Skip to comments.US History : the Battle of the Little Bighorn in six minutes
Posted on 01/16/2008 8:43:47 AM PST by drzz
LIES ON GENERAL CUSTER AND THE LITTLE BIGHORN
1) Custer never massacred Indians. (see the Battle of the Washita)
2) Custer was one of the most brilliant cavalry generals of his times (see Custer in the Civil War)
3) Custer understood how to fight Indians (see the Battle of the Washita, the Battle of the Little bighorn -LBH)
4) Custer never underestimated his enemy at Little Bighorn (see before the battle).
5) The Indians at LBH were 1'500, exactly the number of warriors Custer expected to surprise with his 647 soldiers (an usual tactic in Indian warfare). There has never been "thousands of Indians" in Sitting Bull's village or "an impossible victory" as some still say without knowing what the evidence say. (see "LBH: before the battle, Custer's plan).
6) The Indians never ambushed Custer, never flanked him. They were surprised by the attack and most of their actions were late and disorganized. (see Accounts by hostiles, Last Stand)
7) The entire 7th cavalry wasn't massacred at Little Bighorn. 2/3 of Custer's troops, who had to lead front and flank attacks, were out of the battle after 30 minutes and never reached Custer. This military betrayal by Major Reno and Captain Benteen can be proven with strong evidence shown on this website. It also explains why the army never did any inquiry on the battle (see Little Bighorn cover-up, Benteen's scout, Reno Hill, Captain Weir), and let the American public dream about the "reckless Custer".
8) Custer's attack at Little Bighorn has been supported by such figures as US general in chief Nelson Appelton Miles, the most successful Indian fighter in US history (see Little Bighorn cover-up), and many historians and others.
This is all new to me.
Time to start reading, I am off to Amazon.com
to buy some Custer books.
What are you trying to do, stick up for the evil white man?
Sorry, drzz, but Custer was never the Indian fighter that Ranald Slidell Mackenzie was. Not to say Custer was totally at fault at the Little Big Horn as most critics claim, but he wasn’t the brightest star the military had at that time.
Many claim Crook to be the best, but he had few actual engagements and preferred negotiation over military tactics. Nelson Miles was also successful, but much of his ascension came through his marrying William T. Sherman’s niece (although Sherman didn’t like him). Miles & Mackenzie clashed in 1875 when Mackenzie was placed in command of the western section of the Department of Missouri. Sheridan ultimately sided with MacKenzie over that issue.
It was Mackenzie who proved the Llano Estacado to be far less formidable a Comanche/Kiowa stronghold than others believed. It was Mackenzie who raided the Kickapoo village in Mexico on only a handshake and promise of support from Sheridan. It was Mackenzie who, in the Red River War, attacked and destroyed the Comanche & Kiowa villages at Palo Duro causing the beginning of the end of their raids in Texas and West Oklahoma. And it was Mackenzie who attacked and destroyed Dull Knife’s village after the Little Big Horn battle. This was arguably the most influential Indian fight that brought the roamers back to the reservation...for good. Yes, it took another few years for Sitting Bull to comply from his Canadian hideaway, but the Dull Knife fight was the ‘writing on the wall’.
MacKenzie, while a great Indian fighter, wasn’t good at command. He was domineering, argumentative and an all-round jerk. But he fought and won. Sadly, he died young after a complete mental breakdown.
Just my opinion :)
But be careful of what books on Custer you buy. There are hundreds and not all get it right. Too many apologists for Custer. Too many hated Custer. Here's a place to go instead of Amazon (as a member I feel constrained to promote it): Friends Of The Little Bighorn Battlefield. They have good information on all kinds of Custer literature. Another good place is the bookstore at the Little Big Horn Battlefield itself.
Go to the battlefield itself and look over the scene and see the weapons recovered from the battlefield, see where soldiers were when they were killed (or where they were found, the Indians took their dead with them)learn about the participants and decide for yourself why this happened. Custer obviously underestimated the strength of the Indians because he died there. Looking at the initial attack by Ried, and why he fled from the Indian camps North to high ground, and why the Ried / Benteen armies were unable to help Custer before the attack that killed him, and the mistakes made by the US Army in this battle, in which Custer was in command.
Custer obviously underestimated the strength of the Indians because he died there.
History has shown Custer had estimated Indian presence to be fairly close to what it was (1800 warriors or so). Actual Indian strength was greatly inflated after the fact by the public (and the military) because that's the only way they could come to grips with how someone like Custer could be defeated by a group of "savages". Custer's defeat was a defeat in detail. He separated the wings of his regiment as he had at the Washita. The river and the Eastern bluffs inhibited two of these wings from aiding each other (Custer sent Reno over the river to attack the village, while he and his 5 troops remained East of the river). The third wing under Benteen dawdled in their support of either wing. The Indians were able to successfully take on each wing in detail, and prevent Reno & Benteen from coming to Custer's aid until it was too late.
Another significant factor in the defeat was in the quantity of repeating arms (especially Winchesters) in the hands of the Indians. They were able to concentrate great firepower at pivotal points during the battle.
Custer's separating his command under other circumstances may not have been the mistake it became. But geography played a role in making it so.
see where soldiers were when they were killed (or where they were found, the Indians took their dead with them)
The markers aren't an accurate portrayal of body locations. They can be generally used to indicate where bodies were found, but many are misplaced, some of the markers meant for the Reno fight were place on the Custer portion of the battleground. Also, the markers near Deep Coulee are especially misplaced because of how the burial was conducted.
Sorry, Reno not Ried... Despite the locations of the markers as the Indians must have displaced some of them before the Army even got there, and the resulting horror of the death of a possible Presidential candidate, the Army would have certainly covered up some of the truth, although its looks bad enough for Custer despite that fact. Reno did go into the village and fled North to higher ground (my daughter and I have walked the entire battlefield and spent time at the museum and cemetery) due to the resistance initially encountered. Benteen was late to the fight for whatever reason, and the 2 Armies were not much help to Custer after they split up. Custer should have kept his Armies together, and American history of the West would probably be totally different than it is now.
I'd agree. He didn't, for two reasons I can fathom: 1) He didn't at the Washita and was successful (although Maj. Joel Elliott, had he lived, might have disputed that); 2) He was concerned many in the Indian village(s) would escape if they weren't surrounded. The first is debatable, the second is a proper argument IMO.
It's one of the great battlefields to visit. It properly takes days to do it right. I happen to have an unfired Indian bullet given to me by a good friend (also a LBH history nut), who was given it by then Park Ranger Don Ricky. It was found on a ranch adjacent to the battlefield. And, yes, it was taken legally. I have an affidavit.
You gotta figure he just had to make a call. I think both are on target, as well as I think he was a bit anxious to succeed and sent Reno in before assessing the enemy force, then was unable to communicate with him as the Cheyenne were able to intercept messengers, a factor that he had normally had to face. Going back to your original thought, he did underestimate Crazy Horse, but he would have survived without splitting the force. Interesting stuff, as I lived a few miles from Beecher’s Island battlefield in Colorado and have a pretty good understanding of the battle for the West.
When you consider that the small force at Beecher's Island was able to withstand multiple Indian attacks and hold on for a week or so, it's obvious that Custer should have been able to had he not divided his force. He may not have been successful against the villages, but he would have survived with far fewer casualties.
That’s quite a web-site, thanks for sharing. I saved it to refer to later. Indeed the US Army was undefeatable..and everywhere. Custer only needed a couple of days and the Army could have had the entire 6 battalions did I read? right there to help. Bear in mind the idea was to capture and place Indian forces back on the reservation...which was encroached by gold miners..”chiefed by the double tongues” as Ten Bears said.
Time was against the Indians, as it usually is with aboriginal civilizations. Whether it be the military, civilization's advancement, the railroads, the slaughter of the buffalo, the Indian lifestyle was DOA. They just didn't know it, nor could they.
Unfortunately, while many in the military dealt with the Indians in a relatively humanitarian way (for the period, and after subjugation), the government in all its wisdom saw differently. Money was to be had and the Dept. of the Interior did everything possible to see that the proper parties were compensated while the Indians were left to shift. A sad tale.
Confusion regarding the settling of the West is partly fueled by innaccuracies in movies and stories as my Mom pointed out that Ten Bears was a Commanche not a Sioux...as he was in “Dances with Wolves”
Ironies abound. Custer didn't hate the Indians and they didn't hate him. He opposed the policy of forcible return to the reservations, testified against it in front of Congress, and nearly lost his command as a result. Major media darling. May have been the most photographed man of the 19th century. Had he lived he may have been the tribes' best hope at stopping the policy that led to the battle.
He does appear to have lost track of precisely where their forces were on his approach. Reno's movements were probably responsible for that. I would not categorize Reno's performance as a "betrayal" although he was court-martialed and several contemporary analysts did so. But certainly he also wasn't where Custer expected him to be.
The hill itself is a lousy defensive position but was probably the best one within reach by the time Custer did figure out what was really happening. But he'd have been flanked at some point unless he were relieved - the Lakota and Cheyenne had some of the best light cavalry commanders in the world at the time. Preventing that was probably why Keogh was where he was. That isn't obvious on a map but standing there it's pretty clear.
That's just my subjective and admittedly amateur impression. BTT for a great topic.
IMO, this tells it all. The history of the Indian Wars is fraught with second guessing. Custer did little different from other commanders in other campaigns. The biggest drawbacks to such tactics (in this instance) was the size of the villages, their proximity to one another, and his concentration of his wing on the bluffs as opposed to Reno in the valley. The bluffs and river divided his command beyond what normal tactics would allow. And it left him (and possibly Reno had Terry not showed up soon) with an indefensible position.
And, yes, it's a great topic.
Update to the thread because of further good information.
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