On the hot afternoon of June 25th 1876 General George Custer
’s command attacked an
on the Little Bighorn
. They thought it would be an easy surprise attack, but the Indians who had been coming together under Sitting Bull turned out to be too strong for Custers roops. In the end, it would be the last battle Custer would ever fight.
His recent campaign, following a group of Indians had led him to Montana. As he
followed, he came upon a sudden confusion of tracks. Custer feared it meant that the group was
breaking up. In fact it meant the opposite. Many more groups were joining Sitting Bull’s
Here Custer made a crucial decision. He decided to break up camp early and follow the
tracks further arriving at the Crows Nest, a high spot in the prairie where he could see for miles
Instead of waiting and scouting out the enemy Custer decided to attack on
that day. His reason being they had been spotted by several hunting bands who
promptly rode away quickly, and Custer feared that the Indian camp he had sought for so
long would break up before he had a chance to destroy it.
So Custer split his command into three battalions under Major Reno, Captain Benteen,
and himself. Both Reno and Custer followed a creek to the Little Bighorn, about there Benteen
came up from the South and joined Custer.
Reno crossed the Little Bighorn to attack the Indian village, while Custer prepared to
follow. As Reno attacked the village, Custer observed that the Indians were moving to defend.
He went up a bluff for unknown reasons. Perhaps he thought he would flank the Indian village.
It didn’t work out that way.
Reno’s attack, thwarted by a large party of Indians, forced him to retreat across the Little
Bighorn. Once across he went up a defensive bluff, shortly followed by Benteen’s command. It
was there that were surrounded and trapped for nearly two days.
Meanwhile, Custer continued up the bluff in a Northwest direction. His force was
attacked around Calhoun hill, and his movement was stopped. His troops are then stuck on this
The Indians didn’t make many outright charges, tending to stay back and fire with
their rifles and bows from afar. The cavalrymen were like fish in a barrel. The fusillade doing a
large amount of damage.
The final blow came from the North, when a war party headed by Crazy Horse descended
and caught the cavalrymen in a pincer attack, eventually coming to the last hill that Custer was
defending. There the last of Custer’s battalion, was killed including Custer himself.
In a few days, the Indians left, leaving the troops with Benteen and Reno bewildered but
happy. The 2d Cavalry lead by General Terry came up with the news that his scouts had
found Custer, and all his troops dead.
Altogether 210 men died with Custer. In Reno’s retreat 53 were killed or
wounded. How many Indians perished, we’ll never know. Estimates range from 30 to 300.
Despite this victory, it was indeed minor in the larger scheme of things. It wouldn’t be
long now before the Indian Wars would end and their way of life would vanish forever.