Viewing 47 reply threads
  • Author
    Posts
    • #30665
      Goodsteel
      Keymaster
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 208
      • Comments: 2452
      • Overall: 2660

      I found this post by BB57 to be a very interesting read.
      I would be very interested in any thoughts you might have on his comments:

      There’s more to it than just the basic load for a cavalry trooper of that era.

      Custer left behind gatling guns that might have made a difference as he wanted to travel light and fast – in order to get there first and win the battle, rather than being part of a two part pincer movement.

      Once at Little Big Horn, he divided his forces with Reno attacking the encampment from the south to keep the warriors busy while Custer rode to the north behind a ridge to attack the encampment from the north and in essence capture the women and children. It’s a strategy that worked in the past as securing the women dn children had in a couple previous battles led to the warriors surrendering.

      Of course the problem was that Custer ignored his scouts estimates of just how many warriors were present.

      Reno faced a much wider front than anticipated and after about 20 minutes was facing about 500 warriors who were flanking his position on the left, and Custer had still not launched his attacks in the north. Reno was forced to retreat into an area of timber,a and then when the natives set fires to it, he had to retreat back across the Little Big Horn river and to the only defensible ground in the area to prevent his command from getting wiped out. His withdrawal was incidental however as there were more than enough warriors present to address both columns and even simultaneous attacks would not have been successful.

      What Custer did is a bit fuzzy, depending on what evidence you look at and how you interpret it. He either split his forces with some of them descending Medicine Tail Coulee to attack across the ford there, and being repelled, while he tok the rest of his force to loop around to the north end the village. The alternative is that he took his entire command and attacked at Medicine Tail Coulee, and then, cut off from moving back south, retired to last stand hill.

      I suspect the former rather than the latter after walking the ground and reviewing the evidence.

      —-

      In any case, the weapons employed by both forces largely dictated the flow and development of the battle.

      Reno’s assault was made with troops in a skirmish line with single shot Springfield carbines that had been recently issued. These 45-70 carbines did have a significant advantage in effective range over the various lever action pistolcaliber rifles employed by the warriors. In the initial stages with the ranges in the 200-400 yard range, Reno was initially successful, but then had to withdraw as he was flanked, outnumbered, and the warriors successfully closed the range.

      In fact he had taken only a single casualty until they had closed the range to within about 150 yards, at which point their superior short range firepower made all the difference and he lost 3 officers and 29 troopers in his retreat from the timber across the river and up the bluffs on the other side.

      Custer’s attack had similar weapon related consequences. On his withdrawl to last stand hill, the warriors engaged the troopers from greasy grass ridge and the range from carious points there to last stand hill is about 300-400 yards, giving Custer’s troops a definite advantage. However as the warriors started to roll up the skirmish line on Custer’s right flank, the range decreased.

      More importantly, on the other side of last stand hill is a ridge in the ground about 100 yards from the summit. Once warriors were able to infiltrate this fold, Custer was fully exposed on the north east side of the hill to very accurate close range fire and had to position on the exposed south face of Last Stand hill. In fact, Crazy Horse reported making a surprise charge from the northeast – probably hidden by that low ridge until the last 100 yards. This was reported to cause some of Custer’s men to panic and break down the south face of the hill toward deep ravine.

      As his right flank was rolled up from the south, Custer was also exposed to ever closer fire from the much faster firing lever action rifles possessed by the warriors, and once the range closed to less than about 150 yards, the superior firepower made the outcome inevitable.

      Th warriors probably took the majority of their casualties in the closing stages of the engagement, as they closed the range, and then in the last part of the battle were engaged at close range by the trooper’s revolvers.

      A contributing problem was the use of folded head copper cartridge cases in the .45-70 carbines. These cases did not relax to the same extent as brass cases, and they had a tendency to stick in the chamber once the chamber became badly fouled. This led to even slower rates of fires as troops were forced to knock these stuck cases out with cleaningrods, and no doubt led to numerous abandoned weapons.

      As the battle progressed, more and more native americans along greasy grass ridge also became equipped with riflesthat were either abandoned or taken from fallen troopers, augmenting their ability to effectively engage Custer’s troops who were by then forced onto the south side of Last Stand Hill by the natives under cover of the low ridge to the north.

      —–

      In short, I don’t think the basic load of ammo was really the issue and I don’t think Custer’s men probably ran out until the end was already unavoidable.

      Benteen would have arrived with a full load while Reno’s troops were probably running low on carbine ammo after a 20-25 minute engagement, but Reno and Benteen had ample ammunition to hold out until they were ultimately relieved a few days later.

    • #30669
      Larry Gibson
      Participant
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 55
      • Comments: 507
      • Overall: 562
      • Gold

      I find BB57s essay fraught with the usual myths, misinformation and mistaken conjecture.

      Larry Gibson

    • #30670
      Goodsteel
      Keymaster
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 208
      • Comments: 2452
      • Overall: 2660

      We have had this conversation before Larry, but I would love to see your take on it written here.
      I know you take issue with the cartridge failure (I still would like to see it written down so I can mull it over without losing important details) but what about the other things mentioned like tactics etc etc?
      Could you be persuaded to regale us with what you believe happened? I would greatly value such an essay. Perhaps in another thread?

    • #30673
      GhostHawk
      Participant
      • Silver
      • ★★
      • Posts: 2
      • Comments: 258
      • Overall: 260

      Ultimately I think Custer and his troops could have been armed with almost any weapon and still failed.

      Custer was of the opinion that with 100 troopers he could ride through the whole Sioux nation.
      Well he got his chance, and failed.

      He had never before faced Sioux who were willing to stand and fight. And he had never faced anything like the numbers they had.

      I have heard mentioned 4000 Sioux and 1200 Warriors. But if the battle was hanging in the balance I think every man, woman and child would have picked up bow, knife, lance, or rock and run to the guns.

      But even at 1200 vs 240 that is over 4 to one odds. Has been accomplished in the past with good tactics but it is my opinion that Custer was long on dash but short on tactics.

      “Ride to the guns” was about as complicated as it got for him. Courageous as all get out, and you have to respect the man for that.

      In the end I see it as Sitting Bull’s Medicine was just stronger. Backed by a whole lot of unhappy plains dwellers.

    • #30675
      WCM
      Participant
      • Silver
      • ★★
      • Posts: 30
      • Comments: 368
      • Overall: 398

      The last time I was in the area, my truck broke down in Lodge Grass just south of the battlefield.
      I had a long time to sit and look at the night stars and think while waiting for a wrecker to tow me into Sheridan.

      George Armstrong Custer richly deserved what he had coming to him., and he got it in spades.

      Being part Native American myself helps give me a certain perspective on the situation.

    • #30676
      uber7mm
      Participant
      • Silver
      • ★★
      • Posts: 17
      • Comments: 288
      • Overall: 305

      WCM;n10534 wrote: …..
      George Armstrong Custer richly deserved what he had coming to him., and he got it in spades.

      Being part Native American myself helps give me a certain perspective on the situation.

      The revenge I see, is all those casinos on reservation lands…..

    • #30681
      Larry Gibson
      Participant
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 55
      • Comments: 507
      • Overall: 562
      • Gold

      I have been studying and investigating the wars with the Plains Indians for some time, particularly the Campaign of 1876. My reasons for doing so were two fold; first I’ve always been interested in military history. Second, because of the perceived disasters in the Modoc War of 1873 and the Northern Plains Campaign of 1876/77 the U.S. Army instituted several equipment/weapon changes and began what has become “basic training”. Being in the Army and training soldiers the second reason was primarily my driving force; why do we train the way we do.

      Over the years, mainly through very inaccurate books, movies and other armchair theorists, what actually happened during the Campaign of 1876 including the Battle of the Little Bighorn seems to have been lost. Over the years I subscribed to several different plausible theories but there was always somethings that didn’t add up. However, recent studies along with the physical evidence from the archeological digs plus a realistic look at the Indians and other eyewitness statements have probably got it about 95% correct if one looks at it through proper investigative technique having neither a preconceived idea of what happened. There will always be some minor discrepancies and controversies but the concept that Custer was inept or foolhardy has been put to rest. Also put to rest was the noble thought that Custer and the troopers of the 7th fought to the last man and last cartridge, a gallant “last stand” if you will.

      Actual written accounts from the soldiers of the 7th have most of the enlisted NCOs and soldiers having a high regard for Custer. The officers were about 50/50 pro and con. But whatever the opinion of the officers most followed orders and did their duty as best they could. Some were not very good at their duties though.

      During the Civil War the US Army had no doctrine for the offensive use of cavalry and neither did the Confederate Army for that matter. The “famed” Jeb Stuart was in fact defeated several times by George Armstrong. All were learning as they went. By 1876 the Cavalry was operating under the “Prescriptions for Cavalry Tactics of 1873” which was the doctrine of the US Army Cavalry at the time and was adopted as “the book” in 1873. Under the leadership of LTC Custer the 7th was in fact following those “Prescriptions” at the LBH, going “by the book” if you will.
      At the LBH there was supposed to be a convergence of three forces upon the Little Bighorn Valley; Terry and Gibbons from the north, Crook from the south and Custer from the east. Fact is only Custer and the 7th made it to the appointed place, The Little Bighorn Valley, on the appointed date. Custer had no way of knowing Crook had withdrawn after his battle on the Rosebud several days before and that Terry’s column was lost. Terry had a pretty good idea (intelligence) before he dispatched Custer and the 7th up the Rosebud where the Indians would probably be and a pretty good idea as to how many there were. It was Terry’s campaign and that’s why they were all to converge on the LBH.

      The 7th was not “outgunned”. Most all of the M1873s did not jam (forensics Army Ordnance Officer reports on the battlefield) reveal that less than 2% of the M1873s jammed. That’s less than 10 M1873s, hardly enough to affect the outcome. Tests by myself, Scharschuetze and others have aptly demonstrated the M1873s were more than capable of a higher sustained rate of fire equal to that of the Indians repeaters…….if used by trained soldiers. Most of the fighting Indians (probably not more than 1/3 of the Indians present but still a considerable number) did not have repeating rifles. They had bows and arrows or muzzleloaders. If one reads the Indian accounts they were more than happy to throw their repeaters or whatever other weapon they had down and pick up a M1873 as they considered it the superior weapon.

      The 7th Cavalry had more than enough “firepower” with their M1873s to handle all the Indians present at the LBH. Even after Custer and his part of the 7th were killed and the Indians then had 200+ M1873s plus thousands of rounds of ammo they were not able to “wipe out” the Reno/Benteen contingent. If the Indians really had “superior firepower” would not Reno and Benteen have suffered the same fate as Custer? If the M1873 Carbines jammed for Custer’s troops why didn’t they jam for the Indians who used the captured M1873s to fire 11,000+ found 45-55 bullets into the Reno/Benteen Battlefield?

      The Plains Indians had no great battle plan at LBH. They fought as individuals or perhaps in “Warrior Societies” (gangs actually) with no concept of tactics as we understand them. The Plains Indians had great respect for the M1873s and previous 50-70 breach loaders as they had had the snot kicked out of them at the Wagon Box and Hay Wagon battles. Just several days before they had been fought to a standstill by Crooks troops on the Rosebud. Custer’s troops had held the Indians, yes the ones with the repeaters, at bay for more than 2 hours and probably would have succeeded had they had been better trained and were prepared for the ferocity of close quarters combat with the Plains Indians.

      Reno and Benteen were not “pinned down” when Custer sent the famous often-misquoted message. It was not “many Indians, come quick” by the way as many suggest. Actually Custer sent 3 messengers back but the message carried by the trumpeter, Martini, is the most famous. The content of the messages suggests Custer was attempting to consolidate all his forces into the blocking positions. When that message was penciled, not by Custer but by his adjutant Cook, Reno was still engaged in the valley. Custer could not have been aware that Reno had been routed. Benteen was returning from his foray “to the left” (to determine if any villages were further up the LBH valley, a lesson learned from the Washita, and to see if Crook’s troops were coming). Benteen had not yet crossed Reno Creek into the valley himself where he saw Reno’s rout from the woods. When he saw the rout of Reno’s troops and what was happening to them he chose not to assist there but to go back across Reno Creek and join with the survivors on the bluff. He chose to do that because he knew what was happening to Reno’s troops would happen to his. This statement of Benteen’s was in a letter written and sent out a day or two after the battle.

      From the physical evidence and the eyewitness (the Indians who did survive the Custer part of the battle) statements it appears that once Custer saw/knew the actual size of the village and the direction it was fleeing (to the north where Terry was supposed to be) he assumed a defensive “blocking position” to prevent the Indians from escaping into the mountains (following Terry’s orders. Custer probably assumed Reno had been or still was successful at the south end of the village (out of sight to Custer) and he positioned his forces to block the escape of the village across Medicine Tail Coulee and Clarks Ford D into the mountains. Cpt Keoghs wing effectively blocked the ford at Medicine Tail Coulee preventing escape there while the wing that Custer was with effectively blocked escape of the village into the mountains across Clark’s Ford D. The village was thus fleeing out onto the open plain north in the direction where Terry and Gibbons were supposed to be, as perhaps Custer thought, into the waiting arms of Gen Terry’s column. After all, as Custer well knew and stated with the concurrence of several other noted “Indian fighters” of the day, it was not the warriors they wanted but the “village, i.e. the woman, children and old folks. Once those were captured the warriors would surrender or go back to the reservation. Custer did not need to attack as the village was already fleeing toward Terry and certain capture by the Terry/Gibbon force……or so Custer probably thought. Thus Custer was not in an “attack” mode (supported by many of the Indian statements) when the end came but was in a holding position and tactically deployed as prescribed “by the book” and by his orders from Terry. Those are the facts supported by eye witness accounts and the actual movements and deployment of the troops as supported by, not only the witness accounts, but by the forensic evidence.

      To cut to the quick here what actually caused the disaster was the same problem that plagued Reno and Benteen throughout the fight and the rest of the Army in general. That was the lack of training. By 1876 in the 7th Cavalry, gone were the civil war veterans (except for most of the officers and senior NCOs) who had received their training “OJT” during the Civil War. About half of the enlisted were recruits with less than a year in the Army, with half of those being in less than 6 months. There was no basic training back then as they enlisted straight into the regiment and were supposed to get trained there. However, the 7th had been strung out all over the country with many in the South chasing the newly forming Klan and protecting the Carpetbaggers. Most of those enlistments ran out in 1875 thus the large influx of recruits with a year or less in the Army. For most of the 7th this was their first time onto the plains and fighting Indians. The winter of ’75/’76 had been one of the worst and for the soldiers on the Plains, trained or not, it was a matter of survival from November ’75 through April ’76. They hit the campaign trail in May ’76 so little training if any other than maintaining their horses and equipment was accomplished. There is no mention of any marksmanship training, weapons training or close quarters combat training for any of the troops with one year or less in the 7th in any of the records.

      Even many of the officers were not that well trained at Indian fighting. For example Reno had come to the plains only the fall before and this was his first battle with Indians. Then there was Cpt Keogh who was on leave or “detached duty” most often. His only experience against Indians in battle was a minor skirmish some years before and he lost that one too. There are numerous other examples. But remember there wasn’t a great plethora of manuals back then and no internet. Most officer training took part in conversations or from reading the few manuals, “Prescriptions” or books available. The writings of the British Cavalry officer Nolan (Charge of the Light Brigade fame) were particularly well thought of and, of course, the official U.S. Cavalry manual; Prescriptions for Cavalry Tactics, 1873. This lack of training caused the loss of tactical stability (panic and running) at several key locations almost simultaneously……a coincidence as the coincidental timing was through no tactical plan of the Indians. With loss of tactical stability soldiers do not fight, they flee. This is what occurred and the panic spread very quickly with disastrous results. Three of the Warrior Societies made simultaneous attacks (one was actually just a “bravery run”) based on what they saw in front of them…..these attacks were by no means coordinated. The 7th Cavalry has been labeled by many movies and books as the “elite” cavalry regiment of the Army and highly experienced at Indian fighting. However, in reality the 7th Cavalry on the 25th of June 1876 was not very well trained, especially in marksmanship and weapons craft, and was not ready to meet an enemy at close range it was about to meet.

      Interesting to note that the Army, because of the LBH and Modoc fiasco in 1873 instituted “Depot Training” which has evolved into what we know as Basic Training today.

      What occurred at the end for Custer was not really his fault; the poor training or lack of it was just the way things were in the Army at the time. Let us also remember that Custer had not been with the 7th for almost a year and took command only just before the campaign march began. Many say the 7th Cavalry was defeated and “wiped out” at the LBH. Neither is true. Yes, about half of the 7th was killed but the entire regiment was not wiped out. The Reno/Benteen contingent survived and the 7th continued to play a major role in the Northern Plains Campaigns.
      If we look at the strategic aim of the Campaign of 1876, of which the 7th Cavalry was only a small part, we find that the objective was to force the Indians back to the reservations and end the lifestyle of the so called “free-roamers”. It was the Indians that withdrew from the battlefield (LBH) not the 7th Cavalry. The Sioux, the Cheyenne and the other “hostiles” shot their wad at the LBH. They never again were able to collectively present themselves as a viable fighting force and were hunted down and killed or returned to the reservations. Those that survived or had not escaped into Canada (most of those including Sitting Bull eventually returned to the US reservations) were returned back to the reservations, the original aim of the campaign.

      Looking at the battlefield itself we find it was the Indians that withdrew from their “turf” (actually the Sioux, Cheyenne and other hostiles were trespassing on Crow “turf” which is why the LBH is in the Crow Reservation today). Certainly they were not driven off by the 7th but then the 7th was not the only U.S. Army unit involved in the Campaign, contrary to how the battle is generally portrayed in most books and the movies. It was the Indians that withdrew from the battle therefore one might conclude from a military viewpoint that they lost the battle.
      Custer’s contingent were all killed because, through lack of training, tactical disintegration occurred very rapidly at several points simultaneously and the Indians, through no expertise or grand battle plan of their own, were able take advantage of it (that’s called unintended consequences). Reno’s force also tactically disintegrated in the valley……twice It was only when Benteen showed up on the bluffs that tactical stability to Reno’s remaining force was re-established. During the foray to Weir’s Point and subsequent withdrawal, tactical disintegration almost occurred again……to Weir and Godfrey’s troops. It was only through the leadership of Benteen, Weir, Godfrey and a couple others that this tactical disintegration did not occur again with probable similar disastrous results as happened to Custer’s troops. The Reno/Benteen force then held off the Indians because they maintained tactical stability and even mounted a couple successful counter attacks against the “infiltration tactics” of the Indians.

      A full discussion would probably take another book. I too have visited the LBH Battlefield several times and have studied it in depth with an open mind. I can see why Custer chose the ground he did from the viewpoint he had. He had never been there before and did not have maps as we know them today. Thus he did not know the terrain. He could only make decisions based on what he saw as he advanced. Were his decisions tactically sound given the tactics of the day? I believe they were tactically sound. What was very unfortunate was his soldiers were not well enough trained for the task at hand. Soldiers with minimal training who lack confidence in arms and do not know their enemy often break from fear and then panic. When they panic they run and bunch up taking flight. When in flight soldiers do not, can not fight. Had Custer had the experienced soldiers on the LBH that he had on the Washita history would probably be much different.

      Again, I am not defending Custer. I am not defending his actions right or wrong. I am not defending the Indians actions, right or wrong either. I am simply stating what the evidence demonstrates as found from the witness statements, the forensic evidence and the situation as it actually was in the 7th Cavalry and amongst the Plains Indians there on 25 June 1876.

      Larry Gibson

    • #30682
      Larry Gibson
      Participant
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 55
      • Comments: 507
      • Overall: 562
      • Gold

      Here’s an interesting article published some years back that also deals with facts of the LBH battle instead of emotion and myth.

      BTW; It was Fetterman, not Custer, who said he could ride through the Sioux nation with 100 troops…….actually I believe he said with 80 troops……

      LBH: Were the weapons the deciding factor

      It may be that the Battle of the Little Bighorn is the most written about subject in American history. For more than 120 years, people have speculated about how Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer and five companies of the 7th Cavalry were overwhelmed in southeastern Montana Territory by a combined force of Lakota and Cheyenne Indians on June 25, 1876. Yet, the controversy does not appear any closer to resolution today.

      A number of reasons have been given for the defeat: Custer disobeyed orders, disregarded the warnings of his scouts, violated the principles of warfare by dividing his command, was ambushed or was the victim of a conspiracy; internal regimental jealousies caused the defeat; the regiment was too tired to fight; there were too many raw recruits or too many Indians; the Indians had better weapons; or the Army had defective guns. Most of the conjectures are moot, for they can be debated endlessly-with intellectual and emotional biases interfering with reasoned arguments. Given the nature of the evidence, however, one should be able to study the role the weapons played in the battle’s outcome with a modicum of objectivity.

      During the battle, the 7th Cavalry troopers were armed with the Springfield carbine Model 1873 and the Colt Single Action Army revolver Model 1873. Selection of the weapons was the result of much trial and error, plus official testing during 1871*73. The Ordnance Department staged field trials of 89 rifles and carbines, which included entries from Peabody, Spencer, Freeman, Elliot and Mauser. There were four primary contenders: the Ward-Burton bolt-action rifle; the Remington rolling-block; the ‘trapdoor’ Springfield; and the Sharps, with its vertically sliding breechblock.

      Although repeating rifles such as the Spencer, Winchester and Henry had been available, particularly in the post-Civil War years, the Ordnance Department decided to use a single-shot system. It was selected instead of a repeating system because of manufacturing economy, ruggedness, reliability, efficient use of ammunition and similarity to European weapons systems. Ironically, the board of officers involved in the final selection included Major Marcus A. Reno, who would survive the 7th Cavalry’s 1876 debacle on the Little Bighorn.

      The guns were all tested for defective cartridges, endurance, accuracy, rapidity of fire, firing with excessive charges, and effects of dust and rust. The Springfield was the winner. The Model 1873 carried by the 7th Cavalry was a carbine that weighed 7 pounds and had an overall length of 41 inches. It used a .45-caliber copper-cased cartridge, a 405-grain bullet and a charge of 55 grains of black powder. The best effective range for this carbine was under 300 yards, but significant hits still could be scored out to 600 yards. A bullet was driven out of the muzzle at a velocity of about 1,200 feet per second, with 1,650 foot-pounds of energy. The trapdoor Springfield could hurl a slug more than 1,000 yards and, with proper training, could be fired with accuracy 12 to 15 times per minute.

      The Colt Single Action Army revolver was chosen over other Colts, Remingtons and Starrs. By 1871, the percussion cap models were being converted for use with metallic cartridges. Ordnance testing in 1874 narrowed the field to two final contenders: the Colt Single Action Army and the Smith & Wesson Schofield. The Schofield won only in speed of ejecting empty cartridges. The Colt won in firing, sanding and rust trials and had fewer, simpler and stronger parts. The Model ‘P’ had a barrel of 7.5 inches and fired six .45-caliber metallic cartridges with 28 grains of black powder. It had a muzzle velocity of 810 feet per second, with 400 foot-pounds of energy. Its effective range dropped off rapidly over 60 yards, however. The standard U.S. issue of the period had a blue finish, case-hardened hammer and frame, and walnut grips. The Colt became ubiquitous on the frontier. To the soldier it was a ‘thumb-buster,’ to the lawman a ‘peacemaker’ or'equalizer,’ and to the civilian a ‘hog leg’ or ‘plow-handle.’ The revolver was so strong and dependable that, with minor modifications, it was still being produced by the Colt Company into the 1980s.

      Overall, the soldiers were pleased with their weapons. Lieutenant James Calhoun of Company L wrote in his diary on July 1, 1874: ‘The new Springfield arms and ammunition were issued to the command today. They seem to give great satisfaction.’ Although most of the men drew the standard-issue weapons, it was their prerogative to purchase their own arms. George Custer carried a Remington .50-caliber sporting rifle with octagonal barrel and two revolvers that were not standard issue-possibly Webley British Bulldog, double-action, white-handled revolvers. Captain Thomas A. French of Company M carried a .50-caliber Springfield that his men called ‘Long Tom.’ Sergeant John Ryan, also of Company M, used a .45-caliber, 15-pound Sharps telescopic rifle, specially made for him. Private Henry A. Bailey of Company I had a preference for a Dexter Smith, breechloading, single-barreled shotgun.

      It is well-known that Custer’s men each brought a trapdoor Springfield and a Colt .45 to the Little Bighorn that June day in 1876. Identification of the Indian weapons is more uncertain. Participants claimed to have gone into battle with a plethora of arms-bows and arrows, ancient muzzleloaders, breechloaders and the latest repeating arms. Bows and arrows played a part in the fight. Some warriors said they lofted high-trajectory arrows to fall among the troopers while remaining hidden behind hill and vale. The dead soldiers found pincushioned with arrows, however, were undoubtedly riddled at close range after they were already dead or badly wounded. The long range at which most of the fighting occurred did not allow the bow and arrow a prominent role.

      Not until archaeological investigations were conducted on the battlefield during the 1980s did the extent to which the Indians used gunpowder weapons come to light. Modern firearm identification analysis revealed that the Indians had spoken the truth about the variety and number of weapons they carried. The Cheyenne warrior Wooden Leg went into battle with what he called a’six-shooter’ and later captured a Springfield carbine and 40 rounds of ammunition. The Miniconjou One Bull, Sitting Bull’s nephew, owned an old muzzleloader. The Hunkpapa Iron Hawk and the Cheyenne Big Beaver had only bows and arrows. Eagle Elk, an Oglala, started the battle with a Winchester. White Cow Bull, an Oglala, also claimed to have a repeater.

      There were 2,361 cartridges, cases and bullets recovered from the entire battlefield, which reportedly came from 45 different firearms types (including the Army Springfields and Colts, of course) and represented at least 371 individual guns. The evidence indicated that the Indians used Sharps, Smith & Wessons, Evans, Henrys, Winchesters, Remingtons, Ballards, Maynards, Starrs, Spencers, Enfields and Forehand & Wadworths, as well as Colts and Springfields of other calibers. There was evidence of 69 individual Army Springfields on Custer’s Field (the square-mile section where Custer’s five companies died), but there was also evidence of 62 Indian .44-caliber Henry repeaters and 27 Sharps .50-caliber weapons. In all, on Custer’s Field there was evidence of at least 134 Indian firearms versus 81 for the soldiers. It appears that the Army was outgunned as well as outnumbered.

      Survivors of the remaining seven companies of the 7th Cavalry asserted that the Indians were equipped with repeating rifles and mentioned Winchesters as often as not. Major Marcus Reno claimed: ‘The Indians had Winchester rifles and the column made a large target for them and they were pumping bullets into it.’ Although some white survivors claimed to be heavily outgunned, Private Charles Windolph of Company H was probably closest to the truth when he estimated that half the warriors carried bows and arrows, one-quarter of them carried a variety of old muzzleloaders and single-shot rifles, and one-quarter carried modern repeaters.

      The Winchester, in fact, was almost a duplicate of the repeater developed by B. Tyler Henry, who was to become superintendent at Oliver Winchester’s New Haven Arms Company. The success of Henry’s rifles ensured Winchester’s success, and the primary weapon carried by the Indians at the Little Bighorn was either Henry’s model or the slightly altered Winchester Model 1866. Both fired a .44-caliber Henry rimfire cartridge. The Henry used a 216-grain bullet with 25 grains of powder, while the Winchester used a 200-grain bullet with 28 grains of powder. Velocity was 1,125 feet per second, with 570 foot-pounds of energy. Cartridges were inserted directly into the front of the Henry magazine, while the Winchester 1866 had a spring cover on the right side of the receiver. The carbine and the rifle had a capacity of 13 and 17 cartridges respectively.

      Even though the board selected the Springfield as the top single-shot weapon, the Indians’ arms fared nearly as well in subsequent tests. The Springfields recorded 100 percent accuracy at 100 yards, but so did the Winchesters, Henrys, Sharps, Spencers and various muzzleloaders. At 300 yards, the Springfield .45-55 carbine’s accuracy dropped to 75 percent, while the repeaters fell to about 40 percent. Weapons such as the Springfield .50-70 rifle and the Sharps .45-70 rifle, however, still produced 100 percent accuracy at 300 yards. At 600 yards, both Springfields could still hit the mark 32 percent of the time, while the Winchesters and Henrys were almost useless at ranges over 300 yards.

      In effect, all of these weapons fared equally well at short ranges. The Army’s Springfields had an accuracy advantage over the Indians’ repeaters at medium ranges (200*500 yards), plus they were more rugged and durable. The long-range weapons the Indians had were too few (there is evidence of only one Sharps .45-70 at the battle) to make much of a difference. Their preponderance of repeaters increased the Indians’ firepower, but the repeaters were only good at short ranges. And the Indian narratives tell a story of a battle that, until the last desperate moments, was fought generally from long range (more than 500 yards)-a dubious advantage to the cavalrymen, since the relatively slow muzzle velocity of their Springfields meant a high trajectory that made chances of hitting anything slim.

      Overall, the pluses and minuses probably canceled each other out. It has been said that the 7th Cavalry might have won had it still used the seven-shot Spencers it carried at the Washita battle in 1868, but the Spencers were no better in range or accuracy than the Henrys or Winchesters, and they carried fewer bullets. The contention that the Springfields suffered from a significant number of extractor failures was not borne out. Only about 2 percent of the recovered specimens showed evidence of extractor problems. Custer has been criticized for not taking along a battery of Gatling guns, but General Nelson A. Miles commented on their usefulness: ‘I am not surprised that poor Custer declined’ taking them along, he said. ‘They are worthless for Indian fighting.’ Equipping the cavalry with another type of weapon probably would not have made much of a difference at the Little Bighorn.

      What, then, was the reason that the soldiers made such a poor showing during the West’s most famous Army-Indian battle? While Custer’s immediate command of 210 men was wiped out and more than 250 troopers and scouts were killed in the fighting on June 25-26, the Indians lost only about 40 or 50 men. The explanation appears to lie in the fact that weapons are no better than the men who use them. Marksmanship training in the frontier Army prior to the 1880s was almost nil. An Army officer recalled the 1870s with nostalgia. ‘Those were the good old days,’ he said. ‘Target practice was practically unknown.’ A penurious government allowed only about 20 rounds per year for training-a situation altered only because of the Custer disaster. And the 20 rounds of ammunition often were expended in firing at passing game rather than in sharpshooting. The 7th Cavalry was not hampered by new recruits, for only about 12 percent of the force could be considered raw. What handicapped the entire regiment, however, was inadequate training in marksmanship and fire discipline.
      It is a perplexing incongruity in a citizen-soldier army, but the vast majority of soldiers, when the time comes to kill, become conscientious objectors. It has been asserted that man is essentially a killer at heart, yet recent studies have found evidence quite to the contrary. Men, soldiers or not, simply have an innate resistance to killing. It is fairly well-established that when faced with danger, a man will usually respond by fight or flight. New studies, however, have argued that there are two other likely possibilities: posture or submit.

      It is the posturing that has increased with the introduction of firearms to the battlefield. It is almost impossible for a man to shirk battle when at arm’s length from an enemy wielding sword or pike, but it is easier to remain aloof at rifle range. One has other options besides immediate fight or flight. The Rebel yell or the Union ‘hurrah,’ for example, were simply means to bolster one’s courage while trying to frighten the enemy. The loud crack of the rifle also served the same purpose, filling a deep-seated need to posture-i.e., to put on a good show and scare the enemy, yet still leave the shooter far away from a hand-to-hand death struggle. In reality, those good shows were often harmless, with the rifleman firing over the heads of the enemy.

      Firing high has always been a problem, and it apparently does not stem solely from inadequate training. Soldiers and military historians from Ardant du Picq to Paddy Griffith and John Keegan have commented on the phenomenon. In Civil War battles, 200 to 1,000 men might stand, blasting away at the opposing lines at 30 to 50 yards distance, and only hit one or two men per minute. Commanders constantly admonished their troops to aim low and give the enemy a blizzard at his shins. Regardless, the men continued to fire high-sometimes intentionally, sometimes without consciously knowing what they were doing.
      In Vietnam, it was estimated that some firefights had 50,000 bullets fired for each soldier killed. In the Battle of the Rosebud, eight days before the Little Bighorn fight, General George Crook’s forces fired about 25,000 rounds and may have caused about 100 Indian casualties-about one hit for every 250 shots. One of the best showings ever made by soldiers was at Rorke’s Drift in an 1879 battle between the Zulus and the British infantry. There, surrounded, barricaded soldiers delivered volley after volley into dense masses of charging natives at point-blank range where it seemed that no shot could miss. The result: one hit for every 13 shots.

      Indeed, it was at times even difficult to get soldiers to fire at all. After the Battle of Gettysburg, 24,000 loaded muskets were recovered; only 12,000 of them had been loaded more than once, 6,000 had from three to 10 rounds in the barrel, and one weapon had been loaded 23 times! One conclusion is that a great number of soldiers are simply posturing and not trying to kill the enemy.

      At the Little Bighorn, about 42,000 rounds were either expended or lost. At that rate, the soldiers hit one Indian for about every 840 shots. Since much of the ammunition was probably lost-Indians commented on capturing ammunition in cartridge belts and saddlebags-the hit rate must have been higher. Yet the results do not speak highly of a supposedly highly trained, ‘crack’ cavalry regiment.

      High fire very plainly took place at the Little Bighorn, most notably on Reno’s skirmish line in the valley. Troopers went into battle with 100 rounds of Springfield ammunition and 24 rounds of Colt ammunition. About 100 troopers on Reno’s line may have fired half of their ammunition toward the southern edge of the Indian village. The 5,000 bullets only hit one or two Indians, but they certainly damaged the lodges. A Hunkpapa woman, Moving Robe, claimed ‘the bullets shattered the tepee poles,’ and another Hunkpapa woman, Pretty White Buffalo, stated that ‘through the tepee poles their bullets rattled.’ The relatively low muzzle velocity of the Springfield meant that the soldier would have had to aim quite a bit over the head of an Indian for any chance to hit him at long distance. If the officers called for the sights to be set for 500 yards to hit Indians issuing from the village-and did not call for a subsequent sight adjustment-by the time the Indians approached to 300 yards, the bullets would be flying 12 feet over their heads. As a comparison, the modern M-16 round, traveling at 3,250 feet per second, has an almost flat trajectory, and the bullet will hit where it is aimed with very little sight adjustment.

      The soldiers’ difficulty in hitting their targets was also increased by the fact that the Indians stayed out of harm’s way for almost all of the battle. One archaeological field study located the Indian positions and discovered that nearly every location was 300 to 1,200 yards away from the troopers. Given the distances involved, the fact that soldiers tended to shoot high, the lack of marksmanship training and the conscious or subconscious posturing involved, it is not surprising that the troopers scored so few hits.

      Arguably, posturing has been a factor at every gunpowder battle, as it most likely was at the Little Bighorn-but how about submission? It was drummed into the common soldier that he should save the last bullet for himself. He supposedly would place his Colt to his head, pull the trigger and go to Fiddler’s Green, rather than take the chance of being captured alive. Custer had even requested that his wife, Elizabeth, who often rode with the cavalry, should be shot by an officer rather than chance being taken by the Indians. As strange as it may seem, even with this dread of being captured, surrender attempts were made at the Little Bighorn fight. Indian accounts tell of white men who, at the last second, threw their hands up in surrender and offered their guns to the onrushing warriors. The Lakotas and Cheyennes were not swayed.

      Given all these factors operating against the citizen-soldier, how could commanders ever go into battle expecting to win? The answer, again, lies not in the weapons the soldiers used, but in the soldiers themselves-and their officers.

      Dividing up a command in the near presence of an enemy may be an act to be avoided during large-scale maneuvers with army-sized units, but such is not the case during small-scale tactical cavalry maneuvers. Custer adhered to the principles for a successful engagement with a small, guerrilla-type, mobile enemy. Proven tactics called for individual initiative, mobility, maintaining the offensive, acting without delay, playing not for safety but to win, and fighting whenever the opportunity arose. It was accepted that Regular soldiers would never shirk an encounter even with a superior irregular force of enemies, and that division of force for an enveloping attack combined with a frontal assault was a preferable tactic. On a small scale, and up to a certain point, Custer did almost everything he needed to do to succeed.

      Problems arose, however, when tactics broke down from midlevel and small-scale, to micro-scale. According to then Brevet Major Edward S. Godfrey, fire discipline-the ability to control and direct deliberate, accurate, aimed fire-will decide every battle. No attack force, however strong, could reach a defensive line of steady soldiers putting out disciplined fire. The British army knew such was the case, as did Napoleon. Two irregular warriors could probably defeat three soldiers. However, 1,000 soldiers could probably beat 2,000 irregulars. The deciding factor was strength in unity-fire discipline. It was as Major Godfrey said: ‘Fire is everything, the rest is nothing.’

      Theoretically, on the Little Bighorn, with a small-scale defense in suitable terrain with an open field of fire of a few hundred yards, several companies of cavalrymen in close proximity and under strict fire control could have easily held off two or three times their number of Indian warriors. In reality, on the Little Bighorn, several companies of cavalrymen who were not in close proximity and had little fire control, with a micro-scale defense in unsuitable, broken terrain, could not hold off two or three times their number of Indian warriors.

      The breakdown stems from an attitude factor. Custer exhibited an arrogance, not necessarily of a personal nature, but rather as a part of his racial makeup. Racial experience may have influenced his reactions to the immediate situation of war. It was endemic in red vs. white modes of warfare and implies nothing derogatory to either side. Historically, Indians fled from large bodies of soldiers. It was Custer’s experience that it was much harder to find and catch an Indian than to actually fight him. Naturally influenced by his successful past experiences with small-unit tactics, Custer attacked. He was on the offensive. He knew he must remain on the offensive to be successful. Even after Reno had been repulsed, Custer was maneuvering, looking for another opportunity to attack.
      The positions that Custer’s dead were found in did not indicate a strong defensive setup. Even after the Indians had taken away the initiative, Custer’s mind-set was still on ‘attack.’ Although a rough, boxlike perimeter was formed, it appeared more a matter of circumstance than intent. Custer probably never realized that his men’s very survival was on the line, at least not until it was too late to remedy the situation. The men were not in good defensible terrain. They were not within mutual supporting distance. They were not under the tight fire control of their officers. Custer’s troopers were in detachments too small for a successful tactical stance. When the critical point was reached, the soldiers found themselves stretched beyond the physical and psychological limits of fight or posture-they had to flee or submit.

      Seemingly out of supporting distance of his comrades, the individual trooper found himself desperately alone. The ‘bunkie’ was not close enough. The first sergeant was far away. The lieutenant was nowhere to be seen. The trooper responded as well as he could have been expected to. He held his ground and fought, he fired into the air like an automaton, he ran, he gave up. Some stands were made, particularly on and within a radius of a few hundred yards of the knoll that became known as Custer Hill, where almost all of the Indian casualties occurred. When it came down to one-on-one, warrior versus soldier, however, the warrior was the better fighter.

      George Armstrong Custer may have done almost everything as prescribed. But it was not enough to overcome the combination of particular circumstances, some of his own making, arrayed against him that day. Inadequate training in marksmanship and poor fire discipline resulting from a breakdown in command control were major factors in the battle results. Neither Custer’s weapons nor those the Indians used against him were the cause of his defeat.


      This article was written by Greg Michno and originally appeared in the June 1998 issue of Wild West.

    • #30734
      Larry Gibson
      Participant
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 55
      • Comments: 507
      • Overall: 562
      • Gold

      In January1876 the first Ordnance Officer assigned to field duty with Army units, Cpt. O. E. Michaelis, was assigned to the Department of Dakota commanded by Gen. Terry. Cpt. Michaelis accompanied the Terry Column and was with the Terry/Gibbon column when it arrived at the LBH battlefield. After returning from the 1876 campaign Cpt. Michaelis reported extensively on the arms, ammunition and other Ordnance related equipment. A couple quotes from his report;

      Complaints have been made that our standard carbine had not a sufficient range in the actions on the bluffs, June 25th-26th, 1876. I have the honour to state that, after a view of the ground, and a conversation with Captain Benteen, who was a prominent actor in the engagement, I have come to the conclusion that there is no evidence upon which the charge can be justly based. The Indians were sheltered behind ridges 100 to 1200 yards distant from Reno’s position, and were rarely seen: a flash and report was the only indication of the object to be aimed at. Many of the men engaged were recruits, not accustomed to estimating distances, and it is not all improbable that at such varying ranges they sighted their pieces incorrectly.”

      “Target Practice
      A large proportion of the target allowance has hitherto been expended in hunting. It is questionable, not withstanding the decided opinions advanced by many officers, whether the greatest amount of good is obtained from this species of practice. Usually the hunters of a company are it’s best shots, and the very men who require the least schooling in marksmanship.”

      “I have observed a cavalry soldier, with his sight elevated to the utmost, at my request, fire at a distant herd of buffalo, and strike the ground not 200 yards away. The explanation was simple. He fired without bringing the front sight up, simply aiming through the V. A man firing without effect at Indians 500 to 6000 yards away and moving rapidly, might say that his carbine would not carry.”

      “The marksmanship ability of the Indians is woefully exaggerated. A white man who can shoot at all is more than a match for them as a class. They do not use elevated sights and hence at long range their aiming is guess work.”

      “The so called failure in the extractor, especially in the carbine, has been dwelt upon in condemnation of the Springfield fermeture (French signifying the breech system), I have in mind the report of Major M. A. Reno, 7th Cavalry, to the Chief of Ordnance, under date July 11th, 1876.
      A very important point to be considered in this connection is that comparatively few, if any, complaints are advanced against the extractor of the rifle: yet the only distinction between the pieces, so far as extration is concerned, is that one use 70 grain, and the other a 55 grain charge, in similar shells. This fact alone would almost prove the system is not at fault.

      “Lieut. Colonel Royall, 3rd Cavalry, commanding the cavalry in action of June 17th, 1876, on the Rosebud, informed me that there were no failures of extraction in his command,….”

      Larry Gibson

    • #30738
      Goodsteel
      Keymaster
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 208
      • Comments: 2452
      • Overall: 2660

      Absolutely superb Larry. I have enjoyed every word. I do have questions about the troopers firing their rifles in the air as a form of “posturing” as Greg Michno put it, but not being a military man myself, I cannot speak to what men do in real life situations.
      Any elaboration about how the battle played out or description of what you observed when you visited the site would be appreciated.

    • #30740
      Scharfschuetze
      Participant
      • Silver
      • ★★
      • Posts: 3
      • Comments: 190
      • Overall: 193

      Back in 1992, Larry and I were assigned to the same unit. Our Brigade HQ had planned a battlefield walk of the Little Big Horn as part of their training for year. Larry and I were volunteered to help out with a demonstration of the various weapons used at the Little Big Horn (LBH) along with a few other firearms aficionados in the Brigade. Larry and I used original Trapdoor rifles with ammo duplicating the Frankford arsenal loads of the period for velocity and trajectory. In a firepower demonstration near the Yakima Training Center against replica Winchesters of 1873, we soundly demonstrated the superiority of the Trapdoors over the Winchesters in 44/40 in long range accuracy and sustained fire over a period of time.

      As Larry noted above, the 7th Cavalry was a basket case unit considering its lack of training, the personality conflicts between its officers and the fact that many of the recent immigrant soldiers could barely understand or speak English or even mount a horse. Had the 7th Cavalry been trained to today’s standards in marksmanship, teamwork and tactics, the outcome of the LBH may very well have been different. The 7th Cavalry of 1876 would fail miserably at any of today’s Army’s field training exercises which test unit competence, endurance and cohesion. The current Civilian Marksmanship program (formerly the Director of Civilian Marksmanship) had its beginnings after the LBH when General of the Army Nelson Miles (a Colonel during the 1876 Indian Campaign) brought his influence to bear to help develop a program to train citizenry in marksmanship for future military service.

    • #30747
      Sgt. Mike
      Participant
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 84
      • Comments: 789
      • Overall: 873

      Larry Gibson;n10541 wrote: ……..Inadequate training in marksmanship and poor fire discipline resulting from a breakdown in command control were major factors in the battle results. Neither Custer’s weapons nor those the Indians used against him were the cause of his defeat.


      This article was written by Greg Michno and originally appeared in the June 1998 issue of Wild West.

      I would be of the opinion to highly concur with that statement.

    • #30748
      Goodsteel
      Keymaster
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 208
      • Comments: 2452
      • Overall: 2660

      Scharfschuetze;n10614 wrote: Back in 1992, Larry and I were assigned to the same unit. Our Brigade HQ had planned a battlefield walk of the Little Big Horn as part of their training for year. Larry and I were volunteered to help out with a demonstration of the various weapons used at the Little Big Horn (LBH) along with a few other firearms aficionados in the Brigade. Larry and I used original Trapdoor rifles with ammo duplicating the Frankford arsenal loads of the period for velocity and trajectory. In a firepower demonstration near the Yakima Training Center against replica Winchesters of 1873, we soundly demonstrated the superiority of the Trapdoors over the Winchesters in 44/40 in long range accuracy and sustained fire over a period of time.

      As Larry noted above, the 7th Cavalry was a basket case unit considering its lack of training, the personality conflicts between its officers and the fact that many of the recent immigrant soldiers could barely understand or speak English or even mount a horse. Had the 7th Cavalry been trained to today’s standards in marksmanship, teamwork and tactics, the outcome of the LBH may very well have been different. The 7th Cavalry of 1876 would fail miserably at any of today’s Army’s field training exercises which test unit competence, endurance and cohesion. The current Civilian Marksmanship program (formerly the Director of Civilian Marksmanship) had its beginnings after the LBH when General of the Army Nelson Miles (a Colonel during the 1876 Indian Campaign) brought his influence to bear to help develop a program to train citizenry in marksmanship for future military service.

      Another tid bit I did not know. Would you care to elaborate on the field tests of the 1873 rifles you and Larry used and what exactly you saw/demonstrated from both? What was the practical battlefield accuracy potential?

    • #30756
      Larry Gibson
      Participant
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 55
      • Comments: 507
      • Overall: 562
      • Gold

      I still have the test data and a report I made on it for the battlefield walk. I’ll dig it out and post it today.

      Larry Gibson

    • #30759
      Reg
      Participant
      • Silver
      • ★★
      • Posts: 40
      • Comments: 256
      • Overall: 296

      This is really becoming a great posting. Enjoying the heck out of it. Have been up there ( lived north of it for a time ) to the battlefield a number of times and am getting a different perspective in some areas from this. Good work guys !!

    • #30761
      Waksupi
      Participant
      • Silver
      • ★★
      • Posts: 6
      • Comments: 106
      • Overall: 112

      uber7mm;n10535 wrote:

      The revenge I see, is all those casinos on reservation lands…..

      I remember back when reservations first started building casinos. Some bleeding hearts thought it would destroy the culture if the Indians started gambling. Funny, because they have always been gamblers, from horse racing to playing hand games. At the big pow wows, the hand games go on day and night, and I have seen large garbage bags full of money as the stakes. At one rendezvous the Sioux played the Cree from Canada for a week straight. The Sioux won all the money, the lodges, and vehicles from the Cree. They finally played long enough to win back enough vehicles and gas money to get back to Canada.

    • #30762
      Rattlesnake Charlie
      Participant
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 152
      • Comments: 679
      • Overall: 831

      Wonderful info Larry and Scharfschuetze. I had to read the entire thread without stopping. And, now I have to work through my lunch break.

    • #30763
      Goodsteel
      Keymaster
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 208
      • Comments: 2452
      • Overall: 2660

      Rattlesnake Charlie;n10636 wrote: Wonderful info Larry and Scharfschuetze. I had to read the entire thread without stopping. And, now I have to work through my lunch break.

      Glad I’m not the only one.

    • #30771
      Larry Gibson
      Participant
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 55
      • Comments: 507
      • Overall: 562
      • Gold

      Here is the report I submitted in April, 1999:

      Report on comparative analysis between the M1873 Springfield Carbine and the M1873 Winchester rifle using the shooting techniques purported to have been used by the 7th Cavalry and the Indians (armed with Winchester and Henry lever action repeating rifles) at the Battle of the Little Bighorn on 25 June 1876. A sample test of the M1873 Single Action Army Revolver is also included.

      Period correct 45-55, 44-40 and 45 Colt equivalent ammunition was used. The ammunition was loaded with equivalent weight cast bullets, loaded with black powder (GOEX Cartridge), tested and chronographed to meet the original specifications of period correct ammunition.

      Testing took place on a private range, Sun Valley Shooting Park) 14 miles east of Yakima near the Yakima Training Center, Washington. That location, at the time of the test, approximated the ambient temperature (sunny with 60 – 80 degree temperature during the test), the altitude and semi arid conditions of the original battle sight on 25 June 1876.

      Seven participants took part in the 100 yard test. Six shooters participated in the 200 and 300 yard test. Five shooters took part in the revolver test. Their marksmanship skills and familiarity with the weapons ranged from very high to no formal marksmanship training with one participant having only fired a .22 LR rifle a few times. All participants not familiar with the weapons were given a period of instruction on their use, how to aim and fire the weapon and reload rapidly (U.S. M1873 Carbine with 45-70 ammunition in a prairie belt worn by the participant). This range of weapon craft, particularly with the U. S. M1873 Carbine and Single Action Army pistol, among the participants fairly replicates, on a limited scale, the skill level of the soldiers of the 7th Cavalry at the Little Bighorn. All shooting of the U.S. M1873 Carbine was from a kneeling position which was the prescribed skirmish shooting position. The shooting of the M1873 Single Action Army was done one handed from a standing position with revolver in hand at the ready.

      In the test of the M1873 44-40 lever action rifle the rifle was unsighted for the two most experienced participants. Then the sights were not adjusted for the others but the less skilled participants were told the approximate amount of hold off to use. This approximated the skill level of the Indians with the repeating lever action rifles south of Calhoun Hill in Deep Coulee (referred to as “Henryville” because of the predominant use of lever action rifles used there). The Indians described their shooting from there as being down out of sight kneeling or sitting and then rising upright and shooting quickly then dropping back down. That was the technique used by the participants in this test.

      During the Little Bighorn Battle tactical stability disintegrated to the west of Finley Hill below Greasy Grass ridge with C Troop and to the south of Calhoun Ridge when L Troop shifted its position from facing Deep Coulee to the south to support C Troop to the west. For two hours (+/-) both troops had held off the hostiles (Gall’s contingent along with Cheyenne Dog Soldiers in Deep Coulee and Lame Deer’s Cheyenne’s behind Greasy Grass Ridge) when deployed as skirmishers according to the Prescriptions for Cavalry Tactics, 1873 manual. The ranges of those engagements were 100 – 300 yards (+/-). Target engagement with the M1873 Single Action Revolver was at 15, 25 and 50 yards.

      Targets used were steel IPSC silhouette. Hits on the targets were readily observed and counted. Ranges to the targets were verified with laser range finders.

      100 yard test;

      A time limit for each test with the M1873 lever action rifle was established based on hostile Indian statements. The Indians had no Load Bearing Equipment or standard ammunition carrying capability. Many only had what ammunition was in their rifle or what was loose in a leather pouch. With the M1873 lever action rifle individual rounds are loaded one at a time through the loading gate. With the Henry rifle the magazine follower had to be pulled toward the muzzle and locked in a notch. Then individual rounds were inserted in the end of the tube one at a time. Neither is a particularly fast method of reloading. None of the hostile Indians stated they filled the magazines or kept them full during the battle. Some stated ammunition was scarce and they used the lever actions as single shots because of damaged magazines. The time limit for these tests was established by having the two most experienced shooters rise from a squat and shoot a 100 yard target with one shot then return to a squat. This was repeated for 5 shots. The shooter then reloaded 5 shots from loose rounds in a pocket and repeated for those 5 shots. It was found an average between the two shooters to shoot the 10 shots and hit the target 10 times was 1 minute 25 seconds.

      The Manual for the U.S. M1873 Carbine states a rate of fire of 12 – 14 rounds per minute can be attained. Thus we used the same 1 minute 25 second time limit for the Carbine.

      100 yards with U.S. M1873 Carbine 1 minute 25 second time limit
      Shooter/ rounds fired/hits #1/11/11 #2/13/12 #3/7/4 #4/9/5 #5/7/7 #6/8/4 #7/9/9

      100 yards M1873 lever action rifle 1 minute 25 second time limit
      Shooter/rounds fired/hits #1/10/7 #2/10/9 #3/10/2 #4/10/3 #5/10/3 #6/8/4 #7/10/3

      Seen here, given the same time limit, is there was 9% less shots fired with the U.S. M1873 Carbine 45-55 than with the M1873 44-40 rifle yet there was 53% more hits with the Carbine 45-55.

      200 yards with U.S. M1873 Carbine 1 minute 25 second time limit
      Shooter/rounds fired/hits #1/7/6 #2/6/6 #3/3/0 #4/4/2 #5/5/4 #6/5/4

      200 yards with M1873 lever action rifle 1 minute 25 second time limit
      Shooter/rounds fired/hits #1/5/3 #2/5/1 #3/5/3 #4/5/3 #5/5/4 #6/5/3

      Seen here at 200 yards all shooters fired the same number of rounds, 30 shots. The increased range slowed the rate of fire from the kneeling position if a hit was aimed for. None of the participants were able to reload the lever action rifle quick enough to fire more than the initial 5 rounds that were in the magazine within the time limit. The sustained rate of fire with the U.S. M1873 Carbine proved superior as all participants were still shooting throughout the time limit instead of loading. Most of the participants had fired the 5 rounds with the M1873 rifle in less than 1 minute. They were, essentially, out of action for the remaining time attempting to reload.

      300 yards with U.S. M1873 Carbine 1 minute 25 second time limit
      Shooter/rounds fired/hits #1/7/5 #2/4/2 #3/5/2 #4/6/3 #5/4/1 #6/5/2

      300 yards with the M1873 lever action rifle 1 minute time limit
      No participant hit the 300 yard target with the sights not adjusted. This test was concluded after the initial 5 shots were fired.

      The participants were able to still maintain a reasonable sustained rate of fire producing just under 50% hit. The maximum effective range of the M1873 lever action rifle shot as the hostile Indians shot them was probably a maximum of 200 yards, if that.

      U.S. M1873 Revolver test;

      Close quarters shooting with the revolver is fast and furious. Thus we replicated 15, 25 and 50 yard shooting giving a time limit of 15 seconds for 5 shots standing with one hand holding the revolver at the ready.

      Shooter/hits #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
      15yd 5 5 5 3 4
      25yd 3 5 4 1 3
      50yd 0 3 2 1 0

      The test results demonstrate the SAA Revolver was effective at close range, at least under 25 yards. No reloading was attempted because CPT Michaelis’ observation as to the purported quicker reloading advantage of the Schofield revolver made a lot of sense; ” This arm is the weapon of an instant; the question of extraction and reloading does not, in my opinion, enter in any way into the problem……After the weapon has exhausted its resources, it is a matter of small concern to the hard pressed soldier, whether it will take him thirty or sixty seconds to reload. He is lost in any event, and his final effort will be made in hurling his pistol at the head of his nearest foe.”

      Conclusion; the troopers of the 7th Cavalry were not “out gunned by the hostile possession and use of repeating arms such as the M1873 rifle. Having the finest weapons available is to no avail if the soldier/trooper has not the marksmanship ability and the weapons craft training to use his arms properly. A trained soldier/trooper with fundamental marksmanship skills and a second nature weapons craft skill will have confidence in himself and his weapon. It is that confidence that controls fear giving the soldier/trooper the will to function and fight, particularly with his weapon. Had the majority of the troopers with Custer that day on the Little Bighorn had proper marksmanship training and fundamental weapons craft skills They probably would not panicked, lost tactical stability and lost the fight.

      1SG Larry M. Gibson

    • #30784
      Goodsteel
      Keymaster
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 208
      • Comments: 2452
      • Overall: 2660

      Thank you for sharing that Larry. It should serve as a reminder to us all to understand and have full knowledge of our defense weapons and how to use them.

    • #30789
      Rattlesnake Charlie
      Participant
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 152
      • Comments: 679
      • Overall: 831

      Thanks Larry for more info. It does show that proficiency is key to success under stress. Proper training is a must, no matter what the task. For me, it was relentless drill scenarios of engineering casualties in the power & propulsion plant of a nuclear sub. It continued with the same when I licensed as a nuclear reactor operator at Palo Verde Nuclear Plant. Doing the right thing in response to an event becomes habit. I try to shoot my carry guns a couple times a month. When I don’t, I notice a decrease in proficiency. The troopers at LBH suffered due to lack of proficiency. Once again, thanks for taking the time to share all this with us.

    • #30791
      Goodsteel
      Keymaster
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 208
      • Comments: 2452
      • Overall: 2660

      One of the secondary takeaways from this that I glean are some rebuttals to several points I’ve always been taught about LBH that never really made sense:

      “Custer was an arrogant fool and charged into battle with an enemy he should not have engaged. “
      There’s always been questions in my mind about this, but me not being a military man, I don’t really have much of a leg to stand on.
      It seems strange that the buck stops with Custer after he was dead. It seems strange that if he were such an arrogant fool, that his men followed him into battle.
      It seems strange that the other troops who were supposed to converge with him and never showed up, are conveniently struck from the narrative (one could argue that Custer would have been lost in any event, but it sure wouldn’t have been such a complete slaughter if they had).
      Seems strange and convenient for the survivors, that after Custer died from lack of support from the other troops that never made it to his location, when actually their failure preceded his, that they cast all the blame on the dead man.
      This just seems like somebody was trying to cover their butt, and used Custer as the fall guy.

      Here’s a few questions:
      Was Custer subject to following orders or not, and was he ordered to engage the enemy?
      Did he orchestrate the entire debacle, or was he one of three generals acting in congress?
      Why did the buck stop with him? Is it right that it does, or should the blame have been shared, or passed up the chain of command a few notches?
      Was he just an awfully convenient man, who died a conveniently awfully death?

    • #30802
      Larry Gibson
      Participant
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 55
      • Comments: 507
      • Overall: 562
      • Gold

      Was Custer subject to following orders or not, and was he ordered to engage the enemy?

      Custer followed orders but he also used initiative to accomplish his commander’s intent. In today’s U.S. Army the “Commanders” Intent” is a specific part of every operation order. However, in Custer’s day, particularly in the Civil War, the use of such initiative was not the norm. It’s why Lincoln had a problem with commanders until he found Grant. It’s why GAC became the youngest Brigadier General in the war: he understood his commander’s intent and used initiative to accomplish the mission. That is excellent leadership many times confused with by his critics as “arrogance”. That’s not to say GAC didn’t display some arrogance and vanity but let’s not confuse that with the aggressive leadership traits desired in combat officers, particularly cavalry officers of the day.

      Did he orchestrate the entire debacle, or was he one of three generals acting in congress?

      GAC had nothing to do with the planning of the 1876 campaign against the hostile northern plains Indians. It was General Sheridan’s plan drawn up by him as a three pronged “concentric movement”: Gen Terry (Dakota Column), LTC Gibbon’s column from Montana and Gen Crook’s column from the Department of the Platte in Wyoming…….. a deceptively simple plan, Gen Sheridan’s plan, targeted the broad Big Horn River Valley region in its entirety, aiming three Army columns to converge thereon. Gen Sherman, in his annual report for 1875 put Gen Sheridan’s plan into historical perspective; “General Sheridan determined to proceed more systematically by concentric movements, similar to those which in 1874-75 had proved so successful at the south against the hostile Commanches, Kiowas, and Cheyennes.”

      GAC was a LTC at the time he rejoined the 7th Cavalry on May 8th or 9th, 1876…..just a few days before the Dakota column departed on the campaign. Previously GAC had been in Washington DC and Chicago for some time and had gotten into deep do-do testifying and embarrassing President Grant who relieved him of any further command. Only through the last minute interceding of Generals Terry, Sheridan and Sherman did Grant relent and allow Custer to rejoin the 7th. However, keep in mind he was only in command of the 7th which was only part of the Dakota column.

      GAC received verbal and written orders. Gen Terry described his complete strategic plan twice verbally to GAC; once on 20 June with Reno present and again the following day, 21 June, to both GAC and LTC Gibbons. Much of those verbal orders contained specifics not covered in the written orders GAC received. Those specifics verbal elements of his plan dealt with (according to other officers present); positioning of troops, the timing of their movements, the expected contact with Gen Crook’s column and to prevent the hostile Indians from escaping around the columns back to the south or east. The Written orders contain the following; “the Department Commander (Gen Terry) places too much confidence in your zeal, energy, and ability to wish to impose upon you precise orders which might hamper your action when nearly in contact with the enemy………unless you shall see sufficient reasons for departing from them……..It is desired that you conform as nearly as possible to these instructions and that you do not depart from them unless you see absolute necessity for doing so.” Such lend credence to the facts that GAC was following General Terry’s orders as he understood them.

      General Terry’s strategic plan for the combined Montana and Dakota Columns was to be a “double Movement” of troops. Custer’s 7th was to be the “attack force” and the Montana/Dakota column was to be the “blocking force”. The Montana/Dakota column was to march to the Little Big Horn junction with the Big Horn River on the 25th and then to proceed up (south) the Little Big Horn on the morning of the 26th.
      The attack force (GAC and the 7th) would travel up the Rosebud and locate the large Indian trail known to be there (Reno’s scout a few days previously) If the trail turned to the west he was not to follow “unless circumstance warrant him to”. Otherwise he (GAC) was to proceed up the Rosebud and then cross to the west and to be on station on the 25th to then precede down (north) the Little Bighorn on the morning of the 26th. It was expected the strike force (GAC and the 7th) would find and strike the Indian village(s) first driving them north into the blocking force (the Montana/Dakota columns). However, should the blocking force strike the Indians first it was thought the Indians would flee south toward the Wolf Mountains into the attack force or General Crooks column.

      General Crooks column was to have been at the headwaters of the Little Bighorn river on the 25th……he wasn’t. He wasn’t as he was fishing and playing cards after withdrawing from the Rosebud Battle a week before and was proceeding no further toward the Little Bighorn Valley. The Montana/Dakota Column didn’t make it to the junction of the Little Bighorn and Bighorn rivers on the 25th as per Terry’s plan either. They were lost and delayed by the rugged unknown territory up Tullock’s Creek. The only force that was at the appointed place on the appointed date, the 25th, was GAC and the 7th Cavalry. Then they were “discovered”, or so GAC believed from his officer’s report, and he decided to attack, which was his mission after all.

      Why did the buck stop with him? Is it right that it does, or should the blame have been shared, or passed up the chain of command a few notches? Was he just an awfully convenient man, who died a conveniently awfully death?

      The “blame” was been shared and has been passed around. But initially everyone covered their own ass as best they could. There was also considerable information held back by the surviving officers of the 7th “for the good of the regiment” awaiting Libbie’s death……however she out lived them all. Both Generals Terry and Crook went to great lengths to cover their own asses and continued failings throughout the rest of the campaign. It’s why they were basically relieved and General Miles took over.

      The Army learned some valuable lessons and instituted “Depot Training” where basic skills were trained. Marksmanship training was increased. The sights for the U.S. M1873 Rifle and Carbine were vastly improved, the butt stock of the carbine was altered and a sectional cleaning rod issued. Other cleaning implements were developed and issued. The ammunition, 45-70 and 45-55 was improved. Other ordnance items were developed and issued such as a standard prairie belt and a sling with boot for the Carbine. Inspections, even in the field while on campaign, of the men, arms, horses and equipment were instituted.

      Larry Gibson

    • #30803
      Goodsteel
      Keymaster
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 208
      • Comments: 2452
      • Overall: 2660

      Absolutely riveting Larry. So many juicy details. This:

      General Crooks column was to have been at the headwaters of the Little Bighorn river on the 25th……he wasn’t. He wasn’t as he was fishing and playing cards after withdrawing from the Rosebud Battle….

      and this:

      The only force that was at the appointed place on the appointed date, the 25th, was GAC and the 7th Cavalry.

      Are points that have never been made to me in any conversation preceding this one, and change my entire view of GAC and the Little Big Horn.

      I’ve already stuck the thread. I want to unstick it so I can have the pleasure of sticking it again.

    • #30804
      Harter
      Participant
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 76
      • Comments: 807
      • Overall: 883

      Did you that George was on a buffalo hunt just shortly before his historic day and was nearly killed when he shot his own horse out from underneath himself ?
      Old yellow hair also died 90 yr 4hr before I arrived .
      That’s all I have that isn’t mentioned.

    • #30822
      Waksupi
      Participant
      • Silver
      • ★★
      • Posts: 6
      • Comments: 106
      • Overall: 112

      That’s some great info!

    • #31308
      Goodsteel
      Keymaster
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 208
      • Comments: 2452
      • Overall: 2660

      I love this thread. Just love it.
      I tell people the things that have been discussed here, the details, the back story. They are always surprised. I think there’s a part of all of us that’s still rooting for Custer and any man who goes down fighting an impossible battle because he’s obeying orders or doing what he thinks is right.
      There’s something inexplicably glorious about it.

    • #31309
      Harter
      Participant
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 76
      • Comments: 807
      • Overall: 883

      I thought maybe you were headed for the well educated and well rounded education of a bunch of objective deplorables rabbit hole . 🙂
      Thank goodness we didn’t go there .
      I don’t have much reading for the Indian wars . When I get relocated I have a couple books I might lend you or you might find around . Flight in to Conquest and Stuka pilot . They have a very different view of the war . Men under orders fighting the good fight even as the lines collapsed …….fall back another 100 km we’re winning…….

    • #31318
      Rattlesnake Charlie
      Participant
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 152
      • Comments: 679
      • Overall: 831

      Continuing to fight when you know you are not going to win. That’s a tough one. Many have done it. Harter has listed a couple of books that show how the “other side” viewed the battles. I have read several books written by German submariners. How about a book titled Iron Coffins? While the U.S. lost 1/3 of their submariners in WWII, the Germans lost 75%. And, they still went to sea.

    • #31329
      Scharfschuetze
      Participant
      • Silver
      • ★★
      • Posts: 3
      • Comments: 190
      • Overall: 193

      I posted this at the another site not too long ago. It’s apropos here too so here it is:

      “For those wanting to study up a bit more on the Frontier Army during the 1870s and Brevet Major General Custer; may I recommend the following books:

      “A Terrible Glory” by James Donovan
      “The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn” by Nathaniel Philbrick
      “Frontier Regulars” by Robert Utley
      “Forty Miles a Day on Beans and Hay” by Robert Utlely
      “Indian Wars of the Great Plains” by Stephen Longstreet
      “Little Big Horn” (Classic Battles series) by Peter Panzieri
      “I Fought with Custer” by Sergeant Windolph, US 7th Cavalry
      “Crazy Horse and Custer” by Stephen Ambrose

      You’ll find differing opinions and accounts in the various books, but that’s the nature of history and an author’s attempt to write it from the research available at the time of his writing. My favorite books dealing with just the Little Big Horn are: “A Terrible Glory” and “The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn.” Both of these books take into account the recent research following the fires of the late 70s that burned over the battlefield and exposed much new material for study.”

      I might add to the above prose to say that I had a friend in Fremont County, Wyoming who was the country coroner there for years. He was invited to the LBH battle site by the US Park Service after the big fire there in the 70s that burned over much of the area. The USPS and numerous coroners and historians picked over the newly exposed earth with fine tooth combs and added much to our knowledge of the event. Much of that new knowledge is contained in the more recent tomes on the subject.

      I’ve been to the battlefield several times starting as a young boy and ending with a week long study while at university as well as the afore mentioned military battlefield study. I’ve spoken with several USPS historians as well as university professors, and Larry has about the best handle on the battle as anyone I know.

    • #46445
      Rattlesnake Charlie
      Participant
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 152
      • Comments: 679
      • Overall: 831

      Could Custer have been saved at Little Bighorn?

      Just to keep the thread alive:

      Could Custer have been saved at Little Bighorn?

       

      • #46451
        Rattlesnake Charlie
        Participant
        • Gold
        • ★★★
        • Posts: 152
        • Comments: 679
        • Overall: 831

        I hope everyone notices that “Could Custer have been saved at Little Bighorn?” is a live hyperlink so they can view the recently published article themselves. I should have made that clear in my original post.

    • #46450
      GhostHawk
      Participant
      • Silver
      • ★★
      • Posts: 2
      • Comments: 258
      • Overall: 260

      No.

       

      If he had followed orders perhaps. Once he pushed forward into the valley and saw the encampment. No, the die was cast. No difference in firearms, ammo was going to save him. It was the Indian’s day and he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

       

      He was eager, I suspect he thought he could do it all himself and get all the glory.

      He paid for it.

    • #46457
      popper
      Participant
      • Silver
      • ★★
      • Posts: 1
      • Comments: 293
      • Overall: 294

      Battle tactics and weapon training have been in the ‘military handbook’ for eons.  Those who don’t adapt to new stuff lose.  Those who do not adapt to the surroundings and situation lose. Those who don’t have sufficient ‘scouting’ lose.  Read some Revolutionary/Civil war battle history.  I do find it amusing that riflemen firing that much ammo don’t individually change their sights but that is where training has an effect.

    • #46474
      Larry Gibson
      Participant
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 55
      • Comments: 507
      • Overall: 562
      • Gold

      “Could Custer have been saved at Little Bighorn?”

      Depends on what one means by “saved”.  If one means saved as after the remnants coagulated on top of Last Stand Hill then probably not as there was no one close enough to effect a “save”.  However, if one means by any other 7th Cavalry at the LBH then it’s very probable had Benteen and his battalion followed the written order brought by a messenger he read on Reno Creek before proceeding out into the valley by collecting the pack train and following the Custer battalion’s trail they would have reached the head of Medicine Tail Coulee preventing Gaul and his Cheyenne’s from forming there.  Had Benteen left the pack train with the Keogh Battalion that would have reinforced them also.  Benteen proceeding  along mile ridge would have also been in time to prevent the Oglala’s from coming up and crossing to get behind Keogh.  The battle would have been much different with the infusion of Benteen’s battalion into Custer’s (actually Custer did not command the battalions with him).  Had that occurred we would be discussing Reno’s Last Stand back on the bluffs south of Weir point instead.

      However, the real sad part is had Crook’s force been coming down the Little Big Horn from the south on the 25th as he was supposed to and had Terry/Gibbons force been coming up the Little Big Horn from the north on the 25th as they were supposed to (according to General Terry’s plan) the battle would also have been much different.  As it was GAC was following orders,  It was GAC and his 7th Cavalry that was at the appointed place on the appointed day as per General Terry’s strategic plan of which Custer had no part in it’s development.  The 7th Cavalry was the attacking force meant to drive the Indians, particularly the villagers, out onto the open plains where the combined Terry, Gibbon and Crook forces could capture them.  GAC and the 7th cavalry were also to block the escape of the Indians into the hills and headwaters of Tullock Creek.

      The actual tactics and deployments GAC used confirm he was following orders.  Unfortunately GAC did not know the Terry/Gibbons column would be two days late as they were lost up Tulluck Creek on the 25th.  GAC also didn’t know (cell phone service wasn’t that good back then…..) Crook wasn’t going to show at all let alone be where his orders told him to be on the 25th.  That left the 7th Cavalry under GAC who was following orders kind of hung out to dry.

       

      Larry Gibson

       

       

       

    • #46475
      Rattlesnake Charlie
      Participant
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 152
      • Comments: 679
      • Overall: 831

      Thanks for that astute clarification. Apparently the author of the article I posted the link to did not do as much research as you have.

    • #46476
      Larry Gibson
      Participant
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 55
      • Comments: 507
      • Overall: 562
      • Gold

      “Battle tactics and weapon training have been in the ‘military handbook’ for eons?

      Sorry popper, but as I mentioned before the “eons” actually started around 1879 for M1873 TD training.  The 1st manual for the M1873 rifle was adopted in 1874.  How many manuals got to the 7th cavalry is unknown.  What is known is there was no formal marksmanship training for the M1873 until another manual was published in 1879.  What is also known is that half of the troopers of the 7th Cavalry at LBH on the 25th had less than 1 year in the Army/Cavalry and of that 60% had less than 6 months.  There was no basic training, they learned what they could on the march or while trying to survive the worst winter on record (winter of 1875).  The officers studied the 1874 Cavalry manual.  Custer and his battalion commanders disposition of troops was per the prescriptions contained in that manual.  GAC and his commanders were following and using the tactics of the day……..

       

      As far as the training of the 7th Cavalry troopers most of what they got had to do with their horses, little was with their carbines or revolvers.  We know that for certain because we know what the abilities and actions were with the Reno/Benteen force; the same soldiers, the same NCOs, the same officers, all with the same training or lack there of, the same conditions, the same tired horses, the same day, the same Indians, the same weapons the same ammunition, etc., etc., etc.

       

      Larry Gibson

    • #46479
      Goodsteel
      Keymaster
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 208
      • Comments: 2452
      • Overall: 2660

      Gold. Pure gold.

    • #46481
      Harter
      Participant
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 76
      • Comments: 807
      • Overall: 883

      Story of my life.
      I was reading about the disaster that lead to George getting thrown under the bus……ER…..wagons .

      Probably if any of the other forces had shown up old yellow hair would have been less obliterated .

      Seems like there was something on the history channel in the last year or so .

    • #46483
      Butch Wax
      Participant
      • Silver
      • ★★
      • Posts: 22
      • Comments: 158
      • Overall: 180

      Had family on the other side of that fight. You don’t want to know my thoughts. I’ll end up being banned from the forum.

    • #46484
      Larry Gibson
      Participant
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 55
      • Comments: 507
      • Overall: 562
      • Gold

      Rattlesnake Charlie

       

      I read that article before I responded.  It is the “down and dirty” tale but as usual is refute with lack of details and contains some assumptions we know are not correct but get repeated anyway.  Several examples; the article leads one to believe GAC was at the secret meeting in Washington, he was not.  GAC did not learn of the campaign strategy until on the March with Terry.  GAC did not learn of the “plan” and did not receive his orders until just several days prior the LBH battle.

       

      It was known by Terry pretty close to how many Indians/warriors there would be and GAC was aware also.  That’s why such a large total force (Crooks column, Terry/Gibbon column and the 7th Cavalry) was deployed to surround the hostiles.  They also knew if not camped on the Powder River or the Rosebud the hostiles would be encamped on the LBH…..just as the Crow scouts had told them the Sioux/Northern Cheyenne had done for years encroaching into Crow territory.

      The article also leads us to believe Benteen came back from his “foray to the south”, met Tpr Martini on Reno Creek and then took his battalion up the bluffs and there encountered Reno and the remnants of his battalion…….that is not quite the way it happened.  Benteen on returning to Custer crossed the LBH at the mouth of Reno Creek and went a short distance out into the valley.  There Benteen and his troopers saw the rout of Reno’s battalion from the trees and up the bluff.  He knew, from the poor and lack of training of his own troopers that the same would befall his battalion if he went to Reno’s aid in the valley.  Thus he led them back across Reno Creed and up to the trail Custer’s column had departed on.  There he encountered Tpr Martini.  We should also remember that when asked what of the hostiles Martini replied, “they skedaddle”……. Benteen, intent on finding Custer as ordered, followed the trail and then encounter Reno at the top of the bluffs.  We know this because Benteen wrote it to his wife a couple days after the battle and there are several others statements attesting to the same.

       

      Unfortunately most of what has been written, including Camps “historical” account is based on assumption or/and attempts to prove/justify some theory of what happened.  The attempt to prove battle lines based on the position of the headstones is a prime example.  In my own investigations I have let the facts lay where they will based on the physical evidence recovered and the corroborated eye witness accounts (those obtained as soon as practical after the battle as the stories of all participants changed as they were influenced by time) of both the soldiers there, those soldiers that were in Terry/Gibbon’s column, the hostiles present, the scouts and those who interviewed the hostiles shortly after the battle.  I’ve no axe to grind, just interested in what really happened.

       

      Larry Gibson

       

       

    • #46486
      Harter
      Participant
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 76
      • Comments: 807
      • Overall: 883

      There was a story that said George was on a buffalo hunt about 2 weeks before the LBH . He shot his horse and was thrown from it but ended up with some part trapped by the horse . Donno if there’s any truth to it or not .

      It seems like I read somewhere that George and at least One of the other commanders had some personal differences that played into the lack of support .

    • #46490
      Goodsteel
      Keymaster
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 208
      • Comments: 2452
      • Overall: 2660

      Personal differences having to do with his epicly hot wife. She was a natural beauty, even by today’s standards.

    • #46491
      Rattlesnake Charlie
      Participant
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 152
      • Comments: 679
      • Overall: 831

      Well, the site sure got moving again with this one.

      Goodsteel, I had to go look up “epicly”, which led me to “epically”. Seems they mean about the same thing with epicly having some underling tone to it. Anyway, I have now added something new to my vocabulary. Maybe I can slip into conversation with my brother as we try to band some young bulls that should have been banded months ago when I’m back in KS over Labor Day weekend.

    • #46493
      Goodsteel
      Keymaster
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 208
      • Comments: 2452
      • Overall: 2660

      Take it however you want it, she was a beauty. I’ve actually got a picture of her on my phone. She was extremely intelligent and well educated as well.

      It was said that her relationship with GAC was anything but boring. Apparently, a very steamy romance punctuated by the two of them fighting like demons. They were both very strong, ambitious people and equally matched in my opinion.

      Libbie was exceptional though. Definitely the most beautiful woman I have seen from that period of history, and her course of action after LBH underlines, emboldens, and italicizes that fact:

    • #46495
      popper
      Participant
      • Silver
      • ★★
      • Posts: 1
      • Comments: 293
      • Overall: 294

      Larry – I was speaking of battle tactics from the Egyptians, Israelites, Huns, Kubla & kin, vikings, etc.    Pike group tactics and training is very interesting, you know, boot camp marching, etc.  I mentioned the Civil War as there was plenty of accurate documentation for many battles, fans would go out and picnic to watch many battles.  Same for Revolutionary war.

    • #46497
      Goodsteel
      Keymaster
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 208
      • Comments: 2452
      • Overall: 2660

      Butch Wax, as long as you don’t have a problem with other opinions being posted on this, I for one would be very interested to hear any adjacent perspective you might be privy to.

      Please, do tell!

    • #46499
      Goodsteel
      Keymaster
      • Gold
      • ★★★
      • Posts: 208
      • Comments: 2452
      • Overall: 2660

      To those in this thread, I have to apologize, but we have lost some posts. The design team was trying to implement the chat room at my request, and doing so deleted all forum activity from 11pm last night (which is when our files are backed up every day). By the time I realized the mistake, it was too late. I instructed them to scrap the chatroom idea immediately until we can implement it without fear of losing information.

      I’m very sorry. If any of you had your replies from the past 12 hours backed up, please repost them.

    • #46501
      Bodean98
      Participant
      • Silver
      • ★★
      • Posts: 8
      • Comments: 103
      • Overall: 111

      This is positively fascinating, and riveting reading.

      Thank you so much!

Viewing 47 reply threads
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.

© 2017 Goodsteel Forum. Designed by Covalent Designs, LLC.