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The Battle Of Little Bighorn: Background

Dates : June 25-26 1876

Location:Near little bighorn river 

Outcome:Native American victory


  • Chiefs Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull refused to accept the peace of 1868.
  • Gold was discovered in the Black Hills in 1874.
  • The Sioux refused to sell their land in the Black Hills.
  • The government ordered the Sioux onto small reservations. When the Sioux refused, they were declared 'hostile'.
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The battle Of Little Bighorn : The Beginning

1876 campaign,battle preparation 

  • General Philip Sheridan was sent to defeat the Sioux.
  • In June 1876 US armies, led by the generals Alfred Terry and John Gibbon, met at the Yellowstone river.
  • Gibbon was set to march up the Little Bighorn river, and Lt Colonel George Custer was ordered to march round the Wolf mountains, as part of a two-pronged attack on the Sioux camp.

To the Little Bighorn

  • The Sioux had been joined by the Cheyenne and Arapaho, making an army of more than 3,000 warriors, armed with Winchester repeating rifles.
  • Custer marched his men through (not round) the Wolf mountains, to arrive at the Sioux camp first.
  • Custer divided his 600 men into three groups.
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The Battle Of Little Bighorn: Custer's Last Stand

Custers Last Stand:

  • Custer sent Captain Frederick Benteen scouting, and sent Major Marcus Reno to attack the Sioux village from the south.
  • Custer headed north of the village with 215 men.
  • The Sioux cut off both Reno and Custer. Benteen rescued Reno, but Custer and all of his troops lost their lives.
  • The Sioux withdrew when Terry and Gibbon arrived.
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The Battle Of Little Bighorn:Why was Custer defeat

Why was Custer defeated ?

  1. He acted alone - even though Gibbon's last words to him were: "Custer, don't be greedy. Wait for us. "
  2. Instead of going round the Wolf mountains, Custer force-marched his men through the mountains. His troops and horses arrived tired after the long march.
  3. He weakened his forces by dividing them into three (although this was classic US Army tactics).
  4. He expected the Sioux warriors to scatter and run. Instead they outmanoeuvred and surrounded him.
  5. He was hugely outnumbered.
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The Battle Of Little Bighorn:Why was Custer defeat

Why was Custer defeated ?

  1. He was arrogant and over-confident, and wanted the victory to bolster his political ambitions. He ignored the advice of his Crow scouts to wait for reinforcements.
  2. The Sioux leaders - especially Crazy Horse - were expert and experienced generals.
  3. The Native Americans regarded the war as their last chance - they fought with desperation.
  4. The Sioux were determined: "The whites want a war and we will give it to them", said Chief Sitting Bull.
  5. Custer had poor information - he did not know how big the Sioux army was, nor that they were armed with Winchester repeating rifles.
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