Wild West


1 Coverage: No battle fought on American soil (except perhaps Gettysburg during the Civil War) has been the subject of so many books and articles (more than 4,000 publications, not to mention 2,000-plus related references).

2 Casualties: It was the greatest post–Civil War defeat of the 19th-century U.S. Army judged by casualties (268 officers, enlisted men, scouts and civilians of the 7th U.S. Cavalry killed in action or died of wounds and more than 50 others wounded)

3 Size: The Lakota-Cheyenne village on the Little Bighorn River in Montana Territory was the largest Indian gathering on the northern Plains of that era (some 1,000 lodges and 2,000 warriors, according to one credible estimate).

4 Custer Factor: Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer was a larger than life Civil War hero who had added to his national reputation by publicizing his limited Indian fighting experiences in My Life on the Plains (1874) and elsewhere.

5 Flawed Strategy: The battle demonstrated the Army’s false assumption that the Sioux and Cheyennes would flee rather than fight when confronted by a formidable force of U.S. soldiers (perception thus trumped reality).

The battle proved that accurate intelligence is the key to any successful military operation, as Custer advanced on Sitting Bull’s village before knowing

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