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Battle of Little Big Horn

In: Historical Events

Submitted By rcwright13a
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Abstract

On June 25, 1876, the 7th Cavalry Regiment led by LTC George Armstrong Custer, went into the valley of the Little Bighorn. Unknowingly they were walking into the largest number of Indian warriors the world has ever seen. By the end of the day
210 soldiers would lay dead including Custer himself. The Battle of the Little
Bighorn has become the most discussed and most popular battle of the Indian wars.
It marked the greatest, and last, battle the American Indians would have over the
Untied States Army. It was also the most devastating loss the U.S. Army would have in the Westward expansion of the Untied States. The news stunned the nation and led to an endless debate about the facts, strategy and tactics of the battle that continues to the his day.

INTRODUCTION

The Battle of Little Bighorn also known as Custer’s Last Stand. Took place in June 1876, in the little Bighorn Valley of Southeast Montana. The number of Sioux and Cheyenne warriors that the 7th Cavalry Regiment faced was approximately 4,500. The battle showed how the failure to use the Principals of War, Mass and Synchronization, helped cause the most devasting defeat that the U.S. Army ever received during the Indian Wars. And how the use of Mass and Concentration could affect a conflict. The primary resources used Custer’s Last Stand by Peter Panzeri and Custer’s Last Campaign by John S. Gray.

STRATEGIC SETTING
The road to war. In the 1860’s Sioux tribes roamed the great plains of the Dakota

and Wyoming territories. But they were constantly pushed farther to the West, as

expansion of the Untied States continued to grow westward. In 1863, a gold rush in

Montana cut through the heart of the Buffalo grazing lands, lands that the Sioux used to

hunt. Between 1863 and 1866 the United States Army built three forts, Fort Reno, Fort

Kearny and Fort Smith in order to protect the white settlers. At the time the only Native

American Chief ever to defeat the U.S. Army in combat was Chief Red Cloud. He was

able to unite other great Native American leaders, such as Crazy Horse and Rain in the

Face, between 1866 and 1868 the Sioux threatened the three isolated forts. And on 21

December 1866, a contingent of more than 80 soldiers led by CPT William J. Fetterman.

were ambushed and over come by the overwhelming force of Warriors, led by Red

Cloud. By the time the fight was over, CPT Fetterman and 80 of his men were dead.

Around 1870 Chief Red Cloud had retired and chose to live the rest of his life on the great Sioux reservation. The ‘non-treaty’ Indians were in desperate need of

leadership. They found that leadership not in a Chief but in a Medicine man named

Sitting Bull. He preached in total isolation from the Whites, and in a return to cultural

and spiritual practices. As his popularity grew many Indians began leaving the

reservation and joining him in the ‘unceded territory’. The discovery of Gold in the

Black Hills was a point of major concern for the United States government and the

Native Americans because the Black Hills, was located in the center of the Sioux

reservation. The government offered to buy the land from the Sioux, but Sitting Bull and

the rest of the ‘non-treaty’ Indians blocked any deal. The Grant administration decided

to force Sitting Bull and his followers back to the reservation and bring them under

federal control. The U.S. Army was ordered to force the Sioux back to reservation

lands. General Sheridan gave this task to Gen. Terry, commander of the Department of

the Dakota. Gen. Terry divided his department into two columns, Gen. Terry himself

would command the Dakota column and Col. Gibbons would command the Montana

column. LTC Custer was the commander of the 7th Cavalry Regiment as part of the

Dakota column under Terry’s command although the 7th Cavalry was primary an

independent column of their own. The columns were well supported and equipped with

mule trains and steam ships that carried supplies. Indian scouts also traveled with the

units to assist with navigation and intelligence.

While the Gen. Terry was making his plan and preparations for combat, Sitting Bull’s camp was growing larger and larger by the day with tribes of Indians from all over the plains came together. With there many horses and a large village, they had an excellent logistical system in place. They were fighting for the survival of their culture and were extremely motivated.

TACTICAL SITUATION
MISSION: LTC Custer and the 7th Cavalry was to move as a mobile strike force, approaching the Little Bighorn from the South. While the remainder of infantry and the 2nd Cavalry Gibbon would cross the Yellowstone and approach the Little Bighorn from the north blocking any hostile escape in that direction. The 7th Cavalry was to move up the Rosebud, following the trail discovered early. To prevent any possible escape by the Indians. “the department commander 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" this clause virtually gave Custer the free hand to do as he wished. If the 7th Cavalry were to make contact with the enemy Custer was to use his discretion to attack the enemy, are wait until reinforcements arrived.
Equipment: Custer’s 7th CAV was armed with the .45/55 Cal. Springfield Carbine and the .45 revolver, but had no repeating rifles. Each soldier carried a very limited supply of ammunition. Custer also ordered that the Gatling guns be left behind in fear that it would hamper his mobility. Further more he ordered that the Saber be left behind giving his soldiers not last defense weapons. The Sioux and Cheyenne brought over 30 different types of rifles and pistols to the battle. Including repeating rifles, they had large supplies of ammunition and other provisions. To compliment their firearms the Indians carried a variety of bows, arrows, and spears. Custer was clearly out gunned and the advantage was to the Indians.
Terrain: The terrain that the 7th CAV encountered in the Little Bighorn Valley was a large open area that had lines of trees along the river banks. Tall steep bluffs and ravines that stretched east of the river. The Sioux and Cheyenne were camped in the low lying area while Custer and the 7th CAV approached from the bluffs to the east. The Indian warriors were forced to attack uphill but used ravines to effectively infiltrate the 7th Cavalry’s perimeter. Since the 7th CAV held the high ground they had a slight advantage.
Time: Once the Cuter and the 7th CAV engaged the Indian village they new they were in trouble because they underestimated the size of the force they encountered. Since the main elements of the Dakota and Montana columns were at least a hard days ride away there was no way reinforcements could arrive in time. By the time the two columns received word of the size of the force, and that reinforcements were in urgent need it was all over.
Civil Considerations: There was a large population of non-combatant families in Sitting Bull’s camp. The thought was by attacking the families they could destroy the Indians logistical system.

The Battle
On June 22, 1876 Custer and the 7th CAV separated from the Dakota column and proceeded to go down the Rosebud. Custer’s scouts soon picked up an Indians trail, marked by the discovery of large camp sites and sign of many people and horses. The original plan of Gen. Terry was to have Custer and the 7th CAV to go south and then turn towards the Little Bighorn so that Terry and the rest of his column would be able to link up with them in time. Custer decided to deviate from the original plan and proceed directly toward the Little Bighorn. This was a big mistake made buy Custer, as the 7th CAV would know be isolated to fight the Indian force by them selves. Terry’s column had no Indian scouts and had to divert from their intended route due to very rough terrain. Now they would not be in position in time to support Custer’s attack. In the early morning of the 25 June Custer’s scouts spotted smoke in the distance that indicated a large camp about 15 miles away. A messenger was sent to inform Custer with the information of the camp. Custer knew that the Indian warriors would be traveling with non-combatant families and that would slow them down. Custer thought he could use this to his advantage. Custer was also warned by his scouts that they would be extremely out numbered. Custer was not worried about this information he wanted to prevent any Indian escape. When Custer divided his regiment he put CPT Benteen in charge of the lead battalion with companies D, H and K. Major Reno commanded a second battalion of A, G, and M companies. And Custer himself would command the 3rd battalion with E, F, on the left side and CPT Keogh would lead the right side with companies C, I and L. The fourth element consisted of the pack trains with B Company to provide security. Custer’s plan called for a movement to contact with his battalion on the right, Reno would be in the center and Benteen would take the left side. Custer ordered Benteen to scout ahead on the left side. Benteen objected and suggested to Custer that the regiment should remain together, but Custer ignored his suggestion. As Benteen proceeded to the left, Reno’s battalion took the lead. The main force of Custer and Reno continued up the trail and linked up at about 13:20. At 13:40, Benteen’s search of the terrain to the left discovered nothing and he turned back to rejoin the rest of the regiment. At 14:15, Custer and Reno went down the Indian’s trail. At this time the Regiment began to have contact with small bands of fleeing Cheyenne. Custer thought the Indian’s were on the run. At this point Custer ordered Reno to charge forward and fight the Indians whenever he would encounter them, and Custer would follow in support. At 14:45, Reno’s elements reached the Little Bighorn River which they quickly forged and reconsolidated on the other side. It was at this time that Reno first spotted the village. By this time Sitting Bull knew of the soldier’s and began to evacuate the families and other non-combatants. Custer observed this from his position on the bluffs across the river. Reno ordered a charge into the south end of the village. As the Indian warriors rode out, Reno stopped and dismounted his soldiers and formed a skirmish line of less than 100 men. The warriors attacked Reno’s flanks and threatened to envelope them. By 15:30 Reno’s element was in serious trouble. With the Indians encircling him, Reno gave the order to withdraw to the river bank and to take cover in the trees. Custer continued to move up the steep bluffs along the river and for the first time saw that the Indians were in fact not retreating, but were riding out in hundreds to fight. He immediately dispatched a messenger to Benteen with the message which read: “Benteen come on. Big village. Be quick, bring packs. Bring packs”. Custer then continued north trying to find a route down the bluffs to engage the village and draw attention away from Reno. Reno’s battalion reached the riverbank and went into a hasty defense taking cover in the tree line. After holding his position for roughly 20 minutes Reno was again becoming enveloped. Then in a desperation move Reno began to organize his men so they could begin to withdraw. After much confusion Reno told his men to follow him as the began to withdraw. As the warriors continued to attack and purse Reno’s men as they tried to cross the Little Bighorn River and withdraw up the steep bluffs on the east side of the river. Reno began to organize the survivors of his command on a hilltop at about 1610. By now Custer’s battalion had reached the Medicine Tail Coulee, his route down the bluffs, and was beginning to engage the warriors on the bottom of the hill. Most of the Indian warriors halted there pursuit of Reno’s battalion and diverted most of there attention on Custer’s Battalion. After Reno and his men finally made it up the hillside they were able to reconsolidate with Benteen’s Battalion here they waited until the pack trains arrived. At 17:12 Benteen and the remaining soldiers of Reno’s Battalion began to move towards Weir Point in an attempt to link back up with Custer’s battalion. By the time they started to advance Custer and his men was near the end. Custer went into Medicine Tail Coulee towards the village after seeing Reno’s defeat. After reaching the river, E and F companies, the left wing, started to engage in light fighting at this time most of the warriors assisting with the evacuation of the families to the north. Cuter began to move the rest of his Battalion north toward Calhoun Hill. His intention was to capture the non-combatant women and children and destroy their homes and property. Custer thought this was his best chance for victory and to return the Indians back to the reservation lands, by destroy their infustructure. After Custer’s Battalion began to close on Calhoun Hill at 16:30. The warriors had now diverted from Reno and began advancing towards Custer and his men in rapidly growing numbers. Cuter again divided his forces with the left wing going to the north in search of the non-combatants. And the right wing staying at Calhoun Hill to fight the Indians. Custer accompanied the left wing to search for the non-combatants. After a short ride the spotted thousands of non-combatants that had congregated near Squaw Creek. Custer determined he would need additional forces before he would be able to attack. He would have to reorganize so he turned back and took up positions on Custer Hill. The right wing led by CPT Keogh formed a skirmish line at Calhoun Hill. At first they were able to hold their ground against the attacking warriors, but soon more and more began to arrive. The warriors attacked from several directions using ravines as avenues of approach. It was not long before Keogh’s defensive position began to collapse. Warrior charged and engaged Keogh’s men in hand to hand combat. Keogh’s men were cut to pieces with only a few soldiers escaping to Custer’s position. Custer’s left wing also became under pressure from the Indians attack. He watched in disbelief as his entire right wing was destroyed only a mile away from his position. The fight was moving quickly from Calhoun Hill to Custer Hill. Half of Custer’s men were gone with the remainder outnumbered by at least a 20 to 1 advantage by the warriors. Custer ordered his remaining soldiers of his command to shot there horses and use their bodies for cover. His men fought desperately, but Custer’s numbers quickly began to dwindle by Indian firepower. Eventually the victorious warriors overran the hill and finished off Custer’s Battalion. Custer was found dead on top of a horse with bullets in his chest and left temple. From the top of Weir Point, about two miles away, Reno and Benteen had witnessed Custer’s defeat and saw the hostiles begin to turn towards them. They quickly withdrew back towards Reno Hill. The soldiers dug hasty fighting positions and all through the night and the next day the Indians lightly attacked the soldiers on Reno Hill. For unknown reasons the Sitting Bull decided not to destroy the entire 7th Cavalry. That afternoon Sitting Bull broke camp and led his people out of the Little Bighorn Valley. On 27 June, Gen Terry and the Montana Column finally reached the battlefield and according to him, ‘rescued the 7th Cavalry’. Gen Terry order the burial of the dead and all the wounded be evacuated to the steam ship Far West.

Significance
Short Term: Sitting Bull’s victory at the Little Bighorn was greatly celebrated by the Indians. Some Indians assumed that they would now be left alone, as some feared that another attack would return to the reservations. The large concentrations of Indians began to dwindle as they went there separate ways. The Army would have to answer the question how could this happen and the large public outrage who wanted revenge. Generals Terry and Crook would continue the campaign to destroy the hostile Indians.
Long Term: The Army launched several well executed winter campaigns and relentlessly pursued Sitting Bull. The U.S. government imposed military rule over the reservations and disarmed all Indian residents. Sitting Bull could no longer count on the agency Indians for support and by 1877 his remaining followers fled north across the border into Canada but were forced to surrender due to starvation.
Analysis
LTC Custer’s defeat at the Little Bighorn was in large part due to his misuse of the Principle of Mass and his failure to effectively synchronize his unit’s movements and actions. And how Custer’s failure to use the Battlefield Operating System of Intelligence. Custer chose to ignore intelligence reports of a large camp of Indians and neglected to mass his forces and to synchronize their efforts. Even after seeing the large force he was up against he continued to divide his forces. If he had waited for Terry to arrive before attacking his chances for success would have been greatly increased. Custer continually chose to ignore intelligence reports and advice from his scouts and other leaders from his command. Custer led his men into battle with insufficient amounts of ammunition, again ignoring the advice of his subordinate leaders. Custer also ordered his men to leave the Gatling guns behind and his men to leave their Sabers behind, depriving them of a last resort weapon. Sitting Bull showed how the Battlefield Operating System Mobility and the Principal of Mass could be used to overwhelm a superior opponent. His forces used terrain to maneuver around Custer’s flanks and Envelope him. Sitting Bull’ forces also effectively used the Tenants of Versatility and Synchronization to launch attacks. He simply outgunned and outnumbered, and outmatched Custer.
Bibliography
Gray, John S. Custer’s last Campaign. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1991.
Panzeri, Peter. Little Bighorn 1876 Custer’s Last Stand. Great Britain: Osprey Publishing Ltd, 1995.
National Park Service. Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument,…...

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...Battle of the Bulge There have been so many different battles that have been fought in our history. One battle that really stands out to me is Battle of the Bulge. This battle began December of 1944. It took place in different regions throughout Belgium, France, and Luxembourg on the Western Front. During these attacks it formed a bulge, which gave them the name Battle of the Bulge. This battle attacked all different allies. The Americans however took the biggest blow during this battle. I selected this battle because I found it to be very interesting. The Germans had a lot of planning that went into this battle. More importantly I chose this because it was the largest battle the United States Army fought in during this time and has gone down in history. A little bit of background to this battle is that again it was fought in December of 1944. As stated by Citin0 “ Saturday morning it was Americans turn to be living a nightmare as 8,000 artillery rounds, from nimble 81mm mortars to 16 inch railway guns brought the Ghost Front to horrifying life with the first shots of what would be called the Battle of the Bulge.” (Cintrino, 2014) Adolf Hitler was trying to split allied forces in the Northwest. As you may know the Americans were caught off guard with this push so they fought desperately not to lose any ground. As the Germans pushed forward this caused a large bulge, which gives you the name of this battle. This battle at first caught everyone for surprise. However Hitler......

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Battle

...The iDeal Reader Henry David Thoreau, ‘‘The Battle of the Ants’’ © The McGraw−Hill Companies, 2000 Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862), transcendentalist essayist, naturalist, editor, and social critic, was born David Henry Thoreau in Concord, Massachusetts. Thoreau graduated from Harvard University and taught briefly at a school in Concord but resigned rather than be expected to strike his students. He ran his own school from 1838 to 1841, teaching Latin, Greek, and science. In 1938 Thoreau also began lecturing, which he continued intermittently, often emphasizing his strong opposition to slavery, but his message was not always well received. Thoreau began his lifelong friendship with Ralph Waldo Emerson when he tutored Emerson’s brother William in 1843 on Staten Island, boarding with Emerson and his wife. He helped Emerson edit the Transcendentalist magazine The Dial. Thoreau kept a journal at Emerson’s urging, which aided him in his writing. He took a canoe trip with his brother John during the first two weeks of September 1839, which experience he transformed into a volume of poems and essays entitled A Week on the Concord and Merrimac Rivers (1849). While he published 1000 copies himself, only about 300 sold. On July 4, 1845 Thoreau moved into a cabin on the shores of Walden Pond, on land belonging to Emerson, about two miles from Concord, and lived there alone for over two years. Thoreau condensed this outdoor life as if it were a single year in......

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Battle of Gettysburg

...http://www.historynet.com/battle-of-gettysburg http://americancivilwar.com http://www.gettysburgphotographs.com Day 1: July 1, 1863 On the morning of July 1, Maj General Heth, of Lt General A.P. Hill’s Third Corps, sent his 7,500-man division down the Chambersburg Pike toward Gettysburg. Encountering resistance, they initially assumed it was more of the Pennsylvania Emergency Militia that they’d been skirmishing with during the campaign. In reality, Colonel John Buford had deployed part of two brigades of Union cavalry as skirmishers in the brush along Willoughby’s Run three miles west of town. Two weeks prior, they were issued breech-loading carbines, and they used the guns’ fast-loading capability to create the impression of a much larger force and were able to slow the advance of Hill’s brigades for a time before they fell back. The Confederates followed them across the stream, only to meet a line of Union infantry on McPherson’s Ridge. The Army of the Potomac was slowly arriving unit by unit, and among the first to arrive was Union Maj Gen Reynolds, commander of the left wing of the Army of the Potomac (I, III and XI corps), assessing the engagement and took charge of the defense. His men fought tenaciously, and Reynolds was shot dead during the fighting. When Maj Gen Meade arrived, he set up his headquarters at Taneytown, and dispatched Maj Gen W. S. Hancock to take command at Gettysburg and assess whether or not the battle should be......

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