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Little Bighorn "What if?"

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  • Little Bighorn "What if?"

    What if Ranald "Bad Hand" Mackenzie and the 4th U.S. Cavalry were the commander and force at Little Bighorn?

    http://www.americanheritage.com/content/border-warrior

    What is likely to have been different, if anything?
    "Shoot for the epaulets, boys! Shoot for the epaulets!" - Daniel Morgan

  • #2
    Mackenzie would likely avoid the major battle in favor of hitting the village. He was a smart Indian fighter not prone to risk or walking into a trap

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Elijah View Post
      Mackenzie would likely avoid the major battle in favor of hitting the village. He was a smart Indian fighter not prone to risk or walking into a trap
      Thats exactly what Custer's plan was.

      Without going into detail, Custer attempted to strike the village and a battle ensued.
      "The blade itself incites to deeds of violence".

      Homer


      BoRG

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      • #4
        Or, when he realized how many Indians he was facing, would he have figured a battle was pointless and gone for the horse herd. Even if the natives escape, they can't take much with them without horses.

        Mackenzie killed 1400 horses in September 1874 at the Palo Duro Canyon. Then he burned everything that had to be left behind. The Comanche escaped, too - only to come straggling in demoralized later. Mission accomplished, in a roundabout way.
        "Shoot for the epaulets, boys! Shoot for the epaulets!" - Daniel Morgan

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by KRJ View Post
          What if Ranald "Bad Hand" Mackenzie and the 4th U.S. Cavalry were the commander and force at Little Bighorn?

          http://www.americanheritage.com/content/border-warrior

          What is likely to have been different, if anything?
          Mackenzie was unquestionably the superior leader. Custer had better public relations in the literary publishings and orations of his wife, Elizabeth.
          "Profanity is but a linguistic crutch for illiterate motherbleepers"

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          • #6
            About “What If’s” anyone remember the old Twilight Zone episode where the crew of a Stewart tank got into the battle? One of the last lines was what if they could have taken the tank?

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            • #7
              Brief example of Mackenzie at Palo Duro Canyon.

              "Troop H being in line across the canyon at this time was exposed to an enfilading fire from both bluffs. Six or eight horses had been shot in as many minutes. The men were now dismounted, and leaving the horses in charge of the horse soldiers they were ordered by Captain Gunther to clear the bluffs of Indians. There was little or no cover. The movement had just begun when General Mackenzie, who was nearby, upon discovering it called out, 'Sgt, where are you going with those men?'.
              'To clear the bluff sir'!
              'By whose orders?'.
              'Captain Gunther!'
              'Take those men back to their company. Not one of them would live to reach the top', and riding over to the captain he gave him to understand that he disapproved of such a move."

              Another clip from the same battle:

              "At a time when the fire was hottest, one of the men said on seeing the command was nearly surrounded, 'how will we ever get out of here?'

              The general on hearing him said, 'I brought you in, I will take you out.'

              Most of the men did not question when he led, we knew we could depend on his care and guidance."



              These quotes from 'On the Border With Mackenzie'

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              • #8
                It is difficult to compare. No commander during the Indian Wars faced so many Indians as Custer, not even close. MacKenzie prior to the Little Big Horn would have been operating under the same faulty assumptions as Custer, "Hit them and they will run. Like Custer he would have been thinking more about preventing escape, than attacking a couple thousand aggressive warriors.
                No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends John 15:13

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by MontanaKid View Post
                  It is difficult to compare. No commander during the Indian Wars faced so many Indians as Custer, not even close. MacKenzie prior to the Little Big Horn would have been operating under the same faulty assumptions as Custer, "Hit them and they will run. Like Custer he would have been thinking more about preventing escape, than attacking a couple thousand aggressive warriors.
                  True, not in numbers, but MacKenzie fought several additional successful battles against the Indians than did Custer and his odds of survival were nearly always as tight.
                  "Profanity is but a linguistic crutch for illiterate motherbleepers"

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by MontanaKid View Post
                    It is difficult to compare. No commander during the Indian Wars faced so many Indians as Custer, not even close. MacKenzie prior to the Little Big Horn would have been operating under the same faulty assumptions as Custer, "Hit them and they will run. Like Custer he would have been thinking more about preventing escape, than attacking a couple thousand aggressive warriors.
                    Why make such an assumption about Mackenzie when nothing in his record labels him with the kind of arrogant recklessness shown by Custer. Mackenzie maintained a conservative approach and was very successful in his campaigns. Custer? Not so much. Mackenzie smelled ambush and altered plans accordingly. Custer? Not so much.

                    Also, Mackenzie's campaigns predates LBH. Seems like maybe Custer is the one who failed to learn from the experiences of others. And Mackenzie was already beyond the lack of respect for one's opponent so obvious in Custer's "hit em and they will run" belief.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Elijah View Post
                      Why make such an assumption about Mackenzie when nothing in his record labels him with the kind of arrogant recklessness shown by Custer. Mackenzie maintained a conservative approach and was very successful in his campaigns. Custer? Not so much. Mackenzie smelled ambush and altered plans accordingly. Custer? Not so much.

                      Also, Mackenzie's campaigns predates LBH. Seems like maybe Custer is the one who failed to learn from the experiences of others. And Mackenzie was already beyond the lack of respect for one's opponent so obvious in Custer's "hit em and they will run" belief.
                      The belief was not just Custer's. That was the Army's belief. They sent three columns into SE Montana with the assumption that any ONE of them, even Gibbon's 426 men, could handle the Indians. The numbers sent were not because they thought they needed them all to defeat the Lakota/Cheyenne. They sent to shut off avenues of escape.

                      Terry's whole plan was to prevent escape and you can be sure that Custer's original plan when he advanced was the same. NO ONE in the Army respected the Indians ability to stand and fight any one of these columns. Remember Gibbon tried to attack them on the Tongue with his smaller force but aborted when he could not manage to swim the horses over. Gibbon did not know how large the village was either, or its exact location. They had just Bradley's scouts spotting of a lot of smoke arising from a "large village." All Custer had was the Crow's spotting (some of these same that were with Bradley, by the way) who spotted a large horse herd. "Look for worms." They told Custer. He never could see it from Crows Nest, but made his plans based on the word of the Crow.

                      You are assuming Custer did what he did out of arrogant recklessness. If he was reckless, he would have charged the village. Perhaps he was wise. Perhaps he was timid. These was not enough Indians at the MTC ford initially to stop him.

                      Instead he pulled up. Perhaps because scouts told him of Reno's route. He pulled away from the village to Custer Ridge. He apparently explored different avenues of approach to the village further north and waited for Benteen. But he chose to take no aggressive action after stopping at MTC. He apparently deployed troops at different places to hold back the threat of advancing Indians while looking to the south for signs of Benteen.

                      But what every aggressive ideas he may have had included Benteen's battalion. Custer died because he waited on the hill for Benteen. Uncharacteristically he was swarmed by warriors, already confident after battling Crook and forcing his withdrawal, and freshly rejuvenated by their easy route of Reno. His experience told him he could wait on the hill for Benteen without serious pressure from the Lakota/Cheyenne. His experience and that of the rest of the Army was very wrong on that day.

                      I don't know about comparing MacKenzie. How about Nelson Miles? His fifth Infantry basically ran the non-reservation Lakota to ground. Miles was a always a defender of Custer.
                      Last edited by MontanaKid; 29 Sep 12, 17:53.
                      No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends John 15:13

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by MontanaKid View Post
                        The belief was not just Custer's. That was the Army's belief. They sent three columns into SE Montana with the assumption that any ONE of them, even Gibbon's 426 men, could handle the Indians. The numbers sent were not because they thought they needed them all to defeat the Lakota/Cheyenne. They sent to shut off avenues of escape.

                        Terry's whole plan was to prevent escape and you can be sure that Custer's original plan when he advanced was the same. NO ONE in the Army respected the Indians ability to stand and fight any one of these columns. Remember Gibbon tried to attack them on the Tongue with his smaller force but aborted when he could not manage to swim the horses over. Gibbon did not know how large the village was either, or its exact location. They had just Bradley's scouts spotting of a lot of smoke arising from a "large village." All Custer had was the Crow's spotting (some of these same that were with Bradley, by the way) who spotted a large horse herd. "Look for worms." They told Custer. He never could see it from Crows Nest, but made his plans based on the word of the Crow.

                        You are assuming Custer did what he did out of arrogant recklessness. If he was reckless, he would have charged the village. Perhaps he was wise. Perhaps he was timid. These was not enough Indians at the MTC ford initially to stop him.

                        Instead he pulled up. Perhaps because scouts told him of Reno's route. He pulled away from the village to Custer Ridge. He apparently explored different avenues of approach to the village further north and waited for Benteen. But he chose to take no aggressive action after stopping at MTC. He apparently deployed troops at different places to hold back the threat of advancing Indians while looking to the south for signs of Benteen.

                        But what every aggressive ideas he may have had included Benteen's battalion. Custer died because he waited on the hill for Benteen. Uncharacteristically he was swarmed by warriors, already confident after battling Crook and forcing his withdrawal, and freshly rejuvenated by their easy route of Reno. His experience told him he could wait on the hill for Benteen without serious pressure from the Lakota/Cheyenne. His experience and that of the rest of the Army was very wrong on that day.

                        I don't know about comparing MacKenzie. How about Nelson Miles? His fifth Infantry basically ran the non-reservation Lakota to ground. Miles was a always a defender of Custer.
                        Hmmm, to clarify a bit, in the post I responded to you attributed the 'hit em and they will run' thing to Custer. Clearly, such a blind belief represented arrogant recklessness. However, I do not claim to know much more about Custer than what I read here. But, I did purchase a book earlier today by a fellow named Donovan. Kind of worried about it though. His first chapter is a brief summary of White/Indian relations from the Jamestown days and his observations on that did not square with my studies on early VA. So, question? Is this book any good?

                        On the other hand, my earlier post was really based on an observation that Mackenzie was not guilty of any such belief.

                        Also, just as an observation from the discussion in the Custer thread, Mackenzie's men (not just the officers) frequently had beef, turkey, or quail for supper. They hunted frequently although, interestingly enough, the rule at that time for them was, hunt for meat only and not to waste the buffalo indiscriminately. Sort of a contradiction when one considers Mackenzie is famous (or infamous) for killing the Comanche horse herd.

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                        • #13
                          Don't know that much about Miles outside of the Red River War. Sorry.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Elijah View Post
                            Don't know that much about Miles outside of the Red River War. Sorry.
                            Miles, is an interesting story. After the Civil War the South hated him for ordering that Jefferson Davis be kept in manacles while being detained. Miles was in charge there.

                            Miles, is also known for the final campaign against Geronimo. But the result of the Custer debacle is that the Army ordered all available troops into SE Montana NE Wyoming. MacKenzie of course struck Dull Knife's Cheyenne village. Miles was a full colonel in command of the fifth Infantry. After some fruitless parley with Sitting Bull, who was feeling cocky after the Rosebud battle and Little Big horn.he defeated the Unkpapa at Cederal Creek Montana. The human blood toll was not high but the Unkpapa lost many of their horses and other provisions needed for the winter. Miles mounted his infantry mostly on captured Indian ponies and pursued the Unkpapa, chasing them to the Missouri from where they crossed and fled to Canada. Equipping his troops with buffalo coats for the winter, he fought Crazy Horse at Wolf mountain, inflicting enough damage that it spurred Crazy Horse to find a way to go back to the reservation. Finally he defeated Lame Deer's band, which ended the Northern Plains War, which began so badly with the defeat of Crook and Custer.

                            It was his mounted fifth Infantry, augmented by a battalion of the 7th Cavalry that put the Nez Perce under siege near the Bear Paw Mountains of Northcentral Montana. The Tongue River Cantonment, later renamed Fort Keogh for one of Custer's favorite officers who died with him at the Little Big Horn. Today's Miles City, Montana was named for him and sits near the site of Fort Keogh.



                            The photo above is a later photo of African American Infantry on a march near Fort Keogh. Of course Miles eventually became Chief of Staff of the Army, (there were no joint chiefs in those days, so he was top dog) the post he held during the Spanish American War.
                            Last edited by MontanaKid; 29 Sep 12, 22:12.
                            No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends John 15:13

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Elijah View Post
                              Hmmm, to clarify a bit, in the post I responded to you attributed the 'hit em and they will run' thing to Custer. Clearly, such a blind belief represented arrogant recklessness. However, I do not claim to know much more about Custer than what I read here. But, I did purchase a book earlier today by a fellow named Donovan. Kind of worried about it though. His first chapter is a brief summary of White/Indian relations from the Jamestown days and his observations on that did not square with my studies on early VA. So, question? Is this book any good?

                              On the other hand, my earlier post was really based on an observation that Mackenzie was not guilty of any such belief.

                              Also, just as an observation from the discussion in the Custer thread, Mackenzie's men (not just the officers) frequently had beef, turkey, or quail for supper. They hunted frequently although, interestingly enough, the rule at that time for them was, hunt for meat only and not to waste the buffalo indiscriminately. Sort of a contradiction when one considers Mackenzie is famous (or infamous) for killing the Comanche horse herd.
                              Sorry. I had talked about the Army's general disregard for the fighting ability of the Lakota and Cheyenne in an earlier post in this thread. This faulty belief was the major premise behind the design of the 1876 campaign. Sometimes when I re-post in the same thread. I assume everyone is on the same page as me. So sorry for that.
                              No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends John 15:13

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