Indian Wars: Little Bighorn (1876)

The Battle of the Little Bighorn.

little-bighorn (Painting by Charles Marion Russell)

Date:             June 25 and 26, 1876.

Opponents:  Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and the 7th U.S. Cavalry

                        v.

                        Crazy Horse and Chief Gall, leading a combined force of Northern Cheyenne, Lakota Sioux, and Arapaho.

Place:             Little Bighorn River, Montana.

Factors:       * Custer found gold in the Black Hills, on Indian land that was sacred to the Sioux, which soon triggered an influx of unwanted white prospectors.

                       * Chief Sitting Bull had a vision during the Sun Dance Ceremony.  He was “soldiers falling into his camp like grasshoppers from the sky” – which inspired an armed resistance to the U.S. army, pioneers, and miners swarming into the Dakotas.

                       * Custer came upon a massive combined village camped alongside the river.  He did not appreciate how large it actually was and decided to launch an immediate daylight attack because he knew that his men had been spotted by native scouts.

                       * The 7th Cavalry was split in three, the other two battalions being led by officers Reno and Benteen. Custer expected these two divisions to arrive any moment as backup.  They came under attack at the other ends of the village and failed to arrive in support of their leader.

                      * Custer made a brave Last Stand behind a wall of dead horses, but he and his men were routed and annihilated within an hour.  The soldiers were mutilated and scalped, then left to rot until the army arrived to bury them.  Custer’s body remained untouched, except some reports say his ear-drums were pierced so that he would learn to listen better in the next life.

                      * The Native Americans then went after Reno and Benteen but were repulsed long enough for General Terry to arrive with reinforcements.  The braves scattered in different directions so they would be difficult to track and hunt down.

Results:       * The U.S. cavalry lost 268 men (with 48 wounded), including Custer and his two brothers.

                      * First Nation casualties numbered 136 warriors and 10 non-combatants (with 160 wounded).

                      * The Battle of the Little Bighorn was a major victory for the Native Americans in the Great Sioux Wars of 1854-1890.

                      * But Custer’s Last Stand became a pivotal rallying point that eventually led to the end of native resistance at Wounded Knee.

                     * Chief Sitting Bull escaped to Canada the following year.

                     * Crazy Horse  was later captured and assassinated at Fort Robinson (Nevada) a few months later.

Sources:

Eyewitness to History, “Battle of the Little Bighorn, 1876” at http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/custer.htm.

National Park Service, “Battle of the Little Bighorn,” at https://www.nps.gov/libi/learn/historyculture/battle-of-the-little-bighorn.htm.

Sanja, Mike. Crazy Horse: The Life Behind the Legend. New Jersey: Castle Books, 2000.

Wikipedia, “Battle of the Little Bighorn” at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_Little_Bighorn.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s