The original US plan for defeating the Lakota called for three forces under the command of Crook, Gibbon, and Custer to trap the bulk of the Lakota and Cheyenne population between them. Custer, however, advanced way more quickly than he had been ordered, and neared what he thought was a large Indian village on the morning of June 25, 1876. Custer's foolhardy rapid advance had put him far ahead of Gibbon's slower-moving infantry brigades and, unknown to him; Crazy Horse and his band at Rosebud Creek had turned Crook's forces back.
'Two victories that spring against the US Cavalry emboldened them to fight on in the summer of 1876'
It seemed to Custer that victory for both the US and himself were near and, despite the warnings given by his scouts; Custer ordered an immediate attack on the village. Mitch Boyer warned 'If we go in there we will never come out' but Custer was so heated in what he thought was a glorious triumphal moment that he ignored the plea of his tired men and ordered them forward, he also wanted to move quickly as he thought the Indians would try to escape,
'The largest Indian camp on the North continent is ahead and I am going to attack it'.
Contemptuous of Indian military prowess, he split his forces into three parts to ensure fewer Indians would escape; he had used this method successfully at the Battle of Washita. He sent major Reno with 125 men to attack the southern end of the camp, and Captain Benteen, with 125 men, was sent to the south. Captain McDougall took charge of B company and the pack train. Custer himself took 260 men further north to cross the river to attack the Indian camp.
'Custer disobeyed orders because he did not want any other command... or body to have a finger in the pie... and thereby lost his life' Captain Frederick Benteen
Thousands of Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapho warriors forced Custer's unit back onto a long, dusty ridge parallel to the Little Bighorn, they had a major advantage in numbers (about 2000 to 600) and some were better armed than the cavalry men, they had rifles which were supplied by traders. The Sioux stopped Major Reno's attack and he retreated across the river, where he took up a defensive position, Benteen and his men then joined him, but towards the end of a hard days battle Benteen's now united force escaped when the Indians broke off the fight, they had learned that two other columns of soldiers were coming towards them, so they fled. They received order to support Custer but were unable to because they were under such heavy attack. Custer failed to cross the river and turned back to head for higher ground, but Oglala Sioux under Crazy Horse's command, swiftly moved downstream and then doubled back in a sweeping arc, enveloping Custer and his men in a pincer move. They began pouring in gunfire and arrows. Without the support of Reno and Benteen they were surrounded, and in less than an hour, all 210 were killed. The watercourse, in which most of the soldiers died, ran with blood.
'Custer's blunders cost him his life but gained him everlasting fame'
The Indians were not used to fighting a pitched battle so this style of fighting was completely new to them, this shows the great leadership qualities of Crazy Horse and the immensely difficult battle he put forward. After the battle, the Indians came through and stripped the bodies and mutilated all the uniformed soldiers, believing that the soul of a mutilated body would be forced to walk the earth for all eternity and could not ascend to heaven. Inexplicably, they stripped Custer's body and cleaned it, but did not scalp or mutilate it. He had been wearing buckskins instead of a blue uniform, and some believe that the Indians thought he was not a soldier and so, thinking he was an innocent, left him alone. Because his hair was cut short for battle, others think that he did not have enough hair to allow for a very good scalping. Immediately after the battle, the myth emerged that they left him alone out of respect for his fighting ability, but few participating Indians knew who he was to have been so respectful. To this day, no one knows the real reason.
Because Custer saw the battle as a 'personal triumph' rather than a 'cavalry's triumph' he was willing to take risks without thinking of the effects they might have on his troops, you could say he was selfish in his orders.
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Final Comment. Star rating *** Over all this essay shows excellent knowledge and understanding of the event, but has fallen in to the trap of tellling the story of the battle rather than examining arange of factors. THe essay could have been structured around weighing up 3 key factors. For example Custer's role, the strength and skill of the Idian forces and bad luck in terms of the failure of the rest of the army.