Little Bighorn, Battle of, 1876

Little Bighorn

THE BATTLE OF THE LITTLE BIGHORN – INDIAN WARS

25th – 26th JuNE 1876

SUMMARY

This notorious battle of the Indian wars saw the defeat and massacre of the seventh cavalry under General George Custer by the Lakota and Cheyenne Indians

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BACKGROUND

The Sioux and Cheyenne had been promised that their sacred land in the Black Hills would remain theirs. However, following the discovery of gold in the Black Hills white men began to pour into the lands in search of gold. The Indians angered by the breaking of the treaty by the Americans left their reservations and under the leadership of Sitting Bull decided to fight for their lands.

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LOCATION

near the Little Bighorn River, Montana

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THE US ARMY

COMMANDED BY
George A. Custer
Marcus Reno
Frederick Benteen
Myles Keogh
James Calhoun

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THE INDIANS

COMMANDED BY
Sitting Bull
Crazy Horse
Chief Gall
Lame White Man
Two Moon

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THE BATTLE

The Americans wanted to get the Indians back onto reservations and decided on a plan using three columns to trap the Indians and defeat them. The US army were instructed to treat all Indians outside reservations as hostile. General Sheridan organised his men into three columns led by General Crook, Colonel Gibbon and General Terry and General Custer with the aim of trapping the Indians between them.

Colonel Gibbon joined up with General Terry and they planned the attack. General Terry divided his men ordering General Custer to approach the Little Bighorn from the South. However, having seen a small group of Indians apart from the Indian village, Custer decided to disobey his orders and go straight across the Wolf Mountains rather than go round them. His idea was to reach the Little Bighorn a day earlier than expected, surprise the Indians and defeat them himself.

General Custer reached the Little Bighorn on the afternoon of 25th June. His scouts advised him to wait for the other columns but he decided to attack alone. Custer split his forces into four groups. Major Reno with 125 men was sent to attack the southern end of the camp, Captain Benteen with 125 men was to stay in the south, Captain McDougal with B company were to remain with the pack train while Custer took 263 men to attack the north of the camp.  At some point the forces under General George Custer were defeated by an Indian force of up to 2000 Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho led by Crazy Horse. Custer had asked for Reno and Benteen to support him but they did not. The battle was a decisive victory for the Indians and left all 263 soldiers including General Custer dead. The exact events of the battle have been the source of much controversy since no soldiers survived to tell the story of what actually happened. At the time though, Custer was hailed as a hero dying for his country.

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RESULT

A decisive Indian victory

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Pictures Source: pixabay.com

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