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Ten Myths of the Little Bighorn

By Gregory Michno 
Originally published by Wild West magazine. Published Online: February 20, 2009 
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"Custer's Last Rally," by John Mulvany (Courtesy of Library of Congress)
"Custer's Last Rally," by John Mulvany (Courtesy of Library of Congress)

Although some soldiers ran from Custer's Hill, they did hold their ground and fight from their position as long as they could. The participating warriors called it a Last Stand. Deal with it

The Battle of the Little Bighorn, fought on the banks of the river of that name in Montana Territory in June 1876, is the most often discussed fight of the Indian wars. It has been said that we will never know what happened there because there were no survivors. That is nonsense. There were thousands of survivors. The Indians clearly told us what happened. We need only to listen to what they said.

There are also many misconceptions about Lt. Col. George A. Custer and the 7th Cavalry, among them being that Custer had long yellow hair and that he and his regiment carried sabers into the battle. In reality, Custer's hair was cut short, and the regiment left its sabers behind.

An examination of 10 of the major myths about the Battle of the Little Bighorn follows. The first two myths are widely held fallacies that do not require Indian testimony to discredit; the last eight myths are largely discredited by eyewitness accounts of those on the winning side.

Custer and All His Men Were Killed

The 7th Cavalry on June 25, 1876, consisted of about 31 officers, 586 soldiers, 33 Indian scouts and 20 civilian employees. They did not all die. When the smoke cleared on the evening of June 26, 262 were dead, 68 were wounded and six later died of their wounds. Custer's Battalion – C, E, F, I and L companies – was wiped out, but the majority of the seven other companies under Major Marcus Reno and Captain Frederick Benteen survived.

Custer Disobeyed His Orders

Many Custerphobes insist Custer violated Brig. Gen. Alfred Terry's orders. We only need to read Terry's written instructions to clarify the situation. Terry wrote that he "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." Terry gave Custer suggestions that he should attempt to carry out, "unless you shall see sufficient reason for departing from them."

In addition to the written orders, Terry entered Custer's tent before he left on his final march, and told him, "Use your own judgment and do what you think best if you strike the trail."

Custer did not disobey his orders.

Custer Did Not Listen to His Scouts

Even using binoculars from the traditional Plains Indian lookout known as the Crow's Nest, Colonel Custer of the 7th Cavalry had trouble seeing the village in the valley some 15 miles away. His scouts told him a large village was there. He believed them, but he wanted to wait one more day, until the morning of June 26, 1876, to attack. He told Half Yellow Face, "I want to wait until it is dark, and then we will march." The Crow scout replied, "These Sioux…have seen the smoke of our camp," and argued that they must attack immediately.

Custer still wanted to wait. Another Crow, White Man Runs Him, said, "That plan is no good, the Sioux have already spotted your soldiers." Red Star, an Arikara, concurred that the Crows were right, and believed that Custer must "attack at once, that day, and capture the horses of the Dakotas [Sioux]." Shortly after, soldiers discovered Indians rummaging through some supplies they had dropped on the back trail. Custer now knew his scouts were right. He followed their advice and attacked immediately. Custer did listen to his scouts.

The Indian Village Was Immense

Traditionally, the village on the Little Bighorn has been depicted as the largest ever seen in the West. Actually there were at least one dozen villages larger, and geographical and spatial considerations illustrate the impossibility of the exaggerated size estimations. A village that has been depicted as large as six miles long and one mile wide, in reality was 11⁄2 miles long and one-quarter mile wide. It contained about 1,200 lodges and perhaps 1,500 warriors. Custer was not "crazy" for attacking.

The Indians told us the village size. Pretty White Buffalo said that the Cheyenne and Sans Arc camps were at the lower end of the village, across from the Medicine Tail crossing of the river. Standing Bear said that the mouth of Muskrat Creek (Medicine Tail) was north of the Santee camp, which was the northernmost of the circles. Two Moon said that the village stretched from Sitting Bull's Hunkpapa camp at Shoulder Blade Creek, to the Cheyenne camp at Medicine Tail's place. Wooden Leg stated that the Cheyenne camp was just a little upstream and across from Medicine Tail Coulee, and at the other end were the Hunkpapas, just northeast of the present-day Garryowen Station, with all the camps east of the present road. A soldier named Wolf drew a map depicting the camp conforming to the course of the river with its northernmost limits across from Medicine Tail. Fears Nothing's map showed the entire camp between Medicine Tail in the north, to Shoulder Blade Creek in the south. Standing Bear and Flying Hawk both produced maps that showed the northernmost limit of the camp to be south of Medicine Tail Creek.

The Indians showed us that the camp conformed to the river and was, at most, 11⁄2 miles long. It was a large camp, certainly, but it was not several miles long and unconquerable.

Sitting Bull Set Up an Ambush

It is said that the Indians knew Custer and the 7th Cavalry were coming, and set a trap. They did no such thing. Pretty White Buffalo said that no one expected an attack; the young men were not even out watching for the soldiers. "I have seen my people prepare for battle many times," she said, "and this I know: that the Sioux that morning had no thought of fighting."

Moving Robe was digging wild turnips with other women several miles from camp when she saw a cloud of dust rise beyond the bluffs in the east. She saw a warrior riding by, shouting that soldiers were only a few miles away, and that the women, children and old men should run for the hills in the other direction.

Antelope Woman (Kate Bighead) was bathing in the river with many others. Scores of naked men, women and children were in the river and not expecting a battle. Neither were many others playing or fishing along the stream. Everyone was having a good time, said Antelope, and no one was thinking about any battle.

Low Dog said the sun was about at noon, and he was still asleep in his lodge. He awoke to the shouts of soldiers, but thought it was a false alarm. "I did not think it possible that any white men would attack us," he said.

After breakfast, White Bull left his wife's lodge and went to tend the horses with no thoughts of any approaching danger. When he heard a man yelling an alarm, he climbed a hill and could see the soldiers approaching. He jumped on his best horse and drove the ponies back to camp.

Standing Bear awoke late that morning. While they ate breakfast, his uncle said, "After you are through eating you had better go and get the horses, because something might happen all at once, we never can tell."

Before they could finish eating, there was a commotion outside, and Standing Bear learned his uncle's premonition was correct. The soldiers were coming. They had been surprised.

Wooden Leg had been to a dance the night before, and slept late that morning. He and his brother Yellow Hair went to the river and found many Indians splashing in the water. The brothers found a shade tree and dozed off. Suddenly an old man called out: "Soldiers are here! Young men, go out and fight them."

Red Feather slept late that morning and awoke to the words: "Go get the horses – buffaloes are stampeding!" Indians began dashing into the camp with the ponies. One, known as Magpie, shouted, "Get away as fast as you can, don't wait for anything, the white men are charging!" Red Feather could see soldiers firing into Sitting Bull's camp. Some Hunkpapas and Oglalas, caught up in the early panic, ran away.

Runs the Enemy heard that soldiers were coming, but did not believe it. He sat back down with the men and continued smoking. Rain in the Face admitted the soldiers came to the valley without warning. "It was a surprise," he said.

Sitting Bull, the chief who was said to have masterminded the ambush by the Indians, was caught up in the confusion. When the soldiers attacked, his young wife, Four Robes, was so frightened that she grabbed only one of her infant twins and ran to the hills. When asked where the second child was, she realized she had left it behind, and raced back to the lodge to retrieve it. Later, the one left behind received the name Abandoned One. This was not the household of a man who supposedly knew soldiers were coming and set a trap for them.

It is apparent from the Indian reactions that Custer had surprised the camp. There was no ambush. Custer's approach was successful. In spite of attacking in broad daylight, he did surprise the village.

Custer's Tactics Were Faulty

It is said that Custer foolishly divided his force and allowed the regiment to be defeated in detail. Yet, using part of a force to fix the enemy in front, and sending another portion to envelop the flank is a standard tactic of professional armies. While Major Marcus Reno attacked the southern end of the village, Custer made a flank march to the north along the river bluffs. The Indians, snapping out of their initial surprise, counterattacked Reno and chased him across the river to the east bank. When they climbed the bluffs, they had another surprise: Custer was already beyond them, 11⁄2 miles north and closer to the village than the Indians were.

White Bull went up the bluffs where he saw something of great importance. "Where we were standing on the side of the hill we saw another troop moving from the east toward the north where the camp was moving," he exclaimed.

One Bull found a vantage point on the hill and saw more troops coming from the south, leading what appeared to be pack mules. But a bigger problem was the troop force to the north. Soldiers were already beyond the Indians and were heading toward the other end of the camp.

American Horse was in the valley while Reno's survivors climbed the hill. When he turned to the river, he heard a man's voice calling out that more bluecoats were moving to attack the lower village, American Horse's own people. He spun his horse around and quickly headed north.

Fears Nothing reached the river and heard an Indian on the east bank calling that more soldiers were coming down from behind the ridge. He rode up the bluffs to see for himself and clambered back down. Once in the valley, he galloped north toward the mouth of Medicine Tail Creek.

Runs the Enemy noticed two Indians waving blankets on the eastern bluffs. Crossing over with another Indian, he heard them yell that the soldiers were "coming, and they were going to get our women and children." He continued to the crest and the sight shocked him. "As I looked along the line of the ridge they seemed to fill the whole hill," he said. "It looked as if there were thousands of them, and I thought we would surely be beaten." Runs The Enemy raced downhill, across the river and back down the valley.

Wooden Leg had climbed a hill north of Reno's hilltop position when another Indian cried out: "Look! Yonder are other soldiers!" Peering downriver, Wooden Leg saw them on the distant hills. The news spread quickly, and the Indians began to ride after them to meet this other threat.

Short Bull was busy driving Reno out of the valley and into the hills. He never noticed Custer until Crazy Horse rode up with his men.

"Too late! You've missed the fight!" Short Bull called to him.

"Sorry to miss this fight!" Crazy Horse laughed. "But there's a good fight coming over the hill."

Short Bull looked where Crazy Horse pointed. For the first time he saw Custer and his men pouring over a hill. "I thought there were a million of them," he said.

"That's where the big fight is going to be," Crazy Horse predicted. "We'll not miss that one."

Many Indians who chased Reno up the bluffs also realized that there were more soldiers already north of them, in a position to interpose themselves between the warriors and the village. Moving along a ridge above Medicine Tail Coulee, less than two miles away, was Custer's Battalion. It was a shock. Custer had surprised them not once, but twice. His tactics were working.

Custer Was Killed at the River

One of the major misconceptions of the Little Bighorn fight is that Custer was shot down in a midstream charge while crossing the river. The idea stems from two sources: one was the Lakota White Cow Bull, and the other was two Crow scouts who were not there. Many other Indian eyewitnesses who were there never said anything of the sort.

Two Moon said that Cheyenne guards were already posted on the east bank when Custer rode down. In addition, many Lakotas had already crossed to the east side. Warriors were across the river, some going upstream and some downstream, trying to get on each side of the soldiers.

Yellow Nose said he and his companions were already on the east side of the river when the soldiers first fired at them.

From the east bank of the river, White Shield saw that the troops were heading straight for them, and he believed they would break through and get across the river. When the Gray Horses (Company E) got close to the river, they dismounted, and both sides fired at each other.

Bobtail Horse said the soldiers began shooting as they neared the ford leading to the camp. He said: "Let us get in line behind this ridge and try to stop or turn them. If they get in camp they will kill many women." Bobtail Horse said that his "party had not advanced toward Custer, but were on the bank of the Little Horn on the same side as Custer."

The soldiers advanced, but, "the ten Indians were firing as hard as they could and killed a soldier," Bobtail Horse explained. The man's horse ran on ahead, and Bobtail Horse caught it. The soldiers finally stopped. This all happened on the east bank.

Red Hawk was fighting Reno's men, but went north in time to see a second group of soldiers coming down the ridge in three divisions. They did not make it to the river, he said. The first division only got to a point about one-half to three-quarters of a mile from the water.

Lone Bear said the soldiers got near the river, dismounted and began leading their horses, but they never got to the river. Lone Bear watched as large numbers of warriors, both mounted and on foot, crossed over to the east bank and started after Custer before he reached the stream.

More warriors indicated the confrontation occurred east of the river. Kill Eagle said, "The Indians crossed the creek and then the firing commenced." Wooden Leg said that the first three Cheyennes to cross the river were Bobtail Horse, Roan Bear and Buffalo Calf, and they fired on Custer while he was "far out on the ridge." He Dog said 15 or 20 Indians fought the troopers from the east side of the stream – near the dry creek, but not near the river. Standing Bear also said that the Indians crossed the river as soon as Custer came in sight. They took position behind a low ridge and were reinforced rapidly as more warriors crossed over. "There was no fighting on the creek," Standing Bear said. Bobtail Horse, who was right there, indicated without hesitation that they were all on the east bank, on the same side as Custer. Two years after the fight, Hump, Brave Wolf and Ice told 5th Infantry Lieutenant Oscar F. Long that the Indians crossed the river before Custer could possibly have forded. They had already gained a small hill on the north side of the Little Bighorn and placed themselves between Custer and the river.

It is clear from the explanations of the Indians who were there that Custer's soldiers never got across the river, or even into it; the Indians were already on the east (north) bank fighting them. Where do we get the idea that Custer was killed in the river? Mostly from White Cow Bull. His story has caused more mischief than almost any of the tales that have been circulated about the battle.

It is only White Cow Bull who supposedly said that he and Bobtail Horse shot a buckskin-clad soldier in the river. Neither Bobtail Horse nor any of the other Indians who were there mention anything of the sort – they don't even say White Cow Bull was there. Yet, White Cow Bull says that he, almost single-handed, stopped a full-scale cavalry charge in midstream. No other Lakota or Cheyenne saw it. They were not fighting on the river, but east of it. White Cow Bull's story is just that – bull.

The Crow scouts Goes Ahead and White Man Runs Him reportedly told stories of Custer dying in the river. Goes Ahead's tale comes from his wife, Pretty Shield, who was not there either, but said little other than Custer drank too much and rode into the river and died. White Man Runs Him did not see Custer, but heard later that Custer was hit in the chest by a bullet and fell into the water. From such tales grew the myth that Custer was killed at the river. It did not happen.

Crazy Horse's Ride to the North

One standard tale of the battle involves the legendary ride of Crazy Horse. The story goes that Crazy Horse, with his tactical genius, judged the situation in a flash, gathered hundreds of his warriors, went north down the valley, crossed the river, swung east and swept down on an unsuspecting Custer from the north, completely surprising and overwhelming the befuddled commander.

Many historians and novelists have followed this scenario: Cyrus Brady, George Hyde, Charles Kuhlman, William Graham, Mari Sandoz, Edgar Stewart, David H. Miller, Stephen Ambrose, Henry and Don Weibert, James Welch, Robert Utley, Evan Connell, Jerry Greene and Doug Scott. A slight variation on this theme comes from Richard Fox; he has Crazy Horse approaching from Deep Ravine. With all those historians concurring at one time or another over the years (some have since modified their interpretation), the story must be true.

It is not.

How did it really happen? Again, the warriors who were there told us where Crazy Horse went. After fighting Reno, Crazy Horse and Flying Hawk went back to the village to drop off some wounded warriors. They immediately went to Medicine Tail Ford, where Short Bull and Pretty White Buffalo saw Crazy Horse crossing the river. He was next located in the area of Calhoun Hill by numerous Indians who fought with him that day, including Foolish Elk, Lone Bear, He Dog, Red Feather and Flying Hawk. White Bull rode from the bluffs where Reno had retreated, directly north on the east side of the river. He approached Calhoun Hill from up Deep Coulee and worked around the hill where he joined Crazy Horse and his men, already fighting. Had Crazy Horse gone on his mythical northern sweep, or done half the deeds ascribed to him, he could not have been fighting near Calhoun Hill in this phase of the battle.

Crazy Horse was very reticent about speaking to white recorders. His spokesman, Horned Horse, said that the soldiers' assault was a surprise. The Indians had no plan of ambush. Crazy Horse believed Custer mistook the women and children stampeding in a northerly direction down the valley for the main body of Indians. The warriors merely divided into two groups, one staying between the noncombatants and Custer and the other circling his rear.

That is all there is to it. Only after the collapse of the Calhoun-Keogh position did Crazy Horse continue north where he may have, finally, confronted the last of Custer's men making their stand on the far knob of the ridge. Or maybe not. Flying Hawk indicated that during the final phase of the battle, Crazy Horse jumped on his pony and chased off after one of the last fleeing troopers. Crazy Horse likely had nothing at all to do with the final fight on Last Stand Hill. He did not make a several mile sweep down the valley and hit Custer near Last Stand Hill from the north, and he did not attack from up Deep Ravine.

Much of this incorrect story stemmed from Gall. Edward Godfrey recorded him as saying, "Crazy Horse went to the extreme north end of the camp." He turned right and went up a very deep ravine and "he came very close to the soldiers on their north side." Remember, however, that the northern end of the camp was at Medicine Tail Coulee, not three miles farther, as many white historians believed, and "north" to most Indians, is "east" to white observers.

Why did we get it so wrong? It developed from a number of factors: different terrain perceptions between Indian and white, white exaggeration of the village size, poor critical examination of the accounts and a reluctance to take the time to re-research the primary sources. An incorrect premise was accepted and perpetuated with each telling, and Crazy Horse's ride has drifted out of the realm of history and into the land of fantasy.

There Was No Last Stand

Of late there have been archaeological studies that have shined new light on some of the mysteries of the battle. One of them, by Richard Fox, has taken the stance that the Custer battle had "no famous last stand," and that the Last Stand is a myth, determined mainly because of artifact clustering patterns and because some men ran toward the river at the end of the fight. Certainly, there was no Last Stand as in the 1941 movie They Died With Their Boots On, but there was a stand.

Good Voiced Elk said, "No stand was made until the soldiers got to the end of the long ridge…."

Flying By rode Battle Ridge to the north where he saw bodies of the soldiers who had been killed all the way along his path. As far as he could see there had been only one stand, and it was made in the place where Custer would be killed, down at the end of the long ridge.

Lone Bear said the fight on Custer Hill was at close quarters, and, "There was a good stand made."

Gall neared the end of the ridge where the last soldiers were making a stand, he said, and, "They were fighting good."

Lights said the stand made at Custer Hill was longer than anywhere else on the field.

Two Eagles said the most stubborn stand by the soldiers was made on Custer Hill.

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

Iron Hawk saw 20 mounted men and about 30 men on foot on Last Stand Hill. "The Indians pressed and crowded right in around them on Custer Hill," he said. But the soldiers were not yet ready to die. Said Iron Hawk, "They stood here a long time."

He Dog participated in the chase that broke the soldiers' line, and helped drive the fleeing troopers along the ridge. At the far end, Custer's men were putting up a good fight.

Red Hawk said that only after making a desperate fight on Custer Hill did the remaining soldiers retreat downhill.

Flying Hawk said they kept after the fleeing soldiers until they got to where Custer was making a stand on the ridge. There "the living remnant of his command were now surrounded."

Although impressions of the stand's time length and degree of intensity vary among the observers, the fact that it took place cannot be erased. Soldiers defending the northern portion of Custer's field inflicted most of the Indian casualties – the best defense was not made at Calhoun Hill. The time spent in their fight and the results of their shooting are all the evidence we need to show that they defended their ground tenaciously. An interpretation claiming that few government cartridges were found on Custer Hill cannot change this. Although some soldiers ran from Custer's Hill, they did hold their ground and fight from their position as long as they could. The participating warriors called it a Last Stand. Deal with it.

28 Soldiers Died in Deep Ravine

Recent visitors to the battlefield may have walked down the Deep Ravine Trail to its end and read the interpretive sign. The sign perpetuates another myth: that about 28 soldiers died within the steep-walled gully. It has several quotes from Indians and soldiers who said they saw bodies in the ravine. What are not listed are the statements from eyewitnesses who said that few, if any, bodies were there.

Interpretation should be based on historical and physical evidence whenever possible. Battle relics and bones have been found virtually on every part of the Little Bighorn Battlefield. Where they have not been found is in the trench of the Deep Ravine. When the archaeological record shows no sign of bodies, it ought to be matched with the appropriate historical record – that there were few, if any, bodies in the Deep Ravine. It is incredible that diametrically opposed historical and archaeological interpretations are presented as facts.

Since there is no physical record of soldier bodies in Deep Ravine, the interpretive sign should contain the appropriate historical commentary.

The Oglala warrior He Dog, said, "Only a few soldiers who broke away were killed below toward the river."

Lone Bear said Custer Hill was "the first and only place where the soldiers tried to get away, and only a few from there."

Waterman said, "A few soldiers tried to get away and reach the river, but they were all killed."

Flying By said that "Soldiers were running through [the] Indian lines trying to get away…only four soldiers got into the gully by the river."

Two Moon explained that Custer's men "stayed right out in the open where it was easy to shoot them down. Any ordinary bunch of men would have dropped into a watercourse, or a draw."

Red Hawk tellingly reported, "Some of the soldiers broke through the Indians and ran for the river, but all were killed without getting into it."

Iron Hawk said that at the fight's end, "We looked up and the soldiers all were running….The furthest headstone shows where the second man that I killed lies…probably this was the last of Custer's men to be killed….there was only one soldier sneaking along in the gulch."

Probably the clearest white voice that denies bodies in the Deep Ravine came from eyewitness Lieutenant Charles F. Roe, who was there right after the battle, and whose job it was to return to the field in 1881, rebury the bodies on the ridge and place the stone monument above them. In a letter to Walter Camp in 1911, responding to Camp's persistent, incorrect questions about bodies in the ravine, Roe finally said: "I put up the markers near the deep ravine you speak of. There never was twenty-eight dead men in the ravine, but near the head of said ravine, and only two or three in it."

What can we gather from all this? There were many participants who saw what happened at the Little Bighorn, and we should not discount their stories in favor of speculation from those who did not see the events – neither those who lived in the 19th century nor those who make their livings by writing stories today. It is difficult to debunk the old legends, however. Myths die hard – even when hundreds of eyewitnesses have already told it like it was.

Historian Gregory Michno, who writes from Longmont, Colo., is a frequent contributor to Wild West. His much acclaimed books Lakota Noon: The Indian Narrative of Custer's Defeat and The Mystery of E Troop: Custer's Gray Horse Company at the Little Bighorn are recommended for additional reading, along with Lakota Recollections of the Custer Fight: New Sources of Indian-Military History, by Richard G. Hardorff, and Wooden Leg: A Warrior Who Fought Custer, by Thomas B. Marquis.

Editors's Note: See a discussion of sabers at the Little Bighorn in For Want of a Saber the Battle was Lost.


159 Responses to “Ten Myths of the Little Bighorn”


  1. 1
    Will Atwood says:

    " The time spent in their fight and the results of their shooting are all the evidence we need to show that they defended their ground tenaciously. An interpretation claiming that few government cartridges were found on Custer Hill cannot change this."

    Could it not be said in an equally accurate statement that:
    All the interpretation in print cannot change the fact that few government cartridges were found on Custer hill?
    Seems strange to ignore physical evidence from archaeological science on page 6 and then use the same archaeological evidence to support the contention that few or no bodies were found in the Deep Ravine.

    • 1.1
      Alan Johnson says:

      Your comparison is not faIr, though. There are zero pieces of human remains found in various test holes in Deep Ravine. 28 bodies would leave 5,768 bones.

      As far as LSH vs Calhoun Hill. Michno is merely stating that Scott does not have enough data to support a theory that there was more fighting on Calhoun Hill. Millions more have visited LSH as opposed to Calhoun Hill. Virtually every visitor goes to LSH, relatively few to Calhoun Hill. In the monument's early years, there was unrestricted gathering of relics. In fact the battlefield was long ago robbed of most battle artifacts. There wasn't even a road in the monument's early years from LSH to Calhoun Hill , which is nearly a mile distant. Because of this, relic hunters had much more opportunity to strip LSH of copper casings from the Springfields.

      Comparing the relative few casings found in the 1980s and 1990s is meaningless as far as determining where the fighting was heavier.

      • 1.1.1
        Alan Johnson says:

        One correction. I mixed up archeologists. Michno was addressing Fox's conclusions, not Scott's.

    • 1.2
      andrew woolf says:

      Fields of fire, and their patterns moving forward over the course of a battle, can be charted with a great degree of accuracy, by analyzing the unique firing pin marks imprinted on spent cartridges.
      Those examined at the Ford area of the LBH River show scant evidence of any type of coordination at all- and plenty of evidence of random discharges of weapons 'wild firing' in multiple directions at once- in the ground, in the air, etc.
      The direction of fields of fire is likewise random at LBH, and given the former speaks more of a Company in the throes of confusion and panic of men being caught by surprise by an overwhelming amount of foe, rather than the far more popular image of an organised and impressive 'last stand.'
      The ballistic evidence at LBH also supports the eyewitness accounts of Braves that Custers Troopers 'stampeded like Buffalo' in response to the onslaught of warriors that overwhelmed them.
      A last note of interest: contemporary archeological analysis of the LBH site also shows that far less rounds were even fired than expected, given the last stand theory. This is also supported by Indian accounts of the cartridge belts (a prized item of booty) taken from Troopers bodies after the battle. The Indians reported that most of the belts they recovered still had live cartridges in them. This would seem to indicate also more of a panic reaction, than a ground standing response from Custers men.

      In addition, the physical amount of rounds expended at the site, is disproportionatly low

  2. 2
    Lew Frank, USMC (ret) says:

    Mr. Michno,
    I understand that you are a published author and expert in Custer's battle at the Little Bighorn. Therefore, I'm hoping you may provide an explanation regarding the conversational and confrontational style used in your article. It's rather surprising to read something so juvenile from a published author. Frankly, sir, I would be embarrassed by such an effort. Grammatically, you have made a few errors which should have been amended during routine editing.

    Scholastically, your research is wonderful but incomplete. Your sources appear to be primarily native Americans; their reliability as eyewitnesses is tenuous, yet you fail to even mention this fact. Many of these testimonies were provided years after the battle, at a time when memories tend to obfuscate the realities.

    Sorry for the criticism. Or, as you so eloquently wrote, "Deal with it." Seriously, did your teenage son write this for a class?

    • 2.1
      gene Moore says:

      As a former Hospital Corpsman and American Indian buff I find it interesting that a Maine would question the veracity of the elite warriors that fought at the Greasy Grass.
      As I am sure that you are aware, History is written by the victors. In this particular battle, that was the warriors of the Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe.
      Custer, like Fetterman years before, seriously underestimated the caliber and determination of his enemies, with predictable results. his only previous experience with attacking an Indian village occurred on the Washita in what is now Oklahoma. The village he attacked was under the leadership of Black Kettle, a well-known peace advocate among the Cheyenne and a survivor of Chivington's atrocities at Sand Creek in Colorado.
      When facing capable and determined fighting men and boys defending their homes and families, Custer got his ass handed to him.

  3. 3
    Joakim Casemyr says:

    I have to say that I was very interested when I first saw this article but have to agree with above posters. I was rather disappointed by the way it was written and the rhetoric used.

    I have read many history books over the years and many articles on this site. I'm afraid this article is sub par to anything I have read so far.

    My instincts asked me if it was april first.

  4. 4
    Ron Atley says:

    I, too, agree with the other posters. This article is trite at best, and I'm rather shocked that it would even be published on this site. I don't think I'll bother to look at this site in the future.

  5. 5
    CDB says:

    One additional myth often posed about this battle-The Indians used bows and arrows, with Custer's men better armed with rifles. The fact that many of the indians were armed with better weapons (some with repeating arms) and outnumbered their blue coated foes were the primary factors in the battle's outcome. The poor performance of the black powder cartridges that the cavalrymen used, and the unfortunate tendancy of their single shot spencers to jam when hot (brass couldn't be extracted after firing) contributed to the problems faced by the troopers. BTW, If Custer's tactics were as good as the author portrays here…why did he lose?

    • 5.1
      Robert Dean says:

      Sorry to correct you CDB, but the Spencer was a seven shot repeating rifle, not a single shot. And while a few soldiers may have had a Spencer carbine most of these soldiers were carrying the Springfield and Sharp's single shot carbines. And it was the Springfield that was notorious for jamming when trying to eject the shell. This was time consuming as the soldiers had to dig the shell out with a knife.

      • 5.1.1
        RobertKLR says:

        When I was issued my M-16 way back in the '70s I was told by "experts" it was a jammer and was unreliable yet it performed flawlessly and never let me down. Yet whenever I relate that I'm always accused of not being smart enough to know a good rifle from a bad rifle (yet I qualified as an expert rifleman in the Marines 4 years in a row). Fact is I never saw an M-16 fail to perform. I think the "knife digging thing" with the Springfield rifles was because some soldiers had poor habits when caring for their rifles. As for the Indians and their guns Nelson Miles and others pointed out the Indians didn't even try to take care of their guns since very few ever had any training on how to do that and there were very few people who could or would repair an Indian's rifle. They would use them till they quit then go beg, borrow, buy or steal another. Miles also pointed out the Indians' lack of skill at long range shooting (beyond 200 yds) and how they never had any training at that either. Miles used the poor long range marksmanship of the Indians against them by always trying to engage them beyond that distance and the tactic was very successful. The Indians would expend a lot of their ammo shooting at the dirt and never coming close to hitting anything else.

  6. 6
    WAYNE FLINT says:

    I AGREE WITH THE COMMENTS ALREADY MADE. THE AUTHER COMMENTS ABOUT CUSTERPHOBES. THE AUTHOR COMES ACROSS AS A CUSTER FANATIC. THE BEST COMMENT ABOVE IS, IF CUSTER'S TACTICS WERE SO MASTERFUL, WHY DID HE LOSE?

  7. 7
    napi mclendon says:

    you have been talking about the battle of the greasey grass,and assume that the oral history of whites is horrable,so indian oral history must be worse,,,biggates

  8. 8
    Frank Eskridge says:

    I am a little taken aback by the strongly negative comments on this article. I found it to be interesting and informative, and I did not see the grammatical errors that one commentator mentioned. I agree that the term "Custerphobe," was probably inappropriate in the context of a "myth buster"-style discourse that purports to set the record straight, since it suggests the author has an agenda. It would have been nice to have a map or two so that one could see the locations referenced. Otherwise, good job.

  9. 9
    Monette Bebow-Reinhard says:

    I too agree with most people here. As someone studying and putting together my own article on what went wrong and why Custer lost, I felt this article lost the mark on many levels. The biggest problem was, as noted, that Custer did everything right, but no reflection on why he lost. I suggest in my article that the loss was deliberately calculated by the government as a whole – or for those who hate conspiracy theories – that the government was too stupid to know how many Indians had combined in protection of the Black Hills. Custer believed all the reports at the time that there would be no more than 800 to 1,000 Indians out there and felt he could make them run, the way he always had. He was wrong, this time.

    By the way any Indian version is as valid as any white's. But they relate things differently, each with a different perspective. That has to be taken into account.

  10. 10
    Bill Jordan says:

    I believe Spencers were actually repeating rifles…Custer's troops were probably armed with a mix of Springfields, Sharps and perhaps a few Remington Rolling Blocks…these were indeed single shots and very prone to jamming…particularly when overheated from rapid firing.
    Regards from a retired Cavalry Colonel, and former troop commander in 4/7th Cavalry, Korea, 1973…Garry Owen

    • 10.1
      Alan Johnson says:

      Custer's troops were armed with the 1873 Springfield trap-door, breech-loading, single-shot carbine, and the Colt 45 pistol. A few officers had their personal weapons with them. Also First Sergeant John Ryan, had his own rifle. The 7th carried Sharps in the 1860s. But in the 1870s, the Army changed to the Springfield.

  11. 11
    Ross says:

    There are obviously some commenters on here who don't know a thing about the so-called "Custer's Last Stand". If you don't know how Custer lost after all the literature on him, then you shouldn't be commenting.

    I'm sure this article was written for people of all ages. That would include grade school children. But, then, there are some on here who don't know why Custer lost that probably benefitted by the simplicity of the article. Maybe the will go on to read something at a bit higher level.

  12. 12
    Ken Stasiak says:

    I was very open to a "New" idea reguarding the 28 odd missing bodies of deep ravine, and was hop9ing Greg Michno's book could have been better developed. When you have vivid recollections from Benteen, McDougal, and others stating emphatically that they saw and counted those men lying in a heap at the bottom of such a steep-sided ravine, and a trail of dead leading right to it, it is indeed a far cry to try to establish them being covered in somthing as shallow as cemetary ravine. Sorry Greg, I think you are way out -of -bounds on this one and just wanted to get out another book.

  13. 13
    William Hale says:

    Custer did everything right, he used the best tactics and he surprised the indians, in a village that you state categorically was not unconquerable, yet somehow your brilliant lt col not only got himself killed(which is his right) but he got all of his men killed uselessly. How can you possibly square those things up?

    By the way, the village WAS unconquerable for both Reno AND Custer, the facts have proven that to everyone except a Custer-phile like the author.

  14. 14
    Ken Stasiak says:

    There are some who feel that Custer may have been killed or seriously wounded on the onset of the fight causing severe demoralization. It is a picture most of us "Custer" buffs can't grasp.I think the village could have been captured,or should I say the non-combatants could have been taken, and that is probably what drew Custer's contingent so far to the north. Custer was probably at first elated when Reno was occupying the fighting men at the south end of the Villiage. He thought he had smooth sailing!What could the warriors have done if the wives,children and old ones were surrounded by armed cavalrymen? Picture the Indian's exodus of flight, and Custer's men persuing them until they themselves were swallowed up by really angry warriors.

  15. 15
    Ann says:

    Willaim, according to Kill Eagle (an Indian in the Camp of Sitting Bull), a man named Ridgely (a white captive who witnessed the battle) and Curly the Upsaroka scout…the battle began at two o'clock and continued until the sun went down behind the hills.
    Custer lived until nearly all his men were killed or wounded(the last man killed reported to have been Adjutant Cook who rode a white horse). Custer took a bullet to the left side and sat down pistol in hand: another shot struck him and he fell over. He was apparenly not wounded prior to the first shot to the side since Curly went to him in a lull in the fighting when he saw that the party was to be entirely cut to pieces, he approached the General begged that he would permit him to show a way of escape which his powerful thoroughbred could easily have aided him to accomplish. Custer dropped his head upon his breast and after a moment of thought looked at Curly, motioned him away with his hand and went back to die with his men. Had he been wounded I beleive Curly would have mentioned it. In addition, concerning weapons. Custer refused General Terry's offer of a battery of Gatling guns, saying it might embarrass him.

    He was basically intending to hold position until the rest of Gen.Terry's, Gen. Crook's and Colonel Gibbon's forces arrived. Reportedly, Terry's troops numbered 600 cavalry and 400 enfantry. Crook's troops consisted of 47 officers, and 1000 men. Gibbon marched with 450 cavalry and infantry. Had Reno and Benteen done their duty it is quite probable the the Indians could have been kept in check until General Terry arrived.
    Apparently, they had enough man and fire power to prevail…but Shit Happens.

    • 15.1
      Longjohn says:

      Custer got his ass whooped because he was riding down on women and children living in peace in a camp on their own lands which were not ceded … This was the summer camp for our Religious Rites that had just concluded

      75 years later and he'd have been charged with a War Crime although he'd already would have been in prison for his War Crimes at Washita …

  16. 16
    Roger Borroel says:

    From this article it seems that the "battle" was just a rout till the last of Custer's troopers reached the end of the ridge. Hmmm….seems a lot like the Alamo "battle" where almost half of the Alamo "garrsison"(about 125 "defenders") jumped the walls of the Alamo compound into the surrounding countryside, only to be killed by Mexican lancers!

  17. 17
    Charlie Eyster says:

    I have to agree with most of Michno's article. However, as I have come to realize from my 3 visits to the battlefield and reading some 40 books on the subject. No one has the answer to what really happened, but many have theories about what happened. One big question that has not been answered for me is why one of the most respected and bravest and aggressive calvary soldier in the Civil War never actually attacked the village. And as a disciplanarian why his 5 troops were so unorganized in the end. One answer for me is that Custer was incapacitated at Medicine Tail Coulee ford. Probably with the chest wound . This had a ripple affect on the command and resulted in little evidence of an organized defense by the command other than at Calhoun Hill. I know that many have Custer not part of the troops approaching MTC ford, but what else other that Custer going down could have stopped the attack on the village. Particularily since by all Indian accounts the ford was lightly defended. And where better to divide the warriors from the rest of the village fleeing.

    • 17.1
      Alan Johnson says:

      There is no evidence that Custer was killed early, save a little bir of testimony about a buckskin clad man shot at MTC. Virtually all the officers wore buckskin. Custer had buckskin pants, but a blue shirt.

      But the biggest evidence that Custer did not die early is that his body was found with headquarters. Keogh was senior captain and would have assumed command if Custer were killed or incapacitated. Yet Keogh was found with his Company I. There were experienced officers and NCOs with Custer's command. Death of a commander does not render his men leaderless and useless.

      In addition, brass casings from Custer's Remington were found with his body, a strong indication he was fighting from that position. A few were collected and given to Libby Custer.

  18. 18
    John Koster says:

    I found Greg Michno's article on the Ten Mistakes about the Little Bighorn to be an excellent introduction to the subject and — obviously — a springboard to controversy. Two contributions of my own to some of Michno's detractors: Ridgely, who claimed he saw the battle, was obviously lying — he was cutting hay in a different part of Montana on June 25 and his account is ludicrous in parts. Ridgely has the Lakota burning six captives alive and claims that Sitting Bull was a half-breed — both nonsense; Curley the Crow scout never got anywhere near Custer Hill. Curly told Walter Mason Camp — and Curley's relatives confirmed to me almost a century later — that he left the column at the same time as Daniel Kanipe, Custer's next-to-last messenger, and well before Giovanni Martini, Custer's final messenger. Conversely I think that the 28 dead men found in the Deep Ravine were pretty much evidential fact. Leaving out the question of the "last ditch," the rest of Michno's article is just about perfect. My entire research staff concurs — well researched, well written, a solid contribution to "Wild West."

  19. 19
    Aja Barnett says:

    I am a high school senior and I guess you would say a history geek. I have read historical books throughout my lifetime and I would have to agree with other commentors. The article's narrative voice is TO strong.

    In historical articles, one has to watch what he says and presents BOTH sides of the agrument. One also has to take in account that Native Americans never wrote their history down; they would tell their children or their children's children. AND there are over thousands of Native Americans languages alone, so translation could've been lost and other things.

    This article is good, but there should be both sides of the argument and it's very opinionated which is a bad thing in an artcile.

    Please excuse my spelling mistakes ^_^

  20. 20
    John Koster says:

    NB — "Thousands" of American Indian languages is mild hyperbole — there were probably about 300 in the days of Eurpean contact. Only three — Lakota, Cheyenne, Crow and Arikara — would have been a factor at the Little Bighorn.Also, worth noting is that Little Bighorn accounts were generally told to officers or reporters within the participant's lifetime — many errors came not from the Indians but with reporters trying for a bigger headline. One problem that does exist is the each Indian tended to describe his own part in the fighting rather than trying for a comprehensive picture. The archeology of Richard Fox and Doug Scott broadly confirms the accuracy of what the Indians had to say. The shady stories about a "Siouz ambush", grass braided together and visual descriptions of Custer's Last Moments came mostly from white pe0ple who weren't there.

  21. 21
    Dale Decker says:

    Personally, I found the article to be too the point. That said, it would have reflected better on the author and this magazine had the sarcasm and rather juvenile comments (ie: Deal with it, etc) been deleted before the article went to press.

    What I also find interesting is that there appears to be 2 main schools of thought: Those who love Custer and those who despise him. Even after all this time, anything written about Custer or the Little Big Horn is sure to get some response.

    While not a bad thing by itself, it also can be as detrimental to those who are merely seeking the truth as totally discounting the Indian accounts on one hand, and totally discounting the whites accounts on the other. My guess is the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

  22. 22
    PETER says:

    I have been studying the general since I was an impassioned boy. I am 51 now and have written several academic papers on the man since. One particular question continues to plague me : why has so little been made of Renos intoxication in the feild, as was testified to in the militarys investigation of the days events? In what appears to be one of the most critical moments of the day, Reno lost the battlefeild initiative and subsequently ignorred repeated commands from Custers order for packs/support and Capt. Thompsons plea to heed them with his own column. As with any calamity, the buck stops at the bosses feet. And Custer was in charge. But the military swept a great deal under the rug at the time to not tarnish the images of many still in the regiment. We all tend to focus so much on Custer on that day because of his aura. But he was, even with the civil war record he had, ultimately human, and was colosally failed that day by the two men he required his own zeal and tenacity from–Reno & Benteen. I've always wondered why Custer kept Benteen in his command as well. The man loathed his leader and that is a cancer in an army unit. All their fault? Of course not. Could they have made a major difference? Obviously. The reconstruction of june 25th 1876 on the Little Bighorn River begins with motives, just like any current investigation. Find the truth by following the particapents motives and witnesses records. The rest is forensics. The complete picture is probably one that lines up everything that possibly could go wrong in the chain of command, and ultimately did. Churchill said that all the best laid plans of battle dissolve in seconds once the fray has begun. The only thing that keeps it from falling apart is unit cohesion. But then, if that had happened Custer may have become president, as many know. THAT is where any sane man would have drawn the line….LOL….

  23. 23
    Jeff Helmer says:

    Having been employed as an interpretive ranger at the site for 10years, I had the opportunity to both meet Mr. Michno and discuss the myths that he advances.

    While many of you may not like his rather brusque approach, no two people (including all Sioux and Cheyenne participants) saw the total action, and could not be on all parts of the field at one time. Mr. Michno offers the most plausible analysis circumstances of the pertinent event.

    Actions were occurring simulatenously on Calhoun Ridge, Calhoun Hill, and the Keogh sector (among many), and with black powder smoke, screaming, and loose animals running amok, I defy anyone (this includes Custer and Crazy Horse) to give me exact information on what specifically was happening with any of the subordinate commands or bodies of warriors.

    Mr. Michno illustrates, if you read it, that a commander makes decisions based upon the information known to him at the time, or in a very fluid action like the Little Bighorn, what some of his scouts thought the village was doing, where it was going, etc. In retrospect, some of it looks foolish, but at the time the decision was rendered, it was made on sound reasoning.

    Custer was playing a dangerous hand on 25 June 1876, and there was little latitude for failure. I assume that at least one of has made a decision in your own life (based upon the best information and research available), that later bit you in the ass. Or are you all smothered in millions from your winnings on the stock market?

    • 23.1
      joe says:

      good one!

      • 23.1.1
        D says:

        I've read this article several times over now and must say I don't agree with how some of these people are commenting.(Including the one that comments about the "grammatical" errors.) I think this is one of the better articles on Custer.

  24. 24
    David Welch says:

    Custer's biggest mistake was not accepting the offer of taking four companies of the 4th Cavalry with him. It would have augmented his force by about 200 troopers. In addition, the 4th would have been eager for a fight and formed an aggressive battalion, perhaps even being sent on "the scout" that Benteen took his lazy time on. You can bet that if Benteen and Reno where BOTH attacking the village with six companies instead of three while Custer circled behind the initial attack wouldn't have cut and run so fast. Plus, the 4th would have had employed much more haste in getting to the field of combat.

    That said, let's give the Native Americans credit. They were fighting to protect the lives of their old people, women and children. They fought hard and well in terrain perfectly suited to their style of fightinng. But Custer did surpirse the camp not once but twice. A larger attacking force with reinforcements arriving 30 minutes sooner might have just tipped the balance in Custer's favor and allowed him to capture a large group of fleeing non-combatants, thus ending the battle with a lot fewer troppers being killed and a lot fewer Native Americans getting killed and harassed until the following spring.

  25. 25
    Muhamad says:

    Most of this makes no sense. Of course there was a "Last Stand" no matter who named it that as described in your own article. We you flee so far, turn to fight because you can't go any further THAT is your last stand.
    Lt. Rose got to the battle ground 5 years after the fact; how do you with any good sense take the number he gave as being in the revine as the acurate body count? That's just stupid.

  26. 26
    marshall schultz says:

    I think this was a wonderful, very informitive article. The light of truth is yet to be shined on this tragic time in our history.
    A cover up? Definatly. Avoidable? Absolutly, but before the job is givin to the army. The one thing here in this article that jumps out at me is just how close Custer came to "winning"! But for a couple of incidents that could have gone either way, the battle was lost. ( this one among many others) In my opinion factors were as follows: Indian bravery and fighting prowess, Reno's cowardice, Benteen's hatred, lack of tactical cohesion on the part of the troopers due in large part to poor training and too many
    "feriners"! Custers ego, and lastly destiny! Weaponry was not an issue. The 7th was armed to the teeth

  27. 27
    jack hamar says:

    Hey. It doesn't matter. The Indians won. I salute them. Nobody will ever know or care exactly when Custer bought it. He was a putz, bottom of his class, in love with himself. Stop glorifying him. Get a life. You people, whose grammar and spelling is atrocious, I might add, probably dress up in 7th Calvary outfits every weekend to play make believe like little six year olds. He deserved to die just as much as Jesse James or Billy the Kid deserved to die. Unless you were actually there I don"t care to hear your opinions because that is all they are.

    • 27.1
      Alan Johnson says:

      LOL, you are 61 years too late to talk to someone who was "there." I imagine many would find your pursuits to be juvenile, too. And for what reason were you reading posts on this forum, if you found them so trivial?

  28. 28
    NorPlains says:

    Jack-o…it's Cavalry, not Calvary…ugh.

    ————————

    "One additional myth often posed about this battle-The Indians used bows and arrows, with Custer’s men better armed with rifles. The fact that many of the indians were armed with better weapons (some with repeating arms) and outnumbered their blue coated foes were the primary factors in the battle’s outcome. The poor performance of the black powder cartridges that the cavalrymen used, and the unfortunate tendancy of their single shot spencers to jam when hot (brass couldn’t be extracted after firing) contributed to the problems faced by the troopers. BTW, If Custer’s tactics were as good as the author portrays here…why did he lose?"

    By CDB on Mar 10, 2009 at 2:13 pm

    The standard issue rifle for Custer's troopers were .45-55 (.45-70) single-shot Springfield carbines. They were indeed loaded with 55 grains of black powder. Black powder is very fouling and it is conceivable that after firing many rounds they may have had functioning problems. As another poster above noted, some few may have had Sharps single-shots and it is reported that Custer himself may have had his Remington rolling block which I believe was in .50-70 caliber, which was the standard military cartridge before the adaptation of the .45-70. The Indians had everything from bows and arrows to Sharps single-shots to muzzle-loading muskets to repeating Winchesters, Henrys, and Spencers. All BTW loaded with black powder cartridges. Generally, I think the Indians had more firepower. And of course they had wayyy more in numbers of combatants. Even the best laid plans and strategy is not enough if you are so significantly outnumbered and outgunned. CDB actually answers his own question within his post.

    For what I consider the best theory as to how the Custer part of the battle unfolded, his movements, his strategy, and finally, a movement that he made based on his interpretation of the troops he saw on Weir Point, which most probably caused the unraveling of his command, read the book: Sole Survivor, by Douglas W. Ellison. In his book it is Mr Ellison's contention that it was actually 1st Lt. Algernon Smith (Co. E) who was shot at Medicine Tail Coulee. And yes Mich Bouyer sent Curley away before the Custer fighting began, although he was able to later report Custer's movements prior to his leaving.

  29. 29
    doug hogan says:

    i agree with the people who reacted negatively to the several "deal with it" comments. this type of writing is extremely off-putting, even if the author is correct in his analysis.

    one analysis of the battle that i read stated that a major reason for the defeat was that cavalry is almost useless once it is fighting on foot (1 out of 4 troopers has to hold horses) and that the terrain worked against the 7th because of all the ridges and gullies.

    i think that we should rely heavily on physical evidence in analyzing the battle — eye-witness testimony is often unreliable.

    every military person involved, including custer, made decisions that can be seen as mistakes in retrospect. However, the general who finally defeated the sioux respected custer when he realized that custer was one of the few men in that sector who actively pursued the indians.

  30. 30
    doug hogan says:

    the general who was quoted about custer was gen. nelson miles, one of our great military leaders. he basically mopped up the sioux after custer's defeat.
    despite all of the criticisms of custer's tactics, the main difficulty the US army faced was in trying to catch up to the indians, who were generally more mobile. custer's tactics were based on this viewpoint — his main fear was that the sioux would get away, not stand and fight.

    gen. miles defeated the sioux by persistently following and attacking them during the winter time, when the indians lost their mobility.

  31. 31
    Kenneth Mark Hoover says:

    I find it amusing how so many people are quick to denigrate eye-witness testimony and accounts from Native Americans who were actually at the battle, while clinging desperately to their cherished hokum about this battle.

    Just because historical fact challenges your Hollywood-myth belief-system coupled with white approbation, doesn't make it any less accurate. Historical fact isn't interested in your feelings or what you think is right or what should be.

    You are entitled to your own opinions, you are not entitled to your own facts. This article lays out in detail myths that have been perpetuated throughout the years. If that upsets your world-view, well, too bad. Get over it.

    –KMH

  32. 32
    Chris Kent says:

    Some excellent sustenance Mr. Michno and much to chew on. Ten is a good number and will capture one's attention, though not convinced 2-3 of these myths remain at the level you insist. But one must have 10, and 10 you produce.

    I have no problems with the flippant comments closing several of your myths, as I've read enough blogs and Internet articles to know such attitudes are the norm. It antagonizes, rattles and polarizes. I've read 10-15 books on this battle and assume others have a similar level of knowledge on this historic event. But after reading several comments above, I realize I am once again wrong. Several of the myths bandied about, which must date back to the 19th century, are cartoonish in level, revealing a complete lack of understanding on this engagement and the Native Americans who participated. White captives witnessing the Last Stand, some burned at the stake while children fired red hot arrows into their bodies, is the stuff of blood thirsty pulp fiction and Lone Ranger radio serials.

    Anyway, the image of Crazy Horse riding north, gathering warriors as he rode along like an ever increasing, deadly snowball preparing to smash Custer's foray, is part of the legend of this battle capturing the imagination of students and tourists. The image is one of several reasons this battle fascinates the world. We can scoff and snort and sneer at the portrait, but without it, would people be as interested in this 1876 event? Would as many people buy your books? Which Native American accounts do we believe and which do we throw away? And why?

    You mention this extraordinary encampment of militant warriors was not unconquerable, and yet, were they conquered? Crook retreated after the Rosebud battle, and all indications were he was rattled to the bone. He certainly did not conquer them. Reno retreated to a hilltop and was close to being routed before Benteen's arrival, so he did not conquer them. Custer and all of his men were cut, shot and beat down within an hour. He most certainly did not conquer them. So the very fact they carried the week and the day without defeat, means they were, in fact, unconquerable.

    Custer may have indeed made some very strong and intelligent military moves while on the battlefield. And yet, if he had made strong and intelligent moves, shouldn't he have been successful? The fact he and every man with him were killed is evidence his decisions were poor. He underestimated the size of this enormous camp, evidence of this being his fateful decision to separate his men prior to battle. Furthermore, surprising the camp in such a manner, if anything sealed his doom. The Native Americans instinctively reacted, attacked and swarmed, thus Custer was routed quickly.

    I've read so much information on what his scouts did or did not say I grow dizzy from all the conflicting information. By most accounts, these scouts were terrified and knew the size of this village was considerable. To attack at midday, when men and horses were exhausted from a fast, overnight march, and then to separate his men in such a fashion, was foolhardy. It's hard to imagine scouts would have recommended such action. And there were so many scouts, some fighting, others not, that I suspect there were as many opinions as teepees on the river. Custer attacked this village as if he was reliving Washita. But this encampment was 10 times the size of that village. And as historical results show, it was indeed unconquerable.

    I could go on with several additional points you've made in your attempt to revise not only the legend, but many facts. No matter. You have written some interesting points – many of which are false – and in several cases you have sculpted a picture to fit your needs. Such is the fascination of this battle. This is still good work.

  33. 33
    Vitalij says:

    With so much conflicting information I cannot how you can take the stand you have?

    Indigenous and none Indigenous, victor and the vanquished, all make conflicting accounts of what happened.

    Regards to blame as C/O Custer is to blame. If the fate of Custer instead had been the fate of Reno, Custer would have been blamed. I can remember senior staff saying that IF Custer had survived he would have been court martialed.

    As C/O I can only see Custer at fault for the overall command and preparation.

    1) It was he who had his command rush to LBH, tiring man and horse alike.

    2) He had no idea how much he had pushed man and horse because he always had a spare during a march, a luxury other ranks did not have.

    3) He made the decision to attack. OK his intention, it is said, is to wait until next day but his advisers said to attack now (this has puzzled me for some time…for it seems although the scouts etc are said to have advised an early attack,,,they also seemed reticent about attacking at all..preparations for possible death were made by many)

    4) He did not support Reno with the whole outfit, as he said he would.

    5) His eventual deployment was to spread out to provide effective fire and support.

    6) His battalion assignments meant that there could be no real mutual support between himself and the Reno/Benteen Battalions.

    7) People criticize the other two battalions for not marching to the sound of the gunfire? Is this not what Custer did? When Reno was engaging was not Custer seen in the distance traveling AWAY from Reno? Should he not have traveled to the sound of Reno's guns?

    8) Custer let his ego overtake common sense. The Indians would have waited, even if they struck camp there was enough troops in the field to deal with it. Sure warriors on ponies travel fast…but women and children do not…that is all the troops really needed!!!

    It is my belief that Custer intended to let Reno get the bloody nose while he captured the women and children…who obviously would head away from the Reno attack. In fact there are tales of Sitting Bull running away with his family at this point.

    Hammer and anvil people say? I think the reason Custer was seen riding away was because his intent was to capture the women and children.

    If he had no intention of supporting Reno then why say he would? If he changed his plan he should be telling his battalion commanders.

    I believe as the village was stretched out longer then Custer believed, he had further to travel to operate his capture plan. Meaning he was getting further from any support he may need.

    Because of the length of the village I think the Custer end of it may have only just started moving out to attack Reno, so when Custer got there it was not just women and children…maybe not a lot of warriors but enough to get Custer thinking and be delayed. Maybe he realized that his 210 guys couldn't escort a few thousand women and children.

    Washita was probably in the back of the Native American minds, so when word reached the other end of the camp no doubt they thought that the troops were after the women and children.

    This prevented Reno from being annihilated but meant Mr Custer had to contend with a mighty, mobile army, who knew the terrain and used the long grass and brush as effective camouflage.

    Much is made of lack of ammunition, in the blame Benteen culture. Custers battalion had about 210 x 100 rounds between them of carbine ammo. That's 21,000 rounds plus something like 24 pistols rounds a man at 5,040 rounds in his Battalion.

    Now obviously men died and Native Americans did pick up guns and ammo. Also many horses were lost with up to 50 rounds a man lost. But just to say that if every round of the 21,000 rounds of carbine ammo were exhausted in this 3 hour battle you speak of..that gives a rate of fie of 116 RPM for the whole command or 1 round every 1.8 minutes for the individual trooper. Research has shown me that a competent troop could fire 10 RPM meaning all the ammunition, including that on the horse…would give him 10 minutes of continuous fire.

    If ammunition were an issue then the battle could not have lasted 3 hours. For close quarters all they had was maybe knife and a Springfield or Colt club!!!

    The battlefield archaeology suggests that about 3% of cartridges were found to have been 'jammed' and manually ejected. However, I do wonder if accounts of soldiers holding up their carbines was more about a jammed weapon used as a club? I would suspect that in the later part of the battle fighting was the most intense so weapons would jam more frequently and…here's a thought….if the warriors were in number and very close you would not have time to clear it…you club one warrior, one kills you and takes your jammed weapon. It maybe the only time it jammed in the whole battle..but we will never know. I think it telling that after LBH the cases went over to brass :(

    Of course it is possible that Custer went somewhere for a picnic, then came back 2 3/4 hours later and fired off all the ammo!!! But there is no way 100 rounds would allow a troop to shoot for 3 hours in an intense life or death fight.

    Personally, I do not think it was a complete immediate destruction I think he rode around and tried to find a way out of it.

    As for a last stand. Stupid point. Any battle surely has the last of the command realizing that they are about to die, so make good account. Even when Varus and three Legions were defeated by Arminius, the last few guys out of 20,000 fought and fought until the Germanic tribes let them go with honor.

    Almost any battle you research you find an area of rout and an area of a stand..or two. I read a Native American account that said there were 5 'stands', which I always thought they fell by the company?

    As for Benteen and Reno. Benteen did ask Martini for more information regarding Cookes message but his English was not to good. I know the Custerphiles say this is an excuse!!! Regardless of what anyone else thought the message read, it is what Benteen thought it to mean. Bring packs? What the pack train? Or just ammo? I am unsure of the weight of the .45 55 (or 70) but a contemporary weapon the Martini Henry used by the British gave a total ammo weight of 4.8 kg per 100 rounds, so at that sort of figure the total ammo reserve was @ 50 rounds a man is over a 1,000 US pounds…just for Custers Battalion!!

    I have always assumed that it meant take the pack animals with the ammo to Custer….but if it is supposed to mean Benteen take the ammo, then with his own reserve getting close to 2,000 pounds of munitions had to be carried. Also I believe they are carried in boxed stores? How are they carried on a horse? However you look at it, to carry extra weight maybe 10lbs a horse, who were very tired animals by now seems crazy…especially given that they left sabers behind as too much weight.

    Whatever Benteens motives for not joining Custer, if Custer with FIVE companies couldn't reinforce Reno (as Custer said he would) or make his way through the Warriors, what chance would a smaller command of THREE companies (maybe 4 with B in attendance) have traveling through the warriors, burdened by either extra ammunition weight or slow mules?

    If the Custer fight was the ordered disciplined event it is said to be and his battalion were an efficient fighting force, in a defensive position, why did he lose? If Custer, allegedly a better officer, with more troops than Benteen couldn't hold off the Indians how could a moving Benteen?

    Fact is the same warriors who beat Custer, fought the so called inferior Benteen, Reno command. They survived and he didn't. I believe they weighed up the situation and made a good fortified defense. Tactically they done the best they could with what they had.

    Custer had his troops too spread out for fire support and concentration. They were to far away from other battalion support. People say he was just '15 minutes gallop away'. Yes but Benteen had a 1,000 plus warriors in the way!!!

    I believe Benteen did not know where Custer was, went to Reno, saw the situation and decided to stay put. Of course there is talk about hearing the Custer fight and not going to aid him. The guy was miles away, with warriors between them and him. When Weir went out they realized it was over by then.

    Custer had disregarded orders many times before, like some say Benteen did. Custer also left men behind to their own fate, as they say Benteen did.

    Does anyone seriously think that Benteen deliberately left Custer to die?

    If Benteen and Reno were flawed it is up to their commander to whip them in shape…and know how much he can trust them. If he couldn't trust them surely wouldn't they had been better where he could keep his eye on them?

    They do say Custer had mood swings and maybe that is indicative of some psychological issue? He certainly seemed a different man at officers briefings towards the end.

    He wanted glory, live or dead I believe. There was a reason why the columns were due to link up together…the number of hostiles expected.

    I know Terry gave Custer a bit of a free reign…but was there not an instruction telling him NOT to split his command?

    I do believe that there is a lot of the story we are not being told…but it is not the tale of rivalry and betrayal between US 7th officers.

    I believe that the weapon choice was an issue, especial copper cases. The Springfield was a good rifle but I think its main reason for acquisition was saving ammo and cheapness….a lot of them were just conversions of older weapons.

    Also marksmanship and shooter training was practically none existent, this taken into account of the fact that many shooters aim high…and rolling terrain makes it difficult to judge range.

    Carbines had no bayonet (nor ramrod!!) and with no saber all the troops had was a club!!! The pistols, being gate loaded were pretty much pointless at close quarters…having to gate eject and reload after discharging…accounts do tell of troops firing six and throwing them away a picking up the carbine, as it was quicker than holstering the pistol…leave alone loading it!!!

    I do think that Benteen, Reno and Weir had more to say, than they did…but what is speculation. Weir puzzles me. He died a shocked, distraught alcoholic shortly after if I remember? After he went out to look for Custer…he made his observations returned with the others and we hear no more of him. What did he see that so shocked him? Was it the realization that Custer, whom he highly regarded, was in the final stages of defeat and the realization that had they gone to join him it may have been his fate to. Or was he haunted because he didn't join him?

    It is indeed a very interesting tale..whatever the truth of it…..it is a shame Commanche couldn't talk!!! I find equal fascination with the British defeat at Islandlwana. I do hope to visit either or both fields one day…

    You know what gets me is that each time there is a documentary or book on LBH it is always polarized with a viewpoint, with selective quoting. Wouldn't it be nice to get advocates of most major theories together and talk through what they do and do not agree with? Hmmm could be another battle though !!!

  34. 34
    veritas says:

    While I agree that the author could be scholarly in his tone, many of the poster seem just as guilty in their response. If the author is a Custer defender, then many of the posters seem to me to be History Channel Revisionist.

    My main point oif agreement with the author is regarding the "archeology" of Dr. Fox. Mr. Foxs analysis is impressive, it should be highly valued, BUT it can not be take as Gospel. If this were a crime scene rather than a battlefield, no jury would convict on Foxes analyis. Foxes "forensic analysius" overlooks that eveidence has been tampered with PARTICULARLY around the bodies of the 7th Cavalry men: they were buried, disinterred and rebuired, people have been walking abouth the areas where they fee (because they were marked) far mor than the firing positions of the American Indians. The area has been in weather for for over 125 years and has been the scene of brush fires. So you can make "Interesting Observations" (and they add to the puzzle), but they are they have their limits, limits the NPS choses to ignore, my belieif, for political expediency.

  35. 35
    Lew Frank says:

    It comes down to this: None of you know what happened. Michno's opinions are exactly that. This is proven based on the fact that there will never be any agreement. on the actual events. No amount of research will validate or disprove any of your claims. You take one point and extrapolate it to reach a conclusion. That's okay and acceptable since this is an open discussion. But we all need to face the fact that we'll never know, and all of our little opinions are so much dust in the wind.

    What I object to is juvenile writing by a professional author. The entire "deal with it" smacks of an insecure man who is afraid of being discovered, of others seeing his scholarship as retreaded material. "Deal with it" is something I would expect from an uneducated man, not a published author. It's really an embarrassment to all of us.

  36. 36
    Jerry Sauer says:

    Come on now let's be real! If the tribes wer e surprised by Reno and the coward did not follow his orders tocause panic and confusion on the south end it was doomed for failure. Imay be wrong but there is a great advantage for cavalry to be mounted when Reno dismounted his men not only did he decrease his force by having each fourth man hold horses he turned his men into infantry. I to this day cannot believe that Benteen could not hear firing of some kind and had plenty of time to help George I believe George said "Be Quick" another officer disobeying a written order .Like I said a let's be real if everyone would of followed orders it very well could of turned out different. THank you.

    • 36.1
      Gene Moore says:

      I suspect Reno did not press his attack because he knew that Custer had a habit of abandoning patrols that he sent into combat. Custer did it at the Washita with the result that the members of the patrol were never seen alive again. Of course they probably ran into the Dog Soldiers who were riding up from the lower villages to assist in the defense of the village under Black Kettle, a pacifist among the Cheyenne.
      Just like Custer did at the Greasy Grass, with the same result

  37. 37
    Steve Murphy says:

    To say Custer did not disobey orders is ludicrous.

    First, he was clearly told NOT to follow the trail directly toward the Little Bighorn. "…proceed up the Rosebud until you ascertain definitely the direction in which the trail above spoken of leads. Should it be found (as it appears almost certain that it will be found to turn towards the Little Horn, he thinks that you should still proceed southward, perhaps as far as the headwaters of the Tongue, and then turn towards the Little Horn, feeling constantly, however, to your left, so as to preclude the possibility of the escape of the Indians to the south or southeast by passing around your left flank…."

    You can say he was given certain latitude, "…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 was more than 20 miles from the village when HE CHOSE to disobey and follow the trail directly toward the Little Bighorn. That cannot possibly be construed as "nearly in contact".

    Also, per the order…"The Department Commander desires that on your way up the Rosebud you should thoroughly examine the upper part of Tullock's Creek, and that you should endeavor to send a scout through to Colonel Gibbon's column, with information of the result of your examination." He was given a scout (George Herendeen) for that specific purpose. He did NOT do it; and here there is no ambiguity nor is there any "latitude" for changing the orders.. Additionally, that would have been a golden opportunity to send word to his commanding officer that he had absolutely changed the plan without any knowledge or consent from his commanding officer or the cooperating unit(s).

    I am not "throwing stones" or "kicking a dead lion" as Gen. Miles said. I am merely pointing out that orders were clearly not followed. Was that the cause of the defeat? Can't say, but it surely set things in motion and the commanding officer and cooperating units no longer had any knowledge of the actions of the 7th Cavalry and were in no position to suport them.

    • 37.1
      Robert says:

      Your allegations of disobedience are thin. If you looked at the organization for Combat you will immediatley recognize that the main effort was with Custer. (If you dont understand how an org for combat is developed you need to ask a qualified military person). Additionally The orders were written without foreknowledge of the actual location of the Indian Camp and are clearly ramblings of a commander guessing where they could be. The main goal of the whole campaign was to destroy or capture the majority of Indians that were not on the reservation. After locating the main trail why bother to keep searching all the places Terry was guessing they may be? This is like making a list of where your lost car keys are, finding them at the second place you listed, but then looking at the rest of your list to make sure your car keys are not there also. No commander worth a crap would do that. The idea that the Custer column and and Terry/Gibbon Column were to cooperate requires extreme imagination. Given the distances involved, the lack of knowledge on the location of the objective and no "real time" communication reveals this concept as pure impractability. I think it was just good luck that Terry came upon Benteen within a day and a half of battle. Had custer chased around to all the other places Terry had in his orders it may have been a week or more before the two columns would have met. One thing custer did fail to do is send out his messenger scout. I can forgive him for that since it would have been a "one shot" deal and he would have wanted to send on the most current/best information possible. When would that be? When he finally came into contact with the village he probably decided to wait until the engagement was over and let Terry know how it turned out. If terry really intended to cooperate his column with custers he should have required daily status reports by messenger but that would have been impractical. There were not enough scouts to accomplish this requirement and using troops (probably a detail of 4 with 1 NCO) would have depleted the Custer command of at least a company by the time he got to the little big horn. Lets not forget these kinds of details would probably get lost or be easy pickings for a larger indian hunting party roaming around. After all is said and done I am not sure what value these messages would have been given that the distance between the commands was at least several days apart. In short the Terry order was totally inadequate for any kind of cooperative effort, custer was on his own and he knew it.

  38. 38
    History Buff says:

    After re-reading the article and the numerous posts I must point out that there seems to be some misguided concept that Cavalry fought on horseback all the time. That is not the case. It makes great Hollywood visuals with the gallant cavalry charging to the rescue. Cavalry, by this time had to fight almost exclusively on foot (Look at Farnsworth's debacle at Gettysburg to see a prime reason. The Brits at Balaclava could tell you why also). The horse was transportation; not a weapon. The 7th didn't even bring their sabres to save weight and the troopers were BARELY trained in how to fire their weapons at stationary targets while standing still on the ground, let alone trying to hit moving targets (that are shooting back) from the back of a charging horse! Basically, Cavalry was a scouting and screening force that could move quickly, cover ground, and become (very) light infantry. The Indians fought Cavalry with some success throughout the west from pre-Red Cloud's War until the end. They rarely, if ever tried to take on infantry if they could avoid it and had very few successes when they did.

    Also, repeating weapons do not necesarily mean better weapons. The Henry and Winchester Rifles of the time were basically firing pistol rounds at about 1/2 to 2/3 the range and power of the .45-55 Carbine (the disparity becomes even greater compared to the .45-70 rifle which the Infantry carried). Which means that the soldiers should have been able to hold them at bay with the superior range of their weapons (200 soldiers with 100 rounds each is 20,000 rounds on hand even without the "pacs". Even at the most outlandish estimates of indian numbers it should have been plenty to at least buy time). Unfortunately, the terrain allowed the indians to close the distance and appear then disappear then reappear… negating this advantage; combine this with the indians going after the horses and horse holders thus depriving the troopers of 1/2 of the ammunition and 1/4 of the manpower available (HMMM, which side's tactics were working better???). If, as accounts say soldiers threw away pistols because it took too long to holster them, or used the carbine as a club because they didn't have time to re-load how do you think they could re-load the 12 plus rounds in a Winchester??? At best, they would have become single shots or clubs at the pivotal moments. Also, while a gun is generally superior to a Bow and Arrow; in this case, the arrow, not being a line of sight weapon could be "lobbed" into formations from behind ridges and the bow does not give off a tell-tale puff of smoke when fired making it even harder to see where the shots came from.

    The research in this article seems superficial and the very selective use of some eye-witness testimony and quotes taken out of context and simply ignoring other eye-witness testimony, quotes and sources that don't support the authors desired outcome makes this article just another bunch of opinion and revisionist history packaged as a study of the battle.

  39. 39
    Willie says:

    Mr Murphy:

    Custer didn't disobey anything !

    You omitted the part of Terry's order that said he desired for Custer to conform to the orders "unless you shall see sufficient reason for departing from them". Evidently, he saw "sufficient reason" to depart from the orders (which didn't say anything about waiting til he was within 20 miles of the village).

    As a result, he was FOLLOWING Terry's order.!

  40. 40
    Willie says:

    On Page 6, Para 1, Gregory Michno states that: ""North to most Indians is East to white observers" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . HUH ?

    Never heard that before and could not understand it, so I asked five different Indians, 2 Crow, 2 Cheyenne and 1 Lakota – all "old timers", about it at the Battlefield Reenactment last week. 3 of em said they didn't have a clue what it meant, 1 just shook his head & walked away, and 1 just stared at me as if to say "whatcha been drinkin', wasichu ?"

    Anyone know what it's supposed to mean ?

  41. 41
    Lew says:

    Myth 11: Giovanni Martini was really named Giovanni Martino. And his life involved much more than simply being Custer's bugler and the last white man to see him alive. A most excellent piece has been written about him and it's a page turner! See link:

    http://shutuptheblog.blogspot.com/2010/07/life-of-giovanni-martino-john-martin.html

  42. 42
    Ken says:

    Hello…

    I am curious to know if ANYONE HERE might happen to know if anyone is interested in purchasing John Mulvany's masterpiece "Custer's Last Rally"?

    I have on good authority that the current owner is looking to monetize some pieces from his private collection.

    If so, please contact me here via this post:

  43. 43
    Dave says:

    Many have asked, "If Custer's tactical decisions were right, why did he lose?" When the tactical decision to divide his force (which was normal and successful on many occasions), he could only command the other elements via messenger. He sent messages with strict orders. "Come up. BE QUICK". No one ever "came up". To begin the battle Custer ordered Reno to attack the village. This was the first order given in the battle. Reno never attacked the village. He galloped close to the village then broke off the attack. This action allowed the villagers to divert and attack Custer.

    His tactical decisions were sound. The implementation of his orders was avoided. Benteen and Reno combined had MORE men than Custer. Had Custer's orders been obeyed, there might have been a different result. We will never know. But, why is it so hard to agree that "if" something different happened…there might have been a different result?

    The author said, "Deal with it". Oh my! Let's ignore all he said because he offended someone. Truth be told, the truth was told. Never did the author claim Custer WOULD have won. Rather, he MIGHT have. Fine article.

  44. 44
    Alan Johnson says:

    I liked the article. It provides a thumbnail sketch of opinions Michno has published before. Those who fault this article for being not detailed enough should remember that it is a magazine article, not a book. If one wants to see Michno’s documentation, there are many pieces available.

    I suggest one start by reading “Lakota Noon” and “The Mystery of E Troop.” Among contemporary Custer scholars, the bulk of Michno’s points here are well accepted. Probably the most controversial is his opinion that there are not 28 missing bodies buried in Deep Ravine.

    Michno makes a strong point that archeological surveys have not yet found a single piece of human remains there. There are 206 bones in the human body; multiply that by 28 supposed bodies in Deep Ravine and that makes 5,768 bones. It is huge that not a single bone or fragment thereof has been found in test holes drilled in likely parts of Deep Ravine.

    Is this fact conclusive? No, because not all of the ravine has been surveyed. Many would like to see the ground surveyed below refuse that was piled at one point in the past. So the entire ravine has not yet been eliminated as a burial site. But the absence of any remains from multiple test holes drilled in likely places of the ravine is certainly supportive of Michno’s argument. As far as testimony from soldiers in the burial party, it is contradictory. Michno points to statements that would support his theory. Those who argue with him can point to other testimony that seems to indicate the burials could not be any place other than Deep Ravine. As far as Deep Ravine is concerned, Michno’s is a minority view, but still worthy of consideration.

    Let me address the argument of whether Custer did or did not blunder in this battle. There seems to be a common argument out there that holds that since his immediate command was annihilated, that Custer must have blundered. Earlier posts have argued that “if Custer did everything right” (as they seem to think Michno is saying) then how come he lost?

    This seems to come from a common holding in the white man’s view that Indians should not have been able to wipe out five companies of cavalry in the field. Therefore it could only result from one of two things, or both; Custer blundered, or there were way too many Indians. Too many people do not want to give the Indians credit for the victory on their own merits. So to these folks, The Lakota and Cheyenne only won because Custer gave the game away.

    Michno points out that Custer’s tactics, a charge to divert and fix Indian fighters in one direction while employing a flank attack, is not strange or foolhardy on its face. While we don’t know what exactly Custer was thinking, that much is obvious from what we do know. We also know that he did not attempt his flank attack. What little skirmishing was done at MTC, does not indicate a serious attempt to ford the river there.

    We also know that Custer eventually wound up in the high ridge that forms the battleground; that’s where the bodies were found. We also can surmise that whatever Custer intended to do from that point, he thought he needed Benteen’s three companies and additional ammo to do it. He sent two messengers to hurry Benteen and the packs. We know exactly what the last message said; Benteen saved it for us. And we know that neither Benteen’s battalion nor any extra ammo made it to Custer.

    So it’s a safe assumption or educated guess that Custer deployed along the ridge to wait for Benteen and the ammo. Should he have been waiting there? It’s easy to judge in hindsight. He and his command wound up dead, therefore anything else he might have done could hardly have come out worse.

    But we have to judge Custer by what he knew at the time he made his decisions. What he did “know“ killed him.

    He and every other officer who planned that campaign knew one thing: Indians, contested by a significant force of the US Army would flee, fighting only a rear guard action while the village escaped. All you need to do is read the diaries and letters of all the other officers and men who participated in the planning and execution of the 1876 campaign.

    They all thought the problem would be to fix the Indians in one place to bring them to battle. That’s what was on Custer’s mind when he planned first to approach the village by stealth at night and attack the morning of the 26th. At that same time, Gibbon’s command would be waking up nearby on the Little Big Horn, for those that think that Custer’s driving reason for the attack was to cut Gibbon out of the action. Fleeing Indians was what was also on his mind when belief that the command had been discovered caused him to push up the attack to as soon as he could get there on the 25th.
    But something funny happened on the way to catch fleeing Indians. They didn’t flee. They fought an offensive action instead of a defensive action. Custer had every reason to think he could pause and be only slightly molested on that ridge. His experience and the experience of every other officer on that 1876 campaign told him so. But he and every other officer were wrong. Crook and his officers had only learned this lesson one week before, but could not or did not pass this information to the other columns.

    The Indians did everything right. They improvised on the spot. As individual fighters that didn’t answer to a central command, this battle was tailor-made for them. They had individual flexibility on their side at precisely the time the soldiers' inflexible combat doctrine had failed. The lucky accident of the terrain allowed them to move very close by stealth. Moving in close took away the advantage Custer had with his Springfields. Without the ability to sneak close, Custer’s men could have held the warriors at bay and out of range of their less powerful weapons. Those much-vaunted repeaters held by some 200 of the Indians had far less range than Custer’s rifles and were less accurate at long distance. Moving in close changed the advantage to the rapid fire of the repeaters.

    Custer’s men had no effective weapons for hand-to-hand fighting. When the warriors closed with the soldiers, the advantage was all to the Indians. And they had the superior motivation. They were fighting for their homes and families, who would have been in direct peril had they failed
    .
    Did Custer get his men killed? I could make a stronger argument that Grant and railroad barons, along with mining interests got Custer and his men killed, by their unprovoked drive to chase the winter-roaming Indians from ground they were legally living on, all to make way for illegal mining of the Black Hills and the building of a transcontinental railroad along the Yellowstone River.

  45. 45
    Ross Osborn says:

    There is that old saying, and it works here. "It's rough to remember your goal was to drain the swamp, when you're up to you ass in aligators.'

    I feel that Custer and crew jumped in over their heads, but he led the jump.

    Simper fi, dog face.

  46. 46
    Otter says:

    We must all remember that the Indians picked-up the spent cartridges. Just because no cartridges were found on Last Stand Hill, doesn't mean that no stand was made at this point. Many men died on this hill and many Indian women were stripping and hacking up the bodies. It onlt stands ro reason that they would have picked-up most of the cartridges.

  47. 47
    Otter says:

    If Benteen would have followed the order, "bring packs, be quick", Custer might have made it. One can only assume that Custer meant, bring ammo and get here fast. Benteen, who was jealous of Custer and hated him, choose to believe that the message was meant for the officer in charge of the pack train and not him. So he continued slowly and even stopped to water his horses. After reading the Reno Inquiry, I blame Benteen for not following orders. Custer's trail, by Reno's report, was next to where Reno retreated to and Benteen would have easily found it. By being quick, he would have seen Reno in the woods, BEFORE the retreat, and would have been able to follow Custer's trail. They should have hung Benteen for not following orders and causing the death of the commanding officer.

    • 47.1
      SharonH says:

      I could not agree with you more. What part of that message did Benteen not understand? Martini's lack of language skills had nothing to do with it; the short, curt sentences speak for themselves.

      The Reno Inquiry was a joke. Men were afraid to come forward and speak about his (Reno's) extreme intoxication for fear of repercussions. In between testimonies, all the big wigs involved joked and drank together-a "good ol' boys' club" if ever there was one.

      Even the map presented at the inquiry had been tampered with. Everything was done to exonerate both Reno and Benteen and put the blame on the man who could not defend himself-Custer. That Benteen was not punished for his disobedience is to me one of the biggest injustices in our military history.

      Regarding Captain Weir, as mentioned by another poster-it appears that he was extremely distraught by Benteen's refusal to go to Custer's aid and for the rest of his life probably could not live with the thought of what he may have seen as a preventable massacre. He did become a severe alcoholic and was certainly suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress until the end of his life a few months later, a broken shell of a man.

      I am not a huge fan of Custer in any way, but that short note speaks volumes. Benteen was no coward, as shown by his subsequent actions, so one is left to ponder his motives in choosing to stay put. Certainly his almost pathological dislike of Custer (and vice-versa) must be factored in.

      As an aside, the mental toll this battle took on so many of the survivors is sad indeed and indicates the horror of that day. We will never know the true extent of the psychological damage suffered by those who "survived". A very sad story for everyone concerned.

      • 47.1.1
        fred says:

        Sarah H

        I like your perspective. My comments are under "Fred" and one under Robert.

        Do you have anything published?

    • 47.2
      Gene Moore says:

      If Benteen had followed the order, he and his men would have simply added to the scavenger's feast.
      The cavalry troopers were too tired, poorly armed and outnumbered to have done anything but what a large portion of them did, die.

  48. 48
    David Custer says:

    The outcome of this battle, started over a thousand miles away. A corrupt Pres Grant,and his stalwart cronies, were upset, that Custer had testified against Sec of war Belknap, and got him fired, which he deserved. Grant set out to arrest Custer,and to destroy his character. Why then, did he allow Custer, to go on this excursion? hmm…
    Why was Custer refused,his original request for officers, and given Benteen instead? Benteen was slow to come, with his firepower. It wouldnt have mattered? How then, was Benteen able to withstand the concentrated attack for days after the battle, with half the men?
    Cavalry not important? Of course it is, and Reno should never have dismounted.But, he didnt have many men, his scout was killed before him, brains splattering on him, and if he was drunk,I can understand his lack of clarity. His retreat up the hill, instead of staying on flat land, was probably the correct one. Benteen, no doubt heard the fight, and his slow response, caused many to die. When he caught up with Reno, had he moved quickly to Custers aid,the story may have ended differently. How long he argued with captain Weir,before Weir left alone with his men, I just dont know. Benteen had the firepower, and was content to stay put. It is certain, that he was very happy to see Custer dead. He had wanted to duel him earlier. Grant was also happy, as Custer had arrested his son, for being drunk. Custer was a democrat,in a republican world. The stalwarts got the revenge they wanted, and continued to plunder the American people. The whistleblower was dead, and the captains of industry,free to carry on, as they do to this day.The legend of Custer, and his deeds, are of a fighter in the civil War, an Indian fighter,but his unknown greatest deed, was his fight against the corruption in the high places,against the powers that be.

    • 48.1
      John Koster says:

      Good point, Dave. Whatever else, Custer provided some very useful testimony against William Worth Belknap and the other crooks who were stealing from the Indians and the soldiers alike. His testimony was well documented and the signed statement he presented was a useful party of the evidence again Belknap.

      John Koster

  49. 49
    J.Vance says:

    As a historian that has read various accounts of the famed Custer event(s), this is a unique and perspective that the author valiantly (no pun intended) attempts to defend. However, the article's premises and arguments have assumptions that, upon examination, reveal that the central defense put forth of Custer's actions does not run counter to the many more historical opinions of Custer as a man, whose weakness, among other things was hubris. As example, the author ostensibly sets out to defend Custer's charge (raid?) as a "good thing" by arguing that Custer did not disobey his superior officer, that he listened to his scouts, and the Indian Village was not immense. The author would like unsuspecting readers to assume that because of these and other "facts", Custer did the right thing. The problem is, however, that even if he, Custer, did not disobey his superior officer and DID listen to his native American scouts for intel, this does not prove that Custer did not also suffer from fatal pride, which–the bulk of established and credentialed historians–attributed to his demise. (I do not care how heavily armed you were in those days, a group of 300 against 1500 IS/WAS an immense village and something that should have given a leader pause–whatever persuation from others). If the author addressed similar issues that I raise here, he would be well on his way to producing a piece of good historical analysis. However, it was an interesting read.

  50. 50
    Dion Penn says:

    I am a Full-Blooded Lakota Native American (Rosebud Sioux Enrolled to be exact). I was told the story of the Battle of the Little Big Horn thru word of mouth tradition…..Regardless of How badly the battle went for the 7th Cavelry,……Y'all need to understand that the "Indians" were there NOT causing any problems for anyone,……they just wanted to be in gathering in their own way and traditions……..The way things went for the soldiers policy of treating the Indians during these raid or attacks,……were to take out ALL of em'!! Men ,women and children………It is true the Indians DID NOT know of any plans of attack and really did not expect one unless there was ALOT more troops to show up. The battle itself was to have only last about 5 minutes, the Indians rode thu the soldiers 2 times and it was over……Mostly of the "Killing " was from "hand-to Hand" combat that the Indians inflicted on them and quite a few indian warrior accounts of running toward the soldiers finding many of them ALREADY dead. But I mainly put this due to as facinating to history buffs ( yours truly ), The Warriors and Women whom faught back on that fateful day were doing only what any normal Family human being would do,……they were defending their families and their right to survive from those that had already demonstrated that they should not even exist………..Besides that, there was the Wounded Knee Massacre when the 7th Cavarly killed over 300 men ,Mostly women and children in South Dakota in 1890……It was more of they were Murdered!!! Especially since a little over 30 U.S. soldiers were killed by their own guns in the "haste" of the beginning of the slaughter………It is a fact that 90% of my people have been wiped out thru out the years,……..soooooo when it comes to the Battle of the Little Bighorn,…….The Indians were greatly under estimated by a Glory hungry " arrogant Commander ( His Fault),….DEAL WITH IT.

    • 50.1
      A. Magoo says:

      Right on. I concur !

    • 50.2
      fred says:

      Hey Dion

      Ya right, the Sioux were living in "peace, love and harmony" in the american west. The fact of the matter was the Sioux were the "bullies" attacking anyone they found vulnerable rationalizing that if someone was weak they either deserved to die or at least have their horses stolen from them. Notice how both Custer and Crook had large numbers of Indian allies with them, allies because they were always at war with the Sioux as well.
      So 14 years after the LBH the Sioux are still at war and want to start things up again with their ghost dance. I noticed you left out the part where the Sioux were asked to surrender their weapons but didn't. When the 7th searched their personal belongings for the modern weapons that they claimed they didnt have the shooting started killing many of the soldiers involved with the search. The Army responded with cannon fire on the mass of indians involved, a consequence that the Sioux have a responsibility to share.
      Abhoring the killing women and children is a European construct that you use to make naive whites feel guilty. The truth is the Sioux did the same thing as a matter of routine. The Wounded Knee Massacre was nothing more then the Sioux reaping what they had sowed.

  51. 51
    Bobby Kerns says:

    I find the Battle of The Little Big Horn facinating.I also like to read about other people's thoughts. My theory is that if Reno would have held his position in the timber and Custer would have attacked in force at Medicine Tale Coulee Benteen would have arrived soon enough with the pack train not far behind.The Indians could not have fought on two fronts without command structure. Wherever Benteen showed up at he would also have caused confusion among the Indians.However when Reno lost control for whatever reason my thoughts are and he stated that he expected Custer to support him from the rear. I'm sure it wasnt Reno's first time to be drinking on a battlefield rather I think it was common in those days.By not engaging the Indians in force Custer himself did not give Reno expected supprt. If Reno had not lost his head and Custer would have attacked in force in support I believe the outcome would have been entirely different!

  52. 52
    Joe kelly says:

    Dionn did you see the Vanguard episode on Pine Ridge Reservation most rapes in the United States. Sioux will never change..

  53. 53
    Jim says:

    Let me say, that I just got into this Custer/LBH thing recently. Knew only the stuff they taught me in school until I bought "Custer's Luck". Wow, couldn't believe how false my previous beliefs were.
    For those of you who thought this was a mission doomed to failure, I must disagree. After reading several first-hand accounts, when Reno was seen charging with his battalion, nearly ALL the indians fled. So why dismount? Heck, history should've shown Reno that when a cavalry force faced a much larger body of indians, a mounted charge had always caused the enemy to scatter. Only when they dismounted, did more warriors start to approach, but not within 300 yards. Reno, then moved his troops into the trees…a very defendible position since it was in a natural depression and afforded much cover for the troopers. In this position he was still a huge threat to the indian encampment. Sitting Bull actually ordered the camp to break since he thought Reno's position was too strong.
    So Reno decides to bail from this great position and flees to the hills. The interesting thing here is, when the troops mounted up and started to ride, the indians actually started to flee since they thought they were going to be the focus of a cavalry charge. As soon as they realized that it was actually a retreat, they turned and killed something like 33 of the fleeing troops…
    So basically, what I am saying is Myth #11: The Indians planned to stay and fight. Nope, only when Reno took flight and lost all initiative did the natives get emboldened and start on the offensive.
    As for Custer not coming to Reno's support with the rest of the force, no he did not since he was never given a chance. He waited in the hills for Benteen to show up. He spread out the force that he directly commanded, in my opinion, since Boston just passed Benteen and probably told George that Benteen should be here in a few minutes. Some say Benteen didn't know where Custer was located? Boston found him probably by following the dust the horses kicked up, but Benteen couldn't do the same? Hell, why not ask the guy who just handed you the order?
    Benteen shows up on Reno Hill MINUTES after Reno's men arrive there. Reno takes off for a half hour or so to find a dead friend. With no enemy around, why didn't Benteen assume command and lead the four hundred plus soldiers to Custer, or even, attack the village like Reno's original order? There were no braves to slow them down. Sitting Bull stated that he didn't have warriors around Reno Hill at this time since all he needed were squaws to deal with Reno's men.
    Sorry for the rambling folks, but this stuff is addictive!

    Jim

  54. 54
    emma says:

    Custer was a butcher and it is a pity he didn't suffer a more painful death

    • 54.1
      Todd says:

      I agree. The plan was to kill all the natives and Custer even said that there would be plenty for us to kill. The plaque at the indian side of the hill says: they came to attack our village what would you do? We protected ourselves and killed them all. Sitting Bull.

  55. 55
    mike says:

    Hey fellas,I have a question; Long time ago probably after the fire I read a piece in National Geographic about a body of a trooper being found half buried in the bank of the river or ravine. Had photos and all, they called him Mike. Does anyone know what I'm talking about and can point me in the right direction to research it a little thanks

  56. 56
    bobby kerns says:

    I believe Mike was found along the Reno retreat route on the river bank.

  57. 57
    mike says:

    Thanks Bobby. I can't find nothing about him on any site yet.Got any ideas? would you know about what year the piece came out in national Geo? thanks mike

  58. 58
    bobby kerns says:

    Mike i'm trying to locate material on him i've got some , also have you done web search? I'll let you know what I find.

  59. 59
    marcus says:

    I have a question. It appears to me that the advances of both Reno and Custer were checked by heavy gunfire and Curly stated that the gunfire was so rapid it sounded like ripping cloth. That is a lot of ammunition. How is it that the defenders of the camp were that well supplied?

  60. 60
    bobby kerns says:

    I don't think Reno or Custer either one were checked at first by heavy gunfire. I think Reno with out any experience fighting Indians was surprised there were Indians coming to fight rather than fleeing his charge all he was ever told was that the Indians would flee.They did not this alone rattled him for him to then halt his charge at this point gave the Indians courage and time to rally from a desperate situation to a force to reckon with! Then across the river Custer for some reason stopped being aggressive another blunder! I do believe a student of the battle has to seriously ask why? I myself believe only because they must of had something critical happen only the loss of leadership could explain this!Think about it Reno is engaged and you stop at the river at a crossing under light resistance out of the question for Custer. He had to be the one that was shot at the river!This would explain their having to pull back and regroup. Waiting on Benteen is not what you do with a battle already unfolding only if your leader is incapacitated might you!This has to be what happened!The ripping of the blanket shooting happened later during the collapse of Custers 5 companies!

  61. 61
    Jim says:

    Bobby,
    Two problems with Custer being shot at the river. First, the person claimed to have been shot was described as wearing buckskin jacket. It was noted by a witness from the 7th that Custer had taken off his jacket and tied it to the back of his saddle. Second, upon finding Custer's body, the ground near his body was littered with .50-70 brass from his Remington no. 1 rolling block.
    Why didn't Custer charge the village? Maybe he did?! Serveral Indian accounts place soldiers in the village and torching tepees. Also, remember that Boston met up with him and probably told him Benteen was just a few minutes behind him. But honestly, it really is anybody's guess what happened after Martini left with his message to Benteen. After reading all of Custer's accomplishments during the Civil War, it is tough for me to assume he made dumb mistakes since tactically he was always pretty sharp.

    Jim

  62. 62
    bobby kerns says:

    Jim I think that you have good points.I too have read the accounts of the Remington brass around his body and him on top of other troopers I also have not read or have forgotten about him taking his buckskin jacket off interesting!My problem is he wanted surprise on his side found a crossing and then would lose his advantage by pulling back to wait on Benteen?He had prior never seemed to care about odds was always very aggressive he had to know he would lose his advantage.I have studied, read about, twice been to the battle site want to go again.bought every book about the battle I can find I've have had a lifelong fascination with the battle i'm 53 and still cannot figure out for sure what went so wrong and why.Just have theories and appreciate everyone else's.

  63. 63

    [...] times Ten Myths of the Little Bighorn I found this to be pretty interesting. It must have been some fight, soldiers following orders, a [...]

    • 63.1
      Clint says:

      I’ve read Gregory Michno’s comments and found them on the whole to be both interesting and accurate (except for the one that describes an Indian’s sense of direction that “north” is “east”. Maybe there is a better explanation for the direction confusion; but as it is described, it sounds quite odd). Yes, his style may appear somewhat defensive, but don’t confuse style with accuracy or insight.

      There are so many misconceptions and misinterpretations about the events surrounding that day, no single theory of what actually happened will be accepted by most people. The fact is, we will never know. But certain conclusions can be drawn from what we do know.

      Custer’s tactics have been brought into question. Surprisingly, I did not read any reference to The Battle of Washita River, which I believe Custer used as a template for the Battle of the Little Big Horn. For those of you unfamiliar with this battle, in November 1868, Custer and his seventh cavalry attacked a large encampment of Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, Comanche, and Kiowa-Apache bands, that ran ten to fifteen miles along the Washita River. It was estimated this entire encampment was almost as large as the one at the Little Big Horn eight years later, about 6,000 total occupants.

      Custer divided his troops into four separate units, surrounded the Cheyenne lodges of Black Kettle and in the early morning hours, he launched a surprise attack on the village. Within a relatively short amount of time, his men had control of the village and had captured 53 non-combatants, women, children and the elderly. Unknowingly to Custer, this Cheyenne village was only one of several large ones strung along a wide oxbox in the river, running for ten or more miles. Now, alerted, hundreds of warriors from the other villages were approaching them for the north and east. Custer quickly formed a defensive line and prepared for what looked like a major confrontation with a large hostile force.

      But when the rest of the encampment’s warriors saw Custer’s men with the Cheyenne non-combatants, they turned away and fled, presumably unwilling to risk injury or death of their captured kinsmen. The Battle of Washita River of 1868 was hailed as the first substantial U.S. victory in the Southern Plains War, and it helped force a significant portion of the Southern Cheyennes onto a U.S.-assigned reservation. Custer was an instant sensation, recapturing some of his Civil War glory after suffering a court martial for AWOL and a year of inactivity from the year before.

      Largely from his actions at the Washita River, Custer gained a reputation as the best Indian fighter in the West. But this victory did not come without controversy. Twenty-one soldiers were killed at The Battle of Washita River, and all but one came from a small detachment led by Major Joel Elliott. During the battle, Major Elliot became separated from his three companies (a reference to how in the heat of battle, confused troop movements and hasty decisions become the rule and not the exception). Seeing some Cheyenne Indians escaping on horseback, Elliot gathered nineteen men and rode in pursuit, against Custer’s orders not to leave the Cheyenne village.

      Elliot and his men ran headlong into the hundreds of approaching Indians from the upsteam villages, and were wiped out to a man in a single charge. Custer came under criticism from some of his own officers because in the face of a large hostile force he chose to withdraw without knowing the fate of Major Elliot. One of these officers was Captain Frederick Benteen, a close friend of Elliot’s. Benteen never forgave Custer’s actions that day, viewing Custer’s withdrawal as an “abandonment” of Elliot and his men. Ironically, some historians have speculated when Benteen received Custer’s terse “Bring packs, be quick” message, he remembered Custer’s treatment of Elliot, and was in no particular hurry to accommodate him.

      Historians, in particular James Donivan, have speculated the Custer’s experience at The Battle of Washita River served as a template for his actions at the Battle of the Little Big Horn eight years later. His template was: (1) surprise the village, (2) divide forces to attack from more that one direction, (3) quickly locate and capture the non-combatants.

      Unfortunately for Custer, repeating success on the battlefield is often an elusive goal. For one thing, although the encampment at the Light Big Horn was slightly larger than the one Custer had encountered at Washita, it was much more concentrated, with much shorter distances between the individual villages. The reason for this was simple: approximation to neighboring villages was predicated on one thing: available grass. These encampments had Indian ponies numbering in the thousands. Each pony needs a certain amount of grazing area. In November, the grass was much sparser along the Washita that it was in July along the Little Big Horn; therefore, the villages were more spread out.

      The shorter distances of the neighboring villages along the Little Big Horn mean all the warriors could react quicker at the first signs of attack. Unlike 1868, in 1876, this factor played against Custer’s strategy. Also, Custer sent Reno and his command to attack the village and keep them occupied while he planned to enter it from the opposite side, presumably to locate and capture non-combatants. Reno’s premature exit from the battlefield left many warriors now able to react to the new threat from Custer’s men approaching from the banks to the north.

      It has also been speculated that Custer had some issues negotiating a quick trail from the ridge down to the river where in intended to cross and enter the encampment. If this were so, this was time Custer simply didn’t have to give. Between the concentration of villages, and the lack of a sustained attack to draw attention away from them, now the entire warrior population was able to focus exclusively on Custer’s 208 men.

      How close Custer actually got to the river is open to speculation. But it is sure that at some point he realized his plan to capture non-combatants was compromised and he withdrew to the ridge again, this time cutoff and surrounded by vastly superior forces. At this point his tactics went abruptly from taking the offensive, to being defensive. Benteen would not arrive at the last minute; indeed Benteen’s command had rejoined Reno’s and would venture no further.

      I believe Custer’s strategy and tactics were sound, given what he knew at the time. He realized how important the element of surprise was, and at the urging of his Indian scouts, acted decisively to take advantage of it. By all accounts, the initial attack by Reno was met with complete surprise. Obviously, Reno’s failed charge compromised this strategy greatly. Not having a closer and a more reactive Benteen certainly did too.

      If Reno could have sustained his attack longer, it is entirely plausible Custer could have entered the village largely undetected and captured enough non-combatants that caused the Indians to simply withdraw in the direction of Terry’s approaching forces. But military plans often go awry, and when they do all sorts of things happen. Custer and his men paid a terrible price when they did. I think there’s enough blame to go around, from the War Department’s actions of placing a under-strengthen, under-trained troop in the field, with carbines that performed poorly, to Terry, Custer, Benteen, and Reno. Custer deserves some criticism, but certainly not the lion’s share. Most of it came down to a combination of many factors that just happened to meet up that day in Southeastern Montana.

      • 63.1.1
        Gene Moore says:

        Interesting interpretation of the Washita massacre. Somethings that were not mentioned.
        1. Black Kettle was an advocate of peace with the whites and attempted to surrender using a United States Flag as a symbol. He and his wife were both shot in the back trying to flee.
        2. Custer sent a patrol in the direction of the villages farther down the river that he later never supported or even looked for when they did not return. I suspect this figured quite largely in the decisions of Reno and Benteen.
        3. Custer had the captured horse herd slaughtered, convincing the warriors riding in support of Black Kettle's village that he was insane, and therefore protected by the spirits.

  64. 64
    PFC Rex Rooney uscp retired says:

    Custer fought at the little big horn he put himself and his brave me in harms way. The authors of all these books and magazine should be ashamed they probrably never rode a horse or saw a real Indian but they write about a great battle and forget this was the closing of the west for the Indians and the white man was coming .. To bad all these authors can't see this and instead of writing about this sit down and write about your own lost battles and see how we like that rcr

  65. 65
    Sharon H says:

    "Custer fought at the little big horn he put himself and his brave me in harms way."

    Any battle will qualify as putting the men under your command "in harm's way". Custer did as he was commanded. He also had leeway to do what he determined was he thought was best at the time. He did not have the advantage of modern communications, nor was he aware that shortly before, a battle that presaged that of the Little Big Horn had already occurred. I'm sure if he did, Custer would have approached the situation differently and have had a more concise understanding of the strength and size of the Indian camp.

    These authors you seem to despise have done a ton of research, using mainly primary sources from both sides. What else can one do, without the benefit of a time machine? Whether I agree with a particular author or not, I have to acknowledge that he or she has spent a huge amount of time trying to recreate this terrible event.

    P.S. It is hard to take anyone seriously whose post contains so many misspellings and grammatical errors. Also, have you even read any of these authors' works?

  66. 66
    Jim says:

    As an Englishman reading both the article and the responses I would like to contribute the following.
    There are grammatical errors in the piece.
    "shined new light" should of course read "Shone new light"
    SHINE (verb) shine, shines shone
    A lot of the comments would appear to be inherently racist in nature- why on earth do people disbelieve the Native American history of the battle ?
    Not only were they there but they won.
    "History is written by the victors"

    • 66.1
      Sharon H says:

      Your question about "disbelieving" Native accounts shows that you know little of the tradition of oral history and also the nature of the warriors themselves. It seems that those who were in the battle and gave their accounts of what happened provided a very contradictory picture of affairs. Also, warriors contended with each other for bragging rights. How many have claimed "I was the one who killed Custer!" when in reality the fighting was so fast and furious that it was probably impossible to ever know who ended his life.

      True, many people back East refused to hear their side of the story. But not everyone felt that way. After matters had settled down, reporters especially were very intrigued by the Lakota and Cheyenne versions of the battle. IMO probably the best account has been given by the Crow scouts, who had corrected misconceptions about the locations of various events.

      In any case, you are also not taking into account that as time went on some of the warriors were telling the whites what they thought they WANTED to hear, not what exactly happened. Many were anxious to please the authorities in hopes of getting better treatment for themselves and their people. You must take all this into account before using that tired old "racism" label.

      For that matter, white accounts often are wildly all over the place. And by the time of the Reno inquiry, it appears that "facts" changed dramatically to put certain individuals in a better light and vilify Custer, who of course could not defend himself.

      If you want to read Indian accounts of the battle, try Michno's "Lakota Noon". Remember that what they say must be taken at face value and also that, with time, memory fades and also plays tricks with events. This is true for both sides of the story.

  67. 67
    thomas k says:

    i think it was a good piece of work . most of which i have read befor. i read anything on the custer fight ,just read the river and the horse men . good book .. the truth is we will never know what happend at the little bighorn in 1876 . just like we will never know what happend at the alamo. i guess no matter what is said or written i will allways believe that the troopers at the lbh made a last stand . in a way every one that was there made a last stand .

  68. 68
    The Big Guy says:

    Another myth is that John Martin's name was Giovanni Martini. It was Giovanni Martino before he changed it prior to enlistment.
    http://CustersBugler.blogspot.com

    • 68.1
      Ted Ford says:

      Excellent site (re: Custer's Bugler)! Some great pics and a terrifically interesting story.

      • 68.1.1
        Sharon H says:

        Just checked it out–great site. I appreciate when people take an interest in the "lesser names" of this famous event. What an interesting life he had!

  69. 69
    fred says:

    The thing I liked about this article is that the author put toghether a lot of the first hand accounts into something coherent. Several weaknesses are still evident and probably will never be known. The most obvious is the engagement at Blummers ridge. If an Indian Narrative could be linked to that location i think it would put most of the Custer part of the battle into perspective. Just saying "they were on the East bank" leaves room for a lot of interpretation. Too bad the NPS can't borrow the cartridges and cases found at the Blummer ridge site and conduct a forensic examination with the hope of linking the results with other movements on the battlefield.
    The criticism over the lack of government bullets on last stand hill is not conclusive. Last stand hill was the most visited place on the battlefield and subject to decades of people collecting anything they could find. Couple that with the big hole dug for the collection of bones plus the road and parking lot construction disturbances I dont think we can make any conclusions from the evidence gathered there.
    Custers plan of attack fell apart like all plans do. In 1943 the the 8th AF attacked a ball bearing factory in Germany with two bombing elements. The first element of bombers took off followed by a second element some 20 minutes later. The idea was the Germans would commit thier fighters against the first group and while they landed and refueled the second element could bomb unmolested. The problem was the second element was delayed for about an hour providing time for the Germans to refuel, rearm and re-engage resulting in large losses for both bomber elements. They would have been better off going all at once. The same for Custer. He would have been better off going in all together.

  70. 70
    gari says:

    My interpretation is that Custer told Reno to attack and that he would support him with the whole outfit. Reno attacked and Custer did not come.

    Reno, not experienced in Indian fighting, without his commander coming to support, retreats and digs in.

    Benteen gets the message, hears Reno's defence, heads there, in time to stop the Reno command from being annihilated. Reno's battalion was virtually ineffective by now and could possibly be annihilated and Benteen stays to support, by now the pack train has arrived. As I see it, if Custer with a larger command of five companies couldn't handle the Indians then why would Benteen risk his three?

    As I see it, if the Indians could have annihilated Custer's five companies in defensive positions then Benteen's mere three – on horse – would have been easily dealt with. If Benteen had gone to Custer, he would have also been wiped out and then finally so would have the beleaguered Reno.

    I have no doubt that Benteen staying with Reno ensured that the entire 7th Cavalry deployed at LBH that day was not annihilated.

    I doubt we will ever know what really transpired that day, the battleground has had over a century of weather, construction and souvenir hunting, and eye-witnesses – from both sides – are unreliable. I do find it distastefully racist the way White people disregard ALL Indian accounts as unreliable, while cherry-picking White accounts to support a position. We haven't moved on too much really have we….

  71. 71
    fred says:

    Gari

    Your claim that white people have ignored Indian accounts and the corresponding accusation of racism is without merit.
    Refer to the cooments made by Sharon H. above. There are plenty of Native american accounts from the time period but like all accounts suffer from human frailties. Consider the lack of knowledge regarding the bodies in "deep ravine." The Indians report "shooting down" on soldiers and the white survivors talk of "pushing dirt down from the sides" to bury the dead but no archealogical evidence supports these narratives. Are the archeoligists racist just because their findings cannot find these bodies?
    Your accusation of racisim is just an excuse to dismiss the validity of someones arguement because you are too lazy to research the facts.

  72. 72
    david wicker says:

    How can people like gregory michno make hard and fast assertions
    on what happened that day,as if he has some sort of undisputable knowliage.Have an opinion by all means greg but do not arrogantly
    talk as if its your way or the highway.Apart from the obvious,that all
    of custers command perished,NO ONE,not even you greg,knows for
    sure what happened that day.Custer may well have not been killed
    or wounded at the river crossing,but then again he could have been.You dont know,i dont know,and quite frankly,nobody knows.
    Have your own opinions by all means greg,but if you were the only fountain of knowleage on this subject,everything else ever written
    about it would be invalid.Just a little humility old sport never goes astray. regards to all david

  73. 73
    Waldo says:

    That all sounds like a very complicated plan for not knowing the size of the village, its exact location, the number of warriors, or anything about the geography along the east side of the river leading to the village. I don't see how Custer could have hoped to attack the village anywhere near simultaneously with Reno given the much more difficult terrain he had to travel to get to a crossing point. If Reno had not halted his attack on the village, it seems to me he either would have panicked the whole village into flight or been wiped out in close quarter fighting in the village. Either way, the decisive action should have been pretty much over by the time Custer would have been able to cross the river from east of the village. My personal guess is that Custer underestimated the numbers of warriors and their willingness to fight. Perhaps he's not to blame for this, however, given what he'd been told and past experience. Regardless, this underestimation of the Indians led him to take high risk/high reward decisions. He gambled for glory and lost.

  74. 74
    Johnny says:

    The evidence indicates where Custer made his 'last stand' but not that he or his group were the last ones to die and there are many possibilities. This programme gives a good idea of what happpened but the exact run of events will never be absolutely known.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y8bDcD81AiY

  75. 75
    mike says:

    i am Cheyenne… but anyhow … this guy is a nut that in his world Cheyenne and soux did not have the
    right to bear arms we were defending ourselves from terrorism from another land… and that is the truth… deal with it…..ROLMFAO…. and this is just another form of the word his-tory his way…

  76. 76
    Joe Little Bear says:

    I am Crow and I wish to state the Sioux stole our land and that is why we supported the soldiers and Custer as scouts. The Sioux and Cheyenne were terrorist who wiped out whole villages of Crow. They do not belong in the Black Hills.

    • 76.1
      fred says:

      Thanks for your input Joe Little Bear. It annoys me to no end that the Sioux portray themselves as innocent victims in the war on the plains when in fact they were just recieving what they had dished out to the other tribes for hundreds of years (taking land and exterminatation of opponents). Granted the European immigrant changed the dynamics of the whole place but at least there has been peace for everyone since the 1890's. In the grander scheme of things there is not a people group on earth that has not been over-run by another people group at one time or another. Only in this country can people find money in harboring resentment.

      • 76.1.1
        Sharon H says:

        Yes, this has been true throughout the history of mankind all over the world. It is just the nature of things. A people are overrun and conquered. Then another group comes along and the cycle begins again.

        The current trend to blame the evil whites is ridiculous. It is just history repeating and repeating itself. I believe it is in the genes of homo sapiens everywhere.

        As Joe Little Bear stated, the Sioux had driven the Crows from their land. Previous to that, the Chippewas had done the same thing to the Sioux, forcing the latter out onto the plains where they encountered the Crow. A lot of people who aren't that much into history don't realize the Sioux were actually a woodlands tribe and their famous (and very interesting) culture was relatively new and lasted for just over 150 years.

    • 76.2
      John Koster says:

      Joe Little Bear? Two Crow friends on the Crow Reservation say that Little Bear is a Cheyenne name and that they don't know anybody named Joe Little Bear on the Crow reservation. A Cheyenne of that name married into the Crow Nation many years ago but is now deceased. Sr, Richard Littlebear is a genuine Indian but he is Cheyenne, not Crow. Can you furnish some proof of your tribal status such as which clan you belong to, where you live, and how your family name is pronounced in Crow? My Crow friends may be mistaken, but this looks like a vulgar hoax and should not be tolerated among honest and decent people simply because it is convenient or comforting to Custer fans. I heard from Tom and Suzie Yellowtail and Sarge Old Horn, all Crow, what they as modern Indians thought of Custer and what they thoiyght of the "Sioux" and Cheyenne. The sentiments in the quiote were described in similar terms.

  77. 77
    fred says:

    Concur with your assessment with regard to N. Miles. After the LBH the Indians scattered. All the Army columns stayed in the field throughout the rest of the summer looking for them and found nothing until Slim Buttes sometime in the fall, and then only a small part of the original village was engaged. Nelson Miles primarily relied on his walk a heaps (infantry) and successfully employed a few pieces of artillery as opposed to the hollywood version of the Calvary.

  78. 78
    Joe Little Bear says:

    My family is from Crow Reservation as am I. I worked my summers as a youth in Garryowen which has the gas station and the once private museum.I left at 18 to join the Army and have served my 20 years and now live in another state. I do not need to place my family tree on this board as I have not seen anyone else do so and you insult me by even making such a racist statement as to prove who I am and where I was born. 1st If these people you mention told you their names you must own a time machine.2nd you would know that our language is not being passed down as much as it should be and less then 70 % speak it any more. Can you furnish evidence to me your not another Sioux from Pine Ridge. If you need to rely on deceased friends to give you information it seems to me that you are a Sioux or pushing the Sioux agenda to take more of the Crow land. I see your Pine Ridge Reservation still has a high crime rate and the highest rapes in the USA. Maybe my friends who live by there can tell me more. I make a statement and you call me out to prove who I am. You are not worth my time. I know Sarge Old Horn we consider a traitor who is big in Russel Means autobiography a name the Sioux like to throw around so you have given yourself away with that name mentioned in Russel Means autobiography.And Tom Yellowtail died in 1993 so I sure would like to know how you heard from him. Susie Yellow Bear was married toTom in my grandparents times the 1920's.Susie died in 1981 so I think you are full of lies and I challenge you to prove to me how you are talking to our people who have been dead for years.When you heard that Tom Yellowtail was one of our Medicine men and Sun Dance leader you should have checked first to see if he was alive. I am done with you now as you have insulted my tribe and my family by your lies . I do not pretend to have learned my language fluently as I work in cattle. And any of you readers on this board can check on Tom and Susie Yellowtail just google Tom Yellowtails name as this fool has done. Thing is he didnt read enough about him to know that he has been dead many years and so has his wife. Another Sioux insult to take the dead and speak of them as in the present. You will suffer badly in the afterlife for what you have said today. Now maybe you people can understand more of why we do not like the Sioux. Joe DAX PIT SE The word for Bear that my brother has told me. See Im an American I read and speak English.

  79. 79
    John Koster says:

    Tom Little Bear: Your credentials are entirely in order. I of course knew that Tom and Suzie Yellowtail were both deceased. Suzie, I believe, died at Thanksgiving dinner and Tom was distraught. Tom was a medicine man who wore a crew cut and a peace medal and Suzie was the first Crow RN. Suzie and Tom lived at guests at my house for about 10 days during the 1970s and she used to answer the door, wrapped in a traditional blanke and braids, and say \John's not home\ accompanied by my 120-pound malemute dog. The locakl police have been leery of me ever since. I assure you I did not look them up on Google. We helped them round up food and clothing donations and once sent about seven boxes. I considered it rent on America, since I am not a Sioux.
    Suzie did not much like Russell Means either, but when a white man who exploited Indians once expressed his disdain for Means and the Sioux, Suzie told me quietly: \.He hates tghem becvauise they stand up for themselves better than other Indians do…\ They are not afraid to disaghree or to be disagreeable.
    Sarge Old Horn, at about the same time, was active with the Cleveland office of the American Indian Movement and we often discussed what you might call media events. His belief was that all contemporary Indians should focus on problems with the government and public images. I worked in a large newspaper office in those days and whenever Indians in semi-traditiona; clothing and hair styles came in to talk, the white and black people were all terrified…
    It's been a long road but you are entitled to your opinion as I am to mine. I think drastic hostility between modern Indians is a dangerous anachronism. Now thay you have absolutely confirmed that you are a genuine Indian, I hope you will use this and other web sites to express your honest opinions as you have here.

  80. 80
    I'm 5th cousin of G.A.Custer says:

    If you want the real story find out who the president was at the time and his relationship with both Custer and the indians. Next discover how the indian nation really felt about Custer. Then find out what was taken from Custer by the indians. Finally ask yourself why the government covered up the truth all these years right to date. Oh by the way, G.A. Custer is my cousin on my father's side and I am part indian on my mother's side by one band on grandma's side and a different band on my granddad's side.

  81. 81
    Joe Little Bear says:

    They took every thing he owned except his socks a spur and a lower boot. I met the Custer ancestors in Michigan and none have ever stated they have Native American family. Only one Custer male lived.

  82. 82
    Harry Prothero says:

    Indians invented reloading…there was a strict law against selling centerfire military ammo to them…reloading rimfire presented the problem of lining up the 44 rim with the percussion cap inserted in a hole punched near the edge of the cartridge… The tubular mag on the Henry would have made this dubious, while using in an1872 open top the cartridge could be better oriented and probably done… Probably not necessary tho as rimfire was not under the same restriction and could be purchased…the 45 colt and 45-70 on the otherhand with a hole punched on the center and a small stone inserted as an anvil for the percussion primer worked reliably…the brass was therefore valued by the Indian and simply picked up on the battlefield!

  83. 83
    Mike Griffith says:

    I think it's a mistake to place so much trust in the findings from archaeological excavations that were conducted decades after the battle took place. By the time these excavations were carried out, many thousands of people had long since visited the battlefield and had picked up cartridge cases and other items from it. So just because no casings were found on a certain hill or in a certain ravine does not prove what did or did not happen there.

  84. 84
    Paul Jacobs says:

    A core principle of warfare is the concept of superior force at the point of contact. One does not attack a superior force with inferior force and expect to achieve a positive result. So the question is, were Custer's tactics sound? Although he did not know the size of the force against him, his scouts had made it clear to him that the Indians were present in large numbers and warned him that he lacked sufficient strength, even while some urged him to attack. When he divided his force, he had to know that at no point were his separate parts greater than the whole of the force he was meeting. And given the fact that Reno, with only three companies was sent into contact some time before his own five companies made contact he could have anticipated that Reno, with inferior force at the point of contact might be repulsed and defeated. Despite the fact that he apparently achieved surprise, Custer could not have been counting on surprise to assist him; remember, he had been coonvinced that the Indians knew he was present and that surprise had been lost. Thus, he committed a cardinal error: he split his forces so that nowhere at the point of contact did he have superior force against an enemy he assumed was alert to his presence. His tactical dispositions were based upon previous experience against a surprised enemy. That assumption did not apply here. And even if it did, the assumption that history would repeat itself still violated the basic tactical rule.

  85. 85
    Gene Moore says:

    Custer's tactics were flawed. He based them on his only previous experience of attacking a large indian village, his raid on Black Kettle's village on the Washita in Oklahoma.
    Black Kettle was a strong advocate of peace with the whites, as were all the members of his village, they were not warriors. Nor did they want to be.
    Sitting Bulls warriors not only did not want to make peace with the whites, they had already soundly defeated one of the patrols sent against them that summer. They knew that they could defeat the whites in a head to head battle, they had already done it once.
    Custer's worst mistake that day was going into battle in the first place, his men were tired and his judgement was badly skewed. He and his men were dead as soon as they came into sight of the village.

  86. 86
    Michael Custer says:

    Gene,
    You are incorrect about Black Kettle's warriors. Although he was an advocate for peace all historical accounts of the Washita say he could not control his warriors who raid in western Kansas.

    • 86.1
      Michael Custer says:

      Concerning comments 80 and 81. The young man can be a fifth cousin because he and George have a common ancestor. I am a fourth cousin three times removed. Nevin Custer was the only male Custer to have survived and his male children became Army officers.

  87. 87
    Gene Moore says:

    Sorry Mike,

    I spent the first 44 years of my life living in western Kansas, Ford and Hodgeman counties to be exact. My maternal grandmother was a child and young woman during the last quarter of the 19th century. Her father, my great-grandfather, homesteaded the area in the late 1860s. I am very well-versed in the history of the area, both the white and non-white versions.
    Custer attacked a peaceful village of Tsisstas camped on the Washita. He apparently targeted this specific village, Black Kettle was known to display an American flag in front of his lodge after the Sand Creek Massacre. This village was targeted because it was known to be Black Kettle's. There were at least five other \hostile\ villages camped along the river both up and downstream of Black Kettle's. At best, there were less than 30 actual warriors in the village when it was attacked.
    Custer captured in the neighborhood of 200 women and children and used them as a shield to retreat after he sent a patrol after some fleeing villagers that was annihilated by a party of warriors riding to the support of the attacked village. He also captured most of the horse herd for the village that he ordered destroyed. The Indian warriors who witnessed the slaughter were so appalled by this atrocity that they broke off contact with Custer fearing that he was insane and that they might suffer the ill-effects of remaining in contact with him.

    • 87.1
      Ed Custard says:

      You seem to have conflated Sand Creek and the Washita regarding the American flag. Black Kettle had been told by the commander of the fort nearest Sand Creek to fly the American flag, as indication that his band was one of those that had been sheltered peacefully by the fort. Col. Chivington ignored this and attacked anyway as his local militia were hungry for blood. Why would he later fly a flag at the Washita even though it had afforded him no protection whatsoever at Sand Creek?

      Through several decades of Custer reading and research I've seen no evidence that Black Kettle's village on the Washita was targeted because it was his village. The orders Sheridan issued to Custer specified no destination beyond the broad general area of operation in their search for those responsible for hostile raiding. The 7th Cavalry attacked Black Kettle's village on the Washita because that is where the trail they were following led.

      The 7th Cavalry captured 53 women and children at the village, not 200. There are no totals regarding the number of warriors in the camp with which there is any agreement. The totals that have been indicated by various sources range from your low of less than 30 to more than 100.

      Major Elliott chose to pursue fleeing Cheyenne during the battle on his own, not at Custer's order, yelling out \here's to a brevet or a coffin.\

      No doubt the Cheyenne were horrified by the destruction of the pony herd, which numbered nearly 800. This was U.S. Army policy at the time throughout the west. A herd of 1500 – 2000 ponies was later destroyed by Ranald MacKenzie's forces in the aftermath of the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon. Credit Sherman and Sheridan for this approach.

      • 87.1.1
        Gene says:

        Black Kettle continued to display the U. S. flag in front of his lodge, even after Chivington and his Colorado and New Mexico "90 day wonders" attacked his village at Sand Creek, apparently hoping that Chivington's attack had been an aberration not an actual planned assault by the U. S. Army.
        In any case, the flag was used to identify a specific target, one that would provide the lest armed resistance to an assault.

  88. 88
    Peter says:

    If the village had 1200 lodges then there were 3000-3600 warriors that Custer had to deal with. Do your research….2.5-3 warriors per lodge was quite common. Add to this 100-200 wickiups on the river that were filled with young men from the rez who arrived for the summer hunt….and I estimate full warrior strength around 3500. Thank you very much. Other than that, I think Michno did a good job on the article.

  89. 89
    Gene Moore says:

    My research disagrees somewhat with yours, you have used the US cavalry's equation to estimate the number of warriors per lodge. A similar equation was used by the US military to estimate body counts in Vietnam, it was proven to be wildly inaccurate in that conflict.
    The figures supplied by the Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe chroniclers of the incident put the figure closer to 2500.
    I suspect that the cavalry significantly over-estimated the opposing force, completely understandable considering the outcome. The various tribes probably were a little short on their counts as well, most tribes only worked in multiples of ten, meaning anything more than 100 was considered 'many'.
    In any case, Custer showed poor judgement by attacking a group of indeterminate size with a relatively small group of exhausted and not well armed men.

  90. 90
    Gene Moore says:

    The European tactic of superior force at the point of the attack did not fare too well in use against indigenous peoples. The \Horns of the Bull\, used by the Zulu in their battles against the British as well as the Fetterman Massacre in Red Cloud's war, where Crazy Horse used a similar tactic against Fetterman, would argue against the logic of that.
    The battle styles and tactics in use by the Europeans where often considered foolishly expensive in the lives of their soldiers by the \savages\ that they fought against.

  91. 91
    Tony Hoeppner says:

    Mike, thank you for being straight up! I am a firm believer that the native (whatever tribe) always told the truth because thats always the way. I don't believe many white accounts because of this and that of that person can and will decieve for oneself to be more than should be, ect. At the start of the battle, the natives where not trying to do anything but live their lives but the white soldiers where there to wipe out. So sad of the facts but look at Wounded knee and other engagements….. 'The white man came to fight, we gave it to them' I believe! Just think how many natives have died that didn't have to!!!!! So, please know that most natives who has a hate towards others, I can see why if they do!!!, because the whites are wrong!!! Tony Hoeppner

  92. 92

    [...] Note: For additional Little Bighorn information, see Ten Myths of the Little Bighorn and Battle of the Little Bighorn – Were the Weapons the Deciding [...]

  93. 93
    garylloyd says:

    This author's immaturity and bad attitude — Deal with it! is better suited for a Justin Bieber chatroom

  94. 94
    RobertKLR says:

    I'm reading the \Recollections of Gen Nelson Miles\ and I think Michno's article is mostly in agreement with what the General writes. Sheridan and Terry both considered Custer to be a very capable officer, one of the best in the field. Miles writes that Custer acted within his orders and properly in battle. The General says Custer and his troops were seasoned and successful soldiers, veterans of over 40 battles with the Indians, many hotly contested. They were certainly no stranger to a desperate fight. Miles went to the scene shortly after and conducted their own investigation. He didn't think much of Reno's account of the order of battle after that but considered the Indians accounts to be accurate enough. He also brings up the issue of friction, corp wide, between officers over intelligence concerning the Indians. Friction that went all the way to the top including the White House. Furthermore he certainly considered Reno's RCOI a whitewash of the whole thing.

    Honestly, from what I know so far it looks like the battle lasted a while because the troopers and the Indians both were in a real desperate fight.

  95. 95
    Dan says:

    Ok so no matter what account we go with, there's going to be holes in the story, and sadly, we will never get an exact truth about everything that happened that day. We will only be able to make speculations based on the stories and evidence that we're given.

    My question is this. If Custer truly followed orders, and the camp truly was manageable, and there were truly a manageable amount of warriors, then why did he get laid out with his survivors running in disarray?

    If Custer had realized his plight, why could he have not rode hard and withdrew to a better position to assist Reno with the warriors on the southern flank?

    Why was Benteen not brought up to support? Am I missing something here? There's so many damn holes in the story that it's hard to paint a solid picture of what happened and that's outright frustrating.

    I've been studying Little Bighorn for years, and the sequence of events changes slightly every time. It's so hard to get a clear picture of this fight.

    Based on my interpretations from study on this matter, Custer foolishly thought he could hold them off on an isolated hill with ZERO cover! How Custer felt he could make a fight there is beyond me. You need a defensible area before you can set up a solid defense. An open hill with no cover and no flank protection is just begging to take it from behind.

    I do know that the Cavalry Springfield's were weapons plagued with extraction issues. If this was known at the time, why would Custer have even allowed that weapon in his unit? A muzzle loading, civil war era rifle that rarely malfunctioned would've been better than the new breech loading rifles he carried. I've read that after the battle, many of the Springfields were found with half extracted casings that had sheared off heads (case head separation). This is caused by using a metal too soft for the job. It gets hot and literally welds itself into the gun, and then the extractor pulls the head off, effectively disabling that weapon until somebody takes the time to manually extract the case. If you're busy fighting, you're probably not worried about a rifle with a stuck case. You would chuck it and get a functioning rifle. The problem was many of the troopers were experiencing this, and so I can presume their fire was not as heavy as it could've been. Once again, if his position was compromised, why he did not mount up and ride is beyond me. Why he allowed his horses to be scared off, sealing his fate, is beyond me. Why they left their sabers behind is beyond me. If somebody can explain these things, then please do.

    Was there really resentment toward Custer for abandoning men at the Washita, or is that just speculation? If it is true, then part of me thinks they left him out there to rot like he did to those poor souls at the Washita river.

    I can understand not wanting to drag along Gatling guns, as they probably wouldn't have been much of a help anyways due to the rapidly changing troop dispositions. Heavy weapons generally cannot keep up with fast-moving cav units.

    I believe that Custer must have forgot he was Cavalry, not line infantry. Line infantry are trained and equipped to stand and fight to the last man and bullet. That's their job. Infantry carry lots of ammo, and use massed fire to hold the line. A Cav unit is supposed to scout, skirmish, and mostly use their mobility to chase, or to fall back from an advancing enemy.

    Couldn't Custer have fired a few volleys, remounted, fell way back, dismounted, fired from range, and kept doing that until he stopped getting rushed by them?

    Ok so I know that if Custer would've stuck around to slug it out on the south end, the women, children, and ponies would've all made it safely upriver. This would've negated the whole purpose of going to the Little Bighorn in the first place. I know that Custer had to be aggressive to an extent to prevent a tiresome and resource-burning pursuit across the great plains. I know Custer knew he had to finish it there or he would not have enough supplies to continue and most likely would've lost the command and reputation that he held so dear.

    Personally though, I think Custer didn't fall back soon enough. He sat on that hill ineffectively trading lead in a completely indefensible position, while indians closed in on him with short range, fast firing Henry's.

    Custer surely would've known about the Henry's in the battle once it commenced. Any good commander knows what weapons his enemy has just by how they're maneuvering and the amount of fire coming from their lines. This is part of the reason why burst fire from machine guns is paramount especially at the start of a modern battle. The enemy just wants to see what you got. If you lay off a 100 round burst, they'll know you're a gun nest and all focus on you. Not to mention you won't hit anything, and all your ammo will be gone. Plus you will have more lead falling on you than rain in a typhoon.

    Once Custer discovered the Henry's and their effectiveness at short range, he should have (in my opinion) done what a cavalry unit was designed to do. Fall back, and skirmish at range, using the Springfield for what it was intended for. Long range (albeit slow) fire to keep an enemy pinned or harass a flank. Skirmish lines are not intended to hold their position, but fire, and fall back when the enemy starts to close in. The job of the skirmisher is to wither the enemy down both in numbers and morale, but also in physical exertion from pursuit of the skirmish lines. Once to the main line, the enemy is already blooded, tired, and most likely confused, allowing the line infantry to unleash a murderous volley that would almost guarantee a break and rout.

    Somebody please explain to me why these suggestions would or would not have worked, and if there was a way for Custer to have survived and accomplished his mission at the same time. If he could have, please explain what he should have done.

    Thanks all!

  96. 96
    Gene Moore says:

    The best that I can come up with in regard to the command dynamics was that Custer was almost certainly sent ahead as some kind of assessment tool. He was not, at the time, very popular with the upper echelons of either the military or the current administration. If he had won, they would have a hero to show the public, if he lost, a martyr. A no-lose scenario for most of the higher-ops involved.

    From all accounts, Custer was a my way or the highway commander. It appears that Reno and Benteen were not. In effect, Custer was 'fragged' by them and most of the men not directly under his command at the time.

    Custer's tactics and troop dispersal were almost identical to the ones that he used on the Washita. The tactics were just barely successful there, when fighting against a village of Cheyenne bent on peace with the whites. The warriors at the Little Bighorn were 'professional' fighters and hunters who definitely did not want peace with the whites and had beaten them on several other occasions. Add to that the fact that his men and mounts were exhausted and the outcome is hardly surprising. Tired men make bad decisions.
    Weapons, in this instance, were not nearly as important as they would seem. The Springfield was a highly accurate and dependable weapon, when provided with up-to-standard ammunition. This was not the first time that the army was provided with substandard rounds, nor would it be the last. The Indians used whatever weapon that they could lay hands on. Virtually all of the warriors were well-versed in the use of any weapon from a stone club to the various repeating rifles. They all knew that the kind of weapon that they had mattered less than the skill and determination of the man wielding it.
    In the final analysis, Custer was outnumbered, out-thought, and out-fought. Not even Sun-Tzu could have won under those conditions. But Sun-Tzu would never have placed himself or his men in that position in the first place.
    Custer followed his orders. The last one that he received before setting out to locate the village was: \Leave some for the rest of us\. He did and they were armed with Springfield carbines.

    • 96.1
      Dan says:

      Custer violated just about every rule in Sun Tsu's Art of War. The first and most critical of which was he did not listen to rational thought from his other more competent commanders. The second was he had very little true knowledge about the disposition or condition, armament, etc. of his foe. This I believed sealed his fate.

      Perhaps a more competent commander would have made more of an effort to gather more intel?

      Perhaps after gathering this intel, would a more prudent commander have even attacked or just let them go?

      What if Custer had been more cautious and risked letting the enemy go instead of attacking against the odds?

      Moreover, given what you know about the battle and chain of events, how would you have fought this battle? Would you have fought this battle, or just observed from a distance?

      What happened to the indians after the battle? Did they stay to fight the main body of the Army? Did they move?

      The actions after the battle are cloudy to me. I know there was a smaller action to the southeast at a place called Rosebud 8 days before the Little Bighorn action. At Rosebud General Crook noticed the skill of the indian cavalry and dismounted warriors. They attacked in a fierce and coordinated manner, and kept reforming to come back into the fight. They were also very skilled in locating and exploiting gaps in the US lines. That right there should've sent a cold message to Custer to cool his ego lest he wind up vulture meat.

      Having known cavalrymen during my time in the Army, they told us that the problem with ground infantry is we tend to draw too much attention. As a scout, stealth and mobility are what keeps you alive. Scouts are usually light and mobile, so most likely not carrying the heavy weapons like an infantry unit would. I've always seen scouts as "shoot n' scoot" types who skirmish, but don't stick around for a drawn out battle.

      It seems like Custer had a feeling of superiority over the savages. Never ever underestimate your enemy, this is basic stuff in officer school from what I've heard. Maybe the fact that Terry even sent him up there was to get him out of his hair. He probably figured that with the way Custer was, it would only be a matter of time before he paid for it with his life.

      Custer sounds like a Captain I had when I was in Iraq. That man got 3 of our guys purple hearts for taking a convoy route that had not been cleared by engineers since the invasion three years prior! Moreover, he had other routes he could've taken that had been cleared and had the cover of other coalition traffic. That's just another example of blatant incompetence. They do walk among us, and I'm afraid Custer was one of them.

      Is there anything else about this battle that has come to light in recent years, or are we sort of at a forensic trail that has gone cold?

      • 96.1.1
        Ed Custard says:

        Crook never bothered to send word to General Terry and the rest of the units in the Sioux Campaign of 1876 that he had been in a serious fight the likes of which had never before been seen in the history of the Indian wars. At the time, Major Reno and a detachment of the 7th Cavalry were on a scout only 35 – 40 miles up the Rosebud. Instead he simply turned his men back to Goose Creek in Wyoming, where he and his men went trout fishing and hunting for a few weeks.

  97. 97
    Dan says:

    Let's face it. The story is broken and full of holes. I've been studying this battle for many years and each time I read a new account, or switch to a new source, the course of the battle and events change somewhere in some manner. The truth is, this battle has been tainted by so much speculation, lies, and half-truths that we will never know what truly happened out there that day. Based on my findings, what occurred can safely be attributed to incompetence, betrayal, and arrogance on the parts of Reno, Benteen, and Custer.

    Custer was foolish enough to get spotted in the first place, and foolish enough to ruin his reputation by letting Joel Elliot hang at the Washita. The camp Custer attacked at the Washita was mostly peaceful Cheyanne who were looking to have a truce with the whites. He rode into them anyways, then left Elliot to hang.

    The force Custer fought 8 years later at the little bighorn was a camp of fierce and experienced warriors hell bent on war with the whites and not looking for any kind of peace. Had the 7th truly been able to "hold their own against the savages" then they would have. Some accounts go as far as to say a relief was attempted by Weir, but shortly after he left Benteen and Reno's perimeter, he was sent scampering back to Benteen's lines. If that's the case then the 7th was out muscled and out fought fair and square. An account like that puts Custer in the category of foolish bravery and complete lack of respect for a totally capable foe. Something Custer fanboys are not willing to readily recognize.

    Let's not forget that the 7th did not drive the Indians from the field. They held onto their perimeter, getting attacked off and on throughout the night and into the next afternoon. To me that sounds like a desperate holding action, not an attack. So the end result was the same. Custer failed his mission anyways, and did so at the cost of 262 lives. So are Reno and Benteen completely to blame for this scenario? Custer fanboys love to say so, but they fail to put Custer's failings under any kind of scrutiny. Anything Custer may have screwed up was first started by Reno and Benteen… Give me a break! I've heard this crap so much it's sickening.

    Some people view Custer as a god, and will do anything to try to debunk anything that says otherwise. There are people who think Custer was a pile of horse dung and will do everything to try to debunk anything that says otherwise. So I think that since the story seems to morph into a bias depending on what side you talk to, I will conclude that this battle has become more of a folklore tale than actual fact. Wanting to believe something so bad will cloud your judgment to objectively analyzing information. What about the Indian accounts? Don't they get a say in what happened?

    Some Indian accounts put Custer as being ambushed while riding down to the river, and not actually being shot IN the river. There were some warriors who stated that there were more than enough warriors to handle both attacks, and that had Custer attacked in force and from one direction they still could not have killed all the warriors, even if they did choose to let the women and children go. That account would suggest incompetence and a gross underestimation of one's foe. It isn't a surprise when we find that most Custer fanboys only cite Army and 7th Cavalry sources. Gee, I wonder why.

    So based on what I've read from all sides, I can come to the conclusion that it was a chain of things that went wrong, one problem started during the Civil War, when Custer started believing he was a combat god.

    So in conclusion, it was a matter of incompetence on Reno and Custer's part, betrayal on Benteen's part, and complete arrogance on Custer's part. The only ones I hold truly innocent in this battle are the soldiers and the pack mules. Lord knows they were only following the orders of the aforementioned leaders. Leaders who I believe all failed them in some way or another. The 7th Cavalry would not have been a unit I would've wanted to be in in those days.

    I will never visit this battlefield. What's the point? Why would I pay to get a narrative from a park service when I can't be sure that story is even correct?

    Let's just leave it as it is. Little Bighorn, win or lose, didn't change anything in the end. We were hell bent on taking those resources ever since they had been discovered by Lewis and Clark. Oh and the fact that Lewis was mysteriously murdered on his way to deliver his top secret findings to the president in person is another course for study. I feel that the American history that we've come to know and hold dear couldn't be further from the truth. We Americans love to believe we're perfect in every way and that we couldn't possibly be outsmarted or outfought. An attitude that has gotten us whipped more times than not.

    To me the Little Bighorn will go down as a perfect example of what happens when you mix up a deadly cocktail of arrogance and gross incompetence among leaders. The lives of the soldiers lost was the cost of these mistakes, as is usually the case.

  98. 98
    Johnny says:

    Good point Dan (on firing and falling back), and one I haven't heard before. Sounds like a good delaying tactic while waiting for Benteen?
    My opinion on leaving the sabers behind was that it was in general being considered at that time less an effective weapon than the revolver, since the revolver had better range (although limited) and made more noise, thus making it better suited as a shock force weapon. And I doubt many of the insufficiently trained cavalrymen could match up in hand to hand combat carrying a sword against warriors who were highly skilled in that kind of fighting with their traditional hand weapons.

    • 98.1
      Dan says:

      The "falling line" tactic as I always knew it from my Army days was where a unit would tactically withdraw when a fight was futile so as to salvage what was left of a failed attack. One group would cover fire while the other fell back and reloaded. The theory "live to fight another day" is what keeps armies marching on and winning wars. If a commander was willing to take 50% casualties, sure he might win a Pyrrhic victory, but then his army would be unable to campaign further, and his expedition would be finished.

      I feel Custer acted way too brash given the logistical situation, even if there was a sense of urgency. To be urgent and brash on the battlefield is to be dead. Ground combat is actually slower than one would think. It's not like a deafening crescendo of fire as you would've found during WW1 or WW2, and then only in major engagements numbering tens of thousands.

      I can see why the sabers were left behind.

      So bottom line, even though I wasn't there, all I have to say is complacency kills, and good intel can mean the difference between success or losing a unit altogether.

  99. 99
    Gene Moore says:

    In general, I would agree with your comments Dan, with two notable exceptions.

    The fire and fall back tactic does work extremely well, when the opposing force can be limited by terrain or tactics to focusing their attack from one or two directions.

    The Plains Indian Tribes did not use those kind of tactics. Each warrior fought as an individual, not as a cog in a machine. They did not need to have their fire 'directed', each warrior knew how to exploit the terrain and their opponents' weaknesses almost instinctively.

    When you are totally surrounded by highly efficient fighters, there can be no 'tactical withdrawal'. Another example of the US military using the tactics of the last war to fight the most recent one.

    Leaving the sabers behind was a mistake. The most elite of the Plains Indian warriors, the Lakota Crazy Dogs and the Tssistas Dog Men for example, considered it cowardly to simply shoot an enemy and ride on. In their hierarchy of courage, touching armed and unwounded enemy took much more courage than simply shooting the same enemy from behind a rock.

    Having the sabers would have provided the troopers with effective hand to hand weapons against these elite warriors, who no doubt took a heavy toll amongst the best fighters that Custer had. The elite warriors would have sought out the best fighters on the other side to test themselves against.

    The downside of carrying sabers on horseback is the very distinctive noise that they generate as the troop moves. Since the Indians already knew that there were soldiers in the vicinity, noise discipline was not really a matter of primary concern.

  100. 100
    RobertKLR says:

    The Indian fighting tactics Billy Dixon, Charles Goodnight, Kit Carson and Buffalo Bill Cody describe all seem to be in line with Custer. They all participated in similar actions. The bold surprise attack seemed to be the preferred plan. There's lots of stories of cavalry, ranger and militia units routing larger Indian forces uses the same tactics. The Indian response to this tactic usually was to try to get between soldiers and the women and children and buy time for them to escape. The army's response to that was to press the charge, break through the Indian line and attack the village. This required coordination, each unit had to be in place, on time and know its job. That is where General Miles had issues with Reno but not Custer. But I guess that doesn't really add anything as to how Custer's fight unfolded and ended.

  101. 101
    Gene Moore says:

    Let's take a look at your Indian fighting experts that you cited. Billy Dixon was a professional bison hunter, not a soldier. Charles Goodnight was a professional cattleman. Kit Carson was a fur trapper and scout for both the military and civilian expeditions. I have head a story that indicates he shot and killed a mule, thinking the animal's ears were feathers sticking up from an Indian's head. William F. Cody was a professional hunter and shameless self-promoter. None of these men had any formal military training in tactics, although they all did have connections to the military during their lives. None of them had attended officer school. Custer did, although he did graduate at the bottom of his class from West Point. He also had a disturbing tendency to leap before he looked.

    General Miles' comment could just as easily have been intended to focus public attention on continuing the campaign against the Indians as to exonerate Custer. Neither Reno or Benteen were convicted of any wrongdoing at the Little Bighorn.

    The tribes at the Little Bighorn had just completed religious ceremonies intended to increase their spiritual and metaphysical power. Crazy Horse and his followers had just returned to the camp after beating back one of the other columns sent against them that summer. The whole village knew that they were the primary target for any US troops in the area. Why would they be afraid of one troop led by a madman?

    As White Man Runs Him said when he released the other Indian scouts before the engagement. \You are lucky, you will live, I get to die with him.\ White Man Runs Him was killed during Reno's retreat after the initial attack, which Custer failed to support, was repulsed. That was were the battle was lost, not where Custer and the members of his detachment were killed.

  102. 102
    RobertKLR says:

    Gene, Goodnight was also a Texas Ranger during the Civil War and fought in many Indian battles, and Cody, Carson and Dixon were extremely experienced in Indian fighting and often consulted by schooled officers as to what tactics would best suit the situation. Carson also accompanied and even commanded commanded more than a few military expeditions.

  103. 103
    Gene Moore says:

    I believe I did say that they all had associations with the military, that does not mean they were tacticians. However, none them had the caliber or PROFESSIONAL military tactics training that Custer, Benteen, and Reno had. They might have been good Indian fighters, but they were not military tacticians.

    At the Little Bighorn, Custer, a poor tactician at best, could not adapt when his opponent did not immediately break and run. His opponents were not fighting a delaying action so that others could escape. This was their home ground, they had nowhere to retreat to, physically or emotionally. They were caught between Custer and extinction as far as they were concerned. Custer should have realized that the stakes had changed and adjusted his tactics accordingly. From the result, I'd have to say he didn't.

    You must be from Texas, the Rangers were, originally, a band of outlaws and hired guns recruited to fight against the Spanish, Comanches, and Kiowa before the Civil War. Their reputation was do more to their skills with Samuel Colt's revolver than any military or tactical skill. Kind of like Quantrill's Raiders in the border skirmishes between Kansas and Missouri.

    • 103.1
      RobertKLR says:

      I can see you are entrenched in your point of view to the point of being insulting to someone who has a different point of view and you're assesment of the Texas Rangers leads me to believe you're just a troll. Good day sir.

      • 103.1.1
        Gene Moore says:

        Actually, I'm a shaman and Dreamer.

        I apologize for tarnishing you image of your heroes. That was not my intention. From your reaction to my comments I would have to say that your beliefs run as deeply as mine. This is not a bad thing, but beliefs color perception and the truth is always a matter of perception for men.

        Until the end, you defended your truth ably and well.

  104. 104
    Gene Moore says:

    Just a couple of things.

    In recent years there have been several surveys of the battlefield using metal detectors to detect concentrations of expended rounds. Such a map would, and has been proven to, not only locate very accurately where skirmishes and stands took place but would also make it possible to track the movement of specific weapons through the use of ballistics. There is no way for us to know now who carried most of these identified weapons, but we can know where they were used.

    In more than 44 years of hunting, fishing, and hiking on the Great Plains, I have found exactly 1 set of biological remains in a draw, arroyo, or ravine. I believe that there are three reasons for this.

    One most animals, humans included, have an instinctual aversion to closed-off horizons, meaning they would avoid such a place if at all possible.

    Two, plains predators and scavengers tend to try to travel unseen, making a ravine a major highway for them. Most other plains animals do the same. What effect do you suppose a large herd of bison moving the confined space of Big Ravine would have made on skeletal or nearly so human remains?

    Three, how many honest-to-God gully washing thunderstorms do you suppose rolled over the battlefield in the century and a half plus since the battle. Ravines are made by fast flowing water cutting into the earth at high speed. Any bones or bone fragments that started in the ravine could be tens of miles downstream by now, if not farther. At best, there may only be four or five bone fragments left in the entire course of the ravine. That is a needle in a haystack.

    There are indications from the historical, Native American, accounts and the expended round mapping of the battlefield that a significant number of troopers fled toward the ravine.

    As the old Rolling Stones song says, You can't always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need. How much more do you need, realistically?'

  105. 105
    Harry says:

    The accuracy of the forensics assumes no one picked up brass… Brass is easy to spot for the squaw who picked over the remains… Center fire brass was valuable, the indian could not legally get it and invented reloading… I beleve the amont of goverment brass was inaccurate because of that… I have hunted for years snd pickked up boxes of brass without a metal detector…
    The rim fire brass was harder to reload and the cap had to be positioned on the rim tequiring it to be oriented, hard to do in a tubular magazine… It was probably harder to spot as the Indisn was on the move… A last stand would have made piles of brass to be picked up!
    You have no way of proving that brass is not missing, stick to a bison hoof or whatever!

  106. 106
    Ed Custard says:

    Joe, I realize this is not likely to reach you as it's been a year since you posted, but surely you realize that it isn't necessary to be descended directly from a specific person or their immediate family member in order to be that specific person's relative.

    There's more to the Custer family tree than George's surviving brother Nevin's offspring alone. It's certainly possible that Mr. 5th cousin speaks truthfully.

    I am George Armstrong Custer's 4th cousin 4x removed. His 3rd great grandfather was my 7th great grandfather. How my surname became established as Custard I do not know, but I have discovered three consecutive great grandfathers who all used the spellings Kuster, Custer, and Custard at one time or another on various forms of documentation, the original family name being Kuster.

    • 106.1
      Ed Custard says:

      The above was intended as a reply to Joe Little Bear's comment #81, to which for some reason it was not attached.

      The comment, which replied to a poster who indicated he was G.A.C.'s 5th cousin and also had American Indian heritage:

      "They took every thing he owned except his socks a spur and a lower boot. I met the Custer ancestors in Michigan and none have ever stated they have Native American family. Only one Custer male lived."

  107. 107
    Dave Hill says:

    I think Custer really expected the Indians to scatter and flee in small groups (as they typically had done when confronted with large numbers of soldiers in the past due to unsustainable loss of men) and his battle strategy was one of containment using an extended but tragically thin dispersal of his troops as a net. The 7th did not want to spend the rest of a hot, uncomfortable summer chasing small bands of Sioux around the Black Hills, so Custer hastened to attack to prevent the expected escape attempt. Unfortunately, the Indians turned and fought and easily won the battle. Custer's only hope would have been not to split his command, but to attack as a unit.

  108. 108

    [...] is now famous as “Custer’s Last Stand” or some-more ordinarily “The Battle of Little Big Horn,” was a push that was partial of a [...]

  109. 109

    [...] is now famous as “Custer’s Last Stand” or some-more ordinarily “The Battle of Little Big Horn,” was a push that was partial of a [...]

  110. 110

    [...] inquiry admitted. Implications there. -a review Here is Michno discussing some of his thoughts: Ten Myths of the Little Bighorn I think the modern estimates of the NA force is more accurate than the 3-4 thousand the old [...]

  111. 111
    Khe Sanh says:

    Reference the narratives of troopers after the battle who reference the bulwark of dead cavalry horses around Last Stand positions.

    Also LTC Custer followed accepted tactics and followed his orders.

    Remember he died faithful to his oath in the uniform of the Army of the US of America.

    He was true hero of the War Between the States having survived numerous cavalry charges leading from in front of his attacking troopers.

    Garry Owen LTC Custer.

  112. 112
    Gene Moore says:

    I thought I made clear that expended rounds were used to indicated positions on the battlefield. This does not mean empty brass cartridge cases, rather it refers to the cartridge slugs that impacted the earth when fired at soldiers or Native American positions. With the exceptions of rounds that lodged in flesh, all of these rounds would have penetrated into the earth and not been accessible to the hooves or feet of roving animals. These concentrations of slugs indicate where human targets were located during the battle, not necessarily where combatants were shooting from.

  113. 113
    Gene Moore says:

    Custer died because he got himself and his troops into an untenable position.
    To be brutally honest, there are really only two rules in war. Stay alive and do whatever is necessary to do so. Dead men win nothing.
    Custer made a lot of foolish decisions in his career, this one killed him and a significant portion of the men who entrusted their lives to him.
    A true warrior spends every day preparing for battle and prays every night that his day was wasted.

  114. 114
    Tony Hoeppner says:

    Thank you Longhorn!!! I wasn't there in 1876 but from the survivors of this battle showed, soldiers died because they wanted a fight. Its one thing to go after armed men, but another for women and children with the aged. I believe after Custer first attacked, many natives rallied to organize the slaughter that happened. I believe the soldiers did fight hard but did not realize that they where led to their fall by being tricked. Yes, tricked and they deserved to die because they where going to slaughter the innoncent. Led to believe that they could make a break so the soldiers ran and then realized that the trap was set. I believe that Custer was hit early and was alive to almost the end, brother Tom close at hand when the battle was over. Since Custer was usually in command from beginning to end shows that this time it might've been brother Tom who kept the fallen George close at hand but Tom was no George….. I only surmised the situation of why the command was wiped out…..

    • 114.1
      Gene Moore says:

      Tom Custer had already been awarded TWO Congressional Medals of Honor when the battle that his died in was fought. George Custer never received a medal of honor, despite the fact that they were given out quite freely during the Civil War when compared to later conflicts.
      If Tom had been in command, I believe the Army would still have lost, but there would have been far fewer trooper casualties. Tom had already proven his courage, twice. He would have been more concerned with preserving his command, not personal glory.

  115. 115
    gary says:

    That is the most common sense view of these comments, and pretty much the bottom line. Reno was apparently drunker then a skunk, And Benteen was playing his little game of I don't like you so I'm not coming to the party till I'm good and ready. Custer may have been a primma donna, but in the world of 19th century mounted cav that was a good thing. He proved his value to many of his superiors during the civil war.

  116. 116
    Shamus says:

    CDB,

    Actually, in 1876, all firearms still used black powder, whether the gun was a single shot muzzleloader, or a modern gun that used metallic cartridge ammunition—including the state-of-the-art firearms that won the west—Henrys, Winchesters, and Colt SSAs. To repeat: they may have used metallic cartridges, but the powder was still black powder.

    Smokeless powder wasn’t invented until 1884, but it wasn’t used right away because, at the time, the metallurgy in building firearms wasn’t advanced enough that it could withstand the increased pressures of the new smokeless power.

    I believe that smokeless powder didn’t commonly replace black powder until around 1899, but the new powder was only to be used with firearms built with the newer, improved, steel that was engineered to withstand the higher pressure of smokeless powder. Of course, the older firearms still had to use the slower burning, lower pressure black powder.

  117. 117
    Shamus says:

    Robert @ 37.1 You wrote, \Had custer chased around to all the other places Terry had in his orders it may have been a week or more before the two columns would have met.\

    One very good reason for Custer finishing the assigned scout on his way to the LBH is that nobody knew if they were going to find one huge village, or a number of smaller villages in the general area. Logistically, it would be easier to feed smaller villages than having hunters hunting to feed 8,000 people all hunting in the same area.

  118. 118
    Shamus says:

    Willie @ 40

    You wrote: “On Page 6, Para 1, Gregory Michno states that: \\North to most Indians is East to white observers\ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . HUH ?

    Never heard that before and could not understand it, so I asked five different Indians, 2 Crow, 2 Cheyenne and 1 Lakota – all \old timers\, about it at the Battlefield Reenactment last week. 3 of em said they didn't have a clue what it meant, 1 just shook his head & walked away, and 1 just stared at me as if to say \whatcha been drinkin', wasichu ?\

    Anyone know what it's supposed to mean ?”

    I don’t claim to be right, but I do have two plausible explanations, if we’re talking about the LBH battle specifically, and not just how Indians saw directions in general.

    Most maps of the battle are tilted 90 degrees to the left so it is easier to view the battle from left to right, or vice versa. Looking at the map from that orientation, it’d be easy for an Indian, who speaks a different language than English, to have the mind-set that, if you’re standing in the middle of the Indian village, West is on your left, East is on your right, North is directly in front of you (remember, East is North?), and South is at your back.

    Another plausible explanation could be the following: with the noon day sun at your back, you’re pretty much looking due north (sure, not magnetic north, but north as far as an Indian was concerned, and as far as I’m concerned, for that matter). Now add the fog of war to the equation where you’re recalling (picturing) the battle in your memory.

    You can feel the noon day sun at your back, as you’re repeatedly rising up, taking a shot at the soldiers, and then ducking down and taking cover, but in actuality, the sun is at 4:00 or 5:00 PM in the late afternoon. Now if you think of the sun at your back, and if left is West (but in actuality it’s north), then directly in front of you would be North (but in actuality, East, or at least, mostly East).

    I’m not suggesting that an Indian didn’t know his directions, but imagine with the language barriers, and possible mistakes with an interpreter, and possible faulty memories as to a moment in time while you’re right in the middle of combat, where your senses stop briefly to notice the time of day, it’s not that much of a leap to have a discrepancy between what the mind recalls as the time of the battle vs the actual time of the battle. With that in mind one can see that East “could” be North.



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