Custer and the battle of the Little Bighorn

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  • Custer and the battle of the Little Bighorn
    • At this battle on 25 June 1876 a US army regiment was both outnumbered and defeated by the combined forces of the Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes.
    • Custer
      • Some thought he was a hero, others weren't so sure. But what contributed to this status?
        • Hero
          • July 1863 - Promoted to the rank of Brigadier-General, aged 23, the youngest general ever in the US army.
          • 1868 - Victory over the Cheyenne at the battle of Washita.
          • 1874 - Discovered gold in the Black Hills
          • 1876 - A Heroic (?) death at the battle of Little Bighorn
        • Not a Hero!
          • 1865 - Was reverted to the rank of Captain at the end of the Civil War despite being seen as a war hero.
          • 1867 - Court-martialled and suspended from duty for abandoning his command.
          • 1872 - Acted as a guide to Russian Grand Duke Alexis.
    • The Campaign
      • In 1876, the US army were ordered to attack all Sioux who had not returned to their reservations.
      • Planning The Campaign
        • The plan of the campaign was prepared by General Philip Sheridan.
        • It involved three groups, each led by a different Colonel or General, co-ordinating their movements so that they would all meet at one point, trapping the Indians between them.
        • However, their were two main faults of this plan.
          • One - there was no effective communication between two of the leaders, Terry and Crook.
          • Two - There was no serious attempt to find out how many Indians there actually were.
            • The original numbers that the army were given was 800 warriors which was given to them by the Bureau of Indian affairs, but this number was out by a considerable amount - 1200 to be precise.
      • Things start to go wrong
        • However, on the 17 June, it all began to fall apart as Crook's column stopped for a coffee break and a game of Whist.
        • They were attacked by Crazy horse and 1500 warriors. 28 men were killed, 63 were wounded and 25,000 rounds of ammunition had been fired.
        • Terry and Gibbon joined at the Yellowstone River. Their forces were divided and Custer was given a group to lead but he refused an extra 180 men and guns.
        • Custer then deliberately disobeyed orders. They arrived at Little Bighorn a day early after riding through the night.
          • The Indians there weren't expecting an attack, but the men and their horses were exhausted.
    • The Battle of Little Bighorn
      • In the afternoon of the 25 June, Custer had reached the camp
        • The Indians there weren't expecting an attack, but the men and their horses were exhausted.
      • However, he decided, despite warnings from his Indian scout, to attack the Indians as he wanted a glorious victory.
      • He split the forces that he had as this was the tactic that he used successfully at the Battle of Washita.
      • However, one battalion was attacked by the Sioux and had to fight for the remainder of the day, suffering many casualties.
        • They were then unable to follow Custer's last order to join him.
      • What happened to Custer's battalion is unclear but it is thought that they failed to cross the river.
        • Without the other two battalions they were outnumbered by the Sioux. Some panicked and tried to surrender or run away, but others fought till the end.
          • There was one survivor who was an Indian scout but he disguised himself as an Indian.
      • The Indians had the advantage as they had vastly superior numbers and they were better armed.
        • Half of the Indians would defend the camp, whilst the others would go to attack.
        • This was a different tactic as they would normally take action and let the women and children escape, then withdraw themselves.


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