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  • Custer's Last Stand

    What if General Custer had heeded the warnings of his Indian Scouts, regarding the true nature of the size of the "Big Village" at the Little Big Horn and the overwhelming numbers of plains Indians there and had taken their words of wisdom to heart?

    What if Custer had not sent Benteen and Reno off on a wild goose chase and a half-hearted attack on that village, but instead, kept his command and the pack mule ammuntion train together?

    What were his other options?

    I would have sent gallopers back to the Terry-Gibbon main column, a day's ride to the East, while disengaging also and pulling back, in order to allow my Indian Scouts to continue keeping track of the status of the "Big Village" and more importantly, to allow the exhausted men, horses and mules of the 7th Cavalry a full day's rest and respite. I would have "dug in" somewhere East, down the river to allow an easy access to water and awaited a new day.
    "Profanity is but a linguistic crutch for illiterate motherbleepers"

  • #2
    "I would have sent gallopers back to the Terry-Gibbon main column, a day's ride to the East,"

    If I remember correctly that was the essence of Gibbons orders. To locate & observe the Sioux group or groups until the main command caught up.

    In that sense detaching Benteens squadron to search for other camp sites was logical. Attacking was definitly not, and against orders.

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    • #3
      As custer was heading out on June 22, Gibbon said "Now Custer, don't be greedy, wait for us." Andrist, The Long Death, p. 269 in the Chapter titled Now Custer Don't be Greedy. Custer refused the addition of the 4th Cav companies and of gatling guns and claimed the 7th was invincible and could whip any and all Indians by itself.

      In short, Custer had no intention of obeying orders, so any what-ifs are not very plausible unless Custer is not in command.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by grognard View Post
        As custer was heading out on June 22, Gibbon said "Now Custer, don't be greedy, wait for us." Andrist, The Long Death, p. 269 in the Chapter titled Now Custer Don't be Greedy. Custer refused the addition of the 4th Cav companies and of gatling guns and claimed the 7th was invincible and could whip any and all Indians by itself.

        In short, Custer had no intention of obeying orders, so any what-ifs are not very plausible unless Custer is not in command.
        Grognard,
        Your last statement pretty well covers the subject. This is one of those events in history where strategic and tactical concerns were completely overshadowed by a personality.
        Custer was well aware that he was the "eyes and ears" NOT a combat arm of a major military action. His personal and political motivations have been well covered and are easily researched.
        I personally believe that, regardless of tactics, any aggressive movement by Custer was doomed. The opposition numbers and the terrain were insurmountable problems regardless of any decision regarding movement or troop density. Even with Crook's withdrawal, his troops effectively blocked any large scale Indian movement south. The north and east were blocked by Terry and Gibbons. The Big Horns were the only refuge available and without the buffalo, there was simply not enough supplies there to support the numbers that would have descended upon them. Winter was the Army's true weapon.

        Custer's only logical choice was to function as a "shadow force". A task that would bring him neither the fame, nor the fortune he so desperately needed.
        My Avatar: Ivan W. Henderson Gunner/navigator B-25-26. 117 combat missions. Both Theaters. 11 confirmed kills. DSC.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by holly6 View Post
          Grognard,
          Your last statement pretty well covers the subject. This is one of those events in history where strategic and tactical concerns were completely overshadowed by a personality.
          Custer was well aware that he was the "eyes and ears" NOT a combat arm of a major military action. His personal and political motivations have been well covered and are easily researched.
          I personally believe that, regardless of tactics, any aggressive movement by Custer was doomed. The opposition numbers and the terrain were insurmountable problems regardless of any decision regarding movement or troop density. Even with Crook's withdrawal, his troops effectively blocked any large scale Indian movement south. The north and east were blocked by Terry and Gibbons. The Big Horns were the only refuge available and without the buffalo, there was simply not enough supplies there to support the numbers that would have descended upon them. Winter was the Army's true weapon.

          Custer's only logical choice was to function as a "shadow force". A task that would bring him neither the fame, nor the fortune he so desperately needed.
          Just my humble 0.2 cents worth. History tells us that the men of the 7th Cavalry were virtually exhausted after nearly two full days in the saddle with no rest, not to mention after nearly a month of hard campaigning as well. Their horses were completely blown. Better to withdraw a couple miles down river and let everyone get some sleep and a little food into them before NCO Call is made in the middle of the night, followed soon thereafter by "Boots and Saddles."

          The Regiment is back in the saddle and moves out at 2:30am to invest the village and the Seventh Cavalry's first charge goes in at around first-light, 5am in those northern lattitudes, catching the entire village completely by surprise and fast asleep. It's the Washita Battle all over again, with the Indian's pony herds scattering to the four compass points, followed by tens of thousands of terrified and half-asleep Indian men, women and children.

          Custer wins the "Blue Max" (the CMH) and later that year, becomes President of the US.
          "Profanity is but a linguistic crutch for illiterate motherbleepers"

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by johnbryan View Post
            Just my humble 0.2 cents worth. History tells us that the men of the 7th Cavalry were virtually exhausted after nearly two full days in the saddle with no rest, not to mention after nearly a month of hard campaigning as well. Their horses were completely blown. Better to withdraw a couple miles down river and let everyone get some sleep and a little food into them before NCO Call is made in the middle of the night, followed soon thereafter by "Boots and Saddles."

            The Regiment is back in the saddle and moves out at 2:30am to invest the village and the Seventh Cavalry's first charge goes in at around first-light, 5am in those northern lattitudes, catching the entire village completely by surprise and fast asleep. It's the Washita Battle all over again, with the Indian's pony herds scattering to the four compass points, followed by tens of thousands of terrified and half-asleep Indian men, women and children.

            Custer wins the "Blue Max" (the CMH) and later that year, becomes President of the US.

            JB,
            Sorry, I have to disagree. Have spent quite a bit of time on the site.

            To find a decent defensible water source, Custer would have had to travel quite a ways.

            As darkness fell, and the dozens of hunting and scouting parties returned to the camp, they were bound to be spotted.

            This group had just hit Crook on the Rosebud with 1500 warriors and that was only part of the available source on the Greasy Grass.

            The list of spiritual and battle leaders in the village was a "Who"s Who" of the Northern Plains. Any possible panic would not have been long lasting.

            I do agree this had the possiblity of being similar to Washita. Custer had the same number of Troops (11) and if he hadn't ran like crazy from Black Kettle's camp after the attack, the other tribes camped down river would have ended the "Custer Saga" 8 years earlier. No 11 Troops born of man, rested or not, was going to take that village.

            If you enjoy the Custer story, read about his relationhship with Reno and Benteen. Query? Did they do all they could to extract Custer from the hill atop Medicene Tail Coulee and escape?

            Hint: Read the story of the events at Washita

            Good Thread thanks
            My Avatar: Ivan W. Henderson Gunner/navigator B-25-26. 117 combat missions. Both Theaters. 11 confirmed kills. DSC.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by holly6 View Post
              JB,
              Sorry, I have to disagree. Have spent quite a bit of time on the site.

              To find a decent defensible water source, Custer would have had to travel quite a ways.

              As darkness fell, and the dozens of hunting and scouting parties returned to the camp, they were bound to be spotted.

              This group had just hit Crook on the Rosebud with 1500 warriors and that was only part of the available source on the Greasy Grass.

              The list of spiritual and battle leaders in the village was a "Who"s Who" of the Northern Plains. Any possible panic would not have been long lasting.

              I do agree this had the possiblity of being similar to Washita. Custer had the same number of Troops (11) and if he hadn't ran like crazy from Black Kettle's camp after the attack, the other tribes camped down river would have ended the "Custer Saga" 8 years earlier. No 11 Troops born of man, rested or not, was going to take that village.

              If you enjoy the Custer story, read about his relationhship with Reno and Benteen. Query? Did they do all they could to extract Custer from the hill atop Medicene Tail Coulee and escape?

              Hint: Read the story of the events at Washita

              Good Thread thanks
              Thanks holly6! Re: Benteen and Reno. It is common knowledge that they both hated Custer with a passion after what he did at the Washita and even before, if memory serves. Personally, I think that both of them left Custer and his men to twist in the wind. It was only through the frantic actions of an officer named Weir that prompted Benteen and Reno's commands to try to relieve Custer and the rest of the embattled Seventh. The mounted companies got within three miles of Last Stand Hill before realizing that any further attempts would be fruitless. The ridge that Weir and his men observed the closing stages of the Battle of the Little Big Horn is now called "Weir's Point."

              You're a better man than I, as I have never been to the site, although I really want to see it all some day.
              "Profanity is but a linguistic crutch for illiterate motherbleepers"

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by johnbryan View Post
                Thanks holly6! Re: Benteen and Reno. It is common knowledge that they both hated Custer with a passion after what he did at the Washita and even before, if memory serves. Personally, I think that both of them left Custer and his men to twist in the wind. It was only through the frantic actions of an officer named Weir that prompted Benteen and Reno's commands to try to relieve Custer and the rest of the embattled Seventh. The mounted companies got within three miles of Last Stand Hill before realizing that any further attempts would be fruitless. The ridge that Weir and his men observed the closing stages of the Battle of the Little Big Horn is now called "Weir's Point."

                You're a better man than I, as I have never been to the site, although I really want to see it all some day.
                I just clicked on a PM to you I actually agree with the decision of Benteen and Reno at the time they made it. I believe if they had pushed through the warriors toward Custer, there is a doubt if they could have gotten there in time. If they had, I think they would have just added to the body count. But I'd enjoying hearing your views about that.

                First time I was on the site was 1969. Things were different then. I actually slept out on the battlefield at the north base of Weir's point. (Not exactly legal even then) Over the next 4 years, I did the same at Rosebud and the Fetterman Site.
                My Avatar: Ivan W. Henderson Gunner/navigator B-25-26. 117 combat missions. Both Theaters. 11 confirmed kills. DSC.

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                • #9
                  I've always believed that with out the efforts of Libby Custer, G.A.Custer would have become a side note in history sharing much the same fate as Cpt. Fetter man.

                  Sleeping on battlefields? Strange people on this forum. Now if you ever want to sleep in a foxhole of the 106th Inf Divisions I got a couple comfortable ones I can recommend.

                  HP
                  "Ask not what your country can do for you"

                  Left wing, Right Wing same bird that they are killing.

                  you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts.

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                  • #10
                    As has been said, there is no way Custer alone could have defeated the whole village--check the Custer thread in the Wild West forum for a discussion, maps, the number of tribrspeople, etc.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Half Pint View Post
                      I've always believed that with out the efforts of Libby Custer, G.A.Custer would have become a side note in history sharing much the same fate as Cpt. Fetter man.

                      Sleeping on battlefields? Strange people on this forum. Now if you ever want to sleep in a foxhole of the 106th Inf Divisions I got a couple comfortable ones I can recommend.

                      HP
                      Done that. They wouldn't let me bring my air mattress 20+ yr olds do some really strange stuff.

                      I agree with you about the importance of Libby. Plus the money-makers of the time (W.F. Cody?) saw a real opportunity in keeping his image alive. Plays, paintings, poems etc. plus the Courts Marshal of Reno et.al built him into a "larger than life" individual. When facts get in the way of Legends. print the Legend.
                      Last edited by holly6; 06 Aug 07, 13:25.
                      My Avatar: Ivan W. Henderson Gunner/navigator B-25-26. 117 combat missions. Both Theaters. 11 confirmed kills. DSC.

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