The Battle Of Little Bighorn
The battle of Little Bighorn was fought in the year 1876. It is also commonly referred to as Custer’s Last Stand. It took place between the United States Cavalry which was led by Lieutenant Colonel Custer. He was accompanied by the Native American tribes of Cheyenne, Sioux and Arapaho. Before the battle the tribes had decided to wage a war against the settlers because they had repeatedly broken their promise of staying off tribal lands in the Black Hills.
In late 1875 the natives of the tribes of Cheyenne and Sioux left their lands in order to wage wars against the settlers. The reason was that the settlers continuously lead into the sacred tribal lands of Black Hills. The Indians got together under the command of the great Native American warrior Sitting Bull in order to fight for their lands. In the following spring, they had two victories over the US army and this emboldened them to fight against Custer in the summer of 1876.
On the 22nd of June, Brigadier Terry sent Colonel Custer alongside the 7thCavalry on a journey to follow Sitting Bull’s path. The idea was to have Custer strike the tribes and force them towards another smaller force which was supposed to be deployed further. This was along river Little Bighorn. On the 25th of June, early in the morning the scouts found the Sitting Bull’s village location. The intention was to put the cavalry in position. However the scouts were spotted by the Indians and Custer believed they had gone to warn the village. This is why he attacked without delay. He split the corps in three smaller battalions. One company under Captain Reno was sent for a head on attack, Captain Benteen and his three forces were sent south to stop the Indians from fleeing there and he himself took 5 companies. This was to strike at the village from the Northern end. With the progress of the battle Custer, alongside his men were surprised by a number of things. The first was the remarkable number of warriors the Indians had. Intelligence has the number at 800 but it was close to 2200. Custer’s regiment was decimated by the tribes. The outcome of the battle shocked the government that they were forced to flood the area with troops and Indians were forced to surrender.
The Battle of Little Bighorn is one of the most studied battles in American History.
The Battle of the Little Bighorn, 1876
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In late 1875, Sioux and Cheyenne Indians defiantly left their reservations, outraged over the continued intrusions of whites into their sacred lands in the Black Hills. They gathered in Montana with the great warrior Sitting Bull to fight for their lands. The following spring, two victories over the US Cavalry emboldened them to fight on in the summer of 1876.
|George Armstrong Custer|
Reno's squadron of 175 soldiers attacked the southern end. Quickly finding themselves in a desperate battle with little hope of any relief, Reno halted his charging men before they could be trapped, fought for ten minutes in dismounted formation, and then withdrew into the timber and brush along the river. When that position proved indefensible, they retreated uphill to the bluffs east of the river, pursued hotly by a mix of Cheyenne and Sioux.
Just as they finished driving the soldiers out, the Indians found roughly 210 of Custer's men coming towards the other end of the village, taking the pressure off of Reno's men. Cheyenne and Hunkpapa Sioux together crossed the river and slammed into the advancing soldiers, forcing them back to a long high ridge to the north. Meanwhile, another force, largely Oglala Sioux under Crazy Horse's command, swiftly moved downstream and then doubled back in a sweeping arc, enveloping Custer and his men in a pincer move. They began pouring in gunfire and arrows.As the Indians closed in, Custer ordered his men to shoot their horses and stack the carcasses to form a wall, but they provided little protection against bullets. In less than an hour, Custer and his men were killed in the worst American military disaster ever. After another day's fighting, Reno and Benteen's now united forces escaped when the Indians broke off the fight. They had learned that the other two columns of soldiers were coming towards them, so they fled.
After the battle, the Indians came through and stripped the bodies and mutilated all the uniformed soldiers, believing that the soul of a mutilated body would be forced to walk the earth for all eternity and could not ascend to heaven. Inexplicably, they stripped Custer's body and cleaned it, but did not scalp or mutilate it. He had been wearing buckskins instead of a blue uniform, and some believe that the Indians thought he was not a soldier and so, thinking he was an innocent, left him alone. Because his hair was cut short for battle, others think that he did not have enough hair to allow for a very good scalping. Immediately after the battle, the myth emerged that they left him alone out of respect for his fighting ability, but few participating Indians knew who he was to have been so respectful. To this day, no one knows the real reason.
George Herendon served as a scout for the Seventh Cavalry - a civilian under contract with the army and attached to Major Reno's command. Herendon charged across the Little Bighorn River with Reno as the soldiers met an overwhelming force of Sioux streaming from their encampment. After the battle, Herendon told his story to a reporter from the New York Herald:
"Reno took a steady gallop down the creek bottom three miles where it emptied into the Little Horn, and found a natural ford across the Little Horn River. He started to cross, when the scouts came back and called out to him to hold on, that the Sioux were coming in large numbers to meet him. He crossed over, however, formed his companies on the prairie in line of battle, and moved forward at a trot but soon took a gallop.
"The Valley was about three fourth of a mile wide, on the left a line of low, round hills, and on the right the river bottom covered with a growth of cottonwood trees and bushes. After scattering shots were fired from the hills and a few from the river bottom and Reno's skirmishers returned the shots.
"He advanced about a mile from the ford to a line of timber on the right and dismounted his men to fight on foot. The horses were sent into the timber, and the men forward on the prairie and advanced toward the Indians. The Indians, mounted on ponies, came across the prairie and opened a heavy fire on the soldiers. After skirmishing for a few minutes Reno fell back to his horses in the timber. The Indians moved to his left and rear, evidently with the intention of cutting him off from the ford.
"Reno ordered his men to mount and move through the timber, but as his men got into the saddle the Sioux, who had advanced in the timber, fired at close range and killed one soldier. Colonel Reno then commanded the men to dismount, and they did so, but he soon ordered them to mount again, and moved out on to the open prairie."