Sheridan endorsed his effort, accepting Custer's "guilt" and suggesting his restraint in future. Grant was already under pressure for his treatment of Custer. His administration worried that if the "Sioux campaign" failed without Custer, then Grant would be blamed for ignoring the recommendations of senior Army officers. On May 8, Custer was told that he would lead the expedition, but only under Terry's direct supervision. Elated, Custer told General Terry's chief engineer, Captain Ludlow, that he would "cut loose" from Terry and operate independently.
By the time of Custer's Black Hills expedition in , the level of conflict and tension between the U. European-Americans continually broke treaty agreements and advanced further westward, resulting in violence and acts of depredation by both sides. To take possession of the Black Hills and thus the gold deposits , and to stop Indian attacks, the U. The Grant government set a deadline of January 31, , for all Lakota and Arapaho wintering in the "unceded territory" to report to their designated agencies reservations or be considered "hostile". At that time the 7th Cavalry's regimental commander, Colonel Samuel D.
Louis, Missouri ,  which left Lieutenant Colonel Custer in command of the regiment. Custer and the 7th Cavalry departed from Fort Abraham Lincoln on May 17, , part of a larger army force planning to round up remaining free Indians. Meanwhile, in the spring and summer of , the Hunkpapa Lakota holy man Sitting Bull had called together the largest ever gathering of Plains Indians at Ash Creek, Montana later moved to the Little Bighorn River to discuss what to do about the whites. About June 15, Reno, while on a scout, discovered the trail of a large village on the Rosebud River. On June 25, some of Custer's Crow Indian scouts identified what they claimed was a large Indian encampment in the valley near the Little Bighorn River.
Custer had first intended to attack the Indian village the next day, but since his presence was known, he decided to attack immediately and divided his forces into three battalions: one led by Major Marcus Reno , one by Captain Frederick Benteen , and one by himself. Captain Thomas M. McDougall and Company B were with the pack train. Reno was sent north to charge the southern end of the encampment, Custer rode north, hidden to the east of the encampment by bluffs and planning to circle around and attack from the north,   and Benteen was initially sent south and west to scout Indian presence and potentially protect the column from the south.
Reno began a charge on the southern end of the village but halted some — yards short of the camp, and had his men dismount and form a skirmish line. Eventually, however, the troopers engaged in a bloody retreat up onto the bluffs above the river, where they made their own stand. Custer may have seen Reno stop and form a skirmish line as Custer led his command to the northern end of the main encampment, where he may have planned to sandwich the Indians between his attacking troopers and Reno's command in a " hammer and anvil " maneuver. From that point the soldiers were pursued by hundreds of warriors onto a ridge north of the encampment.
Custer and his command were prevented from digging in by Crazy Horse however, whose warriors had outflanked him and were now to his north, at the crest of the ridge. For a time, Custer's men appear to have been deployed by company, in standard cavalry fighting formation—the skirmish line, with every fourth man holding the horses, though this arrangement would have robbed Custer of a quarter of his firepower. Worse, as the fight intensified, many soldiers could have taken to holding their own horses or hobbling them, further reducing the 7th's effective fire.
When Crazy Horse and White Bull mounted the charge that broke through the center of Custer's lines, order may have broken down among the soldiers of Calhoun's command,  though Myles Keogh 's men seem to have fought and died where they stood. According to some Lakota accounts, many of the panicking soldiers threw down their weapons  and either rode or ran towards the knoll where Custer, the other officers, and about 40 men were making a stand.
Along the way, the warriors rode them down, counting coup by striking the fleeing troopers with their quirts or lances. Initially, Custer had officers and men under his direct command, with an additional under Reno, just over under Benteen, and 50 soldiers with Captain McDougall's rearguard, accompanying 84 soldiers under 1st Lieutenant Edward Gustave Mathey with the pack train. The Lakota-Cheyenne coalition may have fielded over 1, warriors.
The 1,—2, figure is substantially lower than the higher numbers of 3, or more postulated by Ambrose, Gray, Scott, and others.
Some of the other participants in the battle gave these estimates:. An average of the above is 3, Indian warriors and leaders. As the troopers of Custer's five companies were cut down, the native warriors stripped the dead of their firearms and ammunition, with the result that the return fire from the cavalry steadily decreased, while the fire from the Indians constantly increased. The surviving troopers apparently shot their remaining horses to use as breastworks for a final stand on the knoll at the north end of the ridge. The warriors closed in for the final attack and killed every man in Custer's command.
On February 9, , Custer married Elizabeth Clift Bacon — , whom he had first seen when he was ten years old. She was not initially impressed with him,  and her father, Judge Daniel Bacon, disapproved of Custer as a match because he was the son of a blacksmith. It was not until well after Custer had been promoted to the rank of brevet brigadier general that he gained the approval of Judge Bacon. He married Elizabeth Bacon fourteen months after they formally met.
In November , following the Battle of Washita River , Custer was alleged by Captain Frederick Benteen , chief of scouts Ben Clark, and Cheyenne oral tradition to have unofficially married Mo-nah-se-tah , daughter of the Cheyenne chief Little Rock in the winter or early spring of — Little Rock was killed in the one-day action at Washita on November Cheyenne oral history tells that she also bore a second child, fathered by Custer in late Some historians, however, believe that Custer had become sterile after contracting gonorrhea while at West Point and that the father was, in actuality, his brother Thomas.
It is unlikely any American Indian recognized Custer during or after the battle. Michno summarizes: "Shave Elk said 'We did not suspect that we were fighting Custer and did not recognize him either alive or dead. The Cheyennes did not even know a man named Custer was in the fight until weeks later. Antelope said none knew of Custer being at the fight until they later learned of it at the agencies.
Thomas Marquis learned from his interviews that no Indian knew Custer was at the Little Bighorn fight until months later. Many Cheyennes were not even aware that other members of the Custer family had been in the fight until when Marquis himself first informed them of that fact. A contrasting version of Custer's death is suggested by the testimony of an Oglala named Joseph White Cow Bull, according to novelist and Custer biographer Evan Connell. He says that Joseph White Bull stated he had shot a rider wearing a buckskin jacket and big hat at the riverside when the soldiers first approached the village from the east.
The initial force facing the soldiers, according to this version, was quite small possibly as few as four warriors yet challenged Custer's command. The rider who was hit was mounted next to a rider who bore a flag and had shouted orders that prompted the soldiers to attack, but when the buckskin-clad rider fell off his horse after being shot, many of the attackers reined up. The allegation that the buckskin-clad officer was Custer, if accurate, might explain the supposed rapid disintegration of Custer's forces.
During the s, two elderly Cheyenne women spoke briefly with oral historians about their having recognized Custer's body on the battlefield and said that they had stopped a Sioux warrior from desecrating the body. The women were relatives of Mo-nah-se-tah , who was alleged to have been Custer's lover in late and through , and borne two children by him. In the Cheyenne culture of the time, such a relationship was considered a marriage. The women allegedly told the warrior: "Stop, he is a relative of ours," and then shooed him away.
What Really Happened at the Battle of the Little Bighorn? - HISTORY
The two women said they shoved their sewing awls into his ears to permit Custer's corpse to "hear better in the afterlife" because he had broken his promise to Stone Forehead never to fight against Native Americans again. When the main column under General Terry arrived two days later, the army found most of the soldiers' corpses stripped, scalped, and mutilated.
Benteen, who inspected the body, stated that in his opinion the fatal injuries had not been the result of. Godfrey described Custer's mutilation, telling Charles F. Bates that an arrow "had been forced up his penis. The bodies of Custer and his brother Tom were wrapped in canvas and blankets, then buried in a shallow grave, covered by the basket from a travois held in place by rocks.
When soldiers returned a year later, the brothers' grave had been broken into by animals and the bones scattered. The battle site was designated a National Cemetery in Custer has been called a " media personality ",   and he valued good public relations and used the print media of his era effectively. He frequently invited journalists to accompany his campaigns one, Associated Press reporter Mark Kellogg , died at the Little Bighorn , and their favorable reporting contributed to his high reputation, which lasted well into the latter 20th century.
Custer enjoyed writing, often writing all night long. He wrote a series of magazine articles of his experiences on the frontier, which were published book form as My Life on the Plains in The work is still a valued primary source for information on US-Native relations. After his death, Custer achieved lasting fame.
The public saw him as a tragic military hero and exemplary gentleman who sacrificed his life for his country. Custer's wife, Elizabeth , who had accompanied him in many of his frontier expeditions, did much to advance this view with the publication of several books about her late husband: Boots and Saddles, Life with General Custer in Dakota ,  Tenting on the Plains, or General Custer in Kansas and Texas  and Following the Guidon. The enterprising company ordered reprints of a dramatic work that depicted "Custer's Last Stand" and had them framed and hung in many United States saloons.
This created lasting impressions of the battle and the brewery's products in the minds of many bar patrons. President Grant, a highly successful general but recent antagonist, criticized Custer's actions in the battle of the Little Bighorn. Quoted in the New York Herald on September 2, , Grant said, "I regard Custer's Massacre as a sacrifice of troops, brought on by Custer himself, that was wholly unnecessary — wholly unnecessary. General Nelson Miles who inherited Custer's mantle of famed Indian fighter and others praised him as a fallen hero betrayed by the incompetence of subordinate officers.
Miles noted the difficulty of winning a fight "with seven-twelfths of the command remaining out of the engagement when within sound of his rifle shots. The assessment of Custer's actions during the American Indian Wars has undergone substantial reconsideration in modern times. Documenting the arc of popular perception in his biography Son of the Morning Star , author Evan Connell notes the reverential tone of Custer's first biographer Frederick Whittaker whose book was rushed out the year of Custer's death.
These days it is stylish to denigrate the general, whose stock sells for nothing. Nineteenth-century Americans thought differently. At that time he was a cavalier without fear and beyond reproach. The controversy over blame for the disaster at Little Bighorn continues to this day. Custer's defenders, however, including historian Charles K. Hofling, have asserted that Gatling guns would have been slow and cumbersome as the troops crossed the rough country between the Yellowstone and the Little Bighorn. Supporters of Custer claim that splitting the forces was a standard tactic, so as to demoralize the enemy with the appearance of the cavalry in different places all at once, especially when a contingent threatened the line of retreat.
In addition to "Autie", Custer acquired a number of nicknames. During the Civil War, after his promotion to become the youngest brigadier general in the Army at age 23, the press frequently called him "The Boy General". During his years on the Great Plains in the American Indian Wars, his troopers often referred to him with grudging admiration as "Iron Butt" and "Hard Ass" for his physical stamina in the saddle and his strict discipline, as well as with the more derisive "Ringlets" for his long, curling blond hair.
Custer was quite fastidious in his grooming. Early in their marriage, Libbie wrote, "He brushes his teeth after every meal. I always laugh at him for it, also for washing his hands so frequently. He was 5'11" tall and wore a size 38 jacket and size 9C boots. A splendid horseman, "Custer mounted was an inspiration. He was a "power sleeper", able to get by on very short naps after falling asleep immediately on lying down. Throughout his travels, he gathered geological specimens, sending them to the University of Michigan. On September 10, , he wrote Libbie, "the Indian battles hindered the collecting, while in that immediate region it was unsafe to go far from the command He was well-liked by his native scouts, whose company he enjoyed.
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He often ate with them. A May 21, diary entry by Kellogg records, "General Custer visits scouts; much at home amongst them. Before leaving the steamer Far West for the final leg of the journey, Custer wrote all night. His orderly John Burkman stood guard in front of his tent and on the morning of June 22, , found Custer "hunched over on the cot, just his coat and his boots off, and the pen still in his hand.
During his service in Kentucky, Custer bought several thoroughbred horses. He took two on his last campaign, Vic for Victory and Dandy. During the march he changed horses every three hours. Custer took his two staghounds Tuck and Bleuch with him during the last expedition. He left them with orderly Burkman when he rode forward into battle. Burkman joined the packtrain. He regretted not accompanying Custer but lived until , when he took his own life. The common media image of Custer's appearance at the Last Stand—buckskin coat and long, curly blonde hair—is wrong. Although he and several other officers wore buckskin coats on the expedition, they took them off and packed them away because it was so hot.
According to Soldier, an Arikara scout, "Custer took off his buckskin coat and tied it behind his saddle. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see Custer disambiguation. Initially on the battlefield; Later reinterred in West Point Cemetery. Elizabeth Bacon Custer m. This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. Further information: Trader post scandal. Main article: Battle of the Little Bighorn.
Hurrah boys, we've got them! We'll finish them up and then go home to our station. When writing about Custer, neutral ground is elusive. What should Custer have done at any of the critical junctures that rapidly presented themselves, each now the subject of endless speculation and rumination? There will always be a variety of opinions based upon what Custer knew, what he did not know, and what he could not have known This article contains a list of miscellaneous information.
Please relocate any relevant information into other sections or articles. December Biography portal American Civil War portal. Son Of The Morning Star. Custer and His Wife Elizabeth. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. Custer Lives! Retrieved 16 May Quote: "A Young Romantic Custer at age seventeen. He is holding a photograph of Mary Jane Holland, his first serious romance. It was his first serious romance, and the two began spending plenty of time together.
New York: G. Retrieved W U of Nebraska Press. National Park Service ". The Times Herald. Retrieved 10 June Miller, "The Cavalry Battle near Gettysburg". Battles and Leaders of the Civil War , Vol. Philadelphia: McLaughlin Brothers, , p. Charlottesville, VA: Rockbridge Publishing.
The Shenandoah Valley Campaign of Smithsonian Magazine. November Custer: lessons in leadership. New York: St. Martin's Press. Stewart, Custer's Luck. Custer and his Wife Elizabeth. The Cheyenne were not part of this treaty and had no designated agency. The reservation was for the Lakota and Arapaho. Retrieved 10 December Laws and Treaties. Washington, , p. Treaty with the Crows, The Making of the Crow Nation in America, Cambridge,, p.
Lincoln and London, , pp. Army Center of Military History. New York: Anchor Books. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, p. Mountain Press Publishing Company. Grinnell, p. Princess Monahsetah.
Missoula, MT: Mountain Press, p. June 28, Retrieved October 23, University of Nebraska Press, Black pioneers: images of the Black experience on the North American frontier. In Hall, Dennis G. American icons: an encyclopedia of the people, places, and things that have shaped our culture. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. New York, C.
Webster and Co. Custer, Following the Guidon. The Diaries of John Hunton. Heritage Books. Chicago: Werner, Chapter XXII, pp. Custer and the Little Big Horn: A Retrieved June 22, United States Department of Veterans Affairs. The Free Library. New York: W. Norton and Company, Brooklyn, NY: Arrow and Trooper, , pp. Frost, General Custer's Libbie.
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Seattle: Superior Publishing Co. Bronxville, NY: Unknown, , p. Bronxville, NY: Unknown, , pp. New York: Harper and Brothers, , p. Wagner, Old Neutrement. New York: Penguin Group, Bryan, TX: J. Carroll, Gettysburg figures. Lee Alexander R. Anderson G. Jones W. Lee W. Steuart J. Stuart Thomas Trimble J. Walker R. Walker Wilcox Wofford Wright.
George Armstrong Custer
Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming. By the latter half of the 20th century, the gallant Indian fighter had been transformed into a bloodthirsty Indian killer. Though many historians now accept that Custer was neither a spotless hero nor a villain, he and his final battle remain subjects of intense controversy.
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Federal troops flooded the region and forced the Native American population into submission. George A. Custer and the 7th Cavalry set out from Fort Abraham Lincoln, south of present-day Mandan, for their fateful encounter with the Sioux and Cheyenne in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, fought in present-day Montana. Custer destroyed the Washita River encampment of the luckless Black Kettle, who was killed along with scores of his followers.
On December 25, Christmas Day, Maj. Andrew W. Evans dealt a sharp blow to the Comanche at Soldier Spring. Army columns continually scoured…. George Armstrong Custer. History at your fingertips. Sign up here to see what happened On This Day , every day in your inbox! By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Notice. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox.
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