Category Archives: Custer’s Last Stand

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.

The Slaughter at The Battle of Little Bighorn

At the time, no one saw the massacre coming. Yet all the signs were there right from the beginning, and the seemingly unusual tactical incompetence of Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer really brought the Battle of Little Bighorn to the forefront of history. Who suffered the most at the Battle of Little Bighorn? How many died, and how many were injured? What went wrong for the U.S. military? Most importantly, could the Battle of Little Bighorn been avoided?

The battle could never have been anything but a slaughter based on the size comparison alone; estimates of Native American numbers vary wildly, but most believe they ranged anywhere from 900 to 2,500. Even at the low end, they vastly outnumbered the just under 700 men under Custer.

Some historians argue that Custer was ordered to do one thing, but arrogantly defied commands given. Some argue he fell into a trap he probably should have seen coming. Some argue that the Native Americans had superior weapons that day. Others argue that perhaps the greatest blunder of the day was his own decision to divide his troops. When a military force is too small, every tactical regulation guarantees that it should never be divided. In war, this rule is fundamental. Custer was perhaps foolhardy enough to break it.

Although these might all be reasons that the massacre could have perhaps been avoided altogether, historians still can’t agree on most of them. The reality is simpler: whether few or many, it seems that mistakes were indeed made. Each mistake then or in fights past added a layer that made the U.S. force weaker, and more prone to debilitating attack. When the Native Americans forced the U.S. army to retreat at the Battle of Rosebud Creek a week prior in order to gain rest and replenish supplies, the Native American forces greatly increased in size. They pushed forward, and they found advantage after advantage. There were too many factors deciding the outcome at Bighorn, and so the battle was probably never salvageable.

0During the Battle of Little Bighorn, twelve companies were in play by the U.S. 7th Cavalry. Of those, five were completely wiped out. 268 men were dead including Carter, with dozens more wounded. Of those, six died after the battle when they succumbed to injuries sustained. The forces were complemented by members of the Crow and Pawnee tribes, of which four and two died, respectively.

What made the battle particularly embarrassing wasn’t necessarily the defeat, but the extent to which the U.S. forces suffered compared to those of the force of Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne Native American forces out for blood. Although we’re less sure of the exact figures, low estimates suggest as many as 31 warriors died, while high estimates indicate as many as 300 (a figure that most believe extremely exaggerated).

When a vastly superior (at this point) military machine falls prey to such an unusual defeat, there usually isn’t a single reason. The slaughter at the Battle of Little Bighorn was a cascading failure. When the first part of that machine failed at the Battle of Rosebud Creek, the Native Americans were granted the time to reinforce themselves. Everything else is history.

History of Custer’s Last Stand

For you to understand the importance of Custer’s Last Stand we encourage you to watch this video from The History Channel. This site is dedicated to learning as much as we can about this heroic endeavor in Montana and the human spirit. This story shows the braveness of the Native American people and what is truly means to be American.