Custer Was an Idiot by Bruce Tarleton Parts One and Two.(repost by request)
And Benteen and Reno were pussies.
Perhaps part of my integrity is tied to my Native American blood. (My great grandmother was full blooded Cherokee). Native Americans did not know how to lie. Lying was a learned trait from the white man.
So after a forced peace upon the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes, those who were present at the Battle of Little Bighorn were sought out for their account of the battle. They were happy to tell it. And why not. They kicked Custer’s ass.
To understand the battle, you must first understand the native American tactics of warfare. They were the masters of hit and run. Drive by was their specialty. They understood the secrets of cover and fire, and fire and maneuver. Our guerrilla tactics and small unit tactics have a connection with their methods.
The native American was a master at fighting from the back of a horse. They knew how to use a horse as a shield, and to quickly locate another if the one they were on stumbled. They would hit on the run, then wheel and hit again. But above all, they knew when to withdraw. There was no shame in hitting and running, to live to hit another day.
Only one condition would cause them to stop, and fight in one place. The protection of the village, and the women and children. Such was the case at Little Big Horn. The largest gathering of Sioux and Cheyenne tribes were camped on the west side of the Little Bighorn river. Custer knew they were there. He had no idea how many.
He got his first glimpse of the village in the valley in the early morning. He could only see a portion of it. The southern portion was visible from the Crows Nest atop the Wolf Mountains. Below them stretched a large valley, with the Little Bighorn river snaking through it. The Crow scouts could see the signs of a huge encampment. They tried to point it out to the officers with them, and make them understand the enormity of the encampment. But the white officers couldn’t understand what was being shown to them. The scouts knew that sometimes seeing something is as much about knowing what to see as actually seeing it. They told them to look for worms along the ground, what ponies looked like through field glasses to them at that distance. But still, the white officers could not comprehend it. Custer could barely make out the smoke from cooking fires, but he could not see the teepees, or the herds the scouts saw.
Interviews with surviving officers and men after the battle leave little doubt that Custer was warned that this was no small encampment. Indeed, they had learned from the beginning of their march to enforce the return to the reservation that Sitting Bull’s group had attracted just about every band of Sioux and Cheyenne who were not already on the reservation. And the Indian trails they had cut across on their march had grown wider and wider with every day. So big was it that the Indian ponies had eaten all the grass along the path to the point that there was none left for the soldier’s mounts to graze on at night. The effect of this was that their horses were exhausted by even a short march, and had to be rested more often than was normal. And that was one reason Custer was unable to attack at dawn on that morning of June 25 th , 1876.
It was a trademark of Custer to attack at dawn. But at his last Officer’s Call that morning at 11:45, the discussion of waiting until the next morning was overruled. They had already been seen.
Crawler, and his son Deeds were out that morning to collect a pony Deeds had to abandon the day before. Leading the horse back to camp in the west side of the Wolf Mountains, Crawler observed the heavy dust column of the entire 7 th Calvary, as they moved up to the divide on Custer’s orders. Crawler was the camp crier for the prestigious warrior society the Silent Eaters, of which Sitting Bull was the leader. Crawler understood what the column of dust meant, and he hurried back to the village. Unknown to him, the scouts in the Crows nest had seen him, and alerted Custer to the fact that they had been discovered.
And so, Custer made his second crucial mistake of the battle. He, and his officers felt that any further delay would allow the Sioux and Cheyenne to slip away without a fight. They failed to take into account the enormity of the encampment, and the sheer logistics involved in “slipping away”.
Did I say second? Yes. I did. His first mistake was……….well, you’ll have to watch for the next installment
“Indian women rape easy.”
Leading the column out of the Wolf Mountains into the Greasy Grass plains of the Little Big Horn valley was Captain Benteen. A veteran of the Civil War, and of the Indian Campaigns under Custer, Benteen did not have the confidence of Custer, nor did he have much confidence in Custer. Benteen was very critical of Custer’s tactics, and particularly with his actions during the Battle of the Washita when his good friend Major Elliot had been abandoned by Custer and his tactics.
Nonetheless, Benteen was leading the column, at least he was at first. As they descended into the valley, it became apparent to Custer that the landscape was deceiving. What originally looked liked a sprawling flat prairie was in fact a series of hills and valleys, cut by coulees and dry creek beds. As they moved North West into the prairie, Custer became frustrated that each rise revealed more hills and high points, but no sign of the Native encampment.
After no more than an hour of crossing the divide, Custer halted the column. He directed Benteen to take a battalion of 4 companies and head due west, with instructions to find a vantage point high enough to observe the village. He also directed his second in command, Major Reno to take a battalion and travel parallel to Custer on the west bank of the Sun Dance Creek which they were following to the Little Big Horn River. Thus at 1 P.M. Custer had split his forces into 3 battalions, two traveling in one direction, the third in another. This was a tactic that Custer had used before. Again, at the Battle of the Washita.
November, 1868. Heavy snow fell on the prairies of Oklahoma as Custer led the 7 th Cavalry on General Shreridan’s winter campaign against the Cheyenne. Black Kettle’s Southern Cheyenne camp was on the Washita river, several miles away from other winter camps of the Kiowa, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Comanche and Kiowa-Apache. It should be noted that these camps were well within the reservation lands set aside by the Medicine Lodge Treaty.
Black Kettle was an anomaly among the Native Tribes. He was one of the few Indians who believed that the white man and Indian could live in peace together. He readily agreed to treaties presented to him, even after his village was slaughtered in the Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado. This incident would have any other tribe on a full fledged warpath. But Black Kettle chose to remain peaceful, and agreed to relocate to the new reservation in Oklahoma.
Unfortunately, some bands of young braves had been raiding into Kansas and Texas. Probably in retaliation for Sand Creek. Sheridan had learned from Chief Little Rock that some of the warriors were wintering over in the camps on the Washita. He had told the Indian Agent that he would identify these men, and allow them to be taken into custody by the US authorities. But Sheridan, under the command of William T Sherman, deemed the entire tribe of Cheyenne as hostile. He dispatched Custer with orders to do what was necessary to ensure the Cheyenne surrendered. Exactly what they were surrendering to is unclear. They were already on their reservation land.
None of this mattered to Custer. Custer was a war time officer. Graduating last of his class at West Point, he was lucky the Civil War required every officer the Union could muster. As a cadet, he was almost expelled 3 times for excessive demerits. But it was on the battle field where Custer was at home. War is chaos. And Custer seemed to thrive in it. Many have written of his brave showing in battle. Still others consider him foolish, want in taking needless chances. Regardless, if ordered to take a hill, Custer would take the hill. And Sheridan had ordered him to take a hill.
Traveling through the night, the 7 th Cavalry arrived at the Washita river in the early hours of November 27 th . Below them lay the village of Black Kettle. Roughly 50 lodges, with an estimated total of 230 men, women, and children.
Custer split his forces. Capt Benteen was to lead a battalion from the west, Maj Elliot a battalion from the east. Custer would lead a battalion of sharpshooters from the north, with the remaining battalion swinging far to the west to attack from the south.
As the first strings of light broke the dawn, the battalions attacked. Custer’s horse leaped the river in one long stride, and he latter wrote that the first warrior to fall was from his gun. Most of the heavy fighting was to the west, where Benteen’s men attacked. But heavy is a relative term. Only one soldier was killed in the village itself. But the number of Indian dead has been a matter of speculation for many years. Some put it as low as 60. Custer himself reported 103. What is not disputed is that those numbers include women and children. Black Kettle, and his wife Medicine Woman were shot trying to escape across the river. The official count by the government historians is 70 Indians killed with as many wounded.
US losses totaled 21. One officer killed in the camp. The other 20 were a detachment including Major Elliot who pursued a band of fleeing Indians to the east. Unfortunately, they ran into warriors from the nearby camps who had been alerted to the attack. They were quickly overwhelmed, killed, and mutilated.
Custer was told that Elliot was pursuing Indians to the east. But he made no attempt to assist. This angered Benteen. When warriors were spotted on the hills to the east and south, he knew his friend had died. He would forever blame Custer for his friends death.
Custer ordered the lodges burned, and most of the 600 head of Indian ponies killed, leaving enough for the prisoners to mount. The number of warriors on the hilltops grew, until it was apparent that Custer’s regiment would soon be outnumbered.
It was at this point that Custer developed a tactic he would encourage throughout the Indian wars. The use of noncombatants against his enemy. Knowing that his troops were outnumbered, he could not attack east. Instead, he mounted his troops, and had the prisoners tied to horses and lined up on the flanks of the column. The cries of the prisoners prevented the warriors from firing on the column, and Custer marched them north, out of the battlefield and back to Sheridan’s command. This use of human shields was used many times in many engagements, and would play an important part of Custer’s tactics at Little Big Horn.
The march took several days through the snow covered prairie. At night, the officers of the regiment helped themselves to the bounties of the campaign, in the form of captured squaws. Including Custer. He chose a fine looking young Cheyenne named Monahsetah with whom he bedded every night, and well into the winter. Scout Ben Clark related this to reporters in St Louis when asked to comment on the Battle of Little Bighorn. The story was corroborated by Benteen, and the regimental surgeon, who reported not only seeing Custer sleeping with the girl, but many times in the act of copulation. Benteen reflected that at an officers call one morning, a captain remarked that “Indian women rape easy.” Custer laughed, and agreed.