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The Battle of the Little Bighorn (Part II)

Geronimo - Trivia powered by ABEThe Battle of the Little Bighorn - also known as Custer's Last Stand, and, in the parlance of the relevant American Indians, the Battle of Greasy Grass Creek - was an armed engagement between a Lakota-Northern Cheyenne combined force and the 7th Cavalry of the United States Army. It occurred on June 25 and June 26, 1876, near the Little Bighorn River in the eastern Montana Territory, near what is now Crow Agency, Montana.

Did you know about The Battle of the Little Bighorn (Part II)?

1. Why is Custer's and his force of roughly 210 men fight conjecture?

2. What is believed happened at Medicine Tail Coulee?

3. Who is the renowned Sioux warrior, given credit in finding Custer and his troops?

4. Who led his warriors against Company L that probably began their pull back off the ridge in an attempt to link back up with Company I?

5. Who commanded Companies I and L?

6. How long is it believed that the Last Stand lasted?

7. What has recent archaeological work at the battlefield site indicated?


Answers

1. Interpretations of Custer's fight are conjecture, since none of his men survived the battle, while the accounts of surviving Indians are conflicting and unclear. His force of roughly 210 men was engaged by the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne about 3.5 miles to the north. The route taken by Custer to his "Last Stand" remains a subject of debate. One possibility is that after ordering Reno to charge, Custer continued down Reno Creek to within about a half mile of the Little Bighorn, but then turned north, and climbed up the bluffs, reaching the same spot to which Reno would soon retreat. From this point on the other side of the river, he could see Reno charging the village.

2. Custer then rode north along the bluffs, and descended into a drainage called Medicine Tail Coulee, which led to the river. Some historians believe that part of Custer's force descended the coulee, going west to the river and attempting unsuccessfully to cross into the village. The attempted fording of the river at Medicine Tail Coulee might explain Custer's purpose for Reno's attack, that is, a coordinated "hammer-and-anvil" maneuver, with Reno holding the Indians at bay at the southern end of the camp, while Custer drove them against Reno's line from the north. Custer had tried a variation of this same sort of tactic at the 1868 Battle of Washita River -- a simultaneously converging attack.

3. Sioux warrior, Gall had crossed the Little Bighorn and had ridden up to the ridgeline south east of what is today called Sharpshooters Ridge. From there, he had ridden stealthily to see Custer's forces concealed at that point down in Medicine Trail Coulee. Realizing that he had found the hammer that was going to probably strike through the village towards Reno's anvil, he rode southwest, crossing back across the Little Bighorn River and warned the hundreds of warriors who had just returned from their repulse of Reno of this new threat from the Northeast.

4. In a sudden surprise right envelopment attack by Crazy Horse and his warriors, Company L probably began to pull back off the ridge in an attempt to link back up with Company I. This rapidly changed Companies C and L's and position from holding off Gall's men to the east and others to the south, to Company L essentially terminating its to the east and Company C ceasing its firing to the east and south and attempting to redeploy.

5. According to the location of the bodies found on the battlefield, Companies I and L, under Captain Myles Keogh's command, were possibly detached and dismounted to provide a rear guard, and may have been the last organized defense. A bullet wound was found on Keogh's left leg that broke his ankle making any attempt for him to run nearly impossible.

6. By almost all accounts, within less than an hour Custer's force was completely annihilated. David Humphries Miller, who between 1935 and 1955 interviewed the last Indian survivors of the battle, wrote that the Custer fight lasted less than one-half hour. The Lakota asserted that Crazy Horse personally led one of the large groups of warriors that eventually overwhelmed the cavalrymen in a surprise charge from the northeast, causing a breakdown in the command structure and panic among the troops.

7. Recent archaeological work at the battlefield site indicates that organized resistance in the form of skirmish lines probably took place. The remainder of the battle possibly took on the nature of a running fight. Modern archeology and historical Indian accounts indicate that Custer's force may have been divided into three groups, with the Indians attempting to prevent them from effectively reuniting.

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