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Warriors could have been drawn to the feint attack, forcing the battalion back towards the heights, up the north fork drainage, away from the troops providing cover fire above. The covering company would have moved towards a reunion, delivering heavy volley fire and leaving the trail of expended cartridges discovered 50 years later.

In the end, the hilltop to which Custer had moved was probably too small to accommodate all of the survivors and wounded. Fire from the southeast made it impossible for Custer's men to secure a defensive position all around Last Stand Hill where the soldiers put up their most dogged defense. According to Lakota accounts, far more of their casualties occurred in the attack on Last Stand Hill than anywhere else. The extent of the soldiers' resistance indicated they had few doubts about their prospects for survival. According to Cheyenne and Sioux testimony, the command structure rapidly broke down, although smaller "last stands" were apparently made by several groups.

Custer's remaining companies E, F, and half of C were soon killed. By almost all accounts, the Lakota annihilated Custer's force within an hour of engagement.

Many of these men threw down their weapons while Cheyenne and Sioux warriors rode them down, " counting coup " with lances, coup sticks, and quirts. Some Native accounts recalled this segment of the fight as a "buffalo run. I went over the battlefield carefully with a view to determine how the battle was fought.

I arrived at the conclusion I [hold] now — that it was a rout, a panic, until the last man was killed There was no line formed on the battlefield. You can take a handful of corn and scatter [the kernels] over the floor, and make just such lines. There were none The only approach to a line was where 5 or 6 [dead] horses found at equal distances, like skirmishers [part of Lt. Calhoun's Company L]. That was the only approach to a line on the field. There were more than 20 [troopers] killed [in one group]; there were [more often] four or five at one place, all within a space of 20 to 30 yards [of each other] I counted 70 dead [cavalry] horses and 2 Indian ponies.

I think, in all probability, that the men turned their horses loose without any orders to do so. Many orders might have been given, but few obeyed. I think that they were panic stricken; it was a rout, as I said before. But the soldiers weren't ready to die. We stood there a long time. Both failed Custer and he had to fight it out alone. Recent archaeological work at the battlefield indicates that officers on Custer Hill restored some tactical control.

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The remainder of the battle took on the nature of a running fight. Modern archaeology and historical Indian accounts indicate that Custer's force may have been divided into three groups, with the Indians attempting to prevent them from effectively reuniting. Indian accounts describe warriors including women running up from the village to wave blankets in order to scare off the soldiers' horses. Army doctrine would have called for one man in four to be a horseholder behind the skirmish lines and, in extreme cases, one man in eight.

Later, the troops would have bunched together in defensive positions and are alleged to have shot their remaining horses as cover. As individual troopers were wounded or killed, initial defensive positions would have been abandoned as untenable. Under threat of attack, the first U. A couple of years after the battle, markers were placed where men were believed to have fallen, so the placement of troops has been roughly construed.

According to Indian accounts, about forty men on Custer Hill made a desperate stand around Custer, delivering volley fire. Modern documentaries suggest that there may not have been a "Last Stand", as traditionally portrayed in popular culture.

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Instead, archaeologists suggest that in the end, Custer's troops were not surrounded but rather overwhelmed by a single charge. This scenario corresponds to several Indian accounts stating Crazy Horse's charge swarmed the resistance, with the surviving soldiers fleeing in panic. At least 28 bodies the most common number associated with burial witness testimony , including that of scout Mitch Bouyer , were discovered in or near that gulch, their deaths possibly the battle's final actions.

Although the marker for Mitch Bouyer was found accurate through archaeological and forensic testing of remains, it is some 65 yards away from Deep Ravine. Other archaeological explorations done in Deep Ravine found no human remains associated with the battle. According to Scott, it is likely that in the years between the battle and Scott's excavation efforts in the ravine, geological processes caused many of the remains to become unrecoverable.

For example, near the town of Garryowen, portions of the skeleton of a trooper killed in the Reno Retreat were recovered from an eroding bank of the Little Big Horn, while the rest of the remains had apparently been washed away by the river.


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Reno credited Benteen's luck with repulsing a severe attack on the portion of the perimeter held by Companies H and M. One of the regiment's three surgeons had been with Custer's column, while another, Dr. DeWolf, had been killed during Reno's retreat. The first to hear the news of the Custer disaster were those aboard the steamboat Far West , which had brought supplies for the expedition.

Curley, one of Custer's scouts, rode up to the steamboat, and tearfully conveyed the information to Grant Marsh , the boat's captain, and army officers.


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  • Marsh converted the Far West into a floating field hospital to carry the 52 wounded from the battle to Fort Lincoln. Traveling night and day, with a full head of steam, Marsh brought the steamer downriver to Bismarck, Dakota Territory, making the mi 1, km run in the record time of 54 hours and bringing the first news of the military defeat which came to be popularly known as the "Custer Massacre.

    The Battle of Little Bighorn and its aftermath

    News of the defeat arrived in the East as the U. Custer's wife, Elisabeth Bacon Custer, in particular, guarded and promoted the ideal of him as the gallant hero, attacking any who cast an ill light on his reputation. The Battle of the Little Bighorn had far-reaching consequences for the Natives.

    It was the beginning of the end of the 'Indian' Wars and has even been referred to as "the Indians" last stand" [98] in the area. Within 48 hours of the battle, the large encampment on the Little Bighorn broke up into smaller groups because there was not enough game and grass to sustain a large congregation of people and horses. My two younger brothers and I rode in a pony-drag, and my mother put some young pups in with us.

    They were always trying to crawl out and I was always putting them back in, so I didn't sleep much. The scattered Sioux and Cheyenne feasted and celebrated during July with no threat from soldiers. After their celebrations, many of the Natives returned to the reservation. Soon the number of warriors amounted to only about Crook and Terry finally took the field against the Natives forces in August.

    General Nelson A. Miles took command of the effort in October In May , Sitting Bull escaped to Canada. Ownership of the Black Hills , which had been a focal point of the conflict, was determined by an ultimatum issued by the Manypenny Commission , according to which the Sioux were required to cede the land to the United States if they wanted the government to continue supplying rations to the reservations. Threatened with forced starvation, the Natives ceded Paha Sapa to the United States, [] but the Sioux never accepted the legitimacy of the transaction.

    They lobbied Congress to create a forum to decide their claim and subsequently litigated for 40 years; the United States Supreme Court in the decision United States v.

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    Sioux Nation of Indians acknowledged [note 6] that the United States had taken the Black Hills without just compensation. The Sioux refused the money subsequently offered and continue to insist on their right to occupy the land. Modern-day accounts include Arapaho warriors in the battle, but the five Arapaho men who were at the encampments were there only by accident.

    While on a hunting trip they came close to the village by the river and were captured and almost killed by the Lakota who believed the hunters were scouts for the U. Two Moon, a Northern Cheyenne leader, interceded to save their lives. Native Americans. Lieutenant Colonel George A. Major Marcus Reno. Captain Frederick Benteen. First Lieutenant Edward Gustave Mathey. Estimates of Native American casualties have differed widely, from as few as 36 dead from Native American listings of the dead by name to as many as Wood in that the Native Americans suffered dead and wounded during the battle.

    McChesney the same numbers but in a series of drawings done by Red Horse to illustrate the battle, he drew only sixty figures representing Lakota and Cheyenne casualties. Of those sixty figures only thirty some are portrayed with a conventional Plains Indian method of indicating death. In the last years, historians have been able to identify multiple Indian names pertaining to the same individual, which has greatly reduced previously inflated numbers.

    Today a list of positively known casualties exists that lists 99 names, attributed and consolidated to 31 identified warriors. Six unnamed Native American women and four unnamed children are known to have been killed at the beginning of the battle during Reno's charge. Among them were two wives and three children of the Hunkpapa Leader Pizi Gall. The 7th Cavalry suffered 52 percent casualties: 16 officers and troopers killed or died of wounds, 1 officer and 51 troopers wounded. Every soldier of the five companies with Custer was killed except for some Crow scouts and several troopers that had left that column before the battle or as the battle was starting.

    In , the army awarded 24 Medals of Honor to participants in the fight on the bluffs for bravery, most for risking their lives to carry water from the river up the hill to the wounded. Indian accounts spoke of soldiers' panic-driven flight and suicide by those unwilling to fall captive to the Indians. While such stories were gathered by Thomas Bailey Marquis in a book in the s, it was not published until because of the unpopularity of such assertions. Beginning in July, the 7th Cavalry was assigned new officers [] [note 7] and recruiting efforts began to fill the depleted ranks.

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    The regiment, reorganized into eight companies, remained in the field as part of the Terry Expedition, now based on the Yellowstone River at the mouth of the Bighorn and reinforced by Gibbon's column. On August 8, , after Terry was further reinforced with the 5th Infantry, the expedition moved up Rosebud Creek in pursuit of the Lakota. It met with Crook's command, similarly reinforced, and the combined force, almost 4, strong, followed the Lakota trail northeast toward the Little Missouri River. Persistent rain and lack of supplies forced the column to dissolve and return to its varying starting points.