|This morning, September 10th, we left Sheridan, Wyoming in time to arrive at the museum in Crow's Agency, Montana to learn more about the Battle of the Little Bighorn. We viewed a very informative film before heading out to the actual battle field. That was a really good decision. It made it much easier to imagine what the heck was going on. We had no idea that there was, and is a ton of controversy concerning Custer's actions that day. As well as two of his officers, Major Reno and Captain Benteen.
In fact, the Battle Of The Little Bighorn was the subject of an 1879 U.S. Army Court of Inquiry, made at Reno's request, during which his conduct was scrutinized. Some testimony was presented suggesting that he was drunk and a coward, but since none of this came from army officers, Reno's conduct was found to be without fault. The charge of cowardice has been leveled at Reno throughout the years due to his hastily ordered retreat. Reno defenders point out that while the retreat was disorganized, Reno did not withdraw from his position until it was clear that he was outnumbered and outflanked.
Benteen has been criticized for "dawdling" on the first day of the fight, and supposedly disobeying Custer's written orders to bring "pacs" (ammunition). However, Benteen has also been acknowledged by many historians for supporting and defending Reno's men on Reno Hill. So who knows?
In case you need a history refresher, the Battle of the Little Bighorn —also known as Custer's Last Stand and, in the parlance of the Native Americans involved, the Battle of Greasy Grass Creek—was an armed engagement between a Lakota–Northern Cheyenne combined force and the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army. It occurred on June 25 and June 26, 1876, near the Little Bighorn River in the eastern Montana Territory, near what is now Crow Agency, Montana.
In late 1875, Sioux and Cheyenne Indians defiantly left their reservations, outraged over the continued intrusions of whites into their sacred lands in the Black Hills. They gathered in Montana with the great warrior Sitting Bull to fight for their lands. The following spring, two victories over the US Cavalry emboldened them to fight on in the summer of 1876.
To force the large Indian army back to the reservations, the Army dispatched three columns to attack in coordinated fashion, one of which contained Lt. Colonel George Custer and the Seventh Cavalry. Spotting the Sioux village about fifteen miles away along the Rosebud River on June 25, Custer also found a nearby group of about forty warriors. Ignoring orders to wait, he decided to attack before they could alert the main party. He did not realize that the number of warriors in the village numbered three times his strength. Dividing his forces in three, Custer sent troops under Captain Frederick Benteen to prevent their escape through the upper valley of the Little Bighorn River. Major Marcus Reno was to pursue the group, cross the river, and charge the Indian village in a coordinated effort with the remaining troops under his command. He hoped to strike the Indian encampment at the northern and southern ends simultaneously, but made this decision without knowing what kind of terrain he would have to cross before making his assault. He belatedly discovered that he would have to negotiate a maze of bluffs and ravines to attack.
The battle was the most famous action of the Great Sioux War of 1876-77 and was a remarkable victory for the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne, led by Sitting Bull (Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake). The U.S. Seventh Cavalry, including a column of 700 men led by George Armstrong Custer, was defeated. Five of the Seventh's companies were annihilated and Custer himself was killed as were two of his brothers, a nephew, and a brother-in-law. This battle did not inflict the highest number of casualties by Native Americans against U.S. Forces, however. That happened in 1791 at the Battle of the Wabash when the U.S army command suffered over 600 casualties. Nevertheless, the battle reassessed American outlook on Native American fighting abilities, as well as public perception of the Great Sioux War. The battle, and Custer's actions in particular, subsequently came under historical scrutiny.
Little Bighorn was the pinnacle of the Indians' power. They had achieved their greatest victory yet, but soon their tenuous union fell apart in the face of the white onslaught. Outraged over the death of a popular Civil War hero on the eve of the Centennial, the nation demanded and received harsh retribution. The Black Hills dispute was quickly settled by redrawing the boundary lines, placing the Black Hills outside the reservation and open to white settlement. Within a year, the Sioux nation was defeated and broken. "Custer's Last Stand" was their last stand as well.
The site was first preserved as a national cemetery in 1879, to protect graves of the 7th Cavalry troopers buried there. It was redesignated Custer Battlefield National Monument in 1946, and later renamed Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in 1991. Memorialization on the battlefield began in 1879 with a temporary monument to U.S. Dead. This was replaced with the current marble obelisk in 1881. In 1890 the marble blocks that dot the field were added to mark the place where the U.S. Cavalry soldiers fell. The bill that changed the name of the national monument also called for an Indian Memorial to be built near Last Stand Hill. On Memorial Day 1999, two red granite markers were added to the battlefield where Native American warriors fell. There remains to this day the bitter dreams of a proud, forgotten people and an antagonism towards the government that at the very least betrayed them with lies and false promises.....
So, that's it. Hope you enjoy the pics. We'll be heading out for Billings tomorrow. See you on down the road....