Still Standing: Surviving Custers Last Battle - Part 1

Custer’s Last Stand Still Stands Up
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And is a very important weigh station on his way to celebrity status in the culture. It would be the Plains where he could ride his horse as fast as he had ever done in a cavalry charge during the Civil War. It was a new land of exoticism, of discovery, of danger. The West was a story that everybody who belonged to the United States proper could agree upon.

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Still Standing: Surviving Custer's Last Battle - Part 1 eBook: Judith Gotwald, Don Solenberger: Kindle Store. (ebook) Still Standing: Surviving Custer's Last Battle - Part 1 () from Dymocks online store. Custers death at Little Big Horn is verified, but his.

It was a story about nation-building and national expansion. Custer understood the West was where the next big drama was. He, he truly felt that all he wanted to be was great, to be remembered for all time. Custer had emerged from the ashes of a court-martial, created a stunning victory, at least in his own telling, and now the future was his. Along the banks of the Yellowstone River in Montana, a group of warriors had reached a standoff with a surveying party for the Northern Pacific railroad.

Suddenly a chief named Sitting Bull called out, "Whoever wishes to smoke with me, come," and began walking towards the enemy's lines. Four of his men joined him, and sat down to smoke, with bullets whizzing all around them. White Bull called it "the bravest deed possible. And he had tremendous visions. And I really believe looking at Sitting Bull, looking into his eyes, I think you can see it.

He had a history of bravery. He had the charisma and he had a spirituality. He embodied for the Lakota the kind of person they needed at a point when they were facing cataclysmic change in their lives, when presented with the challenge of white civilization. Not only was it a place to get food, it was a place of extreme holiness A whole lot of sacred areas in the Black Hills.

It was their backbone, it was a place that was their creation. The Black Hills were those reserves for them. The majority of the tribe had followed this course, but Sitting Bull had remained defiant, refusing to even acknowledge the treaty, let alone sign it. He and his followers, whom General Philip Sheridan branded as "hostiles," traveled with the buffalo herds as they always had, frequently clashing with railroad workers and white settlers, stirring up trouble on the reservations, and luring Indians away from the agencies every summer to hunt buffalo.

Comanche The Lone Survivor of Custers Last Stand

They were conservatives. Conservatives, socially. Conservatives, spiritually. They were determined to adhere to an old way of life. After being broken up and assigned to peacekeeping duties all across the South, the 7th Cavalry was at last being reunited to project American power onto the Northern Plains.

Fort Lincoln was to serve as the regiment's, and the Custers', first real home. Perched on high ground, on the western shore of the Missouri River, just south of the town of Bismarck, the fort was built to help protect the crews on the Northern Pacific railroad.

Battle of the Little Bighorn

The general had completely settled the house Our friends had lighted it all, and built fires in the fireplaces It seemed too good to believe that the 7th Cavalry had a post of its own. They entertain. They have musical evenings. They have theatrical evenings. They provide amusement and a social life for, for the officers who were serving under them at the fort. They're glamorous and they're sociable. They're celebrities. It's a very happy time. He had reinvented in many ways the circumstances under which he grew up.

His younger brother, Tom, was there, and then his sister, Maggie, married Lieutenant Calhoun. Boston Custer, the youngest of the Custer brothers would join them. It was like a little microcosm of society and Custer was at the center of it. But if the divisions within the 7th bothered Custer, he didn't let it show. But you had to be a little more indirect if you were a woman in the 19th century. And so she saw her project as her husband. Libbie was more politically astute. Had a better social IQ. Could read people. Custer was Custer. He could read things in the middle of battle, but when it came to every day encounters he could really miss it.

And so Libbie was there often saying, now wait a minute George, now you sure you want to say that; they were truly the power couple of their day. They were childless. And I think the assumption was there would be children. And that was not to be. In reality, behind the scenes there are plenty of indications there was trouble in that marriage. He loved playing cards and gambling. He loved risk. And one can speculate that it wasn't all that easy a marriage, some of the time at least. He seems to have, I would call, a childish need, to show that other women admire him, and to parade this before his wife.

We do know that George sent Libbie a letter saying, effectively, I wish you wouldn't be so angry, she means nothing to me. The low point of their marriage was in December , Custer was alone and they would spend Christmas apart for the second year in a row and he wrote a long, contrite letter to Libbie. And he promised never to play cards again, but he also went on to talk about inexcusable behavior on his part and that he was afraid that he had ruined the very best relationship that he'd ever had.

I think the reconciliations were highly emotional, highly romantic. I think the two of them needed each other. Libbie was not with them. Privately, however, Washington was determined to provoke a conflict with Sitting Bull and unleash a rush of white settlement that would render the Fort Laramie treaty meaningless.

Custer is there not just to explore the Black Hills, he's there to publicize the discovery. One thousand soldiers, wagons. There are 70 Indian scouts. There are geologists, botanists. Four newspaper reporters. And probably the most important people of all, two miners who are there to search for whatever minerals might happen to be there. The Black Hills expedition could not have been better tailored for Custer's talents. It was like a circus and Custer was the ringmaster. This was a big stage for him and he took advantage of it.

After dinner when we reach camp, I usually take an escort to search out a few miles of road for the following day, and when I return I am ready to hasten to my comfortable -- but Oh so lonely -- bed. Reveille regularly at quarter to three Breakfast at four. In the saddle at five. We have discovered a rich and beautiful country. So this expedition was perfect for him because it gave him all of the opportunities for him to pursue his various interests and hobbies and to do so in front of a very watchful eye of reporters who had come along for the journey.

In a way, presenting himself as a kind of frontier hero to a public that had grown up on the novels of James Fenimore Cooper, that photograph was really powerful. And Custer's using the Black Hills expedition as a kind of stage for himself, to build his public reputation. There's a wonderful scene where he describes the cavalrymen riding through meadows of wildflowers and grasses that come up so high that the, the horses are like wading through them.

So the newspapers on the east coast and Chicago are quoting from him extensively. It puts Custer back on the front pages. And of course the headline that lands Custer on the tip of every tongue is of one four-letter word, gold. You're going to plow up the land. First you dig up the gold, you put the gold in the bank, then you put your wheat in the ground.

And this is a time of depression in the United States. And so those men who, and some women who can outfit themselves get their equipment and head to the Black Hills to mine for gold. The position of the U. And he takes a penname, Nomad, he calls himself. And this is the period when he starts to think about and talk about his enemies, Indian enemies and saying, if I were an Indian, I would want to be with the men who are today fighting me.

I would want the free, open, wandering life. He embodies and exhibits this, this kind of weird polarity, this weird conflict in the way Americans think of Indians.

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He identified with them very strongly, prided himself in his knowledge of their rituals and, and lifestyle. And so that at one point he's embracing them, and in many ways imitating them, But on the other side, he was part of white civilization and saw them as a primitive race that were going to eventually melt into the shadows. Violence is such a central part of this story where through this violent dispossession of the native peoples we can create our destiny. That is a tortured legacy. That is something that it's hard to feel proud of and good about when you're defeating a people with whom you have no issue except for the fact that they're in the way.

The government has continually made treaties with Indians and usually you can adhere to them for at least you know ten or twenty years, at least a generation, and well now, gold in the Black Hills means that we're going to have to abrogate this treaty a little quicker. He was really looking for a way to pull his people together in the face of this threat coming from the east.

And he continues to recruit Indians who want to come out with him during the summer and hunt. He's trying to gather a kind of Lakota resistance to this incursion. Still handcuffed by the terms of the Fort Laramie treaty, but determined to eliminate one of the last pockets of Indian resistance in the West, Grant and his generals made two fateful decisions. They would do nothing to prevent white miners from flooding into the Black Hills. And they issued an ultimatum: any Lakota or Cheyenne that refused to come in to the agencies by the end of January, , would be considered hostile, and the army would be used to bring them in.

What they were doing was forcing the issue, was creating a dirty little war that would serve the agenda of American imperialism. There's really no other way to look at it. It was a calculated strategy to force the Lakota to sell the Black Hills. At 36, he was no longer a young man, and while most of his energy was focused on winning another victory against the Indians -- one that he hoped would garner him a coveted promotion to Brigadier General -- he and Libbie would spend much of the winter of on the East Coast, looking for other ways to secure their future.

So he's in New York, he's trying to meet with important people. This is the society he moves in, the society of wealth, refinement, power. And yet he feels outside of it. Despite his fame and despite all the glory that he had won in his brief lifetime, it hadn't led to any kind of financial security.

And he wants that financial security that will come with some money in his pocket, because you can't eat fame. He was a terrible businessman, but he always thought that maybe the next one would be his chance to make it big. And unfortunately he's also gambling and he's losing a lot of money that way.

And he's on the brink of financial ruin. The Black Hills expedition is a couple of years in the past and nothing much has been happening. They urged me to commence this spring, but I declined, needing more time for preparation. He appeared in front of a congressional committee trying to discredit the Grant administration's handling of contracts at Indian Agencies on the frontier.

Custer's testimony was mostly hearsay, but he did manage to accuse the President's brother Orville of influence peddling. Custer in fact tries to go to the White House to apologize to Grant and Grant refuses to see him. For Custer this was the lowest of the low. I mean here he was, he was on the edge of what might have been his final campaign to win the glory that could give him all sorts of honors and this testimony had tripped him up and now he had none other than the president of the United States against him.

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Custer, as well as other U. Gallear points out that lever-action rifles, after a burst of rapid discharge, still required a reloading interlude that lowered their overall rate of fire; Springfield breechloaders "in the long run, had a higher rate of fire, which was sustainable throughout a battle. Come on, Big Village, Be quick, Bring packs. The committee temporarily lifted the ceiling on the size of the Army by 2, on August The Indians had evidently nerved themselves for a stand, but as I learn from Captain Benteen, on the twenty-second the cavalry marched twelve miles; on the twenty-third, thirty-five miles;. Archived from the original on December 12,

Terry is not an Indian fighter, he's been an administrator. And he's a good deal older than Custer. And he realizes that Custer is probably his best bet as far as leadership and accomplishing the objectives of his department. So he helps Custer draft a letter that pleads his case and gets Custer reinstated.

But with a caveat that Terry will be leading the column. And so he's heading west again in '76, in search of redemption, as well as in search of glory. And I think throughout his entire life he worried that the clock was running out and that if he didn't achieve a kind of permanent glory before a certain point in his life he would never have the chance. He was somebody who was really preparing to kind of go for broke.

Custer loved the theater, he, as Libbie would say, he would watch a play like a child, weep when it was sad, laugh outrageously when it was happy, that kind of thing. And they're in a battle, the battle for their lives. And the decision is made to fall on their swords and Brutus, with whom Custer must have identified, would say, 'I shall have glory by this losing day. It was a grand affair, with over buildings, featuring scores of exhibits, including a giant Corliss steam engine, a new condiment known as Heinz Ketchup, and Alexander Graham Bell's telephone.

More than , people were in attendance. Americans come from all over the place to, you know, to see this. And there's fantastic technology and everything looks like this brilliant bright kind of future and it's celebratory and, and the Civil War is over and the sense that Indians are going to pose any kind of threat, right, to this American future that's steam rolling forward. Nobody really believes that. And a huge amount of press coverage and public adulation will surely follow his inevitable victory over the Sioux and the Cheyenne.

Grant's ultimatum had come and gone, and Sitting Bull and his band were still at large. Terry and Custer had been ordered to force them onto the reservation, or destroy them in the process. Riding near the front with her husband, she looked back at the column and saw an astonishing sight. It seemed a premonition in the supernatural translation as their forms were reflected from the opaque mist of the early dawn. And he doesn't seem to be troubled. He hopes to be back in the summer and that they will have time together, he looks forward to being on the lecture circuit and making money.

Finally, he leads his men off and he stood up in the stirrups, he turned around, he waved to her, and that was the last that she ever saw. Custer's staff included his adjutant, Lieutenant William Cooke, his brother Tom, as aide-de-camp, his other brother Boston, as a guide, and his nephew Autie Reed, who came along as a civilian. Custer's brother-in-law, Lieutenant Calhoun, was one of the company commanders.

And if not worshiped him, would follow him anywhere. But always there was Benteen and, and those few officers who, who did not see Custer as the God-given answer to all. And this would mean that there was always an edge to whatever happened in the 7th Cavalry.

An officer with an undistinguished Civil War record, a brooding and dark countenance, and a weakness for whiskey, Reno harbored ambitions to lead the 7th Cavalry, but his chance at glory had never come. And that really was him. He, there was a cloud over him and he always seemed like he, he needed to do something to right a wrong that had somehow been smoldering inside him pretty much all his life.

All three columns would converge on an area of the Upper Yellowstone, and its north-flowing tributaries, the Powder, Tongue, Rosebud and Bighorn rivers, where the Indians were supposed to be encamped. The idea was never that the columns would converge and attack together but the hope would be that one column would drive the Indians into another column. Everyone was worried about the Indians escaping. The mania was how will we ever catch them.

Battle of the Little Bighorn

There's no worry about how many Indians there are. Nobody's worried about that. He and his brothers are having a great time raising hell on the Plains. Then, perhaps to punish Custer for his skylarking, Terry sent Major Reno and half the regiment south to scout the Powder River basin in search of Sitting Bull's band.

The decision to put Reno in charge stunned the rest of the regiment. And there he finds evidence of a soldier who had apparently been beaten to death, tortured to death and his body eventually burned. And Custer sees the skull, looks down on it and is clearly moved in some way. And it's at that point that they camp right beside this Indian burial ground. And Custer seems to have been in the mood for revenge and he leads his brothers and some other officers in a systematic desecration of this burial ground. He and his brothers had a great old time. They would write letters about the great stuff that they had gotten.

But for some of the other officers and soldiers, this was pretty horrifying stuff. Contrary to his orders, and against everyone's expectations, he had crossed over to the Rosebud and found a large trail that could only have been made by Sitting Bull's village. Reno had followed the tracks for several miles, but with his provisions dwindling, he had eventually decided to turn around and rejoin the column.

He said, Reno if you see this village why didn't you pursue? He thought it was an expression of cowardice this was one of those things that military people did. If you knew you would get a great victory, even though it was contrary to orders, you did it. And Reno after thinking about it for a while decided not to pursue the Lakota.

Custer couldn't understand this. Major Marcus Reno was not invited to the meeting. Terry ordered Custer to pick-up the Indian trail that Reno had found, but then, instead of following it, to loop south, until he and Gibbon could converge on the Indians from the north. You knew what you had with him.

And to expect him to delay for a day and a half while Terry and the rest of the column positioned themselves was an absurdity. What Terry was doing was making sure that if everything went well, he was in a good position because it was a great victory. If everything went poorly, he was covered, because Custer had to break orders to attack the Indians in the way that they all knew he would.

Custer didn't slip the leash, the leash was released and he was, off he went. He's just like one of those wolf hounds that he loves so much. He's absolutely on the scent and he's going 90 miles an hour, nothing is going to stop him, everybody knew that, that's why he's there.

He will undoubtedly exert himself to the utmost to get there first and win all the laurels for himself and his regiment. That is, they won't stand and fight.

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They'll snipe at you, they'll hold you off and then they'll scatter and run. They might even throw away their guns, as they run to what they perceive will be a safer place. This is apparently what happened to the right wing. Overwhelmed by superior numbers of Indians, the soldiers gave way to panic and fled. Indian accounts of the battle spoke of the soldiers acting like they were drunk, running like a buffalo stampede, throwing away their guns and crying like babies.

The Custer legend interpretation depicted the soldiers in this part of the battle bravely fighting a retreat back to Last Stand Hill. The lack of gun casings in the area and the high number of marble markers leads archeologists to a new depiction -- that of panicked soldiers fleeing and being shot down as they ran.

As you stand on Calhoun hill and see the white marble markers stretching out across the grassy slopes, each indicating the spot where a soldier fell, you can feel those awful moments and get a sense of the terror the men must have felt. Custer, meanwhile, had found his river crossing, but he had too few men to capture the village. Still confident, he turned back to collect the rest of his troops and hopefully Benteen's battalion and arrived at a viewpoint in time to see the horrifying collapse of the right wing. Custer with just 85 men raced to Last Stand Hill to offer support.

Only 20 men from the right wing survived to join him. Now, with half his men dead, surrounded, in dust and confusion, Custer would have realized for the first time he was no longer on the offensive, and was instead, cut off. The end came swiftly. Rather than the fight to the last bullet often depicted, nine men tried to escape by horseback heading south, but were cut down. Another 45 tried to break out towards the river or hide in a ravine, but they too were sought out and killed. Custer, flanked by his two loyal brothers, a beloved nephew and some 50 other troopers, was quickly overrun.

From shell casings, we know the battle at the end lasted just minutes -- not the long protracted battle of films. The easiest answer is that Custer didn't lose so much as the Indians won. They had vastly superior numbers, they were fighting for their homes and families and were brilliantly led by chiefs Crazy Horse, Lame White Man and Gall. Certainly, Custer was let down by Reno, who did not press his charge on the village, and by Benteen, who did not "come on," as ordered, to his support.

What Really Happened at the Battle of the Little Bighorn?

Had Reno and Benteen come forward. However, under the strict guidelines of the 19th Century army, they must take some blame for not following orders, even if those orders led to disaster, and history has been harsh in its judgment of them. As it has been on Custer. Custer divided his force in the face of uncertain numbers, fought on ground he did not know, and as commander, bears the ultimate responsibility. Throughout the Civil War, he fought a dozen battles in similar circumstance and always came out on top.

At Little Big Horn, his luck ran out.

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As it did for the Indians. Though victorious here, within three years, they were defeated and forced back to the reservation. Little Big Horn proved to be the high point Within a few years, everything changed for everyone who fought at Little Big Horn. Only the battleground remained the same.

It is, and always will be, a strange and haunted place. Custer was killed on June 25, News U. HuffPost Personal Video Horoscopes. Newsletters Coupons. Follow Us. In less than two hours, Custer and all men of his command were dead. Exhibits in the museum set the stage for the battle.

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Benteen was hit in the heel of his boot by an Indian bullet. At one point, he personally led a counterattack to push back Indians who had continued to crawl through the grass closer to the soldier's positions. The precise details of Custer's fight are largely conjectural since none of the men who went forward with Custer's battalion the five companies under his immediate command survived the battle. Later accounts from surviving Indians are useful, but sometimes conflicting and unclear.

While the gunfire heard on the bluffs by Reno and Benteen's men during the afternoon of June 25 was probably from Custer's fight, the soldiers on Reno Hill were unaware of what had happened to Custer until General Terry's arrival on June They were reportedly stunned by the news.

When the army examined the Custer battle site, soldiers could not determine fully what had transpired. Custer's force of roughly men had been engaged by the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne about 3. Evidence of organized resistance included an apparent skirmish line on Calhoun Hill and apparent breastworks made of dead horses on Custer Hill. The troops found most of Custer's dead men stripped of their clothing, ritually mutilated, and in a state of decomposition, making identification of many impossible. Custer's body was found with two gunshot wounds; one to his left chest and the other to the left temple of his head.

Either wound would have been fatal, though he appeared to have bled from only the chest wound, meaning his head wound may have been delivered postmortem. Some Lakota oral histories assert that Custer committed suicide to avoid capture and subsequent torture, though this is usually discounted since the wounds were inconsistent with his known right-handedness. Other native accounts note several soldiers committing suicide near the end of the battle. There the United States erected a tall memorial obelisk inscribed with the names of the 7th Cavalry's casualties. Several days after the battle, Curley , Custer's Crow scout who had left Custer near Medicine Tail Coulee a drainage which led to the river , recounted the battle, reporting that Custer had attacked the village after attempting to cross the river.

He was driven back, retreating toward the hill where his body was found. According to Pretty Shield , the wife of Goes-Ahead another Crow scout for the 7th Cavalry , Custer was killed while crossing the river: " Edward Settle Godfrey , Custer did not attempt to ford the river and the nearest that he came to the river or village was his final position on the ridge. Cheyenne oral tradition credits Buffalo Calf Road Woman with striking the blow that knocked Custer off his horse before he died.

Having isolated Reno's force and driven them away from the encampment, the bulk of the native warriors were free to pursue Custer. The route taken by Custer to his "Last Stand" remains a subject of debate. From this point on the other side of the river, he could see Reno charging the village. Riding north along the bluffs, Custer could have descended into Medicine Tail Coulee.

Some historians believe that part of Custer's force descended the coulee, going west to the river and attempting unsuccessfully to cross into the village. According to some accounts, a small contingent of Indian sharpshooters effectively opposed this crossing. White Cow Bull claimed to have shot a leader wearing a buckskin jacket off his horse in the river. While no other Indian account supports this claim, if White Bull did shoot a buckskin-clad leader off his horse, some historians have argued that Custer may have been seriously wounded by him.

Some Indian accounts claim that besides wounding one of the leaders of this advance, a soldier carrying a company guidon was also hit. Reports of an attempted fording of the river at Medicine Tail Coulee might explain Custer's purpose for Reno's attack, that is, a coordinated "hammer-and-anvil" maneuver, with Reno's holding the Indians at bay at the southern end of the camp, while Custer drove them against Reno's line from the north. Other historians have noted that if Custer did attempt to cross the river near Medicine Tail Coulee, he may have believed it was the north end of the Indian camp, only to discover that it was only the middle.

Some Indian accounts, however, place the Northern Cheyenne encampment and the north end of the overall village to the left and south of the opposite side of the crossing. Edward Curtis , the famed ethnologist and photographer of the Native American Indians, made a detailed personal study of the battle, interviewing many of those who had fought or taken part in it. He also visited the Lakota country and interviewed Red Hawk , "whose recollection of the fight seemed to be particularly clear". Finally, Curtis visited the country of the Arikara and interviewed the scouts of that tribe who had been with Custer's command.

However, "the Indians had now discovered him and were gathered closely on the opposite side". This was the beginning of their attack on Custer who was forced to turn and head for the hill where he would make his famous "last stand". Thus, wrote Curtis, "Custer made no attack, the whole movement being a retreat".

Other historians claim that Custer never approached the river, but rather continued north across the coulee and up the other side, where he gradually came under attack. According to this theory, by the time Custer realized he was badly outnumbered, it was too late to break back to the south where Reno and Benteen could have provided assistance.

Two men from the 7th Cavalry, the young Crow scout Ashishishe known in English as Curley and the trooper Peter Thompson , claimed to have seen Custer engage the Indians. The accuracy of their recollections remains controversial; accounts by battle participants and assessments by historians almost universally discredit Thompson's claim. Archaeological evidence and reassessment of Indian testimony has led to a new interpretation of the battle.

In the s, battlefield investigators discovered hundreds of. Some historians believe Custer divided his detachment into two and possibly three battalions, retaining personal command of one while presumably delegating Captain George W. Yates to command the second. Evidence from the s supports the theory that at least one of the companies made a feint attack southeast from Nye-Cartwright Ridge straight down the center of the "V" formed by the intersection at the crossing of Medicine Tail Coulee on the right and Calhoun Coulee on the left.

The intent may have been to relieve pressure on Reno's detachment according to the Crow scout Curley, possibly viewed by both Mitch Bouyer and Custer by withdrawing the skirmish line into the timber on the edge of the Little Bighorn River. Had the U. That they might have come southeast, from the center of Nye-Cartwright Ridge, seems to be supported by Northern Cheyenne accounts of seeing the approach of the distinctly white-colored horses of Company E, known as the Grey Horse Company. Its approach was seen by Indians at that end of the village. Behind them, a second company, further up on the heights, would have provided long-range cover fire.

Warriors could have been drawn to the feint attack, forcing the battalion back towards the heights, up the north fork drainage, away from the troops providing cover fire above. The covering company would have moved towards a reunion, delivering heavy volley fire and leaving the trail of expended cartridges discovered 50 years later.

In the end, the hilltop to which Custer had moved was probably too small to accommodate all of the survivors and wounded. Fire from the southeast made it impossible for Custer's men to secure a defensive position all around Last Stand Hill where the soldiers put up their most dogged defense. According to Lakota accounts, far more of their casualties occurred in the attack on Last Stand Hill than anywhere else. The extent of the soldiers' resistance indicated they had few doubts about their prospects for survival.

According to Cheyenne and Sioux testimony, the command structure rapidly broke down, although smaller "last stands" were apparently made by several groups. Custer's remaining companies E, F, and half of C were soon killed. By almost all accounts, the Lakota annihilated Custer's force within an hour of engagement. Many of these men threw down their weapons while Cheyenne and Sioux warriors rode them down, " counting coup " with lances, coup sticks, and quirts. Some Native accounts recalled this segment of the fight as a "buffalo run.

I went over the battlefield carefully with a view to determine how the battle was fought.

I arrived at the conclusion I [hold] now — that it was a rout, a panic, until the last man was killed There was no line formed on the battlefield. You can take a handful of corn and scatter [the kernels] over the floor, and make just such lines. There were none The only approach to a line was where 5 or 6 [dead] horses found at equal distances, like skirmishers [part of Lt.

Calhoun's Company L]. That was the only approach to a line on the field. There were more than 20 [troopers] killed [in one group]; there were [more often] four or five at one place, all within a space of 20 to 30 yards [of each other] I counted 70 dead [cavalry] horses and 2 Indian ponies. I think, in all probability, that the men turned their horses loose without any orders to do so.

Many orders might have been given, but few obeyed. I think that they were panic stricken; it was a rout, as I said before. But the soldiers weren't ready to die. We stood there a long time. Both failed Custer and he had to fight it out alone. Recent archaeological work [85] at the battlefield indicates that officers on Custer Hill restored some tactical control. E Company rushed off Custer Hill toward the Little Bighorn River but failed to reach it, which resulted in the total destruction of that company. The remainder of the battle took on the nature of a running fight. Modern archaeology and historical Indian accounts indicate that Custer's force may have been divided into three groups, with the Indians attempting to prevent them from effectively reuniting.

Indian accounts describe warriors including women running up from the village to wave blankets in order to scare off the soldiers' horses. Army doctrine would have called for one man in four to be a horseholder behind the skirmish lines and, in extreme cases, one man in eight. Later, the troops would have bunched together in defensive positions and are alleged to have shot their remaining horses as cover. As individual troopers were wounded or killed, initial defensive positions would have been abandoned as untenable.

Under threat of attack, the first U. A couple of years after the battle, markers were placed where men were believed to have fallen, so the placement of troops has been roughly construed. Modern documentaries suggest that there may not have been a "Last Stand" as traditionally portrayed in popular culture. Instead, archaeologists suggest that, in the end, Custer's troops were not surrounded but rather overwhelmed by a single charge. This scenario corresponds to several Indian accounts stating Crazy Horse's charge swarmed the resistance, with the surviving soldiers fleeing in panic.

At least 28 bodies the most common number associated with burial witness testimony , including that of scout Mitch Bouyer , were discovered in or near that gulch, their deaths possibly the battle's final actions. Although the marker for Mitch Bouyer has been accounted for as being accurate through archaeological and forensic testing, [88] it is some 65 yards away from Deep Ravine. Scott in his book "They Died With Custer: Soldiers Bones from the Battle of the Little Big Horn" puts forth the theory that the "Deep Gulch" or "Deep Ravine" might have included not only the steep sided portion of the coulee, but the entire drainage including its tributaries.

If one uses this interpretation then Bouyer's and other bodies are located where eye witnesses said they were seen. Other archaeological explorations done in Deep Ravine [89] have found no human remains associated with the battle. In Scott's later book "They Died with Custer It is likely that remains have in the years between Scott's excavation efforts in the ravine and the battle, the geological processes have washed the remains away.

As an example of this the reader can refer to the skeletal remains recovered eroding from the bank of the Little Big Horn near the town of Garryowen. The remains were from a trooper killed in the Reno Retreat. Only part of the skeleton were recovered, the rest had been washed away by the river. According to Indian accounts, about 40 men made a desperate stand around Custer on Custer Hill, delivering volley fire. Reno credited Benteen's luck with repulsing a severe attack on the portion of the perimeter held by Companies H and M. One of the regiment's three surgeons had been with Custer's column, while another, Dr.

DeWolf, had been killed during Reno's retreat. The first to hear the news of the Custer disaster were those aboard the steamboat Far West , which had brought supplies for the expedition. Curley, one of Custer's scouts, rode up to the steamboat, and tearfully conveyed the information to Grant Marsh , the boat's captain, and army officers.

Marsh converted the Far West into a floating field hospital to carry the 52 wounded from the battle to Fort Lincoln. Traveling night and day, with a full head of steam, Marsh brought the steamer downriver to Bismarck, Dakota Territory, making the mi 1, km run in the record time of 54 hours and bringing the first news of the military defeat which came to be popularly known as the "Custer Massacre. News of the defeat arrived in the East as the U.

Custer's wife, Elisabeth Bacon Custer, in particular, guarded and promoted the ideal of him as the gallant hero, attacking any who cast an ill light on his reputation. The Battle of the Little Bighorn had far-reaching consequences for the Natives. It was the beginning of the end of the 'Indian' Wars and has even been referred to as "the Indians" last stand" [] in the area. Within 48 hours of the battle, the large encampment on the Little Bighorn broke up into smaller groups because there was not enough game and grass to sustain a large congregation of people and horses.

My two younger brothers and I rode in a pony-drag, and my mother put some young pups in with us. They were always trying to crawl out and I was always putting them back in, so I didn't sleep much. The scattered Sioux and Cheyenne feasted and celebrated during July with no threat from soldiers. After their celebrations, many of the Natives returned to the reservation. Soon the number of warriors amounted to only about Crook and Terry finally took the field against the Natives forces in August.

General Nelson A. Miles took command of the effort in October In May , Sitting Bull escaped to Canada. Ownership of the Black Hills , which had been a focal point of the conflict, was determined by an ultimatum issued by the Manypenny Commission , according to which the Sioux were required to cede the land to the United States if they wanted the government to continue supplying rations to the reservations. Threatened with forced starvation, the Natives ceded Paha Sapa to the United States, [] but the Sioux never accepted the legitimacy of the transaction.

They lobbied Congress to create a forum to decide their claim and subsequently litigated for 40 years; the United States Supreme Court in the decision United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians acknowledged [note 6] that the United States had taken the Black Hills without just compensation. The Sioux refused the money subsequently offered and continue to insist on their right to occupy the land.

Modern-day accounts include Arapaho warriors in the battle, but the five Arapaho men who were at the encampments were there only by accident. While on a hunting trip they came close to the village by the river and were captured and almost killed by the Lakota who believed the hunters were scouts for the U. Two Moon, a Northern Cheyenne leader, interceded to save their lives. Native Americans. Lieutenant Colonel George A. Major Marcus Reno. Captain Frederick Benteen. First Lieutenant Edward Gustave Mathey.

Estimates of Native American casualties have differed widely, from as few as 36 dead from Native American listings of the dead by name to as many as Wood in that the Native Americans suffered dead and wounded during the battle. McChesney the same numbers but in a series of drawings done by Red Horse to illustrate the battle, he drew only sixty figures representing Lakota and Cheyenne casualties. Of those sixty figures only thirty some are portrayed with a conventional Plains Indian method of indicating death.

In the last years, historians have been able to identify multiple Indian names pertaining to the same individual, which has greatly reduced previously inflated numbers. Today a list of positively known casualties exists that lists 99 names, attributed and consolidated to 31 identified warriors. Six unnamed Native American women and four unnamed children are known to have been killed at the beginning of the battle during Reno's charge. Among them were two wives and three children of the Hunkpapa Leader Pizi Gall.

The 7th Cavalry suffered 52 percent casualties: 16 officers and troopers killed or died of wounds, 1 officer and 51 troopers wounded. Every soldier of the five companies with Custer was killed except for some Crow scouts and several troopers that had left that column before the battle or as the battle was starting. In , the army awarded 24 Medals of Honor to participants in the fight on the bluffs for bravery, most for risking their lives to carry water from the river up the hill to the wounded. Indian accounts spoke of soldiers' panic-driven flight and suicide by those unwilling to fall captive to the Indians.

While such stories were gathered by Thomas Bailey Marquis in a book in the s, it was not published until because of the unpopularity of such assertions. Beginning in July, the 7th Cavalry was assigned new officers [] [note 7] and recruiting efforts began to fill the depleted ranks. The regiment, reorganized into eight companies, remained in the field as part of the Terry Expedition, now based on the Yellowstone River at the mouth of the Bighorn and reinforced by Gibbon's column.

On August 8, , after Terry was further reinforced with the 5th Infantry, the expedition moved up Rosebud Creek in pursuit of the Lakota. It met with Crook's command, similarly reinforced, and the combined force, almost 4, strong, followed the Lakota trail northeast toward the Little Missouri River. Persistent rain and lack of supplies forced the column to dissolve and return to its varying starting points. The 7th Cavalry returned to Fort Abraham Lincoln to reconstitute. Sturgis , returned from his detached duty in St. Louis, Missouri. Sturgis led the 7th Cavalry in the campaign against the Nez Perce in Congress authorized appropriations to expand the Army by 2, men to meet the emergency after the defeat of the 7th Cavalry.

For a session, the Democratic Party-controlled House of Representatives abandoned its campaign to reduce the size of the Army. Word of Custer's fate reached the 44th United States Congress as a conference committee was attempting to reconcile opposing appropriations bills approved by the House and the Republican Senate. They approved a measure to increase the size of cavalry companies to enlisted men on July The committee temporarily lifted the ceiling on the size of the Army by 2, on August The Battle of the Little Bighorn was the subject of an U.

Army Court of Inquiry in Chicago, held at Reno's request, during which his conduct was scrutinized. The court found Reno's conduct to be without fault. After the battle, Thomas Rosser, James O'Kelly, and others continued to question the conduct of Reno due to his hastily ordered retreat. Contemporary accounts also point to the fact that Reno's scout, Bloody Knife, was shot in the head, spraying him with blood, possibly increasing his own panic and distress. General Terry and others claimed that Custer made strategic errors from the start of the campaign.

For instance, he refused to use a battery of Gatling guns, and turned down General Terry's offer of an additional battalion of the 2nd Cavalry. Custer believed that the Gatling guns would impede his march up the Rosebud and hamper his mobility. Custer planned "to live and travel like Indians; in this manner the command will be able to go wherever the Indians can", he wrote in his Herald dispatch. By contrast, each Gatling gun had to be hauled by four horses, and soldiers often had to drag the heavy guns by hand over obstacles.

Each of the heavy, hand-cranked weapons could fire up to rounds a minute, an impressive rate, but they were known to jam frequently. During the Black Hills Expedition two years earlier, a Gatling gun had turned over, rolled down a mountain, and shattered to pieces. Lieutenant William Low, commander of the artillery detachment, was said to have almost wept when he learned he had been excluded from the strike force. Custer believed that the 7th Cavalry could handle any Indian force and that the addition of the four companies of the 2nd would not alter the outcome.

When offered the 2nd Cavalry, he reportedly replied that the 7th "could handle anything. By dividing his forces, Custer could have caused the defeat of the entire column, had it not been for Benteen's and Reno's linking up to make a desperate yet successful stand on the bluff above the southern end of the camp. The historian James Donovan believed that Custer's dividing his force into four smaller detachments including the pack train can be attributed to his inadequate reconnaissance; he also ignored the warnings of his Crow scouts and Charley Reynolds.

His men were widely scattered and unable to support each other. Criticism of Custer was not universal. While investigating the battlefield, Lieutenant General Nelson A. Army wanted to avoid bad press and found ways to exculpate Custer. They blamed the defeat on the Indians' alleged possession of numerous repeating rifles and the overwhelming numerical superiority of the warriors.

The widowed Elizabeth Bacon Custer, who never remarried, wrote three popular books in which she fiercely protected her husband's reputation. It was not until over half a century later that historians took another look at the battle and Custer's decisions that led to his death and loss of half his command and found much to criticize. General Alfred Terry's Dakota column included a single battery of artillery, comprising two Rodman guns 3-inch Ordnance rifle and two Gatling guns. Connell, the precise number of Gatlings has not been established, ranging from two to three. Custer's decision to reject Terry's offer of the rapid-fire Gatlings has raised questions among historians as to why he refused them and what advantage their availability might have conferred on his forces at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Historians have acknowledged the firepower inherent in the Gatling gun: they were capable of firing Jamming caused by black powder residue could lower that rate, [] [] raising questions as to their reliability under combat conditions. The Gatlings, mounted high on carriages, required the battery crew to stand upright during its operation, making them easy targets for Lakota and Cheyenne sharpshooters.

Historian Robert M. Hunt , expert in the tactical use of artillery in Civil War, stated that Gatlings "would probably have saved the command", whereas General Nelson A. The Lakota and Cheyenne warriors that opposed Custer's forces possessed a wide array of weaponry, from war clubs and lances to the most advanced firearms of the day.

Sitting Bull's forces had no assured means to supply themselves with firearms and ammunition. Of the guns owned by Lakota and Cheyenne fighters at the Little Bighorn, approximately were repeating rifles [] corresponding to about 1 of 10 of the encampment's two thousand able-bodied fighters who participated in the battle [].

The troops under Custer's command carried two regulation firearms authorized and issued by the U. Army in early the breech-loading, single-shot Springfield Model carbine, and the Colt single-action revolver. With the exception of a number of officers and scouts who opted for personally owned and more expensive rifles and handguns, the 7th Cavalry was uniformly armed. Ammunition allotments provided carbine rounds per trooper, carried on a cartridge belt and in saddlebags on their mounts. An additional 50 carbine rounds per man were reserved on the pack train that accompanied the regiment to the battlefield.

Each trooper had 24 rounds for his Colt handgun. The opposing forces, though not equally matched in the number and type of arms, were comparably outfitted, and neither side held a overwhelming advantage in weaponry. Two hundred or more Lakota and Cheyenne combatants are known to have been armed with Henry, Winchester, or similar lever-action repeating rifles at the battle.

Historians have asked whether the repeating rifles conferred a distinct advantage on Sitting Bull's villagers that contributed to their victory over Custer's carbine-armed soldiers. Historian Michael L. Lawson offers a scenario based on archaeological collections at the "Henryville" site, which yielded plentiful Henry rifle cartridge casings from approximately 20 individual guns.

Lawson speculates that, though less powerful than the Springfield carbines, the Henry repeaters provided a barrage of fire at a critical point, driving Lieutenant James Calhoun's L Company from Calhoun Hill and Finley Ridge, forcing them to flee in disarray back to Captain Myles Keogh's I Company, and leading to the disintegration of that wing of Custer's Battalion. After exhaustive testing — including comparisons to domestic and foreign single-shot and repeating rifles — the Army Ordnance Board whose members included officers Marcus Reno and Alfred Terry authorized the Springfield as the official firearm for the United States Army.

The Springfield, manufactured in a. British historian Mark Gallear maintains that US government experts rejected the lever-action repeater designs, deeming them ineffective in the event of a clash with fully equipped European armies, or in case of an outbreak of another American civil conflict. Gallear's analysis minimizes the allegation that rapid depletion of ammunition in lever-action models influenced the decision in favor of the single-shot Springfield.