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Custer's Last Stand

Battle of the Little Big Horn


In May of 1876 three columns of US Armed Forces, under the commands of Generals Terry, Crook and Colonel Gibbon, rode out to converge in southeastern Montana Territory with an aim to find free-roaming bands (termed "hostiles") of mostly Sioux and Northern Cheyenne tribes, round them up and force them onto the Great Sioux Reservation in Dakota Territory. Part of that force was the US 7th Cavalry under command of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer; the only unit to actually find and confront the entire congregation of those free-roaming bands.

Relying on reports of scouts, General Terry ordered Custer to pursue the hostiles. Custer lead the 7th Cavalry out of Gen. Terry's camp on June 22 and rode south.

At dawn on June 25th, from a point called Crow's Nest, scouts spied a gathering of Indians in a distant valley to the west. Fearing that they would escape, Custer immediately rode toward the Indians. With him were 586 troopers in 12 companies, 31 officers, 33 Indian scouts, some 20 civilians, and a mule train carrying supplies and ammunition.

The hostiles, under the political and spiritual leadership of Chief Sitting Bull, were found camped in a valley by Little Bighorn River. With them were many great warriors including Crazy Horse and Lame White Man. In the ensuing battle Custer, a hero of the Civil War, and 210 men with him lost their lives.

Although many warriors gave accounts of what happened, Custer's last battle remained shrouded in mystery, legend, and fictional fabrications until recent archaeological fieldwork revealed enough evidence to corroborate historical accounts and allowed archaeologist Dr. Richard Fox to make a detailed construct of the events of that battle. The full story of the archaeological work and the new construct of battle events can be found in his book Archaeology, History, and Custer's Last Battle, (University of Oklahoma Press)

In May of 1876 three columns of US Armed Forces, under the commands of General Terry, Colonel Gibbon, and General Crook, rode out to converge in southeastern Montana Territory with an aim to find free-roaming bands (termed "hostiles") of mostly Sioux and Northern Cheyenne tribes, round them up and force them onto the Great Sioux Reservation in Dakota Territory. The US 7th Cavalry under command of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer was in General Terry's column

General Terry and Colonel Gibbon's columns linked up by Yellowstone River on June 17, 1876. Scouts' reports of the hostiles' location pointed to the south.

Ordered to pursue the "hostiles" Custer advanced from the camp of Terry and Gibbon on June 22. At dawn on June 25th, from a point called Crow's Nest Custer's scouts spied a gathering of Indians in a distant valley to the west. Fearing they would escape, Custer immediately rode toward the Indians. With him were 586 troopers in 12 companies, 31 officers, 33 Indian scouts, some 20 civilians, and a mule train carrying supplies and ammunition. Shortly, Custer divided his command into three battalions and sent one battalion under Major Benteen to the left. Farther up, he ordered the second battalion, under Major Reno, to cross Little Bighorn River and attack the hostiles. Custer, with the third Battalion veered right onto the hills by the river. Terry and Gibbon arrived on June 27, but Custer and many men had lost their lives and the hostiles were gone

Major Reno MaMajor Reno crossed Little Bighorn River with his battalion and charged the encampment in the valley. (After the battle some of these men reported having seen Custer up in the hills during their charge in the valley. That was the last reported sighting of Custer and his men by members of the 7th Cavalry.)


The warriors were totally surprised by Reno's charge, but they quickly mobilized and mounted a counter attack So effective was their counter attack that Reno was forced to halt the charge and deploy a skirmish line. The warriors soon flanked and overwhelmed the skirmish line and Reno began a retreat into the hills. Here, in a barely defensible position, Reno was joined by Benteen and his battalion but the warriors surrounded them and kept them pinned under heavy fire for two days. These men knew nothing of what happened to Custer and the men with him. Custer's body, along with the bodies of some of his men were later found four miles away on what is now called Last Stand Hill. Bodies of the rest of the men with him were found scattered on nearby hills and ravines. Archaeologist Richard Fox took evidence provided by archaeology and combed historical accounts to find corroboration to bridge the gap in Custer's activity between his last sighting and where his body was found. He published his construction of the missing battle events in a book and a video titled Archaeology, History, and Custer's Last Battle .(Univ. of Oklahoma Press)

 

Chronology:
1861-'65 - American Civil War

1862 - Montana gold rush

1874 - Custer's Black Hills expedition

1874 - Gold found in the Black Hills

1876 - Custer's last battle

1877 - Sitting Bull goes to Canada

1877 - Crazy Horse killed at Fort Robinson, NE

1890 - Sitting Bull killed during arrest

 





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