Wednesday, July 20, 2016

It's said History is written by...

the winners.  

At the Little Bighorn Battlefield, there were no winners. 

The battle took place in June, 1876. This deadly struggle was the culmination of broken treaties, the uncompromising advance of Manifest Destiny, the clash of cultures who shared no common traits (other than being humans) and a few charismatic leaders. 

The White Folks were led by George Armstrong Custer. He was a Civil War General who led his troops from the front. He was fearless. He had eleven horses shot out from under him. He made great copy for the press. He might have been reckless and lucky. He was totally clueless on battling Indians who didn't follow standard military procedures. 

The Lakota,  Cheyenne and Arapaho were led by Chief Sitting Bull. He was more of a spiritual leader than an X's and O's military strategist. He called the Reservation Indians fools and suck-ups. He exhorted them to join him and his followers and return to their tried and true way of life. Many did just that. When you think about it, the Indians just wanted to be free to live their nomadic lifestyle. I can relate to that. 

Let the battle begin!

Custer's Crow and Arikara Indian scouts spot a large Lakota/Cheyenne/Arapaho  encampment on the banks of the Little Bighorn River. Custer didn't want this prize to escape. He divides his command. A tactic used often in the Civil War by General Lee. 

Major Reno led a surprise attack on the sleepy campers. When the Warriors woke up, Boy! Were they mad! The Braves rallied and chased Reno and his broke down command back across the river. The retreat was anything but orderly. Forty soldiers died trying to make it to higher ground. Captain Benteen's battalion joins Reno on the ridge top. They dig in with a siege mentality mindset. The soldiers hold on for a day and a half.

Custer and his battalion move north along the bluffs to get in front of the encampment.  About this time, the fog of war rears its ugly snout. Custer has lost contact with his beleaguered battalions. He and his 225 Cavalrymen were virtually on their own. No historian knows the moment when Custer realizes that the attackers were now being attacked. Many of his soldiers panic and try to escape the trap. They are cut down. About 41 horsemen and Custer make it to Last Stand Hill. There, they shoot their steeds to serve as breastworks. For a cavalryman, this is the final act of capitulation. The one sided onslaught is over in about thirty minutes. 

Now, all is quiet on this deceptively steep battlefield. White markers indicate the approximate points where the soldiers met their unexpected demise. Red/brown markers indicate where the Native Americans fell defending their way of live. 

The victory was a short lived one. The combatants would eventually end up on Reservations. 

Sitting Bull would die at the hands of his own people in 1890 on the Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota.

It's a place worth seeing and pondering over.

From the banks of the Yellowstone River near Livingston, Montana.
G' day!


  1. You didn't say anything about Crazy Horse. You should read Crazy Horse and Custer: The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors by Ambrose. It's a very good book.

    1. You are correct. It wasn't an oversight. I try to keep my blogs concise. With a battle as large as Little Bighorn, I could have gone off on many tangents.
      I'll look into the Ambrose book.
      Thanks for the comment.

    2. Understood.

  2. hey dude...this is j mark wilson...thanks for this...your words and the pics created a moment of contemplation...i'm sure being there would create an even deeper one...your hero status grows...

    1. You are way too kind. You are my hero!
      I went into burning buildings for a living. That was OK.
      Getting in front of mad Bulls! No Way!

  3. The area around the Little Bighorn is a lovely area. One can see why the Indians of the northern plains would want to hang on to it.

  4. The area around the Little Bighorn is a lovely area. One can see why the Indians of the northern plains would want to hang on to it.

    1. It was full of game too. That is before the White Folks shot them all!