What Was The Fort Robinson Massacre?

After a series of crushing defeats during the Great Sioux War, the Northern Cheyenne were forced to give up more and more territory in the years thereafter. Although the U.S. demanded most of them relocate to the Darlington Agency of the Southern Cheyenne Reservation, many could not tolerate the conditions of that relocation and so they fled back home, to the north. This September 1878 migration was the precursor to the Fort Robinson Massacre, a series of terrible events that would transpire during the coming winter months.

A number of Cheyenne were caught during this migration and 150 were sent to Fort Robinson in Nebraska.

The U.S. escalated its poor treatment of the Cheyenne that remained in the northern region in an effort to push them back south. They essentially imprisoned a large number without food or heat, the conditions that led them to attempt escape in January. In typical U.S. form, the Cheyenne were tracked by the army so they could be recaptured or killed. 65 Cheyenne Native Americans were caught and returned to Fort Robinson, while most of the remaining 32 were slaughtered by a much greater force of 150 men.

If that sounds bad, then know that the reality was even worse.

Those 32 Cheyenne were a group of 18 men and 14 women and children. On January 22, 1879, they were trapped among the Hat Creek Bluffs, 35 miles away from their escape at Fort Robinson. After they were surrounded, they decided to entrench themselves in an effort to survive the coming attack. They chose a dry creek bed which would thereafter be named “The Pit” by those who studied the battle.

Although the Cheyenne were apparently given the opportunity to surrender themselves, they chose instead to fight. They fired upon the U.S. soldiers who came at them from all directions, managing to kill several. All the Cheyenne warriors were casualties of the skirmish, while four women and two children also fell victim to the U.S. rush. Eight Cheyenne survived by hiding amongst the dead, but were soon captured.

Of all those who had fled Fort Robinson, only about 10 survived made their way to the Sioux reservation. Up to 64 wound up dead, 23 wounded, and dozens of others back in the hands of the U.S. military.

After the events at the Pit, General George Crook began an investigation into the Fort Robinson Massacre. Command of the garrison at Fort Robinson shifted to Major Andrew W. Evans. Eventually, the remaining prisoners were released so they could make the journey to a Montana reservation. The investigation did little to ease the suffering that had been endured over the long winter months by the Cheyenne.

Many of those who survived the ordeal were charged with murder, and the U.S. government later maintained that it was not liable for the loss of life incurred by the Native Americans. It wasn’t until 1994 that members of the Northern Cheyenne tribe were able to obtain the remains of those who died during the Fort Robinson Massacre. Today, they are now buried at the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Montana.

You might say remember the Alamo in Texas, and I say remember Fort Robinson!

What Was The Dull Knife Fight in Wyoming Territory?

Although the Great Sioux War began and ended as a series of skirmishes, the U.S. public was greatly attentive toward those battles, especially after the seemingly inconceivable disaster and defeat that was the Battle of Little Bighorn. After Custer and hundreds of his men were slaughtered, the people of the U.S. couldn’t get enough of the news related to the war, and everyone was on the lookout for a big U.S. victory.

As it turned out, the Battle of Slim Buttes would set the stage for a quick Sioux and Cheyenne rout, and the Dull Knife Fight would quickly end the war that had long been waged in the Black Hills region of South Dakota–a war that began with an obviously illegal expedition embarked upon by Custer after he was commissioned to do so by the U.S. army. It ended what were short-lived peace treaties and resulted in at least another decade of violence.

Slim Buttes allowed the U.S. to find its footing with the slaughter of the men, women and children of the Sioux, Minneconjou, Cheyenne, and Brules Native Americans. Not long after, on November 25, 1876, Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie, a rising star in the U.S. military after his service in the Civil War and earlier conflicts with the Native Americans, and the fourth cavalry under his command set upon yet another Native American village in what was to be known as the Dull Knife Fight.

This was the battle that would decimate any chance the Northern Cheyenne had of holding the U.S. military at bay for an extended period of time.

Mackenzie left Camp Robinson, Nebraska with a 1,000 men spread across eleven companies under his command. Complementing that force was a group of 400 Native American scouts who knew the basic lay of the land. A number of tribes were among them: Pawnee, Bannocks, Sioux, Shoshone, Arapaho, and Cheyenne.

While at first glance one might be surprised to notice Sioux and Cheyenne aiding the war effort against their own people, it is important to acknowledge that these tribes were greatly divided between those who acknowledged defeat and sought only peace, and those who wished to continue to fight back to keep their traditions and way of life intact after decades of being pushed farther and farther back.

When the force came upon the Cheyenne Dull Knife camp, it was in the midst of a celebration. That didn’t stop Mackenzie. At dawn on November 25, his force set upon the village and drove out the inhabitants.

As far as battles go, it was not a particularly gruesome one. On the U.S. side, only seven were confirmed dead. The Cheyenne lost at least forty, and many more were wounded. 200 lodges were torched, and Mackenzie’s forces recovered more U.S. property taken after the Battle of Little Bighorn.

More importantly, the battle left hundreds of Cheyenne Native Americans without clothing, food, or practical shelter as they were pushed north just before the onset of winter. This virtually guaranteed the end of any effective Cheyenne resistance, and propelled the sense of pride felt by the U.S. military and public.

Red Cloud’s War

The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 was a piece of legislation signed by representatives of several different Native American tribes in the Midwest and overseen by the lawyers of the United States government. Its purpose was to ensure a lasting peace between the disputing Native American nations as well as ensure safe passage for European American pioneers along the Oregon Trail into Montana, and it allowed the United States to build roads, forts and trading posts in Native American territory in exchange for annual recompense in the amount of $50,000 each year over the course of 50 years.

Due to a consistent unrest among Native American tribes, wars and conflicts shifted the positions and land claims of various peoples in the American Midwest. Apart from providing a dramatic theater for the Native American peoples themselves, it also made for a harrowing passageway by which European Americans would travel westward due to the California Gold Rush of 1848. In response to avoiding possible conflict between the United States and the Native American peoples, the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 was ratified to settle several land claims with many of the tribes agreeing to terms.

However, the treaty was broken almost immediately. Lakota and Cheyenne tribes attacked the Crow tribe over the course of the next two years. American emigrants settled Native American territory in the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush of 1858, causing further conflict as well as a strain of natural resources. Many tribes were displaced, most notably by the Lakota: the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes all were driven out of treaty-shared territory by 1862. Beyond all the intertribal fighting, the United States did little to intervene in any of the conflict, nor did they ever honor many their pledges of the money that was promised to the Native American people.

One of the conflicts that arose involved Lakota expansion while hunting for natural resources near the Powder River area in Crow territory as was dictated by the treaty. Hostilities waged between the Crow and the Lakota until the Crow were eventually displaced from their lands and the Lakota assumed control of Powder River in 1859.

Four years later, European Americans had blazed the Bozeman Trail as a shortcut from Fort Laramie to the gold fields of Montana. This trail cut through territory belonging to Cheyenne, Arapaho and Lakota, according to the Treaty of 1851. The emigration through the Bozeman Trail as well as the consistent competition of diminishing resources sparked what would become known as Red Cloud’s War, named so after an Oglala Lakota chief allied with both Arapaho and Cheyenne in an effort to drive the Europeans out.

Consisting mostly of skirmishes on US forts along the Powder River, Red Cloud’s War waged from 1866 to 1868 with the Lakota effectively claiming victory as well as the lands once appropriated to the Crow in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851. In 1868, a second treaty was ratified that established the Great Sioux Reservation and made official the inclusion of the western Powder River and Black Hills as Lakota lands, permanently displacing the Crow.
However, this peace would be short-lived, as the United States would impede on Sioux lands less than 10 years later in the prospect for gold within the Black Hills. The Lakota, along with their established allies in the Cheyenne and Arapaho, would see war with the United States military again by 1876 in the Great Sioux War, only this time with less than favorable results.

The Agreement of 1877

As a result of the Great Sioux War (also known as the Black Hills War), the United States government enforced legislation upon the defeated Lakota Sioux known as the Agreement of 1877. On the surface, this legislation was a cessation of the Black Hills territory from Lakota control into United States occupation following the Lakota’s ceasing of hostilities at the end of the Great Sioux War. It also relocated the Lakota from the Black Hills into predesignated reservations and modified the borders of Native American land that had been established by the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868.

Preceding this act, the United States and the Lakota Sioux had come to terms in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 that had originally prohibited American activity in the Black Hills as it was considered sacred land by the Lakota (as well as other tribes such as the Cheyenne). Intrusion into the Black Hills had instigated aggression and hostilities between the Lakota and American traders, spurring the Federal government to action. While a peace had been struck, much speculation had centered around the Black Hills themselves as holding stores of gold within the earth. American prospectors and minors, despite Federal legislation outlawing it, continued to trespass in the Black Hills in search of this gold, further inciting Lakota to retaliate. This aggressive act, once met with peaceful legislation, now caused the United States to resort to arranging an expeditionary force led by General Custer in 1874 to consider the possibility of a fort in order to protect American citizens.

During the expedition, the rumors of gold were confirmed and the hostilities eventually led to a war between the tribes of the Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho against the United States military. The ensuing conflict ended with the Lakota defeat and cessation of the Black Hills. Many Lakota referred to this legislation as a “sell or starve” amendment to the Indian Appropriations Act of 1876, as it allowed the United States to blockade supply rations to the Lakota until they ceased all hostilities and formally ceded the Black Hills.

Despite the formality of the Agreement of 1877 that supposedly ratified the Black Hills annexation to the United States, there is much controversy that surrounds the transfer of such land even up to the present day. While the legislation itself apparently makes note that the Black Hills were purchased and paid for by the United States, there is no evidence of such a transaction actually taking place. In fact, the Lakota Sioux of the present day make note that they consistently refuse to accept payment for land they consider sacred, despite the United States Supreme Court awarding upwards of $106 million to the Sioux nation in 1980 as recompense for the United States effectively violating the fifth amendment in their seizure of the Black Hills. Many members of the Sioux nation believe that accepting such payment even now would only finalize the formality that attempted to be set in motion in 1877, and that the Black Hills would be properly sold to the United States, along with the Sioux culture and identity.

The Black Hills Mountain Range

The Black Hills are a small range of mountains in the midwestern portion of the United States, located in the southwestern part of South Dakota and crossing the state border into the northeastern part of Wyoming. To some, this land goes by another name: the Paha Sapa, or “heart of everything that is.” Allegedly settled as far back as 1500 AD by the Arikara, these hills have been the center of numerous conflicts between various Native American tribes as well as European immigrants as recently as the modern day.

The most significant conflict arose after the land was claimed by the Lakota Sioux, a band of warrior tribes that had migrated west from modern Minnesota and Wisconsin. Winning the Black Hills from the Cheyenne in 1776, the Lakota quickly came to view the Black Hills as a heavily influential part of their spiritual heritage due to the abundance which the land had provided to the Native Americans as a whole.

After the Louisiana Purchase (where we had most of the East cost to the Mississippi River but no Florida) took place in 1803 between the United States and France, famed explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were sent to explore the uncharted territory. Their presence as well as the westward pioneering of American trappers and traders began an unwelcome trend of encroaching upon sacred Native American land. The Lakota became more aggressive as a result, and relations with American settlers declined. The Lakota even engaged in raids of nearby settlements that threatened their sacred land.

The hostilities between Lakota Sioux and Americans eventually reached a point that required Federal intervention. In 1868, after the American Civil War had concluded, the United States attempted to establish peaceful relations with the Lakota once again in the form of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 (not to be confused with the treaty of 1851 by the same name). This treaty established the Great Sioux Reservation and ensured all lands between the Missouri River and the Big Horn Mountains would forever remain under Sioux occupation and prohibit American expansion or exploration, including the Black Hills. However, persistent prospectors and miners continued to intrude upon Lakota land and hostilities continued. As a result of this aggression, the United States military appointed General George Armstrong Custer to lead an expedition into the Black Hills in 1874 and explore the possibility of establishing an American military presence with a fort.

During this expedition, American prospectors confirmed the presence of gold in the Black Hills. This discovery not only spurred thousands of miners to trespass upon Sioux land, but also the Lakota to conflict with the American military. This conflict, the last major Great Plains conflict, would later come to be known as the Black Hills War and would eventually lead to the Lakota’s defeat and forced relocation from the Black Hills to other reservations. Adding and enforcing what many Sioux called “sell or starve” to the Indian Appropriations Act of 1876 (due to the fact that the United States cut off all food supplies until the Sioux ceded control of the Black Hills), the Agreement of 1877 permanently claimed the Black Hills as United States territory and reestablished reservation borders that were originally set in the Fort Laramie Treaty only nine years prior. Americans were now free to traverse and trade in the Black Hills as they pleased.

Participants of the Great Sioux War

Between 1876 and 1877, the United States waged war with a portion of the Native American population known as the Sioux, in a conflict aptly named the Great Sioux War. Some may also know it as the Black Hills War, given the precedence for conflict involved the claim over the Black Hills in South Dakota and Wyoming. Despite the name, however, the Great Sioux War also included other Native American tribes such as the Cheyenne and the Arapaho as well as the various factions within the Lakota Sioux tribe itself, most predominantly the Oglala and Hunkpapa.

Despite the unity of common purpose in the Great Sioux War, many of the tribes who participated wavered between friendly allies and bitter rivals before the conflict took place. In fact, the Lakota Sioux had crossed the Missouri River after a smallpox epidemic and claimed the Black Hills from the Cheyenne in 1776, several years after the Cheyenne had introduced horses into Lakota society.

Originally hailing from the Great Lakes region, the Arapaho tribes ventured southward from present-day Minnesota and Manitoba and established a strong presence in the Midwest from Montana and Wyoming into the western regions of Oklahoma and Kansas. By 1811, they had allied themselves with the Cheyenne to expand their hunting territories, and by 1826 the alliance had come to include Lakota Sioux in an effort to repel Kiowa and Comanche forces from the south. The Arapaho managed peaceful relations with the Cheyenne and the Lakota, and they even dealt frequently with immigrant trading posts hosted by European Americans up until conflict arose with the United States. Expanding in all directions, the Arapaho eventually came to peaceful relations with the Comanche as well, the very tribe they once fought to stop from entering their lands, and even grew so close that a portion of the population assimilated with them, adopting the Comanche language and even coming to be known as their own individual Comanche tribe in the Texas Panhandle.

The Cheyenne and the Lakota have the more storied past, venturing between war allies and bitter enemies at different points in time. Hailing from similar lands in the Great Lakes region, the Cheyenne had ventured westward into present-day Minnesota and North Dakota. While crossing the Missouri River, they associated with the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara and eventually Lakota, the latter to whom they introduced horses. However, due to rising conflict between Lakota and another tribe known as Ojibwe, the Cheyenne were forced to continue migrating westward, eventually entering into conflict with the Kiowa as a result. The warring Lakota eventually crossed the Missouri River and overtook the Cheyenne, claiming their territory in the Black Hills. Forced to continue west and south, the Cheyenne eventually came into an alliance with the Arapaho as well as the opportunity to expand upon their own territory, territory that would encompass southern Montana through Wyoming and Colorado, into the western reaches of Nebraska and Kansas.

Despite past territorial disputes between the Lakota and the Cheyenne, however, they would find a common enemy in the United States military with the advent of the Great Sioux War in an effort to keep American prospectors and traders from trespassing into the Black Hills, considered sacred land by both the Cheyenne and Lakota, in search of the promise of gold. Still strongly allied with the Cheyenne, the Arapaho joined in their effort to defend the Black Hills as well in the conflict that would later be known as the Great Sioux War.

The Indian Ghost Dance

There is always a record of a “resistance” when a side is defeated, no matter the conflict. There can also be a rebellion. Sometimes it’s an actual rebellion, other times it is more symbolic. Rock n’ roll music was considered a kids’ rebellion against parents’ tastes in music, for example.

For the American Indians in the West, they had developed their own “flipping the finger” to the U.S. government in response to all of the expansion and military conflicts with the Western tribes during the 1800s.

Consider the Ghost Dance the rebellion.

The Ghost Dance started in the 1870s reportedly by a Nevada Paiute religious leader named Jack Wilson, but the Dance became a religious movement around the Western tribes by 1890, as many of the tribes had adopted some aspects of the Ghost Dance ritual into their own belief systems by accident.

The premise of the Ghost Dance is based on a vision that Jack Wilson had – a vision during a New Year’s Day solar eclipse in 1889 that called for an apocalypse that would destroy the whites and the Earth. Those who were spiritually-minded (according to Wilson) would be elevated and saved from destruction and would enjoy the new Earth when it was created in the previous natural pristine state the Indians enjoyed prior to white settlement.

Within the next year after Wilson’s vision, his Dance had grown in popularity, and many chiefs and leaders from many Western tribes traveled to Nevada to be taught the Dance by Wilson himself, and he traveled around to instill some of the principles of his religion, which had some commonalities with Christianity – belief in one God being prominent among them.

While Wilson was promoting pacifism and teaching the American Indians to live a more pure life without the “vices” brought by the whites in order to have elevated spirituality, agents from the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs had gotten wind of the Dance and were concerned. Considering that these agents were noting that many of the tribes were conducting the same ritual, it looked like a unifying ritual that was encouraging warlike rebellion against the American government. The federal government banned the Ghost Dance anywhere on U.S. land, but at least some remnants of the tradition are still being performed today.

The dance is a five-day-long ceremony in which believers would dance every evening, and all night on the fifth night, calling forth the warrior spirits of yesteryear (those who fought against the U.S. Army) to fight on the behalf of the living, defeat and chase out the whites and restore the lands to the American Indians.

Wilson spoke about peace from his vision, saying that if American Indians lived a clean life, loved each other, did not fight like ancestors and shunned much of the lifestyle brought from the whites (which he believed were intended to destroy Indian culture and society), those who were believers would be saved and allowed to walk the Earth with the Christ, who he predicted would come to Earth in the spring of 1890.  After the Wounded Knee massacre and Christ not coming , many believers left the religious movement, though the Ghost Dance has not been fully eliminated from tradition. It is now more of a private ceremony with many tribes.

Standing Elk and The Northern Cheyenne

Among those warriors who were a thorn in the side of the U.S. military during the Indian Wars of the mid-19th century, one played a significant role but has not gotten much publicity in the history books.

Many who read up on the Indian Wars will learn about Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse for their strong leadership with their tribes in the many battles they had against the U.S. Army over the years, as the Indians resisted being moved onto reservations and escaped reservations while protecting and defending their sacred ancestral lands from invasion by the white American settlers.

It all came to a head in the mid-1870s when gold was discovered in the Black Hills of the Dakota Territory, which was a prominent religious landmark for the Lakota Sioux and the Northern Cheyenne in the area.  After a couple years of the Black Hills Gold Rush, the Sioux and Cheyenne of the area took exception and offense to the invasion of their Black Hills lands by prospectors.

As the Great Sioux War got started in the spring of 1876 with the military searching for the “non-compliant” clans of the area tribes who resisted negotiating a sale of the Black Hills, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull and Standing Elk were all leaders of their various tribes and were prominent in several of the key battles of the Great Sioux War, including the Battle at the Little Bighorn.

Standing Elk was a leader and warrior with the Northern Cheyenne, serving a s a right-hand man to Crazy Horse, who was continually leading the Army on chases through the Great Plains, even retreating to Canada at one point.

But finally, as the Great Sioux conflict was winding down in the fall of 1877, and the Northern Cheyenne was dwindled down in numbers from several defeats as well as starvation, Standing Elk joined Dull Knife to negotiate the surrender of the Northern Cheyenne, which was then to be sent away from the Black Hills area and down to the Indian Territory in Oklahoma.

After a few months in the strange land, Dull Knife and Standing Elk led an “escape” from the Indian Territory, guiding the Cheyenne on a 1,000-mile journey back to its ancestral home.

There is very little information about Standing Elk and his actual roles in the Indian Wars or in the exodus, but he was considered a strong leader for the Cheyenne and a worthy lieutenant for Crazy Horse. He was valuable in the process of the war in keeping the Northern Cheyenne viable throughout the war, and was vital in keeping the tribe from extinction. His important may not be known in U.S. history books, but he certainly measures up among Northern Cheyenne lore as one of the men who kept the Cheyenne still in America more than four generations later.

 

The Reno Attack At The Little Bighorn

The Battle at the Little Bighorn in June 1876 is known as one of the major defeats in U.S. military history and was the highest moment for American Indians in their constant battles with the U.S. military. Over more than 10 years after this, the Indians didn’t have a single victory.

We can say that Little Bighorn was the military’s wake-up call that American Indians were not going to leave their lands quietly.

This battle is infamously known as “Custer’s Last Stand,” named after Gen. George Custer, who commanded the cavalry at the Little Bighorn and was killed in battle, in which American Indians overwhelmed the military detachment of about 700 men.

Military Might

The U.S. Army was already considered the best in the world by the end of the Civil War, and after taking down a well-trained Confederate Army just a few years earlier, a renegade and ragtag group of American Indians would certainly be no match.

By the time of the Little Bighorn conflict, the military has had some trouble with larger bands of warriors, but the majority of the skirmishes involved only a couple hundred or so at a time. There was a belief that the American Indians were already on the run and it would not be long before they were led to submit, and taking about 700 men to one place would decide this conflict once and for all.

Here‘s The Miscalculation

As the military neared the Little Bighorn River, the leaders found from the scouts that it was hard to estimate how large the village was. With only about 700 men, they were possibly going to face more than 2,000 warriors – the village was much larger than anyone had seen to that point.

Custer’s attack plan was not to consolidate all his forces in one place, but instead to split up his command, with the taking the majority to the north of the village,  the other part going to the south, one group to attack a second flank and another group stationed to prevent the Indians from escaping to the south.

The Attack that Wasn’t

Major Marcus Reno was in charge of a couple hundred soldiers to the south of the village, and he was to lead the southern flank attack on the village at the Little Bighorn River. Reno worked his way through some woods near the river, approaching the village. The warriors that were hiding out the woods were being dispatched with relative ease, setting up Reno’s men to take on the village.

But Reno stopped short, as he wrote in his report to Congress, sensing that he might have been walking into a trap. He ordered his men to dismount their horses and to encounter the enemy on foot, aligning into what was known as a “skirmish line.” That turned out to be a questionable decision, as before long, Reno noted a large flurry of Indian warriors were attacking his group from the village.

Reno then led his group back into the woods for a more defensive position, but Sioux warriors soon infiltrated the woods, with one of them shooting Reno’s Crow Indian scout in the head as he sat behind Reno on his horse. Reno then ordered his troops to mount and led them on a charge out of the woods – looking like an attack but was actually serving as a retreat to a bluff on the other side of the river. Reno then assumed a defensive posture but was unprepared for when Custer’s troops needed assistance to the north after the warriors abandoned the attack on Reno and focused on Custer, ultimately killing the general and ensuring Indian victory and military embarrassment.

You can watch this movie about him here:

General Custer At Minneconjou Ford

There is Custer Hill and Custer Ridge along the Little Bighorn River, some of the landmarks of one of the more decisive U.S. military defeats. General George Custer made his last stand here, dying in battle against more than 2,000 warriors from Sioux, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes at the peak of the Great Sioux War of 1876-77.

The Battle at the Little Bighorn signifies the river around which this confrontation occurred, featuring warriors from a large Indian village and the 7th Calvary of about 700 men led by Gen. Custer. Custer and his scouts had underestimated the size of the village when the general decided to plan an attack where his five companies and more than 200 men would attack th camp from the north, while the other seven companies would split on the south, one group attacking from the south and the other stationed to the south to prevent Indians from escaping.

Custer had planned to cross the Little Bighorn River at Minneconjou Ford, which was a group of ravines, hills and bluffs just to the north of the river, but was considered advantageous high ground. But things got complicated when Major Reno and his detachment was working through the trees on its way to its southern attack position.

Reno wound up getting trapped in the trees, as he stopped his advance toward the village, thinking that he was leading his group into a trap. He kept his companies in among the trees as some warriors found their way into the woods to hold off Reno’s forces. With the soldiers pinched in, the warriors turned their attention to Custer on the ridge at Minneconjou Ford.

On his second attempt to cross the river, Custer was trapped on the ridge by warriors who were coming from the north, and those which had stalled Reno’s advance from the south and east. While Custer was at the high ground, his group of about 200 men was far outnumbered. Reno’s men who escaped the woods were able to scramble to the top of the ridge to provide some help to Custer’s forces, but it only took about 30 minutes for Custer’s Last Stand to be over. Custer was shot off his horse and died in the battle, and about 275 soldiers died – including Custer and three of his family members – and another 55 were wounded.

The actual details of the battle are still in dispute, as to whether Custer was launching an attack when he was killed, or whether he was trying to execute a retreat. Those who knew about Custer’s career suggest that he was attacking based on his aggressive nature, while some of the evidence and recollections from interviews seem to suggest that Custer was retreating because he was outnumbered and was hoping to get his men out of the area to fight another day.

In the end, Custer lost five of the 12 companies under his command, making it one of the more humiliating defeats on U.S. soil in U.S. military history. But it was the last significant win by American Indians over the next 10 years.