Was Custer to blame for the defeat at the Battle of Little Bighorn

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“Custer was to blame for the defeat at the Battle of Little Bighorn”.

How far do you agree, giving reasons and examples?

        Although it can be said that the defeat at the Battle of Little Bighorn is solely down to General Custer, I am of the distinct opinion that numerous different factors contributed to the aforementioned defeat.

        Firstly, there are many reasons why some historians believe Custer was responsible for the defeat.  He disobeyed direct orders from superiors to wait for them before proceeding to attack.  He was even told by Gibbon “Now, Custer, don’t be greedy; wait for us”.  This further shows that he didn’t have a lot of trust from the superiors as they felt it necessary to tell him this.  As he rode away, he replied “No, I won’t” – something that could be argued either way.  Either he wouldn’t be greedy, or he wouldn’t wait.  So, glory hunter Custer set off southwards to circle round the Wolf Mountains before proceeding northwards to the Indian camp where Gibbon and Terry would meet him.  He refused to take Gatling gun weapons with him (as these would certainly slow him down), as well as support from the second cavalry (which would mean he would have to share glory).  He needed to launch the attack and get a defeat over the Indians before the Democratic Party picked their electoral candidate two days later.  He hoped having Mark Kellogg, the journalist with him, news would spread and he would be on his way up the presidential ladder.  He was too hard on his men and horses, as he forced them to walk through the night to cross the Wolf Mountains and arrive a day early.  Most of his men were also poorly trained anyway.  Consequently, they were worn out, and weren’t able to fight as well as usual.  Mitch Bouyer told him upon arrival “If we go in there, we’ll never come out”.  He refused to listen to this, divided his army into three columns (further weakening it) and tried to attacked overwhelming numbers of warriors without knowing the lie of the land.  Subsequently, this may have been the fatal error losing the battle.

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        However, the fault may have rested upon his subordinate officers, Reno and Benteen.  They didn’t try to force Custer to follow orders and wait for Gibbon and Terry as well as they could and should have done.  They also didn’t complain to Custer about his choice of splitting the army into even smaller divisions which weakened the army’s performance as a whole.  The fact remains that Reno could have gone to Custer’s assistance whilst he was surrounded – Custer had sent a message requesting just that.  Instead, he retreated across the river taking up a defensive position, he didn’t go ...

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