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Death and Immortality at the Little BigHorn: Vol I, Custer's Last Stand

Death and Immortality at the Little BigHorn: Vol I, Custer's Last Stand

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Death and Immortality at the Little BigHorn: Vol I, Custer's Last Stand

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Longueur:
104 pages
1 heure
Sortie:
Aug 26, 2013
ISBN:
9781301016433
Format:
Livre

Description

The three last-stand battles of history most well known by the general public are the Spartans at Thermopylae, during the Persian wars; the British at Isandlawana, during the Zulu wars; and Custer’s Last Stand at the Little BigHorn, during the plains Indian wars. Even if most people know next to little about the battle at the Little BigHorn, they know that Custer was sent out by the U.S. government to subdue the Indians and when they gathered in overwhelming numbers to fight back, he and the troops under his direct command were wiped out. It is a riveting story of how a doomed command met its end on a hot sunny day in Montana on June 25, 1876.

Had Custer’s Last Stand not occurred, it is likely that Custer and the other participants at the Little BigHorn would have passed into history as little more than a footnote. However, by the very nature of fighting and dying in a battle against overwhelming numbers against what at the time were considered merciless and cruel savages, Custer was elevated to some mythical Wagnerian hero who rode to Valhalla on that fateful day. Today, however, no myth survives without being first torn down and rebuilt and so it has been with Custer’s Last Stand. We now see the battle for what it was; a series of misjudgments, bad luck, and fatal moves which made the end a foregone conclusion. And when that inevitable end came, it was fought by frightened men shaking with fear at the awful death that awaited them, rather than being animated by the glory and immortality that was to be their legacy. What follows is the story of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and the command who died to a man fighting with him.

It will first be useful to see examine the participants in this great battle, who they were before the battle of the Little BigHorn and what happened to them after it. The strengths and weaknesses of the fighting men of both sides will then be examined, as well as how well they were led and how effective their weapons were for the battle they fought. A short history of events leading up to the battle will be given, followed by a very quick overview of events occurring on other areas of the battlefield under Reno and Benteen. These will be very cursory overviews designed to acclimate to readers relatively unfamiliar with events of the era, the campaign, and subsequent battle, which are necessary to put Custer’s Last Stand in proper historical perspective. The rest of the book will then be devoted exclusively to those troopers of Yeats’ and Keogh’s battalions that rode directly under Custer’s command and died to a man with him.

Except possibly only for the battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War, Custer’s last stand at the Little BigHorn is one of the most read about battles of military history. Like Gettysburg, it is a battle of what-ifs. One change here and there could have changed the complexion of the entire battle and there were a number of places during the battle that such alternate choices could have been made. Had one of them been made, the battle might not have been lost so dramatically. Considering the odds against him and the Indians’ desire to engage him in a stand-up fight on ground greatly advantageous to them (on the east side of the Little BigHorn River) and weapons greatly advantageous to them (the bow & arrow and repeating rifles), it is not likely a victory was in the cards for Custer, no mater what he did. He just did not have enough men for taking on the warrior force of an Indian encampment of that size.

Sortie:
Aug 26, 2013
ISBN:
9781301016433
Format:
Livre

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Death and Immortality at the Little BigHorn - James R Ashley

Death and Immortality at the Little Big Horn

Vol I: Custer’s Last Stand

James R Ashley

Copyright 2015 James R. Ashley

Smashwords edition

The photograph used on the front cover of this book was supplied courtesy of the Custer Battlefield Museum.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Participants in the Battle

Indian Warfare

The 7th Cavalry

The1876 Campaign Against the Sioux

The North Fork

Wooden Leg (Sharpshooters) Ridge

Weir Point

Medicine Tail Coulee

Luce Ridge

Nye-Cartwright Ridge

Calhoun Hill

Crazy Horse Ford

Last Stand Hill

Rescue

Evaluation of Custer

The End

Bibliography

Map 1: The 1876 Campaign Against the Sioux

Map 2: The Little Big Horn Battlefield

Map 3: Sharpshooter Ridge

Map 4: Weir Point

Map 5: Minneconjou Ford

Map 6: Calhoun Hill

Map 7: Last Stand Hill

Introduction

The four last-stand battles of history most well known by the general public are the Spartans at Thermopylae, during the Persian wars; the British at Isandlawana, during the Zulu wars; the Alamo, during the war for Texas independence; and Custer’s Last Stand, at the Little Big Horn, during the plains Indian wars. Even if most people know next to little about the battle at the Little Big Horn, they know that Custer was sent out by the U.S. government to subdue the Indians and when they gathered in overwhelming numbers to fight back, he and the troops under his direct command were wiped out. It is a riveting story of how a doomed command met its end on a hot sunny day in Montana on June 25, 1876.

Had Custer’s Last Stand not occurred, it is likely that Custer and the other participants at the Little Big Horn would have passed into history as little more than a footnote. However, by the very nature of fighting and dying in a battle against overwhelming numbers opposed by what at the time were considered merciless and cruel savages, Custer was elevated to some mythical Wagnerian hero who rode to Valhalla on that fateful day. Today, however, no myth survives without being first torn down and rebuilt and so it has been with Custer’s Last Stand. We now see the battle for what it was, a series of misjudgments, bad luck, and fatal moves, which made the end a foregone conclusion. And when that inevitable end came, it was fought by frightened men shaking with fear at the awful death that awaited them, rather than being animated by the glory and immortality that was to be their legacy. What follows is the story of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and the command who died to a man fighting with him.

No survivors lived to tell the tale of Custer and those who took that final ride with him at the Little Big Horn, but we can piece together a number of things from the accounts of the Indians would fought him, the Indian scouts who served with his regiment, the soldiers who surveyed the field after the battle, the soldiers who testified at Reno’s court martial, writers who interviewed the participants up to 3 decades after the battle, and current archeological finds. Each source, however, has its limitations and built in distortions. The Indians had imperfect concepts of place and time, had difficulty seeing actions in their proper sequence, and frequently pandered to the white man in telling him what he thought he wanted to hear. The soldiers in the field were not well trained in battlefield analysis, frequently did improper surveys of the battlefield, and drew erroneous conclusions about what they saw. At the Reno court martial trial, many soldiers and officers told outright lies before the court to either cover up their own shortcoming in the battle or to shield the 7th Cavalry from any adverse public criticism. Writers who interviewed participants for decades after the battle asked them loaded or badly phrased questions, which were many times not answered truthfully, as to either preserve or enhance reputations or to avoid the rekindling of old animosities. As for the archeological digs made on the site 50 or more years after the battle, their findings were limited by the passage of time and the actions of souvenir hunters, who had collected a great number artifacts from the battlefield, thereby distorting archeological findings. The end result, in any event, was that the facts will never be completely known, leaving one to make their best guess on what happened with the circumstantial information available. This is as controversial as trying to figure out exactly what happened in Dealey Plaza on November, 22, 1963. But therein lies the fascination with Custer’s Last Stand, for those missing pieces in the puzzle stokes one’s curiosity and lets imaginations run wild, and the participants in the battle transcend the mythical cardboard cutouts of history to assume living, breathing identities, with all the strengths and weaknesses we know people to have.

It will first be useful to see examine the participants in this great battle, who they were before the battle of the Little Big Horn, and what happened to them after it. The strengths and weaknesses of the fighting men of both sides will then be examined, as well as how well they were led and how effective their weapons were for the battle they fought. A short history of events leading up to the battle will be given, followed by a very quick overview of events occurring on other areas of the battlefield under Reno and Benteen. These will be very cursory overviews designed to acclimate to readers relatively unfamiliar with events of the era, the campaign, and subsequent battle, which are necessary to put Custer’s Last Stand in proper historical perspective. The rest of the book will then be devoted exclusively to those troopers of Yeats’ and Keogh’s battalions that rode directly under Custer’s command and died to a man with him.

Participants in the Battle

The following is a listing of people who had some part in Custer’s Last Stand. A cursory background is given for each person, his part in the battle, and what happened to him after the battle.

Frederick Benteen All four of Benteen’s children had died of spinal meningitis before their 1st birthday. The Virginia Benteens all joined the Confederacy upon the state’s succession from the Union, except, for Frederick Benteen, who decided to stay with the Union. Consequently, his father disowned and hoped that he would be killed during the war by an avenging bullet fired by one of his relatives.

Benteen’s father was a blockade runner, who was captured by the cavalry unit Benteen commanded. His father was sent to a Union prison until 1865. Benteen ended the war a brevet Brigadier General.

At the battle of the Little Big Horn on June 25, 1876, instead of riding to Custer’s assistance with his battalion, Benteen chose to disregard his orders and dig in with Reno on Reno’s Hill. And although his bravery on the battlefield was unquestioned, his disobedience of orders should have earned him a court martial, as it was a direct cause of Custer’s death and the 5 cavalry companies under his direct command.

In 1883 Benteen was promoted to Major in the 9th Cavalry, a black cavalry regiment. In 1886 he was sent to oversee the building of a fort in Utah Territory. After several months of heavy drinking, Benteen received a court martial for it in 1887. And although reinstated by President Grover Cleveland, Benteen chose to retire the next year. Benteen lived for another 10 years. In 1892 he was made a brevetted Brigadier General for his services at the Little Big Horn. On June 22, 1898 Benteen

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