Gen. CUSTER fell back, while the First Division (DAVIS’) assumed the offensive, to enable the Third Division to bring off their captured property, consisting of thirty or more pieces of artillery, including the celebrated Washington Battery, about two hundred wagons, loaded with supplies of all kinds, forty-five or fifty freight cars, loaded with clothing, boots, shoes, coffee, sugar, bacon, &c., three locomotives, and hundreds of horses, mules and prisoners.

        The credit of stopping the trains is immediately due to Lieut. NORVALL, of CUSTER’s Staff, who, being with the advance guard, saw the trains moving off, and taking half-a-dozen men, dashed up to the advanced locomotive, and brought the train to a standstill, by firing a couple of shots at the engineer. NORVALL then run the trains back.

        This fight, which lasted perhaps two hours, was one of the most strongly contested this command has yet experienced; and naturally, for the supplies were brought to this station to ration LEE’s whole army.

        In going into the fight, PENNINGTON put his brigade on the extreme left, WELLS took the right and CAPEHART the centre. At several points portions of the line were advanced to within twenty yards of the enemy’s guns, and as often they were compelled to fall back, the enemy sweeping the line with canister. Seizing upon a favorable opportunity, just at dark, the whole line charged, swinging in the wings upon the enemy’s flanks; at the same time CUSTER in person dashed up with the troops on the road in the centre, and the place was carried. This point gained, the fighting did not cease, for the enemy made a stubborn resistance as they fell back toward Appomattox Court-house and Lynchburgh road, upon which was a train of wagons and artillery. Reaching this road, CUSTER gathered up the men around him and fought his way to the Court-house, where, leaving a portion of WELLS’ command to throw up defensive works, the remainder of the command fell back. Shortly after this STAGG’s brigade of DEVIN’s division came up, and was sent by Gen. CUSTER to relieve WELLS’ troops. Just as the General started up the road toward the Court-house, two guns were opened upon his rear; he turned about an instant, and said “Take those guns.” The order was promptly obeyed by some of WELLS’ and CAPEHART’s men; the guns ware taken. In this connection an interesting fact occurs to me. During the six months Gen. CUSTER has commanded the Third Division, every gun that has ever been opened upon the command has been captured by it. In this period of time eighty-one guns have been captured by the division before to-day. The number captured to-day, owing to the lateness of the hour, is not yet known: but the number is not less than twenty-five, and there may be as many as fifty pieces, when all are collected.

        This glorious result was mainly achieved through the indomitable energy and great daring of Gen. CUSTER, who was in the front at all times directing, rallying and encouraging the officers and men. In this work he was ably seconded by Lieut.-Col. WHITAKER and other staff officers, as well as the Brigade Commanders and many other officers, field and line. The work in hand was a difficult one, and required the utmost exertions to keep the men at their work, ROBT. E. LEE, the prisoners say, was on the ground, though Gens. WALKER, PENDLETON and others had immediate command in the field; but LEE had no opportunity to place his men behind breastworks, and as has been the case on every field during the war under such circumstance, the rebels met with a serious disaster.

        Gen. CUSTER’s magnetic influence on the battlefield was again illustrated to-day on more than one occasion. I have already referred to the capture of two guns by order. At an earlier hour there were three guns in one place making sad havoc in our line; charge after charge was repulsed; finally CUSTER, as the men fell back, said: “I must have those guns within five minutes.” Influenced by this remark, the men who had just fallen back rallied, and in less than five minutes the guns were in our possession, and such cheers as filled the air at the moment of triumph will never be forgotten.

        The fight had not been going on more than twenty minutes before Gen. SHERIDAN and staff rode upon the field, but the arrangements of Gen. CUSTER were not interfered with.

        As the troops were charging in at the commencement of the action, an engineer cut the column with a train of cars and halted; CUSTER ordered the train on; the engineer not heeding the order, he fired two shots at the delinquent, fortunately without doing any harm.

        The supplies intended for LEE’s army are to-night being issued to the cavalry, and the locomotives and trains captured will be of material service in bringing supplies from Burk’s Station, or hurrying forward the infantry in case the position of the cavalry should become untenable here.

        In the movement toward the Court-house, Lieut.-Col. ROOT, of the Fifteenth New-York, was captured.

        During the fight one man deliberately fired a ball through his own foot rather than go into a charge.

        Col. WELLS had another horse shot under him.

        Maj. CUMMING, of the First Vermont, also had a horse killed.

        The annexed list of casualties is furnished by Surgeon BOWLBY, Director of the Third Division, and embraces all the wounded who have been taken to hospital up to this hour:

        First Lieut. Wm. Smith, 2d Ohio — groin.
        First Lieut. C.A. Nims, Co. F, 2d N.Y. — hip.
        Corp. Edgar E. Henshaw, Co. D, 2d N.Y. — right hand.
        Capt. A.C. Smith, Co. F, 15th N.Y. — arm shattered by shell.
        Sam. Bailey, Co. E, 2d N.Y. — spine.
        James Cochrane, Co. E, 2d Va. — spine.
        Peter Gephart, Co. M, 2d Va. — spine.
        Wm. Searls, Co. A, 2d Va. — thigh.
        Lieut. E.D. Woodbury (and Adjutant,) 1st Vt. — arm and side; right hand shattered.
        Marshal King, Co. B, 8th N.Y. — shoulder.
        Sgt. Joshua Beverly, Co. F, 1st Va. — back.
        Capt. Geo. W. Remmington, Co. H, 2d N.Y. — arm.
        Sergt. J.T. Hohman, Co. D, 1st Va. — hand and hip.
        M.O. Sutherland, Co. C, 2d Va. — foot.
        C.R. Bagley, Co. E, 1st Vt. — shoulder.
        Sergt. Wm. Ollcraft, Co. E, 2d N.Y. — leg.
        George M. Ferrington, Co. M, 1st Vt. — shell, hip.
        Second Lieut. Willard Fannington — groin.
        Sgt. Edwin P. Yates, Co. B, 1st Vt. — leg.
        Sgt. Mark N. Rogers, Co. B, 1st Vt. — side.
        Pat. Cunningham, Co. D, 8th N.Y. — abdomen.
        Sergt. B.L. Carr, Co. M, 1st N.H. — shoulder.
        Sgt. Henry McCarty, Co. F, 8th N.Y. — side.
        A.R. Watkins, Co. G, 15th N.Y. — thigh.
        Corp. A.S. Barr, Co. L, 15th N.Y. — hand.
        Second Lieut. J. Walters, Co. G, 1st N.Y. — shoulder.
        J.J. Haskel, Co. H, 2d Ohio — leg.
        N. Brown, Veterinary Surgeon, 2d N.Y. — arm.
        Maj. S.S. Howe, 1st Va. — bowels
        J. Chalacolmb, Co. H, 2d Ohio.
        Sgt. N. West, Co. H, 15th N.Y. — arm.
        Sgt. Daniel McVickey, Co. H, 15th N.Y. — shoulder.

        E.A. PAUL.

        History fails to furnish a parallel to the important events of this day — except, perhaps, in a single instance. To-day ROBERT E. LEE, the head and front of the slaveholders’ rebellion — he who has given direction and force to all its vitality — unconditionally surrenders himself and the once powerful Army of Northern Virginia, which has hedged treason in with a wall of fire for the last four years, to the Union forces commanded in the field by Maj.-Gen. SHERIDAN.

        This great event would have transpired several days ago, it is believed, but for the interference of one of the supernumerary Generals, and many lives would have been saved; but of this I do not propose now further to speak. The transactions of the army under Gen. SHERIDAN, during the campaign down to the crowning effort of CUSTER and his Third Cavalry Division last night, I have before forwarded. At the close of yesterday’s proceedings, CUSTER’s men retired from the field, taking 24 guns with them, and destroying hundreds of wagons, leaving DEVINS’ cavalry to hold the line. During the night CROOK’s Cavalry Division (the Second) took the front, and this morning the enemy made an attack in force, driving back that division rapidly, until fortunately the Fifth Corps made its appearance and checked the advance. This attack, perhaps, was one of the most impetuous made during this war, for upon its success depended the fate of LEE’s whole army. For nearly two hours the battle raged fiercely, and the Twenty-fourth, Twenty-fifth and Sixth Corps were brought into position to the left, but not into action. DEVIN’s First Cavalry Division was next thrown in upon the right of the infantry, and subsequently CUSTER’s Third Division was ordered to take the place of the First, but in marching into position, CUSTER made such haste as to get on the right of the line. There, on the banks of Rocky Run, was the whole of LEE’s army, train and artillery, the advanced force being on the westerly bank of that stream, with Clover Hill or Appomattox Court-house between the two armies. LEE’s position was nearly surrounded, and SHERIDAN believed that a victory would be gained in less than one hour. Never did cavalry look better or grander than the Third Division, as it advanced in column of squadrons, WELLS’ brigade in advance, with the Eighth New-York thrown out as a skirmish line, protecting its left flank; never did a force pass through a more severe shell fire, for the moving column on the very crest of a hill overlooking the enemy’s entire camp, drew the fire of two batteries at short range; the morning sun shone brightly, and the cavalry, after the series of successes it had met with, was never more disposed to crush the rebellion at one full swoop. CUSTER, with his staff and escort, and handsome colors fluttering in the breeze, was on the left and near the head of the advancing column. Gen. SHERIDAN, with his staff, escort and colors displayed, was on the opposite flank, and nearly on a line with CUSTER. The immediate object of the advance here was to capture a battery on the extremity of the hill sloping toward Rocky Run, which was supported by GEARY’s division of rebel cavalry and COWAN’s brigade of infantry. This point gained, and the rebel army, trains and everything else would be at our mercy. No wonder that CUSTER was magnificent, or that his division was elated with the prospects before them while passing through the terrible fire to which they were treated by the rebel batteries. It was a glorious sight. Next on the left the Fifth Corps was pressing forward, and swinging in upon its left were the other corps named — the enemy having lost by this time the ground they had gained in the morning. At this auspicious moment, just as CUSTER was about to give the order to charge and take the battery toward which his column was moving, there was seen to emerge through the woods Capt. SEMMES and another officer of LONGSTREET’s staff, but temporarily acting under Gen. GORDON’s orders, bearing a loft a towel as a flag-of-truce. CUSTER demanded to know what was wanted, when the response was —

        “Gen. GORDON desires a suspension of hostilities.” To which request CUSTER promptly replied, “There can be no suspension of hostilities except on immediate and unconditional surrender of the entire army,” and directed Lieut.-Col. WHITAKER, his Inspector-General, to return his answer to Gen. GORDON. WHITAKER left immediately, and the firing ceased at this part of the line, but skirmishing was continued in front of the Fifth Corps. WHITAKER, passing through the enemy’s lines, was at once taken to the headquarters of Gen. GORDON, to whom he made known the response of Gen. CUSTER. He was apparently at a loss what to say for a moment, but was relieved by the arrival of an officer from Gen. LONGSTREET’s Staffs, who explained that a cessation of hostilities was requested because Gens. GRANT and LEE were holding a conference. This proved not to be the true state of the case, however, but Col. WHITAKER, acting upon it, immediately returned — accompanied by Capt. BARTON, of RHODES’ Staff, and Capt. BARTON, of WALKER’s Staff — to our own lines, passing in through the line of the Fifth Corps, to a general officer, to whom he imparted the information he had received, and the firing ceased at this point. No sooner had WHITAKER left on his mission, than Gen. CUSTER decided to go himself within the enemy’s lines, and did so, displaying a white handkerchief, and had an interview with LONGSTREET and other officers of the rebel army. Just after CUSTER had left our lines, GEARY’s cavalry charged upon his column, but were driven back by WELLS’ brigade. The enemy, as an excuse for this attack, pretended not to know that a flag of truce had been sent in, though it came directly from the front, but the real explanation, it is supposed, is they had too much apple-jack aboard to know just what they were about. Gen. CUSTER having at first sent a messenger to Gen. SHERIDAN to inform him of what had been done, that officer; accompanied by Gen. MERRITT and their respective staffs, proceeded to the court-house, which was then between the lines, and was immediately after gained by officers from both armies. The last shots of the dying rebellion were fired at Gen. SHERIDAN’s party — one of which came very near Gen. MERRITT and Capt. WALLACE, one of his aids. Sentinels were stationed about the court-house, and only the privileged few were admitted within the line; but from 9 o’clock A.M. until the arrival of Gen. GRANT, at about 2:30 o’clook P.M., there was free intercourse between the two armies. Gen. LEE reached the spot at about the same time as Gen. GRANT, and the two entering the house of Mr. MCLEAN, near the court-house building, the result of the consultation was made known before 4 o’clock, viz.: That the Army of Northern Virginia had surrendered unconditionally. The flag of truce had caused cheering throughout both armies, but when the result of the interview was made known the shouts that filled the air was deafening; and there almost at the same instant stood two armies in battle array, who, a few hours before had been engaged in deadly strife, now at peace with each other, and both rejoicing because of that peace. How incomprehensible is the creature called man.

        Thus ends the slaveholders’ rebellion, on Easter Sunday, April 9, 1865, having lasted four years less three days.

        The last officer wounded was Capt. SKIFF, of the Fifteenth New-York Cavalry.

        During the evening officers of both armies have passed back and forth freely, and a general good feeling is already manifested. LEE, it is understood, will advise JOHNSTON and other army commanders to follow his example, which they doubtless will do. GORDON has already published an address to his men, advising them to go home and be true to the United States. The number of persons paroled will be about 23,000, which with 15,000 captured by the cavalry and 10,000 lost by straggling, added to what was captured by GRANT in front of Petersburgh, makes up a very large army.

        The articles of surrender were signed in the house of WILMER MCLEAN, and it is a fact worthy of note that the same individual owns Bull Run, where the first battle was fought, and was a refugee here — thus have his chickens come home to roost. The table upon which the important document was signed Gen. SHERIDAN paid $20 in gold for, and then presented it to Gen. CUSTER. Lieut.-Col. WHITAKER purchased the chair in which Gen. LEE sat at the table, and Col. CAPEHART the one occupied by Gen. GRANT, Before twenty-four hours I doubt if there is much of the house left — such a penchant have Americans for trophies. Gen. SHERIDAN has the inkstand used on the occasion.

        Another interesting fact comes to my knowledge as I write. As is well known, LEE’s army is out of rations, but expected to be supplied from the trains captured by CUSTER yesterday. The supply trains of this army are out of immediate reach. In this emergency the Twenty-fourth Corps all colored soldiers, turned over their rations cheerfully to feed their former masters.

        When Gen. LEE rode into our lines he was very carefully and well dressed in a gray uniform, bright top boots and dark slouched hat — looking indeed as if he had on his Sunday-go-to-meeting suit. He wears a full beard — iron gray, and looks like a well preserved old gentleman. He was saluted by our officers as he rode in.

        The cause for the cheering in the rebel army, I am told by a person who was there at the time, was because of the liberal terms that had been granted them. They expected “subjugation” was something like State Prison life, and some of the men believed SHERIDAN carried along handcuffs for them. Union officers present heard cheers for Gen. GRANT in the rebel lines during the day and before the conference.

        The camps to-night are peaceful and brilliantly illuminated by camp-fires. It is a novel thing to see these armies, which have confronted each other in battle array for four long years, now resting in peace within speaking distance, and no pickets out, nor even a skirmish line. E.A. PAUL.

        NEAR BURKESVILLE JUNCTION, MOTTOWAY COURT-HOUSE, Va., Wednesday, April 12, 1865.

        The whole army, except one corps, left the vicinity of Clover Hill yesterday morning, and is being concentrated in this vicinity, where it will probably remain until JOE JOHNSTON and other rebel leaders decide whether they will surrender without further bloodshed or not. ROBERT E. LEE, and the men recently under his command, as well as the citizens generally hereabouts, expect that all will surrender forthwith. A wonderful change has come over the spirits of the soldiers and people in the State during the last week. I have had a good opportunity to talk with the officers of LEE’s army, and there are very few “simon pure” Secessionists to be found, and few or none who do not believe it better for themselves, as well as the country, to unite under one flag again. Even HENRY A. WISE now claims to have been a strenuous Union man, and only took up arms when forced to do so by the North to protect Southern rights. In their march to this place during the last two days, not a hostile shot has been fired, and indeed, the march has been conducted just about the same as if the people had never been in arms against the Government of the United States, At Hampden and Sydney College, at Prince Edward Court-house and various, other small places passed through during the last two days, and at private houses by the roadside, a profusion of white flags were displayed. Everything and everybody seemed to wear a more cheerful aspect. The people opened their houses freely, and extended hospitalities never shown before. While a few ladies shed tears of mortification at the surrender of LEE, they nevertheless believed it all right, because LEE had done it, at the same time expressing a hope and willingness to become reconciled to the new order of things. But with the people generally, there is great rejoicing that the war is over.

        If the people of Appamattox, Prince Edward and Holloway Counties and the soldiers of LEE’s army represent the whole South, not one year will have elapsed before they will forget the horrors of subjugation. Half an hour after the cessation of hostilities, and within the rebel lines, a prominent officer was proposing plans for punishing the enemies of the United States, and his remarks met with approval from a crowd of graybacks who were listening to the conversation.

        As CUSTER’s cavalry column passed through the country yesterday and to-day, the people flocked to the roadside, waved handkerchiefs, and at several places actually clapped their hands to express their happiness. At the house where Gen. CUSTER made his headquarters last night, the people made a particular request that the band play the Star Spangled Banner — an unheard of event during the last four years.

        The cavalry camp to-morrow in the vicinity of Holloway Court-house, where the force will probably remain until an order comes mustering it out of service.

        Annexed will be found a circular address which speaks for itself:


  15. Thomas Dunson

    I’ve been a student of George Custer’s for the better part of 50 years. I’ve visited the battlefield on the Little Bighorn some three dozen times. Obviously, I can’t resist commenting on some of the comments on this page. Yes, he was brash and perhaps bold to the point of overconfident. Seems to me that I’ve heard the same criticisms of MacArthur and Patton. Leadership is a tough hat to wear–I’m a school district administrator–I know. George Custer was given credit for saving the day at Gettysburg by his superiors–so much so that his wife, Libby, was given the table that Lee signed the surrender on. I agree, maybe not a genious but the only officer to lead eleven charges. His command post was in front of his men. This was a lesson that Hal Moore took to Viet Nam and gave Custer credit for in his book “We Were Soldiers”. If George Custer is to be criticised it should be for trusting his second and third in command, Reno and Benteen. These two men were not on the “team” and didn’t want to be part of the “team”. The term “underestimated” was used and I’d like to point out that George Custer most likely underestimated the dedication of Reno and Benteen along with the strength of the “hostiles”. Custer’s reports or “intelligence” from the reservations was faulty at best. Reservation agents of the day were paid “per head”. The Indian Agents hadn’t reported the number of hostiles that had left their agencies because it would have meant a terrible cut in pay for them. Also along the lines of “intel” we can include the fact that George Crook was whipped at the Battle of the Rosebud and retreated to near present day Sheridan, Wyoming to lick his wounds. No word was sent north to the Terry column or Gibbon’s Montana column. Why hasn’t Crook been criticised for the lack of intel and also attacking a week earlier than planned by the three columns.
    Finally, I’d just like to say that I think George Custer, since Viet Nam, has been a victim of a changing attitude–a very poor attitude about what a hero is and what our great country has stood for. He has been made a scape goat for Manifest Destiny. He was a geat soldier–maybe with tunnel vision for glory but non-the-less, he was always focused on getting the job done just like our greatest Generals.

    • paul

      very well put. i visited the battlefield some years ago and have wondered ever since why reno and benteen sat on their hill as long as they did without a single indian in front of them until finally weir made his move forward. reno and benteen hung the custer command out to dry and should have been court-martialled for it

  16. mariah

    that is wrong for what Custer did to the Indians aney way. the Indians didn’t do aneythin to them. the Whites just tried to take over are lands. they should HAve not trid to clame land that some peole allreaddy had.
    thats just like theft.

    • Terry

      Lt Custer was under orders from Gen Terry who was under orders from Gen Sheridan who was under orders from Gen Sherman and the War Dept. who was under orders from President Grant .. so HOW can you blame LtCol Custer ???

      the blame starts with Lincoln who initiated the Homestead Act which did NOT include Indian territory as OFF LIMITS to whomever wanted land out west ..

    • boothy

      learn to write mariah… indians were conqured so live with it.

  17. joe lawlor

    It seems like every time I begin doing a little research on Lt Col Custer and the Little Big Horn battle, I run into at least a couple of folks who seem to be hung up on the “Little Big Man” depiction of the boy general. Despite all the billions of words used in discussing this historical personage, I truly can not understand how anyone who takes the time to read more than one book or watch more than one movie about Custer does not come away with an appreciation of this extremely brave and heroic man. I met Robert Nightingale a few years ago (when he was at the Gerryowen shop and I bought his book from him) and I enjoyed the read. I enjoyed reading the write-up here also. The more that is written, the better off we are, despite some of the tripe that some people call history.

  18. Colonel RHS

    An in depth study of Custer will show he was noted as being an overly aggressive officer and somewhat of a ‘misfit’. During the Civil War, he took it upon himself to hang Confederate POW’s captured in Virginia during his campaing against Confederate General Jubal Early. Lee and Jefferson Davis communicated to Lincoln that unless Custer was reigned in, they would adopt the same policy.
    Without going into to much detail, facts will show he took the 7th and arrived early ahead of the other units and Infantry support. He even left his field guns behind to move quickly. Why–because the Democratic Conventin was to be held in July and Custer wanted a big victory alone to cinch his nomination in the party for the Presidency. His tactics were sound, but he simply did not realize he was attacking a much superior force. After the disaster, no one wanted to destroy the myth. His wife Libby wrote ‘Boots and Saddles’ around 1912 I think and a beer company had a portrait of the ‘glorious last stand’. Libby lived until around 1932 and the Army or historians neither one wanted to lay the truth out as to what really happened. It has just been with recent publications and digs at the battlefield that the truth is coming out. Read ‘Son of the Morning Star’ for perhaps the best documentation of the battle.

  19. rbrave

    That was a great day for us Lakotas and Cheyenne. If Pehin Hanska (Custer) had defeated us he would become President and begin his joy of genicide against the people indigenous to this part of the world.

    • Russ Miller

      A win in a battle, due to an officer disobeying a direct order. Six months later, Crazy Horse surrendered, like any rational commander.

      There was no genocide, that is ridiculous. There was a Plains War.

      • Terry

        LtCol Custer did NOT disobey ANY order .. your Presidential Genocide came from President Grant, you know, the guy who looted, burnt and raped the women of Ga ..

        HERE YOU GO ..

        Grant and his administration began to consider alternatives to the failed diplomatic venture. In early November 1875, Major General Philip Sheridan, commander of the Division of the Missouri, and Brigadier General George Crook, commander of the Department of the Platte, were called to Washington, D.C. to meet with Grant and several members of his cabinet to discuss the Black Hills issue. They agreed that the Army should stop evicting trespassers from the reservation, thus opening the way for the Black Hills Gold Rush. In addition, they discussed initiating military action against the non-treaty bands of Lakota and Northern Cheyenne who had refused to come to the Indian agencies for council. Indian Inspector Erwin C. Watkins supported this option. “The true policy in my judgement,” he wrote, “is to send troops against them in the winter, the sooner the better, and whip them into subjection.”
        Concerned about launching a war against the Lakota without provocation, the government instructed Indian agents in the region to notify the various non-treaty bands to return to the reservation by January 31, 1876, or face potential military action. The US agent at Standing Rock Agency expressed concern that this was insufficient time for the Lakota to respond, as deep winter restricted travel. His request to extend the deadline was denied. General Sheridan considered the notification exercise a waste of time. “The matter of notifying the Indians to come in is perhaps well to put on paper,” he commented, “but it will in all probability be regarded as a good joke by the Indians.”
        Meanwhile in the council lodges of the non-treaty bands, Lakota leaders seriously discussed the notification for return. Short Bull, a member of the Soreback Band of the Oglala, later recalled that many of the bands had gathered on the Tongue River. “About one hundred men went out from the agency to coax the hostiles to come in under pretense that the trouble about the Black Hills was to be settled,” he said. “…All the hostiles agreed that since it was late [in the season] and they had to shoot for tipis [i.e., hunt buffalo] they would come in to the agency the following spring.”
        As the deadline of January 31 passed, the new Commissioner of Indian Affairs, John Q. Smith, wrote that “without the receipt of any news of Sitting Bull’s submission, I see no reason why, in the discretion of the Hon. the Secretary of War, military operations against him should not commence at once.” His superior, Secretary of the Interior Zachariah Chandler agreed, adding that “the said Indians are hereby turned over to the War Department for such action on the part of the Army as you may deem proper under the circumstances.” On February 8, 1876, General Sheridan telegraphed Generals Crook and Terry, ordering them to commence their winter campaigns against the “hostiles”. The Great Sioux War of 1876–77 had begun.

  20. LS

    In my 60+ years I’ve watched the ebb and flow of opinion concerning Custer’s handling of his engagement on the Little Big Horn. To a large extent, changes in perception hinge upon changing contemporary social attitudes, not in the discovery of new, incontrivertible evidence.

    I think Robert Nightingale cuts through much of the political correctness that has guided other Custer writers, like Evan S. Connell. Unlike Connell, Nightingale isn’t apologizing for federal policies toward Native Americans; rather, he’s simply trying to get at the facts as best as they can be understood given the plentitude of credible and specious information passed about for well over a century.

    To date, I haven’t decided whether I’m a Custer supporter or detractor, nor do I feel any necessity to weigh in on either side. I’ve enjoyed walking the Little Big Horn battlefield many times, have read every book on the subject I could get my hands on, and constantly scour the Internet for anything that seems relevant. Did Custer screw up royally? Was he betrayed by Reno and Benteen? Was he let down by higher command? I don’t know, but I suspect truth resides somewhere on the middle ground.

    As of this writing, only one truth is certain, many men — white and red — died that day because they thought they were doing their duty. I think there memory and our understanding of the LBH incident will be much better served if we confine ourselves to facts and avoid trying to guess at what was going through Custer’s mind on June 25th.

  21. eagledavey

    Sitting Bull, Gall, Crazy Horse plus a ton of other good leaders. Custer ran into the Perfect Storm that day, and he made mistakes by dividing his forces again and again. Custer was a good general. Wherever he found the enemy he struck hard and fast. But he was sometimes brash and reckless, and he didnt seem to have much respect for the Indian fighters and great chiefs ability or determination to stand and fight.

    • Terry

      if LtCol made a mistake dividing his forces .. then you know more about military tactics then those who wrote the book on it .. therefore you should get a teaching job at West Point .. LOL

      While Custer has been criticized for his tactics in the battle, this maneuver was, in fact, a standard cavalry tactic. Both Custer and Reno were experienced Civil War cavalry officers and would have been very familiar with it.
      The official manual of the time (used during the Civil War and in the postwar period) was Cavalry Tactics and Regulations of the United States Army, written by Philip St. George Crook.
      Regulation 561 of that manual states, ‘If possible, at the moment of a charge, assail your enemy in the flank when [the enemy] is engaged in the front.’

  22. Rod Graham

    I like the comments from so many people & the different views. That is America! I grew up thinking Custer was a great person or Indian fighter but as I studied, I came to a different conclusion. My conclusion is if Custer had listened to his Scouts, he would have lived to fight another day. More than one Scout told him to not go into the Valley. His Indian and White Scouts knew best and he did not listen. Custer did not fear a fight, but he should have known to follow the advice of his Scouts.
    I have eleven ancestors (mostly direct ancestors) who were killed by Indians in the East and in four different areas during the 17th Century. I have other ancestors who lived side by side with the Indians and got along and protected each other. I had other ancestors who were Indian fighters and interpreters for the other white people they lived among. All in all, we have done more wrong to the Indians than they have ever done to us. We as a people need to respect the American Indians and our/their History for it is an American History.
    I love America like I love my family, but the truth is the truth and we must deal with it. I love America even with its wrongs and mistakes and I love my family the same way. Custer went into the Valley for the wrong reasons and many people paid for that mistake.

    • Larry

      Trascripts from the inquiry in Chicago and statement from Indian survivors do not support popular myth. I grew up with that myth, and over nearly 50 years and countless trips and surveys of the battle field, I understand it now to be the legacy of Libby’s PR campaign, and a popular desire to have cultural heros.

      Custer was brash, bold and brave, but I hold a different view of him now. His tactics were sound, but against a much small force! He failed to appreciate the intel he had available indicating a much larger presence. He overestimated the value of surprise, and he failed to appreciate the obvious size of his adversary. Reckless ambition killed him and his men, and for that I hold him responsible.

      Consider for a moment a situation in which Custer had lived, yet with severe loss of life. How would history judge him then? I think reckless would have been the most commonly used adjective. Mothers and Fathers who send their children off to war have an expectation of devotion to duty, but also to competent leadership. I think had he lived, I think he would have been held responsible. My sympathy now goes to the families who lost loved ones as a result of his recklessness.

    • Russ Miller

      “All in all, we have done more wrong to the Indians than they have ever done to us. We as a people need to respect the American Indians and our/their History for it is an American History.”

      Yes, you have bought into the revisionist history of anti-American scholars. The truth is that civilizations collide. To win these conflicts, you have to be either 1)supierior or 2)have numbers.

      America had both of these advantages.
      We did NOTHING to the Indians that they didn’t do to each other. In fact, they did far worse to each other. They were never aligned, they were basically tribes with no formal or real claim on entire territories of expansive land.

      The Rosebud and LBigHorn battles are rare instances where Indians actually aligned in the Plains War. It was objectively, the exception rather than the rule.

  23. George Henrique Kling de Moraes

    100 years after this famous battle (June 22, 1976), I, my wife Marilene and my oldest boy Eduardo Henrique arrived in the USA from Brazil. We went to Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana. I got a Ph.D. in Biochemistry. We lived there until February, 1980. We loved the USA. But some things bothers me: what the positon of the Christian Chuchs by that time in relation to those people called Indians? What in the hell it is normal or acceptable to do a genocide? What kind of mind have all those soldiers attacking indians camp full of women and children? And today what is the position of the same Christian Churchs in relation to the indians were left alive?

  24. Tommy Franks

    Interesting article.

    A detailed account on the Battle of Little Big Horn was written by Cyrus Townshed Brady in a book called “American Fights and Fighters “. He interviewed both Indian and 7th Calvary survivors of the battle.

    To the above post, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but you should research or acknowledge your own countries history before casting judgment on ours.

    That aside, research the French Indian War, War of Independence, War of 1812 and all events leading up to 1876.

  25. George Henrique Kling de Moraes

    Thanks for the book and the site suggested. I have already put the site in my pc. Is the book free in the net? So far you were the only to answer me. And I keep looking for answers to my questions. One can easily imagine what the Churchs would say. But I am looking for answers outside the Churchs. History is history. There is no judgment. No problem. It seems that our ancestors did kill more “indians” than in USA. Today there are about 600 thousand “indians” in Brazil. And they are been killed mainly by diseases. This subject has to do with racism. The “indians” were considered people withou soul and so on. There is a movie called Son of the Morning Star. Very interesting about Custer and the famous battle. Benteen called the “indians” as hostile.

  26. wolf boy

    well i heard that crazy horse and his tribe had a partie and a few of his “braves” got drink and sunk out and killed a few of the settlers….i also heard that a few of our own men got drink and killed a few indians….. which in both stories lead up to the battle of little big horn….

  27. George Henrique Kling de Moraes

    Well, any drunk person would do bad things. Sometimes terrible things. So far I do not have some specific answer about genocide of “north americans indians”. This remind me that probably by that time was common to accept the “indians” as people without soul and condenmed by God. This is probably true for all America Continent. I t does not make any sense to attack with guns and swords an “indian” camp with women and children in North, Central or South America.

  28. Denise Bridges

    This land belonged to the Indians long before the white man came, but once they didand the white man took and took and lied to get what they wanted

    • Russ Miller

      Unfortunately, many believe that myth. But the Indians were not organized and didn’t have formal areas or territories even between themselves.

      The stronger tribes and chiefs won by warring on the weaker tribes.

      Although the American handling of Indians is not pristine and clean, we did nothing to them that they did not do to themselves.

  29. George Henrique Kling de Moraes

    Well, again, no one comment about “genocide” in USA, although this also happened in many other countries. Not only the “indians”, but white people also were killed. But not by the indians, but by another white peolple. The largest war in South America was the “Guerra do Paraguai” or The Paraguay War. Argentina and Brazil troops killed so many paraguains that only almost one century after the end of this war the population of Paraguay reached the same number before the war. There is a book called American Genocide about this specific war. Back to Custer last stand, I admire this General but not what he have done against women and children. Although the “indians” did the same but according to Hollywood movies. This is not realistic. Any way, the Darwin theory about evolution in terms of social aspects helped many to classified the “indians” as disposible.

  30. Russ Miller

    Custer took some calculated risks, but his risks were thought out well.

    What he didn’t calculate was that the coward Benteen would abandon him and not follow direct orders.

    Benteen, later (probably from guilt) was convicted of several instances of drunkenness on duty. He was kicked from the Army, only to be brought back in by Presidential pardon.

    His hatred and jealousy for Custer, ate at him his entire life. If their is justice in the after life, Custer is pistol whipping him right now. At the least we know that, the lives of over 200 other men who fought gallantly to their deaths, drove him to drink.

    Sioux accounts admit that if the Benteen-Reno group would have went to Custer, they would have had to flee the battle scene.

    • davey

      I agree that benteen should have carried out custers orders to join him quickly.if custer had survived,benteen would probably been court martialled for not carrying out orders to defend troops in a perilous situation.after all benteen and reno survived their assault by the indians.

  31. George Henrique Kling de Moraes

    Brazil had also afro people slavery. In the 19 century after 3 or 4 laws put free slaves with more than 60 yars old, those born after that specific data etc in 1888 slavery was abolished. Today Brazil has afro people from our Supreme Higher Court or Supreme Court and all position in society. Naturally they do are very good in music, sports e some others areas similar to those. But, back to the native “indians” that are living in Brazil, they did not grew as the afro people. They remain living like almost 500 years ago. Government money help them to be like that. Foreign countries and several organizations keep forcing to keep them like a happy forest people. Although this, we killed a tremendous number of these people since 1500. It is like a typical genocide. Worse then what happened to the jews, gypsies, polishs, russians etc in WWII. Any way what is the position of the christians and/or Christians Churches in relation to Custer and all those who fought the “indians” killing women and children sleeping in their camp?

  32. Otter

    No mention here of Custer’s past experiences when attacking the indians. From what I have read, the indians always scattered when being attacked by the army. Could it be that Custer ordered the attack on the end of the indian camp, and then rode towards the other end to stop the indians from scattering? See how large the camp was, he sent orders back for the rest of his command to come quick as he realized he was undermaned. Instead of the indians scattering, as they had always done in the past, they attacked. Being out manned and out gunned, he had no chance unless reinforcement came to his aid. The reinforcements never came.

  33. Ray Ziarno

    Well, it seems no one has directly responded to Mr. de Moraes numerous, recent postings. So… I really have no idea of the “Christian
    Churches” opinions or stance on the killing of Indian women and children in the late 1800’s. I would presume that research directed
    at the various religious sects active in Montana at that time (late 1800’s) might produce historical data. Certainly, there were white
    missionary activities in Indian villages at that time, and active mission-
    ary/religious schools after the Indian “wars” ceased. Modern movies often depict a brave missionary trying to defend Indians/natives during times of distress. I would think that the hierarchy of Christian churches at that time, in the U.S., would generally support the activities of our government (genocide toward the Indians on the western plains), but that individual missionaries, obviously, would try to defend their “flock.” (But, history requires that anything we hear/read from our
    religious “leaders” be taken with “a grain of salt.” Hell, that also applies to politicians, government officials, military leaders, and a lot of other “establishment” types.
    Mr. de Moraes… I highly urge you to read Howard Zinn’s….”A People’s History of the United States.” Although, I believe, it does not deal with your specific query, the Indian “issues” are part of the
    book. (This book looks at American history from the viewpoint of the ongoing struggles of middle and lower classes, immigrants, and minorities, against the overwhelming powers of the elite and “Establishment” (government, military, law enforcement, etc.)
    Most of the factual information is this book NOT part of our educational experience, and most Americans ignorant of “what actually happened” in our history. Zinn’s book should be required reading for every American citizen. Unfortunately, and obviously, due to current political and cultural conditions in our country…it won’t be.



  35. Phil Hore

    I think to sit in your comfortable, air-conditioned house and call someone who fought for nearly 15 years a coward is the highest mark of indecency I can think of. Reno a coward? Perhaps you should look into the history of the man. He was far more experienced at Indian fighting that anyone else in the 7th at the time- had been fighting out of Fort Walla Walla since 1860. The discovery of the mutilated bodies of six of the Van Ornums must have been horrifying, yet he took that anger and brought those who massacred the family to justice, even though it almost cost him his life. His work during the Civil War brought nothing but compliments. He was the provost Marshal of New Orleans after the Civil War and stood against the hatred and bigotry of those southern men who were biter at their defeat and ready to take it out on the city’s black population. He was then sent to South Carolina to stand against the Klu-Klux-Clan. Even at the LBH he FOLLOWED Custer’s orders and attacked the village- and his only moment of weakness was in the minutes after he had someone’s brains blown across his face. For the rest of the battle he put up a stiff resistance and kept his men alive. And for this you brand him a coward…shame, shame, shame on you all. Could he have done more, maybe, but clearly the entire affair was bungled from the start and to point the finger at one man, and not the person who DISOBEYED direct orders and got everyone killed is more than a little mystifying. Hate him, dislike his choices, argue you all you want, but lets try to be civil…Reno deserves that much respect.

  36. Lakota

    well, it seems to me that alot of “non-indians” are trying to portray Custer as a “victom” of his own destiny. My ancesters were at the battle of Little Bighorn. Why not ask an a “real Indian” about what they know about it?? Simple, becouse the “real Indians” version is not as “heroic” as some want it to be. My people were NOT Murderers of “White settlers” either. My people were trynig to protect themselves and their families,…not to mention their own homeland. These “non-Indians” need to wake up and relize that yeah,….. The American Indian was finally subdued, but wiped out by 90% of its population!! I know,…..Iknow,…I already hear the same cop-out, cowardly statement,”Well,I wasn’t there”!! Niether was was I(yours truely),…….. but it happened,……for every soldier killed on that faithfull day back in 1876, you can count at least 1000 of my people killed as well du8ring that time,……..MOSTLY WOMEN and CHILDREN!! But hey,……We Indians get “free money” just for being Indian,……..WRONG AGAIN!! Anyway, The bottom line is that Custer and his men went to Pick a fight with someone who’s numbers were greatly under-estimated and lost badly!! IF Custer had “won” the Battle, it would have been another “great victory” chalked up for the “Non- Indian” to brag about and not mention the number of innocent Indians MURDERED there.

  37. jrs

    I ran across this lively discussion while searching for a novel about a Little Big Horn survivor, which I later found (Crofton’s Fire, a fine little read). Setting aside opinions of cowardice, bravery, and regimental jealousies, I can only add my belief that, had Benteen and Reno ridden to Custer’s aid, their 7 companies would have joined Custer’s 5 in death on that hill above the Greasy Grass. There was powerful medicine in that valley that day; another 400 troopers, strung out across broken terrain, would not have turned that battle.

  38. Andrew Woolf

    @ jrs

    This is probably a safe bet. Had Reno and Benteen complied with Custer’s orders The 7th at the LBH River would have been restored to
    its full compliment of 620 or so men.
    Weather or not this would have turned the day is open to debate of course, however its doubtful, to say the least, since conservative estimates place the number of Tribespeople at 1800- a 3 to one odds, and high end estimates are between 3 and 4000.

    Also weighing in against Custer were that The Warriors were armed
    ironically with weapons given to them to protect themselves by US Military Outposts, and that these weapons included Carbines (repeating Rifles).
    Lastly, it seems apparent that Custer (for whatever reason) misjudged the numerical superiority of his opponents- US Military strategy did not condone headlong attacks at vastly superior numbers of hostiles, and no General in the field would order such an attack. As a result, GAC and his men found themselves on the wrong end of what was supposed to have been a ‘surprise attack,’ and outnumbered to boot- the worst of possibles. As noted earlier, ballistic evidence at the site confirms just such the type of reaction one would expect under these circumstances- panic, wild shooting with no aim points, and in fact very little shooting at all, especially
    considering the wealth of targets.

    Reno and Benteen, by their appearance, would have added 400 more souls to the fray, but would have arrived in the middle of a rout,
    or at the least, a desperate attempt at a fallback, in the face of a massive and concerted opposition.
    In all probability, their appearance and that of their men would have gained Custer some time, possibly enough for a successful withdrawal from the field, but thats about all. In retrospect, their decision not to engage actually makes sense under these circumstances, since to do so would have achieved nothing, other than increasing the carnage, and sacrificing more men to a lost cause. .

  39. George Henrique Kling de Moraes

    It seems that americans by that time follow what God told to the Jews when they arrived in Palestine after the Exodus: destroy Jericho, kill everybody, children, males, females, animals etc. And they did so. Americans, Brazilians, Spanish did the same in relation to those we call Indians. Simply kill them, they do not have soul, let´s clean the area from them, it is a typical genocide. I have a feeling that Americans invaded and conquered Iraq and are still fighting in Afegnistan based upon in the fights against the several native people in the USA. Going back to George Armstrong Custer I feel sorry for him and his soldiers and I really do not know what exactly happened. Ir was a Sioux and Cheyenne victory? Or George Armstrong Custer was a stupid General doing what he did? Finally who really wan (wun?) the battle: Custer or Crazy Horse? It is different if Custer lost or Crazy Horse wan.

    • andrew woolf

      Ok, lets save you the trouble of actually taking the time to read the accounts here, and sum it all up for you:

      1) Custer, and his entire 5th Company of The Seventh Cavalry (218 Men)
      were entirely wiped out, within 45 minutes of engaging an encampment of at least 1600 ‘hostiles,’ which outnumbered them by at least 3 to one.

      ( fyi-Crazy Horse was not the Elder at LBH, it was Sitting Bull).

      2) Custers two executive officers Reno and Benteen, commanded the other two Companys of The Seventh. Reno’s Company, besieged on a redoubt, was whittled away to next to nothing until relieved by Benteen. Both Companies then withdrew from the field under fire with the remainder of the Seventh, which had been reduced to 2/3rds of its origional compliment of some 680 Men, and had lost one of its 3 Companies entirly (Custers, including Custer Himself).

      In military terms, an outcome of this kind is a ‘defeat.’

      Of course, one must feel sorry for any victims of war, however, we must also temper that remorse, according to circumstance.
      In this instance, The Sioux, Cheyenne and the other tribes had been basically swindled out of land ‘granted’ to them (even though in fact it was theirs in the first place, being its origional inhabitants), by the United States Government. When they refused to go along with a revised version of the first agreement, the Gov declared them to be ‘Hostiles,’ and The Plains War began.
      So…its difficult to see the US in a very favourable light in this instance, since Custer et al were sent in to enforce a deal that their Superiors had already violated.

      Regarding your parallels to Cortez, and contemporarily to The US in Iraq one thing is for certain. When there is either Gold, or Oil in the offing, Men have a history of trying to take it by force from other men- and thats a history that goes back as far as our own species history does. What motivates such behavior? Greed does. What causes these tragedies? Greed. If theres any lesson to be learned from these bloody and pointless episodes in our history, it is that we must learn from them that that greed is a vice, and a manifest form of ignorence, that we have to transcend, if we want The World to be a fit place for habitation to bequeath to our Children, and their childrens’ children.

      • Fred Middleton

        How many soldiers in a cavalry company, 1876? But your point is iron. Power is the driving force of possession, displayed by greed – wanting more power.

        One question why would an independent people, like the Arikara and or the Crow intentionally give up that independence to war on the side of the white Americans? Who swindled their land? In those long ago years, there were the obvious sides. Clash of cultures will do the same as oil and food clashes.

        The Indian wars were the political property of our National Politicians. Had battle chivalry been practiced those politicians would have been the front line for Reno.

  40. Wolfvet

    1.) Being a decendant of those that defeated custer and follower of american history. The facts are still being colored to fit peoples perspectives. Study history and you will realize that there was a coverup to save Grant administration. Custer just in DC testifing against grants brother and another cabinate member about the miss treatment of indians and the constant breaking of treaties made by the american government with indian tribes.

    2.) The big horn/yellowstone indian campaign was originally planned with out Custer due to his testimony in front of congress. RENO not custer was oringinally put in charge of the 7th calvary. Custer had to beg and plead to get his command back. Grant realizing that if the campaign was to have any chance CUSTER had to lead the 7Th. (Do you really think RENO wouldn’t be a little pissed having been in custer shadow and now deprived of his chance to kick start his political career>)

    3.) Custer did commit suicide, everything Custer did was not typical Custer tactics, he committed suicide by battle. He left his sabers and the Gatlin guns back on the boat for good reason. The 7th was used as bait for Terry and Crook. The 7th was going to have to hold the indians for 2 days until the other columns arrive by FOOT, the US government knew the force opposing them in LBH area. Custer was not about to give them the 7th sabers as tokens and gatlin guns to use on Terry’s or Crooks troops.

    4.)Grant needed away to get rid of custer and to tarnish his name, RENO and BENTEEN were the perfect soldiers and obeyed there orders but did so at a higher authorities bidding. The inquiry held in Chicago proved that.

    • Fred Middleton

      Sabers by 1876 were mostly a show item. There are numerous accounts in sword use and the inevitable broken bone. The sword hand or arm bone. Cavalry carried swords earlier for the cavalry charge – terror in boldness. Repeating pistols, and the convenience of a cartridge rifle that allowed relatively easy reload on horse back necessarily replaced the sword.

      The Gatling gun is a carriage – dolly born weapon, or packed on pack mules-horses. Unless the terrain is following a road, this weapon is mostly of a stationary purpose. Ideally it would have been the use of the 200 dismounted (no horses) soldiers of the 7th. The foot soldiers were returned to the boat after the first recon maneuver being they the foot soldier could not keep up with cavalry. The terrain covered by Custer is not easy ground, especially for foot logistics – pack animals and soldiers.

      Had the pop-gun Gatling – pistol cartridge been taken, it too would have been with the slow pack train. Incidentally when the pack train got the message to ‘come quick’ the progress in miles per hour slowed. Cavalry at the mouth of battle did not carry the ammunition to sustain any heavy battle. The 45-55 cartridge is heavy. The parent load of 45-caliber 70-gns of powder had a tendency to knock the shooter off the horse if only using his knees as girth grab. One claimed weapons qualification of the 45-70/73 Springfield standard was 20 rounds/minute effective. I have viewed this on you tube with an expert shooter, cloned Springfield 73 and it is possible with good, very good disciplined practice. If a cavalry soldier carried 40 rounds – who would plan on a cavalry – horse movement to take a line, 3 of 4, utilizing a single Gatling gun, and not be able to engage the enemy until the 200 yard mark, at best? Undisciplined fire could lob the short range round out to a further distance. The pack train would need to be real close with lots more ammunition.

  41. JosephMendiola

    Has anyone ever investigated the failure of General Crook’s column to deploy his fast-moving Cavalry units [post-Rosebud Battle] in support of his original mission, or in the alternate to join with the Custer or Terry Gibbons columns.

    IMO Crook’s column appears to have had plenty of ammunition + supplies despite the Rosebud Battle – ditto as per mission options. Crook could easily had ordered a part of his column [wounded + armed escort] to return home while the rest continued on in search of the Indians.

    • Fred Middleton

      Your question should have been raised in 1878-79. The Indians attacked a momentarily stalled column of cavalry of superior force. Fire power and one indication of the Crook column of spending 20,000 rounds in one account – odd but supports that this column was no better prepared than the 7th. Either way Crook had the obligation to contact the Terry-Custer column with Intel – Indians are massed and willing to fight. At minimum to shadow – with a cavalry unit the moving Indian column. The Order was to FIND the location of the Indians to apply the 3 column plan. The trail left by 4-8000 Indian persons would be easy to follow. Crook found the Indians – actually they found Crook.

      As presented earlier in this discussion, smells of high level cover-up.

  42. Darlene Lee [Sammarco]

    My grandfather Tom Lee survived both the Battle of Little Big Horn and
    the civil war.

  43. JosephMendiola

    I also wish to inquire iff Crook ever tried post-ROSEBUD to send out individuals or teams of his Indian Scouts to locate the Custer + Terry-Gibbon columns – it seems to me that a prudent or veteran commander, especialy one of Crook’s reputation, would had attempted to immediately contact his fellow units after the end of the Rosebud battle. IMO Crook would had been derelict not to do so.

    Instead of Crook finding the Indians, the latter instead found him + engaged him in surprise attack. All Crook’s messengers had to say to Custer or Terry-Gibbon was that 1000 or many more Indian warriors had attacked him within the general vicinity of the Rosebud Creek, that his column had survived the consequent battle, + that the same + their camp followers [families] were likely somewhere close by.

    Crook certainly had enough provisions on-hand to allow Indian, or Indian-Soldier Scout teams, iff not part or whole detached Cavalry units, to attempt to reconnoiter the retreating enemy “Hostiles” + hopefully locate their possible camp site, in addition to also attempting to contact the Custer andor Terry-Gibbons.

    The Rosebud battle brought stain on Crook’s reputation as a commander + as a credible “Indian fighter”, + IMO RIGHTLY SO.


  44. JosephMendiola

    Crook’s column had mounted Indian Scouts, + assigned Cavalry as did Terry-Gibbons.

    Crook, Custer, + Terry-Gibbons all knew what “Plains Warfare” meant, e.g. that they would be fighting mounted, well-armed hostile Indians residing in guarded, mostly secure family + tribal camps. While surprising a sleeping Indian camp(s) was ideal, they also would’ve expected for themselves to be surprised [ambushed], as well as to be ready at any time to fight a fast-moving battle of maneuver agz a mass of mounted andor dismounted, well- armed Indians out for blood.

  45. Darlene Lee [Sammarco]

    Correction: My GREAT grandfather Tom Lee survived both the civil war and
    the Battle of Little Bighorn

  46. Michael Newlin

    I was raised on the Cheyenne Reservation. My Father rode with the Cheyenne Warriors at the 1926 50 year gathering at the Battlefield. My father knew cheyennes who fought at that Battlefield.
    Custer for once charged a Indian camp that was ready for him. They were not sleeping and unaware like at the prior charges he had made.Custer was a fine Officer in the Civil War. He was completely out of his element against The Indians at the LBH and he did not listen to his Scouts. He was looking for Glory and got his Men slaughtered because he would not listen. END OF STORY

    • Andrew Woolf

      Michaels account from his familly history completly supports the latest available ballistic research available from LBH, which I have presented in full in an earlier entry here.
      On site analysis of hard evidence, i.e patterns of fire from both sides, based on the same techniques used in crime scene analysis shows that
      F (Custers) Troop were indeed caught by surprise, and overwhelmed quickly, perhaps in as little as 45 minutes.
      In fact, ballistic evidence at LBH show little if any ‘fields’ of fire at all from Custers detatchment at all, and mostly wild and uncoordinated shooting- at anything, including trees. At LBH, there are none of the characteristic ‘by the book’ coordinated fire formations typical of a US Cavalry Detachment of the mid 19th Century. What is there are the shooting patterns of desperate, numerically overwhelmed and panicking men fearing for their lives, unable to form a redoubt nor a retreat.
      ~What is also interesting and perhaps key evidence, is the surprising lack of rounds expended by the men of F Troop at LBH, not just a lack of shells on the field, but the amount of recovered live, unfired cartridges. This, again, paints a stark picture of a smaller group overwhelmed quickly and decisively by a larger one, with no time to form a counter attack, or even to return any significant fire before the inevitable closed in.

      As to the awareness of the Indians at the village that they were about to be attacked, they could hardly have not known otherwise, since several hundred yards prior to engaging, and presumably at his behest, Custers men began discharging their weapons and cheering wildly (Benteen and Reno document this in their dispatch notes).
      Since this racket was heard from several miles away by his commanders and thier men, its not unreasonable to suppose that the Indians, on the near side of the clamour, also realised that they were about to be under attack, and reacted accordingly.

      ~ Having split his Regiment into 3 sections- another cardinal error in judgement, GAC ordered a charge at a ‘village’ encampment of between 2000 to 6000 so called ‘hostiles,’ with a little over 400 men.
      ~ Having reached LBH River, F Troop found that they were unable to find a fording point to cross over to the village, and more time was wasted trying to discover one, whilst the Indians on the other side, now fully aware that they were under attack, added more Braves to the field.
      ~ The Indians knew exactly where the LBH forded, and having been handed the strategic advantage of time by Custer, simply waited until enough Braves had been mustered, then came pouring across in superior numbers.
      ~ The Ballistic record indicates that a sizeable proportion of F Troop was wiped out more or less on the spot. The remnant who were still mounted, were driven toward a high ravine from which they could not escape, and dispatched there.
      ~ Its doubtful that Custer himself ever got to see the final outcome of the battle (which was more like a rout). In its opening minutes, a Brave named White Bull (later to become Chief Sitting Bull) reported shooting a ‘Trooper’ from his saddle who was riding at the head of his troops on a “sorrel horse with… four white stockings.” This was Custers Horse Vic, clearly identified, and the only one in the 7th Cavalry bearing these distinctive marks. The account is witnessed by 9 other Braves.

      In retrospect, it is not the fate of Custer or his men that is in question…
      these are known, but rather how The General himself, a seasoned veteran of both the The Civil and The Plains Wars, could have made such a catastrophic series of consecutive blunders in strategy.
      One can only surmise that, as Michael says, that Custer was certainly ‘looking for glory,’ and that he also must have just as cirtainly ignored the advice of his Scouts, who would have known both what lay ahead, and had a pretty informed idea of how they would choose to deploy themselves.

      To the above I’ll add my own footnote and say that my own research into LBH overall has given me the impression of Custer as a man who was in his own mind ready to hang up his Generals Hat and return to a heroes welcome at home, and to all the privaleges that that would entail. His LBH Strategy, if you can even call it that, was the product of muddied and distracted thinking, with all the signs of an individual whose mind was not in the moment, but rather ahead of it…to a place and perhaps a position of further power of office that he was not destined to go.

      • Carp70

        . The fact that there were not a significant number of shell casings around the dead does not necessarily mean that Custer and his battalion did not put up a fight; it was common for the plains Indians to pick up shell casings and any other trinkets they could find

  47. Andrew Woolf

    @ Carp70 says:
    . The fact that there were not a significant number of shell casings around the dead does not necessarily mean that Custer and his battalion did not put up a fight; it was common for the plains Indians to pick up shell casings and any other trinkets they could find.

    I suggest you read my full account of all of the ballistics evidence at The LBH Ford Area, before making a judgement as to what that evidence represents.
    The complete Ballistics report shows the following:

    1) ~ A lack of shell casings, but a significant amount of unfired shells, including whole ammunition packs.
    Conclusion: One of two possibilitys- Either Custers detatchment was overwhelmed so rapidly that there was no time for them to engage for any significant amount of time, or their measure of confusion was such that they were either in panic, or attempting to flee rather than engage.

    2) Modern Ballistics science is able to track ‘fields of fire’ very accuratly by pinpointing where rounds and volleys of rounds are concentrated at a battlefield site. At LBH Ford, the patterns of rounds expended by Custers Detachment show that:
    a) There were very few rounds expended period.
    b) What rounds were fired were in no particular concentration at all,
    with absolutly no evidence of the coordinated strategic fire patterns
    mandated by the U.S. Army of the 1850’s Era.
    Instead, Archaeologists found rounds, and the damage caused by rounds expended in the trees, on rock formations outside of the fire zone itself, and in general for the most part not concentrated at all within the fire zone itself, nor what would have been the target areas inside it, at the time of the engagement.

    This type of shooting is referred to as ‘Wild Shooting,’ i.e firing at random, at unselected targets, with no forethought of selection on the part of the shooter.
    As one would logically infer, its the type of shooting that is found at sites where a breakdown of executive order was present, and in which panic and confusion has taken its place instead.

    This then, is the composite picture of the Ballistic Archaeology of the fields of fire at LBH Ford, on June 25th 1876, and the hard evidence clearly shows a rout, an uncoordinated retreat or both.

    Its not really much of a stretch to suppose that 252 men, overwhelmed in a surprise frontal attack by 1000 plus Braves, in an area from which there was no open retreat possible, would behave just as the evidence of the shots they fired shows.

    I think its time that the nay sayers in this tragic episode of American History finally face up to, and accept the facts of what actually happened. It is not an act of respect to either Custer or his men, to try and distort the evidence, or omit evidence to try and shoehorn a false impression of the events as they happened. I don’t think that thats what the dead (of either side) at the Battle of Big Horn would have wanted, do you?.

    • Fred Middleton

      What you are presenting, and correctly, is small unit discipline. If one officer goes down, who then by training and or experience fills the immediate gap of control? When does individual self discipline bare its purpose on any battlefield?

  48. Jim

    So, what about the Indian eyewitnesses that state the opposite of the “ballistic evidence”? You think the evidence suggests a frontal assault by 1,000 braves??? Personally, I would think if 1,000 braves popped infront of 252 POST CIVIL WAR calvary guys, they’d get smoked pretty quick. A large mass of the enemy DIRECTLY IN FRONT of you would be commonplace for a civil war veteran. Now, if you listen to Indian accounts that state how there was an Indian behind every piece of cover, then the “Wild Shooting” would make much, much more sense.


    • Fred Middleton

      And I have not done a study, the Admin records for the 7th 2 years prior to this battle and up to the point of departure would indicate how many veterans were present, plus the probable cohesiveness within small unit preparedness. I suspect very few vets. Not many grunt soldiers- enlisted/drafted in this environment would be ten year – post civil war veterans. Grunts? Maybe so. The key I would use in analysis is the NCO rank experience. Training – very easy to pencil Whip. Or, if so budgeted, not do at all. Broad scale REMF at least, pencil Whipped the required weapon Qualification on a prescribed table in 1965-66. The EU cold war assignment personal accounts – same. Perhaps the lack of training and funding leads to the proverbial Cannon Fodder.

  49. Andrew

    Hi Jim.

    Much as I share your respect for Civil War Veterans (or any Veteran
    of any race or Country), the fact that Custers E Troop barely even had time to discharge their weapons (as the ballistic evidence also shows)
    points to a quick outcome comprised of minutes, rather than a prolonged exchange of fire on a position of cover.

    The other surprise at LBH Ford, besides the distinct lack of spent rounds on the US side, was a numerous amount of UNFIRED US rounds, including complete magazine packs, scattered in random fashion throughout the site.

    The conclusions the investigating ballistics team reached, based on the above evidence, is no different than any other one would make on a modern crime scene, namely:

    1) A group of individuals was attacked and overwhelmed by another
    in a shooting engagement.
    2) They were only able to discharge a handful of rounds before they
    were wiped out (short engagement),
    3) The rounds they did expend were random for the most part,
    typical of firefights in which panic has set in, and/ or surprise attack
    in which there is simply no time to coordinate organised fields of fire.
    4) More of their unspent ammunition than spent was found, and at random distances from the engagement, indicating that some of them attempted to leave the scene, but were felled where they stood a distance away from the primary exchange.

    Those are the facts, arrived at from the study of the LBH Ford’s Ballistic evidence by seasoned Archaeologists and Ballistic experts.
    Their findings are no different, based on whats there, than the conclusions any such group would make anywhere else, given the patterns of evidence, be it in 1876, or 2012.

    Ultimatly it doesnt really matter weather Sitting Bulls Braves attacked Custer from the front, back or sides…what does matter is that GAC led his men into an engagement that was a flawed one, in which he lost his command, his life, and the lives of all his men, all within the span of (at the most) an estimated 45 minutes.

    That, and the needless loss of Native American lives in the process is the tragedy of The Battle of Little Big Horn, and the stupidity and pointlessness of War in general as a means to solve the problems of mankind. Caveat Emptor.

    • Mike G

      Hello Andrew and Jim

      A Very interesting and inteligent exchange from you both. I am very impressed with both of you, and respect your opinions and thoughts. please understand I am not going to say either one of you are wrong. Rather, I thought I would add to the discussion, and see what you thought of my opinion as well. As a Marine Vetran and a former Deputy Sheriff / Deputy Coroner I can testify that the ballistic investigation sounds very precise and well done. I only wish I could have participated as I find this battle fascinating. I have lived in Montana my entire life, and have been to the battlefield many times. However, I have never had access to it other than the standard trails and tour areas. I can tell you from experience once a person actually stands where they stood a crime scene takes on a whole new perspective. I have investigated many crime scenes from homicides to suicides, to pipe bomb explosions.

      Rule 1 of an investigation, let the evidence explain what factually happened to you. instead of using the evidence to explain what you THINK happened. In a court of law this is called totality of the evidenceThere can be MANY inturpitations of the evidence found anywhere at a crime scene OR LBH battlefield. thats where defense attorneys and prosecutors do thier thing. SO, that being said, we get to be the investigators, AND make the argument for each of our cases

      The first thing we have to consider is that the “crime scene” has been unsecured and exposed to the elements for 135 years. Thats not to say that solid factual evidence can’t be found, quite the contrary. However, there are things to consider when weighing the evidence, and looking at the totality of the evidence at the scene.

      Now, I’m only going to speak about the fight at the ford on the little bighorn at this point. According to the report, there was a larger number of unspent cartridges than spent cartridges on the U.S. side of the ford. After pondering the evidence the team’s opinion, based on the evidence at the scene is that Co. E attacked at the ford and was immediately repelled, overwhelmed and destroyed AT the ford. This is VERY possible. However, the evidence at the scene suggests another possibility that was not considered.

      Everyone asumes that both the spent and unspent cartridges found at the ford WERE DROPPED AT THE FORD. Remember, the ford was at the bottom of a ravine, so the cartridges could very easily have been dropped alot farther up the ravine possibly even 100 to 150 yards farther up the ravine. After being exposed to the elements of rain, snow and gravity for 135 years, I can state with certainty that where most of them were found was NOT where they were dropped (some yes, but not most).

      Now, the fired bullets recovered from the ground and trees are more credible, because they were fired into objects and wedged in place. This will show where the bullt stopped, but more importantly, where it came FROM. However, another factor to consider with the bullets recovered from the trees is this. I promise the tree was shorter when the bullet struck it then when it was recovered after 135 years. To determine the angle of the trajectory of the bullet would be almost impossible because it is not known how tall the tree was when the bullet struck it.

      The team based on the evidence at the scene, determined that Co. E was not able to get off a

      • Mike G

        Sorry pushed the wrong button lol

        The team based upon the totality of the evidence determined that Co. E was only able to get off a hand full of rounds before being overwhelmed. Absolutely, very possible. However,there is another possibility. The team is basing it’s determination on the rounds RECOVERED. It is probable that they were only able to recover a ‘HANDFULL” of the rounds that were actually fired.

        Jim, You caught it and brought up a huge point ! Pistol or rifle cartridges found hmmmm. What were the troopers carrying when they attacked at the ford. If I’M in command attacking a large force at close range on horseback. It’s definately going to be the standard issue.44 cal six shot colt revolver, NOT a Springfield single shot lever action breech loader, that is notorious for jamming as you wisely pointed out. This means each man has 6 shots before having to reload, multiply that times how many troopers, and it’s POSSIBLE Co. E was able to lay down enough surpressing fire for many to fall back and regroup farther up the hill. Not definate, but possible.

        Something else that may support this is finding the unspent rifle cartridge casings talked about earlier. Although they were found toward the bottom of deep ravine, I can again say with certainty that a great many if not the majority were dropped considerably further up the hill. I would even say if a metal detector was used IN the LBH river itself, there would be a great many more found that washed down the hillside into the river. (I wonder if they would let us take a metal detector and…………..naaaaaa problably not lol)!! RATS !! Anyway my point here is IF several made it out of the ford, they would have to set up and form a skirmish line preferably from an elevated position further up the hill towards last stand hill and They would have to do it QUICKLY! I can see ammunition packs being dropped along the way back up to last stand hill.

        Lets think about G.A.C. for a moment. Some say he was killed at the ford, and thats when things fell apart for Co. E VERY Possible. Some Native Americans say they saw GAC shot from his horse Again Very Possible, Native American accounts of the battle MUST be given thier due respect. However, other N

      • Mike G

        Again, Native American accounts MUST be given thier due respect !! Now, White Bull stated that he and a group of warriors fired upon a group of soldiers attempting to cross the LBH river at the Ford. White Bull goes on to state that he shot one of the soldiers off his horse into the river. White Bull Further gives a detailed description of the horse the soldier was riding. Many scholars believe that White Bull is describing Vic Custer’s mount, and that Custer was killed at the ford. Also, White Bull stated that the soldiers stopped the charge to aid the fallen soldier, and removed him from the river. Scholors believe this could only be Custer, because they would only stop and aid a soldier if he was the commanding officer. VERY VERY POSSIBLE.However, another Native American eye witness stated that he saw Custer engaged in hand to hand combat at last stand hill.

        Now we have a problem, if GAC was killed at the ford within minutes, how could he be engaged in hand to hand on last stand hill? one or both of the Native American eye witnesses must be lying, OR are they BOTH telling the truth? Let me explain. Falling from a horse does not mean certain death. Trust me, I’ve been canned off of more than one bronc. It hurts like hell, but it’s not automatic death.However, I have seen SEVERAL men knocked out colder than a wedge from the impact of hitting the ground.

        The term aim small miss small in marksmenship is very true. Considering White Bull was able to describe in detail the horse the soldier was riding,during the mass confusion of a fire fight tells me he was not aiming small, but aiming big and that could very easily mean a missed shot, as the soldier fell from the horse.In other words, it’s possible White Bull truly believed he shot the soldier from his horse, when in fact he missed. The soldier is stunned from landing on the rocks in the river. The others stop, grab him and pull him out. the soldiers then retreat further up the hill, and GAC is taken to last stand hill where he regains his composier, re-engages the enemy, only to be mortaly wounded in the left breast (heart) he is then shot again in the left temple and finished off. It is unlikely he did it himself as he was right handed.

        Sound crazy ? maybe. Sound Possible? UUM I think so. Especially with multiple eye witnesses seeing custer Alive and dead in both placees If nothing more, it constitutes reasonable doubt that GAC HAD to have been killed at the ford on the LBH river and I’ve seen people walk with less!!

        So what does all this mean?It means that even though we have some good evidence to support a very good theory, the evidence is open to inturpratation. It means we may find more evidence in the future that will finally prove beyond a reasonable doubt what happened that day, and It also means we will most likely never know what really happened to George Armstrong Custer on Sunday, June 25th 1876.

        That being said, GAC wasn.t the only one who died that day. We should not get so caught up in GAC that we forget about all the others on both sides that died that day. What a waste. I believe war is a neccessary thing sometimes. However, I don’t think that was the case here. There never should have been a plains Indian war. There should have been a meeting of the minds and hearts I think we all would have been alot better off! By the way, I’m a white guy.

        take care all


  50. Jim

    Thanks for the reply, Andrew! After losing the initiative, Custer’s forces were definitely overwhelmed. Question for you…what about spent pistol cartridges at the site? Do you know what caliber and model of revolver the troopers carried? From my LIMITED understanding of the battle, the carbines would get “jammed” with the spent cartridge forcing the trooper to use a knife to clear his weapon. I think this fact would help explain the lack of spent carbine cartridges; as well as, being overwhelmed by the Natives. Heck, a small force could overwhelm a larger force that was sitting there trying to get the spent cartridge out of their rifle.
    Forty-five minutes? Some “heard” the battle rage much longer. Heck, even the braves that were battling Custer can’t come to an agreement on how long the battle lasted…their times also vary greatly. That’s why this battle is so fascinating…no one really knows what happened…and never will. Thanks for the insight, Andrew.


  51. Ashton O'Dwyer

    I really lose patience with people who not only go out of their way, but MAKE THINGS UP to justify Benteen’s and Reno’s treachery and cowardice to smear Custer’s tactics, which would have “worked” if Benteen and Reno had done what they had been ordered to do by Custer. And as for the so-called “testimony” of “White Cow Bull” and other Indians, we must bear in mind that that these “people” were aboriginal savages in June 1876. Just what “language” did White Cow Bull speak in? Could it have been “sign language” rather than a spoken language for which there was no alphabet or written word? Both the spoken language and sign language were subject to interpretation by the interviewer (Just who WAS the interviewer, and what were his credentials?). More often than not, Indian “language” was not “complex” and consisted no more than phrases like: “Me want food now” or “Me sleep with you now, woman” or “White man come”, and the like. The aboriginal savages who are now portrayed as “the Nobel Red Man” never had the intelligemce during their entire existence TO INVENT THE WHEEL. Instead, they dragged their loads behind ponies (which they obtained from the Spanish – they never trained domestic animals to become beasts of burden). So I’m not “buying” what this “Nobel Red Man” who probably spoke in sign language “said” occurred at the river’s edge. And if he actually was speaking, then what language was he speaking, and where can I learn more about that language, in writing. Ashton O’Dwyer.

    • boothy

      your statment is true…. the eyewitnesses are not reliable.

  52. J.P. Mackie

    Having read and studied a lot about this battlefield as well as spending a great deal of time around it. I strongly believe Reno was made a fall guy here. Why were so many scouts staged nearly 13 miles east when the attack occurred? Why would Custer send Reno and his force of around 140 men along the flat ground on the southwest side of the meandering bighorn river? The theory had always been in the past that the Indians would scatter if confronted with soldiers, but this was a gathering of numerous tribes that numbered from 4,000 to estimates as much as 10,000 and spanned an area that was nearly 3 miles in diameter. Certainly the Indians had been well aware of the troops moving towards them that morning from the east. The latest evidence suggests that Reno engaged an overwhelming army of warriors possibly numbering as much as 2,000 and that he tried to establish a skirmish line but was overwhelmed. How could Custer establish a time line with Reno thinking that he could confront them on the West flank while Reno engaged them from the East. They were simply outnumbered from both flanks and Custer was already engaged from all sides up on the hills. A popular theory is that those who testified against Reno and even Benteen did so with sympathy to the families who lost loved ones in the battle. Custer’s wife fought to make Reno a fall guy her entire life after the battle, going as far as referring to him as a coward in defense of her Husband to the day she died.

  53. Ashton O'Dwyer

    Oh, yes! We must give “due respect” to the accounts of the aboriginal SAVAGES, who didn’t have a written language, had constructed nothing more substantial than a wooden pole and animal-skin-covered “typee” in hundreds (if not thousands) of years, and hedn’t invented te wheel or domesticated an animal larger than a dog before the white man came to this land. And as for “White Cow BULLSHIT”, don’t forget that he first told his story about the Little Big Horn some SIXTY (60) YEARS AFTER THE FACT! And the story told by this publicity seeker puts him EVERYWHERE on the Battlefield, at every critical juncture of the fight. In short, he’s FULL OF SHIT. And I’ve been asking some questions that I haven’t gotten answers to: In what “language” was he speaking? Was it “sign language”? Is the language written so that the spoken word can be “checked” for definition, spelling and meaning? Who was the Interpreter, and what were the Interpreter’s qualifications and possible biases? Did the Interpreter introduce “White Cow Bull” to the “WORLD” with his outlandish series of stories? Parenthetically, there is some very interesting information contained in the “Reno Court of Inquiry” and at Point “B” on the McGuire Map of the Battlefield. Ashton O’Dwyer. P.S. Was any stenographic record ever made of any “interview” with White Cow Bull, or is his “testimony” or “statements” some white eye’s recollection or interpretation of what he believes he heard said by White Cow BULLSHIT? AROD.

    • andrew woolf

      If my understanding of his forum is correct, its purpose is for people
      to contribute to Historical debates. So, having discounted the materiel
      here that disqualifies itself (according to the rules of debate), i.e the
      personal opinions of the Author, we’re left with these contentions:

      1) That White Cloud Bull gave his first account of His role at LBH 60
      years after the Battle.
      ~ White Cloud Bull did give such an account, but it was not His first but his second since The Battle…heres the rundown for you:
      a) Account # 1 June 1876, right after the dust had settled on The Battlefield. In it, WCB says he aimed at the lead rider of a Troop of
      US Cavalry Soldiers, fired, and that he and 7 other Braves (who witnessed the account by name) saw the ‘Trooper’ fall from his horse
      into the river, causing the others to halt mid charge, and go to the wounded mans aid. Most significantly, WCB goes on to describe the mans horse as being a ‘Sorrel, with Four White Socks.’ The only mount that fits that description was Vic, Custers favourite Horse, the stronger and swifter of the two he brought with him on campaigns, and the only animal he trusted to ride into combat with.
      At the time, WCB had no knowledge of either what Custer or his horse looked like…The Indians had nicknamed GAC ‘Long Hair,’ but Custer had in fact cropped his hair short prior to The Battle. So he and the Braves around him at the time assumed- as WCB stated…that he had shot ‘a Trooper.’ You can bet that had he known whom his target was, that, like anyone else would have done, he would have made a huge deal over having been the man to bring down ‘Long Hair’…but he didnt.
      What he did do, was unwittingly name Custer, by describing The Generals Horse instead- one of those flukes of History that ends up being the key to an important puzzle.

      So…that said, on to
      B) Account # 2.
      Given 60 years post LBH- Onsite, at the 60th Anniversary of The Battle, with members of The US Military and civilians attending.
      ~ WCB gave his speech in English, which is not particularly surprising,
      since by then he had been residing primarily with Caucasian Americans for the greater part of 60 Years.
      By then, The public and the press had acknowledged WCB as Custers
      dispatcher, and He appears to have been only to happy to ‘go along with the story.’ The irony being that he actually did shoot a man from Custers Horse…(whom we may be reasonably certain was The General Himself), but had no knowledge of the mans identity at the time.
      WCB’s description of that encounter as an old man, is vastly different from his naive, almost humble account 60 years earlier. In His LBH Memorial speech, he describes a bloody hand to hand fight, in which he and Custer fight for their lives with each other, until Custer finally dies. Its grandstanding, grandiose, and sounds more like a scene from a Hollywood Western than an actual account…but…as I have said elsewhere in these pages, its almost cirtainly attributable to either
      the mental failings of advancing old age, or simply to being a ‘Big Fish Story’….hardly uncommon with men and their fish.

      Lastly, if I may be permitted to step outside of the Hall of Debate for a moment to enter a personal note for the record- I would draw The Editors of this site to the attention of the Authors Racist comments in article 54, which contribute nothing to these debates other than a repugnant personal bias, are wholly offensive to anyone of Naive American descent, and which do nothing other than detract from the great work of those who have put their time and effort into writing interesting and balanced scholarly articles, and op/ed pieces for this Forum.

    • andrew woolf

      If my understanding of his forum is correct, its purpose is for people
      to contribute to Historical debates. So, having discounted the materiel
      here that disqualifies itself (according to the rules of debate), i.e the
      personal opinions of the Author, we’re left with these contentions:

      1) That White Cloud Bull gave his first account of His role at LBH 60
      years after the Battle.
      ~ White Cloud Bull did give such an account, but it was not His first but his second since The Battle…heres the rundown for you:
      a) Account # 1 June 1876, right after the dust had settled on The Battlefield. In it, WCB says he aimed at the lead rider of a Troop of
      US Cavalry Soldiers, fired, and that he and 7 other Braves (who witnessed the account by name) saw the ‘Trooper’ fall from his horse
      into the river, causing the others to halt mid charge, and go to the wounded mans aid. Most significantly, WCB goes on to describe the mans horse as being a ‘Sorrel, with Four White Socks.’ The only mount that fits that description was Vic, Custers favourite Horse, the stronger and swifter of the two he brought with him on campaigns, and the only animal he trusted to ride into combat with.
      At the time, WCB had no knowledge of either what Custer or his horse looked like…The Indians had nicknamed GAC ‘Long Hair,’ but Custer had in fact cropped his hair short prior to The Battle. So he and the Braves around him at the time assumed- as WCB stated…that he had shot ‘a Trooper.’ You can bet that had he known whom his target was, that, like anyone else would have done, he would have made a huge deal over having been the man to bring down ‘Long Hair’…but he didnt.
      What he did do, was unwittingly name Custer, by describing The Generals Horse instead- one of those flukes of History that ends up being the key to an important puzzle.

      So…that said, on to
      B) Account # 2.
      Given 60 years post LBH- Onsite, at the 60th Anniversary of The Battle, with members of The US Military and civilians attending.
      ~ WCB gave his speech in English, which is not particularly surprising,
      since by then he had been residing primarily with Caucasian Americans for the greater part of 60 Years.
      By then, The public and the press had acknowledged WCB as Custers
      dispatcher, and He appears to have been only to happy to ‘go along with the story.’ The irony being that he actually did shoot a man from Custers Horse…(whom we may be reasonably certain was The General Himself), but had no knowledge of the mans identity at the time.
      WCB’s description of that encounter as an old man, is vastly different from his naive, almost humble account 60 years earlier. In His LBH Memorial speech, he describes a bloody hand to hand fight, in which he and Custer fight for their lives with each other, until Custer finally dies. Its grandstanding, grandiose, and sounds more like a scene from a Hollywood Western than an actual account…but…as I have said elsewhere in these pages, its almost cirtainly attributable to either
      the mental failings of advancing old age, or simply to being a ‘Big Fish Story’….hardly uncommon with men and their fish.

      Lastly, if I may be permitted to step outside of the Hall of Debate for a moment to enter a personal note for the record- I would draw The Editors of this site to the attention of the Authors Racist comments in article 54, which contribute nothing to these debates other than a repugnant personal bias, are wholly offensive to anyone of Native American descent, and which do nothing other than detract from the great work of those who have put their time and effort into writing interesting and balanced scholarly articles, and op/ed pieces for this Forum.

      • Mike G

        I have no problem with someone having a different opinion from others on this site. However, the racist comments in article 54, only detract from the validity of your opinion and the point you were trying to make.

        Again, let me state I am white. However, I hate racism, and have many friends of different races. I thank God for all my friends, as I have learned alot from them.

        I apologize in advance for getting off the subject, but I feel a little history lesson is in order here to shed some light on the contributions that Native Americans have made to this Nation !!!

        In article 54, the author calls Native Americans QUOTE “aboriginal savages” who didn’t even have a wriiten language. Well, lets fast forward to WW II. Are you even aware of the CODE TALKERS?! Ya that was the code that was based on the Navajo language that the United States Marine Corp used to save COUNTLESS Marines in the pacific. Did you know one of the Marines that helped raise the AMERICAN flag on Iwo Jima was a Native American named Ira Hayes. Did you have any relatives fighting in the Pacific in WW II? I DID!! Maybe you should thank the Native Americans for possibly saving thier lives so they could go on to raise racist grand children to spew hateful things at possibly the very culture that gave thier life so he might live

        Do you understand that had it not been for Native Americans, the pilgrims would have died from exposure and starvation the first winter they arrived on this continent. Hows all that technology they brought over look now !! It isn’t worth much when your froze to a tree stump now is it !! Do you realize that different cultures and races are what makes America Great, and do you realize it’s people like the author of article 54 that are destroying this country.

        So go on and keep spewing your hatred Ashton O’dwyer. As for me, I will continue having fun, conversing with, and learning from inteligent people Like Andrew Woolf and Jim.

        ok enough of that back to the battle Andrew,Jim more of your perspective lol! Andrew I have another question, where was the pony herd located in the camp, and wouldn’t it have been wise for Maj. Reno to attempt to Scatter the pony Herd as soon as he made contact rather then engage the warriors. I am thinking the herd must have been North of the Village as the river flows N NE and they would want the herd down stream from the village what is your opinion.

      • HistoryNet Editor

        Mike G. Andrew, et al, indeed racist rants have no place in these discussions; however, I would say you have dealt with post # 54 quite effectively, so we’ll let it stand in order to also let your informative answers stand. Further rants of any sort will be deleted. Carry on with your discussion.

  54. George Henrique Kling de Moraes

    Oh my God! So many opinions about one single battle! All white soldiers defeated all indians in all Americas. According to some white people, by that time, indians, negros, etc did not have soul. They were like domestic and non domestic animals. Europens created a negro zoo in Belgium in the 19 century. USA soldiers were and are very efficient in all wars. Please, find how many americans died in relations to the enemies. 48,000 or 52,000 americans during Vietnam war. How many vietnamins died? One, two, three millions? The same happened to the indians. By the way Custer was a german descendent? British?

  55. andrew woolf

    Hi George, happy to be of service here:

    ~ ‘All white soldiers defeated all indians in all Americas.’

    Not so…in fact the record of victorys to defeats in he Plains War of he 1860’s stands at about 60/40 (the 60 being US victorys).
    Earlier conflicts in the ‘Indian Wars’ are also marked by sizeable US defeats also, some catastrophic like the Battle of Fort King in 1835, in which Seminole Braves completly wiped out two Companies of US Soldiers, at the loss of only two of their own men.
    ..and of course to that list we may add The Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876.

    ‘According to some white people, by that time, indians, negros, etc did not have soul. They were like domestic and non domestic animals.’

    Theres no doubt that in the 1800’s Racism was employed ( as it often is especially in Wartime) as an inflamatory propaganda tool, to stir up fear and hatred of the opposition. Theres nothing particularly unusual about that- you’ll find the same ‘techniques’ used to send young men to war used from the times of The Roman Legions to today- its alot easier for a man to justify dispatching another, if he has been told – and believes – that the person he is aiming at is less than a Human Being.

    What is odd about the Plains Wars, is that right below the surface of the official line of Indians as ‘Savages’ lay a great deal of respect by both sides for one anothers Cultures and beliefs. Custer for instance had Native American Scouts in whom he frequently invested more trust than he did in his own staff…Is important to remember that Wars are typically not fought by those who create them, and therein perhaps lies the difference.

    ~’USA soldiers were and are very efficient in all wars’

    Whilst theres no doubt that US Soldiers are ‘very efficient’..I think that if you were to actually talk to some of them to get their own first hand opinions on that, that you would hear a different story about not their performance, but the ‘efficiency’ of the circumstances under which they are sent to fight. The History of American Wars, is that they all for the most part (WW1 and 2 not included) fall into the catagory of being ‘Colonial Wars.’ A Colonial War is different from a Conflict in which one Country fights another, being instead a ‘Police Action’ in which a dominant power sends in Armed Forces to a (usually much smaller) Country it is occupying, to subjugate them if they are attempting to resist occupation.
    Vietnam, The Korean War, Afghanistan and Iraq all qualify as (by The Pentagons own defenition) ‘Incursions,’ rather than clear cut Nation vs Nation Conflicts like World War 2.
    For a Soldier, the man on the front line, this type of warfare is fraught with grey area, often to the point where theres no apparent defenition of who is a ‘freindly’ and who is a ‘hostile,’ and thus its impossible to be ‘efficient’ because the nature of Colonial Warfare is by defenition not an efficiant process. Rather, and as most who return from this type of a conflict will tell you, is a ‘war’ of attrition- a slow and nerve wracking war of nerves, with sudden danger coming randomly and without warning…efficiency is not a word with any play in Colonial Conflicts.

    ~’How many vietnamins died? One, two, three millions? The same happened to the indians.’

    That should actually read ‘Vietnamese’ – and the best way for you to ascirtain such figures, is to research them online. And yes, George, right about the Indians.

    ~’By the way Custer was a german descendent? British?’

    Again, the Internet is a great place to find out stuff like that- I’m not actually sure what Nationality his Ancestors were, but He was most definatly an American, lol.

    All The Best,

  56. Ashton O'Dwyer

    To Mr. Andrew Woolf: I concede that I do not possess the academic credentials of many of the Commentors. Nor do I necessarily have the same degree of knowledge of the Battle of the Little Big Horn possessed by some of the Commentors. However, I know when a so-called “factual account” is suspect at best, and unreliable at worst. I also know “learned expert opinion” versus “hysterical blather” (please don’t take that comment personally). So, Professor, you say that White Cow Bull (hereafter “WCB” for ease of reference) gave his “first account” in June 1876 “right after the dust had settled”. You recount in your most recent Comment WCB’s first account in some detail, even down to Custer’s horse’s “Four White Socks”, which I find humorous, since Indians didn’t wear socks. Just how did WCB come to describe what is alleged to have been Custer’s horse having Four White Socks? WCB must have been quite a linguist for a Plains Indian (or very adept at pantomime, if he was “speaking” in sign language), and well-versed in Mens’ Haberdashery for the 1876 Season, as well. But what you fail to say about the the so-called account no.1, given in June 1876, “right after the dust had settled”, are the following: (1) In what language was account no. 1 given? (2) Was account no. 1 written down or otherwise recorded anywhere? (3) Was account no. 1 given in sign language? (4) Who “interpreted” whether account no. 1 was given in an Indian language or sign language? (5) Was the intrepreter’s account of what was said written down and preserved anywhere? (6) Who may have heard WCB’s first account, and whether any of the listeners preserved their interpretations of the account in written form for posterity? (7) How do you know of the “first account” in June 1876? What is your “source material”, and how can it be verified? (8) Have you performed any analysisof how WCB’s first account differs from the accounts of other Indians who participated in the Battle, for instance several who claim to have killed Custer on or near Custer hill? How do you reconcile such discrepancies? And what about the Indian paintings on hides. Do those paintings corroborate WCB’s first account? THE SECOND ACCOUNT, 60 YEARS AFTER-THE-FACT: You have acknowledged “differences” between the first account and the second account

  57. Ashton O'Dwyer

    To Mr. Andrew Woolf: Sorry Mr. Woolf, I had to break this down, as the Web-Site would allow me to complete this Comment. As I was saying, you acknowledged “differences between the first account and the second account. We still haven’t seen the first account, except for you summary, which is not footnoted. At the time of the second account, 60 years after the Battle, at the 60th Anniversary Commemoration, we should be allowed to assume that WCB had fallen under the “influence” of one or more white men, at least one of whom had taught him English. And please allow me some questions about account no. 2: (1) Was account no. 2 recorded or reduced to writing in any way, at any time? (2) Where might one access any such recordings or writings? (3) Under whose “influence” was WCB during the prior 60 years, and were any interviews with WCB during that period recorded or reduced to writing, even in newspaper accounts? (4) Who facilitated WCB being a guest and speaker at the 60th Anniversary Commemoration of the Battle? (5) What Press Accounts still exist of the 60th Anniversary Commemoration, and how do the Press Accounts treat WCB’s presentation(s)? (6) What other accounts did WCB give prior to visiting “the Happy Hunting Grounds”, and how do those accounts differ from account no.1 and/or account no. 2? Again, I am looking for “source material”, but I can tell you, Professor, the the differences in WCB’s accounts, 60 years apart, do not instill confidence in WCB as an accurate historian. And as for the “RACIST” label, I live in New Orleans. A few (very few in relation to the number in the general population) of my best friends are Negros. The “RACE” card gets played here routinely, but the politicians (black and white) can’t escape the following FACTS: (1) Crimes committed by Negros, including particularly violent crimes, in numbers disproportional to their population. (2)Rampant illegitimacy among Negros. (3) Ignorance and illiteracy among Negros. (4) A grossly disproportionate venereal disease rate, including HIV and AIDS. I could go on. So don’t call me “RACIST”. I’m used to it. But when I look around the USA, “where the buffalo roamed and the antelope played”, I just don’t see the Pyramids of Egypt. I don’t see the Acropolis and the Parthenon. I don’t see the Coliseum, or the Aqueducts, or the Roman Roads. I don’t even see the edifices biult by the Myans or the Aztecs.

  58. Ashton O'Dwyer

    The last point I wanted to make was that the United States of America (ie. the Federal Government) equipped the Indians at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. The Indians didn’t “buy” their repeating rifles at Wal-Mart. Indeed. they didn’t have “jobs” which would have generated the currency necessary to purchase a repeating rifle (they COULD have stolen some from white men, and probably did). Had the Indians not been equipped by “Uncle Sugar”, what armament would they have used against Custer and the 7th? Ashton O’Dwyer.

  59. Jim

    The problem with Native American accounts of the battle, I feel, are numerous. First off, for the most part they only know about what is right before their eyes. So, if they say the “last stand” lasted a short time, which last stand are they talking about? They might not be talking about last stand hill if they didn’t fight there. Then you have the language barrier…did the intrepretor get it right, or did he interpret what he wanted to hear? Reading all the accounts, I find so much conflict that I can’t make heads or tails from it. Did the Indians sneak up the ravines or was it like a witness states that they swirled around the troopers like water around a rock? Did the troops all scatter with fear, or was Sitting Bull correct when he said they fought bravely?
    The only part of the battle that all the Indian accounts agree on is that when Reno went down the valley, the camp was taken by total suprise and panic swept through the village.

  60. boothy

    it is written evidence on a note to benteen to come quick!! ive served my time in the service and i belive i wouldnt be here today if my LT didnt respond swiftly to my call for help… i know what was goin through custers mind, i do! he paid the ultimate price tho. i cant stress how important it is to be able to rely on your buddies, but i guess they just werent buddies…such a tragety. you never leave your men un-attended, AT ALL COSTS

    • Fred Middleton

      they just werent buddies — Perhaps the single driving deficiency in the then existing U.S. Army. Specifically, gutted post Civil War. The very issue about a politician – elected that knows little or cares little about the small unit discipline and the impact on cohesive command structure.

      2001-02 Command structure and small unit – some degree of gutting occurs when budget drives the logistic depth of staffing within a combat division. One such, towed artillery (mos, but deployed with mortar tube) went to Afghanistan at 60% strength. Training and the cost of rounds, let alone the movement of material and personnel around some training facility. The problems of that long ago period have not been resolved today. MIC – military industrial complex is not a keeper of career military as much as it is the doings of the Legislative and Executive branches of government. Always, corruption is the symptom.

  61. J.P. Mackie

    The case review that exonerated Marcus Reno 90 years later would certainly be an interesting read. Major Reno’s remains were then enter d back in 1967 from a grave site in Washington DC to the National Cemetery at the Little Bighorn Battlefield in 1967 with full military honors. He is also identified by his Civil War Rank as a Brevet Major General.

    There is no question that Reno along with a band of 140 soldiers was sent forward forward on the plains on the south side of of the meandering Bighorn River toward an overwhelming gathering of 7 different tribes, the Northern Cheyenne, Sans Arc,Minniconjou,Oglala,Brule,Hunkpap,and Blackfoot. Estimates later put the Indian encampments from 5,000 to as much as twice that.

    Why was the majority of Terry’s outfit held back from this encounter? why were most of the scouts up on a mountain 13 miles southeast of the battlefield? The military wisdom was that the Indians would scatter when Reno addressed them from the south forcing them into Custer who was already being surrounded on the hills north and above the Bighorn river. Clearly the Indians were already tracking Custer on his Northeast flank as his band of just over 225 men moved along gentle sloping gorges towards their final encounter. Meanwhile Reno faces an onslaught of warriors who chose to confront his skirmish lines that is firing indiscriminately at the Indian encampment. Reno clearly realizes that he is out numbered nearly 10 to 1 and the enraged warriors will not retreat as thought from past experiences, he either had to retreat or would be slaughtered like Custer and his men. Around 40 of Reno’s 140 men will be killed in the retreat as they try to skirmish up 3 different gorges to reach Benteen’s forces on top of the hill nearly 4 and half miles from the Custer battle.

    Terry’s expeditionary force came with two gattling guns but were not moved forward just in case, the Indians were equipped with rifles even though many early paintings showed them engaging Custer with Bows and arrows, they also had at least 2 sharp rifles that they used to pick off Benteen and Reno’s men when they reached the top of the hills. later one of Benteens soldiers was able to dispatch whoever was firing the sharp rifles with his own personal rifle.

    Custer’s forces are being attacked from all sides (mostly from the Northeast) and Major Keogh is on the ridge less then a quarter of a mile southeast of Custer’s final stand when he is cut down by either Crazy Horse or one of his warriors. Keogh’s horse Commanche is the only survivor survivor from the Custer engagement which finds soldiers killed in Custers command as far away as 2 1/2 miles from the major engagement. Reno was unfairly singled out to be a coward as he tried to save his troop from a clear annihilation that day June 25th 1876.

  62. Jim

    Buddy, I have to disagree with you on Reno. What were the Indians doing as he advanced on horseback? They were running!!! The Indians that faced him faced him from something like 500yds! Did you read the accounts of, think her name was Pretty White Buffalo Woman, or something like that. She states that due to the timber, no one saw Reno until he was almost on top of them. Most of the warriors ran off to their horses already(spotting Custer on the ridge), so Reno is left with a village in a state of panic where most of the warriors absent. Question: How many times did Indians in the west stop an aggressive cavalry charge??? The answer, ZERO! How many men did Reno lose on the skirmish line? ZERO! His first casualty came on the retreat to the timber when one soldier was hit 40yds. from the timber. How many soldiers were shot during their time in the timber? TWO….Bloody Knife and a trooper. Instead of sitting up around the perimeter of the woods, or a defensible smaller section, all troops went to an opening in the middle of the timber and they pretty much stopped shooting.
    Yes, Reno saved some of his men, but he could’ve saved many more; as well as, the battle had he had the intestinal fortitude that the 7th deserved to have in an officer.

  63. jrs

    In response to Mike G’s comments in 50.1: I enjoyed reading your post. You are, however, dismissing a possible line of evidence. A tree adds height from the top. That is why that limb you used to swing on in your grandparent’s yard is still the same height, and initials carved in a trunk 100 years ago are still the same distance off the ground, although they will be swollen due to the adding of layers over the years. So any bullets striking trees at the river fight will today be deeper but no higher.



  65. George Henrique Kling de Moraes

    I like your comments, Ed. It was impossible to avoid that battle. By that time indians and caucasian people were fighting for long time and probably were used to that. Usually Reno and Benten were in the right place militarily. I believe Custer was to anxious to defeat the indians alone to get all glory etc. So also, it was impossible to avoid that defeat. Finally several movies were made about the battle. Again, a lot of money was produced. Probably thousand people were hired to be in those movies. This was good. Less unemployment. Agian I arrived in the USA in June 22, 1976 for my Ph.D. studies. 100 years after that battle.

    • Fred Middleton

      Movie employment is a good career, if the actor has a job for the next 40 years.

      The Battle was easily avoided had Custer not been aggressive but followed the feet dragging of the other two prongs within the OPS.

      How long can a group of people living off the land, grass grazing thousands of horses stay in One place before exhausting that feed-food supply? At 25 miles what does a natural field of native grass look like? The scouts from the hill top repeated what was so far away, not on what they saw but what was not there. 4 Power scope, go to that hill top and look via plenty of today’s 12-dollar scope view.

      Arikara or commonly Ree Indians (Caddoan linguistic family). These people were the majority of the scouts assigned to the 7th Cavalry. What was their interest in being on the side of the 7th? ( Discount employment)

      Man is constantly whipping verbally or physically a person that can not or does not care about self defense. At least for the past 5000 years. Missouri river basin – “When the white reached the Missouri they found the region inhabited by Siouan tribes, who said that the old village sites had once been occupied by the Arikara”. So is it possible that these Siouan warriors ran off those Arikara’s from their home? Without a horse perhaps this event much prior to the 7th would never have happened. Just maybe. Damn the horses.

  66. Mark A Golding

    1) first there was no large scale genocide in the American West.

    In California the small tribes of the Yani and Yahi were exterminated by civilians lead by Sheriff Anderson and rancher Goode in the 1860s. The Arizona legislature passed resolutions calling for the total extermination of the Apaches in the 1860s.

    But statistics show that the Western Indian population fell dramatically during the decades of the Indians Wars in the West, by tens or hundreds of thousands, while the total number of Indians claimed killed killed in all the battles (which includes greatly exaggerated claims by ambitious officers) is only about 5,000 or 10,000, far too small to account for the population drop which must have had other causes.

    Furthermore, in the 1890s the total number of Indian men of fighting age of all tribes in the West was still greater than the total strength of the United States Army, and an ever increasing proportion of those Indians had repeating rifles which in were in some ways superior to the single shot weapons of the US Army. The Indian Wars were over by the 1890s, and yet the US Army was outnumbered and outgunned by the Indians of the West.

    2) Remember what Tennyson should have written about the Charge of the Light Brigade, that “Everyone, everyone had blundered.” The conviction that many had that the Sioux would scatter if attacked and be hard to round up is puzzling.

    I don’t see why there was such an emphasis on rounding up and capturing all the hostiles at one time. That was not the way that Indian Wars were usually won. Usually the Indians would be attacked and fought several times before the cumulative effect of all the battles would make them seek peace.

    In the previous year General Terry had seen thousands of Teton Sioux warriors close up during the failed negotiations for the Black Hills. A large threatening group had ridden toward Terry and the other officials. Captain James Eagan formed his company of the Second cavalry to face the menacing warriors. Then another menacing group of warriors had ridden behind Eagan’s men and got the drop on them. Then a leading chief, probably Man-Afraid-of-His Horses, moved his warriors behind the second threatening group and got the drop on them. And thousands of other Sioux warriors watched.

    So even if Terry was absolutely convinced that there were not hundreds or thousands of other Teton Sioux warriors, mostly from the hostile bands, not present at the negotiations, he should have known that the Teton Sioux as a whole had many thousands of warriors.

    And he should have known that that the difficulties of getting accurate counts or estimates of the hostiles made it possible that that they might have far more warriors than thought and possibly they might be reinforced during the warm months by hundreds or thousands of other warriors from the reservations.

    Since the hostile Sioux might have possibly have thousands of warriors by the time the summer campaign started, and since the Sioux had been known to ride out by the hundreds or thousands to attack and fight brigade sized army units, the idea of Generals Sherman, Sheridan, Terry, Custer, Gibbon, etc. that the hostiles had to be surrounded and captured all at once or else they would scatter and make it hard to round them all up seems like wishful thinking.

  67. Gary Lee

    I saw the poll on the right hand side of this page. It is asking about the legacy of George A Custer, that should remain attached to his name. The question about Custer was did he know that he was going into an ambush?

    Probably not, and yet when he was confronted by the “entire Souix nation” He didn’t cut tail and run. Neither did his troops. He had proven his mettle in the Civil War and afterward in many actions with the Natives of the west.

    Everyone thinks that because he lost, he must have been a self-deprecating, ego driven, narcissist.

    People fail to remember the zeitgeist that Custer had to work under is very , very different today than back at his time.

    It is very easy to judge the behavior after the fact. But I doubt that anybody that voted on the poll served with Custer or his soldiers.

    When the civil war was over Custer was deployed to the west to “handle” the Native problem.?In the culture in which we live, feelings about the extinction of tribes run high.?Custer was only following the orders, legitimate orders, that told him to hunt for the Indians and kill them.

    The entire populace of US, mostly, saw the Native tribes as savages. They wanted them out of their lives and the ax that fell from this subject landed smack dab in the middle of Custer’s forehead.

    We live in a politically correct world that is basically re-writing history to fit modern day mores.

    And let’s not forget, the natives that had gathered at the Big Horn River were 3 separate nations. The Lakota Sioux, the Cheyenne’s, and the Arapaho. When they came for him that is the force he was confronted with and yet, he did not turn tail and run. The site of the battle is on a grass filled field. Custer stood out in the open and proceeded to try and take down 3000 Indian Warriors. The other significance about this gathering is that they were all enemies of each other, and yet they came to join all 3 Nations to fight the White Man. The Sioux were at battle at the time.

    The duties of a soldier are to follow the orders of his/her superior officer. The white settlers were getting killed and dead people don’t vote all that well (Unless you’re from Chicago, then they vote 2 or 3 times in elections).

    If there is any problem with the real history for someone, then don’t read about it. But to completely change the history of the United States just to appease a bunch of “sensitive and caring” people.

    Custer died in 1876 on that hill, and as anyone will tell you if they have been in combat, to do what he did there that day reveals a very special man.

    Different time, different cultural mores. Read his bio. He really was an intelligent and articulate man. Better yet, read some of the press reports in the newspapers of that period.

    It is impossible to be fair with Custer at this time, as he is not here to defend himself.

    No matter what, like the soldiers that are in-country right now, he was sacrificing time and life for his country.

    Custer truly spent his life in the defense of his country, against all of it’s enemies; foreign or domestic.

    Most of these attempts of trying to re-write history so that it is more palatable and read as a fairy tale, are applying 21st century standards to a situation that took place 130+ years ago.

    • Fred Middleton

      Polls – artificial sometimes. There was not the option – None Of The Above.

      Custer’s bio does support the Tenacious leadership of Civil War command, leading from the front. This tenaciousness tends to create a divide in subordination – Love him or Hate him. Custer’s greatest foul up began long before contact – Cavalry is a bond between horse and rider. Intimate familiarity with the horses attitude and capability is paramount. Dividing the horse flesh into a color coordinated parade arrangement? The CSA cavalry, mostly the organizations of the Eastern CSA had the horse flesh of superior capability than those of the Union run of the mill contract horse providers. Horse flesh is paramount to a mounted warrior. CSA by far had the superior horses, in the beginning. Horses can not sustain a long war and must be replaced frequently. Paltry Horse – crusades. The small saddle horse is comfortable to ride. The war horse was slower, larger and capable of carrying a mounted full garb warrior longer than the Paltry.

      Horse flesh – Why did the 7th go to battle with 200 horses minimum short? Were there other shortages? Logistics win all wars. Tenaciousness wins battles. Post Greasy Grass-LBH the Fed government committed to the conclusion of Round-up with enormous increases of material and manpower – a bonifide Win attitude. The Sioux won that battle but left the field of battle first, and then inevitably lost the war.

      My view – General Terry was the incompetent component of the 7th.

      • Jim

        Fred, great points! Question though, doesn’t Custer’s grouping the horses by color make a ton of sense when commanding a battle? Think about it…just a glance tells you who is where.


      • Fred Middleton

        Horse Flesh – animals of burden have personalities of sort. Each have similarities but also differences. The Bond reference is the Companies as arranged prior to OPS into Little Big Horn was the normal for cavalry – horse ramrod-usually a civilian managed at the Post the horses according to the wishes of the specific Commanding Officer – delegated down to the tactical officer. The enlisted soldier was more or less under that direction. Horse behavior – strength, endurance, baulking, temperament, steadiness on line including the dismounted skirmishing- 3 of 4 procedure, the behavioral aspect of gunfire. Some horses are more disciplined by nature than others. This bond understanding of a soldier is critical before the engagement. It takes time to discover the individual horse traits adequately prior to some battle, and if some or half of the grunts are not horse-competent, disaster. Training usually brings these components together prior to engagement.

        The 7th was prior to this LBH ops deployed in the South-post Civil War semi Police-occupation duties. Many of the grunt soldiers had nearly no combat preparedness training in those 14-18 months of assignment in the South and most had no combat experience. The 7th CO Gen Terry and the inevitable disciplinary action on subordinate enlisted 60 days prior to that deployment to LBH has some tell tell of small cohesive discipline deficiencies – Custer was but a piece of this disaster waiting to happen. Officers of that time were allowed to bring personal horses or The-pick of the govment horse flesh. The horse Ramrod if not politically appointed would know a horse in short order. Unusually Officers had by far better cavalry horse flesh. The U.S. Army of 1876 were the remnants of the hasty post Civil War rapid retrograde, common even today. Civil War developed the seemingly perpetual corruption in the purchasing arena of war materials. Horse flesh procurement is noted as being quality deficient – all horses did not meet cavalry requirements and the prescription was padded with horses that in some cases were little more than soap factory material. Some in the Army knew this -seeing first hand, but were out of the system to correct. Custer did recognize some of the Army deficiencies, and said so – right or wrong was properly put in place prior to the LBH. And thrown on top of the Logistics deficiencies, some number of enlisted grunt cavalrymen were drafted via the Court Alternative common at that time. This Draft so to speak were young men, usually from a large eastern city, in and out of law trouble and given a Rehab of sorts – complete the Army prescribed assignment Or go to jail. Some were recent immigrants with little-poor language assimilation.

        My earlier Logistics wins wars is in part an attempt to clarify that what took place in the Civil War continues today, altered but still there. 2001 an Army combat Division, immediately post 9-11 was put on alert perpetual 18hr deployment schedule for the alert status Brigade. One subunit of this brigade Light towed airborne artillery was operating at 60% strength, and during prescription certification monthly training – live fire 6 rounds(may have been actually 12-16?), it was most common to fire one and Pretend 5. Logistics and budgets – live 105 rounds are expensive. Eventually this small artillery battery – 6 gun-howitzer but deployed with 122mm mortar tubes correctly so, came back and very soon the battery was at full strength, with more than the required Live Round training.

        I think that all of these seemingly unimportant logistical shortcomings may have contributed to the battle field small unit discipline deterioration that in some part were presented by grunt enlisted comments as well as any number of Indian accounts. In some cases small unit discipline cohesiveness makes or breaks a tenacious officers battle field decisions, especially when there is not over-whelming superior force.

        Horses-flesh of cavalry is more important than a repeating rifle, of that particular time. Cavalry is today’s light mechanized force – rapid battle field maneuvering.The advantage of rapid maneuvering is fear-confusion-unknown. View or vision of all small units on any battle field is impossible in 1876 as well as 2012. In particular the geography and terrain of the Little Big Horn river drainage makes view nearly impossible except as the river runs north into the today’s Crow Agency area-is where the 1905 Indian claim of corralling the women and children. The last minute change to Horse Color is bad business unless for the parade at 2 pm. The Springfield73 cavalry rifle can be loaded while riding at gallop, the 73 Winchester shorter pistol round can also, but the smallness of cartridge tended to make loading with a gloved or inexperienced hand more difficult. And when On Line dismounted the Springfield 45-55 had an effective engagement distance almost 3 times that of the 44-40.

        I think Reno was drunk when he deployed in the valley above the village. Officers during the Civil War and 1876 were authorized sip booze from their perpetual flask carry. Peter Thompson story – all of his remaining life. And the separation of clothing regalia – Custer wanted-opted for all officers to wear buckskin for this deployment, and evidently all had the buckskin(?) and the division of loyalty showed – those supporting Custer wore those including his brothers and some others that had that clothing vs those that stayed in issue uniform. The divisional line is today evident. The pile of spent 44.40 brass at the Last Stand site two known 44.40s George and Tom Custer. Thompson’s claim of seeing “Custer” at some distance across the river, alone on horse back ( was wearing the buckskin garb-regalia) could have been Tom Custer. And the Indian account in 1905 that a large (perhaps larger than was originally at the Last Stand site) group of cavalry was “out of the fight” near corralling the women and children North of the village areas, returned to the Last Stand site – to help-assist the dismounted soldiers was that Indian’s claim.Keeping in tune with the then current cavalry-military procedure of common-acceptance that the right wing is the Command Wing, is separable when battlefield flow so dictates.

  68. Jim

    Good points, Gary. Anyone who wants to know Custer’s real abilities on the battlefield needs to read, Custer Victorious, the story of his civil war battles.


    • Jim

      “The pile of spent 44.40 brass at the Last Stand site two known 44.40s George and Tom Custer.”

      Fred, what do you mean by this sentence?

      ” And the Indian account in 1905 that a large (perhaps larger than was originally at the Last Stand site) group of cavalry was “out of the fight” near corralling the women and children North of the village areas, returned to the Last Stand site – to help-assist the dismounted soldiers was that Indian’s claim.”

      Fred, never heard of this before. Tell me more, Buddy, and where can I read the details??


  69. James E.

    GAC divided his command in the face of an overwhelmingly larger force. Period. His mistake, and the undoing of many. Had Reno and Benteen attempted any “ride to the rescue” there would have most likely been no survivors that day. Simply put, too many well armed indians, fighting for “all the good God gives a man to fight for.”

  70. J.P. Mackie

    Custer was a full grown man who set the parameters for the attack on this huge indian encampment of an estimated (later) of 7,000 to 10,000 indians that covered an area of nearly 3 miles in radius. Custer made very poor choices with very little man power of nearly 10 to 1, and that was just the warriors.

    Custer based his attack on previous engagements with smaller tribes who would scatter away when he engaged them. This was a gathering of some 5 different tribes however. Even when the main column arrived the lead commander General Terry assessed the situation and elected not to engage them. By this time Reno’s command had lost nearly a third of his soldiers and Custer and Keogh had been wiped out by warriors nearly 4.5 miles southeast of where Reno tried to hold a skirmish line on the flat ground near the Bighorn River confronting overwhelming warriors.

    Why where the Crow Indians staged nearly 14 miles away during this Custer expedition through these low lying hills? What if any did Custer’s Scouts reveal about this massive encampment? If Custer had any knowledge of the size of this encampment he certainly failed to demonstrate it by leaving most of the 7th back with General Terry along with the only 2 Gatling guns in their arsenal.

    Custer and Keogh were in fact surrounded by the warriors who clearly had been watching their movement for sometime as they moved through the low lying hills above the Little Bighorn River across from the flats of the valley of the great Indian encampment.

  71. Jim

    Ya, if Custer would’ve taken the Gatling guns, he would’ve survived. Not due to their firepower, but due to how they would’ve slowed the column so much that the Sioux would’ve never been found!


  72. Jim

    Just started reading The Mystery of E Troop… In the book, the author states that the “coloring” of the horses took place PRIOR to the battle of Washita which was many, many years before LBH.


    • Fred Middleton

      History and the inevitable migration of truth. GG-greasy grass vs LBH. A window of opportunity for the historical documentation of this event closed in the 1st or 2nd year. Very little was done to document the military action -as in lessons learned until the Court inquiry that, as has been repeated many times, a cover up. Statute of limitation – court marshal was 2 yrs. Reno had closed the 99% possibility of Inquiry vs court martial. Instigating a Court of Inquiry in his own desire to relieve the negative connotations against his command at LBH. The military chain of command upward from Reno all the way to the President participated in this cover up shift blame – maliciously or not it is a normal factor in any post abnormal out of the ordinary event. Lessons Learned was a prescription of requirement, bi-annual report at Battalion level late 1965 thru ?? in another war. War and military are the most documented events in mans history, for logical reasons.

      Cultural Anthropology vs Physical Anthropology. It was the publishing of Richard Fox’s earlier work on the LBH that refocused my attention to the Lakota-Dakota side of the story. This actually took me then to a refreshing in 101 culural anthro class.

      My personal collection of LBH printed material was significant but being that I do not want to take material to my grave, and I thought my study of GG-LBH was satisfactory, it was donated to a “Friend of the Library” group 05-07? to sell throw-away what ever so they could purchase books of the library’s interests.

      In time memory fades. Eli Ricker wrote several books, and other magazines-periodicals, personal letters etc at and around 1900, that participated in documenting voices of that critical period in American history. To focus that LBH has finally arrived to a conclusion is wrong. Theories can not become fact until repetitive duplication of that theory occurs – outside of the creators of the theory. And I have my theory. In that mentioned collection of past, the concept that a group of soldiers were “out of the fight” I repeated recently. True – who knows. In around early 1900 this young boy, 12-14yrs in 1876 told his story (remembering migration of truth) name age has been written, and what his job was. 12-15/16yrs before passage into warrior these boys had specific duties especially when on the “move” and within honor a criteria of passage. Horses were the first daily duty, protection of the family-women and children, usually under the guidance of the elder men. These boys would by nature of their duty be between the family and the danger, close enough to family, to bring defense immediately. Not too close not too far. Many scholar historical authors negate evidence of “little” importance according to some logical consensus – as is done sometimes in physical anthropology. My telling considerations are the now available Anthro digs and the newest map rendition/interpretation that put, perhaps, Custer some distance to the north (Indian story) to turn (around?) to that soldier group in-around Last Stand. My guess at least 100 of these boys, maybe many times that many, some would have seen what this one boy spoke of while performing his duty and honor.

      44-40 Empty cases. Custer owned a M73 Win rifle of 1874 purchase. So did Tom Custer. A rifle that had a feed-jamb problem of occasion. Did they take these? I would have being some subordinate would actually take care of it when not in use. Were there other 73’s? How many Indians would have owned this relatively expensive new rifle? How many rounds would they have personally toted along the previous days journey? Not many of the Wagon Train immigrants of 1874 to 1895 would have owned one of these rifles -expense? The Pile? A lever action in the hands of a disciplined shooter would not have built a “pile” in one place-field of fire. Lever-actions even in a bench shooting place do not pile brass. Revolvers would tend to “condense” the spent case pile more so than a lever-action. The 44-40 was not an issue weapon. The “dig” discovered this “pile”. Did an Indian before leaving the site prepare this pile for pick-up-recycle-salvage or ? My view would to a minute degree, better a revolver with the shooter prone-kneeling behind a dead horse if combat were the cause of the pile.

      I also support the massive Blame or cover-up. There is little difference in Sara Winnemucca’s story concerning the 1870’s Paiute Indian and the corruption within the Dept of Interior-Indian Affairs. Almost identical, excluding the ability to project power in the numbers equivalent to LBH-GG The original estimate of Lakota rogue-militant Indians, off agency-reservation would have easily been handled by one cavalry unit. The numbers of agency compliant Indians that as soon as spring sprung left to join (many were just hungry) the rogue group was the sliding scale that perpetrated the outcome. Agents for hire at the “Agency” reservation did not could not Would-not properly account for Indian persons not -accounted for prior to the 7th deployment.

      The God-boyish soldier, as in Godfrey, displayed earlier than LBH, but at LBH what disciplined Fire can achieve even at significant numbers disparity of soldiers vs Indians. Disciplined Fire Power and Weir Point withdrawal.

      James Sturgis, Lt. was within the Custer right wing. He also wore the buck-skin jacket similar to Custer’s. His head was found within the Cheyenne camp site post battle. Was he the one Indians claimed to have shot from his horse at the river?

      The Grey Horse Troop. Interesting, even thought there are numerous accounts of the late-horse color change that may be an abstract by writers authors inclusion. Military horse and color was not new in 1876. Many accounts of doing such for the previous 1000 years.

      I revisited the LBH and your additions unintentionally via Internet. What a pleasure vs hand digging in libraries for books etc. Your Contributions are refreshing as there has been a long attempt to distort and obfuscate the truth of Little Big Horn. Which may never be established in finding that truth. My quest, of not so nearly as long as LBH, with many similar small unit disciplinary requirements to be successful. Wild land fire suppression. The primary difference is in Wild land suppression the foe is limited to laws of physics whereas war-combat the primary factor is with a foe that can think outside of a norm. In fire the form ICs 214 incident log completed by unit leader does not include the comments of the grunts-firefighters with the dirt on them. What in 100 years if a student wishes to study that fire and reads this log – the Order of Battle is clear, but the small voice of the fire fighter is mute.