Little Bits of History

Last Stand

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 25, 2011

General George Armstrong Custer

June 25, 1876: George Armstrong Custer leads the United States Army 7th Cavalry to defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn or Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse lead combined forces of the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne nations to a stunning victory at the Battle of the Greasy Grass. Custer’s forces numbered about 650 officers, troops, civilians, and scouts. The combined Indian forces came from 949 lodges and numbered between 950 and 1,200 men.

After forced marches on June 24-25, Custer’s Crow scouts told him that there were large encampments of Indians in the area. Custer divided his troops into four detachments. The largest of them was led by Custer himself and there were 13 officers and nearly 200 men, three of them civilians [one news reporter and two scouts]. The second detachment led by Major Reno consisted of 11 officers and 131 troops while the third detachment led by Captain Benteen had 5 officers and 110 troops. The fourth detachment was the pack train with 2 officers and 127 troops. Each of the first three detachments was to seek out Indian encampments and attack.

Reno attacked and was driven off after hearing gunfire in the distance. Custer’s engagement did not go as he had planned. He met with a far greater number of combatants than he had anticipated. He was outnumbered 3:1 and after troops freed with Reno’s retreat, the numbers changed to 5:1. According to Lakota accounts, Crazy Horse led his combined forces against Custer. Many of his men had repeating rifles while the 7th Cavalry was armed with single shot rifles that were known to jam. Custer’s men were in a depression while Crazy Horse’s men were on higher ground, making arrows a more lethal weapon. After annihilating Custer’s detachment, the Indians re-engaged with Reno and Benteen fighting until nightfall and taking up the battle the next day.

The battlefield was preserved as a national cemetery in 1879. The name has changed twice since that time and is today called the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. There is a marble obelisk memorializing the fallen US soldiers. In 2003 an Indian Memorial entitled Spirit Warriors, a beautifully rendered sculpture, was dedicated at the site as well.

“There are not enough Indians in the world to defeat the Seventh Cavalry.” – George Armstrong Custer

“I do not wish to be shut up in a corral. All agency Indians I have seen are worthless. They are neither red warriors nor white farmers. They are neither wolf nor dog.” – Sitting Bull

“Free people, remember this maxim: we may acquire liberty, but it is never recovered if it is once lost.” – Jean Jacques Rousseau

“The only man who makes no mistakes is the man who never does anything. Do not be afraid to make mistakes providing you do not make the same one twice.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Also on this day:
Great Star of Africa – In 1905, The Cullinan diamond was discovered.
The End – In 1906, a bizarre love triangle ended badly.

3 Responses

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on June 25, 2013 at 11:02 am

    ” between 950 and 1,200 men” is a very small number compared to the more than a million in North America- those that defeated Custer were those that made their living by robbing and killing the weakest of those that existed in the region. Custer and his men may have all been slaughtered but they killed enough of the indian raiders that everybody in the region,white and indian, lived in peace after that battle.

  2. Gerald said, on January 11, 2017 at 10:00 am

    Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.

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