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On the way he noted that the Crow hunted buffalo on the " Small Horn River ". In the latter half of the 19th century, tensions increased between the Native inhabitants of the Great Plains of the US and encroaching settlers. This resulted in a series of conflicts known as the Sioux Wars , which took place from — While some of the indigenous people eventually agreed to relocate to ever-shrinking reservations , a number of them resisted, at times fiercely. On May 7, , the valley of the Little Bighorn became a tract in the eastern part of the new Crow Indian Reservation in the center of the old Crow country.

The battlefield is known as "Greasy Grass" to the Lakota, Dakota, Cheyenne, and most other Plains Indians ; however, in contemporary accounts by participants, it was referred to as the "Valley of Chieftains". Among the Plains Tribes , the long-standing ceremonial tradition known as the Sun Dance was the most important religious event of the year. It is a time for prayer and personal sacrifice on behalf of the community, as well as making personal vows.

Towards the end of spring in , the Lakota and the Cheyenne held a Sun Dance that was also attended by a number of "Agency Indians" who had slipped away from their reservations. They were accompanied by teamsters and packers with wagons and a large contingent of pack mules that reinforced Custer. Companies C, D, and I of the 6th U. They were later joined there by the steamboat Far West , which was loaded with tons of supplies from Fort Lincoln.

The 7th Cavalry had been created just after the American Civil War. Many men were veterans of the war, including most of the leading officers. Six other troopers had died of drowning and 51 in cholera epidemics. In November , while stationed in Kansas, the 7th Cavalry under Custer had successfully routed Black Kettle 's Southern Cheyenne camp on the Washita River in the Battle of Washita River , an attack which was at the time labeled a "massacre of innocent Indians" by the Indian Bureau.

By the time of the Little Bighorn, half of the 7th Cavalry's companies had just returned from 18 months of constabulary duty in the Deep South , having been recalled to Fort Abraham Lincoln , Dakota Territory to reassemble the regiment for the campaign. A sizable number of these recruits were immigrants from Ireland, England and Germany, just as many of the veteran troopers had been before their enlistments. Archaeological evidence suggests that many of these troopers were malnourished and in poor physical condition, despite being the best-equipped and supplied regiment in the Army.

Of the 45 officers and troopers then assigned to the 7th Cavalry including a second lieutenant detached from the 20th Infantry and serving in Company L , 14 officers including the regimental commander and troopers did not accompany the 7th during the campaign. The regimental commander, Colonel Samuel D.

Louis, Missouri , [31] which left Lieutenant Colonel Custer in command of the regiment. Surprised and according to some accounts astonished by the unusually large numbers of Native Americans, Crook held the field at the end of the battle but felt compelled by his losses to pull back, regroup, and wait for reinforcements. They reviewed Terry's plan calling for Custer's regiment to proceed south along the Rosebud while Terry and Gibbon's united forces would move in a westerly direction toward the Bighorn and Little Bighorn rivers. As this was the likely location of native encampments, all army elements had been instructed to converge there around June 26 or 27 in an attempt to engulf the Native Americans.

On June 22, Terry ordered the 7th Cavalry, composed of 31 officers and enlisted men under Custer, to begin a reconnaissance in force and pursuit along the Rosebud, with the prerogative to "depart" from orders if Custer saw "sufficient reason". Custer had been offered the use of Gatling guns but declined, believing they would slow his command. After a night's march, the tired officer who was sent with the scouts could see neither, and when Custer joined them, he was also unable to make the sighting.


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Custer contemplated a surprise attack against the encampment the following morning of June 26, but he then received a report informing him several hostiles had discovered the trail left by his troops. On the morning of June 25, Custer divided his 12 companies into three battalions in anticipation of the forthcoming engagement. The 12th, Company B under Captain Thomas McDougall , had been assigned to escort the slower pack train carrying provisions and additional ammunition.

Unknown to Custer, the group of Native Americans seen on his trail was actually leaving the encampment and did not alert the rest of the village. Custer's scouts warned him about the size of the village, with Mitch Bouyer reportedly saying, "General, I have been with these Indians for 30 years, and this is the largest village I have ever heard of. The command began its approach to the village at noon and prepared to attack in full daylight.

As the Army moved into the field on its expedition, it was operating with incorrect assumptions as to the number of Indians it would encounter. These assumptions were based on inaccurate information provided by the Indian Agents that no more than hostiles were in the area. The Indian Agents based this estimate on the number of Lakota that Sitting Bull and other leaders had reportedly led off the reservation in protest of U.

It was in fact a correct estimate until several weeks before the battle, when the "reservation Indians" joined Sitting Bull's ranks for the summer buffalo hunt. The agents did not take into account the many thousands of these "reservation Indians" who had unofficially left the reservation to join their "uncooperative non-reservation cousins led by Sitting Bull".

Thus, Custer unknowingly faced thousands of Indians, including the non-reservation "hostiles". All Army plans were based on the incorrect numbers. Although Custer was criticized after the battle for not having accepted reinforcements and for dividing his forces, it appears that he had accepted the same official government estimates of hostiles in the area which Terry and Gibbon had also accepted. Historian James Donovan notes, however, that when Custer later asked interpreter Fred Gerard for his opinion on the size of the opposition, he estimated the force at between 1, to 2, warriors.

Additionally, Custer was more concerned with preventing the escape of the Lakota and Cheyenne than with fighting them. From his own observation, as reported by his bugler John Martin Martini , [40] Custer assumed the warriors had been sleeping in on the morning of the battle, to which virtually every native account attested later, giving Custer a false estimate of what he was up against. When he and his scouts first looked down on the village from the Crow's Nest across the Little Bighorn River, they could only see the herd of ponies. Later, looking from a hill 2.


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Custer's Crow scouts told him it was the largest native village they had ever seen. When the scouts began changing back into their native dress right before the battle, Custer released them from his command. While the village was enormous in size, Custer still thought there were far fewer warriors to defend the village. Finally, Custer may have assumed when he encountered the Native Americans, his subordinate Benteen, and with the pack train, would provide support.

Rifle volleys were a standard way of telling supporting units to come to another unit's aid. Custer had initially wanted to take a day to scout the village before attacking; however, when men went back looking for supplies accidentally dropped by the pack train, they discovered that their track had already been discovered by Indians.

Reports from his scouts also revealed fresh pony tracks from ridges overlooking his formation. It became apparent that the warriors in the village were either aware of or would soon be aware of his approach. Custer's field strategy was designed to engage noncombatants at the encampments on the Little Bighorn so as to capture women, children, and the elderly or disabled [44] : to serve as hostages to convince the warriors to surrender and comply with federal orders to relocate. Custer's battalions were poised to "ride into the camp and secure noncombatant hostages" [45] and "forc[e] the warriors to surrender".

Connell observed that if Custer could occupy the village before widespread resistance developed, the Sioux and Cheyenne warriors "would be obliged to surrender, because if they started to fight, they would be endangering their families. Indians contemplating a battle, either offensive or defensive, are always anxious to have their women and children removed from all danger For this reason I decided to locate our [military] camp as close as convenient to [Chief Black Kettle's Cheyenne] village, knowing that the close proximity of their women and children, and their necessary exposure in case of conflict, would operate as a powerful argument in favor of peace, when the question of peace or war came to be discussed.

On Custer's decision to advance up the bluffs and descend on the village from the east, Lt.

Edward Godfrey of Company K surmised:. He must have counted upon Reno's success, and fully expected the "scatteration" of the non-combatants with the pony herds. The probable attack upon the families and capture of the herds were in that event counted upon to strike consternation in the hearts of the warriors, and were elements for success upon which General Custer fully counted.

The Sioux and Cheyenne fighters were acutely aware of the danger posed by the military engagement of noncombatants and that "even a semblance of an attack on the women and children" would draw the warriors back to the village, according to historian John S. Yates' E and F Companies at the mouth of Medicine Tail Coulee Minneconjou Ford caused hundreds of warriors to disengage from the Reno valley fight and return to deal with the threat to the village. Some authors and historians, based on archaeological evidence and reviews of native testimony, speculate that Custer attempted to cross the river at a point further north they refer to as Ford D.

According to Richard A. Fox, James Donovan, and others, Custer proceeded with a wing of his battalion Yates' Troops E and F north and opposite the Cheyenne circle at that crossing, [44] : —77 which provided "access to the [women and children] fugitives. The Lone Teepee or Tipi was a landmark along the 7th Cavalry's march. It was where the Indian encampment had been a week earlier, during the Battle of the Rosebud on June 17, The Indians had left a single teepee standing some reports mention a second that had been partially dismantled , and in it was the body of a Sans Arc warrior, Old She-Bear, who had been wounded in the battle.

He had died a couple of days after the Rosebud battle, and it was the custom of the Indians to move camp when a warrior died and leave the body with its possessions. The Lone Teepee was an important location during the Battle of the Little Bighorn for several reasons, including: [53] [54] [55]. William W. Cooke , as Custer's Crow scouts reported Sioux tribe members were alerting the village. Ordered to charge, Reno began that phase of the battle.

The orders, made without accurate knowledge of the village's size, location, or the warriors' propensity to stand and fight, had been to pursue the Native Americans and "bring them to battle. They immediately realized that the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne were present "in force and not running away. Reno advanced rapidly across the open field towards the northwest, his movements masked by the thick bramble of trees that ran along the southern banks of the Little Bighorn River.

The same trees on his front right shielded his movements across the wide field over which his men rapidly rode, first with two approximately forty-man companies abreast and eventually with all three charging abreast. The trees also obscured Reno's view of the Native American village until his force had passed that bend on his right front and was suddenly within arrow-shot of the village. The tepees in that area were occupied by the Hunkpapa Sioux. Neither Custer nor Reno had much idea of the length, depth and size of the encampment they were attacking, as the village was hidden by the trees.

He ordered his troopers to dismount and deploy in a skirmish line , according to standard army doctrine. In this formation, every fourth trooper held the horses for the troopers in firing position, with five to ten yards separating each trooper, officers to their rear and troopers with horses behind the officers. This formation reduced Reno's firepower by 25 percent.

With Reno's men anchored on their right by the protection of the tree line and bend in the river, the Indians rode against the center and exposed left end of Reno's line. After about 20 minutes of long-distance firing, Reno had taken only one casualty, but the odds against him had risen Reno estimated five to one , and Custer had not reinforced him. Trooper Billy Jackson reported that by then, the Indians had begun massing in the open area shielded by a small hill to the left of Reno's line and to the right of the Indian village.

This forced a hasty withdrawal into the timber along the bend in the river. After giving orders to mount, dismount and mount again, Reno told his men within earshot, "All those who wish to make their escape follow me," and led a disorderly rout across the river toward the bluffs on the other side.

The retreat was immediately disrupted by Cheyenne attacks at close quarters. Later, Reno reported that three officers and 29 troopers had been killed during the retreat and subsequent fording of the river. Another officer and 13—18 men were missing. Most of these missing men were left behind in the timber, although many eventually rejoined the detachment. Reno's hasty retreat may have been precipitated by the death of Reno's Arikara scout Bloody Knife , who had been shot in the head as he sat on his horse next to Reno, his blood and brains splattering the side of Reno's face.

This force had been returning from a lateral scouting mission when it had been summoned by Custer's messenger, Italian bugler John Martin Giovanni Martini with the handwritten message "Benteen. Come on, Big Village, Be quick, Bring packs. Bring Packs. Their detachments were later reinforced by McDougall's Company B and the pack train.

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The 14 officers and troopers on the bluffs organized an all-around defense and dug rifle pits using whatever implements they had among them, including knives. This practice had become standard during the last year of the American Civil War, with both Union and Confederate troops utilizing knives, eating utensils, mess plates and pans to dig effective battlefield fortifications. Benteen's apparent reluctance to reach Custer prompted later criticism that he had failed to follow orders.

Thomas Weir and Company D moved out to make contact with Custer. The conventional historical understanding is that what Weir witnessed was most likely warriors killing the wounded soldiers and shooting at dead bodies on the "Last Stand Hill" at the northern end of the Custer battlefield. Some contemporary historians have suggested instead that what Weir witnessed was a fight on what is now called Calhoun Hill, some minutes earlier.

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The other entrenched companies eventually left Reno Hill and followed Weir by assigned battalions, first Benteen, then Reno, and finally the pack train. Growing attacks around Weir Ridge by natives coming from the apparently concluded Custer engagement forced all seven companies to return to the bluff before the pack train, with the ammunition, had moved even a quarter mile. The companies remained pinned down on the bluff for another day, but the natives were unable to breach the tightly held position. 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Tragedy of the American Military

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