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Custer’s Last Stand Still Stands Up

4/6/2007 • Wild West

June 25, 1876, is a date that shall live in controversy. Even if Lieutenant Colonel (General to his men) George Armstrong Custer came back from the grave to tell his side of the story, the controversy would still not die. The Battle of the Little Bighorn is like a 10,000-piece jigsaw puzzle on the south-central Montana landscape – the stuff of legend and historical gamesmanship. Custer and more than a third of the elite 7th Cavalry Regiment lost their lives in an epic struggle with the Plains Indians. Although the deadly conflict at the Little Bighorn is a multifaceted tale that rivals the Alamo as the most famous military clash in the American West, the main focus has always been the man in command of the losing side – thus, the battle’s popular alternative name, Custer’s Last Stand.

Countless historians, authors and amateur scholars more often than not after coming down with a bad case of the Custer bug and finding it impossible to shake have analyzed the battle. The analyses have sometimes been in direct conflict, since the so-called experts have taken different routes in trying to explain the sequence of events, why things happened and who was to blame (Custer, his supporting cast or his bosses) for the 129-year-old U.S. military defeat at the hands of Sitting Bull’s people. The controversy has not lost its intensity through the years. Recent archeological discoveries on the battlefield have cast new light on the engagement and opened the door to new interpretations and, yes, new controversies concerning Custer’s Last Stand.

A previously unidentified cavalry combat position has been discovered near Last Stand Hill (also known as Custer Hill), the knoll north of the Little Bighorn River where Custer and about 40 troopers are said to have made a final stand while surrounded. It is my understanding that artifacts have been discovered on private property near the river, says Darrell Cook, superintendent of the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Park. The National Park is not involved in this; private individuals have done the research. The exact whereabouts of these newly discovered artifacts remains confidential to protect them from looters, but the general location is close to the Little Bighorn River west and slightly north of Last Stand Hill (see map, P. 45). Artifacts recovered from this site indicate that a portion of Custer’s command fought at this location. What is particularly intriguing about this combat position is that, at the very least, it demonstrates that Custer’s Last Stand was far more complex than most authorities have believed. Unlike Errol Flynn (see the 1941 movie They Died With Their Boots On), Custer did not simply ride over the hill to be suddenly surrounded and massacred by thousands of Indians in a few short minutes.

There is no record of dead cavalrymen being found at this location when burial details were conducted a few days after the battle. This lack of bodies suggests that the cavalry detachment that fought at this position was not overwhelmed by the Indian warriors and was able to withdraw from it in good order, taking any dead and wounded with them. The fighting that occurred at this newly discovered site, as well as the movement to and from this location, would also seem to indicate that Custer’s Last Stand was a lengthy battle and one of maneuver, at least part of the time. That’s not something that the Custer critics and haters want to hear.

As many students of the Battle of the Little Bighorn have concluded, Custer’s Last Stand is one of the most overly intellectualized and politicized events in American history. Some of the most basic facts have escaped the public’s attention, while yarns such as Custer running for president of the United States have been invented. As a result, the public perception of Custer today probably falls somewhere near or below Attila the Hun. This misinterpretation of Custer has in turn led to many misperceptions about Custer’s Last Stand. Because of what happened on June 25, 1876, the Custer name has become synonymous with defeat in the minds of many, but those individuals are not seeing the larger picture, particularly Custer’s extraordinary Civil War career as a Union cavalry officer.

Custer, born in New Rumley, Ohio, on December 5, 1839, was a member of the second class of 1861 at the Military Academy at West Point, graduating a year early because Southern artillerymen had opened fire on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. The newly commissioned second lieutenant fought in the Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas) on July 21, 1861. On his own initiative, he protected the Union retreat at the Cub Run Bridge, and his Company G, 2nd U.S. Cavalry, was one of the last Union formations to leave the battlefield. Custer went on to distinguish himself in nearly every major battle fought by the Army of the Potomac.

Because of his aggressiveness in cavalry charges, 23-year-old Custer was promoted from captain to brigadier general just days before the Battle of Gettysburg. The Union’s youngest general was given command of the Michigan Cavalry Brigade. On July 3, 1863, when Maj. Gen. George Pickett’s Confederate forces began their assault on Cemetery Ridge, Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart’s Rebel cavalrymen were maneuvering to make an attack on the Union rear. Saber-wielding General Custer and his Wolverines were there to stop what some historians have suggested could have been a battle-winning assault. Vastly outnumbered, Custer twice charged Stuart’s forces, throwing them off balance and denying them access to the Federal rear.

The dashing young general stayed in the spotlight with the Michigan Brigade until September 30, 1864, when he was promoted to major general and given command of the 3rd Cavalry Division. Custer would hold that command post until the end, particularly distinguishing himself during the Appomattox campaign. After the Rebel surrender at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865, Maj. Gen. Phil Sheridan, who had been Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s chief of cavalry, purchased the table on which the articles of surrender had been signed. He would later present this table to Elizabeth Bacon Custer, General Custer’s wife, with a note saying: I respectfully present to you this small writing table on which the conditions for the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia were written by Lt. General Grant and permit me to say, Madam, that there is scarcely an individual in our service who has contributed more to bring about this desirable result than your gallant husband.

That such memorable service should be overshadowed by what happened one Sunday in June more than 10 years later is an injustice that irritates Steve Alexander as much as it does anyone. Alexander has portrayed Custer in Little Bighorn reenactments for more than 15 years and in nearly 20 documentaries, including Betrayal at Little Big Horn, Encounters of the Unexplained and Command Decisions. Custer may be the most misunderstood figure in American history, says Alexander, who has amassed a huge library of Custer reference material through the years. I have studied Custer most of my life and have been continuously amazed at his exceptional courage, military ability and character. Custer’s greatest fault, or at least the characteristic that most offended his enemies, was his consistent success, eternal optimism, and zest for life.

Custer’s Civil War record demonstrates that he was courageous and a leader beyond his years. He was a master at the use of surprise, maneuver and terrain. He led from the front and demonstrated his ability to seize opportunity in an instant; the soldiers he commanded held him in esteem. This is hardly the nasty and/or delusional Custer that has shown up in popular American culture. Custer was colorful, but he wasn’t crazy.

By the end of the Civil War, Custer had been promoted to major general. In the peacetime Army that followed, his rank would be reduced to that of lieutenant colonel. Custer, as well as other U.S. Army officers who had been reduced in rank, was referred to in official documents and press reports as General. In 1866 he was made acting commander of the 7th Cavalry. For the next 10 years, Custer and the 7th Cavalry would chase hostile Plains Indians and take them on in many skirmishes and two major battles. In November 1868, after a harrowing winter march, Custer and his command attacked and captured a Cheyenne Indian village located on the Washita River in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). About 100 Indians were killed, but Custer also took 67 captives, a fact that debunks the charge by some that it was a bloodthirsty massacre. Evidence found within this village and other allied Indian camps nearby, including murdered white captives, demonstrated that these bands were not at peace. At the Washita, as at the Little Bighorn, Custer had Indian scouts who led him to the enemy (other Indians) and were more than happy to participate in the defeat of people who were also their enemies.

In 1873 Custer and 10 companies of the 7th Cavalry were among the soldiers in Colonel David S. Stanley’s Yellowstone Expedition, which was escorting a railroad survey crew across Montana Territory. When some Sioux warriors tried to raid horses from the expedition on August 4, Custer gave chase. About 300 Sioux suddenly burst out of the timber by the Tongue River, but Custer executed a skillful withdrawal and held them back, later saying that the warriors displayed unusual boldness. After attempts by the Sioux to burn the grass and smoke out the soldiers failed, Custer surprised the enemy with a counterattack and drove them off. Just seven days later, near the mouth of the Bighorn River, warriors fired on the cavalry from the opposite shore. Custer’s 450 troopers, who faced about 500 Sioux, repulsed those warriors who tried to cross the river. During another counterattack, Custer had a horse shot out from under him but emerged without a scratch. In these two engagements, Custer demonstrated enough leadership and discipline to more than hold his own against a larger force of Plains Indians.

Not that it was always smooth sailing for Custer in the West prior to June 1876. Back in 1867, the 7th Cavalry had been plagued by factionalism, and Custer had been court-martialed for absence without leave from his command and for ordering deserters to be shot. He was convicted and suspended from command for one year. In March 1876, he was summoned from his post at Fort Lincoln, Dakota Territory, to testify in Washington, D.C., about corruption in the awarding of Western post traderships and other frauds that were cheating both the frontier Army and American Indians. His testimony was damaging to William W. Belknap, who had been the secretary of war in the Grant administration, as well as to the president’s brother. Consequently, Ulysses S. Grant removed Custer from command of the troops at Fort Lincoln, but under pressure, the president later returned Custer to command of the 7th Cavalry (though Brig. Gen. Alfred Terry would be the overall commander of the Dakota Column that marched into Montana Territory in May 1876). On June 25, Custer rode to his death in a cloud of controversies, and his many enemies and later detractors would ensure that the earlier controversies and the ones generated by the military disaster that day would grow after his death.

One controversial notion should be put aside right away: that the Plains Indians at the Little Bighorn were defending their homeland. That is a myth. When Custer surprised the Sioux and Cheyennes village, he was not attacking peace-loving defenders. The Little Bighorn Valley is part of the Crow Indians traditional homeland, and the Sioux had driven the Crows from it. Back on March 10, 1876, Indian agent Dexter Clapp of the Crow Agency in Montana said that the Sioux are now occupying the eastern and best portion of their reservation and by their constant warfare paralyzing all efforts to induce the Crows to undertake agriculture or other means of self support, and added that the Crows expect the Sioux to attack this agency and themselves in large force. Other tribes such as the Shoshones, Blackfeet and Arikaras were also victims of Sioux raids and war making. The proud warrior culture of the Plains Indians was one reason that disenchanted Sioux warriors and their allies left their reservations in 1876 to join the influential medicine man Sitting Bull, who had never signed a treaty with the United States. Another reason was that the government was not fulfilling treaty obligations, which was something Custer had pointed out when summoned to Washington. In any case, the Indians defiance meant war.

The U.S. Army did have a plan of action to deal with the hostile Indians. The Terry and Custer force that departed Fort Lincoln on May 17, 1876, consisted of the entire 7th Cavalry of 12 companies, three companies of infantry, three Gatling guns, Indian scouts and a huge wagon train. Two other columns were also dispatched to seek out the hostile tribes. Plains Indians fought Brig. Gen. George Crook’s column (which had marched up from the south) to a standstill in the Battle of the Rosebud on June 17, and by pulling back to his camp on Goose Creek instead of pursuing the enemy, Crook was of no help to Custer or anyone else. The third force, commanded by Colonel John Gibbon, marched east from western Montana and hooked up with the Terry/Custer force for a conference on the night of June 21. A scouting party headed by the second-ranking officer in the 7th Cavalry, Major Marcus Reno, had discovered a huge Indian trail leading toward the Little Bighorn Valley. The next day, Custer would separate from Gibbon’s force and march up the Rosebud Valley to follow that trail. Gibbon, with Terry accompanying him, was to follow the Yellowstone River to the Bighorn River and then follow that river to the Little Bighorn Valley. In a communication addressed to General Sheridan dated June 21, Terry said, My only hope is that one of the two columns will find the Indians. His belief that either of the two columns would be able to handle any hostile warriors was realistic.

On the morning of June 25, after Custer’s command marched several days, his advance scouts on the Crow’s Nest, a high point between the Rosebud and Little Bighorn valleys, saw a large Indian encampment 15 miles away near the Little Bighorn River. Custer did not heedlessly rush into battle against the advice of his scouts. I told [guide and interpreter] Mitch Bouyer it would be a good thing if they would hide here until night and then surprise the camp, scout White Man Runs Him later said. Then the two Sioux appeared over there and I said we had better hurry and get over there just as soon as possible. Custer was able to pull off a surprise attack. Sheridan reported on November 25, 1876, If Custer had not come upon the village so suddenly, the warriors would have gone to meet him in order to give time to the women and children to get out of the way, as they did with Crook only a few days before.

Custer divided his command into battalions, and retained personal command of two battalions (five companies, about 210 men). Reno was given command of three companies and most of the scouts (about 175 men). Captain Frederick Benteen was given command of three companies (about 125 men). One company and six men from each company (about 135 men) were assigned to protect the pack train and provide a rear guard for the advance. It has often been claimed that this decision doomed Custer, but never before had a battalion (let alone an entire regiment) of cavalry been whipped by Plains Indians. Neither Custer nor any of the officers with him would have doubted that each of these commands, with the exception of the pack train command, was a formidable offensive force. It is accepted military doctrine that forces divide and maneuver for the offensive while they concentrate for the defense. Custer had divided his forces many times during the Civil War, as well as at the Washita and during the Yellowstone Expedition. At the Little Bighorn, each command had disciplined troops who were expected to carry out their commander’s orders.

As would be expected, Custer commanded the largest force and planned to strike the main blow at the enemy. His company commanders included his brother Tom Custer, twice awarded the Medal of Honor during the Civil War, and other reliable officers Captain Miles Keogh, Captain George Yates, Lieutenant Alger Smith and Lieutenant James Calhoun (who was married to Custer’s sister). Captain Benteen would later refer to these men, along with a few others, as the Custer gang. Perhaps so, but none of these proven soldiers would have conducted themselves the way that Reno and Benteen seemingly did at the Little Big horn by disobeying orders, exhibiting dereliction of military duty and displaying cowardice. Putting the majority of his most reliable officers in his own command may have been Custer’s biggest mistake.

Benteen, by most accounts, resented Custer and had publicly criticized his conduct at the Washita. Their personal animosity was still going strong in 1876. Benteen demanded to lead the advance from the Crow’s Nest, and for a brief time did, before Custer ordered him into the foothills on the left of the main force. That order may have been Custer’s second critical mistake on June 25. What legitimate military purpose this order had, if any, has been much debated. Ordered to pitch into anything you might find, Benteen’s battalion marched parallel to the main force but gradually fell behind and became separated by several miles. From a tactical view, Benteen’s role became little more than that of the combat reserve, and it is possible that Custer’s purpose for making that assignment was to humiliate Benteen. However, James Schreffler, a military science instructor at the College of the Ozarks who has studied the battle extensively from the military perspective, has suggested that Benteen headed a surveillance/reconnaissance force to keep the enemy from slipping away through the numerous draws and washes in the area. Schreffler adds, I believe the tactics used by Custer very possibly would have been used by any other officer of that era in his position and possessing the same information.

As the main force approached the Little Bighorn Valley, hostile warriors were seen, and Custer ordered Reno into the valley to attack the Indian camp while he turned to the right to advance upon the camp from the hills overlooking the valley. Reno crossed the Little Bighorn River and charged down the valley until he halted to form a skirmish line. According to the original map of Lieutenant Edward Maguire, who arrived with General Terry and the reinforcements two days later, Reno stopped his advance about two miles from the main Indian camp. As Maguire was a trained Army engineer who examined the battlefield shortly after the fight was over, it must be presumed that his map is more accurate than the revisionist maps that have the Indian camp shifting about and have Custer’s advance drifting away from the path depicted by Maguire.

The accounts of the Indian participants frequently conflict, but one thing almost all the old warriors agreed on was that their camp (or village) was unprepared for the sudden attack. Reno was able to form a dismounted skirmish line in good order, and the horses were sheltered in low benchland near the river. While this is sometimes portrayed as a defensive action, Reno was actually creating a diversion while Custer maneuvered for a flank attack. It is evident to me that Custer intended to support me by…attacking the village in the flank, Reno later said. The now alerted Indians knew better than to make a frontal attack on Reno’s skirmish line, so they advanced in the foothills to the left of his line to strike the cavalrymen in the flank and rear. Reno then ordered the skirmish line into a wooded area, where the men remounted. Up to this point, Reno’s command had suffered few casualties and was still an offensive force threatening the Indian camp. Had Reno been in a defensive mode, he most likely would have concentrated his forces and kept his men on foot.

At this point, a bullet struck the scout Bloody Knife in the head and a shower of gore sprayed the face of Reno, who was standing next to him. Reno lost his composure, ordering his force to dismount, and then to remount again. Without bugle calls or any preparation at all, Reno bolted from the woods, leading his command in a disorganized retreat that almost immediately became a rout. About a third of the men were killed, lost or missing by the time the command had crossed the river and reached the top of the bluffs on the other side. Fortunately for Reno and the survivors, Benteen and his battalion were just arriving on the scene and the two forces were able to unite on the position now known as Reno Hill. Captain Thomas Weir led one feeble advance to go to help Custer. The company reached Weir Peaks (prominent points joined together and sometimes called Weir Peak or Weir Point), from which the Custer Battlefield is visible, but held this position only briefly before retreating to Reno’s hill position. Only one of Weir’s men, Vincent Charley, died in that short-lived advance. Until Terry’s reinforcements arrived two days later, Reno and Benteen did nothing with their combined command of almost 400 soldiers except defend themselves on Reno Hill.

Custer had been at Weir Peaks earlier. From there, he could clearly view Reno’s position, the Indian camp and the back trail. It is probable that from this position, Custer had made his final plans and had sent his last message to Benteen. The order, hurriedly scribbled on paper by Custer’s adjutant, Lieutenant William W. Cooke, said: Come on. Big village. Be quick. Bring packs. P.S. Bring Packs. Custer biographer Jeffry D. Wert states the only reasonable conclusion: It would appear that Custer shaped his movements by his commitment to the offensive in the anticipated approach of Benteen. Custer had even given orders for the pack train to come quick. Reno had seemingly created a diversion, Benteen would be coming soon, and now it was time for Custer to do his thing – attack.

Maguire’s map shows that from Weir Peaks, Custer advanced to the Little Bighorn River at the bottom of Medicine Tail Coulee. Although many people claim Custer was repulsed by warriors at this point, no dead cavalry horses were found to indicate a fight had occurred here. Furthermore, if Custer had been repulsed, his retreat line would have been to the rear and reinforcements, not away from them and toward what would become known as Last Stand Hill. Maguire marked the spot on his map with a B and later testified at the Reno Court of Inquiry that a ford was there and that it was supposed General Custer went there and attempted to cross. A map made by Captain Benteen also shows a ford at the point Custer reached the river. No beaver dams or other natural features would have prevented Custer from crossing the river at what has become known as Medicine Tail Ford. It is possible that Custer successfully crossed the river at the ford and actually reached the Indian camp. Sergeant Edward Davern testified at the Reno Court of Inquiry: I could see Indians circling around him in the bottom….I spoke to Captain 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. Similar statements were made by Lieutenants Edward Mathey and Winfield Scott Edgerly.

According to Maguire’s map, Custer’s command advanced to Last Stand Hill by two separate trails. In a withdrawal from the river ford, Custer might have been expected to concentrate for the defense rather than divide his force. Perhaps, if these trails had been made at different times, one of them could have been made during an offensive maneuver. Custer commanded two battalions. He may have sent only the largest battalion (three companies) across the river, with the hope that it would soon join forces with Reno’s command (not realizing that Reno’s battalion had retreated in the other direction). That would have given him six companies, half the regiment, in or near the Indian camp, with Benteen expected to arrive with three more companies to reinforce the attack.

As for the other two companies, led by Captain Yates, they may have been part of a separate attack. Custer, ever audacious and offensive-minded, may have wanted them to threaten the Indian camp from another unexpected direction, or else he may have wanted them deployed as skirmishers along the ridges overlooking the camp. The artifacts recently discovered west of Last Stand Hill near the river might indicate the location of another Custer threat to / or attack on the camp. In his original map, submitted with his report of September 1876, Maguire had a dotted line, representing troop movement, extending almost to the river and marked by a prominent E (see section of that map on P. 44). These markings suggest the lieutenant may have believed that elements of Custer’s command fought at that location (the area of new discovery on the aerial photo map seen on P. 45, where a purple line replaces Maguire’s dotted line). Both the E and the dotted line running beside it toward the river were removed from a later Maguire map, which was used at the Reno Court of Inquiry in 1879.

The retreat of Reno’s force from the valley, along with the subsequent failure of Benteen and Reno to advance to Custer’s support, eventually would have forced Custer to go on the defensive. His immediate command of just over 200 men was vastly outnumbered by an Indian force of at least 1,500 warriors (some estimates are much higher). It stands to reason that Custer chose Last Stand Hill as a defensive position, and the reason he must have gone in that direction (instead of falling back to Weir Peaks) was to reunite with Yates force farther downstream. In the end, Custer’s forces were dispersed and killed over a vast area. From Last Stand Hill, Captain Keogh’s and Lieutenant Calhoun’s companies stretched nearly a mile along a ridge that pointed almost directly at Weir Peaks, as if they were trying to reach that position or facilitate an advance from it. A second division of Custer’s force appears to have created a skirmish line extending from Last Stand Hill west toward the Little Bighorn River, possibly to protect his flank or perhaps even to keep a corridor open toward the Indian camp for an eventual charge. Either Custer failed to concentrate for the defense or else he was still maneuvering for the offense. If the latter is true, he may very well have been expecting reinforcements from Weir Peaks. In any case, his divided forces had become vulnerable.

Survivors of the Reno-Benteen Battlefield and reinforcement soldiers who arrived on the scene a few days later described some 36 horses that had been shot down in a circle on Last Stand Hill. Behind those horses were about 40 cavalrymen, including George Custer, Tom Custer, Yates and Cooke. It has been claimed that a last stand did not occur on this hill, because artifacts have not been found there recently. But this premise ignores the fact that extensive leveling was done to the hilltop, a road and parking lot were built, and a huge water tank was buried almost on top of the hill. Last Stand Hill may be the most abused piece of historical ground in America. Artifacts not carried off or shifted during construction were also vulnerable to being picked up by the millions of people who have visited the battlefield. Once the horses were shot and the men were in a desperate defensive position behind them on June 25, 1876, the Battle of the Little Bighorn became a Last Stand.

Much of the famous battle (which officially ended on the afternoon of the 26th when the Indians broke off their siege of the Reno-Benteen position and withdrew from the field) will forever remain a mystery, and some people will never stop saying that it was all Custer’s fault. The little band of Texans at the Alamo stood its ground against overwhelming odds, and those men became American heroes. Custer and some of his most trusted men in the 7th Cavalry did the same, but not many Americans view them as heroes today. There are, of course, differences. Underdogs William Travis and David Crockett knew that defeat and death at the hands of the overwhelming Mexican force were inevitable. On the other hand, there is every reason to believe that Custer thought a victory was possible until near the end. General Nelson Miles, a successful Indian fighter, later commented on the cause of the defeat: The fact that after Custer’s five troops had been annihilated, the Indians who came back and engaged the seven troops were repulsed, and that they failed to dislodge these troops, is proof that the force was amply strong, if it had only acted in full concert. No commanding officers can win victories with seven-twelfths of his command remaining out of the engagement when within sounds of his rifle shots.

At the Little Bighorn, both Reno and Benteen had refused to follow their orders. They had for all intents and purposes abandoned their commander and the battle. Their actions, or inactions, made Custer’s defeat and death inevitable, but it doesn’t mean that George A. Custer didnt stand tall on Last Stand Hill.

This article was written by Robert Nightengale and originally published in the August 2005 issue of Wild West Magazine. For more great articles, subscribe to Wild West magazine today!

371 Responses to Custer’s Last Stand Still Stands Up

  1. Barney Cooney says:

    Saying Reno and Benteen failure to follow their orders is a cause for the loss at LBH is lame. Reno’s last orders from Custer were to “Pitch into them and you’ll be supported” and Benteen’s written orders were to Come quick and bring packs was mentioned twice.
    Reno “pitched into them” for around a half hour (W.A.Graham, the story of LBH) until he got driven to the heights across the river by hundreds of Winchester armed Indians.
    After Benteen got the note from Martini sent a runner to fetch the pack train and came upon Reno’s command. “I’ve lost half my men” Reno said to Benteen. Benteen took over defacto command.
    Weir did go to find Custer while Benteen organized what was left of the 7th. While under fire and amid the din of cries of wounded men and animals just as he began to follow, Weir came rushing back with more than enough Sioux on his heels to take care of the troopers.
    Cooke’s note mentioned packs twice and knowing Custer, Benteen wasn’t going meet him without the packs.
    I suspect you comments on Reno and Benteen’s failure to follow orders is a way to get responses to the article.

    • poet77 says:

      GRAHAM & BRININSTOOL were haters of Custer. Brininstool proudly knew Benteen’s wife & snubbed Mrs L.B.Custer on 4 occasions.

      As Custer went down Medicine Tail Gulch, he sent Martini with the now-famous message. Martini, who named his son George Armstrong, stated to his dying day, benteen folded the note, put inside his coat (not coat chest pocket) & never told his commander about the note! Benteen = Betrayal.

      Reno, another hater of Custer, was drunk, never should have left the woods, ran without bugle call from woods to hill, caused the death of Lonesome, Isaiah & one-third of his men. Herendeen, Weir, Gerard, Varnum, Edgerley, etc, etc, &c all said so. Herendeen & Gerard were injin scouts as was Lonesome & Isaiah & Varnum was chief-of-scouts. In the woods, hearing the order of Reno, Lonesome turned to Herendeen & Reno saying: What’s this damn move? it makes no damn sense!—one-third of Reno’s outfit died retreating to the hill, but enough men & bullets were left for a 15 minute ride to save Custer.

      Col.Benteen never showed Cooke’s message to Major Reno & Reno, in his cowardice said “let Custer take care of himself”.

      Reno was a coward, Benteen a traitor

      • Nida Cline says:

        Reno was NOT a coward. Rather, he had his hands full with his own battle with the Indians. Benteen, on the other hand, did deliberately refuse to go to the aid of Custer, whom he hated, yet he suffered no consequences for his vile behaviour. The outcome may have been different had Benteen not let his unreasonable hatred of Custer control him.

      • Glenn says:

        What everyone overlooks is that Captain Thomas McDougall of B Company was in charge of the pack train. Cooke’s message never said Benteen be quick, just come quickly and bring packs. Why didn’t Martini deliver the message to Capt. McDougall who commanded the pack train? If he had the situation may have been different, but I doubt it. When Martini did deliver the message the pack train was still miles behind the rest of the column. That still does not excuse Benteen for not riding to the fight and coming to to Custer’s aid. For whatever reason, chain of command broke down that day and if anyone is truely to blame for not coming or attempting to come to Custer’s aid it was the senior officer in charge, Reno.

      • Joe says:

        Those two were great in the battle. Custer was the mistake, he alone cast the lives of those lost

      • Rob says:

        Read the Reno Court of Inquiry. No one, not Reno or Benteen or anyone else for that matter, knew what had happened to Custer’s men after he rode off to meet the indians. To imply that they should have compromised their commands by riding off in search of Custer – whom they thought was more than capable of holding his own – is rediculous..
        Of course, the fact that they had wounded to attend to which made such movement difficult, if not impossible, pretty much seals the argument.
        Custer is responsible for the loss of his command; Custer and a few thousand indians braves, that is….

      • Mike Griffith says:

        Glenn says, “Cooke’s message never said Benteen be quick, just come quickly and bring packs.” But the note was addressed to Benteen. It read,

        “Benteen, Come on. Big Village. Be quick. Bring packs. W. W. Cooke. P.S. Bring Packs.”

        What did Benteen not understand about “Come on,” “Big Village,” and “Be quick”? How could he have not grasped the clear meaning of the message? “Get over here. There’s a big village. Be quick about it.”

        As a relative novice, I’m still agnostic about much of what happened at the LBH, but it seems clear that Benteen was ordered to come quickly.

    • whirlwinder says:

      Custer’s mo was to take his men into an indian village and kill all squaws and children.
      As he attempted to cross Medicine Tail Coulee, he was shot dead and his men dragged his body up the hill to their last stand. Of course, this is an inglorious end and the record had to be changed. Custer miscalculated the size of the indian village. There were thousands of warriors and he was outnumbered and what was worse, the indians had better weapons, (repeaters versus the army’s single shot rifles.) He was doomed by his lack of good recon.

  2. airborne says:

    What Barney said. Maybe an absence of courage, but not disobedience. Reno’s three companies were decimated; for Benteen to ignore a Major so crippled and threatened and to at the same time increase his distance from McDougald and place the packs at risk, would have likely struck Julius Caesar like a bad idea under the same circumstances.

  3. Eric Kerska says:

    The company commander assignments were made based on
    seniority, not favoritism, except for Company C. There is a great
    explanation of seniority and how the company and battalion
    assignments were made in a book called, “To hell with honor.” As
    to the Benteen scout to the left, I believe it was to follow the spirit
    of Terry’s orders, “…to feel constantly to your left.” Reno—-
    Certainly displayed a lack of real leadership in the valley. Being
    the first one out of the timber and across the river is not the way
    of a battalion commander. Had Reno held for 30 minutes longer
    in the valley, I think Custer would have prevailed. After Reno
    retreated, the only thing that would save the Custer battalion
    would have been a renewed attack on the southern end of the
    village by Benteen.

  4. Tar Heel says:

    “Saying Reno and Benteen failure to follow their orders is a cause for the loss at LBH is lame. Reno’s last orders from Custer were to “Pitch into them and you’ll be supported” and Benteen’s written orders were to Come quick and bring packs was mentioned twice.”

    You say it’s ‘lame’ and then make the author’s point for him. Both had orders as you stated and neither followed them, effectively taking out 2/3 of the force available for the fight, leaving the Indians free to deal with Custer separately.

    “Reno “pitched into them” for around a half hour (W.A.Graham, the story of LBH) until he got driven to the heights across the river by hundreds of Winchester armed Indians.”

    Reno lost control of his nerves and his battalion. Most authorities on LBH agree that Reno should have been able to hold his position in the woods. Reno was not ‘driven’ anywhere by the Indians. He caused most of his own casualties by running.

    “After Benteen got the note from Martini sent a runner to fetch the pack train and came upon Reno’s command. “I’ve lost half my men” Reno said to Benteen. Benteen took over defacto command.”

    Why did Benteen take over defacto? I guess you are now agreeing that Reno was not fit to command. Benteen is still under orders to come to Custer with his men and packs. Does he even try? No. Weir takes off on his own.

    “Weir did go to find Custer while Benteen organized what was left of the 7th. While under fire and amid the din of cries of wounded men and animals just as he began to follow, Weir came rushing back with more than enough Sioux on his heels to take care of the troopers.”

    Again, what was left was almost 2/3 of the command. Wier has no more than 45 men in his Troop. Once the packs arrived, Benteen should have been able to quickly organize a strong battalion of several hundred troopers to try and get to Custer. Regardless of what he felt towards Custer personally, he was under orders and men from his regiment were in trouble. Weir has to beg for permission to go to Custer, and then takes off on his own. Benteen’s conduct is only slightly better that Reno’s, IMO.

    • robganthony says:

      Actually, Captain Weir mounted his troop on his own authority because he had grown personally disgusted with Major Reno’s and Captain Benteen’s foot dragging over Lt. Col. Custer’s last written order which Benteen had shared with Reno. Because Captain Weir was riding to the sound of the guns as ordered, Reno and Benteen reluctantly got off their collective backsides and followed suit. If Captain Weir had been in the wrong, Weir would have been in trouble, but not so. Captain Weir was obeying superior orders–the CO had ordered ammunition and support, delivered to Benteen via Martini, hence, Benteen’s true role at the LBH–the reserve in which Benteen failed miserably. Then, true to form for Benteen, tried to imply Major Reno was indecisive, inconsistent, and cowardly.

      In so far as Reno was concerned, he was indifferent to Custer; however, Benteen hated Custer’s guts.

  5. JOYCE says:

    Do u have any information on : SITTING CROW/Chief Sitting Crow? Thank u

    • jeff says:

      Who Killed Custer…

      For many years the answer to this question was kept quiet but the concensus answer is that Pte-San-Hunka, or White Bull, the nephew of Sitting Bull, killed Custer.

      White Bull told his story, which was verified by a great many of the warriors who were present, detailing that he and Custer fought in hand to hand combat. Eventually, Custer drew his pistol but White Bull took it from him before he could fire. He struck Custer upside the head several times and when the Lieutenant fell, White Bull shot him once in the head and once in the chest. White Bull had never seen Custer and did not know who it was he was facing off against but was told after the battle who it was.

      White Bull refused to tell his story publicly, as many of the warriors refused to admit their deeds, because he feared there would be some form of vengeance upon he and his family by those who governed the reservations. Stanley Vestal, in his book “Sitting Bull: Champion of the Sioux” reveals the full story of White Bull and the fall of Custer.

      Interestingly enough, David Humphreys Miller explains in his book “Custer’s Fall: The Indian Side of the Story” that one Rodman Wanamaker of Philadelphia sought to answer the question in 1909. He offered a cash reward amongst the Sioux people if they could provide the information. The Sioux debated the matter and their people were starving, so they “elected” Cheyenne chief Brave Bear to be identified as the one who killed Custer. The reported payment was $1,000 and enough beef to feed all the Sioux bands at the Last Great Indian Council. Brave Bear never spoke of Little Big Horn.

      Many claims were made by warriors who fought in that battle but none have born out the weight or the back-up as the story told by White Bull.

      Any claims of who killed Custer are spurious.
      In the years following the battle it became clear that no Native American on the field that day knew they were even fighting Custer. Custer had recently cut his long hair, and was not wearing his signature buckskins on the day of the battle.
      In fact, Chief Gall only recognized Tom Custer, Custer’s brother, who he had had previously met… but every credible source in the years immediately following the battle testified to having no idea Custer was there.

      General Terry, who arrived on the scene in the days following the battle conducted a thorough investigation.
      Custer was found stripped with only minor mutilation of his body (arms and legs still attached, whereas most other corpses had been dismembered )
      He had NOT been scalped
      And he had two wounds, A bullet wound in his chest, and another, ‘contact’ wound to his temple. ( described as powder blackened )

      This strongly argues that there was no such hand to hand combat, as no warrior defeating Custer hand to hand would have left the body unscalped. Contrary to reportage, Natives American did not leave bodies unscalped as a sign of respect, they did not scalp men they did not personally defeat.

      Terry found that Custer’s column rode in good order to the river and started to cross, but that not one Shod horse made it to the other side.
      He found that Custer’s column then retreated in disorder, back up the embankment, ending up at the disordered and confusing site of the massacre.

      Chief Gall reported that he was on his way from the northern part of the encampment toward the sound of fighting to the South ( Reno) when he was drawn to gunfire from the river near the middle of the camp… and he arrived to see Custer’s cavalry in full retreat up the far bank…
      SOMETHING had stopped Custer’s charge across the river.

      The Cheyenne, who were encamped near Custer’s attempted crossing, tell the story of the Four Warriors… that when the women saw the Cavalry coming down Medicine Coulee and shouted an alarm, that only 4 Cheyenne braves were close enough to react, and that they countercharged Custer’s column in the river.
      They reported that with the first volley, ONE SOLDIER fell from his horse… that the column stopped, and rescued the fallen man from the river, and then milled about, and the whole column retreated.

      Terry and subsequent forensics has found no evidence of a major exchange of fire at the crossing… no bodies, and no dead horses and very few bullet casings.
      Custer had never in his career dismounted in the face of the enemy, nor had he ever stopped a charge over the loss of one man.

      There is only one person that could have been lost that would have stopped the 7th from crossing the river, and that man is Custer himself.

      The disordered melee that is seen in the disposition of the shells and bodies on the battlefield indicate a detachment that no longer had cogent leadership…. and certainly not the audacious leadership that Custer displayed thru his entire career.

      The most likely explanation is that Custer was wounded in the initial volley at the crossing, and his men, unsure of what to do, rescued him, and retreated to re-group.
      Custer may or may not have been conscious thru the remainder of the fight, but his fatal wound is similar to many such wounds found among the last to die and is consistent with a self inflicted “save the last bullet” scenario, or with a fellow trooper dispatching Custer to keep him from falling into the hands of the Natives alive.

      That he was not scalped is the clincher… No native would take the scalp of a coward… and all native tribes considered suicide to be a cowards death.

      • bobby kerns says:

        Jeff I agree it had to be Custer shot at river

      • John Martin says:

        Jeff, I have studied the Battle of the Little Bighorn for more than thirty years. I have read more than 100 books on the subject (some better than others), and I have visited the battlefield more than a dozen times, having been born and raised in Montana.
        I have allowed my opinion of Custer and the battle to evolve over time, and I have digested literally hundreds of differing hypothesis regarding what happened that day.
        After all of that, I have to say that your conclusion makes the most sense, and is exactly in line with my own after all these years. The last few times I visited the field, the most recent being Sept. 2013, I visualized Custer riding down Medicine Tail Coulee, the first available crossing after Reno Hill, and the little hill where White Man Runs Him, Goes Ahead and Hairy Moccasin watched and took potshots at the Sioux.
        While there are those who insist that the officer shot at the ford was Lt. Sturgis, I agree with your assessment that the loss of a single officer would not have checked a Custer charge. Also, Custer most certainly believed that this could very well be the final charge of his career, knowing full well the Indian wars were nearly over. Why would he send a newly minted inexperienced Lieutenant straight out of West Point ( and the son of his own Commander) to lead what was almost certainly the last charge of Custer’s career? Custer always, always led from the front. No exception can be found in the history of any battle in which he was engaged.
        The evidence from that point indicates that Custer was shot at the river, his reserve force under the command of Lt. Yates had been left higher on the ridge and tried to help in the disorganized retreat, but the forces were overwhelmed by a three pronged attack under Gall, Crazy Horse and Two Moons.
        After reaching the high ground at Last Stand Hill, it was most likely obvious they were surrounded, and they dug in for the “Stand”. It is entirely possible that the chest wound, while mortal, was not immediately fatal, and Custer watched helplessly as his men were cut down. It is also possible that the final shot to his temple was delivered by his own brother, whose body was found only a few feet away. I agree with your assertion as to why Custer was not scalped.
        There are those who postulate that there were “numerous shell casings found under Custer’s body” and hold it out as proof that Custer fought to the last. Custer, like most of them, was stripped of his clothing after death, so whatever was found under his body was irrelevant. Even if the shells had come from his Remington Sporter rifle, it is not proof that he did the firing. The only scenario that makes any sense of the evidence is this one, and I think any future evidence will only support it. I would welcome any correspondence with you regarding the battle, I remain a lifelong Custer addict…..

      • Steve Conlin (Mulligan) says:

        “Custer had never in his career dismounted in the face of the enemy, and he had never stopped a charge over the loss of one man”.

        Heavy, heavy , heavy!!

        This is an incredible insight, Jeff. Is it a result of your own research or are you quoting a reputable Custer scholar??

        Possibly the “Custer’s Fall” book?

        This statement may be the Rosetta Stone that makes so many of the confusing aspects of the Last Stand coherent, finally.

        Man, I gotta find the source for that!!

        Please get with me via PM or publish your reply here.



    • robganthony says:

      I think you mean Sitting Bull (the overly simplistic English translation of the Lakota name A Buffalo Bull Resides Permanently Among His People.). Sitting Bull was a peace chief, something of a combination, judge, elder, boss, and spiritual leader in ordinary times. Peace chiefs were not expected to participate in or even direct battles. They would defend themselves and their immediate families if necessary.

      At the time of the LBH fight, Sitting Bull is known to have ridden away from the fight with at least his wife, a grandson, and his daughters.

  6. Mike Fox says:

    The main problem with this article is that it gets the timing of the battle all wrong. Custer’s own fight was heard to start by the scout Girard whilst he was hiding in the timber some 15 minutes after Reno’s flight. This would have been a few minutes before Benteen arrived on Reno Hill.

    Custer’s fight probably lasted 45 to 50 minutes thus his command was already destroyed by the time that Weir’s company reached its viewing position. other later reports of gunfire from those, like Girard, in the timber and from McDougall with the pack train were either warriors firing ast dead bodies or more likely the sound of Weir’s men skirmishing with warriors on Weir Peaks.

    There was literally nothing that Benteen could have done. Even if he had ignored Reno and the 900 or so warriors in the valley and ridden straight on he still would not have got to Custer before his battle had finished.

    Reno’s charge to the bluffs actually pulled around half the warrior force away from the village and gave Custer an opportunity to strike. Unfortunately there were more than enough warriors still in the village to hold Custer off and then overwhelm him.

    There were no villains at LBH – Custer mounted a reasonable attack based on the enemy he expected but there were too many well armed warriors and his tactics led to his own forces being defeated in detail. Reno’s actions probably saved the majority of his command and Benteen through no fault of his own was just in time to save the remnants.



    • Chad Herrin says:

      I agree with you Mike. I don’t believe there was anything that Benteen or Reno could do for Custer. Custer went into a bee-hive.

  7. Apache105 says:

    After the initial charge and halt Reno commanded nothing and caused the death of several of his men. Benteen disobeyed orders plain and simple. The above are supported by the facts, facts-not conjectural biased bull. A good unbiased research will show that the 1879 court of inquiry was a cover-up that has extended to this very day. It just wasn’t the 7th that had a part, but Crook, Terry, and the other higher-ups including president Grant. All of them contributed to the debacle at the Little Big Horn. Custer was a lot of things, but a lousy commander wasn’t one of them.
    Its time to quit blaming Custer and give the blame where it is due. Also give the Indians credit for there outstanding perfomance, at least during the battle. Afterwords they resorted to the ways that made people dislike them so much. And lets be truthful about them also and the way of life they pursued.

  8. wolfgang911 says:

    Custer will always be a subject of discussion and nobody will ever know the exact truth as the timing is very important and there is not enough witnesses around to tell who did what when facing several hundreds of angry and proud sioux with 2 great leaders.
    Benteen and Reno were human and why would they fight their men to death just in the sake of save a company allready lost.

    I just react to the above comment that says about the indians :
    ‘afterwards they resorted to the ways that made people made dislike them so much”
    To speak about “biased bull” (quote apache105) any indian warrior made a better horseman and fighter than a white army servant. they rode and fougth all their lives. their lack of command and strategy fighting mostly amongst each other and not whites was their only failure in combat.
    their culture was in the opinion of many people 1 of the most beautiful and inspirational ever …

  9. Cal Luchuck says:

    Unfortunately so many stories and over-ups. I believe that George Armstrong Custer was not stupid and was a very good commander. That said he would have taken the steps necessary to have a planned attack. I do believe that Reno and Benteen covered up much of the true facts. They both changed their stories many times since the battle. The difference in stories between the officers and the unlisted men and the officers before the inquiry and after. The inquiry it self was obviously a fraud.

    Now we have two camps, one who side with a competent GA Custer and one who still thinks Custer was a drunken fool. My own sister-in-law who really knows nothing about Custer and the LBH believes that Custer was a drunk and only wanted glory. The press has done a very good job convincing society of this through movies like Little Big Man and many cartoons.

    It is unfortunate that a movie cannot be made to show the world who GA Armstrong really was and what probably happened at the Little Big Horn, a man who went down fighting waiting for two captains who disobeyed orders. That much we know for sure

  10. Anonymous says:

    It seems to me that it was Custer’s own fault for his defeat. For you see, Terry’s orders were percise to stay and wait for more troops.

    Custer got hungry for Glory and decided to go ahead and divide his regiment into three groups and such. Simply saying that it was Benteen’s or Reno’s fault for the defeat is covering up for Custer’s mistake.

    This doesn’t make Custer nessacarily a bad man though. he was doing his orders, though, I wish he did have more of a heart. For slaughtering Indian children and women was truely cruel. Insane even…

    But, back to the point. Historians keep debating who’s fault it was exactly for LBH. I’ve even heard that it is Terry’s fault for not knowing how many Indians were in the camp. Why would somebody blame him? For, was it not Terry who sent away Custer to find out how many Souix and Cheyenne were in the camp?

    I think I’ve stated my point. And yes, I respect other’s opinons. But I’m in eigth grade, and feel as though it was George Custer’s own fault for “The battle of Little Big Horn.” Pointing the finger at Reno and Benteen is, as quoted by Tar Heel, “lame”.

    Custer was not stupid. He was a good, intellegant man, he just slipped up this time.


    • roaddog3035 says:

      Sorry Anonymous, but you obviously have not actually studied Custer or the last stand battle. You make the same mistake that most people do that no nothing but what they learned from our PC correct society.

      First of all, Custer NEVER drank and was not a drunkard. Every decision he made that day comes right out of the Army manual of tactics of the day.

      When attacking the Indians, you always wanted to come at them from different directions as they would Usually flee and not stand and fight.

      Most historians now have concluded that Custer’s only mistake, if you can call it that, was lack of intelligence as to the actual strength of the Indian camp.

      Why? Because never before LBH and never after did so many Indians group together to fight the white man. They usually were killing each other and attacking other Indians. Custer or anyone else, had any idea that there could be that many in one location making up so many different tribes.

      As to disobeying Gen. Terry’s orders, that story line has been disproved a long time ago. I have read the actual orders. Custer was given the task of finding the indians and was told to use his discrecion as to what action to take when he did so. Think a minute, they had no immediate form of communications. A commander could not give an order without allowing his suborbinate the ability to do something different when the situation required it. He was simply ordered to find and destroy the Indians. The part where he was to hook up on the 26th with the rest of the Army would not have worked as Gen Terry command had been attacked days before on their way and were forced to retreat.

      I just get so sick of people spouting off about a subject they refuse to research for the truth.

      Custer led over 60 charges during the civil war and never lost a battle, even when outnumbered 7 to 1. Did some people hate him? Of course. Just as Gen. Patton and Gen. MacArthur were hated as well.

      You know why? Because it takes a very secure personality (arrogant) if you, to lead men into battle knowing that some will die. Study Gen. Patton and you get an idea what Custer was like. Even if you are an Indian and hate Custer, if you are an honest person, you have to say that he was a very brave soldier who knew his duty and did it well. He is one of our finest military officers that ever served in the American armed forces and we should all be proud that we have had him. Remember, Custer did not hate the Indians, he admired them and had stated that if he were an Indian, he would fight as well. Having said that, Custer was a good soldier and was following his orders as given, by a corrupt government.

      I blame the US for the killing of Custer more than anything. While his troops had one shot carbines, the damn Bureau of Indian Affairs were giving Winchester repeating rifles to the Indians. Nothing like supplying your enemy with better weapons.

      Do yourself a favor and read some books about the life of Custer. Find out what a gentleman and talented man he really was and not just repeat the BS that people throw out there.

      • t-mac says:

        you are right on roaddog. while other officers looked for ways to avoid carrying out orders custer always looked for a way to carry them out.phillip sheridan once said to custer,”you are the only man who has never let me down.”i admire him. he was as close to being the perfect soldier as you can get.

      • Michael Strauss says:

        Ranald Mackenzie was the most successful Indian fighter. In conflicts before the Little Big Horn, he always kept his 4th cavalry together and hit the Indians with a fist. One fist. Custer divided his command in 4 parts, leaving 2 on one side of the river and 2 on the other. It would have been difficult or impossible for the 4 parts of his command to have supported each other. Then, with his two battalions, he continued to divide his forces in the presence of what was by that time an enemy with superior numbers. Was Custer a fool? I think so. By continuing to divide an inferior force in the presence of superior numbers, he made it easy for the Indians to destroy his regiment in detail. Benteen, by holding the other 3 parts together, saved 400 lives.Had he gone to rescue Custer with 5 troops, attacking piecemiel, the entire regiment would have been annihilated.

      • fateagle says:

        roadog is on to something.
        Just like we, the American people, have done recently…supplying weaponry to our enemies, THEN the cover up begins.

        We le3arned nothing from the LBH,

      • k. says:

        thanks for the info, roaddog….. good job

  11. Anonymous says:

    ****ADD ON****

    I feel like an idiot. ^-^

    The quote “lame” is not from Tar Heel.

    But from Barney Cooney.

    I apologize for the mess up.

    -Anonymous <3

  12. Michael Ey says:

    For whatever reason, as an Australian, I have always been fascinated by George Armstrong Custer and whathappened on the Little Bighorn – June 25 th 1876. I have read all of the comments above and appreciate the sentiment with which they have been written. George Custer is a highly controversial figure and there is much that could easily be read into his personality from many different perspectives. Do I believe that he was a competent commander? Yes I do. Do I believe that he was a deeply flawed and exceptionally vain man? Absolutely. Do I believe that he squandered the lives of over 250 of his men due to his own personal ambitions? No I do not! Do I believe that Major Reno and Captain Benteen deliberately disobeyed orders by not coming to Custer’s aid? No – I am not necesarily convinced that this was the case.

    There are so many things that are not mentioned in the above account. The fact that Custer marched his men to the point of near exhaustion – though understandible given the circumstances – is heavily underestimated in most accounts of the battle that I hav read. The entire 7th Cavalry was exhausted on the day of the battle and Soiux accounts have been often been quoted as saying that the soldiers appeared to be simply exhausted during the battle. Perhaps Custer’s greatest fault may have been the fact that he may not have been able to understand the inability of his soldiers to match his own personal ability to endure quite intense physical hardship.

    The most overlooked aspect of the battle – and an aspect that I have not read anywhere personally – although I am certain that someone has documented it – is the role of General Crook after his ‘supposed’ victory – as he claimed at the battle of the Rosebud about one week before the Little Bighorn debacle. From what little I have read, General Crook was experienced in the way that the Plains Indian fought. He, like Custer, never believed in his wildest imagination, that the Soiux would come out and confront a force of over 1000 US soldiers in an oen battle. More to the point was the fact that they fought almost as a coordinated group of warriors – this had never happened before. In the face of anything the size of the 7th Cavalry, the Plains Indians had always fled – not because they were afraid but because they new the firepower of the US sodiers. Crook knew this, yet the battle of the Rosebud was an encounter that was significantly different from anything that he had ever experienced from confronting the Soiux before. The battle lasted for a good couple of hours with the Souix and Cheyenne continually re-attacking and re-deploying against the US soldiers again and again. It has been reported – though they never really received any great credit for it – that the Crow scouts attached to Crook’s colomn actually did more to prevent a major debacle occuring then the soldiers themselves. On more than one occasion Crow warriors dashed in to save isolated soldiers from certain death at the hands of the Souix and Cheyenne. General Crook demonstrated negligence – in my opinion – on two counts: The first was that even after that battle he still had at his disposal over 1000 soldiers – yet he refused to participate any further in the campaign until he was re-supplied and reinforced. The second, however, was possible the most crucial. He made ABSOLUTELY NO ATTEMPT WHATSOEVER to communicate with either Terry, Gibbon or Custer as to the nature of the engagement that he had experienced with the Indians on the Rosebud. Had he done so and informed them that the Indians were not fighting as expected but rather as a large coordinated unit then would Custer’s tactics at the Little Bighorn been different? Custer was not a man without faults – and I am definately NOT a Custer lover or a supporter of the Custer faction. From what I have read, however, Custer was a competent and astute commanding officer.

    The tactics that Custer applied on June 25th 1876 were close to flawless given his understanding of how the Souix and Cheyenne responded when confronted with a well armed and disciplined cavalry force. Even where the splitting of his forces were concerned. The Indians had never, prior to the Little Bighorn, even remotely attempted to turn away an offensive force anything the size of the 7th Cavalry before and, even though Custer’s men were close to exhausted, this was still not enough reason for Custer to be dismayed. He did NOT know that he was confronting an Indian encampment that was NOT even remotely considering running away BUT was preparing to fight Custer to the death. This single piece of information was crucially missing from all of the information that Custer had at his disposal. If Crook had dispatched the information regarding the mood of the Indians immediately, it still may not have reached Custer anyway. We simply do not know.

    Did Reno and Benteen disobey orders? Yes, I believe they did – BUT not willfully. The officers of the 7th Cavalry were simply not aware of the fighting mood or the fighting disposition of the Souix and Cheyenne. There were many more of them than they anticipated and – even with this number – they were completely unaware that the Indians had absolutely no intention of standing and fighting to the death. Did Reno display cowardice when he was in the valley and orered a retreat? This will always be up to the individual’s own persoanl opinion. I can only try to empathise by asking the question ‘What would I have done if I were in a similar situation? Reno was seriously outnumbered; he had been cornered into a wooded area in the river valley; he was running out of ammunition; the longer he stayed the more trapped he became in, from his perspective on things, an increasingly undefensible position; and he had no idea as to the whereabouts of his commanding officer. Under this set of circumstances, few people, if they have any honesty and heart, could blame Reno for his subsequent actions. Would we have done any differently?

    Where Benteen is concerned, he arrived on Reno Hill with his 3 companies to reinforce Reno. Once the wagon train arrived he had at his disposal seven of the twelve companies of the 7th cavalry at his disposal – yet, three of these (Reno’s battalion) were in no condition to continue in offensive mode. Remember that the entire 7th Cavalry was near the point of exhaustion. Had the entire 7th Cavalry moved to support their commanding officer (of which they were not completely clear as to his whereabouts – they knew the general direction on the basis of gun-fire and other pieces of information) it would have only contributed, in my opinion, to the tradegy that unfolded. Reno and Benteen may have disobeyed orders, however, I do not believe it was wilful – rather an honest acknowledgement and an honest appraisel of the situation that they were faced with.

    I do not believe that any individual can be singled out as having to take complete responsibility for what happened on June 25th 1876. So many other issues have not even been raised in this response – the political situation of the day; the considerable under resourcement of the US forces on the Plains; the constant breaking of treaty’s and the refusal of the US government to enforce treaty boundaries; the incredibly inept way that the US government treated those Indians who did come in from the Plains and moved onto reservations. The completely unjustifiable bloodbaths of Sand Creek and Wounded Knee! I do have to admit that I grow a little weary of reading accounts that continue to impart sole responsibility for the debacle of what happened on the Little Bighorn all those years ago. From my limited understanding of everything that occurred, I think that the US government administration at the time does need to accept a reasonable portion of the responsibility for what occurred.

    Finally, SO LITTLE CREDIT is actually given to the Plains Indians for their bravery and ingenuitiy. They fought for their lands. The reasons for the sending in of US troops into Souix lands to force them onto reservations are spurious at best and very close to lies and deceit at worst. From all that I have read it was the US governemnt who violated any treaty signed between the two groups of people. The Plains Indians stood up against an overwhelmingly powerful enemy and fought for their rights. They outfought two very competent US army officers – Crook and Custer – but with their victories they guaranteed the loss of all that they held dear. Within ten years the culture of the Plains Indians no longer existed.

    • Faron says:

      I have been to the Rosebud & The Little Big Horn battle sites a number of times & to a number of other battle sites across the country. What i have found is the fact that when the indians were ready to fight in most major battles they won. If not for Crooks crow allies he would have suffered a major defeat because he was completly surprized by Crazy Horse & about 2000 warriors, Crooks & all his men upwards of approx. 1500 including his crow were in camp & not ready for a fight when Crazy Horse & his warriors came over the hills around camp, if not for a couple hundred crows that raced out & put themselves between Crooks men & Crazy Horse there would have been alot more casulties on Crooks side if not whole scale slaughter. When it comes to Custer he usually had skirmishes with indians except for attacking a peacful village that wasnt expecting an attack. The Little Big Horn was the first time he went up against indians ready for a fight & who was not out numbered or out gunned. Custer pushed his men hard to get there first because he wanted the Glory, & by doing so his men were worn out & in pretty bad shape & this time the indians were ready for a fight. This is one battlefield that has markers like little head stones everyplace they found a dead soldier, & to me it dosent look like they put up much of a fight at all it looks pretty much like an all out rout of which I would say he was solely responsible for underestimating the indians. Another example of Indians abilities to fight happened alittle nothwest of The Little Big Horn when well over 1500 calvary attacked an Arapaho village early in the morning another Sherman tactic but were beaten and driven off by indians coming right out of bed into battle. In fact most of the real fights in the west were won by the Indians. That was one reason the calvary started fighting in the winter & there was a bounty put on buffalo to try and starve & fight them when they were most vulnerable.

    • Scott says:

      Custer maintaining the operational tempo he did just before the engagement was an attempt to maintain the initiative. He did that successfully. The disposition of his forces were in keeping with the tactical practices of the time and theater. I would hesitate to call any man a coward in those conditions. None of us were there. As a combat veteran I can tell you that it’s an exceptionally confusing experience at times. Maintaining your commanders intent becomes very subjective once the engagement begins. Certainly with the non ability to communicate real time. I am of the opinion (and its just that an opinion) The Gen. Custer lost tactical control of his command during his withdraw. This enabled him to be engaged piece mail company by company. During the staff ride I did It struck me how strung out the positions were. I truly think the inability to support each other during the engagement once the initiative changed hands decided the issue. Had Benteen and Reno moved north in an attempt to relieve Custer I firmly believe they would have been over run in the same manner Custer was. Im not convinced that Custer wasn’t wounded earlier in the engagement thus contributing to the loss of tactical cohesion during the withdraw / maneuvering in the last 30 min or so of the engagement. Just an opinion of a guy whose spent a little time getting shot at in his life.

      Respectfully S.

      • Michael Strauss says:

        It was not standard practice to divide your force in the face of a superior enemy. Colonel Mackenzie didn’t do it; neither did General Crook. Here is an historical what-if; how would Mackenzie and his 4th cavalry had fought the Indians at the Little Big Horn?
        1. He would have reconnoitred…he always did.
        2. He would have hit them with one fist, head on.
        3. He would have captured their horses and slaughtered the herd.

      • Waldo says:

        I don’t agree with those saying dividing your forces was standard or good practice. The reason to divide your forces on the attack is to hit the enemy from two directions AT THE SAME TIME. That never happened at Little Big Horn. Custer sent Reno in to attack, but for whatever reason he did not support him. Most likely because he had much more difficult terrain to cross. He also may have thought better of attacking the village after he saw how big it was. He did make a feint or recon to the river. But, this was only after Reno had been routed back to Reno Hill. This was unlike Washita. There Custer divided his forces but had them in position to attack simultaneously. Sending an woefully outnumbered Reno in to attack the village alone was a terrible waste of surprise and the initiative. Custer’s best chance was to hit the Indians hard with everything he had. Custer blew the battle there and previously by turning down 2nd cav troopers and sending Benteen far away from the fight.

      • Steve says:


        Not sure if you are familiar first-hand with modern and historical military tactics. Doctrine and strategy are predicated on the capabilities and strengths of your units AND the enemy. When fighting a highly mobile force, it is always preferred to flank if you can, and remove the maneuverability as an advantage whenever possible. Custer had don’t this before, successfully. Him doing this is neither new, controversial, or inappropriate based on what he knew when the engagement began. To suggest otherwise indicates a lack of historical understanding and a dilettante’s view of military movement.

      • Clark Wilkins says:

        This is actually the first post I’ve read I can agree with. Custer’s positions are, indeed, spread out. There is no “mutual support” found and which is required for a successful defense. There was no 7th cavalry position that just two Indians couldn’t surround. And it does appear that Custer is not in command but that’s only to those with no military training.

        I find the intent of the original article to be exactly what the very first poster noted – to stir up controversy. I only read one sentence I agreed with. And then I have to read such nonsense posts afterwards as Custer being killed crossing the river. Where do people get this stuff? They carried his body back the wrong way? They didn’t know the difference between north and south? Two hundred and ten soldiers instantly stopped their charge because one fell? And they did so to carry his body all the way to Last Stand Hill? Where the “dead man” then fired his Remington rifle repeatedly? And was found with his pistol still in his hand? And yet he was dead the whole time?

        And now Reno disobeyed orders? He charged the village as ordered. And he did it with three companies and not five. When did Custer charge the village? What a double standard to hold Reno to!

        The author of this piece just opened the door to the nuthouse. No one who read his political diatribe learned a thing. People just saw the opportunity to post their own fantasy. After all, if the author can do it, so can they.

        Which brings us right back to the very first reply. We all read a worthless article to which we then took turns adding “more worthless” to.

  13. TEC says:

    Major Reno lost his nerve and Captain Benteen had no intentions of helping out Custer whom he despised especially after losing his best friend Major Joe Elliott at the battle of the Washita to rescue white captives destined for slavery in Mexico!
    Evidence suggest that Custer and his brothers along with scout Mich boyer and “Mr.Kellogg” the newspaper journalist were all shot-mortally wounded-while attempting to cross the Little Big Horn to capture the village. This stopped the attack cold so the troopers retreated by which time the Sioux and Cheyenne were coming back from repelling Reno at the south end of the huge encampment.
    Refusing to leave the mortally wounded Custers at the rivers’ edge, the demoralized troopers withdrew with a huge amount of angry Cheyenne and Sioux on their rather exhausted heels, cut off from Reno and Benteen….with only Lt. W.W.Cooke to guide them and try to save the badly wounded Custer brothers…!

  14. Vincent says:

    I have never heard a convincing rebuttal to Benteen’s claim that Custer did NOT have a plan. When he sent Benteen on his scout, without agreeing on a place and most of all, a TIME to rendevouz, Custer had no right to count on Benteen’s support. It was just a fluke that Martin was able to reach Benteen at all. If Benteen had followed his orders to the letter, even if Custer had meant for him to rejoin the regiment at the Little Bighorn valley, rather than go “all the way to fort Benton” as Benteen sarcastically testified, he would have traveled all the way to present day’s Lodgegrass, before reaching the river. Then he would have had another 15 miles or more to ride before reaching the village. All, with worn out and underfed horses. In the meantime, Martin would have backtracked (as he was specifically ordered) all the way to Davis Creek, to then turn south trying to catch up with Benteen! And to top it all, Custer rode away at a gallop from the point where Martin had last seen him, so that when finally Benteen got to the area, Custer was nowhere to be seen.

    What’s more, Martin conveyed no idea that Custer was in trouble. When he first saw the village, Custer (who had the largest of the three forces, each of which was believed to be able to engage the hostiles on its own) was buoyant, he thought they had “got them napping” and that they would “finish them up and then go home to our station”. In fact, Martin said that the Indians were “skedaddling. Even Weir had no reason to believe that Custer was in trouble. He was simply eager to be in the fight, as he had already indicated when he grew impatient when Benteen was watering the horses and took off without orders in the direction of Reno’s (not Custer’s) firing. This was BEFORE Martin brought Custer’s order to Benteen.

    • Clark Wilkins says:

      It is quite obvious that Custer’s order for Benteen to “quickly” bring the pack train had no influence on Custer’s thinking. If fact he had advanced another 300 yards on the village before he thought to stop and give the order. Custer judged it safe to go ahead or he wouldn’t have done so. This is not rocket science. If Custer judged he needed the packs or Benteen, he’d have stopped right then and there and waited for them. It’s as simple as that.

  15. Mike says:

    Custer was mortally wounded at the ford. That was the moment the command ‘s posture changed from offense to defense. It was also the moment it became leaderless and confused. Custer was carried with his officers around him to the most defensive point on the field, Custer hill, where he remained incapicitated and later killed in the Indian final charge. No other scenario explains the attitude and movement of the command. It also is supported by Indian eye-witnesses. The most likely killer of Custer was White Cow Bull who shot an officer on a sorrel with 4 white sox in the river.

  16. Dan Lee says:

    This is the simplest Question of all! Why did Lt Col Custer attack the souix in lands that were given to them by treaty? My responce is your countries greed. You attacked the native populace for the greed of gold. Now you are attacking other countries for your greed of oil. How long will it be before you attack this country of mine ( Canada). Good examples; our oil supplies and our water supplies. Your country needs us, yet you pull your companies out of here. You have nuclear power yet you do not want any other country to have it. Who in the H do you think you are. Your country has been the most destructive nation on the planet. You interfere in every countries business. Oh! You play the rhetorical game, but most nations are starting to see through this.

    • Phyxias1213 says:

      The land did not in fact belong to the Sioux or the Cheyenne. The land belonged to the Crow and various other tribes. The Little Bighorn expedition was dispatched because the U.S. promised to protect the Crow in their peace treaty. So when the Crow, amongst many others, asked for aid because they were being raided regularly, the expedition was sent. Furthermore, the Sioux and the Cheyenne were equipped with Springfield long rifles, taken from the peaceful tribes on the reservation. Custer and his men only had short rifles. Additionally, the single biggest factor in the outcome, was a lack of information. Custer and Terry were dispatched on orders that numbered the hostiles at under 1000. With this information they had no reason to expect anything else. However, a dispatch sent to the post at which Custer left his wife, stated that the numbers were much greater. Possibly as many as 3000. Runners were sent but could not reach Terry or Custer in time. In the book, “The Boy General,” written by Custer’s wife reveals that the entirety of the command of the 7th followed and obeyed their orders, except one. In the book, she does not name the failed commander, but states that he and his troops were put into an easily defensible overwatch position for the purpose of protecting Custer’s detachment. However, this commander lost heart and gave ridiculous orders and then countermanded them. Finally, this commander caused a stampede, leaving his comrades exposed to a concentrated attack by the majority of the enemy host.

  17. TWilliam says:

    Read up a little bit there Dan Lee before you barf again, eh?

    1. The Sioux were not in their native stomping grounds in Montana, that would be the home of the Crows, who the Sioux thought it was just fine to butcher and drive out.
    2. Gold and Oil? OK Mr. Yukon Klondike, go back to England if you’re so self-righteous about such things. Just why did you hamsters push the native population out of their native lands?
    3. How long will it be fore we attack Canada? Don’t know, you better build up your military – oh that’s right – you don’t have one because you’ve always relied on the U.S. to protect your sorry backside.
    4.We pull our companies out of Canada? Boo Hoo. Go cut some ice cubes.
    5. Nuclear Power? Nobody’s stopping Canada from going nuke. We just don’t want Iran and North Korea to have it, as opposed to yourself (see refer to response number 3).
    6. Who in the H do we think we are? 10 times the force for good that Yukon Klondike thinks we are.
    7. Most destructive on the planet? Again, go cut some ice cubes. We weren’t around for the ice age or the twilight of the dinosaurs. Hopefully we are when you become extinct so we can come visit and dance on your frozen grave.
    8. We interfere in every country’s business? Really? Go sit on the ice cubes that you cut.

  18. Willie says:

    Way to go, Dan Lee – letting your intelligence (?) show. This is for comments on “Custer’s Last Stand”, not some ignorant Canuck’s political views.

    You’re evidently not old enough to understand, but without the U.S., Europe would be speaking German and most of the Western World would have had to learn Russion about 30 years ago. We don’t wave it under peoples’ noses until idiots like you bring it up.

    Don’t worry, we won’t won’t be invading Canada any time soon – nothing there worth fighting over. On second thought, we’re softies for things like freedom, so if it needed saving, we’d probably do the same thing again !

    Who inhabited Canada before white people ? Musta been the Frenchmen who wanna leave & take their Province with ’em. Couldn’t have been Indians (they woulda been treated better).

  19. rebecca northcutt says:

    I have read so many Books on the Little big horn battle. custer to me is a Hero and I wish there was someone that lived to tell the truth about what happen. Custer too me is the most interesting person, and if you read his wife books they are wonderful. They tell a differnent side of Custer , she is a great story teller. I wish she had written more books. I don’t blame Reno and Benteen but I am sure if they had helped him that no one would have lived. I know for a fact Benteen did not like him and proofed if over and over. Who knows what any one person would have done in the battle . I know that history waS not very nice to Custer. He was no Idoit , he was a man just like you and I . I know he loved every bit of being in the calavry and gave his life for his country. Thanks Custer!!!!!!

    • Faron says:

      Go there like I have & read alot more & I think you will find that he simply bit off alot more than he could chew & got alot of his men killed including his two brothers his nephew, his brother in law, & good freind for the chance at Glory.

  20. djdickerson says:

    I found several new pieces of information I had not previously known about. Custer refused to take along the new Gattlin guns that had arrived. They were still in boxes. He had his men box up their sabres since he expected no hand-to-hand combat. He received offers of help from other commands but refused them wanting the 7th Cavalry to get full credit. His tactic had been to wait until the Indian men (braves) left the camp and then go in and kill the women & children and burn the camp. This was supposed to make them move out of the area and not come back. But this only angered and organized them into a heavy resistance. He also divided his forces at a critical time. The estimates are 200 soldiera against 4000 Indian Braves. Not too good.

  21. Eric Kerska says:

    To dj, anonymous, and others,

    There is NO evidence of the Regular Army purposely killing women and children as a prescribed tactic. Women and children were killed, just as they are in war today, by accident and by the the acts of sick individuals. The evidence is overwhelming at the Battle of the Washita (for example) that the army strived to avoid non-combatant casaulties. The Sand Creek Massacre was carried out by Colorado Militia, not the Regular Army. I challenge anyone to show me evidence that the Regular Army ever puposely went and killed non-combatants on the post-Civil War frontier.

  22. Ashton O'Dwyer says:

    Some time ago, I read “somewhere” that one of the General’s relatives rode back to Reno Hill, before Benteen’s arrival. I cannot recall whether this was before or after Martini’s delivery of the orders to Benteen. In any event, the General’s relative then rode back to the battle, and to his death and glory. What this all means to me is that the public needs a reliable “timeline” about precisely what was “happening” at various locations, and precisely “when”. My reading has left me with the firm conviction that Reno and Benteen failed the General, who has been much maligned.

  23. Willie says:

    I don’t believe Reno or Benteen failed anyone. If they had continued the attack on the south end of the village, there woulda been 652 bodies for Gen Terry & Gibbon to bury instead of 210. They were so far outnumbered that even if Custer had accepted Terry’s offer of the gattling guns and Major Brisbin’s Battalion and kept his unit all together, the outcome would have been the same – it just woulda taken the Indains a little longer to do it.

    Gen Crook got his butt kicked (and retreated to Wyoming with his tail between his legs) by those same Indians the week before on the Rosebud. He knew they would stand and fight and how large a force they had but never sent word to Terry, Gibbon, Custer, Reno, Benteen or the man in the moon.

    The biggest failure to Custer was his own belief that the Indians would scatter rather than fight and that his 7th Cavalry could “whip any Indians they might come across”.

  24. Fool Walks In says:

    As I see it, there were possibly a few thousand rested Indians fighting a few hundred tired soldiers.

    Crook showed that a formidable sized unit was no guarantee of success against a foe who was not fighting as expected.

    These elements had a major contribution to Custer’s demise.

    Cookes Benteen note, as I read it, was for Benteen to bring the packs, indicative of Benteen needing to locate the pack train THEN meet Custer. Custer’s “scouting” orders to Benteen would indicate that Custer had not intended Benteen to be part of his battle. I believe that Benteen received his note, made for the pack train, found a decimated Reno and assisted him, By this time Reno’s outfit were in a defensive position and fighting for their lives. I think that Benteen and Reno accessed that going to look for Custer would have led to the annihilation of the 7th.

    It seems to me that if Benteen had gone to Custer, Reno would have run out of ammo. Benteen would have found Custer’s command essentially finished and I believe he would have shared their fate. No doubt Reno’s command with no ammunition would also have been destroyed.

    Reno was originally told to attack the village and that Custer would support him with the whole “outfit”. Reno attacked the village, was getting his ass whipped and Custer did not come to his aid. Reno then went on the defensive and ultimately saved his command.

    If Reno and Benteen went to aid Custer, the end result would have been no 7th Calvary survivors and a busier burial detail when “relief” came.

    Custer’s command seemed to have a variance in its actions till its demise. Some companies fought and died in situ, others “ran”. I believe that Custer was at least mortally wounded while attempting a ford crossing…and this meant the command was essentially broken to the point where individual company commanders fended for themselves…with no “battle plan” . I think that Custer was incapacitated is indicated by his head wound applied post Morten. I believe that due to the shortness of the Custer fight, his body was still warm and those who recovered him from the river, shot him in the head in the final moments, to ensure a living Custer did not end up tortured by Indians.

  25. Willie says:

    Fool –

    Am in agreement with all your points except two:

    When Martini gave Cooke’s note (Custer’s order) to Benteen, he (Benteen) would have headed southeast (away from Reno), to find the pack train, which was behind him with Capt McDougall’s B Company. Thus,he would not have then “found a decimated Reno”, as Reno was already northwest of him.

    I too, believe that Custer was shot in the chest, either at or in the river (many believe he didn’t go to the river), and that his troops carried or dragged him up the hill. But I like to think the post mortem temple shot was delivered by one of the Indians after the battle, as they were known to do. No particular reason – maybe just don’t wanna think his own people had to do it.


  26. Dee Cee says:

    I also believe Custer was shot early in the engagement. Some sources believe Custer intended hanging around on the bluffs until Benteen came along before attacking the village. In my opinion Custer was not the type to hang around and he intended attacking that village there and then-let Benteen join in when he arrives. Something caused the charge to halt and I believe it was when Custer was mortally wounded near the ford. no doubt Tom, Cooke and possibly Keogh all dismounted to help and the hold up was fatal. Soon warriors began arriving in force and the troops began to retreat to the bluffs and wait for Benteen.
    By now hundreds of warriors were hot on their trail and the rear most troops Calhoun and Keogh dismount to try and halt the warriors advance, while Tom,Cooke and Yates all head to Last Stand Hill and attempt to dig in. Calhoun holds out for a while but is overwelmed, Keogh trys to make a stand but cant hold out, the remains of the companies flee to Last Stand Hill. Now surrounded one company decides to break out but are forced into Deep Ravine. They hold out for a while and the handful of remaining troops on Last Stand Hill make a futile break out to try and join them.
    I`ve read so many stories of organised resistance but I dont believe it happened, the soldiers simply didnt have time. It was over very quick indeed.

  27. NorPlains says:

    “It seems to me that it was Custer’s own fault for his defeat. For you see, Terry’s orders were percise to stay and wait for more troops.”

    The above statement is categorically false. It was one of the first I came across and copied it. But then I became overwhelmed by so many instances of misinformation, that go way beyond simple conjecture, that I became disheartened and gave the project up. I guess it’s the manifestation of so many theories that have been promulgated over the last 133 years. The real problem is that there is much that we do know about the battle (such as Custer’s orders from General Terry) and judging by many of the above posts the known facts or the most likely scenarios as supported by the evidence have been completely obscured and debased by the wild conjecture on the less supportive evidence. It seems that many people are unable to carry fact, very solid, very good, and good evidence from one article/book to the next. Or they’re not interested enough to read more than one piece regarding the subject and then form their opinon on that one piece.

    For example: after sifting through so much of the information of this battle for so many years, taking into account testimony afterwards by Curley, Martin, etc., knowing which horse Custer was riding that day (Vic), that Custer had taken off his buckskin jacket and tied it behind him on the saddle (Peter Thompson and the Arikara scout Soldier), the different colors of the horses in the various companies, I think it’s very likely that Company E alone went to the river (Medicine Tail Coulee) for a reconnoiter of the ford there, and it was E Company C.O. 1st Lt Algernon Smith who was shot at the river, not Custer.

    • fan from Belgium says:

      I don´t think Smith was shot at the river. He was found at Custer Hill. Why would the men from company E bring him there? What horse was Smith riding? White cow Bull shot an officer riding a sorrel with four white stox. I believe it was Custer who was shot at the river.

      greatings from Belgium

    • Clark Wilkins says:

      Agree completely. The replies here are based entirely on imaginary fantasy. However, I blame that on the original article which is composed entirely of imaginary fantasy. An observation made entirely on fantasy invites someone else to share their fantasy as an equal contribution. Look at what we have? Reno disobeyed orders, Custer was shot at the river, no organized command, Benteen could have saved Custer but didn’t because of a disagreement ten years earlier over an officer who voluntarily rode off to his own death, Custer disobeyed Terry’s orders, and a Canadian who thinks all Americans should die. And there are still tons more posts below. Custer was abducted and killed by space aliens is likely to appear next and with equal validity.

  28. John Koster says:

    Excellent roster of comments. A few minor contributions: (1) The Lakota (Sioux) — who originally lived as farmers in Minnesota and had been driven out by better-armed tribes with guns in the later 1700s — were indeed in Absaroka (Crow) territory in 1876 because the rations the Lakota had been promised by the Sioux Treaty of 1868 were not delivered. Friendly whites report that some of the agency Indians were near starvation when they left the agencies to hunt because they weren’t being fed as promised. The war also also waged to protect the Black Hills, which had been promised to the Lakota in 1868. (2) Custer didn’t intend to murder the women and children wholesale — he intended to round them up alive as possible and use them as hostages to make the warriors give themselves up. (CF Martini) It’s not a nice tactic but it’s better than mass murder and since the Indians could ride circles around his troopers it was probably a reasonable way to end what was essentially a runaway situation. (3) “Indian defiance meant war….” William Taylor, a Reno Hill survivor, points out that the fugitive Indians were ordered to move their camps in January and probably would have moved if the government had let them wait until April when they didn’t risk freezing. (4) Custer killed off by his own men to escape torture…Not hardly…Custer wasn’t terribly popular and in a rout like that I doubt people would have dragged a dying man around like a beanbag…Lakota don’t torture much — they chop dead people up afterwards to invalidate their ghosts. They definitely killed men trying to give up — what else would they do with them? — and sometimes raped white women and sometimes didn’t — Fanny Kelly was forced to teach them to read in 1864, but nobody raped her. Torture wasn’t part of their culture….Interesting too. As early as 1860, the three Little Bighorn tribes has offered Agent Thomas Twiss a modus vivendi where the Indians would be fed for 20 years while they learned farming and skilled trades and literacy. Congress wouldn’t pay for it. In 1868, after the stalemate of Red Cloud’s War, Congress paid for it — but crooked politicians stole most of the food….the same politicians also cheated the soldiers, and when the much-maligned Custer stood up for his men, they tried to break him for it….Custer remains endlessly controversial, a turbulent mixture of brilliance, agression, sentiment, and headstrong violence, all mixed up together….but the Indians were the real heroes of the Little Bighorn, as any man is when he defends his wives and daughters from rape and murder.

  29. elliot says:

    there are no records of him carrying the gatling guns.,thus if he had……………………..?

  30. a says:

    This website has too much information on it.

  31. NoGov says:

    Of all the things I have read about this battle. All the arm chair quaterbacking, thoughts, guesses, ignorance. The comment from John K sums it up the absolute best. “but the Indians were the real heroes of the Little Bighorn”.

  32. NorPlains says:

    John Koster Quote:

    “as any man is when he defends his wives and daughters from rape and murder.”

    HUH?? Get real.

  33. steve paragamian says:

    Been a Custer buff since first grade. I think perhaps the most accurate book, sadly for the myth, is “Save the Last Bullet for Yourself” by Dr. Thomas Marquis.
    As a kid, I read Quentin Reynold’s book, which had a two chapter last stand. As a history major at Haverford, I had to surrender the myths. Prof. Fox also wrote a book on the battle, using archeology to reconstruct what happened, a book which bears out what Marquis was saying.
    I think those five troops fell apart.
    When will we ever learn?

  34. Wade says:

    After going through the research and testimony I believe the answer to Custer’s death is simply about fate. Custer was anxious to atack the village before the alarm went up. He believed and was correct to some extent that most of the braves were still asleep. However, when Reno advanced he was met with stiff resistance, forcing him to retreat. Custer, intending to ride through the village at the head of his column and drive the people towrds Reno and Benteen was shot in the chest as he crossed the river. He was remounted by his men, probably his brother, and ridden along with a contingent of his force to safety. A small force attempted to cover this retreat but was overwhelmed when braves swarmed in from the attack on Reno along with others, including women, joining the melee. Custer’s men attempted to protect their commander but were overwhelmed and, at some point, someone made sure he was dead and not subject to capture and possible torture by shooting him in the side of the head. Custer was known for headlong charges and I truly believe he felt he was invincible to some extent. In the other hand, Reno and Benteen were more cautious. I don’t believe they were cowards. This event stands as a testament to the nature of the men who fought it. Custer was no coward, but leading your men in charges puts you at greater risk for catching a bullet and it was his day. There is no way that the charge would have ended if Custer was still alive or unwounded. I believe he would have ridden into the camp alone if he’d had to. That’s just who he was.

  35. Rob Koenig says:

    I have studied Custer for many years. Here’s one big question for all to think about.

    *****It is still a mystery much of what he did right after the Civil War against the KKK in the South before fighting the Natives.

    My Great-Great Grandfather was discharged from the 7th in 1872 in Kentucky. He had been in Weir’s Troop. Weir signed his discharge. The 7th had very high desertion rates. Half the names on my ancestor’s discharge roll had deserted.

    His own men called him Horse-Killer. He was courtmartialed for shooting deserters without a trial. Most of the 7th were Irish and German immigrants who had never been on a horse until they enlisted.

    Yes, Custer impulsively checked Stuart at Gettysburg with charge after charge, but destroyed most of his command. He knew enough to order a charge.

    At the Little Bighorn, he had ORDERS to await reinforcements. He refused to wait and did not even send couriers to the other two US commands. He did not have his men rested before the battle. He galloped his horses for miles before engaging, so the horses were tired.
    Custer did not take the advice of his own scouts. Against orders, he had a newspaperman with him for his own reasons.

    **Although repeating rifles were invented in 1660, Custer refused to take them along. Some Native fighters had Sharps, Henry and Winchester repeaters. Custer had single-shot carbines.

    **He also refused reinforcements that were there to help him, and

    **he refused Gatling guns – the early machine guns used in the Civil War.

    Native accounts say many soldiers were drunk, their canteens had whiskey. At the forts, Custer usually ran the “store” that sold whiskey.

    At this battle, He did not “support” Reno. He rode off. There is no evidence Custer was ever at Weir Point. The survivors petitioned to have Reno named Colonel after the battle. Yes, Reno hated Custer because he rode off and deserted Major Elliot’s detachment at the Washita, and never tried to find him. Elliot’s men were tortured and killed. Custer did not look for their bodies till the next year.

    Custer fathered a half-breed by an Native captive. He gave the Native women he captured to the officers he liked. Custer had his own family attached to the Regiment because the non-family officers did not respect him.

    Do not mistake comments about Custer for comments against his troopers. The 7th had brave soldiers like most US forces, but the l-e-a-d-e-r-s-h-i-p let them down. There were brave US troops in Nam, but our leaders made many poor decisions.

    God bless our men and women in the service today. May our leaders be worthy of their sacrifices.

    • BigRich says:

      Did Custer really father a half-breed by a Native captive?

      • Waldo says:

        There’s circumstantial evidence he had a sexual relationship with a young Indian woman captured at the Washita. I tend to believe it but am not sure. I don’t think there’s any evidence that they ever had a child together.

  36. Willie says:

    I thought there was gonna be “One big question for all to think about”. Sounds more like you’ve been sandbagging all your Custer dislikes for a long time & unloaded em all at once !

    In defense of Custer (& I’m not a big Custer fan):

    He’s definitely NOT the first or only officer to ever shoot a deserter.

    He DID NOT have orders to wait for reinforcements. Gen Terry gave him a written order that instructed him where to go and what to do. The order also states “It is impossible to give you any definite instructions in regard to this movement, and were it not impossible to do so the Department Commander places too much confidence in your zeal, energy, and ability to wish to impose upon you precise orders which might hamper your action when nearly in contact with the enemy. He will, however, indicate to you his own views of what your action should be, and he desires that you should comform to them unless you shall see sufficient reason for departing from them.”.
    If there was any deviation from Terry’s orders, it was Terry’s fault !

    Just after 4 p m after starting down Medicine Tail Coulee, Custer was seen to write a note & hand it to a trooper who left to the northeast, presumably informing Terry of his situation. However no message ever reached Terry. The one who SHOULD HAVE been sending messages was Gen Crook – telling Terry, Gibbon, Custer, Reno, Benteen and everybody about the size and strength of the Indians that routed his troops the week before on the Rosebud !

    At the time when Custer turned down Terry’s offer to send Maj Brisbin’s Battalion & the gattling guns, none of them had a clue as to the enormous size of the village. I hope you don’t think for a New York minute that about 150 troops and 3 gattling guns would have made any difference in the outcome of June 25th ! Remember – they all still thought Crook’s 1300 troops were still coming up from the south.

    By the time anyone realized the size & strength of the Indians, Custer DID try to support Reno – with about the only movement that would have had any chance – a flanking attack

    Don’t know what Vietnam has to do with this, but if Custer had the troop strength the 7th had when we were in Vietnam, he would have had less of a problem. He had 5 companies (about 40 troops per company). Our company strength was about 125 which would have given Custer about 625 – probably would have taken the Indians about 3 hours longer to get the same result !

    I firmly believe that the ONE AND ONLY thing that could have given the U.S. Army a victory at the LBH was to have the forces of Crook, Terry and Gibbon all strike the village from multiple directions at the same time.

  37. Gary says:

    There was plenty of blame to go around at LBH. Start with Terry, and Crook – who were not keeping in any sort of communication with each other. Terry’s orders to Custer were sufficiently vague that Custer was free to do what he wanted. So the charge that Custer disobeyed orders is blantantly false.
    His two senior officiers Benteen and Reno both despised Custer. Benteen, a capable soldier, did not get along with any of his superior officers throughout his career – jealousy?. Reno was, by almost all accounts drunk during the majority of the battle. Neither had any reason to try to help Custer, Could they have made a difference? The very fact that the combined force of Reno and Benteen held off the hostiles for two days implies they could have made a difference. The only thing that kept both officiers from being court martialed was the need to cover up all the mistakes that those other than Custer made.
    Not that Custer was without blame. However, if his officiers had obeyed orders, he could have prevailed even against the larger force.
    Reno stopped his initial charge short of the village, many of the indians later said that if he had continued into the village and then been joined by Custer the chaos would have resulted in a complete routing of the indians. Instead he stopped dismounted, and then lead
    a disgraceful retreat that resulted in the death of a large part of his command – by all accounts he was drunk the whole time.
    Fate also played a part – the indian village was growing every day, no one had any idea it had gotten as big as it was. Indians were leaving the agency/reservation because the agency was running out of food. There was plentiful game at the Sioux camp. Had the 7th arrived a week(s) earlier the encampment would have been much smaller. When the first approach of the troops was noted by the indians, Sitting Bull was ready to negotiate, only after the attack began did the indians begin to attack themselves.
    The terrain of the actual encampment played a huge role in the battle.
    The whole scope of the village was never visible to Custer until the battle began. Here is the biggest fault that falls at Custer’s feet – he had no idea the size of the force he was about to engage.
    By most accounts he was on the offensive for a majority of the battle – thinking that Benteen and Reno were coming – by the time he realized he was on his own it was to late.
    Most accounts, and evidence agree, he was not the officier wounded at the river. Ammunition, spent shells, surrounding Custers body suggest he was alive for a majority of the last stand.
    When I initially began looking into the “legend” of Custer, I was not a particularily big fan. The more I read about him the more I was impressed. In many respects I think he is a victim of an anti military anti government mentality that has become all too common since the Vietnam era. Was he an egotist, a glory hunter – almost definitely. Was he an excellent soldier – without a doubt. Was he responsible for the military debacle at LBH? Only partially – fate, terrain, his commanding officiers (Terry and Crook) and his senior officiers (Benteen and Reno) bear much more responsibility for the fate of the 7th that day in June than action or judgment made by Custer.

    • Waldo says:

      “Reno stopped his initial charge short of the village, many of the indians later said that if he had continued into the village and then been joined by Custer the chaos would have resulted in a complete routing of the indians.”

      I’ve never thought this argument persuasive. From the time Reno halted his charge to the time that Custer’s troops approached/attempted to cross the river, was probably about an hour. Custer simply never supported Reno’s charge. If Reno had actually charged all the way into the village, then he either would have routed the entire camp or been wiped out with his entire battalion well before Custer would have arrived. Custer’s split forces were simply too far apart and too uncoordinated to support one another.

  38. LS says:

    Many of the foregoing comments remind me of a LBH discussion I shared with three colleagues recently. One of them is admittedly anti-government; another is a devout Southerner, biased against all Northern participants in that late war of ‘Northern Aggression’; and the third believes Jamestown and Plymouth should have been shut down and given over to the local inhabitants.

    As in the discussion with my friends, I’m compelled to shake my head and walk away because people are gonna believe what they choose, despite all legitimate evidence to the contrary.

    Just once, it would be nice to enter a Custer forum somewhere and find a majority of comments that weren’t unduly burdened by personal bias and the shifting sands of pop history.

  39. Sam Ruger says:

    I’ve read one book (“Morning Star”) that gives a fairly detailed account of the wounds found in the men of the 7th, read National Geographic’s battlefield analysis, watched two documentaries, and read a few websites like this. That’s my background although I have a lot of military knowledge. I’ve never been to the battlefield which is probably a necessity for truly intelligent comment.

    On General Custer himself, bringing along a newspaper man indicates he wanted publicity and refusing 150 men that were not of the 7th indicates he wanted that publicity exclusively for the 7th. This was not unusual at the time. Officers who obtained public recognition were often promoted or elected to political office and Custer was a career officer. These were both intelligent decisions for a career officer if you’re expecting to win the battle. I expect that General Custer was elated when he saw the true size of the village.

    I would also say the opinion of officers subordinate to him were mostly negative. Custer finished last in his class at West Point and this was probably not a secret to them. He suffered excessive Civil War casualties in his unit and this was probably not a secret from them either. I see no indication he was a man anyone would want to serve under. But he was an extremely brave man. I believe he substituted bravery for being last in his class. He let his record on the field outweigh his record in the classroom. And his field record was good. His movements at the Little Big Horn were quite sound IMO with the possible exception of Captain Benteen’s men. Benteen’s ordered movement does not make much military sense. He’s moving away from the known position of the enemy. Major Reno’s position fullfilled Custer’s orders to watch his left. It does appear that Custer might have been using those orders to deliberately keep Benteen out of the action and the expected resulting glory afterwards. But, if so, Custer promptly changed his mind when he saw the size of the village and called for Benteen to reinforce him.

    Major Reno impresses me as a man of caution, caution induced by fear. While Reno was not a coward, he was not a brave man either. Drinking in a battle not only impairs the brain but also reduces inhibitions. The more he drank, the more the cowardice he sought to conceal came out. In all likelyhood, Reno was drinking in the belief it would give him courage as there is no other reason to do so then unless he was a severe alcoholic. I suspect Benteen took command of Reno Hill because Reno was drunk, that Reno probably used his superior rank to try and keep Benteen with him, and he probably wanted Benteen to take over. In short, Major Reno fell apart under fire.

    Did Reno disobey orders? Yes and no. Yes he obeyed in that he engaged the enemy from the south but “no” in that he engaged the enemy with a skirmish line – a defensive position. Did he do so out of good judgment or lack of courage? My vote is lack of courage as demonstrated by his flight from the woods, but history records it as good judgment because to attack was, in fact, military suicide in terms of firepower. The idea presented by some that Reno’s cowardice cost Custer his life has intriguing psychological possibilities in that the unorganized enemy might have bolted and run from any size force in which case Reno would save the day. But, if the enemy didn’t flee then Reno and his men would have all been killed as others have concluded. So I’m calling Reno a coward but a coward who obeyed orders.

    Custer’s battle plan is obvious. Reno would attack from the south while he circled around to the north and took the enemy from the rear. They would then trap the Indians between them. But the two forces are not evenly divided. Custer deliberately attacked with more troops for the rear attack than the front. This is known as a “feint” attack where Reno would engage the Indians to draw their warriors south while the “real attack” came from the north. This strategy is supported by the fact that Custer did not ask Reno to delay his attack until he was north of the village. He had Reno attack at first opportunity. Custer did not want a simultaneous attack as the Indians could then divide equally against both forces. He needed Reno to attack first so that all the Indians engaged Reno and not him. That would allow him to enter the village and route the enemy’s rear. If this was the plan then Custer was aware that the Indians might not run from Reno and make a fight of it. This is supported by the three Indian scouts who cited Custer watched the Reno battle from a hill for several minutes in order to observe for himself what the result would be. Would the Indians run or would they fight? When he saw them fight he knew his plan was working and his next move was to move north and attack the women and children of the village from the rear while it emptied itself of warriors to engage Reno to the south. This was a sound military plan provided Reno did not retreat.

    One can see this strategy in place when Custer reached the Medicine ford. Here, he found he was not yet at the north end of the village but only at the middle. So he failed to cross and, instead, moved north again, calling for Benteen to reinforce him as he realized the true size of the village. Calling for the pack train too meant he knew ammunition was going to be a problem – Custer was now aware he was in for a big battle as he encountered a few braves at Medicine ford. What he was not aware of was that, by this point, Reno was in retreat. Reno was no longer holding the warriors in front of him. The warriors to the south could now move north, Custer having been seen at the Medicine ford by them.

    Custer was now demonstrating why he was last in his class at West Point. While he correctly understood the strategy of using Reno to draw the Indian warriors off, he failed to assign Benteen to Reno as a strategic reserve and he failed to realize the consequences of not crossing at Medicine ford. He had just lost the advantage of surprise and time. Had he crossed then and charged, mayhem in the village would have resulted and hostages taken. There were only 3-4 warriors in front of him. As a result of this decision, there was no mayhem and no hostages and the Indians were now moving from south to north and, indeed, tracking Indian cartridges fired at Custer show them moving from south to north.

    And, in turning away from Medicine ford, Custer had made a third mistake. He had just made a fatal error in judgment of Indian psychology.

    The Indians were not trained and organized along military lines. There was no real command structure. The Indians were simply a mob. “Morning Star” shows how the Indians fight. If you run, they chase. If you stop, they stop. When Reno retreated twice, they chased twice. But when he stopped at Reno Hill, they stopped too. When Custer turned away from the ford and headed north, he looked like he was running away. If you run, they chase. This why Custer had to post Calhoun’s men in a skirmish line. This is known as a “rear guard” and was done to protect his rear. Calhoun’s position demonstrates Custer didn’t get very far before he came under fire from behind by Indians who probably crossed at Medicine ford after him.

    And behind Captain Calhoun’s company is Keogh’s company. Why are they there?

    They’re holding Calhoun’s horses. It takes one soldier to hold two horses and Calhoun’s men would not organize a skirmish line with their horses with them or the Indians would shoot them. So they left their horses with Keogh’s men, moved back south, and took up a skirmish line.

    We know Keogh’s men were holding horses because they were trained to do so in a line and Keogh’s men were killed in a line without firing back, meaning they weren’t holding their rifles. Keogh himself was found with his body still holding his horse’s reins. Again, when Calhoun’s men finally retreated back to Keogh”s position, the evidence shows they did so on foot. Evidence, again, that they had left their horses with Keogh.

    How were Keogh’s men killed? With buffalo rifles. These were very long range, accurate weapons – longer ranged than Calhoun’s carbines. The Indians ammunition trail shows they had moved north along the river bank to put Keogh’s men under fire, picking them off one at a time until the men of both companies broke and ran.

    Meanwhile, Custer was still moving north with his remaining three companies and looking for a place to ford the river and attack the village from the north as planned. Yes. That’s right. Custer is still on the attack. We know he’s still on the attack because he didn’t use the time Keogh and Calhoun’s men bought him to prepare any defenses behind them. Calhoun’s defense was actually superior to the defense of “Last Stand Hill” which was hastily prepared in spite of the time available to Custer to prepare one similar to Reno’s on “Reno Hill”. Yet while Reno’s position held out for two days against the same number of Indians, Custer’s lasted about five to ten minutes.

    The cavalry position north of “Last Stand Hill” cited in this article, if true, explains what Custer was doing. I’ll try and find the time to post that but this has gotten long enough already.

  40. Sam Ruger says:

    I’ll conclude the remaining events, resuming my post above, A few minor corrections to what I already posted first. While the Indians did move from south to north along the river bank (While also flanking Calhoun Hill) they didn’t actually fire on Keogh from the river as Keogh was on the backside of the slope (Keogh’s position being intentional so that this very thing could not happen.). The Indians had to advance/infiltrate a coulee to get to a firing position. I also failed to mention Company C here which was a part of Keogh’s rear guard. Company C was held in reserve by Keogh (and conducted the counter attack against the coulee) and, as such, probably held their own horses (possibly explaining why six horses of Company C reached Custer’s Hill whereas none of Company L’s or Company I’s horses reached Custer’s Hill.).

    Continuing my narrative, Custer continued to move north with companies E and F. He moved at least 3/4 of a mile away from Calhoun Hill to Custer Hill and did not do so for defensive reasons, it being impossible for Custer’s two companies to support Keogh’s three companies from such a distance and vice-versa. Thus, we know he was still on the attack. To attack the Indians would have required that he cross the river and do so very quickly before he out distanced his own rear guard. He either would have had to ford at “Deep Ravine” or at the basin of Cemetery Ridge. And that brings us to the discovery claimed by this article of evidence of firing found near Cemetery Ridge.

    If true, it can be interpreted at least two ways, one of which was already previously suspected when a body, believed to be newspaperman, Mark Kellogg, was found here. That theory was that Custer had taken Cemetery Ridge down to the river, encountered hostile fire, and Kellog was killed. It is possible and it is consistent with Custer’s battle plan. It does not get my vote, however, and for two reasons. First, this was where the women and children were gathering. Had Custer reached this position and seen this, he would have crossed and won the day and the cost of one dead newspaperman would not have stopped him. Second, it is strategically too far away from his rear guard to travel this far north. Custer cannot pass by Deep Ravine and not risk having Indians come up it behind him, cutting him off from Keogh. Further, had Keogh seen General Custer move beyond his sight (to Cemetery Ridge), then Keogh would have been required to fall back to Custer Hill and set up a new rear guard skirmish line there. That is how rear guard’s work. Those who support the idea that Custer tried to cross the river at Cemetery Ridge basin make the claim that Company E stayed at Custer Hill to cover Custer’s rear against Indians coming up Deep Ravine and Custer went on ahead with only Company F. The explanation may work but it really would require that Custer be last in his class at West Point because he would know, if he took Company E with him, that Keogh would automatically move his rear guard to Custer Hill and cover Deep Ravine. Indeed! This is probably why Keogh retained Company C in reserve so that, if Custer got out of sight, Keogh could immediately send Company C to cover Deep Ravine while holding the horses of Company L to fall back too before joining Company C. Anyone conducting a rear guard action knows they are to fall back themselves at some point and that point would be the moment Custer was out of sight.

    So while it is possible that Keogh continued to see Company E at Custer Hill and, therefore, did not fall back while Custer went on ahead with Company F it would be militarily unsound for Custer to do so. He lost the use of Company E in Company F’s attack.

    My own explanation is that this firing position, if it does exist, was indeed produced by Company F but not in an attempt by Company F to cross the river. Rather, it was done to support Company E in crossing the river at Deep Ravine. This makes far more military sense. Custer could not go by Deep Ravine. He either had to use it himself or post a guard over it. If he was going to post a guard over it, he would have done so with Keogh’s men. If he was going to use it, then he had to secure the north slope of Deep Ravine by moving Company F to the north side of Deep Ravine (Cemetery Ridge) while Company E dismounted and moved down Deep Ravine. If so, Keogh would see Company E’s horse holders on Custer’s Hill and not fall back and maintain his position, which is exactly what he did.

    The Indians noted that Custer stopped moving north and did nothing for 20-30 minutes. Some believe that Custer was waiting for Benteen to arrive. That’s not possible because Custer had ordered Benteen to come with the pack train which was several hours away. Neither Benteen nor the pack train could possibly arrive in the 20-30 minutes Custer waited. However, Company F and Company E’s horse holder’s would have had to wait just about exactly 20 minutes for Company E to travel the 3/4 of a mile down Deep Ravine to reach the ford.

    At the bottom of Deep Ravine the Indians opened up with murderous fire on Company E. We have the Indian shell casings and the bodies of Company E in the ravine to prove it.

    As the Indians tried to move up the north side of Deep Ravine to finish off the soldiers trapped within, they would have come under fire of Company F, accounting for the discovery of the spent cartridges this article alludes to.

    Company F would have stayed at this position for about the next 30 minutes or until it was obvious Company E had been wiped out. Company F may have suffered one casualty, Mark Kellogg. If so, General Custer was then with Company F as it would be expected that Kellogg would be with whichever company Custer was with.

    It’s possible that both Custer and Kellogg were with Company E and that Kellog chose to escape from Deep Ravine over it’s north slope, knowing Company F was on the other side. If so, Custer was probably shot in the chest in Deep Ravine. The supporting evidence would be that Lt. Smith, commanding Company E, was found on Custer’s Hill inside Company F’s defensive perimeter killed by arrows. He was the only member of Company E found there. The Indians used arrows as well as rifles on Company E in Deep Ravine. Smith and Custer may have been pulled out of the ravine and up to Custer Hill by Company F’s men.

    The most convincing evidence that Custer was in Deep Ravine was what Company F did next which was almost nothing. They took up a defensive position on Custer Hill, apparently killing their own horses in a circle 32 feet across. Creating a circle at that time demonstrates a breakdown of command. There were no Indians behind them. Company F failed to retreat east (as Reno did) when opportunty allowed and when the entire company was still mounted (see below).

    The only reason I can think of for Company F to form a circle would be to protect a dying General Custer. He was found peacefully laid out as his own men would do for him, apparently with three other shot soldiers of Company F. Excluding Custer and these three men, there was a live horse for every man found in the circle, but none for these four. Since all four appear to be dead (Custer may have lived awhile. His mouth was full of blood from coughing at his lung wound.), there’s nothing to keep the rest of Company F from retreating except Captain Tom Custer who no doubt refused to leave his brother. Indeed! If Custer was with Company E in Deep Ravine it may have been his brother Tom who had the courage to go in and pull him out (There being no survivors of Company E to have done so.).

    The popular theory that Company E panicked on Custer Hill and ran into Deep Ravine is without miitary foundation. That would require that only Company E men panicked on the hill and that all of Company E men did except Smith as only Company E men were found in Deep Ravine. The men are clearly there by order. Those who observed the dead in the ravine stated afterwards:

    “It looked like they were separated from the main body.” (Lt. DeRudio)

    “They certainly did not go into it to shoot out of it.” (Captain Benteen)

    “(They) had been ordered to locate a ford for crossing the river.” (General Godfrey)

    The men caught in Deep Ravine did not attempt to get back up to Custer Hill, suggesting Company F was, indeed, not at Custer Hill at the time they were brought under fire but was, instead, guarding their right flank from Cemetery Ridge. According to McDougal at Reno’s trial, of Company E “About half (were) found outside 9the ravine).” There were, indeed, 11 men found outside of the ravine, evidently the ones to get out of Deep Ravine. They appear to have all exited by the south bank and been running for Calhoun’s rear guard which must have still been intact then. Again, this suggests Company F was not above them at Custer Hill at the time or they would have run there.

    Company F then moved to Custer Hill after this happened. I am unaware of what happened to Company E’s horse holders.

    As to whether or not Custer committed suicide, at first I thought he had due to the fact that his body had not been mutiliated (According to “Morning Star” the Indians did not mutilate you if you committed suicide.). But it appears this may not be true as two soldiers may have committed suicide but were still mutilated anyway. Custer’s wound to the chest probably left him too incapacitated (if not dead) to shoot himself in the left temple. He was right handed and no powder burns were left anyway. None of his fellow soldiers would have shot him as has been suggested by a few others here. The Indians then pumped an enormous amount of firepower into Company F, enough to kill every man in the circle within 5-10 minutes. That would certainly be enough bullets to hit Custer once more in the head.

    My apologies for the lengthy post and for any mistakes I may have made.

  41. Sam Ruger says:

    I should add there is additional evidence that Custer was with Company F versus E. His staff officers Lt. William Cooke and Henry Voss were found with Custer in the circle formed by Company F as well as three civilians who would be expected to follow Custer. This evidence probably outweighs my evidence that Custer was with Company E and that Mark Kellog fled Company E north. Rather, Kellogg died with Company F on Company E’s flank.

    I also mentioned I did not know what happened to Company E’s horseholders, my National Geographic being long gone. Someone else can correct me but it appears they would have been positioned halfway between the entrance to Deep Ravine and Custer Hill, probably on the west slope. The Cheyenne made constant reference to seeing the gray horses of Company E from Cemetery Ridge, confirming they were not in Deep Ravine with Company E. Evidence they were being held is two fold. Indians were seen near the horses without being killed (You can’t hold horses and shoot Indians at the same time.). The horses were abruptly let go and stampeded, a sign their holders gave up holding them, either because they had been killed or to return fire (Probably the latter as they were released at the same time.). Mitch Bouyer’s body was found in the area I’m referring too. Although I’ve never been there, I imagine those who have would find this to be a pretty stupid choice to stand holding horses with bullets coming at you. However, there’s not a lot of choice here. The horses are being held for the dismounted men in the ravine so they must be held near the ravine for them but not in the ravine (the obvious safer move). They can’t be held in the ravine or Keogh’s men would lose sight of them, conclude Custer had moved north, and move north themselves to cover Custer’s rear. So the horse holders must stay on the slopes in the open for Keogh’s men to see them.

    As mentioned earlier, Custer could not just ride past Deep Ravine or he allowed its use by Indians to get behind him and between him and the rear guard. Indeed! Indians did use Deep Ravine to access Calhoun Coulee. Keogh recognized the significance of Indians coming up Calhoun Coulee and ordered a mounted charge by Company C (Evidence again Company C was holding it’s own horses) to clear Calhoun Coulee of Indians for a distance of about 500 yards – far enough to put the Indians back out of range. Company C then dismounted to form a skirmish line to keep the Indians from coming up it again but broke under Indian attack before they could do so. This appears to be the last command by Keogh as he appears to have now been hit, for Company C now did the wrong thing and joined Company L, the two combined companies firing in “bunches’, a sign of no commanding officers to correct them. For Keogh to order the Calhoun Coulee charge demonstrates he understood the significance of Indians getting between him and Custer. Yet, when Company C came back, he did nothing about it, an indication he was no longer in command. The correct instruction at that point would have been for Company C to join Company L (which they did) and cover Company L’s retreat to Company “I” to get their horses (Which they didn’t.). All three companies would mount up and move north to the next defensible position. The companies could alternately stop, turn, and fire one volley at any pursuers, thereby assuring the pusuing Indians would receive three staggered vollies. This didn’t happen either. Instead, someone bugled retreat and Company C mounted up and left Company L behind on foot. Company L had to run on foot to Company “I” and Company “I” had to stand there and wait for them with their horses. No one is stopping the Indians from catching up from behind with Company L. And they caught up. There is a trail of dead soldiers in the line of the retreat from Keogh’s command to Last Stand (Custer’s) Hill. These men died running with their backs to the Indians. This was not an organized retreat.

    The point here is to demonstrate what happens when Custer rides past two ways up for the enemy to get between himself and his rear guard – the two ways being Deep Ravine and “Calhoun Cooley”. You get yourself and your rear guard killed.

    So the questions become, “Why did Custer ride by Calhoun Cooley? And why didn’t Keogh place a guard over Calhoun Cooley using Company C when Custer did ride by?”

    And the obvious answer is that Custer and Keogh saw there were no Indians yet in Calhoun Cooley and that, if Custer sent Company E down Deep Ravine, they would effectively become the guards over Calhoun Cooley themselves. Thus, Keogh saw no need to place a guard over Calhoun Cooley and why we see Company E in Deep Ravine.

    Militarily, Custer had to send Company E down Deep Ravine and Keogh knew he intended to do so. Keogh would cover the left flank of Company E and Custer would cover the right flank of Company E with Company F.

    The tactic of using Deep Ravine to reach the river had been developed during the Civil War in which Custer fought as a general and was referred to as a “sunken road”. A “sunken road” was any pathway of lower elvation than the enemy was on such that the terrain obstructed the view of the enemy of your men moving down it. You could effectively march soldiers down a “sunken road” without the enemy seeing you or being able to shoot at you without shooting through the terrain itself. “Deep Ravine” is the military equivelent of a “sunken road”. If you want to move down to the river without being seen, Deep Ravine is the way to do it. And, if you were going to use Deep Ravine to ford the river, you’d put Keogh’s men exactly where they were. Nor would you go past Deep Ravine without using it. If you’re going to go past it, then Keogh’s men should be setting up their rear guard at “Custer Hill” instead of Calhoun Hill. It’s the only way they can protect Custer’s rear as demonstrated by what happened when Indians came up Calhoun Cooly.

    One final note: If Custer was not with Company E then it’s possible that he was alive and well and in command of Company F now reaching Custer Hill as the last six men of Company C arrive and the last two of Company “I”. Certainly Company F had come under fire because not all of Company F is at Custer Hill. When one subtracts Smith of Company E, the three civilians, the three HQ officers, an assistant surgeon,, and the eight men of the rear guard, Company F seems to be short about fifteen men, evidence Company F had previously experienced casualties. Certainly, Custer could have been amongst them. Yet, if that was the case, one would expect that Custer would be receiving the attentions of his Army surgeon inside the circle. Only his surgeon isn’t with Custer. He died outside the circle, a short distance away, as if he had stopped to examine the horse holders of Company E. That’s something he probably wouldn’t do if he had Custer to attend to. In that event, Custer may be in command of the circle and was simply hit twice as the Indians poured in fire. Personally, I doubt this because it means that Custer ordered his men to shoot their horses and make a stand of it. The only reason to do that would be to give the men of the fleeing rear guard a safe haven to run to and who were now arriving. But I see nothing in Custer’s history to indicate concern for the safety of his men. Rather, I see just the opposite. For Custer to stop for others when escape to the east was still an option would seem to go against his character. But, if he had been hit, say, at the same time as his surgeon, then I can see Company F stopping for him. All in all, there are just two many variables for me to conclude where and when Custer died. If I have made a contribution here it’s more likely to be why Company E is dismounted in Deep Ravine.

  42. Greg L. says:

    I submit to all on this forum, while I am a proud american and have served my country in the US Army and first and foremost a Native American I must disagree with most of you in regards to the Baby butchering 7th Cav. and their Leaders, that includes Grant and all the murderous thugs he sent to steal land from and kill women old men and children to acomplish this. If the Great white man said he wanted an indians land the Indian gave it up or was killed and sometimes he and his whole family were killed anyway. I stand in amazement when I read post like these and I hear the anger in the letters being typed because Custer lost. That was Custer’s day and on your day it doesn’t matter who you are and how many you have with you that day you will meet your creator. Give the Native Americans Credit they came to fight to the death for what they knew was right, to avenge the injustices done to them time and time again and to die withhonor and dignity, Custers men came to a fight but they had no honor had this been in any one of the thousands of men in the 7th Cav’s. character they would have refused to fight a sovereign nation for Land, Menerals or any other reason.

    • poet77 says:

      Them sioux were cutthroat pirates itching for a fite since sept 1875 at the black hills treaty when the peaceful indians gave up the black hills. as red cloud came up to touch the feather, Gen Miles called him a thief who stole the hills from the cheyenne & the cheyenne from the Crow. One of sitting-stubborn’s best friends was named crow-dog, because of racist hatred against the Crow Indians.

      Then, in late February 1876, sitting-stubborn & 6,000 bucks invaded Crow territory itching for a fight. The waited until mid June & fought Crook. A week later they mutilated the bodies of over 230 men, at two fight sites, on Sunday June 25.

      These sioux were as barbaric as aztecs or anasazi: committed acts of human sacrifice, mutilation and stone age forms of torture and murder.

      1-to Indians & white Americans: mutilations, scalpings, cannibalism & human sacrifice.

      2-Racism to white Americans that predates the French & Indian Wars and spying for the British;

      3-un-American activities in the forests east of Mississippi against Americans & forest Indians; and on the Great Plains against white Americans, Crow, Arikara, Hidatsa, Mandan, Shoshone & Pawnee.

      All those Indian tribes fought with Custer, Miles, Crook, against the sioux for their land and their sacred black hills.

    • roaddog3035 says:

      Hello Greg,

      I am a huge Custer history nut who taked ALL of Custer’s career into account. If a person takes out their opinions based on hatred, you can only conclude that Custer was one of our finest military leaders who knew no fear and was instrumental in the Union winning the war between the states.

      It is unfortunate that you describe yourself as “Indian” above all else. Nothing personal, but I am sick of people describing themselves as anything but Just American. That is why we are so divided.

      As for Custer being a baby killer, which there is no REAL evidence to prove it, the Indians can hardly stand as warriors with stellar conduct.

      You most likely do not know that Custer did not hate the Indians. As a matter of fact, he had commented that if he were an Indian, he would be fighting as well. You being in the military, you know that when you go to war, you follow orders. If the orders are unjust, it lies at the feet of the politicians and high commanders who send the troops to fight.

      As for me, I do not hate anyone and try to see the past as those who lived it saw it. Being pragmatic about it, the Indians lost. It was not right, but we all know that life is not fair.

      The way I see it, it was destiny that the white man won. If the Indians had won and kept the US, I suspect they would still be in teepees hunting buffalo.

      The way I see it, the best thing we could do for the Indian today would be to take away his reservations and force him to assimalate into American culture. As it stands, you have nothing but a huge welfare state with alcoholism at 80%. I am sick of minority groups claiming the government OWES ME. Get over it and move on.

    • Maria says:

      Greg L,

      I have great respect for the American Indian.I tend to agree with you, a terrible crime was committed, as part of an ugly past, it’s a reminder of their fraud and that they are pretty much nothing more than armed robbers, murders and rapist. The same could be said about Columbus and other so called heroes they hold in high esteem.

      • gregory urbach says:

        It’s sad that so many people get their history of the West from movies and TV shows, which is only about heroes and villains. Custer was a United States Army officer who died in the performance of his duty, just like our soldiers who died in Vietnam and Iraq (which also saw significant civilian casualties). Blaming him for the decisions of the politicians in Washington shows a real lack of historical context And saying the Sioux were merely fighting for their land is disingenuous at best. They were a warrior culture who eagerly robbed, raped and murdered other Indian tribes as well as white settlers. Many whites wanted peace, and many Indians wanted peace, but we live in a world where violence is used as a means toward an end, and the history of the West is no different..

  43. shockproof1954 says:

    No apology necessary. Your comments are intelligent and based on facts presented from evidence gathered. I agree and appreciate your view. Incidentally, I discovered Keogh’s birthday of March 25 is the same as mine.

  44. Otter says:

    My take is that Custer was shot at the river in the chest. His men carried him to the top of the hill, laid him down, and tried to protect him and themselves. When they realized that they were about to be over-run, one of them shot Custer in the head to save him from any torture the Indians were reported to do to wounded men.

    • Otter says:

      I was wrong. According to Indian testimony, Custer fought very bravely and was one of the last to die.

  45. Godsje8 says:

    According to James Donovan´s A terrible glory it was Lt Sturgis who was killed at the river and not Custer.

  46. poet77 says:

    Excellent, sir. I will not argue the logistics of your last 1.5 hrs of the fighting 7th, but you may be interested to know the more medical aspects of Autie, his men & their mutilation.

    Keogh’s men’s heads were bashed in by stone age clubs. 106 heads were bashed in out of 216+ men (almost 50%).

    Autie must have been in the command center & personally ordered the Medical area. For an unknown reason, Mitch held a position, near Boston, between Autie’s command center & Keogh’s Line.

    Victory was shot from under Autie as they charged up Custer Hill. Victory was identified near Mitch, who, like Autie, died from a standing position.

    39 horses & 42 men composed a command center on Custer Hill on Battle Ridge. Autie saw his brother-in-law’s men & Keogh’s men murdered. Smith, Thom, Cooke, & Autie were in the command center. For an unknown reason, bulldogs in both hands firing, Autie stood up!!

    A winchester bullet entered the left temple, mercifully, he never knew what hit him, his light went out. The bullet exited from his right temple, propelling him to his right & backwards, toward the obelisk. There were no powder burns on entrance or exit, but dried blood on both hole prove this was the bleed-out or hit site, The crash of the bullet in both temporal lobes caused the breaking of both inner ears & his lacrimal ducts. The forensics of Terry’s men show lymphatic seepage from both ears, eyes, & nostrils. It was the Victorian Age & this result was kept from Mrs Custer.

    Autie was found in a sitting position causing livor mortis to swell his thoracic cavity into a barrel. The top half black from decomposing & bottom half red with livor mortis. Given the heat of that week (Autie’s buckskin jacket was tied to Victory’s saddle), his position created a stench for swarms of flying insects & birds of prey.

    Autie, like his men, was stripped, but was still in his sox. The wound om his left side/chest never bled-out & had no powder burn. This winchester bullet had no exit either. Thus, Autie was dead when he was shot at-a-distance in his chest. This shot was prob’ly from the same rifle minutes after the first shot.

    Considering that 1876 is a time of black powder, no powder burns is significant forensic data & no blood always means a post-mortal shot.

    An 11 inch gash on Autie’s left leg, from calf to achille’s tendon. This meant in sioux mythology that he would never be able to reach the grandfathers’ land or walk the happy hunting ground with them. This wound also stimulates land & air insects, as well as carrion, to attack the body from within it.

    Two arrows were jammed in his penis, arrowheads first, no bleeding out.

    3 bullet wounds: the left temple & bleeding-out=death shot; right forearm (Autie was right handed)=no bleeding-out; so he’d never be able to use that hand in the after life; left chest below heart=no bleeding out.

    The mutilations were beyond belief: pieces of heads, arms, digits, legs, thighs, necks, torsos, backs, eyeballs, etc.

    Dr Porter described Custer’s wounds & it was exactly those of John Hammond, who signed the Autie’s death certificate on Custer Hill.

  47. T.McIntosh says:

    i read posts and don’t usually reply to them but after reading rob koenigs post i was amazed.

    1. custer had orders to await re-enforcements–no such order existed

    2. custer refused to take repeating rifles along–no such equipment
    was available to the army.

    3. whiskey in the soldiers canteens–never heard this one before.

    4. fathered a child by an indian woman–heard this one before but
    it was a fact that custer could not have children.

  48. […] Because of the controversial nature of the event, many people had reservations about Custer and mixed feelings about him as a general and his decision making.  Because of this, his widow Libbie dedicated the […]

  49. Jim says:

    Like reading everyone’s views on this piece of American history… A couple of things I would like to comment on.

    Custer did not target women in children; At Washita, he told is soldiers not to kill women or children. He then had his soldiers retrieve two Indian ponies for each woman captured to ride north.

    As for him refusing the gattling guns… Read about the fun Terry had trying to haul them with his command and you will see that Custer made the right choice.

    So what went wrong at the Little Big Horn? A few people, in my opinion, carry most of the burden:

    Crook… After “winning” the Battle of Rosebud, instead of retreating he should’ve kept his initative and pressed the attack. Instead the next day he retreated back to his basecamp thus emboldening the Indians.

    Reno… Unlike many of you, I feel Reno really failed on the day of the battle. His orders were simple, to charge the enemy. The only thing left to his discretion was how quick is advance would be. You see, the hostiles knew the army was coming, they even knew that their forces were divided, but they had no clue to Reno’s battalion until is was almost ontop of their village. At this same time, the vast majority of the Indian ponies were grazing a mile away from the other end of the village! It is my belief, that if Reno would’ve pressed the attack, it very well could’ve been a calvary route. After Reno’s skirmish line was reformed in the trees he was still a threat to the village. Indians later told General Miles that if Reno hadn’t retreated, the Indians would’ve fled since they thought his defensive position was to strong. Actually, the order to break camp WAS given, but later recinded when Reno made is “charge” AWAY from the battle.

    Benteen: His orders were simple…come QUICK and bring the packs. Sure, some say if he followed orders his battalion would’ve got slaughtered, but I disagree. Remember, the natives don’t follow orders when in battle, they fight as individuals. That’s why at the sign of trouble, they scatter….one leaves and others follow. A charge by a battalion of calvary would’ve given Custer the initative once again.

    In my opinion, Custer’s plan was a solid one IF he had competent subordinates leading the other battalions.


  50. michael strauss says:

    Compare Custer’s tactics with Ranald Mackenzie’s tactics; when Mackenzie attacked a village, it was always with his entire regiment in a fist, and he aimed to take the horses, and he always triumphed.
    Custer did not only divide his force in four, but he put two of the units on one side of a river, and the other two on the other side. A more intelligent tactic would have been to drive the village into the river, causing panic.
    What kind of fool separates his divided force with a river? Only a very lucky one. And don’t forget that Custer ignored the first rule of management: keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. He put his enemies, Reno and Benteen, out of touch with him. But here is a historical what-if? Had Tom Custer been in command of the Reno-Benteen force, he would have ridden to Custer’s aid, and the entire 7th cavalry would have been destroyed in detail.
    I have no doubt that Benteen made the best possible choice. Don’t forget; it was inconceivable to him that Custer could have been in trouble. These are cavalry, after all; if you are in trouble, mount up and ride away (which is what Reno did, but stupidly, and at the wrong time)

    • DAVE says:

      Hi Mike,

      I have a post I put up a couple months ago. You may have read it. I confess that I am not familiar with MacKenzie, although I have heard of him.

      I have studied Custer and his life most of my adult life and have volumes of books I have digested. I admit to being in Custer’s corner, but like to think I can be fair minded.

      With all I have read, there is no doubt that Reno and Benteen failed Custer and should have been court martialed for cowardice in the face of the enemy.

      Both men hated Custer because he outranked them and were simply guided by jealousy. No doubt Custer was arrogant and full of himself. Those are attributes attributed to most combat commanders, ie Patton and MacArthur.

      As for your comment about Custer splitting his command, I am so tired of hearing that excuse for cutting him down. I have read the Army manual of that time and when it came to attacking Indians, you always wanted to come at them from different directions. This was because, if given the chance, they would ALWAYS flee. You always wanted to go at them in a pincer movement in an attempt to contain them.

      The mistake Custer DID make, was not believing his scouts when they told him there were too many Indians. After all, at no time prior to this and no time after the battle did the different Indian nations gather together to fight the white man. They usually were fighting each other. So to that, Custer had no clue there could be that many Indians.

      As for Reno, more than one Indian has stated that they were totally taken by surprise and if Reno had kept up his charge, the Indians would have surrendered or tried to flee. Instead, one of his scouts gets shot in the head and the brain matter splattered onto Reno’s face. Reno broke down at that point and gave orders to dismount, then mount, then dismount. Then he ran for the hills basically every man for himself.

      If you are interested get a book that was written from a manuscript that was written by a Private who was with Reno’s command. It is ‘CUSTER ON THE LITTLE BIGHORN” by William O. Taylor.

      The way I see it, coming from an enlisted man, you don’t have the jealeoulsy issues and did not have to lie about anything to save his butt. By the way, this Private liked and respected Custer.

      After they dug in on top of the hill and the Indians left to go fight Custer, he was close by when Benteen approached Reno to discuss the situation. They both basically said that Custer got himself into this mess, let him fend for himself, or basically screw him.

      After reading that book and others it is obvious to me that Reno and Benteen were the reason they lost the battle.

      Many say that it would not have made a difference and they ALL would have died. I do not agree, but even so, you pitch in and do what you can, even if you die trying. They failed to do their duty that day.

      I spent two years in Vietnam and 35 years in Law enforcement. You never retreat in the face of the enemy. Fearless officers like Custer and Patton were some of our finest. God knows, we don’t make Generals like those anymore.

  51. Jim says:

    You make some good points… I totally agree with your comment about keeping your enemies close…but I am sure he thought that professionalism would trump over personality conflicts. That being said, I will not state that personal feelings had any cause to the outcome. I am now thinking that he gave the wrong assignments to Benteen and Reno. Reno, not having indian battle experience, should’ve been on the scout and Benteen being the spearhead of the attack. Benteen had the experience and if he decided to quit the charge and hit the timber, that guy probably would have held the timber for a week! Benteen was smart AND fearless.
    As for your what-if….my answer is who knows?! Indians at the battle said if the troops left Reno hill and attacked, they would’ve fled since they would’ve been caught between to forces. I have yet to find a time where the indians repelled, or stood up to, an agressive cavalry charge.


  52. Ashton O'Dwyer says:

    White Cow Bull: I am almost 60 years old, and it only has been recently that I have encountered the so-call “testimong” of an aboriginal savage called “White Cow Bull”. What “tribe” did he belong to” What language did he speak? Just who were his interviewers, and what were their credentials? Could it be that White Cow Bull was in fact “interviewede” in SIGN LANGUAGE? At least some accounts attribute what White Cow Bull had to say to OTHER INDIANS. Who were these other Indians, and where were they on June 25, 1876? I can guarantee you this: Whatever “language” White Cow Bull spoke, it was not reduced to writing as of 1876, and probably has not been reduced to writing as of this day. I can also guarantee that White Cow Bull never lived in a wooden or stone “house” prior to 1876, and that neither he nor his Family ever used the wheel until it was introduced to them by the white man. I also have another question: Has any effort been made to chronicle the numerous accounts by aboriginal savages who claim to have been on Greasy Grass Ridge on the afternoon of June 25, 1876, and who claim to have fired one or more shots that brought “Yellow Hair” (who was crew-cut at the time) down? Why should these accounts be discounted and the account of White Cow Bull believed? Ashton O’Dwyer.

    • DAVE says:

      Mr. O’Dwyer,

      I am 62, and a student of Custer and I did not read about this White Cow Bull till a few years ago. At first, it made sense to me why the troopers were in retreat.

      I could see if Custer was one of the first casulties, how the unit may fall apart. Witnesses said that when Custer was allegedly shot crossing the creek that the whold command stopped and the person shot much have been Custer because the troops around him stopped to pick him up.

      Up to that point I started to think that this may have occurred and I could also see how Custer’s men would have got him out of the creek and taken him to where they all died on the hill.

      However, I recently read about what General Terry’s command observed when they got to LBH.

      The Army surgeon’s report stated that Custer was killed by a shot to his left temple with the bullit exiting the right ear, which bled out, indicating this was obviously the shot that killed him. He also had a gunshot wound to the chest, but was believed to be post mortum. He also was found with two arrows rammed up his penis and his legs were cut.

      This information was kept quiet at the time and not known for years later. It was the Victornian era and they did not put everything out to protect his wife from how he died.

      This information would indicate that he died on the hill with his men and not shot at the creek.

      Besides, it is well documented that NONE of the Indians knew what Custer looked like and would not know who actually killed him. They didn’t even know it was Custer’s command.

      Hope this information helps clear some things up.

  53. Ashton O'Dwyer says:

    Thank you, Dave. Since reading your lucid Comment, it appears that the so-called “testimony” (we still don’t know in what form it was given, or to whom) of White Cow Bull(shit) was “given” some 60 years AFTER the Battle of the Little Bighorn. This White Cow Bull(shit) character also makes claims to have been present, and to have seen first-hand, if not participated in, virtually EVERY significant aspect of the Battle. What the proponents of White Cow Bull(shit) do not address are the clains of numerous other aboriginal savages who claim to have killed Custer other than at the River’s edge, including “Rain-in-Face”, “Flat Lip”, “Brave Bear”, and a member of the distaff side, “Buffalo Calf Road Woman”. I wonder what Libby Custer would say about the testimony of White Cow Bull(shit) if sher were alive today. Ashton O’Dwyer.

    • DAVE says:

      Hi Ashton, just wanted to comment on all the comments that are posted on this site. It is easy to dismiss a lot of them as you can read into their comments their hatred for Custer and the others making stupid comments making it obvious that they never really studied the issue very much.

      A lot of people make the mistake of evaluating what happened without putting it in the context of how things were at that time, not how you would do it today.

      The biggest travesty is that the government needed a scapegoat to blame the massacre on and why not blame the dead guy? He cannot defend himself.

      The inquiry done years later at the dequest of Major Reno (tryng to clear his name) was a white wash. There are those that say that even if Reno and Benteen had went to help Custer, they all would have died.

      There is no way of knowing that as there is no way of knowing exactly how many Indians there were. Personally, I believe they could have defeated the Indians if they had all pitched in. After studying the LBH for years, I firmly believe that Reno and Benteen should have been tried for cowardice in the face of the enemy and failing to follow orders. Those facts, if you are honest in accessing what we do know, are not in dispute.

      You are right about the Indians b.s. Thing is, when they weren’t fighting the white man, they were fighting amonst themselves.

      This is why Custer had good cause not to trust what his scouts were telling him when they told him there were too many warriors to fight. At no time prior to LBH, and no time after, did the different tribes join forces to fight the white man. I would bet that Custer most likely believed that there might be as many as 1,000 or so, which he figured his command could handle. Like I said, if you want to point to a Custer mistake, that was it. He failed to properly assess his enemy forces before attacking.

  54. Fred says:

    History is replete with politicians and military commanders who screw things up big time, get soldiers and others killed, who then have their story “sanitized” to avoid embarrassment, either their own or others. (Think of the criminal way the senior leadership handled Viet Nam.) Custer fits into that category.

    (Also check out the famous Fetterman massacre, second only to Little Big Horn – another arrogant fool.)

    I grew up in Wyoming is the 50s and 60s, where we played Cowboys and Indians, we studied Cowboys and Indians, we learned about all kinds of “Indian fighters,” both great and not so. My home town was named for a young cavalry lieutenant who pulled a stupid stunt, got himself killed, and automatically became a hero.

    The general understanding among everyone I knew was that Custer was an arrogant fool. Custer’s vaunted reputation as an Indian fighter was based on his ability at places like Washita to murder women, children, and old men, or to capture same to use as human shields, and then falsify his reports to claim dozens of “warriors” killed.

    (There are reports that Custer initially went after the women and children at Little Big Horn as well, but turned and ran when the warriors showed up.)

    When he finally ran into an organized group of real warriors, he was killed. The tragedy is that he took 220 others with him. From a military standpoint, Custer did almost everything wrong.

    The basic facts are well known:

    –He disobeyed his orders and went his own way after the Indians.

    –He left his heavy weapons and sabers behind so he could move faster. He had little respect for the warriors, who, it turned, had better weapons than he had.

    –He split his forces so the Indians could attack him piecemeal.

    –At some point in the rout, he and about 40 of his men were surrounded and killed on “last stand hill.”

    For all that he is supposed to be some kind of hero. What else could he do. There was no option to surrender and there was no escape. That is the same false bravado as a man defying a firing squad – no one need be impressed.

    Some of the dead at Little Big Horn were mutilated by the Indians. In their culture that was a sign of respect – they feared their opponent and didn’t want him to be able to hurt them in the afterlife. The disdain and utter lack of respect the Indians had for Custer is shown by their unwillingness to touch him after he was dead. He was neither scalped nor mutilated. He was not an honored foe.

    Custer’s legend is mostly through the efforts of his wife who devoted the remainder of her life to polishing his brass. She was obsessed with protecting and, as necessary, embellishing the story. She viciously attacked anyone who failed to hold to her party line.

    It is unfortunate that so many people spend so much time and effort trying to make this guy into something he was not.

    • Jim says:

      Custer disobeyed orders? Wow, I thought that was layed to rest over 100 years ago! Let me see, you are under the belief that there was some sort of magical coordination between the three prongs of the attack even though there was no communication? Seems to me that Terry stated that he hoped ONE of his groups would find the Indians. Pretty sure his orders said that if he was close the the Indians, Custer could do as he pleased.
      Indians had BETTER weapons than the 7th?! Wasn’t the ’73 Winchester tested by the army at the same time as the trapdoor was? Wasn’t the trapdoor more reliable, had a longer range, and was FASTER when it came to SUSTAINED firing?
      Split his troops in order to attempt to achieve what we call a flanking maneuver which is a basic offensive military maneuver which is still used today. Obviously, having the attacking unit retreat kinda’ leaves the assault element hanging out there all by themselves.
      Mutilation a sign of respect? Where did you pull that one out of? So, you are saying that scout, you know, the black one whose penis they cut off, stuffed in his mouth, and stuck his scrotum to the ground with awls or something…they did out of respect?!!!! REALLY? One of the scouts said that Custer wasn’t mutilated since the Sioux feared Custer when he was alive, and still feared him when he was dead. Hey, I don’t buy it, but I would believe that way before your “mutilation is an honor” thing.
      I find it even more unfortunate that people go out of their way to twist “facts” to make Custer look like a bumbling fool instead of the great warrior he was…. There was this war, called the CIVIL WAR, which, if you read about it, you can learn of the skills that Custer possessed.
      Custer legend due to his wife? Ummm…there was this war, called the Civil War….


  55. ukblue says:

    That is one big lie.I don”t think Reno was a coward,until this day,he showed that he was incompetent under pressure by causing an unwarranted retreat,causing the death of more than 30 men under his command.Benteen on the other hand was a good soldier but his jealous disposition and attitude,clouded his judgment.Had both men carried out their orders it would have been a different outcome.

  56. Eldon Grupp says:

    Custer was a bastard who deliberately caused the war with the Indians for what he saw as his own glory, even defying the spirit of Army orders in bringing a geologist along on his own dime on his earlier scouting expedition into the Black Hills. He got exactly what he deserved as a result of a war he personally helped foment.

  57. deadwood1876 says:

    These are all great theorys if Benteen and Reno held off where they at,
    there’s know reason they could not have saved Custer.


    After having spent a pleasant evening reading each and every comment, opinion, and personal view, and taking notes on all of the aforementioned, I have arrived at the following views:

    1. Unless you visit and “WALK” the LBH Battlefield, from Reno Hill to Last Stand Hill, including the bottom land where Reno initially charged, you will never fully grasp the difficulty of the terrain involved. I have, Three times……….

    2. Everyone should read and map out the speed with which Custer reached Greasy Grass, when he left Fort Lincoln. Virtually every book written to date explains the length of the forced marches, cold rations, warn out horses,no fires, and physical fatigue that the men of the 7th possessed GOING INTO the battle. Physically, they were not prepared for what they were to encounter.

    3. Protecting the Pack Train and the wounded required allocation of resources. The minute casualties occurred, they were on the defensive, irrespective of the location being Last Stand Hill or Reno-Benteen Battlefield.

    4. Very few tourists and afficianados visit the site of Reno’s initial charge. I have. Two hundred yards forward of where he halted and dismounted, there was a 12 ft wide / 6 foot deep gully, unknown to them, 150 yards from the village, which his “Battalion” ( by today’s standards, less than a Rifle Company) would have charged into (not over). A rout would have occurred here, less than 150 yards from the village, versus the stand in the timber, running fight, and retreat up the bluffs. Statistically, Reno lost 40% versus a projected 50 to 100%if he had made it to that gully.

    5. No one in this Forum cites all the Spacial Geology studies that have been conducted based on found artifacts over the years, which have plotted movement and positions of Companies .C,E,I,F, and L,. There are at least three books, all very dry reading, which dovetail in their findings.

    6. The Battlefield markers of today (circa 2012) bear no resemblance to the actual location of dead troopers in 1876, except for (perhaps) Last Stand Hill. They have been washed away, “tidied up”, replaced, and moved for construction over the years.
    7, At no time before or since, has an Indian “Army” of (conservatively) 1500-2500 warriors ever assembled, stood it’s ground, and broke contact when it felt like. It was a “Perfect Storm” of Native Americans.

    8. There is no extant evidence that Custer ever attempted to:
    a. Send out a reinforced messenger squad (say 1/2 dozen men) to convey his situation to Reno-Benteen,
    b. Fight his way out of his predicament, either mounted or on foot, versus attempting to hold negligable terrain.

    What if six messengers were sent as a unit, and only one or two got through? That would be one or two more than history reports.
    What if they ( C,E,I,F,L ) advanced ( or retreated, if you will) to the river and the river treeline, to hold a covered and concealed area, and did the necessary (yet unthinkable) thing of leaving their wounded behind. Could they have made a “Wagon Box Fight” or “Adobe Walls” of it for 48 hours, with cover, concealment, water, and shade??

    9. Finally, read about how many C,E,I,F,L Troopers wound up with Reno-Benteen because their horses had “played out” the last 5 miles to Glory. You’ll find that quite interesting.

    If you’re a serious student of the battle, you have to set aside emotions, opinions on leadership decisions (ever been shot at? Ever had to made a life or death decision on a fluid battlefield?), personalities involved, and figure that Custer went from leading a glorious Charge with a fatigued Unit, to having his Stetson fill up with 100 unsolveable problems and unanswerable questions in the space of the first 10 minutes at LBH.

    Happy 2013 to All!!!!

    • poetry77 says:

      poet 77 says:
      1/2/2013 at 2:00 pm
      Mr. Prescott
      1-To state you have to be there & know the geography is spurious because, if that was the case, there would be no sense to military logistic-battle courses from alexander to austerlitz, courses GAC and everyone takes at the Point, to this day.?
      2-Because of Donaghue being a ranger at Custer battlefield for over 20 yrs, his maps & his book, you don’t have to be there. Because of Unger publishing the orig MacGuire map (army-engineers, july 1876) you dont have to be there and because of Walter Camp’s maps in Hammer’s “Custer in 76” you dont have to be there. These people & their maps Take You There!?
      3-Donahue has shown that E-F-I-C/L were arranged in nearly a strait line to reno’s hill, hence, HQ + 5 battalions (over 220 men: Camp-Hammer-Wert-Michno) were expecting benteeen AND Donahue says so, as does Hammer, Michno & Walter Camp.?
      4-Camp, Hammer, Hardoff, Utley, Unger, Donahue, Wert, Monaghan?and Michno refute, handsomely, your spurious claim: “forced marches, cold rations, worn out horses, fatigue, cold food”. First, Camp interviewed Custer’s officers inclu Varnum chief of scouts, the Crow scouts, Herendeen & Gerard. Every Indian at Crows Nest were angry at the 7th in the morn of 6/25 because 2 diff parties of sioux scouts saw the breakfast fires of the 7th. Second, RCOI clearly stated testimony: horses & men travelled at norm pace, horses and men up-n-ready. Please read Nichols: RCOI, before foisting opinion w/o references as fact.
      5-Mitch grew up with Crow. he knew a sundance and its meaning. He could never consider 1500 injins “the largest congregation of indians I ever heard”. 3 Crows left Custer at Weir Point and travelled all the way to the Powder Depot because after Crows Nest they would not fite the biggest bunch of sioux they ever saw:Hairy moccasin-White Man-Goes Ahead. The Rees refused to fite and went to reno hill. Gerard, Herendeen, Bloody Knife all supported Mitch Bouyer (Camp’s interviews & footnotes in Hammer). On the Far West, Terry asked Gerard his estimate and Gerard said 4000 bucks. Herendeen told RCOI & Camp 3500 bucks; Gerard told RCOI?& Camp 4000. Crazy Horse & Two Moon (Blackface-Paleface) told Bismark Tribune, 1877, 1800 tipis+400 wikiups, approx 6000-8000 bucks. Interestingly, Herendeen & Gerard estimated 1800 tipis. Hence, to say that Custer faced less than 3000 bucks is a denial of all the facts, Michno included.
      6-Donahue points out, injin testimonies corroborate, intermittently, the troops were looking at the men at reno hill.?
      7-Gerard, Herendeen told Camp and RCOI, as did 2 packers and others, Reno was drunk since 9AM 6/25. He was in back of his troops to the skirmish line, he was the 1st to retreat, he never ordered bugles to sound the retreat, over 40 men never heard the call to retreat, and permitted/freed 1000 or more bucks to run to Custer. 13 wounded and 34 dead out of 125 to 140 men. reno told RCOI ” I lost half my men”. He was a liar, coward, hater/jealous of Custer.?
      A-Reno=cowardice (Nelson Miles, Herendeen, Gerard, Terry, Camp, Varnum, Taylor, Edgerly, Mathey, Wert, Cornut &c).?
      8-Benteen=Betrayer: Wert, Unger, Camp, Hammer, Herendeen, Martini, Unger, Cornut, Gerard. Martini saw Benteen take the note and place it in his shirt (not jacket) pocket. According to Wert, Unger, Utley and Camp, benteen did not show the note to reno until 5PM or after on 6/25. He arrived approx 2PM.?
      9-What were benteen & reno doing for 1.5 hours with no injins on their flanks, in their rear or in their front?? they disobeyed out of anger and betrayal, but, for reno, there was cowardice. Both men were mediocre (Utley, Wert, Cornut, Camp).?
      10-At RCOI, only 2 people denied hearing volleys and intermittent gunfire: reno & benteen! since the days of G.Washington, or prior, the rule was “go were there is gunfire”. On the plains, injin wars, the rule was: volleys mean “help, be quick”. There were 3 sets of volleys!?
      11-Custer’s note stated (adj. Cooke): Benteen – Come On – Big Village – BE QUICK – Bring Packs. W.W.Cooke, P.(S). Bring Pacs.” That you deny the note said BE QUICK means visiting the field-of-honor is NO substitute for objective, historical knowledge that can only come from READING and more Reading, which you have NOT done. This note is on display: Custer Battlefield Historic Museum.
      Vernon, please, please, read the authors herein mentioned.

      • DAVE says:

        I really enjoyed reading the most recent conversation between Prescott and Poetry77. Very interesting takes and find both to have very valid points. Most entries at this site are from idiots who never studied the subjects or subject matter and just make dumb statements out of hatred for Custer, thanks to our PC educators today.

        As for me, Custer is my hero, but not to the point of not recognizing that he made mistakes.

        I will take issue with the idea that Reno and Beenteen did not fail Custer. It is documented that when Reno attacked the south end of the Indian camp one of his suborbinates was shot in the head. Brain matter and blood spattered onto Reno. It was at this point he lost it. That is when he stopped the advance and started giving counter orders to dismount, the mount, and dismount again and form a skirmish line, which gave the Indians time to group and attack.

        I have read numerous books about the LBH. I recall reading about one of the Indian Chiefs who was interviewed some time later. He said that the soldiers totally took them by surprise and said that if Reno had kept up his attack, he most likely would have routed the Indian camp site.

        As for stating that Reno was no coward because he was exonerated by a court of inquiry is poor evidence to make that conclusion. The Army wanted this incident to fade away and the best way to make that happen is to blame the dead guy (Custer.)

        I served two tours in Vietnam and 35 years in state law enforcement. I have been in combat so I know what it is like to have someone trying to kill you. However, I would like to think that when I was in the shit, there was someone coming to help, no matter what.

        Custer was hated by his subordinate officers and there is evidence that they made the decision not to help. Try reading the book by PVT. William O. Taylor. He was with Reno’s command and survived. He said he lost all all respect for Reno after he overheard him talking to Beenteen about the situation. The Indians had left to assist in killing Custer. He was laying on the ground near Reno and Beenteen. Reno basically said, “Custer got himself in this mess, he can get himself out of it.”

        My sense of honor tells me that Reno and Beenteen, no matter the cost, should have made every attempt to go to Custer’s aid. To do anything less, was dishorable.

        I find what Pvt. Taylor observed to be most believable as he was a Private and had no ax to grind. Anything said about Custer by his subordinate officers must be taken with a grain of salt.

        Custer was a brilliant commander, still the youngest General we have ever produced. This automatically makes for many jealousies as many officers many years his senior were mear Captains and Majors.

        Lets also remember that Custer’s troops loved him during the civil war and would follow him to hell and back. The soldiers of the west were mostly losers, many of them criminals and recent immigrants who did not give a shit about fighting for the US. Like you said, they were not the “crack” troops some people believe they were.

        I would like to think that if I had been in Reno’s situation I would have have had the guts to make the right decision and go to the aid of his commander. I think I would rather die in combat than be called a coward all my life. After all, there are some things worse than death and some things worth dying for.

        Of everything I have digested over the past decades about Custer and the LBH I have concluded that it was one of those “Murphy’s Law” days. Nothing went right and everything went wrong. It is as if it was destined to happen the way it did.

        Custer is demonized by those who said he wanted all the glory and should have waited for General Terry. He was going to do so until he was told that one of the pack train wagons had lost a box of hardtack. When troopers searched for it they found two Indians taking off with it. Custer rightfully believed that he had to attack as he wa about to lose his element of surprise. It was learned later that the two Indians did not belong to the LBH camp. But Custer could not have known that. We all know that when the Army would attack, the Indians tended to scatter, not fight. This is why Custer split his command so he could get the Indians in a pincer movement to keep them from fleeing. The mistake was that Custer did not believe there was as many Indians as was really there. After all, never before, or never after, did the various Indian tribes ever mass together to fight the Army. They were usually fighting each other.

        I must admit that I have not been to the LBH. That is on my bucket list to do. I have to wonder if the ground and topography are the same as it was in 1876? I noticed that Gettysburg was mentioned.

        I have been there four times and talked to the park staff about locations that I knew were open fields in 1863 and cavalry charges had taken place. Today it is a forest. I was told that the tree huggers over the past several decades kept the government from maintaining the battlefield as it was in July 1863. I was told that they are going to rectify this in the future and try to get the park back to the way it was at the time of the battle.

        If LBH is like that, seeing the battlefield and area would be mis-leading and would make it hard to assess it properly today.

        I could write about this forever, but will stop for now. PS: Anyone who studied Custer and Patton would find that they had very similar characters. If you like one, you would have to like the other.

        The reason Custer, like Patton, like MacArthur, were polorizing is because many people cannot stand arrogant men and will always hate these warriors. What they fail to realize is that you have to have a strong personality and belief in yourself (seen as arrogance) in order to lead men into battle knowing many are going to die for you. This trait may be off putting to a lot of people, but is extremely important to have this in a field commander. The Custer haters want to make out like Custer was a hater. This was not true. Custer stated that if he were an Indian, he would be fighting to the death for his land. Custer did not hate the Indians. He was soldier who was doing his job. But, the liberals place all the blame on him, as if he made the policies.

  59. poet 77 says:

    Mr. Prescott

    1-To state you have to be there & know the geography is spurious because, if that was the case, there would be no sense to military logistic-battle courses from alexander to austerlitz, courses GAC and everyone takes at the Point, to this day.
    2-Because of Donaghue being a ranger at Custer battlefield for over 20 yrs, his maps & his book, you don’t have to be there. Because of Unger publishing the orig MacGuire map (army-engineers, july 1876) you dont have to be there and because of Walter Camp’s maps in Hammer’s “Custer in 76” you dont have to be there. These people & their maps Take You There!
    3-Donahue has shown that E-F-I-C/L were arranged in nearly a strait line to reno’s hill, hence, HQ + 5 battalions (over 220 men: Camp-Hammer-Wert-Michno) were expecting benteeen AND Donahue says so, as does Hammer, Michno & Walter Camp.
    4-Camp, Hammer, Hardoff, Utley, Unger, Donahue, Wert, Monaghan
    and Michno refute, handsomely, your spurious claim: “forced marches, cold rations, worn out horses, fatigue, cold food”. First, Camp interviewed Custer’s officers inclu Varnum chief of scouts, the Crow scouts, Herendeen & Gerard. Every Indian at Crows Nest were angry at the 7th in the morn of 6/25 because 2 diff parties of sioux scouts saw the breakfast fires of the 7th. Second, RCOI clearly stated testimony: horses & men travelled at norm pace, horses and men up-n-ready. Please read Nichols: RCOI, before foisting opinion w/o references as fact.
    5-Mitch grew up with Crow. he knew a sundance and its meaning. he could never consider 1500 injins “the largest congregation of indians I ever heard”. 3 Crows left Custer at Weir Point and travelled all the way to the Powder Depot because after Crows Nest they would not fite the biggest bunch of sioux they ever saw:Hairy moccasin-White Man-Goes Ahead. The Rees refused to fite and went to reno hill. Gerard, Herendeen, Bloody Knife all supported Mitch Bouyer (Camp’s interviews & footnotes in Hammer). On the Far West, Terry asked Gerard his estimate and Gerard said 4000 bucks. Herendeen told RCOI & Camp 3500 bucks; Gerard told RCOI
    & Camp 4000. Crazy Horse & Two Moon (Blackface-Paleface) told Bismark Tribune, 1877, 1800 tipis+400 wikiups, approx 6000-8000 bucks. Interestingly, Herendeen & Gerard estimated 1800 tipis. Hence, to say that Custer faced less than 3000 bucks is a denial of all the facts, Michno included.
    6-Donahue points out, injin testimonies corroborate, intermittently, the troops were looking at the men at reno hill.
    7-Gerard, Herendeen told Camp and RCOI, as did 2 packers and others, Reno was drunk since 9AM 6/25. He was in back of his troops to the skirmish line, he was the 1st to retreat, he never ordered bugles to sound the retreat, over 40 men never heard the call to retreat, and permitted/freed 1000 or more bucks to run to Custer. 13 wounded and 34 dead out of 125 to 140 men. reno told RCOI ” I lost half my men”. He was a liar, coward, hater/jealous of Custer.
    A-Reno=cowardice (Nelson Miles, Herendeen, Gerard, Terry, Camp, Varnum, Taylor, Edgerly, Mathey, Wert, Cornut &c).
    8-Benteen=Betrayer: Wert, Unger, Camp, Hammer, Herendeen, Martini, Unger, Cornut, Gerard. Martini saw Benteen take the note and place it in his shirt (not jacket) pocket. According to Wert, Unger, Utley and Camp, benteen did not show the note to reno until 5PM or after on 6/25. He arrived approx 2PM.
    9-What were benteen & reno doing for 1.5 hours with no injins on their flanks, in their rear or in their front?? they disobeyed out of anger and betrayal, but, for reno, there was cowardice. Both men were mediocre (Utley, Wert, Cornut, Camp).
    10-At RCOI, only 2 people denied hearing volleys and intermittent gunfire: reno & benteen! since the days of G.Washington, or prior, the rule was “go were there is gunfire”. On the plains, injin wars, the rule was: volleys mean “help, be quick”. There were 3 sets of volleys!
    11-Custer’s note stated (adj. Cooke): Benteen – Come On – Big Village – BE QUICK – Bring Packs. W.W.Cooke, P.(S). Bring Pacs.” That you deny the note said BE QUICK means visiting the field-of-honor is NO substitute for objective, historical knowledge that can only come from READING and more Reading, which you have NOT done. This note is on display: Custer Battlefield Historic Museum.

    Vernon, please, please, read the authors herein mentioned.


    Poet 77:
    I’m glad you replied. I thought the age of the comments would have sent mine of yesterday into an AOL electronic dust bin. I’ll try to reply to your points ever so briefly:

    1. Since the 1970’s, the US Army has had a doctrine ( in conventional warfare-don’t think Iraq or Afghanistan) of walking the battlefield, and envisioning how it either will unfold, or did unfold. How will you attack or defend? What will the enemies objective(s) be? Will Strong Points be effective? How do I canalize the enemy into a position which favors my force and places his force at a disadvantage, etc etc..
    Conventional warfare in 2013 may be passe’, what with satellites, drones, FLIR, etc. It’s now, for the most part, “Real Time” decision making. BUT, by visiting LBH Battlefield, especially in the summer with it’s heat, you develop a real feel of immediate isolation because of the vastness, and add some hostiles, a complete sense of abandonment. And, if I recall correctly, 30 to 40 % of the 7th were Recruits or Rookies, never having encountered a Plains Indian.
    Custer had an Offensive Plan, which was Army doctrine in it’s day. But he had no Defensive Plan, or Plan B. There were no brainstorming session with his staff. It was Custer calling the first and final shots. Crook’s Plan B was to retire with the wounded and prepare for future operations. He left Custer hanging, because that Plan was not communicated, but it was his Plan B.

    2. When it comes to Authors, you have to realize that every Author has an agenda of sorts, or a slant on the topic. I recommend three books off the top of my head which probably can be picked up on Amazon:
    ” Custer’s Last Campaign”- John S. Gray ( with a Foreward by Utley) -University of Nebraska Press, 1991.
    ” Custer in 76- Walter Camp’s Notes on the Custer Fight” -Brigham Young University Press-third printing, 1976.
    ” I Buried Custer-The Diary of PVT Thomas W. Coleman, 7th Cavalry” Edited by Bruce R. Liddic. Creative Publishing Company, 1979.

    Each provides a plethora of incidental information on the 7th, it’s Commander, and the Battle. I have read dozens of books on Custer, and find these three to be perhaps the best in objectivity and non-opinion. Some pro-Custer and anti-Custer books I have read just once, then donated them away, because of their slant or shallowness of research.
    Each of us should be the judge of the author when reading. It’s what’s great about America.

    3, Reference Donahue: There are other Authors who view the opposite.That the bodies discovered by Company, show a disintegration of command UP to Last Stand Hill, and the preponderance of dead Officers on Last Stand Hill had to do with “who’s in command now”, as they were being eliminated. I personally believe GAC was killed early on.

    4. Breakfast Fires: Ever serve in military? There always were and still are Beetle Bailey’s who don’t get the word, or ignore it. Fact of life. I am absolutely amazed, however, that you are not aware of how hard Custer force marched his men on that final Campaign. It’s a matter a record. At least a dozen or more 7th Cavalry-Custer Books cite it. Custer was noted for it going back to the Civil War. It was one of his trademark traits- His nickname among the troops- “Hard Ass”.

    5, The Crow, Rees, etc were signed on as Scouts, not fighters. Find the Hostiles and then retire to Terry. As far as the Hostile Warrior Count is concerned, do the following:
    a. Realize that 19th century Newspapers thrived in sensationalism, and were far from historically accurate. Most newspapermen were journeymen, and didn’t stay long in one place to develop a feel for what they reported on. No Investgative Journalism back then.
    b. Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull had “agendas” as well. Kind of like Sadaam Hussein and his invincible Republican Guard. Within a year, the Indians were back on the Reservation, and statistics indicate that hardly a fraction of the warrior strengths cited were accounted for, and that includes Canada.

    It really doesn’t matter though. A Defender has a three to one advantage over an Attacker, so at approximately 700 warriors, with Custer on poor terrain, boxed in, with lost horses and only service-ready ammunition, it was all over from the get go with his 225 men. 2000 warriors would have had to line up and wait their turn to count coup’. 10,000 would have been the equivalent of an Indian Woodstock. The minute C,E,I,F, and L started incurring casualties, they were pinned to the terrain they were on. Any manuevering probably centered on isolated groups of men attempting to make it to Last Stand Hill as Company organization disintegrated. Read about how the young boys and old men were attempting to count coup in the later stages of the last stand. I doubt the 10,000 figure.

    6. Looking for Reno: I’m sure Custer’s men were looking at the route they took into the valley as a potential lifeline. Remember, Custer’s Battalion watched Reno halt in the Valley and retreat to the bluffs across the river. Custer’s men had no idea of the “Bring Pacs” message. Custer, Cooke and Benteen did. If my memory serves me, the Reno-Benteen position is three very long miles to Last Stand Hill. And remember, one Trooper from Custer nearly made it, until he decided to end his own life for no apparent reason other than total fear or hysteria.

    7. Reno: Drunk? Probably. But he was exonerated at his Court of Inquiry.. I wasn’t there, but I have to venture a guess that the facts did not support Cowardice Charges et al. Custer became a National Martyr- “the Beau Ideal”. His wife protected that reputation up to her death in the 1930’s. Say what you will about him (Reno), but he managed to eventually regain his wits on that Bluff.
    Benteen: Despised Custer? Yes. Let him deliberately die? No. Benteen had his hands full with lots of wounded, an enemy that maintained 24 hours plus of pressure on his position, not knowing whether Custer cut through the village and went to meet Terry, or whether Custer would eventually look for Reno-Benteen. Remember Major Elliott on the Washita??? No attempt by Custer whatsoever to locate Elliott and his 15 or 16 Troopers. By his reckoning Benteen probably felt he was on his own.

    9. Your Point 9: I am reasonably sure that Reno-Benteen had their hands full doing the following in the first 2 hours on that hill:
    a. Preparing a fighting position selected by chance, not choice. Scooping out shallow fighting pits with mess plates, boards, etc.
    b. Seeing that the wounded had some form of protection from direct fire, first aid treatment, food and water, and reasonable comfort under the conditions that existed.
    c. Taking stock of their Unit strength-the number of effectives-with which to conduct an active defense.
    d. Distributing ammunition and any spare serviceable weapons to individual fighting positions.
    e. Designating a Reserve or Counterattack element from within existing resources.

    Now, if you ever visited the Reno-Benteen Battlefield, it’s not the most ideal position. By modern standards, a Rifle Platoon can defend it with current weaponry. The minute the remaining Companies and Pack Train were on the Bluffs, they were no longer an offensive force due to the wounded. At the post battle Inquiry, virtually every Officer except Weir* praised Benteen’s conduct and command of the situation (remember, he was a Colonel in the Civil War), and owed their survival to his conduct under fire.

    * read about Weir, a man who died of Depression a year later and wrote strange letters to Elizabeth Custer.

    10. The Three Volleys: Too little. Too late. I have no doubt that the last remnants of Custer’s Command were signalling for help. Sad, but no remaining 7th element was in a position of strength or manueverability to come to their aid.

    11. The fabled Last Message: Saw it many times at the West Point Museum, which I believe retains official possession, but may have it on permanent loan at LBH Battlefield. Not sure anymore. It is/was an Order that was impossible to obey. At the time it was written, not one 7th Manuever Battalion was in contact. The minute each battalion found itself in contact and under fire, it became impossible to obey due to distance, casualties being incurred, absence of knowledge of enemy strengths and intentions, and the absence of a plan.

    In closing-the cast of characters in the Custer Massacre saga:

    Most did not have the grit to look Benteen or Reno in the eye and call them cowards. The junior officers and enlisted men were grateful that Benteen was present and conducted himself the way he did. And you have to admit that Custer himself generated confusion with the plan of attack. Reno’s 112 men in the valley were isolated and could not be supported by Custer. Benteen was where Custer instructed him to be-reconning to the west. No two of the three elements of the 7th could come to the aid of each other, let alone all three.
    There were pro and anti-Custer factions then, as there are now. It wasn’t a matter of withholding aid to Custer versus the inability to physically link up with Custer. The pro-Custer factions viewed it as cowardice, dereliction of duty, saving your own skin, etc.
    I pass no judgement over Reno. He had a dark cloud over him his entire life, and was exonerated only in death.
    Benteen, however, comes across as the one who exercised correct decision making in my estimation, under dire circumstances. Not a coward, and not a fool.

    Now, in closing. I don’t know where you live, or whether you’ve been to LBH Battlefield. But like all Park Service locations, it’s “Interpretative”. Take a map, a copy of it if you ever get the opportunity, and walk the Battlefield. You get a better sense of what happened than any book could provide. I’ve done it at Gettysburg, Chancellorsville, LBH, Saratoga, Fredericksburg, and several other Civil War sites. Donaghue is simply the latest to interpret. I don’t fault him at all

    One final note, the 7th Cavalry was not the crackerjack outfit that legend makes it out to be. A high percentage of recruits, troopers with maladies, little marksmanship training, and no real battle experience since the Washita Campaign.

    • Sm8213 says:

      Well stated sir. I’m sure there was a #%^tload of cross leveling going on at the Reno Benteen defense site. I can’t even imagine the suck factor involved in defending that punch bowel. It’s really easy for people to point fingers when they are not and never have been in combat. It changes EVERYTHING.

    • poetry77 says:


      We both agree on Custer in 76 is good to read. Would you please read Camp’s interviews with the officers, enlisted and scouts? would you please read the 3 interviews with Curly AND Camp’s summary of Terry’s orders.

      On the ride up the Rosebud from Powder Depot, Herendeen, Custer’s scout and guide in 72 & 74 pointed out to Custer 6-7 battles he had with the sioux along the Rosebud Custer never knew about.

      Gerard was a tough scout too. Both interviews with Camp will change your opinions.

      You can know ALL of Napoleon’s or Alexander’s strategy and never been at the Isthmus or Austerlitz. It’s called military strategy classes and that is how it’s done with table-size gorgeous maps prior to digital age.

      One end-note, the special ops of US Army from the Washita to Operation Spearhead: 10th Mountain, 11th Airborne and 9th Armored: IS WAS WILL EVER BE ….. Garryowen, senor.

      Cold food, what about the AM breakfast fires times 3 mornings? fatigued soldiers and horses, what about everyone’s testimony at RCOI, except reno-benteen??

      Camp’s roster, Hardoff’s roster, Hammer’s roster & Unger’s roster prove 20% new recruits to the crack, special ops, 7th Cav. Prove Me Wrong, senor.

      Most had the grit to beat the shit, laygh at to their face and state in their ears that ben & reno betrayed Custer. Grouard broke benteen’s jaw. Where you get the fallacious comments. It got so bad, to prove their names, reno called for an RCOI. Reason itg was convened.

      On his drunken death bed, benteen was screaming he did not betray Custer (documented by his wife & daughters).

      Hence, senor, please…please…PLEASE read Michno, Camp, Hammer, Hardoff, Unger, Utley, Wert, Monaghan, Donaghue, Graham, Nichols, Urwin, Upton, Kuhlman, Gray, N.Miles & Carroll, and please cite/reference what you state or I will not answer.

      It would do you well to take a course in military strategy & then a grad course too. The best sense of a battle comes from military strategy books for strategists and, for laymen (Camp, Hammer, Wert, Hardoff, Michno, Donaghue & Monaghan), senor.

      You cannot substitute on-site tours for reading, maps, rereading. Start with MacGuire’s map, and walk the maps, like any student at the Academy, bunkie.

      In short, you have not been in battle, not read much, and, like most people today, you foist opinion as fact, and thus, refuse to admit defeat to scholars.

      The best sense

  61. Sm8213 says:

    I think Mr Prescott make a very valid point of spending time on the actual ground. Yes engagements are studied without actually being in the field however….. From a contextual standpoint nothing beats seeing the terrain first hand rather then second source. To categorize anyone involved in this engagement as a “coward” or “traitor” is absolutely bankrupt. None of us was there that day. There is no way to definitively know all of the variables that influenced the tactical decisions made on the field. Once again I would stress how confusing combat can be when everything is going your way. When it’s not its akin to herding cats with a pogo stick. I’ve been in both situations and neither one of them was fun. There is a reason we do staff rides at CGSC on the actual ground that the fight occurred on. Anyone who has visited Gettysburg since the tree lines were restored to their war time locations will understand how much that has changed the perspective. The reality is that Gen Custer engaged a superior force on unknown ground. He did so using the appropriate doctrine of the period given the know “normal” reactions of his opponent. Unfortunatly it wasn’t a “normal” day or a “normal” opponent. He was engaged piecemeal enveloped and rolled up. To insinuate some kind of conspiracy by Benteen and Reno is in my opinion a bit of a reach. These men had very little time to make the decisions that some would like to criticize. I assure you it’s much harder to do under fire and exsausted. As I stated before I’m of the opinion that Custer was wounded early in the engagement. It’s one explanation for the events that transpired as the unit withdrew from the river. It isn’t however the only possible explanation. We will never know.

  62. Sm8213 says:

    For Benteen and Reno to move north would have entailed either leaving the wounded behind or attempting to maneuver with them in tow. If you suggest leaving the wounded and medical staff on their own you are leaving them to certain death. If you are suggesting that Benteen and Reno should have further split the command in an attempt to relieve Custer you are guaranteeing the destruction of the entire unit. If I’m not mistaken they were not clear on where Custer was and what his tactical situation was. Clearly they knew they were facing a enemy with numerical superiority and the ability to maneuver without restriction. They did precisely what they had been trained to do. They dug in and held what they had. Any attempt to maneuver would have strung out the command due to the terrain and wounded. That would have resulted in their being over run in short order. They would have been caught in the open worse then they already were and cut to pieces. Unfortunatly for Custer he was out of range of any mutual support. Further more the issue on last stand hill was all but decided as Weir reached a point where he had line of sight to the engagement. As it was Weir had a hard time getting back. As an officer you have an obligation to fight your unit to the best of your ability. Sacrificing your men for a maybe and a fist full of unknowns is not a viable option. At that point of the action I’m not sure they knew if it was a matter of them going to Custer or Custer coming to them. When they lost the ability to maneuver in the face of numerical superiority they made the only decision that makes any tactical sense. Dig the f#%k in and hold the line. Did Reno lose his cool in the valley? Mabye. Did Benteen hate Custer? Maybe. The reality is thoes two officers fought a successful defensive engagement in the face of overwhelming enemy superiority and brought their commands out of the field for all intensive purposes intact. As for the “let Custer get himself out of it” comment. How many times have you seen people put themselves in a posistion where the heard or witnessed the key element. As a cop you know this “hey officer I saw the whole thing!” 9 out of 10 times they end up being full of it at some level. There was big traction to be gained by having been at the battle let alone at Benteen and Renos side. People like to feel important. Just my two cents…….ok more like a quater but what the hell!



    I suspect a fellow Officer. ( the CGSC gave you away.) A thousand years ago in 1971 I was a Tank Platoon Leader in I Corps ( 5th Mech) advised by radio by the Bn S3 to move my platoon to a certain location on Rt 9, west of FSB Vandergrift and east of the Laotian border and:
    1. Scoop up and take operational control of a leaderless Scout Platoon.
    2. Same-same with a Maintenence Section retrieving downed Tracks.
    3, Select a Night Defensive Position and employ those troops as well as my platoon in keeping to road open throughout the night and deny it to the enemy.

    Yes Virginia, there is a Pucker Factor. After successfully merging the forces, explaining the mission, setting out OP’s, RPG screens, wire, Claymores et al, I called in registration of 155mm Final Protective Fires to within 75 meters of our position. We were probed during the night, mortared, and reacted with 90mm main gun return fire only (Beehive rounds). You see, even in the dark, you can’t hide a Tank, so it makes sense to use them. In fact, let them know the tanks are manned and ready. The longest night of the lives of a lot of young men ( I was 23 at the time).

    Now, 42 years later that’s the war story of a senior citizen who served 27 years in the Army. BUT……. I certainly felt like I was in the Reno-Benteen position that night in 1971.

    Many of the contributors to various blogs do exactly as you state above: state opinions as facts, pass post-facto judgement based upon readings which may or may not be accurate, war game it based upon what facts have surfaced since the event, etc.

    Custer was a dynamic leader. However, he was extremely clanish with his family members and friends on staff, and chose to ignore those who differed with him, Reno and Benteen being among them. However, his common trait going back to the Civil War was the story that he changed his plans according to the gate and stride of his horse. Now, if he communicated a Plan B to his five Troop Commanders prior to his immortal charge, it ultimately died with them. Being repulsed at the river while attempting to enter the village he double backed to indefensible terrain for cavalry and started throwing out hasty skirmish lines, which dissolved as Indian pressure and his casualties grew. If Custer was alive throughout the Last Stand, I’m sure he knew early on that he was in a hopeless predicament. Retreat was not in his vocabulary. There are a half dozen Plan B’s that would have probably saved 50% of his Command, what you and I would call “Be Prepared” missions versus the “On Order” ones.

    I’m glad you jumped in and joined the conversation. It helped my gray matter………………..

  64. poetry77 says:


    We both agree on Custer in 76 is good to read. Would you please read Camp’s interviews with the officers, enlisted and scouts? would you please read the 3 interviews with Curly AND Camp’s summary of Terry’s orders.

    On the ride up the Rosebud from Powder Depot, Herendeen, Custer’s scout and guide in 72 & 74 pointed out to Custer 6-7 battles he had with the sioux along the Rosebud Custer never knew about.

    Gerard was a tough scout too. Both interviews with Camp will change your opinions.

    You can know ALL of Napoleon’s or Alexander’s strategy and never been at the Isthmus or Austerlitz. It’s called military strategy classes and that is how it’s done with table-size gorgeous maps prior to digital age.

    One end-note, the special ops of US Army from the Washita to Operation Spearhead: 10th Mountain, 11th Airborne and 9th Armored: IS WAS WILL EVER BE ….. Garryowen, senor.

    Cold food, what about the AM breakfast fires times 3 mornings? fatigued soldiers and horses, what about everyone’s testimony at RCOI, except reno-benteen??

    Camp’s roster, Hardoff’s roster, Hammer’s roster & Unger’s roster prove 20% new recruits to the crack, special ops, 7th Cav. Prove Me Wrong, senor.

    Most had the grit to beat the shit, laygh at to their face and state in their ears that ben & reno betrayed Custer. Grouard broke benteen’s jaw. Where you get the fallacious comments. It got so bad, to prove their names, reno called for an RCOI. Reason itg was convened.

    On his drunken death bed, benteen was screaming he did not betray Custer (documented by his wife & daughters).

    Hence, senor, please…please…PLEASE read Michno, Camp, Hammer, Hardoff, Unger, Utley, Wert, Monaghan, Donaghue, Graham, Nichols, Urwin, Upton, Kuhlman, Gray, N.Miles & Carroll, and please cite/reference what you state or I will not answer.

    It would do you well to take a course in military strategy & then a grad course too. The best sense of a battle comes from military strategy books for strategists and, for laymen (Camp, Hammer, Wert, Hardoff, Michno, Donaghue & Monaghan), senor.

    You cannot substitute on-site tours for reading, maps, rereading. Start with MacGuire’s map, and walk the maps, like any student at the Academy, bunkie.

    In short, you have not read much, and, like most people today, you foist opinion as fact, and thus, refuse to admit defeat to scholars.

  65. Sm8213 says:

    Sir you invalidate your own posistion with petty insults. The statement that you can “know” all of Napoleans or Alexander’s strategy without having been there may in fact be true. However claiming to know how that strategy was implemented and why without having seen the ground first hand is ignorant. There is NO comparison to being on the actual ground. That’s why a map recon is concidered a poor substitute for an eyes on recon in professional circles. If you are truly a member of the spec war community as you have alluded you would know that. To engage in a friendly discussion requires respect for others opinions and views. It requires a willingness to accept that you might be mistaken. You were not there. You are basing your opinion (and its only an opinion) on second and third source material. Maybe you should take a course in reaserch sir. Every party to the post event debate had a perspective to the event. Some based in experience others in first source information. ALL of it subject to personal perspective and values. Sir clearly you’re well read on the topic please use that knowledge to all of our benefit rather then attacking and impugning men who have the same interest you do. Unless you can DEFINATIVLY prove that Reno was a coward and Benteen a traitor don’t say such things. Reno was cautious at LBH perhaps to a fault. Could he have held the wood longer? Maybe. That action may have also cost him the rest of his unit. Did Reeno drag his feet? Maybe. He was also instructed to “bring packs”. Does that mean bring just the pack his “battalion” (not even a full strength company by today’s standards). Or does it mean bring up the entire train? It subjective sir. Either interpretation would be correct. The tactical situation developed so quickly that given the distances involved it would have been neigh impossible to support Custer. In my opinion (once again it’s only my OPINION) Gen Custer continued to aggressively beyond the ability of his units to support him or vice versa. Had Reno and Benteen done the same there is a good chance they would have suffered the same fate. Clearly they made the decision based on the tactical situation that they were unable to continue to effectively maneuver. Just as Col Moore went to ground in the Ia Drang and Capt Alger went to ground out side of Dak Seang in 67. They made the decision / determination that a defensive stance was in the best interest of their commands. I find it compelling that you do not criticize Custer for failing to go to Reno’s aid when Reno was getting backed into a corner. I can only assume tha General Custer had a very good reason for not doing that based on the tactical situation he had before him. Furthermore if you look at the disposition of Gen Custers battalion around last stand hill it’s clear he or whoever was in command at that point was attempting to rally and hold the high ground. Precisely what Reno and Benteen did in the face of the same foe. You mention mistakes that Gen Custer made during his approach march to the engagement. You are clearly correct. He violated some basic tenets of was that are taught at the academy. However they were conscious decisions made in the interest of maintaining the combat effectiveness of his unit. They also teach you at the academy to weigh and balence your decisions. If I were going to level any criticism it would be his failure to actively and aggressively recon. I don’t feel that he had a clear understanding of his opponent prior to commuting his resources beyond recall. As you well know he had a habit of doing this on the plains. Maj Elliott and his detachment paid the price for that before. Having said all of this I wasn’t there. I will never know all of the factors that influenced the decisions that were made. Neither were you. To disparage another educated guess (and that’s all any of this really is) is innapropriate at best.



    Your statement above is a cut and paste of an earlier one ??.

    1. Have no idea what your reference to US Army Special Ops/10th Mountain division (Ft Drum,NY), 11th Airborne Division, or 9th Armored Division has to do with Gary Owen or the conversation…………….

    2. You’re correct about the hot meals. NARA records indicate for the 7th’s 21 Day Menu that on 25 June 76 they had bacon and eggs, toast, grits, coffee, and a banana for potassium. Hot/Cold- the meals are a trivial pursuit issue, nothing more. I’m glad they got at least one final Class A meal prior to riding into immortality.

    3.You use the term “Strategy” quite a bit. Strategy is “Planning the Tokyo Victory Parade on Monday, December 8th, 1941, and then creating a timeline of events which result in the Parade.” There was no “Strategy” at LBH……Tactics, yes, “Strategy”, no. Custer’s tactics on 25 June 1876 were fragmented, and did not take into account the most basic of plains warfare principle- Indian opposition.

    4. The Custer-Reno- Benteen saga will be debated for years to come. There is no finite conclusion to be drawn by any Historian. Each new book simply provides ( if it’s good) a new spin on unanswerable questions.

    5. If Custer suspected Reno and Benteen of disloyalty, there was always that old adage, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”. Why would he have given each a Battalion? Why would he “bank” on Reno to charge into the southern end of the village? Why not his brother Tom, or brother-in-law Calhoun , or Myles Keough with “Wild I” in the fore front? Too risky !!!

    6. Benteen had no daughters, only a son who retired as a an LTC or Colonel in the US Army.

    7. Books and reading research are fine. They provide an excellent introduction to and basic knowledge of any subject of interest. I read extensively on a variety of subjects, and conduct volunteer research on MIA’s from WWII for submission to JPAC It involves dozens of hours at times to come up with one definitive clue, location, event, or living witness who can be tracked down.I find it refreshing when something definitive can be conclusively proven and forwarded to JPAC for assignment.
    With the Little Big Horn Battle, there is nothing that can be proven conclusively. The participants are all dead. The Army and Congress lost a golden opportunity in not holding immediate hearings/investigations into precisely what went wrong, when, where, and by whom.
    In conclusion, Walter Mason Camp wrote extensively about the battle, VISITING the battlefield on numerous occasions with Actual PARTICIPANTS, and MAPPED it extensively. Perhaps the first of the people we call Investigative Journalists/Reporters. Many of the authors you cite start with Camp and put their personal spin on the battle from there. Dr. Marquis is a suspect secondary source, as, although he interviewed surviving Indian veterans of the battle, it was done via Interpreter, and it is now recognized that much was left subject to interpretation. Off the top of my head, these are the only two who dealt with living witnesses/participants. And they both did it in a desire to seek the truth.

    If you live within driving distance of any American battlefield: Revolutionary, Civil, or Indian Wars, visit it, then thoroughly research it, and finally re-visit it with a map for an entirely different perspective.And, whenever visiting the battlefield try to put yourself in the soldier’s shoes. And above all, don’t start off at the Visitors Center, unless you need to use the restroom..

    • poetry77 says:

      Garryowen existed at Phillipines 1890s, Berlin 1945-1986, Korea at the parallel, Korea Pousan ‘bowling alley’. Garryowen, MT is NW of divide + So of Custer’s Battlefield & Hardin, more-less direct So of Squaw Creek.

      10th mountain? 11th airborne? US Army special ops? We went into Op Spearhead and never been on that battlefield ’cause: We Created Those Battlefields. It’s always good to ‘see’ the battlefield before hand, BUT (faraday’s BUT), when there ain no playin field & coach draws the plays on blackboard or you see the maneuvers, alexander – austerlitz, on blackboard, you know more than terrain ever can tell.

      Garryowen, senor

      • poetry77 says:

        OOPS, Vernon.

        Left out that Garryowen existed at the DMZ in V. Nam

        Sorry for the delete.

        Garryowen, Vernon,


  67. Sm8213 says:

    Once again sir…..Well said.

  68. Jim Stark says:

    …have to chime in. Pretty sure it was Custer’s Luck and in a couple of other books that I read that Custer DID send a search party for Elliot at Washetaw. Benteen complained that they should keep looking instead of packing up in face of the mounting hostiles.
    Did not Miles also tour the battlefield with actual Indian participants?
    Due to practices of the day, could Custer have assigned superseded rank in placed who he wished in command?
    Of course Custer would’ve tried to hold the high ground near the end of his battle…his brother just rode up from the pack train and probably told him that Benteen was a couple of minutes behind him.
    Interviews with Pretty White Buffalo Woman tells how when Reno first appeared the camp was defenseless…the men were off running for their ponies. The “gully” stopped Reno’s charge, but didn’t stop the Indian scouts from raiding, nor stopped his soldiers that lost control of their horses and ran into the village.
    Wasn’t it Grouard that said they could’ve held the timber as long as they wanted? Wasn’t French contemplating putting a bullet in Reno’s head when he lost it in the timber? Wasn’t the timber in a depression and in an inside bend of the river? Seems like a dandy defensive position to me.
    Wouldn’t the movement of some of Custer’s troops to the river be an act of support for Reno relieving some of the pressure from him?
    In interviews with Sitting Bull, did he not state that if Reno/Benteen would’ve advanced towards the Indians they would’ve fled since they would have two fronts to fight?
    All this stuff is pretty cool…seems like two of us read the same books, and the other two read different books. And, having seen the battlefield personally, I have to agree with the poster that said looking at a map is pretty much good enough. Knowing how to read a topographical map does just as much good as being their in my honest opinion. Only difference is that by walking one can be sure of the potential of a river crossing.


    • poetry77 says:

      Garryowen Jim:

      Stinkin bull to Buffalo Bill, crazy segregationist to Bismarck Tribune, Two Moon to same paper (1877 eds), Red Pony (horse), etc, etc, &c All have said that they watched “Corn-Hair” and his men looking in the the direction of the squaws (reno’s men). Donahue “Battle Lines” show the arrangement of the companies E-F-I-C/L in almost direct line to Weir Point & ‘the squaws’.

      No injin fiting that day could understand: 1-When ‘Corn-hair’ successfully charged off HQ/CommandCenter to defend Keogh’s back (Co. I) & Finley-Calhoun-Nye/Cartwright Hills (Cos. C+L), the Indians were shocked why he stopped. Mary Crawler (Pretty Walker, Walks In Eagle Robe) the only woman fiting that day, 6/25, could not understand why Long hair did not run away NW, BUT chose to defend his troops instead, SE (J. of LBHA. 2011, 25, 12-20). 2-Why the squaws did not fite from the timber, why they ran like turkeys & why, after the injins left them alone, they did not run to help their brothers. In this last testimony Gall, Red Pony, LoneDog, etc are telling us that for at least 1.5 hours (not inclu Med Tail Creek) there were No Injins at Sundance Creek, supporting the testimony of the 8 Ree scouts to Terry and to Miles, yrs later.

      Little Horn, as we all know, is very serpentine. It changes course every few months, floods often (LBHA Newsletter. 2011. 20(6).) Reno spoke of a trench that hid the injins ‘galloping’ to the skirmish line. The skirmish line is disputed: Nichols, ,RCOI; Unger, ABCs Custer’s Last Stand; Clark’s interview Bismarck Tribune, 6/11/1877; MacGuire’s map puts it at Shoulder Blade Creek, unacceptable to RCOI (Nichols, RCOI).

      The trench has never been located & MacGuire testified it never existed , testimony striken frfom RCOI minutes, appearing in Chicago Tribune archives.

      Thank you for your input, Jim.

      Garryowen, P77

  69. Sm8213 says:

    I can’t speak to the practice of how officers were assigned. What I can tell you is Gen Custer trusted Reno with a battalion of his troops. Battalion command is not a responsibility bestowed lightly. I would disagree in your comparison between moving Indian scouts effectively over a terrain obstacle as compared to three companies of cavalry. A fair percentage of the troops were inexperienced at best. Moving into and attempting to move through would have at best canalized the unit. There is no way they could have maintained the momentum of the charge. Reno faced 5 to 1 odds for an hour without any support. Accepted military theory states that the defense is favored 3 to 1. In my humble opinion defending a depression with your back against a river in the shadow of a dominating terrain feature is less then ideal. A hell of a lot less ideal. Reno’s retreat from the timber was poorly timed, communicated and executed. I don’t think anyone would argue that. However it was the correct decision from a tactical sense. He was withdrawing toward support to better ground in the face of tremendous enemy pressure. Pressure that had already flanked him on his left and was well on the way to flanking him on the right and gaining the high ground. As you stated more then half of the Indians were still at the north end of the village when Reno advanced. That still leaves one hell of a lot of Indians. Remember the Indians that engaged Reno did not make it to the other end of the battlefield until the very last stages of Gen. Custer being overrun. As to Gen. Custer’s brother telling him Reno was right behind I can’t speculate. What I can say is Boston Custer was not responsible for executing the movement of 3 companies and a supply train. Benteen had been ordered to bring packs. Once he reached Reno he was for all intensive purposes engaged. For the reasons I stated above it would have been unwise to continue north at that point. As to the statement that you are saying about French. He was a less then solid witness (I’m being generous here) as his later actions would prove. Gen. Custer continued to aggressively maneuver north after Reno was withdrawing. He moved away from his supporting elements which would indicate he still was unclear as to the actual situation. In regards to your comment about maps etc. I would encourage you to find the closest steep hill on your topo map. Take a really good look at it. Now put 30 pounds worth of shit in a backpack and walk up that same hill. Respectfully sir it’s two completely different things. Topo maps can be very deceptive. They also tend to distort your perception of actual lines of sight. All things that you will immediately grasp if you are standing on the actual ground. As to Maj. Elliott I am unaware of any significant attempt made to find his detachment. I may be mistaken about this however. One mans perspective “we could have held those trees forever” doesn’t mean it’s true. They DID hold the high ground. There isn’t any speculation involved. You stated “Of course Custer moved to the high ground”. You’re right, it’s was the logical decision to occupy the most defendable ground available to you. Reno did the same thing without getting his command decimated in the process. When you objectively look at the decisions that these officers made you realize they all made the same decisions! The difference being that Custer moved away from his supporting elements and Reno moved towards them. Honestly I don’t believe that Gen. Custer had the option of moving toward his supporting elements once he was retreating to high ground. I think he took the last viable option he had. Once again I don’t know I wasn’t there.



    Elliott rode off with a small detachment, not expecting trouble and unfortunately found it. If a Search Party was sent, it was rather cursory in nature. There was no initial thorough search.
    Nelson Miles may have toured the Battlefield years later.Not sure, but probably so. It became a minor tourist attraction between 1877 and 1890.
    Custer was Custer. He could probably have done as he wished on the eve of engaging the village. Except for Reno ( a Major), everyone else was a Captain. He could have solved the Reno issue by keeping him tucked close in the Headquarters element, or giving him a two or three troop “wing” with the Custer Battalion.
    Boston Custer: There was a big difference in the distance covered by a single rider mounted on a horse, versus a pack train of ammunition laden mules being driven and cajoled by Teamsters. If he told his big brother the Packs were behind him on the trail and coming up, that was a big misnomer. Factually speaking, I THINK the Pack Train was the last to arrive at the Reno-Benteen site. On a wild GUESS on my part, I would say if it took Boston 10 minutes to reach brother George, that Pack train was probably an hour behind, easy… THIS IS MY GUESS. (Do not want to start arguments). Truth be known, we’ll never know.
    Custer’s Indian Scouts: After finding the “bad Indians”, the “good Indians” were free to do their thing: leave, steal ponies, fight, count coup, etc. Some stayed, fought, and died. Some opted to remain with Reno on the hill, etc. Others left. The lower end of the camp may have been defenseless, but what was the estimate, a three mile long camp?? Not sure, but it was a quite large, and linear in shape. The few soldiers that wound up by themselves in the village probably had spooked or injured horses, and even they didn’t wind up too deep into the village.
    Personally, if Reno had succeeded in charging and entering the village, dollars to donuts he would have been whittled down to himself, a guidon bearer, and a bugler withing the the first half mile. *** I am of the OPINION THAT THE ENTIRE UNIFIED COMMAND COULD HAVE DONE IT FROM WHATEVER ENTRY POINT CUSTER SELECTED, WITH PROPER RECONNAISSANCE.***

    The Timber was a hasty Defensive position that was slowly being enveloped on the flanks and warriors. It did not take them ( the warriors) long to react- 5 minutes? 10 minutes ? – and they were returning effective fire on an individual basis. I really doubt anyone wanted to stay there once the return fire got hot. Defend four sides: start with 120 men, subtract horse holders (30) divide the 90 by 4 (sides)= 22 men per side on a box defense, less casualties. Not much defense in depth there..Also, your now, say, 200 yards from the lower end of the village, with service ready ammunition only, in, a square, rectangular, or circular defensive position on low ground. Not good in my estimation. (OPINION-OPINION). Don’t know about the CPT French contemplation……..
    Grouard: MY OPINION- I lot of post game analysis on his part. An awful lot………..
    Sitting Bull: Like me , offering an opinion on what might have happened. No one was taking orders from Sitting Bull that day. Does anyone know where Sitting Bull was in the village that day, in relation to the Reno charge, or Custer’s attempted penetration of the village?? I don’t……. My GUESS: He witnessed initial panic, say, within a 100 yards of where he was and drew a conclusion that may or may not have been accurate…… We’ll never know.

    Books, trips, the Net, You Tube……. if you’re a Custer Buff or a LBH fan, it’s all the same. You try to pick up snippets of information or something you were not previously aware of from any source available.
    There’s a book I’m waiting on:: They Died With Custer, authored by Douglas D. Scott, P. Willey, and Melissa A. Connor. Has a lot to do with skeleton/bone discovery and collection on the Battlefield(s). There’s a portion of it on the Net. Check it out. Seems interesting, and leads me to believe that we’ll never know, with certainty, who, by Unit, died where, except for the Officers. (My INITIAL OBSERVATION ONLY)
    Great chatting and interacting.


    Don’t understand your references to “Garry Owen” unless you’re referring to any generic or non-generic Cavalry Unit in those organizations. Can you elaborate with deliberation and preciseness, as I’m at a loss as to the “point” to be made. Or is this in reference to some “Dungeons and Dragons” stuff? For example, 3/5 Cav was on the DMZ with 1/77 Armor in RVN ( 5th Infantry Division (-) ). No direct lineage w/ 7th Cavalry by either Unit. If you’re referring to ” in spirit” well, of course. Armored Cavalry and Armor are, by their very nature. aggressive: Firepower-Mobility-Shock Action.

  72. poetry77 says:

    Companies divided in armoured airborn infantry. camp garryowen 1877-1986, every battle USA. Op Spear had divisions in mountain, armoured airborn, 12 letters in all, just as in 1876.

    I think we can all agree: benteen was a bastard, belligerent liar, got his jaw broke for betraying Custer, died screaming he did not betray Custer, became morose and sullen and victim of alcohol abuse, court martial 1884=charges of drunk/disorderly, plagued like Macbeth (Utley? Unger? Camp? Barnett? can’t recall). At Custer Hill,
    6/28/76, benteen said, seeing the body 1st time: “there he lies, God damn him, he’ll never fite no more”. Herendeen turned to Terry who gave benteen what-for. Herendeen, scientifically spit some plug & said “If’n I kitch you, I’ll do fer Terry and now, you got that!” Terry ordered Benteen to say yessir to a civilian scout. Thus, Grouard walked into Lincoln after Slim Buttes, and scientifically spit on benteen forehead layin unconscious in Sutler’s Store, for Custer?? Terry?? Herendeen??

    Benteen of D-H-K took the BE QUICK, put it in shirt pocket, spent 3 hrs on the hill before telling reno and, hence, proving beyond a shadow, he deserved his jaw-broke monicker of betrayer, as witnessed by Martini and told to RCOI and to Camp.

    Reno was in his 1st injin battle, got drunk at early morn 6/25, was reluctant to charge, rode with Ree Indians in back of charge, whole rout lasted less than 15 min, was a ‘turkey shoot’ every man for himself and 1st to leave without any call to retreat, 1st to leave (not last to leave), maj reno of A-G-M.

    Coward renowas butt of Sutler Store jokes rel to LBH massacre, was detested by the 7th commanders & troopers, court martialed 11/24/79=acts of sex perversion/drunkenness & D/c’d 4/1/80, died of cancer of tongue in drunk stuper, 1889.

    When Weir=CO co. D arrived with benteen=D-H-K on the hill, 10-15 min after the survivors of reno’s rout were on the hill, volleys commenced & 3 men took out their watches and timed events: Gerard in timber with 12 men=firing lasted 2.5 hrs; Herendeen on the hill=firing lasted 2.5 hrs; Weir on the hill=firing lasted 2 hr 20 min. Everyone heard 3 sets of volleys & intermittent fire for over 2 hrs EXCEPT freno-benteen at RCOI.

    8 Ree scouts tell Terry, injin accounts state the squaws on the hill faced no fire for a long enough time to help their brother & did not.

    These we all know & the dispute over cowardice-betrayal is mere constipation by custerophobes from brininstool-marquis-grinnell-graham to now. All objective historians will tell you these facts, like it or not.

    The battle from Med Tail Creek to Custer Hil=2 to 3 hrs & injins accounts agree.

    There is a timeline of events that is a range of times & Camp was mostly right in debates with brininstool & marquis.

    There is an order, time line, set of events, forensics on the spot by Bradley, Terry, Brisbin, and mostly Dr. Porter: Mutilation in the extreme.

    Stay away from Custerphobes, inclu Fox, they have an axe to grind.

    To wind it up: Camp-Michno-Cornut=(French is Mandatory).

    Final Shot: French, CO co. M (reno=A-G-M): “If I had him (reno) here, I’d shoot him”.

    Custer’s last easy day was 6/24.



    American Military units have always had alpha and numeric designators since the formation of the United States Army. Nothing new…… it’s tradition, and develops Unit bonding even today. Prior to it being formalized, you had units like “Lamb’s Light Artillery” ( American Revolution) and “The New Orleans Greys” (the Alamo), etc.

    Grouard: Must have been 7 foot 8 or 9, hairy, swarthy, wearing buffalo robes, a human ear necklace, and toting a Bible and Bowie knife because……….spit on me while I’m unconcsious, and you can get bet you’ll have a third eyeball very shortly after I’m awake and sober…………

    Not one of the white Scouts went public with ” we can make it to Custer” during the actual battle.No one pushed for a gallant charge to relieve the boss. Even Weir backed down at Weir Point when the hostiles were massing to his front. Only after the battle concluded was there dialogue as to whether Custer could have been rescued. .

    Remember also, Custer was Court-Martialled as well for deserting his command to check on Libby during the Cholera epidemic, earler in his career. Court-Martials for various reasons seemed to be the norm on the frontier and at isolated outposts.

    Exactly where and when did Captain French make his statement, and to whom??? Under what circumstances?? Thomas French was Court-Martialled for drunkenness as well, post LBH.

    I guess the only money to be made on the frontier was being a Defense Attorney for 7th Cavalry Officers……………

  74. Sm8213 says:

    I stand here and shake my head in utter fu#%^*g bewilderment. So just to be clear anyone who has, had or will have a different view then yours is unobjective and ignorant? Sir have you read your last post? It’s quite possibly the most disjointed retarded thing I’ve ever read. Your ability to ignore some first person accounts while accepting others is without peer. I’ve honestly had more coherent conversations with my 9 year old son. Mr Prescott I’ve enjoyed the discussion sir. I’m unable to continue in a positive manner so I will sign off for now.


  75. ukblue says:

    Please remember that Custer was never defeated in battle except at the LBH.And if Reno or Benteen obeyed orders he would have had another victory and they knew it.


    I think that if Reno obeyed his orders to the letter, the Reno Battlefield Monument would be under water in the Little Big Horn River every spring….. I also think: (OPINION)
    1. Fragmentation of the 7th by intent of the Commander into Battalions or Wings which were incapable of supporting each other.
    2. A failed penetration of the village on the part of the Custer Battalion ( no one really comments on why they were repulsed at the river): Loss of the Boss? Superior Opposition Firepower ? Loss of Forward Momentum? An “Oops, bad spot, let’s find another?”
    3. Suppose Custer had taken Reno’s Battalion, in reserve, say 1/4 mile behind him, or even co-located with him: 8 Troops of Cavalry instead of 5 ? Enough penetration power? Enough to cross the river, enter the village, swing north, and bulldoze their way through? Who knows? Custer ignored the principle of Mass-maximizing your force against the enemy.
    4. Presuming Benteen advanced with the Pack Train across 2 to 3 miles of terrain to Last Stand Hill. How many of his men would have gotten through? At best, you could perhaps trot ( don’t forget those pack mules). You can’t gallop and leave the Pack Train in the dust, straggling and strung out. Of course, we’ll never know.
    5. Destiny: Bloody Knife had premonitions. Mitch Boyer, as well, telling Curley to leave, Myles Keogh with his last Will, Lt. Harrington’s recurring nightmares of being burned at the stake by savages, Lonesome Charley Reynolds giving away his few possessions prior to the battle, etc. Stuff that movies are made of…… A lot of the players had bad feelings about this campaign.

    6. Reno and Benteen didn’t contribute to the bad medicine. In fact, they were victims of it- hounded in later years, always pegged with questionable loyalty, etc. Custer and Cooke witnessed Reno’s repulse in the valley from the heights. They did not “Support him with the whole outfit”….. That is the precise point where the “Plan went South”.

    • poetry77 says:

      Good evening everyone,

      Thank you UKBlue; you hit the mark: succinct & accurate. For Custer to be defeated, took “an inside job”. your hit, like wild bill hitting the ‘0’ in hotel, was so good, i’m laughing in disbelief.

      In Camp’s interview with Curley, 1908, after the 1st 2 volleys, Finley & Calhoun Hills, Custer and Bouyer had a hasty discussion. Bouyer told Curly Custer decided if a stand could be made somewhere the remainder of regiment would soon come. Bouyer did not expect this too happen because “the other commanders are too scared” (Custer in 76). Garryowen, UK!

      Hi Vernon. Quote of French: custerwest & “Marcus A. Reno: What was said to him at LBH”, Bklyn, NY: Arrow & Trooper Pub. This latter is impossible to locate. Arrow & Trooper no longer in Bklyn Ny.

      Grouard as tall as Buffalo Bill, much broader shoulders, nec-to legs like a box, solid muscle, weighed 40 lbs more than Bill too. 3 hard busters could scientifically spit chaw and miss their boot tip by a fraction of a millimeter while putting a bullet in your head: Grouard, Herendeen, California.

      When you saw a hard buster with an injin-whacker-walk, you got out of the way praying it wasn’t for you they’s walkin. Werent long after that broke jaw benteen got his transfer to 9th cav, was it? Thats wut I’dder did too, an you too Vernon. Only fite rules is walk out after, thats the rule I heerd, back then. He was a walking tank, quick eye, fast-slow shootist, pathfinder-plainsman-pistoleer.

  77. poet 77 says:


    youve done it again. blessed hindsite: never split the regiment. The lawyer & CO Terry suuggested “feel to your left” and benteen sent with 3 cos to the left; stop a southerly retreat; push the injins north to Terry-Gibbon.

    there was no communication between Crook & Terry: Mar 17-defeated by chien (Camp-Custer 76?); June 17-defeated by sioux-pirates. June 23, Gibbon located sioux-dog villages & never told Terry (Utley-Cavalier).

    When the volleys: 1+2, were heard at Finley-Calhoun, 2/3 of the 7th could have infiltrated with thunder (N.Miles). Bouyer tells Curly benteen-reno, both too scared to come (Camp-Custer 76). Approx 30-45 min later, Custer changes his tune. injins all over Finley-Calhoun-Nye/Cartwright, Custer Ridge. Custer tells Mitch, they may all be killed, dismiss Indian Scouts. Mitch tells Curly, and tells him to leave (Custer 76). Volley 3 heard, no reaction from the cowsrd + betrayer. 2.5 hours sitting on as hill doing nothing, a major looking to abandon his troops. The most organized co, co M, getting angrier by the min, French exasperated by both the coward & betrayer.

    To play ‘what if’:
    what if they flew like blue light to sound of 1st 2 volleys?

    What if, instead of a skirmish line at Shoulder Blade (in front of the invisible trench that could hide a 6-foot buck on a horse!), allowing the injins time to group, attack, repulse and rout, they charged into that village, giving Custer support at an unprotected med tail ford? considering that: Crow King, Eagle Elk, HeDog, Hollow Horn Bull, Respects Nothing & WhiteCow Robe, Runs The Enemy, Hump, Kill Eagle, LowDog, Iron Hawk, Standing Bear, Spotted Horn Bull’s Wife all claimed the troops had them, they were drunk or crazy to have stopped??

    What if reno was not drunk/drinking since 9AM (Gerard, Herendeen, 2 packers, RCOI-Nichols)? What if reno wasn’t in back of his troops during the charge & first to retreat w/o even a yell, a fortiori, a trumpet blast?

    What if reno, at least stayed in the timber? I heard an officer say: Company A halt! lets fite them. For God’s sake, dont run (testimony Herendeen-RCOI). I think reno couldve held out against the indians (in the timber) (testimony Gerard-RCOI).Gerard remembers Lonesome’s comment when hearing about retreat from timber: what is this damn move (testimony Gerard-RCOI). I thought to move out into the prairie was certain death (testimony Gerard-RCOI). But then, who were plainsmen like lonesome, gerard, herendeen, anyway?

    what if, at a 15 minutes from Custer Hill, there’d a bin a charge up finley-calhoun of 2/3 of the 7th cav?


  78. ukblue says:

    During Renos attack his pooly led and helpless troops had no choice,,military discipline and order were abandoned.In one mad dash they followed reno to the river in an inexcusable panic,due mainly to the incompetent conduct of a cowardly commander.In vain some of the best officers of the column tried to rally and protect the rear of the column.The Indians were not in over powering numbers at that point,and a bold stand could have saved the day.But with the Major on the run,the lieutenants could do nothing,but die bravely and in vain.

    • Sm8213 says:

      Strange………every officer under Renos command during his advance on the village stated that Reno was mounted and in from of the unit during the charge. The ONLY exception to this is a Pvt. Taylor. This is the same guy who claimed he saw Reno drink an amber colored liquid from a flask while at a full gallop during the charge. He also claimed Reno was behind him at the time (bulls***). Strangely he was Mrs. Custers pen pal at the time. Hmmmmmm weird. Capt. Molyan, Lt. Hare and Lt DeRudio all stated that Renos decision to dismount was the correct decision. Lt. Hare stated that “the warriors came pouring out of the coulee as if they had been waiting for us.” So lets see……… A small group of Indians runs away and is pursued. Once the pursuers are separated from any support they are confronted by approx 400 Indians “pouring” out of a concealed posistion. Hmmmm……..what ever could that be ukblue? Noooooo it couldn’t have been a well executed tactical deception and trap! It must have been Maj. Renos fault! How about you P77? Since you clearly know “all of Napoleans and Alexander’s strategy.” Reno led the advance from the FRONT. He extended his line as the terrain opened. Dismounted and formed skermishers. Conducted a fighting withdraw while keeping the unit intact into a covered posistion. He then had the audacity to poorly execute another withdraw to a BETTER posistion after having his friends brains blown all over him. The withdraw out of the wood line was poorly communicated and executed. That is without question. The officers in Renos battalion i.e. Capt. Moylan, Lt. Varnum, Lt. Wallace, Lt. DeRudio, Lt. Hare, ALL credited Maj. Reno with not only saving the Battilion by halting the charge and dismounting (Lt. DeRudio “If we had gone 500 more yards we would have been butchered” Capt. Moylan ” if Reno had continued the charge down the valley, we would have been there yet.”). They also credited him with saving it a second time by withdrawing out of the timber (Capt. Moylan “The object of leaving the timber was, if possible to save the command” Lt. Varnum “The Tim ER was not a safe place.””I don’t think Reno had men enough to hold it and keep the Indians out.” Lt. Wallace “We had no protection…we were being surrounded…I think Reno did the only thing possible under the circumstances. If we had remained in the timber, all would have been killed.” Lt. Hare ” Maj. Reno stayed in the timber til [sic] all hope of support from Custer had vanished. I think the reason we left was because if we stayed much longer , say 20 minutes, we could not have gotten out at all…If Reno had continued to advance mounted, I don’t think he would have gotten a man through; the column would not have lasted 5 minutes. His dismounting and deploying was all that saved us.”
      This is what the officers that were in the valley with him stated! None of em liked Reno! THEY WERE THERE! As to the what if comment made by P77. Well what if Custer had tactical air and cingars. Hell if had had a bitchen topo map, Ukblue and P77 by his side, MG 42’s with every squad three Panthers commanded by Whitmann everything would have ROCKED! What if’s are the luxury of amature arm chair generals.


    Hind sight is all we have. Everyone who participated has given up the ghost and gone to the Happy Hunting Ground or Fiddler’s Green, if you believe in that mysticism. No one left a Manuscript of ” What Really Happened at The Little Big Horn….Now It Can Be Told”. The Blogosphere exists for the very reason of “what if’s”: debate,opinions, other theories, and plain old jawboning. It provides insight into other people’s views on a topic multiple parties are interested in and enjoy. No more.No less.
    The Reno thing…… Not one Officer said:” The Major’s drunk, I’m assuming command”, or ” Take the Major to the Pack Train- he’s intoxicated”, or Place Reno under Guard-He’s drunk !!”. Didn’t happen……… Why? 1st SGT John Ryan (M) said they were surrounded on all four sides when the order to “Charge to the Rear!” came. Surrounded is “not a good thing” 200 yards or less from a large Indian village….
    No one raises the issue of why Custer’s charge was blunted at the river by a couple dozen dismounted warriors on the opposite bank? Did the Boss go down? Did losing three or four men cause total indecision as to the entry site selected? Why withdraw and dismount? Why lose the mobility force factor? Why not continue the ride- north to another entry point, east to better defensible terrain, south to the Pack Train and other Companies for a link up? We’ll never know. It’s a great historical mystery.

    Bottom Line- great topic to continually ruminate on !

    • poetry77 says:

      Vernon, UK, Jim, Gentlemen:

      If in any way my emails come off insulting, arrogant, etc, please forgive me because, had we been speaking around the table my tone, facial expression, other nonverbals, would ensure that i may be emphatic, but always polite.

      As always, UK, you sum everything up, in this case reno, like puttin a bullet thru the 0 in hotel.

      gentlemen, one of the chief judges at rcoi, merritt (no friend of custer) said to gen jesse lee, recorder at rcoi, at end of rcoi, and lee told this to 10/27/12: we have politely cursed him (reno) and whitewashed it over (Hardoff: with camp at lbh).

      i think that this is the coup-de-grace on reno. UK & I are saying the same things in 2 different countries.

      to be honest, vernon, my story of jaw walloping may be apocryphal. i have searched the ‘easy’ places, can’t find a reference. give me 2 weeks and then i’ll concede to consider this story groundless.

      must get back to duties gentlemen, will comment on 79 + 80 later or tomorrow.

      garryowen patriots,


  80. ukblue says:

    Do not forget gentlmen, Boston Custer was with Benteen on the scout after recieving the message from the Gen. Boston left Benteen and was killed on last stand hill with his brothers.

    • Sm8213 says:

      You’re correct he was. The problem with that supposition is the fact that Reno had to and was responsible for the movement and combat effectiveness of three companies of cavalry not to mention the pack train. Had he made the same movement it would have taken twice as long without including the pack train! Otherwise he would have arrived with three companies of guys with blown horses in the face of some 1800 Indians with fewer guys then Gen. Custer had! I think it’s pretty clear how that would have ended for not only Capt. Benteen but also the wounded and Remains of Maj. Reno’s battalion. It’s not enough to just get to the fight, you have to get to the fight in a condition to effectively fight. There’s a huge difference. There is no way Benteen or Reno could have changed the outcome given the way the units were deployed. Please don’t think I am an anti Custer guy. Honestly I am in awe of the mans professional accomplishments and courage. He employed his command in an appropriate, accepted manor straight out of the manual of the period against an enemy who had an established pattern of reacting. Unfortunately that’s not how they reacted this time. Gen. Custer continued to aggressively move north in an attempt to capture the non combatants. Another tactic that had worked before to end the fight. Once again it didn’t work this time. He was facing 5/1 odds. The Indians were also well led and really pissed off (read this as élan). The Indians were well rested and armed. Gen. Custer’s men were at the end of a forced march. All of these things play into the outcome of this engagement. Combat is exhausting. Maj. Reno’s men were done offensively once they reached high ground. Capt. Benteen could have continued to move north in an attempt to support Gen. Custer. He would have never been able to effect a link up with Gen. Custer and more then likely would have shared his fate somewhere in medicine tail coulee. I assure you, you can do everything right and still loose.


    • DAVE says:

      Hello UKblue, reading all the posts and lately. It would appear that SM8213 must be related to Major Reno. His defense of him is indefensable. We know that most everything is up for interpretation but I have read volumes on the LBH and digested most of what was said afterwords. I don’t know how anyone could come to the conclusion that Reno and Benteen did not fail Custer. There is tons of evidence showing that they did.

      SM8213 responded to one of my posts stating that Reno and Benteen did what a good commander would do and that is protect his men and not sacrifice them for nothing as most likely they all would have been killed. He went on to tell me that they could not go help Custer because of their wounded and could not leave them behind to be killed.

      Now that comment does make sense if you believe that the Indians were molesting them constantly, which is not the case. The Indians at a later point left to go join the Indians that were killing Custer. After all, Capt. Weir was able to leave and attempt to go help Custer.

      He also defends Reno’s failure to continue the charge into the village. They were CAVALRY! You lose when you stop, dismount and take a defensive position. More than one Indian chief said later that they were in fact taken by surprise and admitted that if Reno had kept up the charge, he would most likely overrun the village. It took the Indians some time to respond to Reno and Reno gave them that time.

      SM8213 said indicated that Reno was up against a large amount of Indians massing against him and made it sound like they were following a command or something when we know the Indains fought as individuals and did not have any command stucture that would order them to mass against another force.

      I served two tours in Vietnam and have been in law enforcement for 35 years so I know what combat is all about. I still do not give any quarter to Reno and Benteen. They failed Custer. Both served well during the civil war so I won’t say they were cowards. However, Reno especially, lost it that day and did not perform as he should have.

      I believe it comes down to human failings. Both Benteen and Reno hated Custer and were not about to make any attempt or risk their command to help him. I believe if they had been commanded by someone they liked, they would have done something more than stay on a hill and listen to Custer getting killed just a couple of miles away.

      My belief system tells me that, even if they believed that they all might die, they should have made an attempt to go help. There are some things worth dying for and some things are worse than dying. Later in life I bet Benteen and Reno had wished they HAD died that day as well. Being branded a coward is one of those things that is worse than dying.

      Think of this. We all know how brave Custer was. He was totally fearless in battle. Reverse the roles. Put Reno in Custer’s place and Custer in Reno’s place. What do you think Custer would have done? First off, he would have continued the charge into the village and most likely would have fought his way north and hook up with Reno. That is my take on it. They still may have all died, but Custer would not have failed to support his subordinates, not knowingly anyway.

      • Sm8213 says:

        No not related ;0). I am not by any means stating that Reno had a stellar performance. What I am saying sir is that Maj. Reno and Capt. Benteen would not have been able to save Gen. Custer. Maj. Reno had just been routed. Capt. Benteen would not have been able to move fast enough to have reached the fight in time with his fighting ability intact. Clearly Reno and Benteen were not under continuous pressure once they were on the high ground. Those Indians were still between them and Custer. As you stated Weir didn’t get through either. All I am saying is I don’t think it would have changed the outcome for Custer. It very well could have changed the outcome for Reno and Benteen’s commands. There is no question the command could have been employed more effectively. It wasn’t. Gen. Custer divided his already outnumbered force in the face of a numerically superior enemy. He compounded this by advancing out of the range of any kind of mutual support. Further dividing the command would only made an already disastrous situation worse. I’m only stating my opinion. No more no less. Once again sir I wasn’t there! What I will say us I would have made the same decision to dig in. Right or wrong. I do believe that any attempt to relieve Gen. Custer would have ended in the destruction of the entire command. In my humble opinion their number was up.


      • Waldo says:

        Think of this. We all know how brave Custer was. He was totally fearless in battle. Reverse the roles. Put Reno in Custer’s place and Custer in Reno’s place. What do you think Custer would have done? First off, he would have continued the charge into the village and most likely would have fought his way north and hook up with Reno. That is my take on it. They still may have all died, but Custer would not have failed to support his subordinates, not knowingly anyway.\

        We don’t have to speculate. We know what Custer would have done. Reno was hard pressed, was outflanked by numerically superior Indians, and retreated to the woods. Custer sent him and his 130 men into the village and said he’d support them. Did he actually support them? No! He did belatedly send a small number of trooper toward the river, but they retreated after a handful of Indians shot one of them. That’s about the opposite of your postulated Custer would have charged the village to support Reno. The truth is that he was extremely late to do anything to help Reno and what he did was incredibly minimal. Custer did not march to the sounds of the guns (Reno’s valley and timber fight). Instead he looked for a good way to either take the Indians from behind or capture a few noncombatants while leaving Reno to fend for himself. Anyone who condemns Reno/Benteen for not marching to support Custer (who they had no reason to know was in such bad straights due to his own incompetence in spreading out his men so much), needs to deal with Custer’s failure to support Reno as he said he would.


    To all:
    If Wesley Merritt felt that way , as the Chair/President of the RCOI, he should have shown some grit and perhaps initiated one of the following:
    1. An adjournment/recess to acquire additional witnesses, and make a compelling case one way or the other.
    2. Acquisition/ Testimony of Native Americans who participated in the battle.
    3. With “real sand”, referred the entire matter to Congress via the War Department for further Hearings.
    4. Recommend Reno be Court-Martialed on a variety of charges.

    Now, Merritt to Camp via Lee is heresay, unless Merritt wrote an article for the Army-Navy Journal back then, or Lee gave a dying declaration.

    History is full of artificially created.military debacles:

    a. MacArthur had a 8 plus hours warning in the Philippines to safeguard his air assets after the Pearl Harbor Raid. He chose to bide his time. Lost 80% of his air force. He could have initiated movement into Bataan Peninsula on 10 December, two weeks earlier than what he actually did. He left 50 million ( that’s right-million) bushels of foodstuffs in Manila, and utterly failed to secure the necessary medical supplies for a defensive jungle campaign.
    b. Hitler never provided Rommel with more than the equivalent of a small Mechanized Corps in North Africa, and expected him to take the Suez Canal. Supplies by air and sea were “negligible” at best.Ultimately, all the manuevering, capture of Allied supplies, and superb tactics could not save the Afrika Corps.

    c. Eisenhower placed Green Divisions in the lines at Ardennes. Thought it was a quiet sector. We know how that turned out.
    d. Cornwallis at Yorktown, awaiting his Fleet (that never arrived)
    e. Lee at Gettysburg, presuming an incursion of the North would take pressure off Richmond and affect the 1864 Presidential election.

    f. The Fetterman Massacre:” Give me eighty men and I can ride through the Sioux Nation”.

    You can match the terms with the events: Complacency, Ignorance, Cockiness, Poor Planning / No Planning, Poor Generalship, Bad Luck. Bad Karma – you name it. History is full of it.

    Finally 77, it’s not important whether Benteen got popped in the jaw, the noggin, or spit on, or any other such event. He was a difficult man to befriend and know, but on the battlefield, his men trusted him. Managed to last out a difficult career and collect a Pension-the bottom line. I’d rather dialogue with the group on more challenging issues, in order to pick up information I may or may not have been aware of.

    **Sm8213: If I offended you in any way, I apologize. I believe the post you referred to had a bit of tongue in cheek in it ( the Grouard piece) It was light humor-fiction. Made it up like Ned Buntline.

    Custer was Court-Martialled for leaving his command and checking on Libby.

    Captain French threatening to shoot Reno sounds like two drunks quarreling. If it occurred, it was a death threat. Not nice.

    I don’t think I called anyone unobjective or ignorant. It’s not in my nature. Like any interested person I question things when they just don’t sound right or make sense.

    I always look for first person narratives-They are the only ones that can be classified “eyewitness”. Of course, some have a way of twisting and winding their way to the facts, and some do have an agenda. It’s for the reader to decide. I decide for myself only. My views are mine only.

    Once again, sorry if you took it the wrong way…………

    • poetry77 says:


      when a chief justice speaks, ex parti, to chief prosecutor (recorder), that is history, especially when both men are speaking of someone that, to quote libby custer, they were jealous of, to say the least, no friend of. ex parti discussion is hearsay evidence in court, but obeys the evidentiary scientific principles of historical investigation, which is why the venerable utley, erudite hardoff, hammer have all used this evidence. the court hated reno because of his cavalier testimony that took 230 lives on or about Custer Hill.

      let’s not go into mac or ike, different entirely. you can trust, place your money on the historic accuracy of merritt, lee, camp, hardoff.



  82. Sm8213 says:

    No sir you didn’t offend me at all. What offends me is people calling men cowards when they have no clue what it’s like to make decisions that will cost men their lives. Decisions I have had to make and will carry with me for the rest of my life. I have no issue with objective discourse and enjoy different perspectives. I am however appalled by the ease at which they guys will brand a man a coward. These men fought and died against overwhelming odds. From my perspective if you have never been in combat you have no right to label men who have. Until you know how you would react who the hell are you to call another man a coward (I don’t mean you sir ). I have had the “pleasure” of leading men in combat multiple times since 1989. I’ve taken and lost ground. I’ve seen friends killed and maimed. I’ve seen good men reach their limit. None of them were cowards. To disparage another combat veteran about the decisions he made on the field when I wasn’t there goes beyond any sense of honor I can accept. You can disagree with the decision, speculate on other alternatives etc. There is no reason to call men cowards. I apologize for being passionate about this.


    • poetry77 says:

      because sm you dont know what i do for my country, probly similar to what youve done & vernon has done.

      i will not label benteen coward-BETRAYER, because the erudite walter camp did that in 1910 or thereabouts, because: hammer, unger, robert utley, michno, cornut in france, lbh society in usa & london, wert, capt weir-french-mcdougall-gerard-herendeen-martini-derudio-&-moylan were there & did that to both benteen & reno drunk-pervert-COWARD.

      this is 3rd time I’m writing with references you refuse to hear, ie, acknowledge. we call this intellectual constipation; why i never writ ta ya before.

      Are you listening?: Gen Merrit chief-judge at rcoi wrote gen lee chief-prosecutor, recorder, at conclusion of rcoi: “We have politely cursed him (reno) and whitewashed it over”. Lee told this to Walter Camp on 10/27/1912 (Hardoff-On LBH with Camp, pp 235-236).

      Now look, I’m the 1st person in these discussions to cite & reference everything I say & if I can’t reference, I say so. That’s called scholarly integrity.

      What you don’t like is: I’m knocking-out ‘combat veterans’ that mitch bouyer knocked-out to custer and curly (having seen these 2 membrane-sucker-pigs in action for 4 days of his plainsman’s disgust, ya got that sm!) mitch calling them both scared (Hammer-Custer 76, p 158).

      you cant fite history. they were pigs, drunks, cowards, betrayers, one was pervert, both were court martialed.

      first-last ta ya,

  83. Sm8213 says:

    Hmmmmm where to start……..intellectual constipation? Did you come up with that on your own? The reason you haven’t replied is you have no rational grounds to refute what I’m saying. I scoff at the idea that you are a professional soldier in any sense. You have zero comprehension of the military art in genral and have displayed that ignorance repeatedly during your vomit sessions. I call that stupidity and ignorance. All you have done is re gergitate other people’s research and make vague allusions to some sort of military background. If you were a professional you would recognize the sentient point I’m making. Unfortunatly you don’t even seem to have the ability to consistently conjugate verbs so I guess we shouldn’t expect much. I have quoted the RCOI as to how Renos officers felt I am waiting on a legible reply to that from you. Clearly whoever is responsible for your military education (no one is under any illusion that you have one) should be put against a wall. Just to be clear I’m thrilled that you haven’t responded. Since you seem to be fond of telling people to read here are two titles you might want to start with. Definitions and doctrine of the military art (John I Alger), The quest for victory also by Alger. His treatise on Jomini is relevant as well.

  84. Editor, HistoryNet says:

    Sigh. Every time we get a good discussion about the fight at Little Bighorn going on HistoryNet, it seems to devolve into name-calling. It has gotten so bad in some cases that we’ve had to close the discussion to further comments. It would be a shame to have to do that on this one, too. Come on, guys. State your arguments and hopefully cite sources, but cool it with the insults and personal attacks. Okay? Otherwise, everybody loses.


    To All:
    I agree with “the Boss” above.

    So, let’s see if I can approach the topic tacitly.

    1.Scouts: In the Old West during the Golden Era of Expansion…..there were dozens if not hundreds of Grouard’s,Reynolds,Gerard’s,Boyer’s…….most of whom are now nameless, faceless, and all but forgotten, unless the events in their lives coincided with battles, sieges, etc., and they were cited in Official records/accounts, and some author or historian is just now researching their exploits.Let’s focus on Mitch Boyer. Knowing that Custer was substantially outnumbered, why did he choose to ride to his death?? Why did he tell Curley to leave prior to the Charge? Let’s ruminate on that one for a bit.Did Mitch have a “death wish”?

    2. Cowardice: A very strong term, and very hard to prove on the Battlefield. Like Sm8213, I am a combat veteran as well. I have watched NCO’s with 26 years of service and four tours in RVN look to the 1Lt with 5 years of service ( three as an EM ), for battlefield direction and orders. It”s why they call the guy with the bar(s) Platoon “Leader” or Company “Commander”..
    Last night, I took the opportunity to read the RCOI in it’s entirety. For the most part, the questions/responses dwell on Reno’s presence and command relationship up on the bluffs. I found one instance where a mule skinner stated Reno smelled of spirits and threw a liquour bottle or container in the dark at his compadre, who may or may not have had a track record of helping himself to rations without asking. Correspondingly, several Officers stated for the record, that meeting Reno in the dark, they did not sense or smell the presence of alcohol on the man. That seemed to me to be the most pressing point on drunkenness or not.
    Now, from what I’ve read, Major Reno had Bloody Knife’s ‘Brain Bucket” explode and shower Reno’s face with it’s contents. An event like that will ruin your day…all day. I have had to MedEvac platoon members who cut ,running NVA in two with the .50 caliber Browning on the top of an M-48, while extracting dismounted US Infantry. They had the “thousand yard stare” and babbled incoherently. They instantly became “Combat Ineffective”, and needed medical attention the Platoon Medic could not provide. They certainly weren’t cowards for refusing or being unable to fight. In 30 seconds to one minute of combat, they encountered a lifetime of horror. Their limit was reached in a brief and shocking moment.
    I’m no Doctor-no medical background whatsoever- but I can’t help but feel that’s why Reno unravelled in the bottom. No one, and I mean no one, wipes gore off their face and says “Bugler, Sound The Charge”.
    On the Bluffs, Benteen took charge, but Reno seems to have settled down and contributed to the defense. Did he lead as the Senior Officer present- probably not. However, it also seems quite a number of Captains didn’t exercise active leadership on the Reno-Benteen Battlefield either.
    And with respect to Benteen, he had the good sense to stop what Weir started, in the form of a gypsy caravan of advance to potential immortality at a second massacre site. My OPINIONS ONLY.

    3. Walter Mason Camp: I’ve read him, he’s good, real good. But there was no standardization of questions with his interviews of survivors. Ask every surviving Officer:
    a. Were you aware of Custer’s Plan in detail? Who briefed you?
    b. Once in contact with the hostiles, how did that plan change and evolve?
    c. How did your specific actions affect the course of the siege?
    d. What went wrong?
    With the Native American Scouts:
    a. Did you tell Custer that he was substantially outnumbered?
    b. Did you offer any alternative site to attacking the village at the point Custer did? A better ford?
    c. Did you suggest he would need EVERY soldier in his command, and even then, he might not succeed?

    I can probably come up with more questions for all the survivors, but it’s all rhetorical at this point.

    **** Sm8213 knows what I’m talking about ****

    4. General Wesley Merritt- 77, if you said he wrote that to Lee, I believe you. However, Merritt then failed at his task. You don’t investigate a battle where roughly 50% of a Unit is killed in action, and then write a note to that effect. I have to ask the unanswerable question:
    Why didn’t they Court-Martial Reno, either immediately after the battle, or three years later, or anytime in between? It’s not like Reno had friends in the War Department or Congress, and Merritt didn’t want to rock the boat. Reno was a prime target with absolutely no allies. Yet-no Court-Martial.
    As far as the RCOI is concerned, I feel Reno was compelled to request one, based on Frederick Whittaker’s vitriole toward him (Reno), as Whittaker was banging out the first biography on Custer as a mythic warrior and martyr. During the RCOI, Whittaker was “distressed” to say the least that they couldn’t pin Reno down to being labelled a coward, and to totally exonerate Custer. Whittaker had a “Best Seller”, on Custer but no sequel on Reno. The public grew disinterested after the COI ended. There was no public outcry from anyone- the Army, Congress, the participants of the battle – no one.
    I also wonder, inasmuch as Reno died in 1889, not one Officer, NCO or enlisted man ever wrote or had ghost written a “Now It Can Be Told-The Little Big Horn Disaster Revealed” after he (Reno) made his transition to Fiddlers Green. Many of these participants lived well into the 1920’s and a few nearly into the mid-point of the 20th Century.Ample time to set the record straight, if it needed to be straightened. No one did? Why? Maybe, just maybe (MY OPINION) the record didn’t need straightened.

    Well, did my best to remain gentlemanly on this contribution. Didn’t proof it for animosity, arrogance, or close-mindedness, but I don’t think it needed it. Just offered some opinions, and views, that’s all. I respect Utley as author and historian, among the many others. I just don’t subscribe to some of their conclusions. And, I strongly feel that for every point on this event, there’s a counterpoint worthy of investigation.


    Good reading ( at least to me….): E.A. Brininstool- “Troopers With Custer”. I believe it’s circa the 1920’s and remains in print even today. Has quite a bit on the RCOI. Just “re”located it in my oak paneled “Library”, which also serves as a bedroom for a very old dog, the family walking machine ( which takes up 40% of the room and is never used), canned condiments, and assorted things that never find a home someplace else.
    Going to re-read it after a lapse of 20 plus years. Just skimming it, it appears to be fairly objective….

  87. Sm8213 says:

    Mr. Prescott,
    Yes sir I do know what you’re talking about. You made my point very succinctly thank you. I don’t have any malice or ill will toward either Ukblue or P77. I will admit to being exceptionally frustrated by what on its surface appears to be exceptionally judgmental. One of the basic tenets of combat / military leadership is the commanding officers ultimate responsibility for his units and subordinates actions. The commanding officer is responsible for both his victories and his defeats. It’s his job to put the right guys in the right places. As an example; if a ship grounds it’s the captains fault regardless of wether he was on the bridge or not. If Maj. Reno was so inept why was he given command? I absolutely agree that Maj. Reno was not in control in the timber when he withdrew. I would argue that he was justified in his loss of his faculties. Regardless all of his officers stated that he made the correct choices in both dismounting and withdrawing to the high ground. Why would they do that? I don’t feel that Pvt. Taylor was even remotely objective in his assessment of Maj. Reno’s actions. Not only was he not privy to the command decisions he was corresponding with Libby Custer! Do you honestly think Mrs. Custer was objective? She spent the remainder of her life trying to preserve her husbands reputation. I have nothing but respect for her dedication to her husband. Having said that she was anything but impartial. Was Maj. Reno a douche bag? Well from everything I’ve read I would have to say yes. A douche bag yes…..a coward no. Capt. Benteen? Jealous? Ya I would guess so. But not to the point of intentionally sacrificing Gen. Custer and his men. It doesn’t make any sense. P77 you have made multiple references to both Maj. Reno and Capt. Benteen’s being court marshaled. Gen. Custer was not only court marshaled he was relieved of command! I’m sorry it would appear that you couldn’t swing a dead cat in the 7th cav without hitting someone who had been court marshaled! I mean Jesus Christ! Really! They court marshaled guys like we hand out article 15’s! My point being its no a great measure of who or what a guy was then. Rather then continuing to beat a dead horse (yes I just said that lol!) what are your feelings on company C’s fight on greasy grad ridge? Organized skirmishers or running fight? I kinda think it started at a rear guard and quickly went south. Anyone? P77 I apologize for the return fire.


  88. DAVE says:

    One of my fellow Vietnam vets said that Reno lost it because of brain matter splashing on his face and that would disable anyone in combat.

    Thing is it happened to Custer during a battle during the civil war. Can’t remember what battle but I remember reading it and it was observed by more than one of his subordinates. They said that one of his men was shot in the head and brain matter and blood splattered onto Custer’s face. They said that he wiped his face and continued to bark out orders as if nothing had happened. They said that the hotter the combat, the cooler he became.

    I guess it proves why Custer is my hero. He was totally fearless in battle. If Reno had Custer’s courage he would have continued his charge into the village. No one can know if he would have been successful or not.

    Knowing what cavalry is supposed to do and knowing that when they stop charging and take a defensive posture they are screwed. Like I said before, Indian Chiefs who were interviewed later said that Reno took them by surprise and they could never figure out why he stopped and retreated. They said that if he had continued they most likely would have fled or at least not been able to mount a good defense.

    As for dismissing Pvt. Taylor’s statements, I would rather trust an enlisted mans story over Custer’s peers. All during the civil war Custer’s victories were called “Custer’s luck.” That came from fellow officers who were jealous of him. There wasn’t any luck involved, he was just a natural combat commander. Patton was another one. If you read about Patton you will see that he and Custer were very much alike. They lost a lot of men, but they got the job done.

    I like when people berate Custer and Patton and others like them by saying they killed their men off and suffered too many casualties. How the hell do you win battles and wars if you are afraid you will lose troops?

    I just love this stuff!! I wish someone in Hollywood would do a serious movie about Custer. A movie based on what we DO know about the battle. It would be cool to see a movie about his life that was as accurate as possible, displaying his flaws and all.

    The actor who had his personality down was Errol Flynn in the movie “They died with their boots on.” They said Custer was a fast talker and a prankster.

    Like I said, he is my hero, even though I see his faults and mistakes. I believe when it came to being in combat, he had no peers, except maybe his brother Tom. (twice awarded the medal of honor.)

    • Sm8213 says:

      I’m not suggesting that we discount Pvt. Taylor’s story. I’m only saying he was more then likely influenced by his proximity to Mrs. Custer. He most certainly would not have had the same perspective as Reno’s officers. The reality is that the officers had formal military education and were more qualified to understand the decisions being made. Respectfully comparing a Pvt’s view to a Capt. / brevet Col. Is like comparing apples to oranges. It would be no different then comparing a rookie police officer to a veteran like yourself. I’m bothered by the tendency to invalidate any of Reno’s “peers”. Respectfully sir every officer in the command was a peer of Reno. Who else would be in a better place to judge then ones peers? A jury of one’s peers maybe? Isn’t that what you’ve been holding up for your 25 years as a police officer? Innocent until proven guilty beyond a shadow of doubt jury of your peers? Reno was found innocent by that jury (RCOI) was he not? Why are we so unwilling to accept RCOI’s findings but use the negative aspects of the same proceeding to justify the hate for Reno? Gen. Custer is your hero. He’s a great hero to have! He was utterly fearless in combat. That being said he was clearly not infallible. Just as Lee had his Gettysburg and Napoleon his Waterloo, Gen. Custer had the little big horn. His defeat at the LBH shouldn’t reduce his stature in anyone’s eyes. Conversely we shouldn’t idolize him at the expense of others. This is in no way meant to excuse mistakes made by multiple parties during the engagement.



    Sm 8213 and Dave:

    A civil good day to all !! I would like to thank the both of you for service to our Country, and a belated “Welcome Home” From my heart !!

    First off, I admire Custer. I am a Custer Afficianado. He was aggressive, hard charging, and several notches above most of his peers in 1876. I don’t buy that he was a “Glory Hunter”, or that he was concerned about his image. He was intelligent enough in his later years to publish very popular articles and a book about his adventures and experiences in the West.
    If Custer received the contents of someone’s Brain Bucket in his face during the Civil War, and managed to bounce back, then I have to give him credit. Most people do not handle an incident like that very well. I feel Reno was one of them.

    (OPINION) : Most of the anecdotes, stories and writings about Custer indicate ( my opinion only) that he was very Clanish-Brothers, In-Laws, Close Friends being part of an inner circle. There’s a photo of him and Libby on the steps of their home/quarters at Fort Lincoln, common in many books on him, and I do not think Reno or Benteen are in it. The minute any Unit becomes an “us and them”, discord ruins it’s Espirit D’Corp, and Elan’, despite whatever positive reputation the Unit may have.

    Also, Don Ricky Jr. interviewed something like 200 Cavalry and Infantry veterans from all sorts of Units of the Old West. It seems that dismounted skirmishing and controlled fire was emphasized more heavily than the classic Cavalry charge. Either the Native Americans were under siege, or the U.S. troops. His book is: ” Forty Miles a Day on Beans and Hay”, has many actual examples. His book also cites numerous examples of less than polished Officers- drunks, cowards, bar and pool hall fights, fisticuffs, etc. Bottom line: Every Unit/Command had it’s human failings. Most of the individuals cited as sources in Rickey’s book were enlisted men or NCO’s, and it’s more human interest than documentary as respects it’s writing style.


    I agree with you with respect to Reno and Benteen not “self-motivating” themselves to attempt to aid/reinforce Custer with the balance of the 7th cavalry. I do not view it as cowardice or vindictiveness on their part, One (Reno) was not up to par that day. The other (Benteen) rode into a mess- approximately 30 or more Reno dead in the Bottom,Timber, and on up to the Bluffs (with the number growing), an unknown number of wounded, somewhere between a half dozen and a dozen MIA’s, a Pack Train (I “think” 175 mules) coming up (traffic jam ) and a badly damaged wing of the Regiment, with weak leadership at best, trying to establish a Hasty Defense. On top of all this is the “Benteen-Be Quick- Big Village-Bring Pacs-PS Bring Pacs” or something to that effect message Yet, there is no indication at that point in time that Custer is in trouble.In fact, it appears ( my OPINION ) Custer may not have even made contact. In my view, Benteen did the prudent thing: stabilized the balance of the Command, dug in, fortified, and made a conscious decision to fight it out. Most of the 7th’s surviving Officers, at the RCOI cited Benteen’s “courage under fire” and the fact that their survival was precarious at the best.


    Forget Officers and Enlisted men for a moment. PVT Thompson was (My OPINION), “probably” the original WikiLeaks….. If his statements were true, then he was in the minority. I would also have to wonder why Frederick Whittaker, Custer’s Biographer, didn’t dive on Thompson’s testimony, and bang out a “Now It Can Be Told” book. Whittaker was a Dime Novelist, yet he never pursued Thompson’s testimony in order to amplify the Martyr angle on Custer.

    Also, the Native Americans, for many years afterward, were hesitant to speak the truth about LBH, for fear of retribution. Their accounts vary from determined Last Stand to a Panic, and everything in between. No Chief was looking for Situation Reports every ten minutes……… Warriors fought as individuals. And, an extended village three miles (or so) long with 5 or 6 tribes (not sure) doesn’t sound ripe for the taking.

    (MY FINAL OPINION): Custer would have survived if he had just kept his Command mounted and moving after the repulse at the river’s edge. He had three other directions in which to ride and seek suitable defensive terrain, other than Last Stand Hill, a position extremely close to the enemy. We will never know why he didn’t, or why the second in command (if Custer went down early on) didn’t as well. In my day, it was called a Thunder Run, with Armor, in order to break an ambush or decisive engagement you’re not prepared to meet head on.

    In closing, it’s interesting to note that when Fort Knox, the Home of Armor, was an active post, it had a Chaffee Hall, Boudinot Hall, Harris Hall, Patton Hall, etc. but no Custer Hall. Same -same for Fort Riley, home of The Big Red One. There’s Camp Forsyth, Camp Funston, etc. The only area bearing Custer’s name was the Custer Hill Troop Housing, which is now ( I believe) Family Housing.
    It would seem that the Army, in it’s infinite wisdom in the 20th and 21st Century kind of forgot about him.
    Of course, there’s Camp Custer, Michigan, kind of lip service to the fact that Custer resided in Monroe……..

    In closing, I have unbuttoned my shirt, exposed my chest, lit a cigar, and am prepared to meet the fire of criticism head on, with faith and fortitude.

    • DAVE says:

      Hi Vernon and SM8213, thanks for the responses to my post. I just really get off on discussing this stuff about my hero. Be assured I do not get upset or angry because someone has a different opinion. After all, opinions are pretty much what we have to go with. You digest as many books on the subject matter and decide which ones you believe are accuarate and which ones you dismiss. I always liked to find out who the author is and what his agenda might be.

      Now to respond to some of your insightful thoughts. first off, I will not disagree that Reno may have not been able to go help Custer and if he had, may have been wiped out as well.

      I do believe that if it had been reversed, Custer would have made some kind of attempt to save his command. It even may have been the wrong thing to do, but I think he would not have just dug in on the hill and waited for Terry to arrive.

      Like I said, I love Custer. But I disagree that he was not a glory hound. Everything I have read about him would indicate that he loved the limelight and loved being famous. I do not believe, as Custer haters do, that it caused him his surmize at LBH.

      As for Pvt. Taylor, one or both of you may correct me, put I have the book that was published and If my memory serves me right, his writings about LBH as not known till his death. A relative was going through his cedar chest and found the writings. When they learned what it was about, they made it known and it got published.

      In the book Taylor did write to Libby Custer, but it AFTER the LBH and not before. This is why you cannot discount what he wrote. He never told anyone during his life about his writings. It was like a diary to him. Unless you have evidence to the contrary, I cannot see how you cannot see what he saw as valid.

      The reason why I am sceptical of what fellow (peer) officers statement might have been, we all know they hated Custer and had an agenda, which was to put themselves in a good light and blame the dead guy. I cannot see how you guys do not see that. Human nature does not change over time. Pvt. Taylor respected Custer. He had none for Reno. Why is that?

      I see the Pvt vs Officer corp the same as politicians vs citizen. They are self serving and will blow smoke up your ass at every turn as they always have an agenda. The Private, as far as I can tell, was a lowly soldier that saw what he saw.

      This does not mean I want to disparage officers. I admire lots of them. But in this situation, knowing Reno and Benteen’s personalities, I cannot conclude anything that they failed their commander. (Not that Custer did not contribute to it.)

      Sorry, but I had to smile when it was inferred that Reno was found NOT GUILTY, thus he must be innocent. Then telling me about the legal system and how it works.

      Working in the system for 35 years only showed me that it DOES NOT WORK VERY WELL. I worked in the system, but do not like it. Just think OJ or Casey Anthony. They were FOUND not guilty. Do you believe they were innocent? If so, I have some Florida swamp land to sell you. So, as for the RCOI, I see it as a whitewash. The government just wanted it to go away. It was an embarrassment to the Army at the time. We all know that President Grant hated Custer as well. The Army’s view was, it was Custer’s fault, move on.

      This comes to the fact that Custer’s name is not on Army bases. I have always wanted to find out what they teach at West Point about Custer and the LBH. I have gone online trying to find out but have never found anything.

      The Army not naming anything after Custer is most likely out of today’s PC. Look how they are taking our founding fathers names off of schools. Today the liberals in education are teaching that Washington and Jefferson were assholes because they had slaves. Custer’ reputation has changed over time depending on modern culture. Custer is blamed for screwing over the poor Indians and being a hate monger, which we all know is not the case.

      Even though I am a Custer supporter, I early on, believed that what the Indians said happened at LBH had to have some merit to it. For decades we were taught that the Indians lied all the time and you could believe anything they said.

      We now know that most of what they said is closer to the truth. It was not a glorious last stand, but a rout. You are right, every General had his Waterloo and LBH was George’s, only he did not survive.

      I have a question for you guys. I recently have been researching the idea that Custer was killed first at the river and that would explain the breakdown of his command and possible changed what may have happened if he had not been taken out early.

      However, his body was found on the hill. The alledged Indian who said he shot Custer, said that he fell from his horse and the whole command stopped and he was picked up by his fellow soldiers.

      How would this square with Custer being found on last stand hill with a bullit to the forehead and chest? Would it be that he was first shot in the chest at the river and later shot in the head by an Indian or maybe shot by one of his subordinates when they knew it was lost and not going to survive? I know there are some who thinks he committed suicide. However, he was right handed and was shot in the left temple. I tell people that even if he DID commit suicide, I would not feel any different about him, considering what the Indians did to all of them.

      As a politcal note, I do not admire the Indians either then or now. I do not hate them, I am pragmatic in my thinking. It was destined for white man to take this country and make it what is has become. If the Indians still were in control, they still would be on horseback chasing buffelo across the plains and killing each other. I know it is not PC, but the best thing we could do for the Indians today is take their nations from them and force them to assimilate into American culture. As it is, they are nothing but a huge welfare ward of the state. But that is another issue intirely.

      Thanks guys! I will waiting to hear back. I find both of you very knowledgeable and have given lots to think about.

      • Sm8213 says:

        Dave I thought you might get a kick out of the “peers” thing! For the record I am now a public servant (paramedic) and a medically retired officer. I am under no illusions that our court system is anything other then broken. My issue with the whole Reno thing is the statements his officers made sense to me. The decision makes sense to me from a tactical standpoint. You may very well be right about Custer moving if the roles were reversed. I spent the day reading the RCOI online and Uptons book. I am planning on digging into Barininstool (or how ever you spell it) tomorrow. I also spent a few hours pouring over the hundreds of photos I have taken of the battlefield over the last few years. I keep coming back to the fact that Reno and Benteen made the correct decision from a tactical stand point. Even if Benteen had moved prior to the pack train linking up with him he still would have been forced to retire or been over run (just my professional opinion). I think we would be debating the whys of that decision now instead.
        As to Gen. Custer being wounded at the river…….it would explain the poor performance of his guys for sure. The problem with that supposition is that it has been fairly well established that he continued north as far as the north end of the village and then fell back with Co’s E and F via what is now cemetery ridge. I think he was more then Likely wounded fairly close to where he was found. The chest wound was more then likely incapacitating. I am of the opinion the head wound was delivered after he was unconscious. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was at that point that the remaining guys and junior officers broke for deep ravine. Personally I think Custer deployed Co’s C, I and L as a rear guards to cover his move north. It would be consistent with him attempting to maintain the offensive movement he was so well known for. I would imagine he was trying to buy more time to get at the non combatants. Unfortunately it allowed C, I and L to be engaged one by one and rolled up. As each company was overrun the survivors routed toward the next in line causing panic in the company they routed to. This would explain the jumble of officers bodies intermixed between the companies. Vernon I think you’re right. If he had kept his battalion together and moving he could have fought his way out. Once again just an opinion that makes sense to me. It’s my understanding that the Indians were unaware who they were fighting. That doesn’t square with one guy knowing he shot Custer at the ford in my mind. I don’t see Custer continuing north after being plugged center mass. Honestly I don’t think Custer did a whole lot after being shot in the chest. As always just my medical opinion. I’ve treated a bunch of GSWs and I can tell you chest shots put guys down. He would have almost certainly developed a hemo / pnumo within a very short amount of time rendering him combat ineffective to say the least! Dave you asked what they teach about LBH at West Point. Well primarily the class revolved around the failure of command and its effect on the battle. Breaking down each critical command decision and its effect and unintended consequences. As to Mr Finkle……….I think his name says it all. I am of the opinion that he had a vivid imagination and had a shortcoming in the honesty department.


    • Waldo says:

      \Custer would have survived if he had just kept his Command mounted and moving after the repulse at the river’s edge. He had three other directions in which to ride and seek suitable defensive terrain, other than Last Stand Hill, a position extremely close to the enemy. \

      That’s just it. He wasn’t looking for defensive terrain. He was still on the attack and looking for a way to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat. It’s like a guy who loses a bet and doubles down. I think the idea of a \small\ defeat was anathema to him. He wanted a big victory above all else and was willing to gamble with his and his men’s lives to get it. They lost.


    The RCOI is on line, and it is quite interesting to read Frederick Whittaker’s letter/statement.

    Evidently, while writing Custer’s Biography a newspaper letter “Excited his suspicions”, He subsequently wrote to Officers of the 7th, received two replies and one was Reno’s (nice of Reno to reply under the circumstances). No named mention of the other Officer. Started a letter writing campaign for answers. Received numerous replies. Had a Congressman from Wyoming’s ear, and managed to make it to the House Military Committee. Was looking for” justice for the memory of GAC”? So, did Whittaker have an “agenda”. Interestingly enough, he was not allowed to testify.
    Also, “offered to help” the Court Reporter, Lt.Lee. In essence, compelled Reno to defend his actions. Anyway, makes good reading…..


    Private PeterThompson: Evidently his Bunkies had doubts about his horse coming up lame or exhausted or played out, and his partner in his miraculous escape from Custer’s Valhalla, James Watson, kind of disappeared afterward. Authors Brininstool and Camp had their doubts abot his story.
    No one doubted his (Thompson’s) MOH actions as a water carrier and being twice wounded in action on Reno-Benteen Hill. But it seems in later years, other LBH EM veterans viewed him as a liar, as respects having to turn back during Custer’s move down Medicine Tail Coulee.
    So, who thinks Thompson and Watson saw the start of Custer’s Last Stand and decided discretion was the better part of valor?

    Finally, was Frank Finkel an actual survivor of the Last Stand ??


    Liked your comments. Here are mine(remember-OPINIONS)
    1. I think Custer got hit at the river-probably the chest or side wound- a serious, incapacitating one. Probably scooped up and dropped with a guard (probably a mixed squad) at the crest or near it while Tom took command. Now, I really am not aware of the Seniority at LBH- I think after GAC it was Calhoun, Keough, Tom Custer- but don’t hold me to it. Calhoun died with his Troop, Keough with his, so I think Tom Custer had the reins. With loss of the horses and wounded and dead, he went to ground-hence the Last Stand. The temple shot on George may have been a Coup D’Grace. I do not think he committed suicide.
    GAC was a Cavalryman from the get go. If he was not initially wounded, I am reasonably sure he would have kept the command mounted and riding- not charging-but looking for better defensible terrain. I can even envision a hard decision on his part of leaving the wounded behind. George had a history of not worrying about casualties. He was mission-oriented.
    One point intrigues me. As events unfolded, not one Last Stand Officer dispatched, say a dozen men to ride south and find Benteen. Think about it. A dozen men-maybe two or three get through, maybe all of them- and then Reno-Benteen do find out what’s happening. Say, 5 of the 7 troops rode to LBH-would it have been different? Don’t know. Always thought about that one.

    Reno: He(Reno) requested the Court of Inquiry after being hounded by Whittaker. It was not a Court-Martial. If found liable, he would have been subject to a Court-Martial. It’s on line- read it if you get the chance (really long-take your time and NOTES, if it interests you). The only damning statements were the purported heaving of a liquor bottle and the smell of alcohol on him, in the dark, by two mule skinners, one of whom was attempting to help himself to food, and had a history of doing that. Other Officers saw and spoke with Reno throughout the night of the 25th and smelled no alcohol whatsoever on him, and said he was in control of his faculties.
    I don’t think Reno or Benteen would be found guilty of anything, even in 2013 by today’s standards or the standards of their era. I also do not think they were let off the hook by the Army or the War Department. There simply were too many accusations that could not be supported or substantiated by facts or living witness statements and testimony. Frederick Whittaker simply had a bug up his arse, and I think he was looking for a sequel to his biography on George.
    Somewhere, years ago, I read that the Indians got really tired of being asked “Who killed Custer?”. I read they decided to select someone (don’t know who and don’t care), approached him, he agreed to be the alleged hit man, and that was that-get the white men off our backs. Give the white man what he wants to hear even if we really don’t know who fired that shot. Done deal. The Indians were very pragmatic in that regard. Probably can Google it, but to me it’s simply trivia……..
    PC AND NATIVE AMERICANS: Well, Sherman, Sheridan, Terry, Gibbon, Merritt, Crook and the whole gang would be rolling over in their graves if they knew the Indians have Casinos and Hotels on their Reservations, sold war bonnets for $300 at the Tribal Gift Shop, or you could buy a Commanche lance for $150 on line. ( My youngest son is in Afghanistan currently- a CH53 Sea Stallion Aircraft Commander flying out of Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province. He had to have one for his “Man Cave” so I sprung for it a year or so ago). So much for PC.

    Well, I smoked that cigar, had to button my shirt cause I’m old and got goose bumps and the chill blains- BUT NO ONE SHOT AT ME ON LINE. I guess I live to write another day.

    POSTSCRIPT: ANYONE EVER READ “THE COURT MARTIAL OF GEORGE ARMSTRONG CUSTER”? He survives LBH ( sole survivor) and is Court-Martialled in NYC on Governors Island. Read it many years ago-it’s a one night read and very entertaining.


    Dave/Sm8213 :
    Correct me if I’m wrong. Was re-reading the comments about Custer’s charge (almost) into the village. The topic was speculation on where Custer was initially wounded. Somewhere ( iI think Camp’s book ) I believe Trumpeter Henry Voss was assigned as Custer’s Orderly that day ( he was G Troop, although I’m not going to go nuts researching it for accuracy). I believe someone stated his body was found down on the east bank of the LBH River,Mark Kellogg (the newspaperman) and Dr. Lord’s body close by as well. Of course, after the battle and on the 27th, I’m sure someone carried them all to the knoll for hasty burials.

    Now, GAC always led from the front. Who would be with him? His detailed orderly ( who is also a Trumpeter), Kellogg, his invited guest on the Duck Hunt, and maybe the Doc. There are so many web sites.out there that argue which marker is right and which is wrong, versus the sketchy info on who was found where, makes it confusing.
    More on this later. The attendant is unlocking the door to my room and the big guy is going to pin me down while the little guy is going to shove sedatives down my throat ( could be worse- Saturdays are Enema Day).


    Dave and Sm:
    Okay, so my last sentence above was a blatant lie. I had to go to Target’ with my wife, White Swan Floating Upon the Gentle Waters, but she answers to “Diz” ( a spin off on “The Searchers”).

    Custer, taking a lower chest or upper rib wound below the heart near the river during the charge, which could have contributed substantially (in a negative manner) as to why 5 Troops went to ground. If anyone knows who else (body-wise) was found on the 27th near the river or close to the village, and IF they could conceivably have been a part of a Command Group in the lead,then that might lend credence to GAC being critically wounded in the opening moments of the engagement.
    I always felt GAC would have kept the command mounted and moving. Would #2 or #3 in succession do the same if the Colonel was down and couldn’t be moved? Don’t know and probably never will. I also feel that there had to be a severe psychological shock to the Battalion if the Boss was severely wounded or killed early on.
    I know most researchers, coupled with Indian accounts place the start of the slaughter with Calhoun, working it’s way to Keogh and finally Last Stand Knoll, with the side slaughter in Deep Ravine late in the battle. If I’m error, correct me.

    I really think GAC was bright enough to suddenly realize the gravity of his situation when the charge halted or was repulsed at the river’s edge, and swung around short of the river. Put yourself in his boots: stay mounted – ride- look for a defensible position in a hurry – if none, head back up Medicine Tail Coulee.

    I can never envision a West Point Graduate, Civil War veteran, career soldier and hard charger picking that terrain to make a stand on, and await help. No cover, no concealment, the enemy (in 4 or 5 times your strength) a couple hundred yards away, and your mobility ( the horses ) either being spooked, killed or injured by hostile fire, or deliberately being shot as barricades. GAC had a reputation as a quick thinker on the battlefield, I think in his final battle, he was severely wounded very early on, was semi-conscious at best, in shock, and no longer in command.

    It is also quite conceivable that with the number of wounded growing, one of the surviving Company Commanders made the decision to go to ground and await help.

    Unfortunately, the barren nature of the battlefield is such it took maybe 10 minutes or less to become decisively engaged, and ultimately doomed.

    Time to take out my teeth for dinner. OATMEAL TONIGHT !!!!! Will check in later………………………

  94. Sm8213 says:

    I’m torn on the location of Custer being wounded. It would explain allot that’s for sure if he was wounded at the ford. How do you then account for the continued movement north? Am I missing something? I don’t see his subordinate commanders doing that.

  95. DAVE says:

    Vernon and SM,

    Hey Vernon, I can take my teeth out and I love oatmeal. We have something in common. LOL!

    Like you said, we will never know, but I totally agree that George was taken out early in the engagement. That would explain why they fell apart so quickly.

    We know that the Indians had no ideas who they were fighting. I think his name was “Man who runs him,” or something like that. He was one of two Indians who later took credit for killing Custer at the river. His story seems plausable because he admits that, at the time, he had no idea who it was. However, he discribed Custer’s horse, which had white socks and such and how the rider was wearing buckskins. He said he shot the soldier in front in the chest and the soldier fell off his horse. The whole command stopped and he was retrieved from the creek. This would all make sense to me.

    It is too bad that General Terry and his command did not do a better job of documenting the battlefield. Too much to ask for that time, but would have been great if an autopsy could have been done on Custer.

    Have either one of you guys been to Gettysburg? I have been there 4 times. After seeing the movie I became very interested in Joshua Chamberlain and the little round top. He was another bad ass commander.

    If you go see the electric map at Gettysburg, they explain that Custer was instrumental in the Union winning that ingagement. The idea on the third day was for charging the union line while Jeb Stewarts cavalry come in behind the union line and hit their rear. Had that happened, most likely the south would have won. Instead, Custer attacked Stewarts command near Hanover and kicked his butt, even though Custer was outnumbered 7 to 1. What a guy!

    Hard to argue Custer was not a great combat commander. As far as I know, he still is the youngest General we ever produced. Too bad he wasn’t less clanish and would have tried harder to get along with Benteen and Reno. But they hated him and I will always believe that their hatred entered into their decisions.

    Being retired sure is nice. Otherwise I would not have the time to sit here and pontificate to fellow disabled Veterans.


    Dave & Sm::

    I guess the three of us agree to a substantial degree: Custer went down early. I personally believe Custer would have never dismounted the Command-Maybe a Troop, perhaps two to cover his southern flank ( which is what appears Calhoun and Keogh did -either on their own or under Orders)
    What I never could comprehend is the selection of Last Stand Hill as a defensive position-hasty or deliberate. That terrain is as bald as me and as exposed today as it was in ’76.
    l always felt GAC went down early and someone assumed command, either by rank/seniority, or whoever remained standing. I also always felt that the three volleys were initiated by either a senior NCO or NCO’s very late in the battle.
    I’ve been to LBH three times in 30 years, and on the last trip in 2003 basically estimated that a less than two mile ride north would have placed GAC’s command in a timbered stream/tributary. I even asked the Ranger about the age of timber in that location, and 4 hours later he tracked me down with two photos which we both agreed on was a treeline in 1879. Mounted at a gallop early on, they could have hit that area in 10 minutes or less (losing men along the way, of course).
    Now, the initial wounded would have been a moral issue, not one you can dwell on for long, as the number will grow. Tough call to mount and leave them behind to certain death. I am also reasonably sure that GAC or his successor in command, at the very least, estimated that Benteen was at least 3 plus miles away with the packs and ammunition.
    Simplify to the following:
    1, 7th’s charge repulsed at the Ford.
    2. GAC ” possibly” down, and seriously wounded at the head of the column, at/near the Ford.
    3. Second in Command, near head of the column keeps the three charging Troops (C,E,F) moving , and picks Last Stand Hill as a hasty site to take account of what has happened, and have GAC looked at.
    4. Dismounted Indian fire ( sustained and growing more intense by the minute) pins them down- horses are hit, more men are hit, some horses bolt, or are spooked away. They now have no choice or options. They must fight where they are and on foot.
    5. South of them, Calhoun first and Keogh second have their Troops rolled up. The skirmish lines there evaporate.
    6. The three Troops (minus casualties) on Last Stand Hill get enveloped by Crazy Horse riding out of the village and sweeping north, northeast, to east (behind them)
    7. Literally pushed off Last Stand Hill, the final 28 to 35 or 40 Troopers either advance ( or flee) down Deep Ravine, hoping they can get to the wood line and the river. ( Of course, even if they reached it, they would have had no idea until they got closer, that they’d be entering the Central/North Central part of the village……)

    UNRELATED: General James Gavin ( Airborne-“Death From Above” ): How old was he when he got his first Star in WWII?? The only young General I can think of. I coulda had the “Youngest General” moniker, but I had enemies in high places and because of a big mouth and attitude. If I recall, I once recommended they do away with Reveille…….. I was ahead of my time……….

    A Great Weekend to All !!

  97. ukblue says:

    vernon and Sm8213. As in all generations through history we are products of our time and place.In 1973 the American Indian movement stoked a red-power movement to rival the black power movement.The media and hollywood during that time wre really about Vietnam than about the Indian wars. What we were doing in vietnam,they said ,was just what we had done to the Indians.Custer had been chosen as the personification of all the wrongs whites had inflicted on Indians.The purpose of LBH was to force the Indians back to the reservation not to wipe them out.Custer was attempting to capture the none combatants make the hostiles immobile.And Custer was not shot or wounded at the river when his body was found it was lying across 3 orther body”s on last stand hill.

    • godsje8 says:

      GAC lying across 3 other body’s on last stand hill is no proof he was not already wounded at the river.Custer was, according to Peter Thompson and Curley, at or near the river.That makes him primary candidate for the title officer shot at the river. To me another serious candidate is lt Algernon Smith; why? he was the only member of E troop who was found on LSH and was dressed in buckskin.

      greetings from Belgium

  98. Sm8213 says:

    I think Gen. Custer if not wounded continued to move north in an attempt to hit the north end of the village. When he realized that his rear guards ie Co’s C and I were being rolled up he withdrew up cemetery ridge towards last stand hill with E and F dropping one Co on his way up the ridge. Maybe reaching the highest point in time to see L being over run and the survivors running to last stand hill. I think the supposition that the remains were either pushed off or attempted to break out is right on. As to your question about Gettysburg….my wife and I have a second house in chambersburg 26 miles west of Gburg. I have spent a retarded amount of time tramping all over Gburg.


  99. ukblue says:

    No but if you think rationally anyone can assume he was one of the last to fall.

  100. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    I agree about Hollywood and “theme” or “contemplative” movies during that decade (the 70’s). I always recall the movie “Doc” about Dr. John “Doc” Holiday-about as bizarre a movie as was ever made.

    Vietnam and the Red Man: Apart from “Apocalypse Now”, made in the 70’s, “Platoon”, “Full Metal Jacket”, “Hamburger Hill” were all 80’s flicks.
    Vietnam was a Vietnamese Civil War/War of Unification where the United States picked the wrong side to ally itself with…nothing more/nothing less. There was no policy of extermination. Think twice about Hollywood and their message-be it humanitarian, moral, or political. It’s only about Box Office Draw and net profit. BACK ON THEME
    The Native Americans who are doing well are the tribes that acquired great legal teams to argue the treaty and reservation violations , originally written in the 19th century with no thought of the 20th or 21st century ramifications. So, oil, natural gas,and coal deposits,casinos,hotels, tax free tobacco, tax free gift shops, and Dude Ranches become great income /revenue on the Reservation……
    Also, if you fought with the white man, you got a better deal. The Little Big Horn Battlefield sits for the most part on the Crow Reservation ( Custer’s Scouts). Twenty miles north, follow the trail of empty beer cans, rusty mattress springs, abandoned vehicles, and the white roadside crosses marking fatal accident sites, and you arrive at the Northern Cheyenne Resrvation, with a dinky Visitors Center/Gift Shop. At LBH, I believe the Crows own the gas station, motel, and several fast food establishments, and competitive bidding on construction projects is waived for them. I think it’s great for them.

    And UK, you are correct. It was the mission of the frontier Army to round em’ up and head em’ out, back to the Reservation. There was no policy of extermination. There were some horrible episodes: Sand Creek, the Washita, Wounded Knee. They were shameful. But not in the 19th Century. Not in their time. The American government has acknowledged these atrocities many times over in the 20th Century.


    I was presenting my OPINION. Where Custer’s body was found may or may not have any correlation to where he was initally wounded, died, or incurred the second fatal shot.

    No one, absolutely no one in 1876 knew with absolute certainty exactly where on the battlefield Custer was wounded and died. They did, however, know where his body was found.

    I doubt GAC would have been in the second or third set of four’s in the charge to the ford. Custer led from the front. At least he had a history of doing that right up to the final Charge. Who normally takes and absorbs the first volley of fire?: The guys in the front. From my point of view, makes sense. Hence, it’s my OPINION.
    Going all the way back to back to the Seven Years War, and then Lexington, Concord, Bunker Hill,etc., Americans have had this unique moral weakness of dragging their wounded back with them when they withdrew/retreated. Even the dead, if it was their Leader or a close friend. If Custer went down at the ford, NO ONE would have left him behind. They would have carried, dragged, double saddled him up to Last Stand Hill.
    After the battle, bodies, stripped, ransacked, scalped, ritually mutilated, etc. were then tossed, rolled, dragged or kicked aside to get to the next one.There were only 210, so you had to hurry and move on to the next one if you wanted enough booty.
    As an example, the 30 or so men found dead in Deep Ravine. They were brought up to Last Stand Hill for cursory burial. Multiple and reliable eyewitness statements ( none with agreeable body counts, I might add) state that they were found dead in Deep Ravine. Archeological digs in that Ravine have produced nothing of substance. They were carried, dragged pulled out of there on the 27th or 28th of June, 1876. So, why not the same for the General at the ford?? I simply cannot envision GAC picking that knoll for a defensive position, whether temporary or permanent, wounded or not. It’s only geographical/topographical attribute is that it is a perfect location to set up a telescope on for a great view of the galaxy on a clear night. No pollution in Montana…………

    Gotta go. It takes six minutes exactly for my Grits to boil so I can add the butter at the correct moment for optimum flavor. I despise sugar on Grits. Barbaric !!

  101. VERNON PRESCOTT says:


    GETTYSBURG: Love it. Absolutely love the place! Been there a dozen times, wandering, measuring, doing my own thing. My daughter went to Shippensburg University. Whenever it came time to pick her up/drop her off (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Spring Recess, End of School Year, I always added 2 or 3 days for Gettysburg.Never rushed myself. Would read, re-read Bruce Catton, take notes and then arrive and wander. Been to Fredericksburg ( there was a time you could buy dug mini’s for a quarter each, a cannonball for $25, in the 70’s, Petersburg- ever seen THE CRATER ( or the first 75 feet or so of the mine shaft)?, Chancellorsville ( The Wilderness)- actually got lost once ( simply “misplaced” myself- I knew I was in Virginia….) on a walk off the beaten paths….. Rich and wonderful History !!!! If you’re near it, do it !!!

    And, like Forrest Gump: “That’s all I have to say about that”.

  102. ukblue says:

    GAC was found by troops of terry”s column and Capt.Benteen and they reported that he had been shot in the heart and in the left temple this was all confirmed by the autopsy of the army surgeon.gen.They reported that GAC was lying on top of fellow officers.Now I know its hard for some people, but try to think rationally.

  103. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    Instead of vegetating with the Telly, I did some research. Here goes:

    Source: “Custer in ’76- Walter Camp’s Notes on the Custer Fight”

    Camp Interview with Daniel A. Kanipe and letter correspondence June 16-17,1908 and July 20, 1908

    “GAC lying across two or three soldiers, all naked”

    ***** Now, if the two or three soldiers (not Officers as you state) are naked, and GAC is on top of them, who was stripped first? Did they start with GAC and then stack them till they got to number 3 or 4 (in total, with GAC), and then unstack them back to their original positions with GAC on top?? ****

    MY OPINION: GAC was probably one of the last in that pile to be stripped He could have died 5 feet from the other 2 or 3, and dumped on top after he was stripped. The others were obviously stripped first.

    The above is Rational, based on the statement of a Sergeant who visually observed GAC’s body.


    Source: Custer in ’76 again ( same as above)

    A. Interview with Richard E. Thompson on February 14, 1911

    “Dr. Lord- 20 feet from Custer”
    ” Mark Kellogg (Newspaperman) 100 yards from the river, 3/4 mile from Last Stand Hill”

    B. Interview with Private Dennis Lynch on February 8, 1909

    GAC, Tom Custer, DR. Lord, W.W. Cooke, A.E. Smith, Vicory, Voss, Donovan, and 14 Company F men.

    To the ones mentioned above, Evan S. Connell in “Son of the Morning Star” adds:
    William Sharrow, Command Sergeant Major,
    Henry C. Dose (Co.G) Another designated Orderly for GAC on 25 June1876

    Now, all of these people constituted what we call today “Regimental Staff”- either assigned or temporarily attached. Tom Custer was a three Company (C,E,F) Battalion Commander that day and his XO was commanding Company C. Companies I and L were under the Battalion Command of Myles Keogh, and his XO was commanding “Wild I” that day.

    There is no extant record of the names of the two or three dead men, nor their Companies, that GAC was reposing on.
    All the bodies save one or two on Last Stand Hill were stripped.

    ******** DAVE AND SM8213 *********

    In “Son of the Morning Star” by Evan S. Connell, he states that in 1909, Philadelphia millionaire Rodman Wanamaker offered a reward (money) to the destitute tribes if they could identify who killed GAC.
    Southern Cheyenne leadership “selected/elected” Brave Bear.
    Brave Bear was with Black Kettle at the Washita,and had fought at the Little Big Horn. He had “done his part”, and therefore was” as qualified as any”.

    Brave Bear was not anxious to acknowledge this “honor”, as he thought Mr. Wanamaker simply wanted to shoot him, but was pleased when he realized that the wasichus only wanted to stare at him.


    There it is. Probably 10 to 20,000 bullets fired by the Indians. One definitely hits Custer. “perhaps” a second, although we will never know on the second shot.

    Where did he die? Who knows? I say hit and seriously wounded near the ford, and mercifully dispatched in the head perhaps late in the battle up on the Hill. Of course, cruise/surf the Net. There’s some French Historian (Doctorate-Professor) who absolutely insists Custer survived, was taken prisoner, and went with the Sioux as a prisoner, where he was a babbling idiot, commanding children in camp.
    How he managed this with a bullet in the temple can only be a miracle !

    ****** For the record, Custer was not in Buckskins that day. Had his jacket off, navy blue shirt, red tie/ascot, and canvas pants with high top (to the knee) boots, and a good guy (white) hat, as described in various places by Kanipe, Martin, and minor Officers in the Reno-Benteen wings, *****

  104. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    ON The Frenchman is/was:

    Dr. Horace Frontenac, Guest Lecturer at the University of Alberta, Canada . He states Custer died near Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada.

    Has to be true. After all, he’s French………….

    I have two horseshoes and a Colt revolver from the Last Stand Hill. Anyone interested? Make an offer…….

    I also have an old white hat shot full of holes with “Autie- 1876” carved into the hat band. Again, make me an offer ………

  105. VERNON PRESCOTT says:


    Who by name conducted the autopsy on George Armstrong Custer? And on what date? You state the Army Surgeon General. I think those guys work out of our Capital: Washington, DC.
    What or why would the Surgeon Genera be riding with Terry’s column on 27June 1876?
    Wonder if I can get a copy from NARA in College Park, Maryland?

  106. Sm8213 says:

    Ok……….lol…………Fu#%*€g French Canadians! Gen Custer was wrapped in canvas and buried in an 18″ grave. There was no autopsy at the time of death for obvious reasons. By the time they got to the bodies they were not in great shape. what they ” think” is Custer was reinterred at West Point years later. I’ve stared at the grave many many times and wondered if it was really him in the grave with Libby! What a hoot it would be to find out she was mouldering with some corporal! Lol! My dads (class of 65) grave is precisely 32 paces from Custer’s towards the old PX. His service was held in the old cadet chapel where Gen Custers was. Kinda cool. Anyway! As far as good defendable terrain goes there isn’t allot of choices on that end of the field. Obviously high ground is the best choice but without being able to dig in you might as well make a stand on your grandmas tit. Even supposing they had been able to drop enough horses to form a meat redoubt they still would not have been able to hold it. They didn’t have anywhere near enough ammunition for a protracted fight and would have ended up going hand to hand Islandwana style. All kidding aside he sealed his fate when he separated his battalions beyond their ability to mutually support each other. As I stated in an previous rant if he had moved south after being repulsed at the ford and kept mounted and moving I think he would have made it. He didn’t. I still am interested on your guys input on company C’s stand on greasy grass and Calhoun ridge.

  107. ukblue says:

    Vernon: The bullet to the heart and shot to the left temple would have been instantly fatal and cast doubt on his being wounded or killed at the ford, more than a mile from where his body was found. Capt Benteen,who inspected the body,stated that in his opinion the fatal injuries had not been the result of .45-caliber ammunition which implies that the bullet holes had been caused by ranghed rifle fire.And by the way, you are all set to believe Benteen and Reno at the RCOI.In my opinion, you are one of those liberal hard rocks that only believes what he wants, without looking at the complete picture.You try to find all the negative parts of a story and than distort what people said,in my humble opinion you should read more books and have an open you sound more like a hollywood critic than someone studying history.

    • DAVE says:

      Dear UK,

      Wow! Your last post was a little over the top, don’t you think? No need to berate someone just because they have a different theory than you. Besides, you just did the same thing you acuse Vernon of doing.

      You are believing what Benteen stated. Why do you think what he said carries anymore credibility than any other? You are making alot of assumptions as well. We do not really know if Custer was shot through the heart. There was never a professional autopsy done and the bullets were not recovered to confirm the exact caliber.

      Conversely, I have read that the chest wound may have been survivable. I have seen shootings where an officer shot the suspect right in the chest and the .45 slug hit the ribs and failed to penitrate. The round was delected by the ribs and went down. The suspect was only wounded and was up and around the next day. That is the reason I have always been a magnum man. .45 rounds are too slow and lack penatration.

      So, none of know what happened and all of our theories are just that. To me however, it would seem plausable that Custer got shot in the chest at the river and we all know that his Brother and others would not leave him behind.

      As far as the way he was found, Vernon was right. The body could have been moved by the Indians several times and cannot be reliable evidence of anything.

      The one major thing I disagree with Vernon and others is the defense of Benteen and Reno. I am a little harder on them and feel that they failed Custer. The statements by more than one soldier verifies that Reno lost it after one of his subordinates were shot in the head during their charge. This incident, in my humble opinion, is accurate and is what happened. It would explain the troopers saying later that it was each man for himself. There were commands to mount, then dismount, then mount again. Total confusion because Reno fell apart.

      I repeat that at least two Indian Chiefs said years later that they were at the south end of the camp when Reno charged in. They said that they were taken by surprise and admitted that if Reno had stayed a cavalry unit and kept up the charge into the village that they most likely would have fled or given up. We know the Indians were proud people so I think that what they said was their honest opinion and carries weight.

      Again, I am not calling Benteen and Reno cowards. However, on that day, they both failed to do what a good commander would be doing. Beenteen failed to follow his WRITTEN orders from Custer and Reno just flat fell apart in the face of the enemy.

      Just look at their lives after LBH. Reno died a drunk in dispare and Benteen’s family said that his last words on his death bed was “I did not fail Custer.” or something to that effect. This tells me that they both were dealing with a lot of guilt that ate both of them up. They KNEW they screwed up and failed.

      I know it is easy to say, but I feel comfortable in saying it, as I have been in combat, that I would not be able to live with myself either if I had failed so miserably. I would rather have died in battle trying to do the honorable thing than what they did.

      SM and Vernon are most likely correct in saying that they made the right choice to run to the bluffs to save their asses and their command. Tactically, they may be right. It is my opinion that if they had followed Custer’s orderes they may have suffered a lot of casulties, but just maybe, would have succeeded running through the village. The outcome of that action is only speculation on my part but you have to agree that there would have been only two results. They ALL would have died that day or the Indians may have been the ones that would have scattered.

      Besides, the Indians way was to usually flee in the face of an enemy unless they knew they had the upper hand and outnumbered their enemy. There is no way they knew how many soldiers were there and a charge through the village, I believe would have, at least temporarily, confused the Indians may have given the soldiers enough time to allow Custer to enter the other end and that action most likely would have changed the outcome for sure.

      There again, I am just pontificating what MAY have happened differently. We all know that there were far too many Indians for the soldiers to overcome. I am just saying that if Reno would have done what he was supposed to do, it would have changed the outcome. It would either have been enough to cause the Indians to scatter or surrender or Reno would have been wiped out as well.

  108. VERNON PRESCOTT says:


    1. Please cite an exact reference as to Custer’s shot in the heart.
    Virtually all accounts state left side of chest below the heart. Most opinions were that either wound would have been fatal. A shot to the left side of the chest would take just a tad bit longer. The head shot: instant and painless,,,,,,

    2. The Benteen statement: “Not the result of a .45 caliber round. Again, cite your source so I can set my mind at ease. I have many, many LBH/GAC books, and do not recall Benteen expressing himself thus.

    3. The Reno Court of Inquiry: Focus on the last word, UK-“Inquiry”.
    There were many, many witnesses who testified for over twenty days. I accept the RCOI in it’s entirety. There were ample opportunities to pin any one of the witnesses down. Evidently the Army Board felt that they had no reason to, or that the testimony was satisfactory.

    My views: CONSERVATIVE:
    a. A VERY STRONG MILITARY (which, in my view (OPINION) has to be focused on the Asia-Pacific rim.
    b. Address the US deficit in a meaningful way. Modest tax increases, pork spending reduction, and a close review of entitlement spending to cut down on fraud, waste, and abuse.

    4. You dodged or ignored my Autopsy question. Please specifically cite your sources for your assertion. I thought your statement was hilarious.

    5. Hollywood: I think you brought it up initially. I only replied to it in a general way. The last movie I went to was the 2004 version of “The Alamo”, which I thought was pretty good as respects the authenticity of the siege. Nothing more.

    *** 6. *** FINALLY, several of us here evidently do not have the “complete picture “. Enlighten us. Please provide us with it in whatever format you are comfortable with, but cite specific sources, because you have yet to do so. And….. please list the negative parts and POSITIVE parts of the LBH saga.

    In closing, I notice you consistently make statements which usually generate very specific, factual responses from multiple parties on the Blog. You do not reply to the statements and engage in a healthy OPINIONATED discussion. Instead, there’s a poke with your literary bayonet into someone’s rump with some accusatory statement- and that’s all it is-accusatory.

    When you provide us with the “complete picture”, “rationalize” the entire LBH campaign. You waive the word “rational” around like a loaded gun……….. Time for you to “Ruck Up” as we say on this side of the pond.

    Have a great day everyone !!! Will be on and off the PC over the weekend, but will check in.

    • DAVE says:

      Hi Vernon,

      I know you can defend yourself so I apologize for jumping in there for you. It just amazes me how so many people during my entire life spout off as if they know exactly what happened at LBH and it is usually one way or another. Usually they are Custer haters and want to believe that he was a total idiot and evil person who hated everyone and was a stone cold killer. Once in a while you get someone who is a Custer lover who cannot find ANY fault with him. Both are tiresome for me.

      I was a Highway Patrol Sergeant and always had a civil war portrait of Custer on my office wall. You would not believe the stupid comments I would get. It was usually “Why do you have a photo of that idiot on your wall?” I would respond by saying, “You just told me that you are an idiot for making that statement.” If they were so inclined I would fill them in on his military prowess and abilities and would ask why the Army would promote such an asshole to a Major General at age 23? They would always come back to LBH and would argue the same stupid beliefs that have been proven false over and over. the likely one is that he screwed up in spliting his forces. You can argue that, in this particular case, it may have contributed to what happened. You cannot go by that as Custer did not know, or believe, there was that many Indians and was following cavalry stragedy as written in the Army manual.

      The other one is he disobeyed orders. We all know that his orders were general and they said that he could adjust them as to what he encountered. General Terry wrote in the order that he trusted Custer’s judgement to do what was necessary, depending on the situation.

      I guess I am a big defender of Custer as I see that, even after all we know, people still want to believe he was the devil incarnate and nothing but a big screw up. Due to PC he has gotten a real raw deal over the decades.

      After all the studying I have done I feel like I know Custer well. He was multi faceted in that in war and battle, he was the Clint Eastwood and John Wayne all rolled into one. However, he loved animals and his wife dearly and had a soft side to him that he was afraid to display. I see it as a damn good soldier getting screwed by his own government. I feel that our government help kill him by giving repeating rifles to the Indians which allowed them to out gun the troopers.

      Responding to your political comments: I like to say I am so far right, my car won’t make a right turn. I did not like Bush and found him to be just another RINO Republican who could spend money fast enough. I see him as the Republican’s “Carter.” He meant well, but most of his decisions were flat our wrong.

      Being a Vietnam Vet, I am sensitive to the fact that our President’s, with exception of Reagan, did not learn a damn thing from Vietnam. He keep sticking our nose in other countries business and all we get for it is hatred. I am evolving to being more of a Libertarian. The best government is least government.

      As for congress, apox on both sides. They do not have the will or courage to do what needs to be done for fear of pissing off their constituants and not getting reelected. We need term limits on congress.

      Anyone knows that we do not have a tax problem, we have a spending problem. We are pissing away our childrens future of which we will never be able to tax our way out of it.

      I like what Newt said once. No American should have to pay more than 25% of their income to the government. That included your local and state taxes combined.

      You see, we need someone who thinks like Ron Paul, but someone Reagan like who can carry the Libertarian banner to be able to win. Go to Washington and abolish any and all agencies that are not mandated under the constitution. That means the Dept of education, energy, EPA, and many others would have to go. All of these agencies are only allowed under the states rights.

      It is obvious to me that the Republican party is bankrupt and unable to stand up to the Socialist Democrats who are hell bent on making the country like France. I am afraid that guys like you and I and our generation has seen the best of this country and it is all down hill from here. We now have a society that the takers outnumber (at least at the ballot box) the producers. The country will collapse within the next 25 to 50 years and most likely will have a Dictator at that point. Actually, you could argue we have one in the Whitehouse now. Okay, I will stop for now.

  109. Jim says:

    I find it so amazing that after all these years, Custer and LBH is still so popular….

    After reading about the RCOI, I don’t know why people put so much weight in it? Reno waited to demand the inquiry until the time had passed that he could be court-martialed. Reno had a high-end lawyer represent him while the government used a court recorder with little, or no, trial experience. Nearly all the witnesses spent every night in Reno’s room drinking during the inquiry. Read the accounts of Whitaker, I think, that told how witnesses had pressure to tell the story they told. Didn’t Reno wait to demand to exonerate himself until after he could no longer be charged?
    As for Indian accounts and pressure to lie, why not just listen to what Sitting Bull said while in Canada? He wasn’t planning on coming back to the US and had nothing to fear from the Americans.


  110. Jim says:

    Oops, must be getting old..stated the same thing twice in the above.

  111. Sm8213 says:

    What the hell! We were having a great conversation! It’s ok to be passionate but wow!

    I’m not sure I agree with you on some of your points. You stated that the men in the northern part of the village were surprised. Lets assume (yes I know ass of you and me) that that accounts for 2/3rds of the native combatants, that still leaves approx. 600 injuns to Renos front. He sent two separate dispatches to Custer ” I have all before me and they are strong!” Clearly the Indians were not in the mood to run that day. Remember Indians had stayed just out of shooting range for the three or four hours prior to the charge. The only surprise was were the cav would hit the village not if. Per your statement Indians not running = overwhelming odds in their favor and they knew it. Reno only had 125 guys for god sakes! Reno didn’t get his grey matter shower until they were in the woods, not during the “charge”. Every single officer in that valley said the same thing. “Reno made the right choices in the vally!” Not to be a jerk but you’re a combat vet…….why are you still alive? If you honestly believe what you said you should be dead. I fought against similar odds in Somalia. I’m telling you at no time did I ever even think of sacrificing my entire command for an unknown. Reno and Benteen delt with the ramifications of GAC’s decisions. Something he didn’t have to do. He died with his mistakes. Reno and Benteen were crucified by people who were not anywhere near the fight. All of em had opinions. Maybe Reno and Benteen had issues after the fact due to being unfairly judged? You said you felt they did the right thing tactically. That was their job. To fight their unit to the best of their ability. They did that. And quite frankly did it well against overwhelming odds. People have a hard time accepting the fact that someone who they put on a pedistool screwed up. The nation lionized Gen Custer. No one wanted to believe he screwed up. That continues to this day. As you know as a combat vet results are everything. Gen Custer was a professional officer. He took risks that had served him well in the past. He employed tactics straight out of the play book of the period. Unfortunatly he was faced with a tactical situation that was not what he thought it was. He was unable to effectively adapt to that situation regardless of the reason. As a result he lost. Plain and simple Gen Custer lost the battle of little big horn. Not Maj Reno not Capt Benteen…..Gen Custer. These are facts: he divided his force in front of a numerically superior enemy. Not once TWICE! He failed to support his own ordered attack. When repelled at the river he or his subordinate commander continued to move north out of supporting range! I’m sorry that’s a major league screw up! He knew Reno was engaged and had deployed skirmishers! You state that Reno only faced a third of the hostile force 125 to 600! That leaves well over a thousand to deal with Gen Custer! 225 to 1200! Sir as you stated they were never going to beat the Indians that day. Your contention that they all should have died for honors sake just doesn’t make sense! I’m sorry it just doesn’t. Reno and Benteen had no idea that Custer had been wiped out. Think of it this way. Well guys no sign of Custer so lets charge into that three mile long village full of pissed off Indians so we don’t ever feel guilty! CHARGE! Would you feel that way if your son was one of Reno’s soldiers? The finger pointing started within days. You can’t crucify the dead guy! He’s dead! Reno was an obnoxious turd. That makes him not only a convenient scapegoat but a popular one. As uncomfortable as it might be the responsibility for the 7th’s defeat at LBH rests squarely on Custers shoulders. Just as the victory would have. I can’t understand how you can believe Benteen’s statement about where bodies were on last stand hill and call him a liar at the RCOI. Either you believe the accounts of the officers or you don’t. You can’t pick and choose to support an argument. If you state that Custer did support Reno by attacking the center of the village and moving north then conversely Reno supported Custer by holding his ground and forcing the enemy to keep him from maneuvering. Neither argument holds much water. When Reno was finally in a posistion to move he did attempt to move north. Reno and Benteen combined had approx the same number of guys that Custer did! They made it less then a third of the way to LSH before being forced to retire. They didn’t believe Terry’s guys when they were told that Custer had been overrun and destroyed. We have the benifit of hind sight. They made decisions based on what they had in
    front of them. Gen Custer was a god. He ran roughshod over every battelfield he was on prior to LBH. He was also lucky. There is a reason they coined the term “Custers luck”. I personally believe he made his own luck as a good officer should. Unfortunatly his luck ran out at LBH. Nothing more nothing less.


    • DAVE says:

      Hi SM,

      You wrote lots to digest and it is obvious to me that you have done losts of research and study on Custer as well. My bucket list includes going to LBH and spending time there.

      Since you have been there more than once, can you give any advise about how to go about it? I have in my head how I would love to go over the very same ground that Custer did as he approached the area and into the battle. Also the same with Reno and Benteen.

      I respect your opinions as they are well thought out and based on what you believe are the facts.

      The only thing you stated that I take issue with is where Reno got the brain matter blown onto his face. Everything I read said that it was during the charge into the village. He lost it, and then retreated.

      As for everything else, as I said before, tactically correct and I will concede to your train of thought.

      I also, and always have, believed that Custer went into the battle in a way that secured his defeat. I just don’t like it when people say that he was a screw up and got his men killed.

      I think that the biggest mistake Custer made was not believing the intelligence the scouts were telling him. But then, the fact is the Indians never before or after LBH, ever banded together to fight as a whole. Custer did not believe there could be that many Indians in one place. That was his biggest mistake, as I see it.

      From that mistake, came the rest, splitting his command and all, like you said.

      It is like once he made his decision to attack on bad information, every other decision was wrong. Sort of like the “poisonous tree” taught in law enforcement. If you gain evidence illegally or wrongfully, everything you do during the investigation is now compremised.

      From what I gathered, you are West Point man, as was your Father? If so, I have nothing but respect for you and your Dad. And I don’t even know you.

      I spent 35 years in law enforcement, but I am most proud of my four years of military service.

      Seeing West Point is another one of my bucket list places to see. I would be traveling a lot now, but I have a wife who is too ill to travel anymore.

      Thanks for your imput. I truly appreciate it, as well as Vernon’s perspective. I don’t claim to know everything. I try to learn something every day.

      Yes, I am guilty of being a Custer nut. However, I like to think that I am fair and can see his mistakes. As I said before, had you had Reno and Custer change places and Custer was attacking the village while Reno went North, there would have been a different battle. Not saying Custer would have won and not still died, but Custer would not have stopped his charge into the village. I am sure your response would be that it would be a mistake. But I cannot see Custer stopping and then retreating that quickly.

      Don’t you wish you could go back in time to that day and be there with Custer and tell him what is about to happen? I would like to go back with a cache of M-16s for the troopers and maybe a few M-79 granade launchers. Then see what the outcome would be. Ha ha!! Great communicating with SM.

  112. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    Somewhere in the nether world of previous BLOG comments above, I had stated some background information on the RCOI.

    You can probably “Google it” for a short answer, or research it in depth if you’re interested in it. It’s in PDF format on line.

    Reno requested it,. Reason: Frederick Whittaker( Custer’s very first Biographer) was banging out the first “Best Seller” on GAC. He was quite outspoken and derogatory about Reno and his actions. So, Reno requested an Inquiry. I’m not defending him (Reno), but it took guts. My reason: If the Court of Inquiry went south and found Reno liable, it would have probably have led to a Court Martial. At that point, “if” he was found guilty of the worst accusation or charge-“Cowardice” ( in my ESTIMATION only) , he could have gotten a really good meal, a terrific last cigar, blindfold, and either a necktie party or firing squad.
    In today’s society (ie: 2013), Reno would have hired a team of attorneys and sued for Libel, Defamation of Character, Depression, Impotency and you can name the rest……..

    Remember as well, Whittaker had a motive. He also had the Widow Custer morally behind him as well. He was championing the “Dead Lion”.

    Also, in bullet format:

    – There is no indication of cherry picking witnesses on the part of the Board. Both sides selected freely. Who was denied?
    – No indication that there was a limitation on the number of witnesses to be called.
    – I think it was a given that Reno was not on his game that day ( June, 25, 1876 ) for whatever reason.
    – It was an Inquiry, not a Trial, so it arrived at a Conclusion, not a Verdict, offering no Official Opinions.
    -The only “witness” not called or even sequestered was Whittaker himself, who “volunteered” to testify and assist the Court Recorder. He was not at the LBH. Even Reno testified. That would be like you or I volunteering to testify, or offering to assist in the investigation into the Ambassador to Libya’s lack of security and subsequent murder, because we’re writing a book on it. ( I would love to see the Congressional or State Department Rejection Letter on that one…)
    – There is no Statute of Limitations on a Court Martial. Not when you are on Active Duty, and Reno was still on Active Duty at the time of the Inquiry.
    – Frederick Whittaker had an “Agenda”. He was “inspired” by Custer after meeting him for the first time. He had inherited money which allowed him to throw it around somewhat, greasing wheels when necessary.
    His book will only make you cry in sadness or weep with pride if you’re eating raw onions sprinkled with garlic salt while reading it……..

    Finally: Sitting Bull: When Reno attacked, Ol’ Bull panicked, packed up his family, and headed west. He was 10 miles from the village when an Indian messenger caught up to him to tell him the Soldiers were all killed.Then he hooked a U Turn and returned. This is according to Evan S. Connell in “Son of the Morning Star”. Remember, Mr. Bull was a Medicine Man, not a Warrior.

    Hopefully, more specifics and documentation will follow when UK replies.

  113. Sm8213 says:

    And don’t forget! Neve get into a land war in Asia! MOUNT!……..DISMOUNT!………MOUNT!…….,,,DISMOUNT!……..,,,,.,,F#%K that’s allot of Indians! Lol! A running joke (yes that’s a double entandra)

  114. Sm8213 says:

    Lets all re read Troopers with Custer ( Barininstool ) pages 172-182. The words in this section of the book are not Barinistools they are from the men who were there and two contemporary officers. I think this is a very enlightening read.


  115. ukblue says:

    Vernon: I like you do not believe there is a man living,who knows how custer died. We on this form read books and went on different web sites reading and studying this battle,it is very intriguing.I found from different stories on LBH,that Custer was not the raving maniac that movies and some people make him out to be.he is one of the most maligned military figures in (opinion of course)some info came from this very site,,wild west magazine Aug 2005 issue,,to name a few,and of course the hundreds of books written about G.A.C and LBH.By Utley,Unger,Camp,Barnett, and many more.which if I live so long read a few more.,you should do the same.

  116. Sm8213 says:

    Ummmmm who here is maligning Gen. Custer? I would venture a guess that we have all read the same books. What is different here is perspective. As I have stated as has Mr. Prescott, we have nothing but a tremendous amount of professional admiration for Gen Custer. I have spent weeks walking that battlefield. I have ridden over it on horseback multiple times as well. I’ve sat through multiple classes and lectures about the engagement and my degree is in history. I would concider myself relatively educated on the subject. I choose to not to disparage any of the participants of the battle. I can tell you that generations of Army officers have learned from LBH and the mistakes that were made. Please don’t insinuate that because we don’t agree with you that we are some how uneducated on the topic.


  117. poetry77 says:

    good evening everyone
    vernon, uk, jim
    bin away a week very busy interesting posts. sorry i missed everyone.


  118. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    Glad you’re back !!! Trust your short absence from the site want well.

  119. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    A slight change of topic, but not attempting to stir the ant hill:

    There’s that book about SGT Daniel Kanipe,( or Knipe, as the spelling is interchanged in various books). I have not read it. Anyhow, the book’s overview (On Line) states the Sergeant made up the scenario about Captain Tom Custer telling him to find Reno and Benteen with the FIRST “Bring Pacs” message, although the message according to Kanipe/Knipe was verbal and not written. The author feels he actually deserted.
    The Sergeant corresponded quite frequently with Camp, and Camp implies but does not state specifically that Kanipe/Knipe was given a verbal message where as Martin(Martini) was given a written one so as not to verbally (his accent ?) or accidentally misrepresent the intent of the message.

    Kanipe/Knipe also stated that Custer rode “right in front of them (the 5 Troops-C,E,I,F,L ) all the time” in a letter to Camp on July, 20,1908.

    He also implied ( in the same letter ) that the presence of “60 to 75″ Indians north of Reno Hill, which he reported via the Chain of Command,”may have” caused Custer to continue further North than planned and cease following Reno. He says he reported the Indians to SGT Bobo, who in turn reported it to Lt.Harrington, who then reported it to Tom Custer, who finally reported it to GAC.Same letter. Camp thinks/thought these Indians may have caused GAC to change his plan of attack into the village-two wings instead of one.

    Any thoughts/opinions? Brave Courier/Orderly, or Skulker/Deserter? Anyone read the book? If so, is it the Author’s supposition, or are there hard facts?
    Perhaps another, “Unsolved Mystery”………….???

    Finally, in various books there were implications that the enlisted men were totally aware of skulkers, cowards, etc. and it was a given not to talk about it. The men knew who they could trust/distrust when under fire.
    Could this be a reason Kanipe/Knipe was not called to testify at the RCOI?

  120. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    Oh, and Kanipe/Knipe married 1stSGT Bobo’s widow. Check out Lemuel Edwin Bobo on “Find-A-Grave”. His wife’s name was Missouri…..

  121. Sm8213 says:

    Lol you bet a MG 42 on a lafette mount! I’m not sure Custer wouldn’t have dismounted. Dismounting is precisely what the doctrine of the day called for. Dismounting had been in vogue since the war. I would reference Buford at Gettysburg. His dismounting was a large part of the union victory at Gettysburg. Napolionic charges were the exception not the rule. If you look at how much more effective small arms were in 1876 as compared to 1860 it makes sense. The number of vollys that you were likely to receive during a charge tripled in the space of 3 – 4 years or less! The reson for this was the increased effectiveness of rifling. You could could now effectively engage at 600 yards. Whereas smoothbore muskets reached out to 150 if you were lucky. In the face of a superior force you dismounted and skirmished. You increased the accuracy of your own fire and subjected the advancing enemy to more accurate and effective fire for longer. The last thing you want to do against a massed enemy that outnumbers you is close. 35 to 40% of the guys in Gen. Custers combined command were in the field for the first time. We are not talking about the Grenadier Guards here. If Reno had continued to advance he would have never gotten into the village (my opinion only). The Sioux were quite possibly the finest light cavalry the world has ever seen. It was a warrior society that trained its guys to fight from the day they could walk! A huge emphasis was place on personal courage and fighting hand to hand. It’s the combat equivalent of putting the Boy Scouts up against the Hitler Youth! Just not in the same league. Not their fault! I think Renos charge would have held up in the coulee to his front. The guys that didn’t rout at that point would have been butchered. Frankly it’s a miracle Reno survived. If he had stayed in the timber he would have ran out of ammunition and been overrun long before Benteen got there. He did the only logical thing he could. He formed and withdrew his unit while under fire. Yes it was a rout. The approx. 75 effectives Reno had left were in the process of being surrounded and overrun. Yes Reno could have done more to ensure that his entire command got the word in time. He and his men were under direct and plunging fire from three of four sides. He extricated the majority of thoes troops under thoes conditions! From a small unit leadership standpoint it’s impressive! As soon as Gen Custer dropped into medicine tail coulee his fate was sealed. There is no way on gods green earth anyone could have gotten him out of that mess. Certainly not with 35 to 40% raw inexperienced troops. Think back to your days in Vietnam. How effective were the new guys? You all spoke the same language! The new guys in Vietnam had 6 to 10 weeks of BCT minimum prior to arriving in country. They were very familiar or at least functionally familiar with their weapon. Not so in the 7th Cav with Custer. I think Gen Custer absolutely made the right choice to engage when he did. The failure was in the execution of the attack. It was poorly communicated and executed. Given the numbers involved and the method of communicating over distance. I will re read the gray matter shower stuff and get back to you!


    • DAVE says:

      One of the things that I always wondered is just how many Indians there were. I have read over the years that there most likely no more than 1200 warriors to 3500 warriors. I don’t believe there is any way to really know. If on the low side, do you thing Custer would have still been wiped out? How many do you think there were?

      On another topic, the civil war, I always wondered why most the the troops still have smooth bore muskets. I know that we had sharp shooters with rifled muskets during the Revolution. You would have thought that after more than 50 years, most would have rifles and the military would have surely gone to rifles.

      Of course, the US Army surely made other poor decisions when it came to guns. They still are. I could not believe that when the Army was looking to replace rifles after the civil war, they chose the trap door (one shot) rifles when the repeating rifles were available. It was said that the Army staff did not want the repeating rifles because they troops would waste ammunition. I bet they wish all of Custer’s troops had repeaters.

      Even in modern times, the military went with the M9 pistol. Buying a foreign gun as well! As you might know, the 9 mm round is a weak cartridge. It was the rage for American law enforcement back in the early 80’s when everyone was converting to pistols. After ten years of the 9 being used an FBI study found that it took an average of 8 shots to stop a suspect. I could have told them at the time that a 9 was sub par but police departments had to learn this before finding the .40 caliber. I sure missed carrying my S&W model 66 .357, which I had carried for half of my career. I had to give up my wheel gun for a Sig .45 and then lastly, a Sig 40, neither cartridge as potent as the .357. Oh well, enough of that. I digress too much.

  122. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    I’m ready to get beat up “Cut the eye” as Rocky said………..

    1. I agree with you about dismounted Cavalry versus mounted. My own opinion is that the last effective Charge was at the Washita, and Custer only took only one (Black Kettle’s) tribal village, with five or six others down stream. And Black Kettle was at peace with the government and flying an American flag on/outside his tepee. Go figger…..

    2. On a website, somewhere, a long time ago and far away, I read comments on a Ballistics Geeks site going over the types of ammunition the government tested via field service issue ,45-70, .45-50. etc….. all copper shell casing—-no brass.

    3. Buford saved the Union Army with a superb delaying action-TEXT BOOK QUALITY- Gave Meade, with exactly one day in Command, valuable time. Like the Armored Cavalry Manual of the 1960’s stated with respect to the Cavalry Mission:
    a. A classic Cavalry Screen (Protect the Main Body)
    b. Economy of Force
    c. Trade Space for Time. . It is truly a shame neither he or Reynolds survived the war. Wonder what they would have been like during the Indian Wars…….

    3. Reno: Still totally agree. I believe he was 3000 yards ( 2.8 Clicks) from the southern end of the village and being enveloped-29 killed in the bottom alone.If he had charged, it would have been called the Custer-Reno Last Stands. I feel he did get “unhorsed” and panicked: Brain splatter, everything turning to s__t in a hurry, etc. He finished the fight 10 over par.

    And some of his Officers were not top notch. Hodgson-the Darling of the Regiment, McIntosh- who received a direct Commission from desk clerk in D.C.,post-Civil War, with no Combat experience (maybe the Washita???) And don’t forget Lt. Charles DeRudio, the Italian Count, who the enlisted men of the 7th called “Count No Account”.

    Where I ACADEMICALLY DISAGREE is in Custer’s attack plan. In condensed format:
    1. He ignored the warnings of a really big village from his Ree and Crow Scouts.
    2. In particular, he ignored Mitch Boyer.
    3. Fragmenting his Regiment into Wings which could not support each other quickly and effectively.
    4. And finally, a point which may arouse ire among my friends on this site:
    “Perhaps riding to the northernmost point of the village and then attacking it-driving the Indians south. At the very least, he would have been stopped FRONTALLY, and not ENVELOPED.”

    Enlighten me on Brininstool: I think I loaned this one out and never got it back. Have looked for it with no success. The pages cited: what do they represent????


  123. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    Read your post this date- the 7:58PM one:

    I “teenk”:
    A, 1200 ticked off warriors would have been too much to handle with his 5 Troops on 25 June 1876.They fought as individuals ( no Strategy-just individual Tactics ), knew how to “swarm”-either mounted or dismounted, and evidently were pretty good shots. So 1300 or more really doesn’t count in my book…
    B. The Civil War: A CONTRACTOR’S DREAM !! Initially, shoddy uniforms, tents, bad rations, a” hobo’s stew” of weapons during the war, with no attempt at “standardization”.
    C. Cavalry Muskets: It was the Victorian era. The Light Brigade with it’s Lancers, Drawn sabers, and theCommand of “Foward” ! I think this heavily influenced both the Union and Confederacy, albeit the Lances were “kaput”. It was, for most part, ” at close quarters” with sabers and revolvers in most of the engagements. The Musket, or later rifled carbine were ( my guess) a last ditch weapon, the “10 minute skirmish” and re-mount weapon, or a guard duty (rear area) type weapon. You would have thought John Buford’s great delay at Gettysburg would have identified the need for a multiple round, semi automatic rifle, The 1873 Model Carbine was part of the response toward standardization process, but the ammunition was of poor quality due to government specs, COPPER was cheaper than BRASS,

    And remember, post Civil War, there was no 50 million round surplus of .30 caliber ball, like at the conclusion of WWII.
    In the 70’s, if you requested 105mm Main Gun Ammo for “Fam Firing”,you got 5000 rounds of .50 caliber and the Riley sub-caliber devices. The target went from 3000 meters to a scaled down 500 meters. Then they came up with a more realistic sub-caliber, using 20mm. The only realism was a slightly louder report from the muzzle, The ammo was 1950’s vintage and sub-standard. Lots of misfires and duds…. The military never learns, other than the hard way.

    PERSONAL: Sidearms: I own a 9mm Ruger and a Govt Issue .45 Colt ( among others). Will take the Colt any day of the week. Keep the magazine spring clean, the rest of the weapon can be pitted and dirty and laying in the sand, and the Colt will continue to fire. After market magazines seem to have solved the magazine cartridge advancement issue. Own a .45 long Colt Vaquero as well, Great revolver…..
    Long Gun: Three favorites in my 40 year collection:

    1. A CVA .50 caliber rifled Frontier rifle: You can bring 15 rounds and shoot for two hours, BS’ing, getting advice, criticism, laughs, and looking like a chimney sweep when you’re done. In 1980 when a built it ( a kit ) , I went with my 3 brothers-in-law to an outdoor range. Posted a Time cover of Ghadaffi for my target. At 125 yards- split his nose. First time with Black Powder- My best “story” with witnesses…
    2. A Savage 16 gauge Pump- I use slugs- pure fun shooting-don’t hunt.
    3. Remington 572 BDL Pump: A beautiful looking, well crafted, tube fed, pump. Superbly balanced and very lightweight. A great Plinker !!


    In the 1870’s the War Department was ‘CHEAP !! Think about it,,,,horses can carry quite a bit. What if each Cavalryman had an 1873 Winchester, or a Henry Repeater, and TWO Revolvers-one on the hip, and the second up front on a saddle holster ? All with standardized ammunition. I think Custer could have possibly laid down a volume of fire that would have stunned the initial Indian attack, possibly thrown them into confusion, or maybe even have forced a temporary retreat, allowing enough time to re-mount and move on to Plan B if there was one in Custer’s mind on that day.


  124. Sm8213 says:

    You asked about visiting little big horn. It’s very difficult to walk over some of the ground. Large chunks of the battle field are private property now. They have also closed areas to foot traffic. There are still companies who do horse tours but I would need to check and see when and where. If you do decide to go let me know I would be happy to meet you there. Vernon is correct in stating “stay away from the visitor” center to start. If you go in the summer you will have a better understanding of how oppressive the heat can be there. Any time after late Sept and its really cold. The other thing about the summer is the rattle snakes are friggin everywhere. Just need to be careful. The park service has also closed a lot of areas to walking traffic. Even with all of that its still an amazing place. It has the same impact that Antietam has. Unlike Gettysburg it retains an almost identical appearance to its war time appearance as does Antietam. You can still see the rifle pits in the Reno / Benteen defense site. At the minimum I am there once a year in August during the Sturgis rally but once again with a little notice I could meet you guys there most any weekend. Contact me off list at If we do meet there we should take the time to head down to the Fetterman site as well.

    Respectfully Scott.

  125. ukblue says:

    Refer:103&104:Excerpt from, Last in Thier Class on George A Custer: G.A.C. was found naked and unmutilated,with two wounds,in his left breast and left temple.He was propped in an angle formed by two of his men laying across each other,his arm across the top of them,the small of his back touching the ground,his head laying in his right hand as if in thought,smiling.Pat Coleman wrote of Custer”s group,”everyone of them were scalped and o0therwise mutilated but the the general lay with a smil on his face.”The Indians even respected the great chief.Low dog explained that “the wise men and chiefs of our nation gave out to our people not to mutitalte the dead white chief,for he was a brave warrior and died a brave man,and his remains should be respected.”It was not clear that the Indians knew it was custer,just that he had led and fought bravely(implying he survived well into the attack).Hunkpapa chief Crow King stated,”no warrior knew Custer in the fight.We did not know him, dead or alive.When the fight was over the chiefs gave orders to look for the long-haired chief among the dead,but no chief with long hair could be found.”Low dog concurred:”I did not see General Custer.I do not know who killed him.We did not till the fight was over that he was the white chief.According to Sitting Bull,Custer fought bravely to the end.He gave his addittedly second hand account in an 1877 interview:interviewerwhen did he fall,Sitting Bull:he killed a man when he fell. he laughed.:Interviewer “you mean he cried out,”Sitting Bull:,No,he laughed,he had fired his last shot.

  126. Sm8213 says:

    The 45/70 aka 73 carbine. This rifle hits a ton. It’s accurate out to 600 ish yards with a little practice. The trapdoor mechanism is actually very reliable. The rifle remained in first line service through the SpanAm war. While copper casings are clearly less then ideal the archeology has largely dispelled the stuck casing line of thought. During both surveys only one casing was found with any evidence of have being pried out of the rifle on it. As with any weapon cleanliness goes a long way to function. Gen. Custers guys were only issued 100 rounds of rifle and 25 rounds of pistol ammunition! With the 45/70 that’s approx 11 minutes of contact and less with the pistol hence the “bring packs!” I don’t think thoes guys were throwing down their rifles due to malfunctions. I think they were running out of ammunition and transitioning to their sidearms as the Indians closed. Unfortunatly we will never know how much ammunition they had on them before the Indians stripped the bodies. I would guess it wasn’t much in most cases. These guys were involved in a two hour fight. Even with cross leveling taken into account (I don’t think it happened on the Custer end of the field) you don’t have anywhere near the amount if ammunition you would need. Do the math. Now apply that same equation to Reno’s engagement. They were on the skirmish line for approx. 15 minutes. They were firing at will rather then by volly, files etc. Given the 100 rounds its changes the perspective of that fight. Once the volume and rate of fire begins to decrease as the ammunition begins to get thin it’s like ringing the dinner bell for an enemy that wants to close. The other thing that strikes me is thoes carbines were carried on a sling muzzle down. If you were anywhere other then the first set of four in the formation your rifle was filthy prior to that engagement. Not a good thing!


  127. Sm8213 says:

    Gen Custer was found with two arrows rammed up his crank in addition to the wounds you listed. The bodies were in such a state of decomposition that they were disarticulating when the guys were attempting to move them into the shallow graves. Do you really believe that Gen. Custer was not subject to the same rate of decomposition as the rest of humanity? Take a whole ungutted pig. Lay it in the sun at 106 degrees F for 24 hours ish. That’s what they looked like. It was so bad that the burial parties could only handle 20 minutes or so before the had to go down to the river. The accounts of Gen. Custer are nothing more then Victorian filtering. Custer and his guys were a hot mess when they found them. Gen. Custer was a gifted officer by any standard. He was not physiologically any different from the rest of humanity.


  128. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    If you believe, then it must be true – as respects your opinion.

    There are varying accounts of GAC having had a thigh slashed, another where some unknown female Indian may have thrust a sewing awl through his ears so he could hear better in the Nether World, and another account that he had two arrows thrust through his pecker. It’s like Clinton’s statement: It depends upon what the definition of “IT” is,,,, He was dead for two plus days when found, the body probably was black, bloated, slimy, and loaded with blow flies in the 90 plus degrees of July in the LBH valley……

    Also, one of the Indians ( I don’t remember who, but not worthy of digging for an answer) said Custer was going bald ( and he had his hair cut short to boot), and the scalp was not worthy.

    Did you see/read the earlier comments about Sitting Bull fleeing with his family when Reno attacked the lower end of the village. ( Evan S. Connell ) . The Bull was ten miles away to the west, and was told by an Indian messenger sent for him that the soldiers were all killed. Anything, any word, any talk he heard about the battle would have been heresay. But, you are free to believe whatever……

    Unless you can tell me where the Autopsy on GAC is, then I have to believe there was none. I think any Doctor present would prioritize care of the 7th wounded over an autopsy. Two holes in GAC’s body (head and chest) would kind of say it all. Diagnosis: Lead Poisoning.

    Sitting Bull was a Medicine Man, not a warrior. After LBH he fled to Canada and returned to the USA in 1881, so who conducted the 1877 interview- a Mountie??

    I have the “Diary of PVT Coleman” book-will check for his comments and withhold comments on “Custer’s Last Smile”

    AMERICAN HISTORY: After the Indians returned to the US from Canada, or those in the US returned to their Reservations, they feared retribution and retaliation. They told the Americans-soldiers, politicians, writers,Indian Agents, exactly what they (the Americans) wanted to hear: “The soldiers fought bravely. Custer was a great war chief. Custer died a hero-last”. Not until the turn of the century in 1900 forward did they start opening up about the battle, stating it was a rout, a panic, soldiers shooting wildly, and killing themselves.

    Finally, no one wanted to be the one to publish or comment on what GAC’s body looked like out of deference and respect for Elizabeth Custer, his wife and widow. Unfortunately, she lived until 1933, and basically outlived all of the 7th survivors, save a few. It was the Victorian era.


    Those two or three soldiers that GAC was found on top of MUST HAVE BEEN FIGHTING BUCK NAKED, seeing as how they were found that way with George on top of them. Guess they wanted to leave this world the way they entered it……….. or save the Indians the time and effort of stripping their bodies…….

    I guess GAC invented the “Smiley Smile”

  129. ukblue says:

    Vernon;there you go again,a greater portion of the problem is that some people think they know what happened and haven”t got a clue.No one knows what happened at L.B.H.not even the writers of the hundreds of books and stories that you hear and read about.And thats not a personel attack on you,but upon what you believe.See the difference?If you can”t than your more self delusional and haughtier than those thought to be elsewhere than here.The problem is that you and others can”t stand to be contradicted because you beleive your right and they”re wrong.A you don”t want to hear what they have to say because of your beleifs are better than theirs.In short,you are no better than those you disagree with,and in fact are a greater threat to discovery of the truth than they are.Yet last but not least,some some of us take are evaluations I repeat (“evaluations”) of this battle to heart to such a high degree that we become offended when others disagree with our own confirmed.”confirmed positions”There is not one person out ther that can confirm anything about this battle,and that includes you.

  130. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    Just returned from a shopping swaree’ at Wal Mart with the Mrs…. decided to look up Custer’s wounds- was lazy and used the Net.

    Typed in” Custer’s Body and Mutilation”. “” basically supports my statement above, except it states only one arrow in the pee-pee, not two, and a couple of other minor (non-lethal) wounds/mutilations. One arrow in the one eyed snake makes sense, unless it was a very big snake and needed two arrows to do it in..

    Low Dog’s quote on the Great White Chief not being mutilated because he fought well: Whats the source book?? Author? When did Low Dog state it? (Year)

    And remember, Rain In The Face knew both of the Custers……..was thrown in the hoosescow by Tom several years earlier. Vowed revenge.

    And finally there was that melodramatic story of a squaw or two protecting GAC’s remains because he fathered a half breed child, which is pure folklore…….

  131. Sm8213 says:

    Sir it doesn’t make sense. Would you agree that a rock covered in snow was there before it snowed? I’m unclear on what confirmed evaluations you are referring to. The only thing about the death of Gen. Custer and companies C,I,L,E and F that isn’t speculative is that they were all killed. I have a hard time believing that having seen not only his command wiped out but his brothers and nephew killed Gen. Custer was smiling. It’s a great story that makes us all proud but it’s just not true. Dead people don’t smile. Once the musculature in the face relaxes they lay there with their mouth and eyes half open. That’s why morticians glue the eyes and sew the jaw shut. As to his head being in his hand as he lays recumbent………..Sorry doesn’t happen. Now if an Indian held it in that position for between 8 to 10 hours until rigor set then maybe. But only for another 12 hours when the rigor broke. As much as I would like to believe Gen. Custer was spared the indignity of death and decomposition it’s just not realistic. Unless I’m confused (and its entirely possible) Vernon was just addressing your comments rather then attacking you. Why are getting so bent out of shape? If you listen to what he’s saying it makes sense. It’s not an attack on you, Gen. Custer or anyone else.


  132. VERNON PRESCOTT says:


    We all need to meet to resolve academic differences.

    Now, on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation (check out their website, and Hunkpapa Sioux one ) we already missed the “White Christmas Pow Wow” and the “New Year’s Eve Party.

    However, it’s not too late to book the Valentine’s Day party at the Charging Horse Casino and Bingo, on Saturday, February 16th. It states $ 50 paper / $ 100 Electronic (Credit Card?) An Academic Pow Wow would be in order…………….

    Just a little levity……..

  133. ukblue says:

    Vernon:the name of the book is “Last in their Class” and the author is (James S Robbins. and you can get it on book is not all about G.A.C.

  134. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    Thanks for the information. By the by, I’m not delusional about being right or wrong. Thirty-three years of marriage and four kids taught me I’m wrong nearly all of the time. As I write, I’m being contradicted as to when the pets were fed……and I was the one who fed them……

    (OPINION): “Truth” , and the discovery of it…..

    I’ll bullet this:
    1. All the participants, witnesses and first-person Diarists are long dead. All documentation on the LBH saga – first hand- is forever closed, and subject to interpretation only in the future.

    2. Unless new first person accounts, old letters, testimonials, and Diaries surface from museum archives, musty,dusty old attics and basements ,future research about the LBH is “probably” confined to the archeological / forensic field, but certainly not limited to it. Who knows today what science can provide as a tool tomorrow?
    Example: Lt. Harrington, listed as Missing in Action/Body not Recovered for over a Century- His skull gets picked up a year or two after the battle and winds up in a museum and is positively ID’d 100 plus years later.

    3. Present ( 1980-present) forensics have consistently indicated that many men were mutilated-whether to finish them off if badly wounded- or ritually. Most skulls, femurs, rib cages, etc. recovered since 1984 show indications of being struck with blunt objects, or slashed, as with knives. There are many,many photos in the technical/scientific books on the battle, and photos on the Web if you drill down and like to look at bones.
    Conversely, some men were not. Why? Who really knows? Too bloody for booty? Killed off the beaten path? If they were respected for their courage by the Indians, then it would be the first and only time during the Indian wars that our Native Americans were not consistent when it came to enemy dead. So, again, we’ll never really know. Look at Tom Custer’s body………..reddish/black mush, and a skull flat as a pancake with arrows shot into it..

    4. It’s a never-ending subject. Books will be written on the Last Stand for the next 200 years, if mankind is still around. Everyone will have “new evidence”, new interpretation, new spin. It’s left to the reader to decide. There will never be a “final” book on GAC or the LBH battle. I accept this.

    5. Hypothetical example: There were narratives that the Crows found 7th Cavalry skeletons five plus miles east of the Battlefield, near the Wolf Mountains. The Crows thought nothing of it, because they had stumbled on skeletons prior to this incident, and did not bother to report the location.
    “What if”: Suppose, just suppose, someone discovers one bone by accident in that locale, and it leads to a dig, which results in the identification of some 7th cavalry troopers, if not by name, at least by Unit. Well, now we have a new spin-some of the 7th broke out of the “Ring of Death.” Or, maybe they deserted early on, were run down and killed-hence another speculation. theory, or hypothesis. They did find a skull on the riverbank of the LBH River several years back, embedded in the mud. One of Reno’s? One of Custer’s – captured, tortured, killed, tossed in the river? Again, who knows??


  135. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    CHECK OUT: Special_ Exhibits

    .56 cal. rifle found under a dead 7th Trooper. Must have been the Regimental Sniper…………………..
    It was a target rich environment that day……………………

  136. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    Technology and the Last Stand


    ” Archeology of the Battle of the Little Big Horn”

  137. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    Today’s news: One of Custer’s Troop Guidons, termed the Culbertson Guidon after the trooper who discovered it- being auctioned for anywhere from $2K to $5K (plan on $10K to $15K). On the Wall St Journal web site. Not sure if it was already sold or not.

    I also own a French and Indian War Swivel gun, purchased in 1974 when I was single, for the then staggering sum of $850 from a collector in Vermont. It’s Brass, and sits on a homemade stand proudly behind a recliner in the fireplace room (ie: obscured and out of sight). He threw in a half dozen English coins from that period-shillings, pennies, half pennies ( I think as a gesture from guilt over the then staggering price). It’s a two pounder, and he claimed he was the third owner and it was recovered from Lake Champlain.However, it does have a certificate of authenticity. It was the kid’s “Alamo Cannon ” when they were young, and a popular 4th of July toy with XXXX (Super Fine) Black powder and Aluminum Foil cannon balls. ( we have 32 acres of Green Acres behind our home)
    I am a Robert Rogers afficianado’ as well as Custer. My wife calls my pot pourri “clutter”.

  138. Tom says:


    You stated earlier \On another topic, the civil war, I always wondered why most the the troops still have smooth bore muskets. I know that we had sharp shooters with rifled muskets during the Revolution. You would have thought that after more than 50 years, most would have rifles and the military would have surely gone to rifles.

    Of course, the US Army surely made other poor decisions when it came to guns. They still are. I could not believe that when the Army was looking to replace rifles after the civil war, they chose the trap door (one shot) rifles when the repeating rifles were available. It was said that the Army staff did not want the repeating rifles because they troops would waste ammunition. I bet they wish all of Custer’s troops had repeaters. \

    While their was a multitude of weapons issued to the infantry during the Civil War, the most prevalent was the .58 cal rifled musket in various form, the Springfield being the most common.

    You are correct, from what I have read, that the ordnance dept believed that the repeaters were ammo wasters and not without some justification. The 1873 Springfield rifle had a sustained rate of accurate fire of something like 15 rounds per minute in experienced hands, half that in less experienced ones. I have handled and fired several period trapdoor rifles, they are a very robust and simple design to maintain. Black powder fouls the action of a breechloader quickly, resulting in decrease in accuracy as well as rendering the action inoperable. In addition, the army 45-70s and 45-55 rounds were much longer range and harder hitting rounds than what the Henry and Winchester repeaters were chambered for; 44 rimfire or 44wcf which were actually pistol rounds with limited range and power.I also have my doubts as to how many repeaters were in the hands of the Indians, I think not enough to be a deciding factor. A repeater is also a slow loading affair once its empty though nice when full but for sustained rate of accurate fire I think there is little advantage. I dont believe that repeaters would have saved the day for Custer’s men.
    You gentlemen are much more informed on the LBH than I so I wont attempt to add anything there but I believe it was a sheer numbers affair. I have enjoyed reading most of the exchange here between informed students.

    Ps. would add that Clauswitz referred to the \ fog and friction\ of combat and its effect on battle plans and orders

  139. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    An excellent book which I believe is new is Archeological Perspectives on the Battle of the Little Big Horn. has it and if you read the typical sample narratives provided, I believe it states they identified 42 ( don’t hold me to the exact number) types of weapons on the LBH battlefield.
    Also, I Wikipedia’d the Rifled Musket, Musket, and others. It’s very interesting how the Army struggled in it’s attempt to come up with an effective and reliable long gun. No different in the 1960’s: weapons qualified with an M-1, issued M-14’s in the line Unit, and an M-16 overseas-along with a .45 Grease Gun ( perhaps the best close in weapon next to an M-79 Grenade Launcher loaded with Canister ). The Grease Gun was great when dismounted from a tank. Just came back from a week in Cancun’……to 5 degree nights and 15 degree days.

  140. Waldo says:

    Custer really let Reno down. He sent Reno into the village with no where near enough men and then totally failed to support him, as he had indicated he would. His plan was the problem–it was foolish to not only separate his command, but to put a river and rough terrain between them. Considering the terrain he had to cross, there was no way he was ever going to support Reno in time to make a difference. Either that or the even worse conclusion that he was dilatory. The truth seems to be that once he saw the size of the village, he waited for Benteen rather than support the hard pressed Reno as he had promised. If Reno had actually taken his troops into the village like Custer ordered, chances are they would have been quickly wiped out.

    Reno and his survivors were in bad shape when Benteen arrived. I suspect that they would have been wiped out if left on their own and attacked in force. Benteen made a reasonable decision to protect his and Reno’s commands and the still on its way pack train. There was no reason to know Custer was in such a precarious position (mainly do to his own incompetence in having his command so spread out).

  141. Waldo says:

    I’m skeptical it was Custer.

    1. Custer’s command was divided and only a minority sent down Medicine Tail Coulee to the ford. The larger wing goes to the hills overlooking the ford. That suggests a reconaissance or probe to gain info or a feint to draw off pressure on Reno; not an all out charge or attack. If that’s correct, then there’s no reason to expect Custer with this wing.

    2. If this really were a charge, then I’m skeptical Custer getting shot stops the entire attack. That theory does not say much about the soldiering qualities of the rest of Custer’s regiment. On the other hand, if this were a probe or feint, then retreat when any officer got shot makes sense.

    3. Custer’s troops after the retreat from the ford were still spread out and there evidence that some went much farther north and west looking for another ford, presumably to attack or capture noncombatants. It seems like the command was still thinking on the offensive. If Custer had been shot and the command went to the defensive, then you’d expect them to withdraw toward Reno/Benteen. At a minimum, you’d expect them to stay compact for better defense. The actions after the retreat seem much more consistent with Custer being in command than Keogh.

    4. Custer getting shot at the river is inconsistent with Curly’s story.

    5. I think I recall there being evidence of Custer’s rifle being fired at Last Stand Hill. Of course some one else could have taken his weapons and fired them, but given the lack of prolonged resistance there, you’d think troopers would use their own weapons.

    6. Custer’s gunshot to the head suggests either he or more likely another trooper killed him to keep him from being captured and that he was still alive on Last Stand Hill. But I’ve read his other would was to the heart. If the chest wound came at the ford, then I’d think he would have been dead long before Last Stand Hill was overrun and there’d be no need to shoot him in the head. Thus, I surmise his wounds came much later than the attempted ford crossing.

    The big piece of evidence you don’t mention to suggest that it was Custer however is the Indian description of the horse of the rider shot at the ford matched Custer’s horse. I actually find that pretty persuasive, but not enough to overcome everything else.

  142. Waldo says:

    \(4) Custer killed off by his own men to escape torture…Not hardly…Custer wasn’t terribly popular and in a rout like that I doubt people would have dragged a dying man around like a beanbag…\

    This is the one part of your post that I disagree with. Whether the Sioux practiced torture or not is not the issue. It’s the soldiers perceptions of the Sioux that matter when considering whether soldiers killed themselves (as many Indian narratives report) or killed a comrade. My understanding is that pretty much all of the officers with Custer’s battalion were part of the Custer clique. The retreat from the ford was well before things fell apart. So, I have no difficulty imagining Custer’s men taking a wounded Custer with them. In fact, I can see them doing this with pretty much any officer at that point in the battle.

  143. Tom says:

    In post 141 you make a good point that has occurred to me as well; that Reno was not supported in the charge he was ordered to make by Custer. Had Reno’s command been unable to retreat and been wiped out totally, it most likely would have been the Custer court of inquiry held and I doubt it would have went well for him, considering the circumstances; failing to provide support as he specifically said he would.

    As to Benteen, he was ordered to “come on” -bring packs- and “be quick” and ps-bring pacs- not to “come quick”; there is a difference. The jist of the message is to bring the packs, we will need ammo. Had he shown up without the packs, what then? When he hooks up with Reno’s decimated command under attack and in danger of being overrun, he would have been derelict in his duty to leave at that point. Also, as stated, he had no idea where Custer was nor his circumstances.

  144. Tom says:

    I read somewhere that on finding Custer’s body, the head wound was noted not to have bled therefore it was determined to have been delivered post mortem. Don’t know if thats the case or not.

  145. Tom says:

    Agsin, I agree with you in post 142. Talking point #2, I can’t see the attack giving up because of the CO going down. This wasn’t the 14 th century when the capture of the king on a battlefield caused an entire army to lay down its arms. Certainly there was a chain of command. I can see orders being given to recover him but not to break off the attack. Now had there been overwhelming resistance, then yes, a retreat but not from the loss of the CO.

  146. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    ******** OPINION ********

    1. I believe several books cite cite Indian testimony, 7th Cavalry survivors( Reno-Benteen et al ) statements, and present day archeological evidence that Custer divided his five troops into two wings: one under his brother (C,E,F), and the other under Keogh (I and L)., further splintering the command. So, roughly 40% of his command was involved in that feint. A good chunk.

    2. The 7th Cavalry Regiment of the Little Big Horn was not the same Regiment as that on the Washita, with respect to enlistments. The Economic Panic of 1873 and immigration to America flooded the ranks with many newbies.

    3. Despite the warnings of his Crow and Ree scouts, Boyer, Reynolds, etc. Custer totally underestimated the strength and size of his opponents and their intent. If both of Custer’s wings (Keogh and Tom Custer) had indeed entered the village, they would have hit the extended village (3 miles long was the June 27th estimate) still in the lower third, with both wings having hostiles to their front and rear ( north and south of them), with perhaps 500 yards of the entire village or camp between them. If ( remember, I said \if\ ) this had occurred, I believe the five troops would have been wiped out in the village, not on Last Stand Hill and the southern terrain that I and L died on.

    4. George a suicide? No. Seriously wounded at some point in the battle. Yes. Why? Because, as in all battles, everyone is not shot dead instantly. Many are wounded ( I believe the ratio used to be four wounded for each battle death). Some wounds are minor, others look or may be fatal ). George had two brothers on the knoll, his Adjutant, a Troop Commander ( Smith), and any number of senior NCO’s who could have administered the mercy shot. Unfortunately, we will never know for sure.

    5. Custer’s horse ( the skeleton ) was found on last stand hill. A year later during one of the re-mounding of the graves expeditions, one of the Officers recognized the the horse/ hooves ( just re-telling the story- I do not know how hooves are recognized ) of Custer’s horse, and sawed / removed one for a momento inkwell. This is cited in several books, the last one being Evan Connell’s I believe.

    6. Most descriptions of Custer’s head wound cite the absence of powder burns and blood. But several days later he had to be black, bloated, fly encrusted, and quite stinky.

    The body wound can be confusing. I say \body\ because there are different decriptions/references to it:\ several inches below the left nipple\, \left upper rib cage\, etc. Most references cite this wound as being mortal as well, although none say or state \instantaneously fatal\. Again, we’ll never know.

    7. No doubt in mind Reno would have been wiped out/overrun on the hilltop if Benteen and the Pack Train hadn’t linked up with him.

    8. Benteen had two options: Save Reno’s decimated Wing or

    \Attempt\ to reinforce Custer in \ a ride to Glory!!\, leaving a trail of blue lumps (men) and horses up to, but probably short of, Last Stand Hill. It was and still is 4 miles 160 yards from Reno Hill to Last Stand Hill

    9. I think Custer’s offensive strike was thwarted by hundreds upon hundreds of warriors coming out of the village to provide a shield for the women and children to flee- warriors both from the south ( Gall) and the north (Crazy Horse) His hasty defense on exposed terrain was doomed from the start, and remounting was not an option what with lost horses and wounded men. At that point, he was anchored.

    10. I can see \confusion\ if GAC was hit early on.Let’s see. Keogh is next in command but several hundred yards south in a holding/delaying action that is rapidly failing. Tom Custer ( next in succession) is present. Perhaps it was he who ordered the retirement to Last Stand Hill, or any other Officer who ordered \Fall Back\ either verbally or by bugle call. Again, no way of ever knowing for sure in this world.


  147. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    It’s all OPINION…… Yours, mine, Tom’s and Waldo’s.

    Custer’s head wound to the temple could have come from:

    a. A member of the 7th Cavalry-forever unknown.
    b. A warrior with a revolver- 7Th Cavalry \battlefield pickup\ or otherwise – rushing the Last Stand and firing from 20 feet, 10 feet – enough distance not to leave a powder burn. Again, forever unknown to us.
    c. A Squaw or Indian child with a 7th Cavalry \pickup\ revolver.

    Where I do disagree with Tom and Waldo, only in the theoretical and academic sense, is a Cavalry charge getting discombobulated when the leader goes down-especially with Indians as the enemy. Custer was the 7th’s Talisman. By accident or deliberation ( which I doubt ), if he fell early in the fight/charge, for whatever reason, I think it would have generated hesitation or confusion. Even 5 minutes of hesitation with the \Wide Wide World of Warriors\ enveloping them, would have been enough to doom them. Again, my OPINION.

    It is very obvious that the 7th Cavalry had leadership issues on June 25, 1876
    – Underestimated the strength and intent, and fighting qualities of the enemy.
    – Disregarded intelligence ( actually very accurate and reliable intelligence ) from their Scouts.

    – Had 25% of the Squadron ( Benteen with 3 Troops ) conduct a sweep which placed him out of immediate supporting distance of the other two Wings- Custer and Reno.

    – Did not support Reno in the bottom.

    – Finally, from the bluffs, prior to his Charge, Custer had to have seen the length of the village- almost 3 miles long, on the LBH River. That in itself would have made anyone ( except George, perhaps) think twice and believe they were over matched.
    – Finally, no plan ( they call in an \Exit Strategy\ these days ) created or communicated if things went wrong. No central Rally Point for the wings to consolidate on for defense or reorganization.

    Again – OPINIONS

  148. VERNON PRESCOTT says:


    Website: Friends of The Little Big Horn
    \ A History in Photography\ by Bob Reece

    Great photos, shot from 7th Cavalry points of views. Really captures the vastness and difficulty of the terrain


    Camp Interview with Fred Gerard, 1/22 and 4/3/ 1909
    Gerard stated:
    1. He talked GAC out of the Gatlings. Told GAC he should take a 12 Pounder.
    2. Also says he told General Terry of an estimate of 4000 warriors and they would show fight. ( Of course, Terry is dead by this time and cannot refute it ).
    3. States he advised the Adjutant, CPT W.W. Cooke that the Indians \ were fighting Reno\, not running.
    4, Felt Custer would have been defeated even if he charged with the entire Regiment.

    George Herendeen, in a 1909 interview with Camp ( he was 64 years old at the time and had his 1877 notes in hand ) stated\

    1. ( His OPINION in 1877): GAC wanted the 7th Cavalry only to do battle. Did not want to be reinforced.
    2. Did not visually see GAC on the bluffs overlooking Reno’s charge, although looking.
    3. Reno’s skirmish line lasted 15 minutes after the dismount. In the timber, the Indians flanked the south side/flank and were firing from 50 yards.
    4. After his horse was shot,he let it loose,remained in timber with 13 men. Felt most, if not all, were inexperienced.


  149. ukblue says:

    Gentleman: Reno never covered his retreat,dismounted cavalry are,men who know that their retreat is covered and quite secure at a moments notice and will defend a position far more stubbornly than in any other case.Unfortunately much of the evidence we have is that Reno\s troops made no effort at all,to defend the timber once they had fallen back,apparently for the purpose of reaching theirn horses.Defending the timber did not seem to be a priority at all.There were many wounded that needed to be moved out,this as we know,was never done.The wounded were abanded by Reno to their fate and also the troopers,despite occupying a strong defensive position,they did not hold on until the last minute,but was ordered to run for your lives,before any effort was made to hold on to this good defensive ground.For Reno\s command it was every man for himself.The evfidence seems to suggest that the Indians voluntarily withdrew from the head of Reno\s force,falling back towards their village,until it was apparent that that Reno was running instead of charging at them.Only then did they swarm to attack against his flanks.Capt;French\s words of wisdom:to turn and run from an enemy better mounted than you are \is to throw life away\. P.S:I suggest you read Capt:Frederick Whittaker\s book on Custer the first one ever printed,

  150. VERNON PRESCOTT says:


    Frederick Whittaker was Custer’s first Biographer. Most serious historians discount his book on Custer, banged out approximately six months after Custer’s death…. It’s basically a Custer Touchy-Feeley Book of no historical value. He (Whittaker) basically idolized Custer and baited Reno into the COI utilizing the press as a tool to this end. Not having had any direct involvement in the LBH event, he was also denied the opportunity to present questions to cherry-picked witnesses during the RCOI. He had no more right than I would have had at President Clinton’s Impeachment Hearings in the 1990’s.He (Whittaker) thought he was much more influential and powerful than he really was. In short, mildly delusional of his import.


    There are many documented narratives of survivors saying goodbye to wounded Bunkies, in Camp, Connell,Utely, el al., but not citing any attempt on their part to save their wounded comrades.
    So long to Charley Reynolds, Isaiah Dorman, Vincent Charley, etc. Not one of the survivors states they stopped to assist. PVT Roman Rutten rode right by Dorman without stopping to double up and pull him out. Why? I do not know,
    Same with Farrier Vincent Charley-shot through the hips coming off Weir Point. LT Edgerly tells him to take to the brush till a skirmish line can be formed to get him. CPT Weir countermands LT Edgerly and orders a retirement to Reno Hill. Why? I do not know.
    In both of these examples, here were 7th Cavalrymen signing the Death Certificates of other 7th Cavalrymen. It probably happened two dozen times between the initial skirmish line, the Timber, and the Retreat to the bluffs. The only recorded example was Lt. McIntosh holding on to another Trooper’s stirrup before losing his grip.


    Don’t know. The Timber of 1876 is long gone with the LBH River’s track having changed many times by snow run off from the Wolf Mountains. However, there are multiple documented accounts of the hostiles massing on the southern edge and also on the northern (river side) edge of the timber, ie: envelopment.
    I do not think there is an exact record of numbers and names who were killed:
    1. In the initial Charge, Dismount, and Skirmish Line
    2. In the retirement to the Timber.

    3. In the Great Skeedadle from the Timber up the southern bank, across the river, up the embankment on the northern side of the LBH River, into the Reno position on the bluffs.

    I think, when Benteen arrived, Reno stated he had 29 killed up to the time occupying the Bluffs, but how does that 29 break down. Don’t quote me on the number. Can anyone help???


    Who knows? Originally they were caught by surprise, and subsequently rallied in very short order. They fought as individuals. I personally do not believe they eased off temporarily because of Custer. Five major tribes, an extended village three miles long, and conservatively 2000 warriors. If you read some of Camp’s interviews of warrior participants, hearths and homes and family were not consistently their priority. Some went back to braid their hair for battle, grab their medicine bag, favorite pony, coup stick etc. etc. etc. They were individualists and fought that way. However, they fought very, very well.

    Mounted, dismounted, or hunkered down, Reno and his three troops were outnumbered, and like Custer, outfought. Reno and Custer exhibited similar symptoms:

    1. Both, at one point or another on June 25, 1876 hesitated. And both did it at the River.
    2. Both displayed varying degrees of Indecision.
    3. Both lost the element of Surprise, again, at the River.
    4. Both lost Momentum, yet again at the River.
    5. Both lost Confidence in that they, as an attacking offensive force, they both quickly went on the defense.
    6. By virtue of the first five OPINIONATED points, they took a very strong, numerically superior enemy and emboldened him even more.

    Custer let Reno down. Reno let Custer down. Benteen could have exerted a positive influence if his three troops were either with Reno in the bottom charge, or with Custer slicing through the village, if BOTH charges were dynamically conducted. As it turned out, Benteen exhibited the only coolness during that campaign.

  151. Waldo says:

    Tom @145. I’m pretty certain I’ve read comments here or on other LBH articles that Custer’s head wound was found to have bled, was found with gunpowder around the entrance site, and was found without gunpowder around the entrance site! I conclude from this that it is dangerous to rely upon anything you read in internet comments! I don’t know what the answer is or there even is a definitive answer about his head wound. If anyone knows a primary source for a description of Custer’s head wound, I’m curious enough about this now that I’d like to read it.

    If Custer was wounded in the chest at the LBH river, then my surmise is that the head wound is a mercy killing by a member of the 7th. The overrunning of LSH must have been 45-60 minutes or so after the action at the ford, and from the description of the chest wound, I’d imagine anyone still alive would be unlikely to be actively fighting. It also seems very unlikely to be a self-inflicted wound since I believe it was to the left side of his head and he’s right handed.

    If the head wound was first, then I like to imagine that Custer was standing up on LSH trying to rally and organize the remnants of his and Keogh’s wing, when his battle luck ran out and he was struck by a well aimed Indian rifle shot . Although I think Custer was ambitious and made some reckless decisions in pursuit of fame and glory, I don’t doubt that he was fearless and fierce in battle. If everything was falling apart and panic setting in on LSH, I don’t see him hiding behind a horse or hunkered down low to the ground–I can only imagine him being conspicuous and courageous until the end. Of course, just the way I like to think about it.

  152. Waldo says:

    uk @ 150, I’ve started to read some of the Reno court of inquiry testimony. I had been of the opinion that Reno totally panicked and had a strong defensive position in the timber. If he had held out in the woods for another 30 minutes or so, then perhaps Custer could have crossed the LBH and attacked the Indians from the rear while they were still preoccupied by Reno. From what I recall, Reno had taken only a few casualties before the retreat from the timber. Just going by memory, but I think two troopers failed to halt their horses and galloped into the village, none killed or wounded on the skirmish line, only one trooper wounded in the move to the timber (and I think he even survived the battle!), and maybe only one killed and one wounded while in the timber. But, in reading the testimony, it seems like the officers with him generally support his decision to retreat to the hills. I’m not sure to what extent, if any, that the officers just didn’t want to attack a brother officer, so maybe they shaded their testimony in Reno’s favor. The retreat itself seems like it was done poorly and that Reno likely broke.

    For some reason, I had thought that when Reno moved to the timber, the plan was to fight from there and that the plan changed as Indians started to surround them and his scout was killed. But, it now seems to me that there was never any intent to hold out in the timber and that it was just a temporary move to get the horses and then get out. Maybe Reno was just being indecisive.

    My tentative thoughts on Reno is that he did not perform well and that he broke under the strain of combat. But, I’m still not sure any of his major decisions were wrong–I need to read the rest of the RCOI testimony. He seems like the opposite of Custer–always taking the more cautious course of action. It would have helped him if Custer had had a definite plan that had been communicated to Reno.

  153. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    I’ve spot checked 1/2 dozen Books on the Custer head shot, which included interviews by Camp of 7th Troopers who buried Custer. Not one book or interview cites the wound as bloody-just a bullet to the left temple. Can you track down the source on the blood/gunpowder statement? I’m curious on this one. Other than this interesting point, we will never know what Custer did on LSH…until we enter the next world and get to ask him.
    On the subject of Reno in the Timber, my opinion is that, if he had attempted to hold the Timber for 30 minutes, in all probability, there would be 140 white US Soldier Fell Here Markers in the bottom where the timber was in 1876. Either that or or a footpath down to a point on the lower bluffs with an Interpretation Board about what occurred in 1876, because that location is private property today. His retreat to the bluffs was handled half-arsed, but he managed to get the balance of this Battalion up there.

    Whether 7th Cavalry Officer testimony was tainted in the RCOI is a matter of pure speculation. Not one Officer ever left a statement on it, let alone wrote an article on it after the Inquiry, even after Reno died in 1889. No death bed confessions, no letters to be opened 10 years after my death, etc. The Inquiry ended, and that was that……

    I believe that every Officer in the surviving seven troops felt that Custer was not good on his word that he would support Reno’s charge \ with the whole outfit \ . After all, he didn’t. Whether Reno charged, dismounted, skirmished or withdrew temporarily to the Timber and then fled, he was drawing Indians like ants to sugar. Also, both of the fords where Custer attempted to penetrate the village were not at the northernmost end of the entire village encampment. His northernmost attempt to enter was closer to the 50 yard line of the entire village encampment. If he had succeeded in entering the village and turning south to charge toward Reno, he would have had hostiles to his rear while he tried to cut through them in the front to link up with Reno, if that was ever his intent.. A good chance his 5 Troops would have been gobbled up from behind or from the rear, while he rode to Reno.

    • Waldo says:

      The only place I recall reading that Custer bled from his head wound was a comment to an internet article like this one (may have even beenthis one for all I recall). I remember the guy had a lot of detail about the wound (precise entrance and exit point, bleeding) so it sounded like he wasn’t just making it up, but who knows!

  154. Waldo says:

    @ Vernon 147

    1. Philbrick, Last Stand, has Custer’s two wings as Keogh (C, I, L) and Yates (E, F). He also has Tom Custer as Aide de Camp to G. Custer and with the HQ instead of in command of C. Not sure why the discrepancy about where C was or which is correct.

    2. Many of the troopers might have been fairly green, but the officers were a pretty experienced bunch, the more senior with Civil War experience and I think all with some Indian warfare experience. On the whole, they’ve got a lot more combat experience and years in the job than is typical for US officers in later wars. With the exception of Reno, the officers with him all seemed to perform courageously. If you also loo where the bodies of Custer’s officers were found, it looks to me that died holding their ground, instead of running. No doubt Custer getting shot early on would have been a shock to troopers. I just don’t see the rest of the officers panicking or becoming indecisive as a result. I don’t recall reading what the general experience level of the NCOs was.

    3. No idea how many Indians were around when Custer’s trooper approached the LBH. My surmise is that he was probing to see if he could cross there. For whatever reason (Indians firing from good cover on his flanks and front, difficulty getting across because of mud or high water, maybe too many Indians already in sight and on the way), he decided against trying to force a crossing. The case against Reno is that if he had fought from instead of running from the timber, then the Indians would have been in front of him and Custer could have got across and hit the Indians from the rear.

    3. Agree, no suicide for George. doesn’t seem to fit his character and too hard to shoot yourself in the left temple holding a revolver in your right hand.

    6. I’d love to see the primary source on Custer’s head wound.

    8. By the time the pack train came up, it was too late for Custer. And, it doesn’t seem like Reno and his men were in any condition to move out immediately after joining with Benteen. So, any help, if it were to come before it were too late, probably would have had to be Benteen and his battalion. I wonder how Indians would have responded to 100+ troopers in good order charging up from the south under Benteen. I tend to think they would have scattered before troopers and most would have got to Custer, but then been surrounded and eventually wiped out themselves. They just did not have good defensive terrain. Their only hope would be to get to the trees along the river and try to hang on until reinforcements.

  155. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    Have to jump around with replies: Don’t have Philbrick, but it’s generally presumed that Custer took his 5 Troops (C,E,I,F,L ) and further divided his command into two further Wings or Battalions: C,E, and F under Tom Custer, and I and L under Keogh. If you’re familiar with the modern day names of the battlefield locations, here goes:

    Calhoun’s Troop L skirmish line ( facing South ) took heavy fire from two locations: Henryville and Greasy Grass Ridge. At least 70 Indian guns (based on casings from archeological digs). So, they were basically caught in a crossfire. Remnants of Calhoun’s Troop subsequently fled/retreated to Keogh’s position.
    The Hostile’s advanced northwest to Deep Ravine and proceeded to hit the remaining 3 Troops (Tom Custer.) The Indian cartridge casings on and near Calhoun’s position were identical to those in/near Deep Ravine
    Source: Forensic Taphonemy-The Post Mortem Fate of Human Remains. Authors: Wiiliam D. Hagland and Marcella H. Sorg.

    Don’t misconstrue what I just wrote: 70 Indians did not wipe out 210 men. They were instrumental in initiating the start of the collapse of the command by eliminating Calhoun and his Troop. An event such as this is normally the start of a panic or rout.

    Apart from small skirmishes, the only battle that the 7th Cavalry was involved in as a Regiment prior to LBH was the Washita, and that was in 1868, 7 1/2 years before. And Custer attacked a village that was at peace with the U.S. Government. If you read the entire Washita saga, GAC only attacked the first village upstream, with many other villages downstream.

    In that 7 1/2 year period, troop strength changed many times over with desertions, discharges, recruits, transfers, personnel on detached duty, etc. The 7th was not the battle-hardened Regiment we have all been led to believe it was.

    The Officers: Their experience was in civilized ( if you can call the Civil War civilized ) warfare. Confederates did not scalp Yanks, slash their thighs, or leave a dozen swords ( ie: arrows ) in their bodies. Their experience was with an enemy that stood and fought in an organized fashion, and honored surrenders, whereas Indians fought as individuals, and when they had enough scalps, horses or captured weapons, they grew disinterested and disengaged. And, they were not keen on prisoners……..
    Merritt, Gibbon, Crook, MacKenzie adapted to this type of warfare. Not sure Custer did.

    Finally, my take on a Benteen charge ( or all 7 remaining Troops for that matter, leaving the Pack Train and wounded as sacrifices ). A second charge into the Jaws of Death. Reno Hill to Last Stand Hill: 4 miles, 160 yards. Seven Cavalry Troops in column- Gall did ride up from the south with mounted warriors to take out Keogh’s position. Instead of veering left (N) to Keogh, he could have hung a right (S) and hit this second group of the 7th in flank.
    Crazy Horse, swinging around Last Stand Hill could have headed S as the second pinzer. How many mounted Indians-nobody knows, There were certainly enough and boy, were they ever pissed that day.
    And if Benteen made it to Custer, what would happen?. Bang !! You’ve got to park your horses ( lose one in four troopers as horse holders) and defend the Custer wounded on the same really poor terrain. The horses of Custer’s command are gone- spooked, captured, run off, or shot dead for barricades. His command is afoot. You are now fighting the sequel: Last Stand II.

    And you are absolutely correct about the terrain.

  156. Waldo says:

    I did some quick wiki research on the 7th’s officers with Custer and they seem like an experienced and trained group. Especially those who served in the Civil War not only had combat experience, but they had previously led much larger units than Custer’s battalion at LBH.

    CWx=Civil War and year of enlistment
    WPx=West Point and year of graduation
    W=significantly wounded in combat
    Bvt=highest breveted rank achieved in Civil War
    MOH=Medal of Honor winner

    Cooke–CW63, W, Bvt LtCol
    T.Custer–CW61, Wx2, Bvt LtCol, MOHx2!
    Smith–CW62, W, Bvt Maj
    Sturgis–WP75 or 76
    Yates–CW, \several brevets\
    Reily–no info found
    Keogh–CW62, Bvt Lt Col (served with Buford at Gettysburg)
    Crittenden–WP no grad, commissioned 76

    In addition to those listed with Civil War combat experience, almost all had some Indian warfare experience with the 7th.

  157. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    Great research. My reply to your earlier comments is out of sync.
    Check my comments on # 151- the comparisons of Reno and Custer as far as June 25, 1876 goes.
    Custer’s Officers were all very good, save for a few Newbies with no experience who can never be judged. BUT….. there’s only so much an excellent Officer can do when the command has lost it’s mobility, is committed to holding indefensible terrain, accruing a growing number of casualties, and your men are watching their friends slowly drop all around them.
    You can shout out where the next threat is coming from, redirect fire, encourage your men, look or hope for an opening, or pray out loud for a miracle. That’s about it.

  158. Sm8213 says:

    I agree with allot if you points. I would differ on the defensibility of the trees. Not enough guys, not enough ammo. I don’t think Benteen would have ever reached Custer. Further dividing the command would have guaranteed the destruction of all involved. The only way he could have attempted it would have been to leave the pack train which would have been contrary to his written orders. Your point about the officers being experienced is right on. That’s the only thing that saved Reno and Benteen’s guys. Approx. 40% of the guys involved in this fight had never even seen an Indian! Even the most experienced guys on the field were dumbfounded by the number of Indians. That’s one hell of an introduction to Indian warfare. I struggle with Custer being wounded at the ford. It would explain a tremendous amount. My struggle is with Custer being placed on the ridge where the cemetery is now. It’s hard to reconcile him continuing north having been wounded. Possible but who knows. I am of the opinion that Gen. Custers head wound was delivered post mortem. Just my opinion.

  159. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    WALDO AND SM8213

    Waldo has invigorated me as nothing short of two fingers of rum could do. Did some early AM research:

    1. Custer shot at or near the river ford . My opinion: No. Why? Conflicting stories or memories. White Cow Bull (WCB) gets credit for the take down of a man in Buckskins. WCB says the man was wearing a Buckskin Jacket. Both PVT Peter Thompson and the Ree Scout Soldier (that’s his name-Soldier) say GAC had his Buckskin Jacket off and was in his shirt sleeves.
    So, which story is factual? We’ll never know.

    Source: Who Killed Custer? + 100 Voices by Bruce Brown.

    Bear in mind that what I have written above is/was pulled off the Net,


    Again, an element of doubt based on conflicting statements regarding whether it was a post mortem wound or not.

    a. To Hell With Honor-Custer and The Little Big Horn: SGT John Ryan says no powder burns.

    b. Where Custer Fell: Photographs of The Little Big Horn, Then and Now: PVT Jacob Adams says the head wound bled.

    Both Ryan and Adams state the bodies were black after 3 days.

    I guess I can spend my remaining Moons on this earth finding one statement that says yes and another that says no. So my conclusive Opinion is: I don’t know.

    By the by, somewhere along the line, I think WCB gets credit for Custer’s head shot as well as the Buckskin clad Officer at the Ford.

    Agree with you en toto. My view or Opinion: GAC could have picked up the Rib/Chest Wound anywhere and at anytime in the Last Stand: Two minutes into it, or two minutes before the Closing Bell…….

    If it was early on, I don’t envision him commanding the defense. A serious wound: shock sets in, difficulty breathing, hemmoraging, internal bleeding, organ failure, certainly can’t stand or walk around, sitting upright would be painful. He’s made comfortable, and maybe assigned a couple of Troopers as Bodyguards….. (speculation).

    The 7th Cavalry experience level: again, you are right on. Except for Calhoun and his Troop, there was no real evidence of a determined defense. Perhaps a few clusters of hard core soldiers, as with those surrounding Keogh’s body, but not much else.

  160. Waldo says:

    Sm @ 159, with respect to the timber, was recently reading Benteen’s testimony at RCOI, and he clearly expresses opinion that the timber was a better defensive position than Reno Hill, that he believed Reno could have held out at the timber for quite a while, and that he could have joined Reno in the timber (although noting Reno would have had no reason to expect him to). Of course, that’s just Benteen opinion and I’m pretty sure I recall reading other officers there thought Reno made the right decision.

    Vernon @ 160, Ryan and Adams statements are not necessarily inconsistent. They would suggest Custer was alive and shot from at least a little bit of distance. I’d much prefer a statement from a medical man, but don’t know if any such eyewitness exists.

    And, a side note that I’m enjoying reading the RCOI testimony. It’s online and not near as dry or difficult as I would have imagined. You also get a different perspective reading the primary sources rather than some historian’s selection of testimony.

  161. Waldo says:

    One interesting, at least to me, point I saw in reading the RCOI online. Whitaker, the Custer biographer who accuses Reno and Benteen of cowardice or disobedience, totally recanted his accusations against Benteen based on the trial. I gather he thought Benteen had been slow to respond to Custer’s order, but the trial showed he moved promptly down the Custer trail before finding and reporting to Reno.

    What was particularly interesting to me is that he completely absolves Benteen of all responsibility the moment he reports to Reno and shows him Custer’s written order. I’ve never served in the military. Is that correct as a matter of military law? In other words, once Benteen reports to his superior Reno and Reno pleads with him to stop his command and help Reno and his troopers, does that trump the written order of Custer to Benteen to \come on\ and \be quick\?

  162. VERNON PRESCOTT says:


    It is VERY interesting reading a document such as the RCOI with reference to as significant an event as the Battle of The Little Big Horn. Apart from going blind reading it on the screen ( too cheap to print it ), it really does hold your attention and make you take notes. Of course, it is an Army Investigation, not a Congressional one, where more witnesses would have testified.

    Whittaker was bullying Reno via Congressional letters and the press. Reno was intimidated to the point that he requested a COI to clear himself of innuendos and charges of cowardice et al.
    I do not think Whittaker had a real feel for Benteen. Benteen had sand….. If he felt he was right in his decision making, well then \case closed\ as far as Benteen was concerned. Benteen didn’t yield an inch to GAC during their years in the 7th, despite the fact that GAC was his superior Officer .Whittaker was trying to lump Reno and Benteen together. Old Benteen simply wouldn’t allow it.

    CHAIN OF COMMAND: On Reno Hill, Marcus A. Reno, Major, US Army, was in command, whether he actually commanded or not ( Senior Officer Present ). He was Captain Frederick Benteen’s Superior Officer. Benteen was his Subordinate. This Superior/Subordinate relationship existed until the remnants of the 7th returned to Fort Abraham Lincoln. It’s the military way, unless there are specific orders ( written, but can be verbal) that place you in command due to the illness, injury, or incompacitation of a Superior Officer.

    Benteen’s Dilemma: Upon joining forces with his superior, Major Marcus A. Reno tells him to stay and join forces or Reno’s force will be overwhelmed. Custer’s written Order by way of W.W. Cooke’s written message pre-dates Reno’s predicament. You can:

    1. Obey Custer’s order and die trying to get to him.
    2. You can charge forward and link up with Custer WITH the ammunition, incurring casualties of your own along the way. However, all the ammunition in the world will not save you with a conservative bad guy ratio of anywhere from 5:1 to 8:1, many friendly wounded on the battlefield, and a truly poor defensive position. You and your three Companies enter the meat grinder.
    3. You can presume Custer is engaged in battle and holding his own. After all, two couriers, Knipe/Kanipe and Martin have arrived from Custer to your position safely. If Custer needed reinforcements, would not a third or fourth courier be sent: \ Need all Companies !! We are trapped !! \ So………….

    4. You remain with your three Companies to reinforce Reno’s command which has been devastated. He has many wounded, the ammunition packs and foodstuffs, and only one intact Company, CPT McDougall’s. To go to Custer means to leave this entire element to it’s fate. So, you remain. You reinforce that which you physically witness needs reinforcing, while abandoning ( a strong term ) Custer because you have no real indication that he is in a life and death struggle.

    And remember, Martin arrived with the written message and verbally said the Indians were skedaddling. And , two C Company Troopers ( Tom Custer’s Troop ) come straggling up to Reno Hill with played out / wounded horses, indicating where Custer is, but not stating he (Custer ) may be in trouble.

    It is what it is: Either a Court of Inquiry or a Courts-Martial, with evidence and witnesses presented to prove/disprove intentional disobedience, cowardice, incompetence, or extenuating circumstances warranting the decision made. And you get judged on your decisions. And that’s the way the COI did it.

    • Waldo says:

      Appreciate the response. However, I’m not sure I follow with respect to my command question. You state Reno was in charge, but then make it appear that Benteen had several choices. Putting aside the question of what was the wise thing for Benteen to do, I’m asking what the correct legal/military duty was in his circumstances. He has a written order from his CO. He has a subsequent order from his superior officer but inferior to the officer who has given him the written order. Which order takes precedent?

  163. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    SOURCE: In Custer’s Shadow-Major Marcus A. Reno / Author: Ronald Hamilton Nichols

    ( Maybe General Terry summarized the LBH Campaign )

    Quoted verbatim and on line………………….. Terry’s statement to CPT Grant Marsh of the Far West:

    Captain, you are about to start on a trip with 52 wounded men on your boat. This is a bad river to navigate and accidents are liable to happen. I wish to ask of you that you use all the skill you possess, all the caution you can command, to make the journey safely. Captain, you have on board the most precious cargo a boat ever carried. Every soldier here who is suffering from wounds is the victim of a terrible blunder: a sad and terrible blunder.

  164. Tom says:

    Don’t know if you guys have seen this before or not but it is an excerpt from a letter Benteen wrote to his wife on July 4th 1876. Telling to me is he expresses much the same sentiment as Terry did in Vernon’s post 164, except he comes right ut and lays blame on Custer:
    *I must now tell you what we did — When I found Reno’s command. We halted for the packs to come up — and then moved along the line of bluffs towards the direction Custer was supposed to have gone in. Weir’s Company was sent out to communicate with Custer, but it was driven back. We then showed our full force on the hills with Guidons flying, that Custer might see us, but we could see nothing of him, couldn’t hear much firing, but could see immense body of Indians coming to attack us from both sides of the river. We withdrew to a saucer like hill, putting our horses and packs in the bottom of saucer and threw all of our force dismounted around this corral; the animals could be riddled from only one pointbut we had not men enough to extend our line to that — so we could not get it-therefore the indians amused themselves by shooting at our stock, ditto, men — but they, the men, could cover themselves. Both of my horses (U. S. horses) were wounded. Well they pounded at us all of what was left of the 1st day and the whole of the 2d day — withdrawing their line with the withdrawal of their village, which was at dusk the 2d day. Corporal Loll, Meador and Jones were killed; Sergt. Pahl, both of the Bishops, Phillips, Windolph, Black, Severs, Cooper, etc. (21 altogether) wounded. I got a slight scratch on my right thumb, which, as you see, doesn’t prevent me from writing you this long scrawl. As this goes via Fort Ellis it will be a long time reaching you. Genl. Terry, with Genl. Gibbon’s command came up the morning of the 3d day, about 10 o’clock. Indians had all gone the night before. Had Custer carried out the orders he got from Genl. Terry, the commands would have formed a junction exactly at the village, and have captured the whole outfit of tepees, etc. and probably any quantity of squaws, pappooses, etc. but Custer disobeyed orders from the fact of not wanting any other command — or body to have a finger in the pie-and thereby lost his life. (3000 warriors were there).*

    Vernon, I too have seen some of the battlefield forensics dealing with cartridge casings etc, there is an excellent documentary that is now available on youtube concerning this. I would add that casings dont tell the entire story, as you know; many of the hostiles were armed with muzzleloading longarms as well as revolvers which leave no tell tale casings and of course bows and arrows, lances and such.

  165. Sm8213 says:

    One of the things that bothers me about foxes interpatation of the cartridge case evidence is his assertion that the lack of Springfield casings at LSH and other areas (with the exception of L companies defense site) indicates that Custers men did not put up a substantial fight. He discounts relic hunting as a cause for this. Calhoun hill is a little bit of a hike from the visitors center and available parking. The other posistions are not. Artifacts are still being found on the ground or just under the surface every day. Just one more layer of screwed up stuff regarding this engagement.
    In regards to the trees being more defensible, a low lying posistion with dominating terrain to the east and a non fordable section of the river. Reno was being flanked from the west and east. If Reno had allowed the Indians to pin him in the trees he and everyone with him would have been killed. They barely got out as it was. Benteen would have had to cross the LBH under fire with the pack train to reach Reno. Then fight his way down the west bank approx. a mile. All he would have accomplished is the destruction of his command and the loss of the train. Reno withdrew to a posistion (what we would now call an ORP) that could not be missed by Benteen. With the exception of the one terrain feature to the east it was a defendable posistion once the men were placed on the back side of the military crest. The other thing to think about is the fact that Reno only had approx. 100 guys! They had burned through more then half of their available ammunition. Once it’s gone it’s gone. Reno withdrew into a posistion that made the most effective use of the long range and hitting power at range of the Springfield. That forced a ranged engagement where he had the advantage. Reno didn’t have enough guys to hold that tree line. Once in the trees the Indians would have had not only a rate of fire advantage, they would have negated the accuracy issue they had. Reno placed himself in a posistion where he could most effectively employ the weapons he had, could give himself the best chance for re supply and relief and had decent cover. He dug in. Reno had a chance to win the ranged engagement. He had zero chance of winning the close fight.


  166. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    Thanks for posting Benteen’s lette .!!! Written immediately after the battle when events and feelings were absolutely fresh in his mind.

    Bouncing around, there was an earlier statement that the Timber would have been a better defensive position than the Bluffs, for Reno’s command. I believe the RCOI has testimony from the multiple participants refuting this.

    Finally, Calhoun’s collapse: The casings from the 70-odd Indian weapons were forensically matched via firing pin marks, which led the experts to the conclusion that these two groups of Indians basically took out Calhoun and then advanced in two different directions with minimal casualties. It’s a nit-noid point, what with the volume of fire being laid down on the 7th.

    The balance of the 7th up on the bluffs was lucky that Benteen wasn’t on recruiting duty back East on June 25, 1876.

  167. ukblue says:

    Did it every occur to anyone, that maybe, just maybe, most of the troops in G.A.C. command was out of ammunition? just a thought.

    • Waldo says:

      There doesn’t seem to be any good archeological or historical evidence for this. As Fox reconstructs the battle, the Custer wing disentigrated fairly rapidly once it began to fall apart–no where near enough time for most troopers to fire all their ammo. Also, based on what he found and estimated was still buried, relic hunters would have to have picked up many multiple times the shells he found and estimated were still in the ground. Last, and I think strongest evidence, the Indian testimonies are consistent in that the troopers still had ammo on their bodies.

  168. Sm8213 says:

    Absolutely. I think that’s a part of what happened. I don’t think it explains everything by any means.

  169. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    You are 100% correct on your statements in Post # 166 The first momentos were being taken from the surface as early as the 1880’s. when picnic parties from various posts were visiting the LBH. Few, if any, probably wandered to Calhoun’s AO.

    The Timber: There also would have been 140 white markers where the timber once stood, with 25 cents for 2 minutes telescopes on the bluffs to view where Reno and his command perished.


    When you read about all of the bone collection/ tidy up missions prior to 1890, I am surprised that someone in the NPS hasn’t realized that there are probably many bones yet to be discovered on LSH. A little imagination: Corporate Sponsors to finance a methodical excavation of LSH. The best archeological team(s), etc. and I’m sure a little bit more of GAC would turn up, based upon what they originally found in ’77. And who knows? A 7th Trooper is lying dead in ’76 with, perhaps, several discarded or unwanted (by the Indians) items underneath him when 10 shovelfuls of earth and some sagebrush is tossed on top of him.


    Finally, even though the LBH River has changed it’s path over many, many years, no one has ever really conducted a dedicated scientific dig in the vicinity of the former Indian encampments. Always wondered how many smoothbore muskets, axes, jammed or broken revolvers, metal objects, etc. etc, might turn up. May have to pay a landowner or two, but it’s a small price in exchange for more knowledge and the recovery of historical objects. Look how they found the 7th Cav skull several years back embedded in the bank of the LBH River opposite Reno’s Bluffs position, after erosion exposed it. Who knows? There were at least six 7th Cavalry trooper heads in the village on the 28th-29th: four on poles and two under kettles, and yet no record of what Terry’s men and/or 7th survivors did with them, unless I missed specifics somewhere……

  170. Tom says:

    The Indians were possibly equipped with more muzzle loaders that self contained cartridge firing weapons at the LBH. If they identified 70 different casings at the deep ravine site, the actual number of Indians attacking there could be much larger. This was taken from Guns at the LBH.htm

    *Compare the above with the 1879 ordnance report of arms surrendered by Indians.

    160 Miscellaneous muzzle-loaders. (Indian trade muskets).

    49 Springfield Breechloaders

    23 Spencer repeaters

    13 Sharps breechloaders

    12 Winchester lever actions .44

    4 Henry Rifles
    end quote

    It gives an idea of what the Indians on the plains really were armed with, a preponderance of muzzle loaders (and single shot cartridge rifles), not repeating Henrys or Winchesters as Hollywood would have had us believe,.

    I have a whats probably a silly question, forgive me if it is but you folks are much more informed about LBH than I; why do you gentlemen suppose Custer didnt hightail it out of there when he realized what he was up against and possibly try to hook up with Reno or Benteen? Why allow himself to be pinned down on that desolate hill? Was it because there were masses of hostiles in every direction? Were his horses wore out? Or did he think he could hold his ground until the rest of the command arrived? To quote Benteen’s letter of July 4th 1876 again he surmised that it was a rout from the git go :

    *Whether the indians allowed Custer’s column to cross at all, is a mooted question, but I am of the opinion that nearly if not all of the five companies got into the village — but were driven out immediately — flying in great disorder and crossing by two instead of the one ford by which they entered. \E\ Co. going by the left and \F. I. and L.\ by the same one they crossed. What became of \C\ Co. no one knows — they must have charged there below the village, gotten away, or have been killed in the bluffs on the village side of stream — as very few of \C\ Co. horses are found. Jack Sturgis and Porter’s clothes were found in the Village. After the indians had driven them across, it was a regular buffalo hunt for them and not a man escaped. We buried 203 of the bodies of Custer’s command the 2d day after fight. The bodies were as recognizable as if they were in life. With Custer — was Keogh, Yates and Tom Custer (3 Captains) 1st Lieut’s. Cooke, A. E. Smith, Porter, Calhoun (4) 2d Lieuts. Harrington, Sturgis, Riley and Crittenden (J. J. of 20th Inf.). Asst. Surgeon Lord was along — but his body was not recognized. Neither was Porter’s not Sturgis’ nor Harrington’s.*

    Not sure if Benteen meant a \ real buffalo hunt\ for the Indians in the literal sense (riding down running buffalo on horseback getting in close and firing arrows or guns pointblank) but I venture to say he may have.

  171. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    I think Benteen’s statement regarding a Buffalo Hunt was a figure of speech thing- a 19th Century analogy or comparison that most Americans of that era could visualize. A one-sided hunt……….

    I have read somewhere that most Native American surrender of weapons involved damaged , inoperative, or obsolete weapons. Also, uniquely calibered weapons where ammunition was difficult, if not impossible to obtain. Did the report you referred to cite the condition or operability/serviceability of the turn-ins?


    So many conflicting post LBH statements / interviews regarding this one. I believe the 7th made as far as the Ford and no further, when Mr. A, (as in Anonymous) Buckskins was shot off his horse.

    There are documented and also conflicting reports about shod hoove prints on the other side of the river and in the village which could have been indicative of captured 7th horses being brought in.

    At least two Troopers made it in- one immediately killed, and the other ( who obviously was very religious) riding out.


    1. Too few Bluecoats and too many hostiles.
    2. A Custer battle plan that changed at least 3 times from the time GAC left on his own: One Ford, then a second Ford, and finally a Hasty Defense on indefensible terrain.*
    3. Dodge Run and Jump tactics on the part of the Hostiles, using covering fire from their warriors. This tactic being utilized until more Hostiles could enter the fray mounted ( Gall & Crazy Horse ). And, this same tactic could not be used by the Bluecoats.
    4, Total anger and aggressiveness (the Hostiles ) versus total fear ( the 7th ).
    5. All the known things: scattered Commanders, lost horses, possible lost ammo with the horses ( and your canteen as well ), some Newbies in the ranks ( I will not even remotely try to guess a percentage ), no remote chance of surrender ( Yikes ! ) etc. etc.

    * A Visit to LBH and standing there provides you with the true sense of vast emptiness and indefensibility of the terrain. Photos in books, the Net, etc. provide you with this same feeling. But, standing on the ground, you can truly imagine dozens of warriors coming solely for you.


    Not staying mounted and moving after being repulsed at the river. If the command remained mounted at a time when not many warriors were ,he could have withdrawn back up MTC , and escaped encirclement. GAC, if still alive, would possibly have lost 25-50% of his Command in a tactical retreat, but the remainder would have escaped certain death. No skirmish lines, dismounted or otherwise on the retreat- just ride.
    Dismounting was the kiss of death. Even Reno had the foresight to remount as he was getting enveloped in the Timber. Call it a retreat, rout, charge to the rear, retrograde movement, whatever. He lived to report about it.

    • Waldo says:

      It just wasn’t in Custer’s temperment to withdraw while he still thought he had any chance of victory. Withdrawal and retreat may have saved most of his command, but he wasn’t there to survive a defeat.

  172. Tom says:

    I have read the figure of 40% raw recruits, that info is out there. As far as the weapons turned in by the Indians; these were recorded at the time of the Indians return to the reservations, they were forced to turn in their weapons. I admit I have not put a lot of research into this, just what I have gleaned from the web here and there but I have read numerous times that the Indians were almost always poorly armed. Hollywood would have had us all believe they were armed with the latest and greatest technology but again, from what I have read they had poor weaponry more often than not. In the late 18th and early 19th century, gun makers were kept busy manufacturing cheap smoothbore \trade muskets\ for the Indian trade. Lewis and Clark make mention of the \indifferent fusees \ of the Indians they encountered. As you can imagine, repairs were difficult to make and even decent maintenance supplies difficult to obtain. I have read that the Indian scouts employed by the Army were issued nickel plated revolvers as opposed to blued as they held up better and the Indians had a reputation for not maintaining their weapons.

    Online you can find pictures of some of the weapons documented to have been used at the LBH, I think they are at a museum on the battlefield? They are many muzzleloaders in the Indian display.

    I would venture a guess that the battlefield itself (admittedly never having been there) suggests a running rout; markers scattered in small groups suggest not a series of positions or stands but possibly fleeing soldiers cut down on their way to the final position on LSH, suggesting the \buffalo\ hunt Benteen referred to. They had come off a night march as I recall, could the horses have played out?

    • Waldo says:

      Fox and Scott and the archeologists do some really good work on the Indian arms. They collected cartridge casings and matched them not only to the type of rifle but were able to quantify the number of different rifles of the same make and model. I don’t remember the exact number but I want to say they’ve recovered shell casings for something like 200+ unique repeating rifles (mostly Henry’s and also some Winchesters). That’s a minimum number present and likely many many more that they’ve just not found a cartridge casing for. This is one time Hollywood is accurate in that the troopers were out fire powered in any intense fire situation.

  173. ukblue says:

    Could Benteen have saved the day?That answer will be debated for ages.For myself,I believe that Benteen could afford to kill about 30 or 40 minutes or more in order to have any hope at all of supporting Keogh\s battalion before it went down.Keep in mind that Benteen did not need to actually reach Keogh on battle ridge in order to provide the necessary support,merely to make a presence,in force,on luce ridge complex to make a difference in the battle\s outcome.Of course this is all speculation,and the fatalist will contend that Benteen would have been wiped out to a man should he have dared atempt such a bold move.Edgerly said they could have advanced farther beyond Medicine tail coulee,but did not say what the result would have been had they done so.We all could only speculate,and this speculation,depends more on the nature of ourselves(as optimist or pessimists)than on any other factor.

  174. VERNON PRESCOTT says:



    For the most part, I believe the Plains and Mountain Tribes basically acquired battlefield pickups, settler/prospector/ trapper ambush pickups etc., all of which did not amount a well armed population. They also thrived on acquiring the weapons of their native enemies: the Crows, Arikara’s, etc. who made peace with Uncle Sam, enlisted/signed on as Scouts, and received handguns ( service revolvers ) in addition to what they personally possessed. Usually, a scalp was acquired for good measure during these acquisitions.
    Also, usually four times a year, Reservation Tribes were temporarily issued more modern Agency rifles for their token Tribal hunts ( remember, they also received Agency Beef ), but these hunts were ceremonial/traditional, and written into the treaties. There was poor control, purportedly lost weapons, etc., which is one of the reasons why even 14 years later (1890) at Wounded Knee, the Tribes were still relatively armed.
    I agree on the LBH muzzleloaders. Having been there three times, some of these weapons in the displays were simply discarded in favor of the dead 7th’s weapons. Whether they ( the muzzleloaders) were used in the last stand is subject to question, as warriors held on to these as trophies, battle booty, etc. for their man caves (teepees).
    The statement on nickel plated revolvers for Scouts is true. Apart from wiping down the exterior of revolvers and long guns, warriors were not big on breaking down weapons, cleaning them, and keeping them protected from the elements.


    Apart from occasional defective ammunition, the canvas cartridge belts and cartridge boxes, worn on the waist, did not protect bullets from vertigris, dirt, dust, minor denting/dinging and pitting. These conditions would/could cause a round to misfire, jam, not chamber at all, etc.
    Native Americans were no better. They used captured equipment just as the troops did, stored ammunition in the same captured belts and boxes, and sometimes in rawhide/deerhide possibles bags-same dirt, dust, debris. Native American repairs of their weapons were nil, unless the problem was minor. They could not create replacement springs, ejector mechanisms, etc. And remember, it was all black powder, which corrupted/fouled anyone’s weapon-friend or foe when extended firing occurred. Also, the Indians didn’t have solvent and cleaning oil-they used melted down animal fats instead. Makes you wonder about the first muzzle flash.


    Don’t quote me, but I think it was either Benteen or one of the Chiefs-Gall or Rain, who initially said you could take a handful of corn and toss it on the ground, and that would be as good a representation of the 7th’s defenses, as any.
    This is not an exact quote, but the gist of one .

    If your looking for a standard Civil War type battlefield, forget about it. Most visitors gravitate to Last Stand Hill and the Museum. Before they put the road in near Calhoun’s position, only a few Custerophobes trekked past Keogh’s position to Calhoun’s. No one, absolutely no one, walked Deep Coulee because of the Snake signs, and you had to drive to Weir Point and Reno’s position. They’ve upgraded it over the years which is good. Walking it ( if you’re young, have some cane sugar, John Wayne Bars, hydration pack, really lightweight hat and clothing, a poncho and first aid kit, it will take you 8 to 10 hours. That was pre-Cell phone days in ’76….1976. Would leave a note on your car and tell the Ranger that you were walking it. Personally tell him when you returned.

    Glad your back !!! Optimist, Pessimist, or Realist ??

    A lot of Indians. An awful lot. Many wounded on Reno Hill. Must be protected. How many Troops do you take to attempt a Display of Force, or to attempt a penetration, reinforcement, and ammunition resupply? Two, three or four Troops?? Four miles, one hundred and sixty yards. Also, read some of the earlier statements about potential Indian movements or intentions, lost horses and lack (or diminishment of) mobility, wounded- all at Last Stand Hill. Do you successfully distract the enemy with your movement or do you present a beautiful target of opportunity to an enemy who has an immense numerical advantage, is definitely winning since the first shots at the Ford, is very, very angry, and is fighting for their families and homes??? To me, the 30 or 40 minute watering delay of Benteen’s three troops had no bearing on the outcome. Perhaps, Custer/Cooke’s message should have been directed to McDougall with the Pack Train, and a second one to Benteen stating explicitly the need for immediate reinforcement….perhaps delivered by a Junior Officer and two Troopers who can specifically explain the Custer situation. Hypothetically, the Indians would have seen mounted units approaching from two directions- converging on them- dust clouds, bugles sounding the charge, guidons fluttering, men with revolvers held high. Would they ( the Indians ) spook ?

    We will never know…………………………………..

  175. VERNON PRESCOTT says:







  176. Sm8213 says:

    I’m not taking that bet LOL! I don’t think the right guy is in the grave at West Point. At least not all of him! Without looking (I’m at work) the majority of the markers that were excavated had partia human remains in close proximity. Mostly small bones but if I recall correctly there was also a partial fib / tib with a fully articulated foot in the boot. I also seem to recal a partially articulated left hand with a wedding band in place. Anyway my point is I think the markers are close with the extra markers excepted. I don’t think that bone statistic accounts for the mass grave. I can’t imagine it would. Great info thankyou!


  177. Sm8213 says:

    The firearms collected stat is interesting. An explanation for the preponderance of muzzle loaders might be due to \give em the old one\ if ya know what I mean. They were still well armed in 1890. This is speculation on my part. I don’t know that the Lewis and Clark expedition is a great indicator given it was 70 odd years prior to the engagement.


  178. VERNON PRESCOTT says:


    With known Custer dead occupying the mass grave / group burial around the circumference of the Battlefield Memorial Marker, why hasn’t the NPS ever requested JPAC ( Joint Personnel and Accounting Command ) to exhume those remains, match them by DNA if possible, and determine exactly how many men those battlefield cleanups in the 19th Century actually accomplished.

    Think about it…. JPAC was involved with mass grave exhumations in Bosnia and Kosovo , so why not Montana? All these partial archeological digs since 1984 account for perhaps 2% of the total out there, if that. Example-they did identify Mitch Boyer, in the wrong spot on the battlefield, even though one 7th Cavalry trooper stated his head was on a pole in the village. Based on the initial burial statements, no one took the time to count the number of headless corpses and match ol’ Mitch to his body. Mitch was mis-marked, mis-identified, and mis-placed……….since 1876.
    Custer still has living relatives. I say it would be worth the time and expense and a great use of Stimulus Funds if the government didn’t want to do it.
    In closing, when he ( Custer ) was exhumed in 1877, they originally picked skeletal remains with a blue jacket and the name of a Corporal sewn into it. Did anyone think to stake that grave of the Corporal with his name? Nice going !!!!

    Write your Congress persons !!! Insist upon it !!!!

  179. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    With specific reference to your Post # 177….. it would be most ironic if Elizabeth Custer was resting in eternal peace beside what was left of Bloody Knife …………………… Alternate History?

  180. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    Great White Father signs Treaties with water………………..

  181. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    Long Hair:
    When Injustice and Persecution becomes White Man’s Law, Resistance becomes the Red Man’s Duty. I have spoken.

    Sitting Bull

  182. Waldo says:

    sm @166

    I like Fox, but it seemed like he did a little hand waiving in dismissing the possibility of relic hunters at LSH. One question I had is whether relic hunters would collect shell casings at a different rate than Indian bullets? In other words, even if we admit the possibility of relic hunters collecting many artifacts from LSH, is the ratio of trooper shell casings to Indian bullets that Fox found still likely valid?

  183. Sm8213 says:

    I think there are a multitude of factors involved here. Not only are you looking at 140 plus years of relic hunting you have 4 separate military recovery and burial operations on the battlefield. There’s a good chance that a large number of casings associated with the bodies were pocketed as souvenirs. 217 bodies x 2 casings each is a huge number in regards to Foxes sampling. 434 + God only knows how many pick ups. I guarantee Fox was not the first guy to use a metal detector on that field. Combine that with the 5 or 6 major construction projects ( 3 on last stand hill alone) you have a completely screwed up historical sample. Anyone who has spent time around soldiers will tell you they pick up ANYTHING they think might be of value that they can carry. What better souvenir then a handful of .45 / .70 casings? Small easy to carry, no issue with having them, huge value back east. Think about it….here dad, it’s a casing from Gen. Custer’s last stand. The man was already a hero. It’s a chance to have and touch history. As far a actual bullet impacts etc. Look at the positions. The 7th was in for all intensive purposes in pockets firing out. Guy have a tendency to fire high in combat situations. If you’re firing down hill and high where does that put the rounds? All over hells half acre. Just a supposition. Nothing more. It would explain the discrepancy. The Indian accounts vary as to the amount of resistance the 7th put up. I don’t for a minute believe complete rout. I honestly believe there were a series of positions that were overrun with the survivors fleeing to the next company. C to I to L to last stand hill with an attempt to brake out to the SE at the end. When you add horse holders etc and small groups of guys being cut off and making a stand it just works. Once again just my opinion.


  184. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    I believe Fox states somewhere in his book that the bullets had a tendency to deteriorate, whereas the shell casings were more durable, making for a better relic find. Also, an easier one to locate.

    Fox relies quite a bit in spots on White Cow Bull ( who was selected by the Tribe as the one who killed Custer in later years ), as respects Custer piecemealing himself ( ie: his Companies ): L on skirmish line to the South, I and C in Reserve, subsequently being rolled up to LSH, F as a blocking force to the West, and E on the SW slopes. Also, WCB takes credit for quite a few Coups, all over the battlefield. Quite a guy !!.

    He (Fox) also felt that Custer retreated from the two Fords because the village was empty and he was after the fugitives, not the teepees, so he continued northerly, tracking the women and children. This contradicts many books which state that the women and children fled West ( same direction as Sitting Bull ), but after indecisive firing in the LAH area, the warriors massed and drove the soldiers back.

    Much of the surface relic material-shells, bullets, etc. started being picked up in 1877 and continued right up to the late 1920’s. And the law forbidding the collection of relics from Federal Lands, I believe, is fairly recent-perhaps the 1980’s ( too lazy to research it )

    One point that contradicts logic is that the non-combatants fled West ( Sitting Bull, by his own admission, admitted he was 10 miles west of the village when a courier caught up to him to tell him of the victory ), yet were back soon enough to ransack, mutilate, and play with the dead. All by roughly 5-5:30 PM. This implies many women and children did not flee, but waited to see if the issue was in doubt.

    I have to re-read the book, that’s the gist of it. One point I got out of it was that Fox, by virtue of the Deep Coulee negative findings contradicting Indian narratives of 7th dead there implied the 7th dead who fled were not buried there. Which means, they are probably interspersed throughout LSH, being carried or dragged out of the Ravine to a point where they received a sparse burial.

  185. dennis says:

    i am a direcrt decendent of col. w.w. cooke who was killed at big horn . i would like to know what happened to his revolver that my uncle alac had when he died it went some where and would like to find it can any one help me plz

  186. Tom says:

    Found this: *Buffalo Creek Law Dog:
    Custer’s Bull Dogs probably ended up in Saskatchewan as did his Adjutant, W.W. Cooke’s revolver. Cook’s revolver was recovered by the NWMPolice and returned to the family in Hamilton, Ontario. A great nephew of Cooke, by the name of Blake Cooke sold it at auction in Red Deer, Alberta in the Spring of 1999.

    I was at that auction and met Blake Cooke and handled the gun. It is a .44 Cal Remington C&B. Cooke’s name is on the holster. Also belonging to W.W. Cooke and auctioned at this sale was his farrier’s knife which was recoverd along with the pistol.

    The items were bought by Art Unger, a Custer collector from Hicksville, NY. for $60,000 CDN.

    Although the US Army had been issued the new Colt, it is believed that the C&B was the gun that he carried during the civil war and at the time of LBH he was using it as a saddle bag gun. *

    Here is the website:;wap2

    Dont know if this is documented but maybe helpful to you.

  187. Tom says:

    And on this forum there are pictures of both revolvers reportedly carried by Cooke at the LBH:

  188. Tom says:

    Vernon, if Fox meant the actual lead projectile deteriorates, he got that wrong. The lead will last indefinitely.

  189. Tom says:

    And found this on the supposed buyer of Cooke’s handgun:

  190. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    It was somewhere in the book. Accept your knowledge on the subject matter. Does lead come up on a metal detector?? I’m an old man, and not a scientist. I guess you have to use the trowel to uncover it.


    If the weapon was the one Lt.Cooke had in his possession on June 25,1876, Good Luck !! It most likely left the battlefield in the possession of a Native American.

    The best I can offer in the way of detective work is when did Uncle Alec pass away? Did he have Relatives (survivors)? Do an Ancestry.Com on them, and write or visit any living relatives on the issue for information and see if the revolver is still in their possession.

    What do you know about the revolver? Private purchase or Government issue? Family records of make, model, serial number? If government issue-National Archives and Records Administration-Old Army Records, and good luck !!

    You can email the National Park Service-Little Big Horn and ask if they have it in the museum, any record of it, or knowledge of it’s subsequent owner(s).

    Finally, use the Net to see if it ever turned up in an Auction, when you know the incidentals on the weapon.

    I wish you the best of luck on this one.

  191. Tom says:

    Vernon, I *think* but far from sure non ferrous metals such as lead are harder to detect but can still be detected. That said you can imagine the difficulty covering an area the sizr of the LBH site. There a numerous pictures of lead bullets on the web from the LBH though. Amazing thing is they can identify many of the gun manufacturers frm the rate of twist rifling marks left on the bullets themselves. They are still turning up minie balls in gobs around Civil War sites in near pristine condition, some oxidation aside. Dont know if they still do but they used to sell them for a buck or two when I was a kid at the parks and surrounding stores.

    I posted a few links to Cookes handguns, they are awaiting a mod’s approval, the gun is in the hands of a private collector.

  192. VERNON PRESCOTT says:


    You come up with some great results, and I have to admire that. On my second visit to the LBH Battlefield in the 80’s, I actually walked probably 1/2 to 3/4 ‘s of a mile on the opposite side of the monument ( Eastern & Northern side ) looking for any areas of natural erosion where something/anything would partially appear on or near the surface-all on the sides facing LSH. No digging, but scuffing the toes and heels of the boots into the soil. Not serious digging stuff, but looking for anything abnormal ( and Snakes !!) . Came up dry, but it was fun.

    In Fredricksburg, Va. not far from Fort A.P. Hill where I was stationed in the 80’s, kids would go down to the river at low tide with buckets and shovels and sifters and dig- they would come up with mini-balls, musket balls, buckles, insignias-all the stuff that armies shoot and lose… name it. They would then barter with you for a sale that same day. If you waited long enough, you could get Civil War relics for next to nothing. Spent ammo-a quarter a round, Insignias: $ 2 , a Buckle- anywhere from a dollar to five bucks depending upon condition.
    Wherever the Yanks and Rebs faced each other across a river, they shot at each other daily- sentry fire, light skirmishing, and sustained fire at times-lots of ordnance.

    So, how much will Cooke’s pistole’ cost to buy back? The LBH question of the day…….

  193. ukblue says:

    When I was in the army, we had to pick up all shell casings.I am wondering maybe besides having to bury the dead troopers,could he Gen.Terry, have ordered his men to pick up the brass shell casings.(just a thought?

  194. VERNON PRESCOTT says:


    In peacetime, on Familiarization and Qualification firing Ranges-yes. It was an economy move- recycle & reuse. Keep the Range clean, and ammunition accountability by weight of brass turned in. Even the belted ammo links and ammo cans had to be accounted for back at the ammunition dump. Done by weight charts. In combat – nope.

    General Terry ( I think ) had more pressing issues from June 25th on. I guess we can presume that if the warriors got an entirely new weapons inventory and wardrobe, they probably took as much serviceable ammunition off the bodies, the grounds, and of course, the saddle bags of the horses they captured.

    There is no written record of a Police Call of Brass.

    • Waldo says:

      Amazingly, Fox also found lots of unfired cartridges on the battlefield. I forget the numbers, but it was surprising to me because I had assumed the Indians cleaned everything up. But, I guess in the heat of battle, soldiers drop rounds.

  195. VERNON PRESCOTT says:


    Selected current Native American populations as of the 2010 Census

    Brule’: 1,095

    Crow: 13,394

    Cheyenne: 18,204

    Commanche: 19,374

    Blackfeet: 85,750

    Sioux: 153,360

    What secrets, what caches’, what priceless relics rest with the descendants of the Little Big Horn warriors????

  196. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    I think the Department of The Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs should offer substantial Stimulus funds to each Native American Tribe that can produce authenticated Little Big Horn Artifacts, and…………..they should be very generous in the amount provided. Wonder what would turn up?

  197. Waldo says:

    Vernon @ 185, with respect to the noncombatants, I cannot imagine that they fled in multiple directions. Some west, some north, some hiding in gullies and ravines. To imagine they all went in the same direction as a group would imply some top down command/auhority which simply did not exist. Also, scatter in different directions makes much more sense from Indian standpoint of trying to get away from soldiers than moving as a group. Last point, I’ve seen that directions used by Indians in some of their accounts do not match with our directions. LBH and Battle Ridge actually run north, northwest at battlefield and magnetic north is more like northwest. So, what soldiers called “north,” some called “west.” So, Custer going northwest from LSH and locating women and children in that direction makes complete sense to me.

  198. VERNON PRESCOTT says:

    The women/children direction(s) is(are) irrelevant to the saga. Basically \ away from the soldiers \. But enough of them were casual observers and close enough to strip, mutilate, loot and have fun with the bodies before the dust and gun smoke cleared, so it could not have been a very long exodus.

    The Bull must have took off at a gallop to hit the 10 mile marker.

    Custer going northwest unfortunately placed him right in the lap of Crazy Horse.

    Bad day all the way ’round for the 7th……

  199. VERNON PRESCOTT says:


    If GAC had taken the Gatling Guns, he would have probably lost at least one, possibly two days what with breakdowns, skirting bad terrain, etc. If so, there would never have been a Custer’s Last Stand.

  200. ukblue says:

    Gatling Guns are a defensive weapon,while the cavalry is a offensive weapon.Custer was planning to attack on the morning of the 26th,but faith had interrupted.After the battle sitting Bull went to Canada and grazy horse surrendered, according to history.

  201. VERNON PRESCOTT says:


    Gatling guns can be any type of weapon you want them to be. If employed correctly in a strongly defended position, they can create havoc and panic, on either an attacking or defending force.

    Cavalry was and still is multi-role /multi-mission. During the American Civil War it’s mission was reconnaisance, screening the flanks of Infantry Divisions, providing a delaying force for the Infantry or Main Body to break contact, and counter attacking when necessary to throw the opposing force off guard. The mission basically remains the same in the 21st Century, albeit with modern weapons systems and technology..

    Late in the Civil War it all changed due to the attrition suffered by the Confederate Armies and the fact that Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, and others saw the wisdom of Cavalry Divisions creating havoc in rear areas of supply and logistics, when the Confederate Army did not have the manpower to adequately defend the rear areas. .

    During the Civil War, Custer had a 33% Casualty Rate in the Units he commanded, due to his use of Cavalry as an offensive tool. Nowadays, that would be grounds for a COI in itself.

    Like the title in my comments said: Alternate History…………only. The proverbial what if……..

    Here’s another what if: Would four Troops of the 2nd Cavalry have made a difference at the LBH?

    And another: What if Terry went with Custer’s 7th??

  202. ukblue says:

    Vernon:Now that\s where I disagree,you had visited the L.B.H. yourself and you are telling me,in so many words that gatling guns can be any type of weapon,on that montana terrain?Gen.Custer was never defeated in any battle of course, he is going to have casualities he was in,and involved in 26 charges and had 11 horses shot from under him.The proverbial what if,Reno held the wood line for 30mins before he ran like a jackrabbit for the bluffs leaveing more than 30 of his men to die,what if Benteen did not hide the message in is pocket till after the battle,what if benteen would have gone to custers aid like he was ordered.what if custer sent Benteen to attack the Indian village,what if custer attacked on the morning of the 26th in force. like he was going to, there could be a lot of what if\s?

  203. VERNON PRESCOTT says:


    Sure, I would have taken the Gatlings. They are what’s known as a force multiplier. Improvise and use the imagination – break them down, load them in basic components on mules, provide them with a small escort, a few Scouts, and kick them off on the trail two or three days before you depart Ft. Lincoln.

    If you have chronic problems with their progress or transport, send them home – simple as that. Either works or doesn’t. But try….

    Two Gatlings, at the top or even at the mid-point of Medicine Tail Coulee, could have announced the Cavalry’s arrival with 5 minutes of gunfire, short of, on, or over the village, depending upon GAC’s desire to intimidate into submission or look for a body count. I just picked MTC as a random location. What about Reno in the Bottom?

    And the obvious – they are not part of the Charge. They are emplaced, firing, and ready to limber upin order to retire or change positions. EXAMPLE: I seem to recall General Giap having his heavy artillery broken down by his Viet Minh soldiers and man carried over the mountains in order to lay a successful siege to the French at Dien Bien Phu in 1954. Worked for him.

    Where there’s a will, there’s a way…….

    Waldo and I had a great dialogue regarding your Reno and Benteen statement in Posts # 156 and 163. That was my take on it.

    Reno and Custer failed in their attacks on the village which to me has the odds of Benteen being successful, practically nil. My take.

    Now- a very, very interesting point….an attack on the 26th.

    1. Use the 25th and selected Scouts to find out exactly where Gibbon and Terry are- # of miles and hours away. Notify them via your Scouts that you will attack the village at X hour on the 26th. SEND THEM THE HURRY MESSAGE. Use the most reliable scouts you have: Reynolds and Boyer. After all, you’ve discovered the village…..two less or four less Scouts don’t matter.

    2. The 25th: Select by design, a good defensive position/assembly area .Establish strong outposts / sentry locations. Rest the men and horses. Weapons and equipment check. All your scouts are out watching the village for signs of movement or evacuation. Offload all ammunition. Double or even triple the quantity of ammunition per man-you be the judge- what can the horse carry.

    Hit them first light on the 26th with 12 companies- two battalions of six companies each- 1/4 mile separating them max.

    I personally would hit them north to south. You hit them like wo back to back waves. The first Battalion comes in pistols blazing. Any opposition, obstacles, etc. slowing the first battalion’s advance are hit and eliminated by the second Battalion directly behind them. Capture 100-200 women and children and maybe the other villages will surrender. If not, shoot and reload, shoot and reload, shoot and reload.

    Now, just suppose Custer had a REAL sit down Staff and Commanders meeting on the eve of battle. A trouble shooting, what could go wrong, how are the men, the horses, the weapons, watta you think meeting, with input from the Company Commanders? And, what about placing staff with the manuever elements, and a assigning a couple of really good additional couriers, etc.

    600 men in a concentrated charge might just have succeeded, if they were well organized and quick enough to capture a good number of women and children very early on- captives equals stalemate equals surrender.


  204. ukblue says:

    Vernon,Please let me know if there is any known information about any catling guns ever being used on hostile Indians in the American West?

  205. VERNON PRESCOTT says:


    Off the top of my head, I recall the Red River War (Nelson Miles versus the Southern Cheyenne Commanches and Kiowas, 1873 or 74. Brought all kinds of stuff with him-Parrot guns, Mountain Howitzers, Infantry/Cavalry. I read somewhere that he was unimpressed with them (Gatlings), but was not adverse to trying any weapon against the Indians. I think he took them along and perhaps used them against the Nez Perce several years later as well. I believe he was attuned to bringing maximum firepower to the battlefield, even if it wasn’t needed, so as not to have to send for it later. He also used Indian Scouts in Platoon and Company sized scouting elements- the closest you’ll see to 20th Century reconnaisance formations. Very cutting edge-ahead of his time.

    I always considered Nelson Miles to be one of the best and proficient Generals to come out of the Civil War. Awarded the Medal of Honor. Great Indian chaser ( a real hound dog ! ), and one who took every potential asset he could lay his hands on. Was always concerned about his men and their welfare as well, and not wasting them needlessly. Ol’ Bearcoat Miles….served through the Spanish American War.

    There may be other examples of the Gatling being used, although I am not at all knowledgeable in it’s use. I do agree it was not a common Indian Wars weapon, and not very popular….
    Never said it was reliable. But even an unreliable weapon can be partially effective in the hands of a well trained, steely- nerved crew.

  206. VERNON PRESCOTT says:


    I was allowed nearly an hour of absolutely free time by my family for no apparent reason today, so I logged on and went off the beaten path on the Web. Found some sites which may be of interest to anyone following the dialogue. Here goes:

    1. Colonel A.B. Welch- Look him up and check out his take on the LBH.

    2. Reno’s After Action Report ( never thought he wrote one-never thought to look ): digitalhistory,

    3. Smithsonian: How the Battle of The Little Big Horn Was Won. ( November, 2010 ).

    4. \ The Killing of Crazy Horse\ by Thomas Powers. ( 50 Indian Accounts of the LBH) ANYONE OWN IT ?

    5. Red Horse’s 40 Drawings of the LBH Battle on SIRIS, which stands for Smithsonian Institution Research Information System. You can bring up each pictograph individually and enlarge. Evidently, Red Horse was very detailed in both soldier and Indian dead, and his estimated numbers of Indian dead are being taken more seriously, based upon his drawings.

    6. Indian Casualties According to Red Horse on

    FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH…………………………..

  207. ukblue says:

    Vernon; Great site for lots of info thank you.

  208. VERNON PRESCOTT says:


    There is a website : The Custer Association of Great Britain. Discovered it late last night ( I’m a Night Hawk- take naps in the afternoon because I naturally wake up at 5:00 AM- don’t ask me why….) Was wondering if you belong to it?


    Congratulations to the British on the successful search for King Richard III !! From what I’ve initially read about his wounds, he could have been killed by the Sioux-slash marks, holes in his skull, facial fractures near his lower cheek bone/jaw……… Truly fascinating when an event of discovery like this occurs.

  209. ukblue says:

    You are right about that,and I also take naps in the afternoon,and up at night most of the time playing poker.

  210. VERNON PRESCOTT says:


    I found these sites interesting but not worthy of serious debate or discussion:

    1. 7th Cav Officers NOT at the Battle ( < the Web Title ) on:

    Interesting discussion board although the biographies of the various Officers on Detached Service who missed the Little Big Horn are not really documented.

    2. Archived letter(s) of 2LT William Van Wyk Reily, 7th Cavalry.

    Again, insight into the Lieutenant's participation in the Reno reconnaisance prior to LBH, and an element of doubt regarding the upcoming one.

    3. Historical Photograph Collection ( < Again, the Web Title )
    The Walter Mason Camp Collection at:

    There are two web titles for this. One is just the a listing of the contents and where they're located in the Brigham Young University Library . The other is actual photos / postcards /drawings that Camp collected over the years. the photos can be enlarged.


    Now, to my colleagues: I read somewhere- do not remember whether it was a book, a web site or whatever, that Lt. Sturgis' roasted head was one of the 4 or 6 found in the abandoned village. Someone on the 27th-28th identified it, or was reasonably sure.
    If anyone has any documentation or sources, I wonder why he is/was always considered KIA/BNR. I would have thought someone would have brought it to Terry's, Reno's or Benteen's attention.
    Any leads?

  211. kc says:


    I don’t think any officer was at fault other than custer. it was his plan, his orders. I seriously doubt he’d try to pass if off on officers beneath him in the chain of command.

    He’s been made the scape goat for Indian policiy, which is unfair. He had solid reasons for almost all of what he did. Terry had given him permission to use his own judgement.

    Like Benteen said, “Mistakes were made.”

    It’s ridiculous to lose sight of the Indian point of view here. They were so far out the army couldn’t even find them without other indians to scout for them. they had their wives and families with them. the army attacked without warning. they were harming no one. they were near no white settlements.

    that the u.s. government declared all indians no matter what they were doing as “hostile” after january 25th was pretty insane. To say they pushed the Crow off their land doesn’t exactly justify an unannounced attack on women and children.

    Obviously custer seriously underestimated the group he was attacking. I mean, “duh.” He had many forces at work in his mind. Not least of which was his criticism of Reno for not being aggressive enough. There are many many angles to this event.

    I’d like to just add that to me custer is a uniquely modern figure a little ahead of his time. what i mean is he was a self-promoter in an antique era. he sold himself nationally with magazine stories and his book as this great Indian fighter based on the Washita. But he really wasn’t. His ability to generate bull was so great though that even his superior general terry i think believed it. that’s why he told him “do what y ou think best.” i mean, why not? after all, custer was the great indian fighter.

    and i think he even began believing it himself. ironically the real indian fighters (at least some of them) tried to warn him that this group of indians were going to be, “the fight of your life” etc. to which he chose to pay little attention.

    thanks for your attention. fascinating subject.

    • Steve says:

      @KC – I think you are trying to look at the event with modern eyeballs. The fact that women and children were present is uninteresting when viewed in the context of engagements at that time. Native American warriors would attack women and children, so there was this concept of defend at all costs, or attack without chivalry that was pervasive. I am not saying it was wrong or right, but that is the history of the matter. Having said that, many commanders would not willingly, knowingly attack women and children without provocation (there are exceptions of course, well documented and discussed) but we are talking about the Little Big Horn. Yes, they were far away, but Custer was directed to search them out and take away their warfighting capabilities, and that is what he set out to do.

      Also, I do not think he underestimated his force. He used tactics that were proven and appropriate at the time. I think the theory that he was killed early on in the battle is the most plausible explanation for the way the conflict ended up, regardless of his subordinates and their prosecution of their portions of the conflict. Yes, there were many braves, and yes, they did outnumber the soldiers, but that was almost *always* the case in frontier fighting. It was training and weaponry that was the force multiplier in those engagements. It just so happened that in this case it did not work in their favor.

  212. VERNON PRESCOTT says:


    Couldn’t agree with you more regarding George promoting himself in the press and back East. If he were alive today, he’d have a daily Pop Up on the AOL screen when you Log On. TMZ reporters would be tailing him, and he’ periodically be on Leno or Letterman.

    I also totally agree about the formal national policy and treatment of Native Americans. Pushed into smaller, more desolute regions, then reservations, the mass slaughter of the buffalo in less than a decade, broken treaties, senseless attacks on non-warring, peaceful tribal villages would push any people to rage and a desire for revenge.

    As for Terry’s orders. Read more on the subject. Terry was a Godfather (as in the movie…) figure in the post-Civil War era. Remember, the only real action, publicity, and noteriety for a career Army Officer was in The West.

  213. Gil says:

    I still say that he wanted the glory for the 7th only. To refuse 3 gatling guns and a small cannon is foolishness not to mention the 4 companies from the 2nd Calavlry offered by Gen Terry which he also refused. Also why was he in a hurry to reach LBH even marching overnight without rest for both animals and men. If he just waited a little bit longer for both Gibbon and Terry then the end result would have been a lot better, a sure victory for the Whole army and not for the 7th only. Gen Custer is brilliant but not at LBH.

  214. Mike McLamara says:

    If you want to know what happened to Custer, look at what happened to Reno and Benteen. Same men, same officers. Same Seventh Cavalry. Why did one detachment survive and the other one get wiped out. The evidence is right in front of you, always has been. The answer is there if you open your eyes. I have read as many books and articles about the fight as I can and I am amazed that nobody has looked right at the obvious. Amazing.

  215. […] Here is another recent article on Custer's Last Stand. It is not the same one mentioned above about possible survivors. More of that in a following post. But this article is also a Wild West publication. Custer's Last Stand Still Stands Up […]

  216. Steve McCarty says:

    While the ’73 Trapdoor carbine did hit a ton but the troopers had to have a target to shoot at. The Indians attacking up and along the Deep Coulee ran, rode or crawled to within about 100 yards of Custer’s position and hunkered down eitherbehind the low ridge or behind clumps of grass. Thus hidden they plinked way at troopers as they rose up to try to spy something to shoot at. There few spent cartridge cases found with Custer’s men. They did not get off that many shots. It is not the nature of soldier’s to through down their weapons duirng a fight and few carbines signs of having cartridges stuck in the breech. In other battles where similar arms and ammunition were used there is no mention of a rash of stuck cartridges. The kind of ammunition was not much of an issue that day.

    When Crazy Horse and his men rode up from the NW and around the rear of Custer’s position they attacked from the east side and over ran the little hill top killing the remaining troops, who by that time, probably numbered less than 20. (guessing)

    While it is true that the Indians had Winchesters and other repeaters it is also true that they did not have much ammunition. They did not leave many cartridge cases to be found over a century later. It is important to note that where the Indian camp was there have been many reloaded cartridges found that reused the copper cases and once fired bullets that they had picked off of the ground. They would not have done this if ammunition was plentiful.

    When the Indians attacked Reno’s position they were armed with carbines and ammunition taken from the Custer dead. They put up a rigorous fight for a day and a half. They left the following afternoon. Terry was coming, but they probably were short on ammunition and could not continue the fight.

  217. pistolero says:

    I am rather amazed that Wild West Magazine would even publish such a grossly inaccurate article. I have studied the battlefield intently since 1976, and not a single one of these posts comes close to identifying what happened on Custer Ridge. Fox’s, etc. archeological studies are in fact a concise starting point, but Dr. Fox is not a military man and has not adequately addressed subtleties of the action caused by the field itself.

    For those of you who have not been to the battlefield Calhoun’s skirmish line was reverse sloped in a gully about four feet or so deep. It did not take thousands of warriors to crush Calhoun; it took somewhere between 30 and 150, no more. Suppressing fire from the position known as Henryville permitted an overrun at close quarters, at which point one Indian brave is plenty enough to take on several cavalrymen (Gall was here, and he had particular reason to be thoroughly pissed.) From there it was sausages on a string, the overrun at Calhoun Hill causing a bunching in Keogh’s command, which had essentially been in a rest formation, and the complete destruction of Keogh’s command in minutes via close combat. (Photographic montages taken in the 1880s of Sioux ritualistically slaughtering beef cattle in a corral should impress anyone how quickly these people could carve up other mammals using edged weapons.)

    The reason Custer’s unit collapsed and died to the man is because his five companies were spread out at the time of the attack over well over a mile of territory, thus the Indians were able to utilize individual and small unit tactics effectively against a disorganized cavalry force; Indian squad leaders were all that was needed, and those were available in relative abundance. Crazy Horse was just another participant, no general; and according to the record his participation was actually quite limited.

    For the foreseeable future there will be little additional archeological activity at the Little Big Horn. Dr. Fox took about 20% of what was available in a thoroughly rationalized study. In the future, say 50 to 100 years out another group of archeologists with better tools than currently available will be allowed to take another sample of 10% to 20%, and so on through the decades to come.

    Captain Benteen’s estimate of 1800 to 2000 warriors is probably correct; he was a trained observer; but only a portion of these were in position to take out Custer. Some warriors were protecting the horses and/or the women and children; some were hiding; some stayed in camp; some remained near the Reno-Benteen battlefield. All came to the Custer battlefield randomly and generally in small groups or individually. It is probably the case that no more than 300 to 400 warriors took out the entirety of Custer’s command. There were at least as many nearby, but not particularly active until the end of the fight; at which point there was a piling on that also included the women.

    In what was for the most part an infantry fight white vanity has presumptuously prescribed a need for thousands of Indians to take out Custer and his command, but that is not what happened.

    I will dust off the article I wrote years ago, massage it, and forward it on for publication. Most of you folks need to completely start over.

  218. George Mckenna says:

    Excellent. Well done. I was at the site in 83 just after fire. Your analysis is great. Hope u get to visit it. It is spellbinding. You will be stunned at how closely it still resembles that period. It is like going in a time machine

    • poetry77 says:

      Thank you George.
      I feel bad about always disagreeing, but in the name of Gen Custer, 4 relatives of his, 226+ men of valor on Custer Memorial & 7th Cav Memorial Battlefields of Honor, I sometime debate, not argue or verbally fight, hopeful to discuss.

      I have been accepted in LBHA and in Bozeman Trail, Forts and Scouts, which, like my hospital work, consumes my time. Say a big hello to Vernon, and the old group & will try to get back into action here as well.

  219. Sm8213 says:

    Vernon, Guys,
    I will be at LBH in August and would love to walk the field with any of you who can attend! Lets have this discussion over a coke on the field in August. You can reach me at poetry, ukblue I would love to have you there as well!


  220. Mike Griffith says:

    I have only recently become interested in the Battle of the Little Big Horn. I am amazed that even today there is so much intensity and passion in the debate over what happened and who was at fault.

    After reading some online articles and watching two documentaries on the battle, I don’t know what to believe. I’ve ordered two books: James Donovan’s book A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn and Robert Nightengale’s book Little Big Horn. I hope Donovan and Nightengale clear up some issues and enable me to form an overall opinion on what happened.

    There seem to be a number of issues where we simply don’t have enough information to draw a definitive conclusion about them. However, a few things seem clear:

    * Reno’s story changed significantly by the time he appeared before the Court of Inquiry. But was he simply trying to hide incompetence or was he seeking to conceal a sinister act?

    * Benteen’s testimony differed on key issues from the testimony given by others, such as whether gunfire was heard.

    * Custer’s orders just before and during the battle were credible/defensible given the information he had at the time, although in hindsight we can see he should have done things differently.

    * Custer’s decision to force-march his troops and then to engage the enemy so soon after that march was unwise.

    * By any honest, rational standard, Reno performed incompetently and recklessly after he was splattered with blood from a head shot to a nearby scout.

    * The Court of Inquiry ignored a great deal of evidence in order to exonerate Reno.

    As to the larger issue of whether Benteen and Reno could have saved Custer, I am undecided. I hope that Donovan and Nightengale’s research will enable me to form an opinion on that key question.

  221. Gregory Urbach says:

    I visited the Little Big Horn battlefield a few weeks ago. It’s worth the trip. The Custer Battlefield Museum at the bottom of the hill is interesting, too. Take a look at my new alternate history novel, Custer at the Alamo, and see how Custer and Davy Crockett take on Santa Anna.

  222. Dan says:

    No disaster happens without a bad chain of events occurring first. One or two runs of bad luck or poor decision making will not lose a battle, but multiple mistakes coupled by runs of bad luck will.

    Besides the fact that Custer was a darling of the gutter press, he also had a LOT to prove. He was the son of a blacksmith who wanted to court the daughter of a judge. The judge staunchly refused to allow his daughter to be married to a man of such low stature in society. After Custer earned his fame for charging Jeb Stuart’s cavalry at Gettysburg, then and only then could Libby Bacon coerce her father to allow them to be married. Let’s also not forget Custer only stood about 5’4″ and weighed in at 135lbs with all his combat gear on. It is said his uniform would not fit many women these days. If that is true, then Custer had deeper phallus envy issues than we’ve been lead to believe.

    On top of that, his officers had lost complete respect for him when he mercilessly abandoned Joel Elliot at the Washita River 8 years earlier, leaving him and his 20 man command at the hands of the Arapahoe and Shoshone. Joel Elliot was Col. Benteen’s closest friend. I do not doubt for one bit that Benteen had it out for Custer since that day. Actions speak louder than words, and the lead in his ass that day showed how he felt about his commander.

    Reno most likely could have caused a nice ruckus had he just launched a solid pistol and saber charge against the southern end of the camp proper. Instead he decided to skirmish, and was beaten back into the treeline. Instead of fighting from the cover of the woods, Reno had his men dismount and mount more than a few times in the shock of just being spattered by the brains of Bloody Knife who had just took a lead pill to the forehead. Reno panicked, and ordered a disorderly retreat with no units to provide any rear guard coverage. With no rear guard to suppress the native fire, the indians shot them down like fish in a barrel as they retreated disorderly to the bluffs on the east side of the river.

    So I say who was at fault for the LBH? Truth is they all played a role in sealing the fate of G.A. Custer. It’s too bad his command had to get cut down with him.

    Custer was a very “my way or the highway” kind of commander. He loved feeling important and most importantly taking all the credit for the victories.

    So who’s to blame for LBH? Reno, Benteen, and Custer. They all did something that was brash or unsuitable that sealed the fate of the boy general.

    But no matter what, at the end of the day, nothing changed the ultimate outcome of complete indian subjugation by the US. Govt.

  223. seo says:

    I went by the Little Big Horn battleground a couple of weeks back. It’s worth the outing. The Custer Battlefield Museum at the base of the mount is intriguing, as well. Examine my new substitute history novel, Custer at the Alamo, and perceive how Custer and Davy Crockett tackle Santa Anna.

  224. DAVid says:

    Hi Dan, I have left other posts here discussing LBH. I just had to write to comment about your post. First off, you make a good point that all parties involved had made mistakes. I especially agree with your assessment/opinion about Benteen and Reno. I also believe they failed Custer.

    However, having said that, you show obvious contempt for Custer and say slanderous things that are flat out false.

    Where did this low stature come from? Custer was not a little man. Look it up. He was 5′ 11 with broad shoulders and considered to be a very handsome man in his day. As you may know, the average height back then was only 5.5 for men, so he was considered very tall for his time.

    If you educate yourself about his personality you would also know that he was a very strong man and could outride any of him men.

    As for the comment about his only charge during the civil war attacking Stuart at Gettysburg made him famous is also wrong. He led more than 60 charges during the civil war and never lost a battle.

    You went on to disparage his character by saying that his men hated him. You are correct that a lot of his troops out west disliked him. How do you square with the fact that his troops during the civil war loved him?

    Fact is, most of the troopers of the 7th cavalry were wanted criminals and new comers to the US. They had no discipline and they did not believe in what they were doing.

    Not saying that Custer may have been a hard ass and sometimes hard to like. He was arrogant and full of himself. These things we see as character flaws are also the same traits that are necessary for a leader of men into combat. General Patton and MacArthur were like that as well. They too had people that hated and them and found them to be arrogant. The way I see it, you need someone who has complete confindence in their abilities to be successful and lead men into battle.

    As for the Indians, as you stated, they signed their own death warrant that day. Anytime I have read or heard any modern day Native Americans speak of Custer they just spew hatred and malign the man. He has become the scapegoat for their plight.

    They cannot see that Custer was just a soldier doing his job and the blame goes to Washington and the politicians. Custer had stated that if he were an Indian, he would fight back. It has never been said that he hated the Indians. Blaming Custer for LBH is like blaming Vietnam Vets for the Vietnam war.

  225. robganthony says:

    That’s conventional wisdom. The problem is the Medicine Tail Coulee crossing enmasse never occurred. The archaeological evidence does not bear it out at all. This is thanks to the fire of 1984. It is now known that a small force of the 7th, presumed to be under Lt. Sturgis’ command and consisting of at least one sergeant and 4 to 6 enlisted men were sent to scout the MTC and its environs. Contemporary Indian accounts recount the exchange of gunshots at this location. These can be accounted for by the Indian slugs being fired at the troopers, and the trooper slugs fired at the Indian position. Most of those experts were of the opinion that none of the troopers or Indians were hit and that the troopers withdrew.

    Next, the same fire indicated that Custer was in the area of the present day Visitor’s Center with a significant portion of his wing–based on the number and kind of artifacts found. At some point, Custer moved his command to the area of Custer Hill (fenced in present day site and ordered, first, Lt. Calhoun to establish a skirmish line at the foot of this ridge which was done. Presumably, that firing line was effective because the Indians did not immediately try to charge it. At some point, Custer decided to reinforce Calhoun’s position with Captain Myles Keogh’s company of troopers–too establish a supporting skirmish line at a 45 degree angle to Calhoun’s company. At this point, Keogh mounted on Commanche was shot through the leg at just above his knee, yet remained mounted and, according to the Indians, managed to turn his horse until he was overwhelmed to defend his troopers. At about the same time, Calhoun and his 2d Lts were also shot by Gall’s braves. This left those commands leaderless and demoralized and running pallmall for Custer’s position.

    It is very clear from the aerial maps of the Calhoun – Keogh positions that Custer was beginning to form a square–a defensive positon, hollow toward the center and having deadly crossfire which the Indians would not have been able to counter. This kind of tacticf was not effectively countered by the Indians. Keep in mind that the effective range of the trooper carbines was 400 – 500 yards; the repeater rifles of the Indians, in contrast, was 200 – 300 yards.

    In re the earlier remarks about Acting Brig. Gen. Crook (a Colonel in regular US Army rank who functioned as a temporary Brig. Gen. in the field) I concur. Crook sat on his backside at the Rosebud for nearly 4 weeks following his fight with the Sioux and Northern Cheyenne. He made no attempt to contact the Terry and Gibbons columns though Crook roughly knew where they would be because of the pre-campaign conference chaired by Gen. Sheridan well before the campaign was commenced. He moved out of the Rosebud when his officers indicated they would remove him from command for failure to follow superior orders. The upshot of this being the Slim Buttes fight later during the aftermath numerous 7th Cavalry items and trooper personal items were recovered. On seeing the number of artifacts, Crook is supposed to have turned ashen and became uncommunicative.

  226. Gregory Urbach says:

    I don’t believe there is enough evidence to spell out an accurate sequence of events on Custer Ridge, though I think if Benteen had followed his written orders, it would have relieved pressure on Calhoun’s position long enough to let the rest of the command to maneuver. By the time Weir was finally able to break away from Reno Hill, it was too late. And though I like reading about the archeological surveys of the 1980s, in some ways they can’t be relied on. The surveys cannot calculate how many artifacts were removed from the battlefield during the decades it was unprotected, nor do we know what evidence lies beneath the paved roads. There is no doubt that Custer was rash, but the failure of Benteen and Reno are egregious.

    • robganthony says:

      On this we concur. Benteen went through the motions and not in haste. It was Capt. Weir who was disgusted by Benteen’s and Reno’s lack of urgency in response to Custer’s last written order that caused him to mount his troop and ride to the sound of the gunfire.

      Benteen claims that he needed to bolster Reno’s command’s confidence which would have been accomplished with the pack train trooper escort.

  227. bumsteer says:

    Marquis’ book is entitled Keep the Last Bullet for Yourself. I agree that it provides an insight into the battle from the Indians’ viewpoint, and it points out much that makes the battle’s short duration more understandable

  228. John Martin says:

    I have always found it entertaining when people who claim to know about military history refer to Custer as rigid, unyielding and forceful. Arrogant and demanding. It’s as if he were the only military leader in history who demanded obedience.
    I submit that I could choose any Lt Colonel at random from our military (then or now) and find many if not all of those same traits. Most commanders are disliked by one or more of their subordinates, but they are still able to count on their support when in the heat of battle.
    Reno failed, and Benteen pulled up short where he should have gone on the offensive. Reno was drunk, probably to the point of incapacity, and Benteen was simply stubborn.
    Couple that with the largest, best armed and most hostile band of Indians in history, and you get the battle of LBH. Custer, flaws and all, was no better or worse commander than any currently serving. His luck ran out that hot Sunday.

  229. Jada says:

    I just think it is cool that you guys have this much history. History is my fav subject.

  230. vernon prescott says:

    A very stereotyped description of Officers-couldn’t be further from reality. I’m a retired E-9 (MSG)-30 years. No two leaders are alike. Some over control, some task you with specific missions, some simply say\Here’s the mission\ and allow you the latitude to execute it as you see fit..

    Descriptions of Custer came from his contemporaries. His men called him :\Hard Ass\:There;s an indication right there. Like him or not, he was not an easy individual to work him. Hero worship was a requirement- the first one. He was a very spontaneous individual. So, you had to be ready for when he altered pland or changed his mind on an issue. This was not a typical trait in 19th Century America.-That’s the second one.

    Ever been to the LBH battlefield ? If you attempted to come to Custer’s aid from the bluffs, in jeeps, and one hundred men with bolt action rifles were firing at you, perhaps 10% of your force would get through. The terrain is open – naked – and you are a clear target. The Reno-Benten detachment would have left a trail of dead men, horses, and pack mules, and would not have affected the outcome.

    A good read is \Son of the Morning Star\ Evan Connell ( not the TV movie, which is melodrama….) Will provide you with a lot of insight into GAC’s psyche’.

    PS: 30% of the entire command were recruits with less than one year of service. \Newbies\, \FNG’s\. In a real fight, they would be left behind in the rear guard /supply trains area.

  231. John Martin says:

    Vernon, thank you for your input and your service to our country, but you make some pretty broad and erroneous assumptions yourself.
    While I was unable to serve, I come from a family of military men, including an uncle in USMC and a younger brother who served as a Commander in the USN. So I am well aware of the proclivities of senior military men.
    I was also born and raised in Montana and first visited LBH shortly after the 100th anniversary in 1976. Since then I have read literally everything I could find on the battle, Custer, all his officers and the Native Americans they fought there.
    I agree with your assessment of the nature and layout of the terrain, and it would be a terrible place to mount an assault even today, let alone 140 years ago.
    I would suggest some other books for you to read if you haven’t already, Donovans. A Terrible Glory, Philbricks Last Stand, Utleys Cavalier inBuckskin.
    Also look for custers own book, my life on the plains, and the other articles and correspondence he had with his superiors. You get a much better and bigger picture of the man and his personality.

  232. vernon prescott says:

    First off, I retired an E-8 (Typo)…….

    Secondly, the Marines have one of the most purpose-driven Officer Courses. It’s called TBS – The Basic School. All Officers in the Corps attend it, and no matter what they gravitate toward in their military careers ( Intelligence-Aviation- JAG-Logistics , etc.) the one thing they are taught is that \Every Marine is a Rifleman\. They are an assault force. In this environment, no Orders from any rank should be questioned. Every situation they enter is \hot\.

    The Navy: Well, I believe the Captain of any ship or shore station is he Supreme Being of his domain.Kind of a Navy Regulation or something to that effect. A captain’s rank corresponds to a Colonel in the Army and the Corps. If anything, his word is more supreme than the two ground forces mentioned.

    Orders can be clarified, but never questioned. Orders relate to the mission – the tactics – the objective……in that order.

    Custer splintered his command where massing it would have resulted in, perhaps, a stalemate. He misjudged, big time. A quick summary of this misjudgement:
    – Size of the village.
    – Number of warriors.
    – Native American intentions and actions, once the extended village was attacked.
    – the Topography ( terrain ).

    On June 25, 1876, he continually sliced off troop strength ( losing the element of Mass ( a combat multiplier) until none of the three elements were strong enough or close enough to support each other (topography-terrain) .

    He attacked what he thought was at the end (tail) of the extended village, the intent being to capture the women and children, thus forcing the warriors to surrender. He actually attempted his fording of the LBH River at the mid-point of the village. The braves were not away hunting. So he attempted to hit an armed force (where he thought none was present ) with 225 (est) men , against conservatively 1000 warriors ( I always use a low number ). A defender has a 3 to 1 advantage. He attacked with the odds against him at 5 to 1 in troop strength. The combined ratio of 8 to1 was a combat multiplier that worked to the warrior’s advantage. Eight Indians for each soldier. And remember, even children, the elderly and the women joined in the fray….

    Next trip to LBH, go to the site of Reno’s \charge\. In 1876, 100-150 yards forward of Reno’s position was a 10 foot wide, 6 foot deep gully /coulee. This obstacle alone would have disrupted and ended his charge. Drunk or not, confused or not, he ordered a Hasty Defense. Being overwhelmed, he retreated. Discipline and training in the 7th was such that it became a rout. ( The same occurred on the Custer Battlefield ).
    The next time you visit, walk Reno’s Charge position. I have. Envision what you are attacking with what was it? 112 men? They would have all been dead before they hit the first line of Teepees…

    If Reno had not lost a single man, and linked up with Benteen, do you really think they could have effected a link up, a reinforcement, a rescue of Custer’s command? That’s a 4 mile ride across that terrain I described in the previous post. Your eyes have seen it. You need the pack train ( ammunition/food/water/medicine ). How fast do heavily laden mules run ?
    And, at a gallop, how strung out will the individual Companies be? And if forced to halt, what do you select for a defensive position ? The terrain is absolutely void of one.

    I’ve read dozens of books on Custer- his record -personality- results-tactics- and primarily how he rode his command into the ground after leaving Fort Lincoln. There still are many \what if’s:
    – What if he taken that second Squadron that was offered to him?
    – What if he had taken the Gatling guns?
    – What if 600 plus 7th Cavalrymen charged the village en masse’?
    – What if he attempted a Parley ? A stall tactic. so Terry and Gibbon could arrive?
    – What if he just waited for Terry and Gibbon? Timed his march?

    They are all Unknowns. He did what he did. His rationale for it disappeared the moment he died.

    I looked through my notes, and I’ve attended 9 conferences/lectures on this battle and Custer – 5 at the Army War College in Carlisle, PA. Can’t count the number of books I’ve read about the battle……
    In closing, I’ve commented extensively in years past on this site, if you want to review older posts.
    We have to wait for the next world to get answers from this one.

    • John Martin says:

      I applaud your extensive military analysis of LBH battle, and certainly you are correct, for the most part. Custer seriously underestimated the Indians willingness to engage, contrary to his past experience, and it’s clear he made numerous tactical and strategic mistakes on that foundation, resulting in the epic slaughter that ensued.
      My point, in my original post, was that he has been unduly characterized as a hothead and a tyrant, when he actually was a capable, if flamboyant officer with a record of success that any commander would envy.
      We have the advantage of knowing now many things that he simply couldn’t in 1876, like the nature of the terrain, the actual number of combatants, their armaments and their willingness to fight.
      I believe Custer intended to wait at Crows until the following day to attack, which would have given him a strategic advantage, allowing Gibbon and Terry time to get into place to block and assist.
      In addition, Crook was supposed to support from the south.
      That is the information Custer had and acted on.
      Of course, Crook retreated, having been stood of by half the force Custer faced with twice as many troops,something Custer could not have possibly known, since Crook made no attempt to communicate.
      Terry got bogged down,lost and delayed, and Custer was spotted by Crawler and other Lakota scouts, forcing him to attack early or take the blame for letting them escape.
      He rolled the dice and lost…….big time.
      You posit several scenarios that would have only resulted in the very thing that Custer and Terry feared most.
      The gatling battery would never have made it to the battle, and would have taken even more troopers out of the fight. Same with the infantry. The slowed pace would have left them riding into an abandoned village, and the war would have lasted years longer.
      From the moment of his death and that of his command, the battle has been lied about, twisted and obfuscated to accommodate political,military and social agendas to the point that the truth can never really be known.
      Its easy to criticize him while looking through the prism of 140 years of politics, but a truly objective observer will be richly rewarded with an open mind and first hand information.
      There were dozens of mistakes and acts of cowardice,malice and Ill will that contributed to the disaster, but as Shakespeare once said
      “He who dies pays all debts,”
      Custer did not hate Indians, and the fact that he serves as the symbol for white hegemony and genocide serves neither the Indians nor society.
      He was a soldier, and we have a tendency to assume that since he got his ass kicked, we must be even now.
      I simply refuse to accept that premise.


  233. Sm8213 says:

    As always a well thought out post. I take issue with the assumption that Reno was intoxicated. That accusation is based on the “testimony” of some very questionable witnesses. I believe it was Pvt. Taylor (I don’t have my notes in front of me as I’m not at home) who claimed that he turned and looked behind him and witnessed Reno “take a drunk of Amber colored liquid from a flask” LOL are you kidding?!?!?! Benteen stated that Reno was not drunk at the RCOI. I am a medically retired officer. I served in the Army and Navy, both in a ground combat role. I fought in Panama the first gulf war and Somolia. Respectfully John being related to two marines doesn’t really give you the ability to classify officers the way you do. I would listen to the 30 year NCO (it’s always worked for me). I assure you he’s worked with more officers then either one of us. I spend 2 to 3 days a year at LBH. I have walked that ground ad nauseam. There is no way on Gods green earth that Reno could have successfully carried that charge. Further more there is no way on Gods green earth that Reno and Benteen could have effected any kind of link up with Custer. The archeology is now showing pretty clearly that there was a conciderable amount of combat at the north end of the village as well. In my humble opinion Gen Custer continued to maneuver offensively until there was nowhere left to go. He divided his command a minimum of 3 times in the face of a clearly superior force in order to keep moving north. Once again in my humble opinion he did this to get into the non combatants. I firmly believe he left C company on Greasy grass ridge / Calhoun ridge and L and I companies on Calhoun hill / Battle ridge. He then continued north with E and F in another attempt to get into the non combatants who were fleeing to the NW. Once repulsed he come back via what is now cemetary ridge and arrived on last stand hill in time to see L and I being over run. Companies C, I and L were devoured like a string of sausages by overwhelming odds. Once again it’s just my opinion. It does however fit the archeology.

    As always

    • Gregory Urbach says:

      I agree with many of the points you’ve made, though I disagree that Benteen could not have linked up with Custer, as Custer was expecting. Boston Custer rode the same trail all the way from the pack train with success. Reno was under no immediate pressure on Reno Hill at the time Benteen arrived and he could have continued forward, as his written orders instructed. I believe the failure of Benteen to make the effort left Custer’s battalion in the lurch, and led to the collapse of the position on Calhoun Hill. None of it excuses the errors Custer made by depending on so many false assumptions. As for Reno, I believe there are many sources attesting to his drinking, and the court-martial was a farce, but it’s true that doesn’t prove he was drunk.

  234. vernon prescott says:

    First off, I applaud your name. First thought was of Giovanni Martini………. our \Come Quick, etc\ man in this saga……

    The entire campaign, despite the number of troops involved from three distinct commands, was to force the tribes to return to their reservations.On a 1 to 10 scale ( 10 being extremely difficult ) it was a definite 10 by 19th century standards. My take. In addition,
    – Orders to the three commands were vague.
    – Communication stunk ( as would be expected due to terrain and the distance between the commands.)
    – Crook, despite minimal losses, emboldened the tribes by retreating, when there was no plausible reason to do so.
    – Custer attacked, thinking he was discovered and the tribes would scatter. If he had only parlayed ( ie: Stalled-big time ) to buy 48 hours. If that failed, then trail the tribes \if\ they scattered, sending messengers to Crook and Terry to \Hurry Up\ etc.
    – Gatling guns could have been disassembled and pack muled. They would have been no slower than the pack train.

    Now, the area near / surrounding the Crow’s Nest – I find that suitable terrain. Here’s a \What if\…..

    What if Custer had Benteen and Reno fortify the best defensible positions near the Crows Nest ( doesn’t have to be ON it-just vicinity of )
    Custer advances with three Companies, even two. Indians take chase. Custer retires. And a fixed battle ensues. Custer does not reveal his Gatling Guns.
    More Indians attack the Command. At one point where you have an exceedingly large number of hostiles on the field, the guns commence fire. Your firepower now exceeds theirs. You inflict moderate to sever casualties on the hostiles. Their attack falters. You can:
    – Accept a stalemate until the other two commands link up with you: ( You sent messengers-runners as to your intentions).
    – Advance by bounds, fortify and defend. Cavalry companies are your screen..
    – Attempt a Parlay again to buy time..

    Now, these are not Custer’s tactics. Never were. This is a \wear ’em down..\ approach. Typical of U.S. Grant.

    Would it have worked? Who knows? And it’s not really worthy of deep analysis. Gatling Guns are /were a \combat multiplier\. A couple of Parrot guns and all canister ammunition loads would have worked just as well.

    I was Armor / Armored Cavalry by MOS. I would never under estimate the value of Infantry ( Forsyth used them remarkably well ) In 19th century America, in the West, they had to stand their ground or die. In virtually all instances, they stood their ground.

    I always evaluate Custer based on 19th Century realities and not on 20th-21st Century politically correct values. It was a different era.

    Sm: ( I’m going to call you Bravo 24-my old Call Sign )

    There were reports and denials of Reno’s inebriation. Who knows? The truth has long been lost.Wiping someone’s brains off your face after that first exchange of fire can un-nerve you though. The first few orders after that event would normally appear uncertain or shaky.

    I would never allow a Unit to take position in a river bottom – a gully, and commence an attack on even an evenly matched hostile force. Tactically unsound. That was a waste of 50 plus lives.-20% of the overall command. Reno was given a basin – a basin, in which to line up his 112 men.

    Most modern historians have the command divided 5 times:
    Then a left and right wing on the Custer Battlefield itself ( out of desperation I imagine )

    Pick a nice autumn day and from the Custer area, walk SE towards Reno’s position. At 1.5 miles, you see the enormity of what Reno and Benteen faced if they attempted a reinforcement of Custer, and they had a 4 mile separation, disillusioned troops, and a pack train.
    I’ve done it twice, deliberately, the first time BY MISTAKE in August. I was 38 years old, in excellent shape,plenty of water….But the terrain in comfortable hiking boots and light clothing ( think flannel and wool on the troopers ) was murder. The other half of the 7th would have been marked by a long, ragged line of markers today, on those 4 miles…… Hunkering down saved the Reno-Benteen element.

  235. Gregory Urbach says:

    Excellent points. I spent the afternoon at the Washita Battlefield and was surprised at what a fine facility they have there.

  236. vernon prescott says:

    I read your earlier Post above mine and missed it. My comments follow:

    Boston Custer made his ride to eternity during that, for want of a better term, the Interlude when Messengers were making their runs. He was present, in the command, for Custer’s last Campaign. No fighting had yet occurred.

    Benteen would have had to abandon the Reno wounded: 50 plus men to the Noble Red Man’s War Axe (melodrama on my part )

    Calhoun Hill defense collapsed due to three factors:

    1. Too few Troopers – one every 15 feet or so, minus horse holders, and
    2. Later archeological digs indicating that Calhoun’s Company encountered a severe crossfire. Frontal and flank.
    3, Indefensible terrain, and not by choice.

    Nothing could have saved Calhoun’s Company except more men, deep trenches, and interlocking fire.

    My take on Benteen: He had two choices that day in the hope of seeing the sun come up on June 26th:

    1. A given: Stay linked with Reno. You have a concentrated force on fairly defensible terrain, supplies, and a large number of wounded. Abandoning the wounded to come to Custer’s aid means certain death for them. 50-50 odds. Maybe better.

    2. Attempt a 4 mile ride to the Boss with unwounded troops. How many? 175 ? 200 ? Your horses are worn out. Some are wounded. I don’t think your men are motivated by they have witnessed so far. It becomes a strung out gallop, riding into a far superior number of warriors who’ medicine is great that day. In fact, they’re in a frenzy.
    Custer’s probably down to 50 men or less. Say you arrive losing only 20% of your men. You now have 160 men to add to Custer’s 50 and we’re back up to that slightly more than 200 number that Custer had to begin with. Against anywhere from 900 to 3000 warriors, on the same terrain that already cost Custer approximately 175 of his 225 troopers. Do you:
    – Continue to defend bald terrain? You can’t evacuate Custer’s men, only reinforce them. And the number of wounded are climbing. Custer is failing at it. What can Benteen do to turn the situation around? And you are losing horses in addition to men….
    – Attempt to relieve pressure on Custer by charging the village, only to be swallowed up and spit out by it’s occupants? Fall on that future hand grenade to save the Colonel?

    Ruminate on it. I hesitate even estimating the odds on the second scenario. 100 to 1 ? 1000 to 1 ? The bullet that gets you would probably be fired by one of your own men…

    There are no easy solutions to pulling Custer out of the mess he created and rode in to.

    I have yet to visit the Washita Battlefield. There are a lot of hidden secrets to that one as well – the start of bitterness towards Custer and Regimental factions. The Fetterman Massacre has always intrigued me as well. Imagine the fight in the dead of winter in bitter cold… Haven’t made it there either. A lot older. Grand children now………

    • Gregory Urbach says:

      Most of the question here would have to do with timing. I believe, and have read several books in support, that Custer’s battalion was not under extreme pressure at the time Benteen linked up with Reno, and the Indians had retreated from the area were Reno was fighting, beginning their move downstream. This would have given time for Benteen, and only Benteen’s battalion, not Reno, to move on. I think Benteen’s arrival would have opened the flank near Calhoun Hill and relieved pressure, allowing Custer’s battalion to withdraw. I do not think another attack on the village, or even trying to hold Battle Ridge, would have been practical, only a semi-organized retreat. Even after wasting an hour, and possibly several hours on Reno Hill, Captain Weir was still able to overlook the battlefield with little trouble. If you think Custer would have refused to retreat (a dumb decision but a possible scenario), or if you’re convinced that most of his command was already dead when Benteen linked with Reno, then none of my above comments apply. Good discussion, Thanks.

  237. vernon prescott says:

    I may have a book I purchased some years back where the author basically conducted time and movement studies (my term, not his ).

    He basically calculated the movements on June 25th. It was rather cut and dry, and loaded with presumptions, but if you study the battle as a Custer fan, some of it does make sense. I have to see if I still have it. That may clarify Benteen’s ability to reinforce, or extract remnants of Custer’s Battalion.

    The total time expended in the last stand is the fly in the ointment. One sub-chief said it was long as it takes a man(Indian I presume) to eat his meal . So how long is it? Twenty minutes? Forty minutes? Something in between? Who knows? But it certainly didn’t take more than an hour. That, in the old West, is a short battle.

    Warriors, historically, used to drift in and out of fights: to eat, look over captured booty, to simply rest for a few minutes. They were all individualists…. If they got bored, they would quit the fight.

    But not June 25, 1876

    That day, the five tribes were in a frenzy. And, don’t forget, Sitting Bull had his vision, for what it’s worth….They had the numbers, the fighting spirit, and a wide variety of weapons. Custer’s command had sagebrush and dead horses for cover.


    I always recall that 20-30% of the command were Newbies who had never fought an Indian. I can see panic almost immediately settling in.

    Post Battle Analysis

    Benteen had stated something to the effect that you could throw a handful of corn on the ground and it would mimic the defensive scheme of Custer’s command. No semblance of an organized resistance, except for Last Stand Hill with the dead horse barriers. That implies panic, individuals or small groups being cut off and isolated, orders not heard or ignored, so the entire command wound up being strung out to the effect that survivable defense was out of the question.

  238. John Martin says:

    Once again, I agree with points made but have to disagree with some of your assertions. It seems that virtually every Custer hypothesis begins with the (heroic or not) last stand, with the frazzled Custer flinging his last desperate pistol shots before finally falling among the last of is men.
    They all seem to start with that scene and work backwards from there, trying to reason as he might to decipher what possible plan he may have .
    Short answer? I don’t think it went down that way at all. And the archaeology, Indian testimony and physical evidence back me up.
    First, let’s address the well worn assertion that he\ split his command in the face of clearly superior force\ He splitting command based on sound, well known cavalry tactics, into strike units of nearly identical size. Three companies, or about 120 men. That’s what Benteen had, Th a th s what Reno had and when Custer himself went down to Medicine Tail Cord to lead the attack, that’s what he had, 120 men. Companies C,E and L.
    There is a reason or that. A cavalry strike force is designed to charge, disrupt and confuse. Any fear than 120 and you are vulnerable to flanking attacks even by a smaller force, any more and the. Ommand be comes too hard to keep in control,communicate and direct by a single commander.

    Custer left two companies behind at the Ford to
    A. Act as a rear guard,
    B. Link up with Benteen to get the ammo to them,
    C. To act as a recon from high ground.
    They could be summoned to join the battle with a single bugle call.

  239. John Martin says:

    We should also remember what the objective of the entire campaign was. It was NOT to kill Indians, but rather to capture as many non combatants as possible to compel the rest to return to the reservation. Any movements north of MTC could not have been to this end, as there is no other decent crossing within a mile. If he still had a functioning force with cohesive command, they would have charged the Ford, captured the non combatants and probably won the battle.
    Reno was to” charge the village and you will be supported by the whole outfit.” Well, he started out ok, then did something he wasn’t supposed to.
    He stopped.
    Fully 300 yards from the nearest Indians, he formed a skirmish line, taking 25% of his troopers out of the fight to hold horses, and giving the Lakota and Cheyenne an opportunity to flank his left and catch him in a ceasefire, leading to the retreat to his right to the woods.
    Severa k prominent warriors in the fight stated that Reno missed his chance to blast throughout the village and meet with Custer. Big as the village was, he would have lost fewer men than the fifty he lost in the” buffalo chase” across the river and up t h e bluffs.

  240. John Martin says:

    I’m writing this diatribe on a droid with sticky letters and a bossy autocorrect function. My apologies.
    For the record, my name really is John Martin, but I an not related to Giovanni Martino.

  241. Gregory Urbach says:

    Having recently written a book about Custer, I did a lot of research and visited the battlefield last July. I forget the exact book, it may have been Last Stand by Nathaniel Philbrick, but the speculation was that Benteen and Reno wasted a lot of time, possibly two hours, before going to Custer’s aid, and told numerous lies afterward, such as not hearing gunfire from downriver. I have never believed any of Benteen’s comments about the battlefield as it would only serve his own interest to say it was a total rout as opposed to a steadily held position suddenly struck by a rapid collapse due to a lack of support (not to mention is his contempt for Custer, that his comments were also intended to convey). The Indian comment about the battle lasting the time it takes a hungry man to eat his lunch is also useless. We don’t know when this warrior arrived at the battle, it may have been in the final minutes of a fight that lasted hours, for many of the combatants remained near the Reno site and returned to the village before checking out the Custer fight. I firmly believe the position along the ridge was held for quite some time as Custer awaited reinforcements, that the ill-advised advance of C Company toward the river undermined the cohesiveness of the defense on Calhoun Hill, and led to a domino effect along the ridge. Once the position began to collapse, there would have been some panic, but not before that. The final position on Custer Hill shows they were making a stand. And the so-called lack of shell casings at the site, which some use to show limited resistance, is also bogus. The archeological studies have no way of knowing how many tourists pillaged the battlefield prior to the field being protected, and we have no evidence for what lies under the road now built atop the ridge or what evidence was lost when the road was constructed.

  242. vernon prescott says:

    You mention the word,* speculate *, when referring to the Author’s narrative or conclusion. That’s what most historians do with respect to the LBH Battle. It can be educated speculation, research-based speculation, or melodramatic speculation, Inasmuch as there were no survivors to bear testimony, that is all one can do: speculate , theorize, or guess.

    The Indian, one who purportedly witnessed and participated in the battle, couldn’t tell time. It was his way of answering the question put to him of how long the battle lasted. He had nothing to gain or lose by his statement -simply answering a question put to him.

    To give you some indication of how slow the Pack Train was, it took 90 minutes for it to cross Mud Creek on the night of 23-24 June. The animals were that surly. Had nothing to do with the length of the train but with the temperament of the mules.

    Now, some authors adhere to the theory that Custer charged the village from Medicine Tail Coulee, or a branch thereof, only to be stopped dead cold at the fording site after losing a few troopers to gunfire, and that the command turned around to the knoll, where there was an indeterminate amount of indecision as to what to do next. And that was the point that the Indians seized the initiative. But it’s a theory only- been used in some of the later movies on Custer, as it adds to the melodrama.

    Certainly- most certainly, there was a stand on Custer Hill. All but three of his Officers were found dead there – a sure sign that individual companies collapsed and survivors fled to the next nearer concentration of troopers for safety in numbers. The Officers- unless they were on that hill the entire time and the First Sergeants were leading the troops – offer no explanation whatsoever, other than perhaps panic set in with them as well.

    If Custer had stayed mounted, he could have had Calhoun remount after skirmishing, and broken out to the SE. Why he chose not to as the enormity of Indian manpower unfolded before him, escapes a reasonable mind.

    Starting in late 1876, pickin’s from the battlefield began in earnest. Continued right through to the 1920’s. Of course, most of the archeological findings of fields of fire came from musket balls, spent bullets, etc. Matched to shell casings at the opposite end of a field. Most were relatively close to each other – 50 to 100 yards or less. Not absolutely conclusive, but provides a reasonable theory or hypothesis as to what occurred.

    We will never know to what extent Benteen disliked Custer and whether he deliberately abandoned him. Personalities aside, Benteen was prudent that day and Custer was brash. It was an exceedingly poor plan. By contemporary standards, placing Custer’s plan in a 21 st century context and presenting it to superiors, you would be sent back to your bunker to rethink it, staff it out with your Officers, make sure everyone knows what’s expected of them, and as our present Commander in Chief says, Have an Exit Strategy…

  243. vernon prescott says:


    A Synopsis and nothing more………. didn’t get a chance to reply to your 10-2-14 Post……

    – I agree with your statement regarding the 3 pronged campaign’s mission was to return the various tribes to their respective Reservations. To engage them only if necessary……

    – If Custer had entered the village at the ford he selected, he would have entered at the mid-point of the village. What to do ?
    – Charge SE toward Reno and get eaten up from the rear?
    – Split his 5 company command with, say, two companies going SE and three companies going NW ?. ( A further splintering?)

    – A given: Reno was weak, BUT…. he did have Bloody Knife’s brains deposited in his face…. a true PTSD moment ???
    However, most of the Reno-Valley survivors felt that if they had entered the village at that point, charging…. they would still be there yet….
    How many warriors confronted them: Unknown. Was Custer in a position to support Reno ? No. Could anyone have reinforced Reno’s 112 men. No. Should Reno have ever been assigned that position. My personal answer: No. If Custer had taken Reno’s three companies, the Custer command now totaling 8 companies and close to 350 men, could he have forced an entry into the village at the ford ? Yes. Could he have captured the non-combatants ? No. Why ? The village was too strung out. By most accounts, three miles long. And remember, the warriors commenced their attack from the village. They ( the Indians ) occupied the objective. Still, too few men and too many Indians. Most conservative estimates are 4000 warriors in the village that day. That’s the conservative estimate. Cut that in half to 2000…5 warriors for every one of Custer’s Battalion.

    – Bottom Line: Reno had an inadequate force to begin with. How far would 112 men get charging into a village 3 miles long ? A half mile ? A mile ? When you hit the one mile marker, you would have lost 50% of your force, and find yourself in a meat grinder. It’s Pork Chop or Hamburger Hill -mounted style.

    – Warrior views on Reno’ failed charge: You can take them at face value. Remember one thing: The Indians ultimately lost despite the LBH victory. For years afterward – well into the late 1920’s – they told White Interviewers what they felt the White Man wanted to hear:

    – The Bluecoats fought well and died bravely.
    – Custer bravely directed his hopeless cause.
    – We would have fled if the others had come.

    Of course they said these things. They were, at that point, totally dependent upon the Bureau of Indian Affairs for food, clothing and shelter. Tell them what they want to hear so we can eat another day……

    The final tally on the Custer battlefield was something like 70 Indian dead ( some by friendly fire ). Not sure of the exact number, but it was very low as respects the intensity of the action. So only one in three troopers got a kill.

    There’s no finality to this historical drama. We have to wait until we all enter the next world and ask the participants……..

  244. vernon prescott says:


    The book in the question is: “Custer’s Last Campaign – Mitch Boyer and the Little Big Horn Reconstructed ” Author: John S. Gray
    (it’s old – Copyrighted 1991 – but a very good….and very dry time in motion study of the events leading up to and including the fight and subsequently identifying Mitch Boyer’s remains _.

  245. DAVE says:

    Funny, hardly any posts for months, then all of a sudden some posted daily. Have contributed previous posts on subject. So many ways to look at it. Almost like reading the Bible, a hundred people read it and a you get a hundred different views.

    Not an expert, but since a boy I have read everything I could get my hands on. Still can’t figure out why some continue to support Beenteen and Reno. There is no argument to be made that they both hated Custer and the evidence, written and spoken, makes it clear that they both failed Custer that day. You can argue all you want how it would not have made a difference.

    The incident (excuse) for Reno to stop his charge because he had brains and blood spattered on him is interesting and most likely happened. Funny thing is, Custer had the exact same thing happen to him in the middle of a battle. Witnesses said that he just wiped his face with his hand and kept barking out orders in the most calm manner.

    I cannot belive how some of you keep going back to Custer’s mistake of splitting his command. His actions were text book Army manual. What made it a MISTAKE is only the fact that he had no idea what he was facing in numbers. His scouts tried to tell him there were too many Indians, but he did not believe them. Arrogance? Perhaps. But I could see why he would not believe them. Never before that time did different tribes all get togethe to fight a common enemy and never after LBH. The tribes were usually killing each other.

    I guess what I am getting at is that Custer’s decisions were based on his experiences and what always worked before.

    Just read KILLING PATTON, my other hero. Book was interesting as it was great to find out what the Generals and politicians said about each other. I mention Patton only because I cannot help but to think that Patton and Custer were very alike.

    Some of you keep giving Reno and Beenteen a pass. Reno died a drung and with a reputation as a coward, which I believe is richly deserved.

    As far as the ferensic evidence found after the fire that allegedly proved what happened cannot be trusted. That battlefield was picked clean for decades. What they finally found is basically worthless. I don’t disagree that it most likely was a rout, I just don’t take a lot of stock in a lot of their findings.

    The government really caused a lot of this lack of closure with this battle. They wanted to white wash it and not admit lots of wrong doing and did what is always best to do to cover your butt. Blame the dead guy. That is the only reason Reno and Benteen were not court martialed. The Army wanted it to go away. Sort of like Bengazi today.

    I also read how some say they have been at the battlefield and say that Reno could not charge because of a ditch in front of him. First off, how do you know it was there in 1876? Or if it was there, was it as large? I have been to Gettysburg four times. I looked over areas where there was supposed to have had cavalry charges, but it is a forest. I found out that the decades ago the tree huggers kept the government from maintaining the battlefields as they were originally. There are now trees where it once was an open field. I am sure LBH is not exactly as it was in 1876. People can trash Custer all day long. He was not perfect in any way. He was just one fine combat commander who proved his metle time after time. He will always be #1 in my book.

  246. vernon prescott says:

    I’ll bounce around. It’s stop and go because the Grand kids are over ,


    The 1985 Fire at LBH Battlefield: The 1986 study indicated that the Tribes were in possession and used 350 firearms, including 100 Winchesters. They identified 25 different types (models ) of firearms-everything from muzzle loaders to repeating rifles.

    We know what the 7th (Custer) had, so… 100 repeaters at 16 shots each= 1600 rounds going out the barrel. That’s 8 shots for every one a Trooper can put out. Without reloading. Three types of Winchesters, and four types of Sharps.That excludes Single shot rifles (Buffalo guns), Muzzleloaders, Bows/arrows, Lances, War Clubs….. It was a victory through superior firepower and numbers.

    There were enough artifacts there ( left over…) in 1985 to at least give that assessment from archeologists and historians. And these are the professionals. No guessing or estimating on their part.


    2. RENO

    No two people are alike. Where Custer could indifferently wipe gore off his face, others could be stunned /numbed by it, That’s why so few people volunteer for First Aid Squads these days. Reno was different. My opinion was that he was unnerved by it. Others disagree and call it cowardice. So there are two camps on this one and always will be. There are many examples in American military history:
    – MacArthur had eight hours warning after Pearl Harbor was bombed, yet over 200 aircraft were destroyed on the ground in the Philippines in the initial Japanese attack.
    – In his haste to withdraw to Bataan, he left 50 million ( yep, that’s million ) bushels of rice in Manila warehouses.
    – Battle of Kasserine Pass-North Africa
    – Anzio
    – Battle of the Bulge

    Each has common denominators: Over confidence, Under estimating enemy strength and intentions, Tactics, and erroneous Assumptions………. all factors in the LBH debacle.

    My own professional view is that there is no way the other two Battalions could have come to Custer’s aid. Too far (4 miles ), the pack train, the wounded, and demoralized Troopers. And Custer’s reputation worked against him as well. Reno and Benteen, and other Officers were of the view that Custer, if facing superior numbers would have hunkered down and maintained a hasty defense, or rode on to link up with Crook ( not gonna happen ) or Terry.

    The Reno/ Benteen command was corralled on that hill top.It offered fair to moderate defense-nothing spectacular. My own view was that they avoided a second massacre.


    3. TACTICS

    May have been SOP for that era, but it didn’t work. The rough terrain of Montana separated their formations on June 25th.

    There were no instructions /orders other than to Valley Hunt for Benteen. Luckily he stopped at the second valley and Martini caught up with him there. That actually saved Reno’s remnants. By reversing course, he was able to secure the pack train and reinforce Reno.

    Separation of forces is /was a capital No-No. If you’re attacking, you attack in mass – you overwhelm – bring YOUR firepower to bear on the enemy. It’s called shock action.



    There are many recorded descriptions of the river bottom where Reno was instructed to charge from. After the battle, and with the collection of the dead, a wide and deep gully was noted several hundred yards to Reno’s front. This may have been noted by Terry’s command. I do not recall. But it’s a matter of record, not heresay.
    The area Custer selected for Reno was, by military stands, horrendous. His force was under manned ( they all were ). And with any assault, you take casualties. He started with, I believe 112 men. Take a guess as to how many he would have had left by the time he was a 1/4 mile in the village.. And when you take casualties, your attack loses steam and falters. His hasty defense in the timber was the correct decision. His indecision after that was flawed.



    A. The actual land mass has changed very little – still rugged, rough, uneven. I believe that what you see today is what Custer saw on June 25th, 1876 as far as the terrain is concerned.

    B. The LBH River, like all rivers, changes course based on snow melt / rainfall. New gullies / washes form. Old ones erode over time and disappear. Nature’s cycle……


    6. CUSTER

    On what do you base your conclusions that he was a great commander? If it’s the Civil War, remember that he had benefactors. He had publicity. He got results, but he had exceptionally high casualty rates. Research the stats.

    The Washita: He attacked a village flying the American flag. At peace. He overlooked Major Joel Elliott. And with 4 or 5 more villages downstream on the Washita (similar to the LBH), he halted. In actuality, he accomplished nothing at the Washita other than slaughtering innocents.

    The Little Big Horn : a highly complex plan of maneuver, not staffed out ( trouble shooting ), horrible terrain, large enemy forces, no consideration/planning for immediate logistics (re-supply) , or for friendly casualties. And ignoring the Intelligence information from your Scouts.
    Also, the official Muster Rolls at NARA indicate that close to 30% of his command were recruits averaging one year of service, who had never been in an Indian-Cavalry skirmish much less a prolonged battle. Really bad chemistry……..

  247. eriquelamont says:

    \…a lengthy battle and one of maneuver…\

    Or a battle where he was chased all over the field, the archeology also supports that, you set up dispositions, the enemy neutralizes them, you run away from that spot to the next…the difference is, did they run from one place to another because 1) they planned to or 2) they were forced to.

    Ultimately, the whole responsibility for the whole debacle rests with Custer.

    1) should not have split his forces and then have them too far apart for mutual support; perfect example is the pack-train, even if they were a mere 10 minutes away -and they weren’t- that still equates to 20 minutes plus for its arrival -and that’s not taking into account getting through or around 1,000 plus Native folks…and 20 minutes is far too long a time, heck, in that time you’d have exhausted your 100 rounds at a slow 5 rounds per minute.

    2) he did not advise his command of his plan, the nearest he did to this was telling Reno to attack and that he’d then support him with ‘the whole outfit’. Custer didn’t support him, I can understand Reno -knowing what Custer had done with Elliot previously- thinking he’d been left out to dry. It is on record, Custer said he’d support Reno and he blatantly didn’t.

    3) he sent Benteen on a fool’s errand that took him too far away to support him quick enough, Indian fighting needed flexibility, and you can’t easily maneuvre a battalion that is 3 or 4 miles away without walkie-talkies.

    Who knows what was in Benteen’s head, for sure he knew the pack train was already ordered to move quickly up with the packs, so no reason for him to send a rider to request exactly the same thing, again. As I see it, he knew the packs were coming up, saw/heard Reno, went to assist, the pack train arrived at the defense, because the messenger that went to the pack-train had left that area earlier when Custer gave him the message. Quite logical, I think.

    From then on, I can see Benteen seeing that in open battle the similar sized battalion of Reno had lost most of its cohesion and not really battle fit any more, probably realizing his outcome would be no better, especially as, wherever Custer was, Benteen -slowed down with the extra packs- would have had to go round or fight his way through all those Natives…Custer had a command nearly twice that of Benteen, why does any one think he’d have succeeded in reaching Custer?

    At the end of it all, fact is, Custer and Reno/Benteen essentially fought the same number of Indians -minus a few dead of course- yet one command survived and the other didn’t.

    The ‘Great’ Custer is a myth, he was bottom of his class at Westpoint, only the civil war gave him an opportunity for a career and a reputation, one formed on the corpses of others. I personally think he suffered from a kind of God complex, thinking he was invincible…I’ve read many accounts of people that survived IED’s, or even ran and took out a machine gun nest unscathed, who afterwards going around with perceived invincibility. Custer had this thought, I am sure, and for certain he believed in ‘Custer’s luck’.

    I think the psychology of the man set him up for a major fall sometime in his life.

    Of course the debate will never be resolved, but ultimately he and many people -on both sides died- along with White arrogance…which isn’t a bad thing :)

  248. erique says:

    vernon prescot,

    Thanks for that comment, to me seems absolute common sense, in all areas, IF Benteen had gone to Custer he would have been annihilated -he had less men than Custer and would be carrying the extra packs- and then no doubt what was left of Reno’s little command would have gone too.

    I don’t get all of the debate, Custer was in command, he told Reno to attack, and that he’d support him with the whole outfit. Custer didn’t, in fact he went even further away looking for some way to capture the women and children, it seems. It is quite amusing these days to see Whites condemning foreign military and terrorists for using civilians as ‘human shields’, when many of them admire Custer, whose ‘greatest’ ‘victory’ over the Indians was using women and children as a human shield…I guess it is different if White people use the tactic?

    From the moment Custer left Reno to his fate -as he did Elliot years earlier- any remaining schoolboy admiration I may have once had for the guy disappears…he sent Reno into a very very dangerous position with few resources and no back-up; something that got me for some time was why did Custer send Reno into contact with a smaller battalion than he himself commanded?

    Also, shouldn’t someone, somewhere had been a reserve?

    I started my journey as a bit of a Custerphile, with contempt for the ‘traitorous’ Reno and Benteen, and hatred for the evil ‘Redskins’, who just got lucky.

    Not any more, and I can’t see how anyone can rate the guy…heck, I don’t even think him brave now, just a foolish man with a belief of invincibility -and like the gods of old, if you think you are invincible, can you really be brave?

    • mary says:

      cluster was a great guy, he was born in hardships and made the entire best out of them. he had 4 siblings and lived with his half sister and brother in law.

  249. vernon prescott says:

    You’re right on the money about the man ! And a Reserve may have been a great idea, if your intent is to split a 3 miles long multiple-tribe village in two. A unit to put down covering fires while you’re attempting to disengage, if by chance, things don’t work out your way. Now, think on this one:

    Could Custer have succeeded if he left one Company to guard the Pack Train, and charged from Reno’s River Bottom position with 11 Companies ??? A charge en’ mass? He would at least have had an exit route of sorts.

    Now, Mary:
    Custer’s brother-in-Law??? Elizabeth Bacon Custer had three siblings and her mother die of illness before she was thirteen years old. Look it up on Wikipedia. She was the only surviving daughter.

    And ALL Americans of that era were subject to the hardships of what I would term \Primitive Life\. of the 19th century. Poor hygiene, eating habits, and exceedingly poor medical practices.
    Custer had it no worse than any other rural or city dwelling American.

    Who was the 4th brother? Boston and Tom were killed at the LBH, Neville, the half brother makes three….. Who was #4?

    As far as being a great guy, remember this: he took 260 plus men to their deaths in a poorly planned, failed military campaign. That…is a simple fact.

  250. Gregory Urbach says:

    No, I’m sorry to disappoint, but Enrique is not right. Custer was an intelligent army officer who failed at the Little Big Horn by making too many assumptions based on false information. Without doubt the result was his fault, but he was using accepted cavalry tactics of the time. Had Reno not panicked, if Benteen obeyed his written orders, and if the Indians had scattered, as everyone expected them to do, the battle would have been different. Custer had a breakdown in coordination and an enemy prepared to stand and fight, but he is not the only general this has happened to.

    General Nelson A. Miles defended Custer’s basic strategy (though not it’s execution), and Miles was the era’s most successful Indian fighter. As for using women and children as ‘human shields’, both whites and Indians on the Great Plains did this, it was a standard practice. The Sioux, Cheyenne and Comanche were particularly known for holding hostages.

    Napoleon failed to coordinate his forces at Waterloo, and thousands died as a result, but historians don’t cast aspersions on his character. Grant lost thousands at the Wilderness and Cold Harbor. Robert E. Lee sent thousands to their deaths in a doomed frontal assault at Pickett’s Charge (after Longstreet did everything he could to talk him out of it). History does not call them crazy egotistical killers. They were experienced generals who made bad decisions.

    Custer’s problems at West Point had nothing to do with his intelligence or skills. He got demerits for playing pranks, being late, failing to have his uniform buttoned, etc. Whenever he got too many demerits, he would straighten up and not earn another demerit the entire rest of the year. He was one of West Point’s most popular cadets and kept friendships on both sides of the Civil War. He once stood in as best man at the wedding of a Confederate officer.

    There is a story about Custer that you will rarely hear. In 1869, while searching for two kidnapped white women in the Texas panhandle, Custer’s troops were poised to assault a Cheyenne village. He had overwhelming strength, but rather than attack, he rode into the village with only one interpreter at his side. Chief Medicine Arrow insulted him, refused to release the prisoners, and could easily have killed him, but Custer patiently negotiated. Eventually the prisoners were released and there was no battle. In fact, Custer made far more agreements with Indians than he fought wars, and if the Indians were ultimately betrayed, that was due to a corrupt national government, not the poorly paid soldiers serving on a violent frontier.

    If you really want to know something of George Custer’s character, get a copy of The Custer Reader. It contains articles written by him, and articles written by people who knew him. Go to the real sources, not these politically-correct critics who often base their opinions on TV shows. You will find that Custer was a warm and generous person who tried to do the right thing. He was intellectually curious. He worried about money even though he could have cashed in on his fame and never did. Yes, he had an ego. Most generals do.

    As for Custer’s family, he had four younger siblings and several older half-siblings, so it was a big family. They were farmers and blacksmiths in Ohio, and George later moved to live with his older married half-sister in Monroe, Michigan. They were chronically short of money, as many were, but worked hard and didn’t complain.

  251. Dale Hunter says:

    I agree with you and its refreshing to actually read something from somebody that knows about the battle and custer himself. Most of the idiots on here believe all that garbage from the 1970’s that bashed Custer. Most of these people probably think the movie Little Big Man was a true story or believed the crap that was on Dr. Quinn medicine nut. If these people knew anything they would know the court of inquirey was a joke. Soldiers were threatened about saying to much. Look at the questions they asked or I should say didnt asked. Look the reports Reno and Benteen wrote. There are the reports they wrote a few days after the battle and the reports that went down as the official reports that they wrote months after the battle. They totally contradicted the first reports in many areas. In any court of law if you have an officer in the armed services and they have 2 totally different reports I believe it would be brought up but not in this case. the only reason the army had a court of inquirey was because they was probably going to be a congressional hearing on the matter and the armsy wanted no part of that because they couldnt control it like thge could and did the court of inquirey.

  252. Dale Hunter says:

    You better read up on your facts when Reno and his men were on the skirmish line in the valley Reno didnt lead a organized retreat into the woods. Reno took part of line and retreated into the woods without telling anyone on the skirmish line. Then Moylan a little later took his squad into the timber leaving that whole flank exposed and if it wasnt for some of the quick thinking from the men on the line they would have been cut off. If you think his with drawl from the timber was anything but a rout your insane. yelling Mount then when everybody was mounting yelling dismount then mount again. Yes this was the actions of a brave officer. He left wounded in the woods and part of the command in the woods. He had no rearguard action when he left the woods and thats where he lost most of the men that were killed in the battle. Not on the charge to the village, Not on the skirmish line (one soldiers was hit on the skirmish line that tells you they werent under that heavy of fire) and not on the hill that rest of that day or the next. His casualties came from him losing his cool and panicking and leading a rout out of the woods. Benteen stopped and knew he had to take over there because Reno was such a mess. That night a lot of soldiers said where Benteen showed leadership qualities and was walking around giving orders and encourgment t the men Reno was no where to be found because he had himself buried and hidden in the trench. When they went and retrieved water for the wounded Reno asked one of the water carriers for some water and they refused to give him any saying it was for the wounded. That shows you the respect these soldiers had for Reno at this time and it was none. Afterwards even some soldiers even admitted they thought about putting a bullet in Reno’s head because he was such a disgrace. Lets talk about some of his behavior after at he battle like getting caught looking at other officers wives at night through the window. Ye, he was a perverted peeping tom. Reno was a disgrace and the one big mistake Custer made was not listening to his other officers and relieving Reno of being 2nd in command

  253. vernon prescott says:

    Please cite your reference material for your 1-6-15 Posting.

    When you say something like \That night, soldiers said\ or \only one soldier hit on the skirmish line\ ( Who was that ? And who was counting?) and the \Bullet in Reno’s head\ thing ?

    Without references: Interviews, immediately post battle or years later, Battle Anniversary events in the immediate 20 years afterward,with walk throughs, etc. Then, these are all Uncle Ned stories.
    You know an Uncle Ned story, correct?

    \Uncle Ned knew a a guy who knew a soldier who a soldier who was with Custer who told him….yadda…..yadda……yadda\.

    The fact remains that 112 men could not pierce a village of thousands, being shot at, lanced, arrowed, pulled off their horses, stoned by squaws, etc. and succeeded.

    As for Custer. Remember his statement: \ Charge the village and we will support you with the whole outfit\. Well:

    1. He wasn’t in a position to do so at the time of Reno’s charge..
    2 When he thought he was, it turned out to be the middle of the village, NOT the North end.

    3. He was repulsed. Stopped from gaining access to the village.

    Reno had issues. But Reno failed because he needed 500 plus men to do it right. A force to pose a real threat. If he had continued that Valley charge, there would have been 112 markers sitting on privately owned bottom land along the river.

  254. Michael Strauss says:

    Context: Compare Custer’s tactics with MacKenzie’s tactics. Read “Empire of the Summer Moon” to see how Mackenzie, in battle with Commanches, always reconnoitred, and when he struck, he struck with a fist. He happily let the Indians scatter, as long as he could capture their herds, which he then slaughtered.
    There should have been no issue about the Indian village scattering. The goal was to bring the Indians back to the reservation; had Custer let them scatter, but killed their herds, then in the end, the strategic aim would have been realized.
    Mackenzie, along with Nelson Miles, was responsible for bringing most of the Sioux and Cheyenne back to the reservation in the winter of 76-77.
    No one has thought this one out: if Custer really didn’t want the Sioux to scatter, then why did he go after them from across the river? He could have force marched and planted his regiment in front of the hostiles, the river to the Indians’ backs. Seems obvious, in hindsite.
    If Benteen had tried to support Custer, the entire regiment would have been destroyed in detail. The Indians wanted blood that day.
    What commander in his right mind divides an outnumbered force into four pieces, half on one side of a river and the other half on the other????
    Also, the whole point of having a pack train was that mules could keep up with the cavalry. What fool rides six miles ahead of his food and ammunition? On unfamiliar ground? Against unknown numbers?
    Mackenzie never made such errors. Therefore, all talk about “accepted tactics” ends when examining the performance of the 4th cavalry against ferocious hostile forces.
    Mackenzie was the anti-Custer. Both distinguished themselves in the Civil War, but Custer rose to higher rank bc, miraculously, he was never wounded. Ranald Mackenzie was shot to pieces. Mackenzie was the top of his class; Custer the bottom. Custer died, alone and bewildered, on the greasy grass. Mackenzie died, alone and insane, in New Jersey. The Indian Wars were a sad affair, and destroyed many people who didn’t die in battle.
    Custer had better options. That’s all. Hindsite is 20/20, but had Mackenzie been at the Greasy Grass with the 4th cavalry, there would have been no last stand. It would make an informative war game, if somebody had the technology to do it.

    • Sam Ruger says:

      I did have the ability to war game it and tested it out. The strategy is easy to duplicate for the Indians and is always the same. Each tribe must position its warriors between the 7th and it’s own teepee’s to cover its retreat by acting as a rear guard. Indian units can only go on the offense if the 7th Cavalry opposing them does not move/advance. They can then charge directly or flank.

      What this means is that as, as Reno charges across the battlefield north, the Indians will form up in front of him to place themselves between him and the village. But, until the village can retreat, the Indians will not retreat but remain and protect their families.

      Absent the village the Indians might have scattered in the face of an organized charge. But, given their numbers, and the “village rule” this never happens in the game.

      Indians have a variety of weapons but rifles are actually second to bows and arrows. Their best have Spencers and Henry’s but these are not as numerous as Custer supporters would have us believe. Still, they have enough. They also move faster than cavalry units. The cavalry is actually very well armed.

      Reno advances with two companies in line and G behind, a standard West Point advance formation (not used by Custer). In obedience to orders, he reaches a gallop to charge the village.

      Reno’s attack always ends the same. One must always do the exact same things. You have to stop the charge or be annihilated. This all comes down to the cavalry weapons and the Indian response to place themselves between the troops and their village. To charge, the cavalry would use pistols or sabers (and no sabers were issued.). The chances of reloading a pistol on horseback in a fight are next to none. Without sabers, Reno’s cavalry would have been limited to 6 shots per man. Further, the effective range of their pistols was 80 yards when standing still and against a still target. Mounted and moving against another moving target, the effective range was about 3 yards. So the Indians can fire at the charging cavalry using repeating rifles at 200 yards and for the next 197 yards thereafter too without reply (Although the Indians were very poor shots, most could hit at 35 yards meaning every single armed Indian will take out one soldier before the soldiers reach the Indians.). Those soldiers who do reach the Indians would likely expend their pistol ammunition in maybe just over a minute. So Reno has to win the battle in that one minute (after which he has no sabers).

      No war gamer will opt to do this as suicide and, instead, opt to do exactly what Reno did; Dismount, form a skirmish line, and use their superior ranged carbines (To which the Indians had no weapons long enough ranged to hit the soldiers but Spencers, again rare.). As a result, not a single soldier was lost on the firing line but the soldiers could hit the Indians (Not that they did.).

      Yet, the moment you stop the charge, dismount, and form a skirmish line, the Indians are free to attack by the rules. And they do. Because of the river and trees along it to Reno’s right, the Indians are always forced to flank Reno’s left. As you can see, the strategy by both sides become the same every time.

      And, because the Indians can move faster than the cavalry, it’s possible for the Indians to get behind the cavalry. Thus, the moment they show up on Reno’s left flank, he must withdraw. The best position to withdraw to is the woods to his right. It’s a much better position. The problem with it is, while a sound military strategy, it plays right into the “mob intellect” Indian strategy which is now allowed once again to advance. And, again, the Indians will flank (Although it’s hard to flank a defense on the river.). But the Indian firepower is not threatening (Only one scout and soldier are casualties at this point in the wood.). They must get into the woods themselves to engage the soldiers (Which they did.).

      At this point, something goes totally wrong with the cavalry command structure in the wood. It’s as if two people are commanding Reno’s three companies. A withdrawal takes place that is:

      1) Unwarranted by the situation (Though that situation is only 5 minutes away.)
      2) Unorganized (And this is an understatement. Reno had to ride right through Company G on his left flank in order to retreat south and yet Company G has no orders to retreat. As a result, Company G would lose Captain McIntosh (a personal friend of Reno’s) and Lt. Hodgson (Reno’s own adjutant). Reno failed to make his order known and is why it appears there are two different commands issued. Reno was horrified to learn McIntosh was dead and looked for volunteers to go back for his body (Nobody was that stupid including Reno.).
      3) You would not want to be in Company G under Reno.

      The question arises as to whether Reno was drunk as he had been drinking. The question is also raised if Reno was a coward for withdrawing.

      The actual reason for the confusion can be seen on the battlefield map. Reno’s two companies retreated due east to the wood while G was southeast. There was a gap between them which the Indians entered. To drive the Indians out, Reno planned to charge them and gave the order to “Mount up!” Immediately two men were killed resulting in Reno changing his order to “Dismount!”

      None of these orders were being relayed to Company G as Reno didn’t want them to mount up. He was charging to them.

      Reno then ordered “Mount up!” again but for an entirely different reason. He was going to charge south but not to close up with Company G. He had spotted “Reno Hill”. Reno Hill was an absolutely perfect defensive position. It was like a gift from the gods. Why fight in the woods (with the Indians already in it) when he can fight from there?

      We know Reno saw it because he rode a perfectly straight line for it and then climbed right up it, stopped, turned around, and faced the Indians.

      Moving from the woods to Reno Hill was not an act of drunkenness or cowardice. It was an act of BRILLIANCE. Unfortunately, how he got there was not an act of brilliance. Nobody told Company G. Reno left a trail of dead men behind him between the woods and the ford below Reno Hill. Part of this was due to the fact that the Indians moved faster than the cavalry. They simply joined Reno’s retreating formation and escorted them to the river. To them, it was probably no different from hunting buffalo on horseback. They were really quite expert at it. And Company G at the rear caught it and paid the price.

      But as soon as Reno reached the top of the hill and Benteen arrived, he could have stood off 10,000 Indians.

      And no war gamer in their right mind will leave Reno Hill. It’s too perfect. To heck with Custer! We’re staying here! Only Captain Weir disagreed and he was a drunk.

      He came galloping back soon enough.

      By comparison, war gaming Custer’s position produces an astonishing mind. Only company C, L, and “I” are in defensive positions and clearly all three are under Keogh’s command. What with Custer being with F, logic dictates E and F were under his and Yate’s command, Keogh having assumed his position by Custer’s orders.

      There is ZERO evidence by the command structure that Custer was shot attempting to cross at MTC (Too bad he wasn’t. The others might have survived.). Only a SINGLE mind could have created all five companies positions because, if Yates was in command of E and F he never would have placed those two where they were. This is confirmed by the body of Algernon Smith, commander of Company E, being found with Company F (The only member of Company E so found.). If Smith had anything to say about that, he’d be with Company E.

      The only conclusion is that Smith had no say in it by reason of being DEAD. His body was found only yards from the Regiment’s surgeon.

      Command of Company E had transferred to Sturgis.

      On a battlefield map, there is not much movement by Custer (Except by units being overrun.). This is not likely true. Movements were being made by Companies E and F that were incomplete in spite of plenty of time to do so. There is also reason to believe that Custer changed his HQ command company not once but three times. Reporter Mark H. Kellogg, assigned to Custer, was identified as being killed with Company E which, if true, indicates Custer was with the Company E at the time. Again, Custer’s head scout, Mitch Boyer, was found with Company E, further evidence Custer was with Company E. More than likely, Captain Algernon Smith of Company E was wounded or killed in this same engagement and dragged back to Company F and the HQ surgeon. Custer also changed his command HQ to Company F (Yates) at this time, probably returning with Smith.

      It suggests that Custer didn’t just divide his command twice (Companies C, L, and “I” under Keogh and E and F under Yates) but three times (E under himself and F under Yates). Something went terribly wrong with E which forced Custer to transfer his command to F.

      One of the signs of a single mind still being in command of all five companies is that all five companies retained their mounts ready to move out. This would not have happened if command shifted to the local company level. At least one company (Almost certainly Company “I” under Keogh) would have shot their horses to use as breastworks. When all five companies fail to do this, it’s because they’re still under orders not to or have an avenue of escape. Strange as it may seem, “Command” still existed.

      Further, we can identify who was in command. Company E was operating under the same orders in Deep Ravine that it was operating under in Cedar Coolie and MTC – All orders issued by Custer. Therefore, Custer was alive and well and had not been killed at MTC ford as so often believed. It’s why Kellogg and Boyer were killed with Company E.

      War gaming clearly shows Keogh was in command of the left (south wing) and Custer did not interfere with him. Further, Keogh was trying to buy time for companies E and F to do “something” because, when Companies C and L retreated through Keogh’s “I”, he held his ground to the last man. This is not normal. It is self sacrifice. This is very rare on the battlefield. Keogh and all his men deserve the M of H.

      So what’s going on with Companies E and F that is so important? Are they in a defensive position?

      War gaming reveals the so called “South Skirmish Line” did not exist. It’s not only impossible by terrain but by order. By terrain, there is no geographic line for the “South Skirmish Line” to follow. And, if they did, they’d be facing north. First, there’s nothing north to shoot at. Second, if there was, the Indians would shooting down on their line. The first rule of defense is to “take the high ground”. The last rule of defense would be to take the “low ground”. No one, by terrain, would establish a skirmish line here. And it’s also impossible to obey by order. Company E does not have anywhere near enough men to man such a long skirmish line – not even remotely close.

      The reason for the belief of a “South Skirmish Line” is based upon 1) dead bodies in a line with spent ammunition and 2) The absence of a north line.

      To a military amateur, Custer appears to have placed his five companies in a defensive circle or a square. Company L forms the south line, Company C the west line, E the north line, and companies “I” and F the east line.

      In fact, there is no such circle at all. Neither “I” nor F were facing east but west. At all times Company “I” could have gotten on their horses and ridden east without encountering a single Indian. And, until the last 5-10 minutes of the battle, F could have done the same.

      Until civilians became involved to muddy the waters and the spent ammunition on the “South Skirmish Line” recovered, most debate assumed Company E was with F and suddenly ran west down Deep Ravine in panic. Indian accounts stated four soldiers did so. But the actual head count was 28 and not 4. That the movement was actually organized and not conducted in panic was evidenced by the fact that, other than Smith, no members of Company E were found with Custer. Whereas not only was Company E found in Deep Ravine but their horses right outside it between them and Custer.

      Company E is there by command. And Custer himself led it. They are obeying the exact same orders they were given at Cedar Coulee and MTC, orders given by Custer himself.

      The war gaming result is that Custer was an incompetent officer, as demonstrated by his finish at West Point, who made up for it by the command of “Charge!”, a command he used to kill most of his Civil War troops except, somehow, himself.

      He did nothing right at the LBH and everything wrong. Except for Calhoun Hill, which had to send half it’s men to fill the gap between them and Company C, Custer did not have a single position in which the Indians could not pour fire into and only Company C could not be fired on from the rear (Though the Indians were so close in front of them they could have thrown rocks at them.).

      According to my war game results, Custer killed about 80 Indians for his 210+ lost.

      I will refrain from calling Custer “stupid”. In his defense, there were no natural defenses available to him. Except for Calhoun Hill, there was nothing but empty space available to be killed in. His plan (or lack thereof) was probably as good as any. The use of his time was atrocious in terms of defense. But he wasn’t there to defend a hilltop. He was there to beat the Indians.

  255. Bob says:

    After reading the entire list of orders issued before the fight it no doubt reveals that Terry holds a good portion of the blame for the fiasco at LBH. His written orders were obscure to say the least. His verbal order to Custer to wait should have been written in the orders. Since Custer was known to charge into anything without care for his troops, that was proven in both the Civil War and at Washita where he never attempted to find Maj. Joel Elliot and his troops. Custer divided his command into 4 groups surrounding Black Kettle’s camp so the argument that Custer gave no direct order to not pursue fleeing natives doesn’t hold water. Custer did not carry out a part of his orders which would have delayed his attack and that was to scout out Tullocks Creek before further advancing. It may be possible that Grant found a way to remove the ‘Custer Burr’ from under his saddle by letting it be known to his Generals to let him ride to his own doom knowing his reckless habits. He was ordered by President Grant not to take any reporters along which the remains of a reporter was found at the battle and one with the remainder of the 7th. Two things salvaged Custer’s reputation. Yellow Journalism and Libbie Custer. To judge a man by today’s standards is wrong in the context of history. To question the motives of the time is fair game.

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  258. warren justice says:

    I am speaking of the movie and what I know of Custer. I not believe that he would knowingly commit a suicidal attack on the enemy and I
    DO believe that he would not have avoided a battle that turned against him- He would have continued to attack and probably learned AS IT happened that something was wrong and nevertheless, did not run but fought. The idea of him committing a suicidal attack to be able to have his words used in a trial and not be disallowed because it was “here say” is NOT something I believe Custer would lend himself to. However, it makes the movie very powerful and his meeting with the officer who he was long at odds with and getting a bit drunk while he tactfully tells his “friend” that they are going for glory and it can be taken to the grave, not only shows Flynn’s intense acting skills, but put power in an enthralling plot that seems to have a ring of ironic truth to it. To learn that it may have some credence is quite intriguing and makes the movie a great story teller. It was a superb movie for its time and the chemistry with Olivia De Havilin was undeniable.
    To hear that it mayy

    • Erique Lamont says:

      Suicidal attack? No. He thought he could win, he was that arrogant, and don’t forget the guy really believed in Custer Luck, he had 12 horses shot from under him in the Civil War, I’ve known people like he, the thought of death doesn’t affect them because they have never really faced it, it is an alien concept. People who survive bombings sometimes think they survived for a reason, and that God is looking out for them…it is almost like a feeling of invincibility. To those under the command of someone like this, the commander can seem to be brave, but is it bravery? Bravery is knowing what death is, and facing it, I can’t see it being brave if you firmly believe that you cannot die or even be harmed…I think in his whole military career the only ‘injury’ Custer is alleged to have received was an STD.

      I genuinely believe that Custer had no idea what he was getting into, until the last half hour or so, I believe that the Natives were slowly surrounding him through the coulees and gullies, and as one wing disintegrated that spurred on the final flurry and the end. I’ve read enough accounts and I think that Keogh’s wing eventually fell apart, and the refugees made their way to Custer for a reunion, and by this time I think that the Natives had Custer surrounded, from the north most probably some shooting at a distance, but if you look at the topography of the area, it seems obvious that any swarming mass of people can’t all get up that hill at once, some will make their way around, and that is what happened. I’m pretty sure that if they ever had a thorough archaeological dig all around that hill as far as the cemetery and beyond, they’d find more clues…

  259. Paul Noble says:

    what a totally inaccurate load of bias rubbish this article is and to think its under HISTORY NET

  260. Paul Noble says:

    Let Me elaborate and correct in a small way how this article is so sadly historically and moral incorrect, 1.

    Washita River. Custer attacked the peaceful village under Black Kettle who was not one of the guilty groups of Indians. Custer was told by his scouts that the camp was a friendly but he ignored it and at dawn attacked shooting at elderly and children and everything that moved as they stumbled out of their tipis in the snow.The prisoners you mention were women and children. Custer was confronted with warriors willing to fight from other nearby camps who came when they heard the shooting. so he used the women and children of the camp as human shields. He even wrote in his book of tactics this tactic. It was cowardly and actually a war crime. The warriors had no choice but to let Custer leave as to attack would kill women and kids. Custer also falsified the report and also 20 men were left behind and were caught by the Indians and slaughtered. Benteen was an officer serving with Custer and he was disgusted that Custer left without waiting or searching for the 20 troops and Major Joel Elliott. Custer’s abrupt withdrawal without determining the fate of Elliott and
    the missing troopers darkened Custer’s reputation among his peers. There
    was deep resentment within the 7th Cavalry that never healed In particular, Eliott’s friend and H Company captain Frederick Benteen never forgave Custer for “abandoning” Elliott and his troopers. As for your statements about the battle. Custer had marched his men all night. At about 2.30pm in 100 degree heat as they neared the camp Custer sent Benteen and his troops to reconnoiter to the left to protect his left flank if there were other villages. After Benteen left Custer dispatched Reno to attack the Village promising he would be backed by the full regiment. When Reno was routed because of the size of the camp and warriors he fled back up to the point now called Reno Hill. He had lost 1/.2 or more of his command and had over 60 wounded and most without horses and was low on ammunition and was still under attack by indians. Custer had not as promised supported him and had ridden North. Benteen arrived at the scene. His men and horses were exhausted from the all night march as well as the scouting he had been doing. Reno was senior to Benteen and made him stop with him as he could not leave the wounded and the troopers who had no horses. The pack train arrived at this time. So the orders for Benteen to come quick bring packs was ridiculous. If benteen had of left he would have left the wounded soldiers to their death as well as leading a pack train into the battle which was already underway as they could hear the shooting and when Weir went to look the battle was near ist end. So tell me how could Benteen ride into the area to help Custer who was already near defeated, and how was he to lead a pack train of mulses in> No Benteen would have been slaughtered as would Reno and his men. Reno and Benteen did not disobey orders at all. Custer had issud an order without knowing the situation of the troops and the situation of where they were etc. Renos command was near non existent, they had 60 plus wounded. Benteen could not have arrived to help Custer anyway as by the time Benteen joined Reno they could hear the battle with Custer in progress. When Weir and a group attempted to go they turned back due to the amount of Indians.It was Custer who did not go to the aid of RENO as he had guaranteed. It was Custer who ignored the scouts when they told him the size of the camp. It was Custer who sent Reno to attack camp with over 2000 warriors in the middle of the day with 160 men a 1/4 of who would not fight as they would hold horses. It was Custer who rode of without making sure Reno was able to retreat. It was Custer who wanted a pack train of Mules taken 4 miles into the battlefield where your own article says 1700 warriors were attacking. Your article i s totally un researched.

    • Erique Lamont says:

      For me, the most unforgivable thing was not supporting Reno, that was, for me, the turning point, Reno knew help was not coming, and when Benteen arrived he had a choice to go hunting for Custer -no one knew where he was- or obeying his immediate superior -Reno- when he asked him to help him out.

      I have read Custerphiles say that Custer didn’t mean for the pack train to go with Benteen, but the fact remains, the ammo needed to accompany Benteen,and it is nonsense to suggest that Benteen’s men could carry heavy boxes of ammo and move quickly to Custer, some mules would have to go, especially considering it would take time to cut the ammo boxes off of the mules, and then pack them onto Troopers’ horses, and as you say, it is nonsense to suggest that Benteen’s battalion, slowed down by mules, could have got to Custer, certainly not without casualties and probably losing a good deal of ammo from slow moving mules on the way.

      I have heard people say that Boston Custer managed to get through to George Custer and he left just after the message from Custer to move the packs up to him. He got to GAC unmolested they say, BUT, he rode on horse at a gallop, Benteen would have been travelling with mules and would have attracted more attention, for sure.

      Custer was a hero of mine when I was young, not so now, I think of poor Autie Reed dying at that place, because his arrogant uncle Custer let him ride into danger, sure that the Natives would be defeated. I really do think that GAC thought the whole affair would be like a picnic in the park, until the end, and that he deliberately used Reno as a fall-guy for his own glory…and I am no fan of Reno.

    • Scott E Klewicki says:

      If Black kettle was such a peaceful leader why was he holding several white women and children captive who were kidded during the attack?

      • Jim Porter says:

        Scott E Kiewicki, relatives and ancestors of mine, Kiowas, were in the Washita camp. I have seen nothing in our oral history that leads me to believe that Black Kettle was holding the white families as prisoners. Plains Indians people frequently took families from other tribes in if the families needed help or protection. They extended the same protection to white people. Relatives of mine married white people, diluting the Kiowa racial lines. My own mother was a full-degree Kiowa with a tiny bit of Cheyenne. Her complexion was as white as Elizabeth Taylor’s–a pretty good indication that somewhere up our family tree, there was a white ancestor. Your aspersions on Black Kettle are suspect and, frankly, disgusting.

  261. Erique Lamont says:

    Custer lost because he split his force, mad a plan, changed it, and didn’t tell anyone.

    The fact is, he told Reno he would support him in his attack, he blatantly did not, how can any battalion commander have any confidence in his commander if the only command he gave, he reneged on?

    Custer left Reno to fend for himself -and bear in mind that the 700 to 2,000 warriors first faced Reno, and he had about half the number of troopers as Custer had- on his mission for self-glory. True he may have sent a messenger to Reno that never got to him, but the fact remains that Custer did not support Reno as he said he would.

    Then, we have Benteen, who came across a shattered Reno battalion after getting his message from Custer/Cooke. He had no idea where Custer was -the last commander to communicate with him was Reno, and all he knew was that Custer was supposed to support his attack. So, I ask myself, Reno was the superior of Benteen, and Reno asked Benteen to help him, would it be right for Benteen to leave Reno and his crushed command of -by now- about 60 to 70 fully able fighting men, to go hunting for Custer? Especially given that no one knew where he was. I does seem that IF Custer hadn’t drawn the Natives away from Reno, his command would have been annihilated, which would have left two remote battalions unable to support one-another…and we know the larger battalion -Custer’s- was wiped out by the same Natives Reno encountered. Without the hill defence, there seems little doubt that all commands would have been annihilated.

    It seems to me that Custer had no intention of supporting Reno from the start, this is evidenced by the fact that early on Keogh and Cooke (Cooke was Custer’s adjutant) travelled with Reno to get in on the fighting, to get blooded, but then went back to Custer. They knew that Custer wasn’t coming at this time.

    It is my belief that Custer’s men were on average inexperienced and almost all were over-tired (I know people say that it was common for cavalry commands to travel as Custer did prior to the fight, and that may be so, but they weren’t fighting a foe up to 10 times their number [210 Custer v up to 2,000 Natives] the next day).

    People forget that these were the Natives who, as a slightly smaller band, rode all day and night (and hence were also tired) to fight Crook, who had a force double that of the whole 7th cavalry in the field on the25th, and Crook was only saved by the tenacity of his 300 Native scouts. Crook retreated, so if a superior force of around 1,300 troops and scouts, couldn’t beat, and had to retreat from, the ‘hostile’ Natives (after they rode all day and night) then what chance Custer’s battalion closer to the camp, and with more combatants to face?

    Custer’s only chance would have been to remain as a whole, splitting his command as he did was bad enough, but to disperse them where they couldn’t mutually support one-another shows brash naivety or arrogance.

    Personally, I think that Benteen would have been defeated as he went to a Custer reunion, I also think that the pack train saved Reno’s command, people often forget the pack train, but once static, every civilian packer was an armed man, plus the troopers accompanying them (a squad from each Company, plus Company B) making the pack train fighting force a larger number than either Reno or Benteen’s battalion. People talk about the troopers as professional soldiers, but many were inexperienced at fighting Natives, or at all, whereas most civilians had had some gun time with hostiles…if one reads enough accounts, you get the impression that there was more chance of an experienced civilian standing and fighting (Reynolds and Dorman come to mind) because they know the alternative, than an inexperienced Trooper -there are many accounts of Troopers who just did not fight…but ran or threw down their guns, some even trying to hide. Can’t remember a single account of a civilian trying to hide or throw away his weapon.

    Basically, Custer had contempt for his enemy, he thought defeating them was inevitable, and this drove him further and further north, away from support, as he tried to gain entry to the village. I personally think that as the Natives gradually infiltrated the coulees, out of sight, Custer wasn’t aware of the danger they posed, then as they gradually exposed themselves, he was, essentially, surrounded. I think a lot of people don’t understand that Custer was actually found on the top of the hill, he is buried where he is because the ground was a little softer. Accounts seem to show that he was countering an attack or infiltration roughly to the north, when they were finally overran -and the infamous break out by the 28 occurred.

    Custer was a good battalion leader, he had no fear of death or defeat -I think he firmly believed in Custer’s luck- but he was a very poor commander and tactician…

    • Paul Noble says:

      Custer sent Benteen of and after he had left Custer sent Reno into the village and did not tell Benteen he had divided his forces. Benteen had no idea Custer had divided with Reno until he met up with Renos decimated command. At the time he met up with Reno they could hear concentrated firing and Weir had asked to go to the sound. He was refused . Benteen had received the note by this time but the note did not tell him anything. So heres Benteen arriving and finding Reno ith wounded and dead everywhere and he had no idea in the 1st place that Custer had sent him down to attack the Village. When he joined with Reno the pack train was still 1 mile behind. So take the 15 to 20 minutes it would take for the train to reach Reno and Benteen. That time would see Weir going to Weir point, then take 15 minutes to get ammo of the mules at the quickest, thats the time Benteen followed Weir and got to weir point. At that time they saw Indians firing at the ground up on LSH. Weir and Benteen were then forced to return to Reno as they were also attacked in force by Indians. So as you can see it would never ever have been possible in the time for Benteen to reach Custer. If Benteen had of ignored Reno order to stay with him and left immediately without ammunition as the pack train was still not there, then at a gallop on exhausted horses Benteen could have joined Custer about the time the Left Flank collapsed. So Benteen would have been at that point with he left flank. Custer was heading up onto the hill at this time. Benteen would have been confronted with over 1000 warriors minimum, all over the scene and in the coolies unseen etc. He would have been driven back and lost many troops. It never would have happened. Custer didn’t even bother to notify Benteen Reno had been dispatched to the end of the village. Benteen was kept totally in the dark and that was totally Custers decision and a total blunder and stupid. The final point is this. What people do not realize is that Benteen was also a Civil War veteran and had been as decorated and as promoted as Custer. Benteen had commanded his own cavalry unit. Benteen as not some under officer with no experience. He had years of it. So Benteen as fully qualified to make decisions and also to understand what was going on and what mistakes had been made. He had warned Custer about marching the men so long and hard, he had warned Custer that very day not to attack late in the day, he had several times argued with Custer even down to taking the Gattling guns. Benteen also knew that when Custer sent him of into the valleys it was out of spite and of no need. Custer was just shoving it in Benteens face and Benteen knew it. He realized as soon as he met with Reno that Custer had made a total tactical blunder and had cost Reno his men. Benteen knew not to go after Custer. He knew what Custer ignored. Men were exhausted, horses ere exhausted, minimal water, ammunition was carried by men but no reserve until pack train. Not knowing the layout of the terrain, much larger enemy force. On and on it went. So Benteen knew exactly what was going on and as proved, his men and himself and Renos survived. And Benteen lost very few of his command. That speaks volumes to me. Benteen continued on with a very distinguished career after and was well like. Custer wasnt missed at all.

      • Erique Lamont says:

        Yep, Benteen said his battalion had covered maybe up to ten miles of hard up and down hill riding by the time Martin’s note came to him, his horses were tired -as were his men- especially considering the lack of rest prior. Cooke, I believe, himself admonished some of Reno’s guys just prior to the first engagement for being too hard on their horses, and that they may regret it later. So to suggest that Benteen could have been at a gallop to a Custer reunion with part-blown horses is nonsense. Until he watered his horses at the morass, they’d had no water since the day before, so Custer entered into battle with tired and thirsty horses.

        Something that seems to never get mentioned is the fact that officers had specific reserve horses, and Custer had two darn good horses, Vic and Dandy, and he regularly swapped them. The enlisted men, as witnessed by accounts, virtually had to exhaust a horse before they got a replacement; so, Custer always had a fresher horse than his enlisted men, so had no idea how tired the horses of his (or any other ) command were. I’d say when fighting the ‘best light cavalry in the world’, that was a huge mistake.

        Every time I read or reread a book or article, I often get a slightly new perspective, but currently, my view is that:

        1) Benteen had no clue what was going on, other than Custer sent him to a pointless scout to the left. That Custer didn’t expect him to meet hostiles is supported, in my opinion, by the fact that Benteen had no surgeon, and no scouts, he’s in an area he has no knowledge of, and the commander sends him to scout for Natives, with no scouts? To me, that’s pretty damning evidence that Benteen was on a fool’s errand, for whatever immature motive Custer had.

        2) Reno understood Custer would support him with the whole outfit, he plainly did not. Whether drunk or just lacking confidence in his commander, I think once battle commenced, and he wasn’t supported, he could see a Joel Elliot massacre oncoming…bearing in mind that he had TWO possibilities of support, Benteen may have been close enough to help out, and of course, the vainglorious Custer whose last command to him was he’d support Reno.

        3) Benteen, under his own thinking diverted from Custer’s planned scouting mission, he saw no point in it and returned to the trail, and as we know he got the Martin message. As I see it, the only gunfire he’d have heard would have been Reno, if any, and as he moved up trail -waiting for packs- he encountered Reno’s shattered command -whatever the reason for it, Reno’s command was in a state. So, rightfully, I believe, Benteen shored up Reno, seems pretty straight that Reno would have been wiped out, and I read some notes by Camp from some hostiles that they said they gave up on Reno, in part, because they could see Benteen coming up…and feared more soldiers advancing to the village.

        For me it is nonsense for Custerphiles to think that Benteen, with a smaller command than Custer -3 companies compared to 5 companies- could have got through all those hostiles, certainly not with the packs, and probably not with blown horses. Benteen assessed things on the spot, and I think that the whole command would have been massacred if he had not done what he done.

        The message about packs, is open to interpretation, too, it could be that -after nearly losing his supplies at Washita- Custer was concerned the Natives could attack the mule train, and so lose all that reserve ammo. It is also telling that Custer sent a message to Benteen to ‘come on’ (again, open to interpretation) but sent NO word to Reno, no update to change of plan, nothing. If he sent no message to Reno because he knew he was already engaged, and so unable to assist, then how can any commander assume that only Custer -who had not come to contact by this time- needed the extra men?

        Custer was a hero of mine when young, but the more I read, the more I detest him as a military man, as a human I find much of him I liked -from his writing and that of Libby, but he was no commanding officer, a good leader of men at maybe battalion level, as he shared the risks of his men, although I think that what people see as bravery was really the fact that he believed in ‘Custer Luck’, I genuinely believe he thought he was blessed with almost an immortally. But as a commander of a regiment, he was lacking, I think Benteen knew this, and I can picture the arguments as Benteen tried to point the error of his commander’s thinking. That Benteen was a good commanding officer -especially under pressure- was proven on the Hilltop Fight.

        Also, Reno’s men broke, and there is no reason to believe that Custer’s men were any better, if we see the disintegration of Reno’s command, and translate that over to the Custer battlefield, I can see how Benteen saw the fight as a rout…

        Even today Custerphiles believe in the Last Stand, which is blatantly wrong by accounts from natives and even evidence -numerous officers, natives and enlisted men say that there were between 22 to 28 bodies in a ravine on the way to the river. After the battle, several witnesses said that they threw dirt onto the bodies as best they could, they did not bury them, and they certainly didn’t move them out of that place and onto the battlefield major. Yet the markers for those lost there are on the battlefield major. Custerphiles say this is proof that the last minute exodus to Deep Ravine never happened…despite several markers having no bodies underneath, and the officer in charge of the headstones saying they more or less guessed where some of them went!

        We’ll never know for sure, of course, but for me Custer’s ignorance of both the native numbers and capabilities, and the efficiency of his own men, led to this defeat…

    • Scott E Klewicki says:

      You obviously have no military training or experience. As the article says it is acceptable military tactics to divide forces to manuever on the offensive and reassemble to switch to the defensive. Remember Custer has successfully used these tactics many times during the Civil War and in he campaigns against the plains tribes.
      Custer made mistakes to be sure, but he also understood the deeper issues that the plains tribes faced from the corrupt government agencies. His testimony before the Congressional committee investigating Sec. Belknap and implicating Grant’s brother was accurate, despite the consequences.
      Unless you have a deeper understanding of the full issues do not make uninformed comments.

      • Erique Lamont says:

        I have military experience, but that fact has no bearing on the fact that Custer unnecessarily spilt his forces. Firstly, he sent Benteen out to scout, given the number of hostiles expected Benteen could have been defeated in detail…Custer didn’t even wait for intelligence from Benteen, he made a judgement -on a village he said he couldn’t see- then recalled Benteen, too late. Also given that Custer couldn’t se the village himself from Crow’s Nest, and had doubt’s it was there, he was crazy to not only split his forces into two further battalions, but left the pack-train trailing with its civilians and one company to protect it, which considering he wasn’t convinced the Indians were in the valley means he risked the loss of the pack-train, which would also have lost him the battle.

        Custer was a good leader, not a great one, but good because he believed himself invincible and led from the front -losing a dozen horses shot from under him in the Civil War caused him to think he was invincible…he should never ever have been a commander his tactics naive, and all this talk of being an ‘expert’ Indian fighter are based on ONE attack on a sleeping village of peaceable Indians!

        He split his force four ways, -five if you include wing-arrangements ate LBH- and put them in a terrain and at distances where they could not mutually support one another -proven by the fact that the collapse of Keogh’s wing left to complete destruction of Custer’s battalion…too few forces spread over too great an area -in terrain that was ill-suited to horses at a gallop in support. It is similar in many ways to the British Army’s defeat at Isandlwana by ‘primitive’ natives, the British were too far spread out to mutually support one another, and again the question of weaponry failure is asked.

        The fact is, Benteen and Reno survived by being defensive and they fought the same group of Indians -who were bolstered with over 200 more rifles, thanks to Custer- for longer. Custer had no tactical or strategic thinking ability.

      • jagman1017 says:

        Hi Erique,

        I’d probably caution against making too many harsh conclusions about what happened at the Little Big Horn and George Custer. I’ve been a student of this battle for upwards of 40 years – and I’ve read all the books, at least all the ones I could find. The one thing I’ve walked away with, after all these years, is an understanding that there were so many things happening over a 6 hour period of time on that day in June.

        There were a lot of experienced soldiers on the field that day – on both sides. Most of the senior officers in the 7th had distinguished themselves in the Civil War. Reno, Yates, Keogh, T. Custer, Cooke – and, the other officers had been in the field for a while. A lot of the Privates were new but that wasn’t unusual for the Calvary – their officers and NCO’s were experienced, as a whole.

        When it comes to Benteen not knowing the whereabouts of Custer – don’t forget that Trumpeter Martin was still with Benteen and, in all probability, could have retraced his steps back to the place where he was dispatched by Custer – somewhere in the general vicinity of Weir Point. From that position, Benteen would have been able to see the dust and smoke of Custer. Also, don’t forget the dust that 120+ horses can kick up in that type of terrain – I have a pretty good idea that Custer, and most of the senior leadership, had an understanding of where everyone else was on the field.

        Keep in mind, also, that Custer wasn’t itching so much for a fight as he was for a win – that’s a big clue to probably what his plans were being that far down river. Had Reno held the wood a bit longer – we never know what might have happened – Benteen could have made it to Keogh with some of the packs – Yates could have found that other ford…

        I encourage you to keep researching the battle – but do so with an open mind. It’s a journey – enjoy the trip.

    • John Martin says:

      Reno never attacked as he was ordered. Benteen pouted on the hilltop as Custer and the seventh were being slaughtered. Both Reno and Benteen have guilt far beyond what Custer has.

  262. Barney Fife says:

    Reno and Benteen survived because they chose a superior defense position. Each Company could support one another and the terrain made it difficult for the Indians to gain the upper hand. One side of the defensive hill has large open spaces with no cover making it almost impossible for the Indians to advance. The other side of the hill had cover and the Indians made inroads but never really threatened the entire force of soldiers. Custer was outgunned and dispersed his command to the point it became ineffective against the amount of Indians they faced.

  263. Jim Porter says:

    Praise the mounted beast all you want, but the Cowardly Custer attacked my great-great-great grandmother at the Washita River and killed an unarmed Black Kettle, his wife, and many others. Black Kettle had been told he and his band would be safe if they camped under an American flag. The Star Spangled Banner flew over the dead bodies of these who thought they were at peace. My great-great-great grandmother survived, but she lost virtually all of her family.

    George Custer, his men, and his wife can all burn in hell as far as I am concerned. And, they can be joined by those who support his warfare on Historynet and all other places.

    • John Martin says:

      Have you ever asked yourself how Custer found the camp at Washita?
      By following a raiding party of “peaceful” Cheyenne and Kiowa that had been raiding, killing and burning their way through Kansas for the previous months, that’s how. The fact that there were white captives that were killed as soon as the soldiers showed up will tell you all you need to know about the camp on Washita river.

      • Jim Porter says:

        John Martin, I believe that you have either gotten bad information, made bad guesses, or you are lying through your teeth. Ancestors of mine, Kiowas, were in Black Kettle’s camp that morning. My cheyenne great-great-great grandmother was there. In our oral history, there is nothing that leads me to believe that the white families were killed by the Indian people. Why would the Indian people have killed them. If Black Kettle were trying to keep his people safe, why would he have hoisted an American flag over his camp and then had the white families killed? You interpretation of Black Kettle as a savage sounds awfully bigoted to me, and your timing of the killing of the white families sounds to me as if it is based on the hysterical propaganda of Elizabeth Custer.

      • Arkius says:

        Get a life.

      • Mark Hamilton says:

        That hate is going to burn you up inside. Whatever injustices occurred 150 years ago, nobody alive today is responsible for it and nursing historical grudges about it seems counter-productive. But that’s just my view.

        By the way:

        “The evening before, on November 25, a war party of as many as 150 warriors, which included young men of the camps of Black Kettle, Medicine Arrows, Little Robe, and Old Whirlwind, had returned to the Washita encampments. They had raided white settlements in the Smoky Hill River country with the Dog Soldiers.

        Major Joel Elliott of the Seventh Cavalry found their trail on November 26, which drew Custer and his forces to the Washita.”

  264. Rusty Smith says:

    This narrative is false. Custer was cautious and did not support Reno when he could have rode in and attacked and had an early victory. Instead he sat back while Reno was attacked and beating a fighting retreat. There are eyewitness accounts from Sioux and Crow warriors that Custer was foolish and let his subordinates take fire while he did not press the early advantage. Edward Curtis an Indian chronologist and historian spent more time with the plains Indians than any university or government expert from 1906-1908. He studied the battle sight and concluded that Custer’s last stand was all his own doing and downfall. The Indian perspective which to this day historians ignore state that even Custer’s Crow scouts felt him foolish and possibly drunk before and during the battle. But historians rarely look at real facts but only what fits their preconceived assumptions.

  265. Kevin Kerr says:

    Reno was driven to high ground and,. had he stayed in the timber would have been surrounded and overwhelmed by superior numbers. Leaving when he did saved his men. Benteen fortified their position and held out.

    Had they rode to Custer’s assistance they would have been out in the open just as Custer and his men were facing a vastly larger force of warriors. This did not work out well for Custer. Reno and his three companies of about 90 men had created a diversion but his men had fought hard and were spent. There were 49 badly wounded men who survived all of whom would have been with Benteen and Reno. Could Benteen and Weir have fought their way through to Custer? Maybe, but at a great cost in men and horses. Would they have been able to form a defense on last stand hill or some other defensible point that would have resisted the Sioux and their allies? Maybe but you would have less than 300 men from all the commands trying to hold off at least 1,500 warriors many of whom carried repeating rifles. What would have happened to the men left with Reno?

  266. Rex Stevenson says:

    Suppose Custer never ordered Reno to attack the village and instead told him to dismount and deny the hostiles a crossing (avenue of escape) while he (Custer) led his troops to the opposite end of the valley to attack the encampment in its flank?

    I say this for 3 reasons: (1) If Custer had ordered Reno to attack the village head on, he also would have told him to wait until his battalion was in position to give support. But Reno attacked 10 minutes after Custer left. (2) When Reno finished watering his horses, remounted, and moved to cross the river, Custer’s chief scout Bloody Knife was overheard to say: “Custer say no cross river.” And of course Bloody Knife was soon thereafter shot in the head while standing next to Reno. (3) Reno had been chastised by both Custer and BrigGen. Terry a few days earlier for not following a massive Indian trail leading to the Little Big Horn. Reno, who had never commanded troops in battle against the Indians, claimed his 10 troops of cavalry weren’t enough to engage the hostiles. Custer called him a coward and Reno wanted revenge.

    I believe that Reno deliberately disobeyed Custer’s orders and attacked the village before Custer had a chance to get in position. In fact, by the time Custer arrived at Medicine Tail Coulee, the Indians were already pouring out of the valley. And by the way, if Reno had stayed in his position, and Custer had managed to secure his position before being cut to pieces and overwhelmed, Custer’s divided battalions would have been in the same exact positions had Terry’s column arrived on schedule for the anticipated three-pronged attack. But Terry supposedly became lost and arrived 36 hours too late.

    As for BrigGen. George Crook, he engaged a combined force of 1500 Sioux and Cheyenne led by Crazy Horse at Rosebud Creek on June 17th. Crook had 15 cavalry companies, 5 infantry companies, and roughly 300 Indian allies … yet he fled the scene and returned to his base camp after suffering 10 dead and 21 wounded. He was a coward. He had the largest column in the field, and had he continued forward towards the Little Big Horn he would have linked up with Custer as per plan.

    Interesting, isn’t it? Reno and Benteen failed to support Custer. Terry’s column (including six Gatling guns) arrived 36 hours late. And Crook’s column never arrived at all. It was just Custer and his 5 companies of cavalry against an estimated 4-5,000 hostiles many of whom were armed with repeating rifles.

    I should also mention that Terry had never engaged hostiles in battle, and while Crook had fought several major battles, he lost most of them. Crook was also the overall “Centennial Expedition” commander by virtue of his graduation from West Point in 1852. Terry, who was also a Brigadier General, didn’t enlist in the army until 1861 and was then appointed a Colonel of Infantry due to his credentials as an attorney. So the only guy who knew what he was doing was Custer.

    It should be mentioned that the 7th Cavalry was not at full strength and its two senior majors, both of whom had Indian-fighting experience, were on extended leave. Had they been there, Reno and Benteen would not have been given command of the other two battalions. But President Grant himself intervened and denied Custer’s request for said officers to return to post and take part in what was to become the last major engagement of the Indian Wars.

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