Archive for the ‘Seventh Cavalry’ Category
“CATTLE WOULD WINTER IN THESE VALLEYS WITHOUT OTHER FOOD OR SHELTER.”
GENERAL CUSTER PROMOTED BLACK HILLS AGRICULTURE
BY JACK MCCULLOH, RAPID CITY, SOUTH DAKOTA
The map of South Dakota has over 49 place names because of one trip the US Frontier Army took through the territory. Tilford, Ludlow, Custer Peak, and Trail City in Corson County are on the map to memorialize the Army’s trip through The Great Sioux – Cheyenne reservation led by George Armstrong Custer. When the territory eventually became a state in l889 one of the first names chosen for a County seat west of the Missouri River was Custer County located in the southwest corner of the new State.
The Mormon Church had accomplished a major population shift into a new territory in the West from Missouri and Illinois. For years thousands had struggled overland for California Gold; and the Montana Gold Rush moving west along the Platte River on established roads. Those with goals of reaching the West had no interest in the Black Hills guarded by hostile Indians on their trip through “the Great American Desert.” 1
CUSTERS ORDERS TO THE TROOPS TO THE BLACK HILLS
……… care will be taken not to molest or in any manner disturb any Indians who may be encountered on the march, unless the latter should first act in a hostile manner . . . This command is about to march through a country infested by Indians, more or less hostile, and even should the latter, as it is hoped, not engage in general warfare and the usual acts of hostilities, there is no doubt but that they will endeavor to make captures of stock and to massacre small parties found imprudently beyond the lines . . .” his military dispatch of July 15, 1874 from Prospect Valley, Dakota (” . . . Our march thus far has been made without molestation upon the part of the Indians . . . As I sent pacific messages to all the tribes infesting this region before the expedition moved, and expressed a desire to maintain friendly relations with them . . . [o]ur Indian guides think differently, however, and believe the Indians mean war. Should this be true they will be the party to fire the first shot . . .”); and his second military dispatch, from Harney’s Peak, August 2, 1874 (” . . . gold has been found at several places, and it is the belief of those who are giving their attention to this subject that it will be found in paying quantities. I have upon my table forty or fifty small particles of pure gold, in size averaging the size of a small pin-head, and most of it obtained to-day from one panful of earth . . . Until further examination is made regarding the richness of the deposits of gold no opinion should be formed . . .”). 2
The Black Hills of Dakota Territory are different than the nearby Black Hills around Laramie, Wyoming. The Northern Black Hills are a lot like an inverted bath tub on a flat prairie – 40 miles wide and 80 miles long with a geological rim running around the base of the Hills. These Black Hills are about the size of the present day state of Israel.
The Army explored around the Black Hills of Dakota several times before Custer’s trip. Before the Civil War the army had sent expeditions around the Black Hills including Harney in 1855, Warren/Hayden in 1857, and Raynolds in 1859. These military expeditions did some mapping but none had entered the Black Hills before Custer. In 1868 the US War Department sat down with the Great Plains War Chiefs and in the Treaty setting up the Great Sioux – Cheyenne Reservation the Indians agreed to stop fighting people for a price. 3
Proclamation of Gen. McCook against
Occupation of the Black Hills of Dakota
I, Edwin S. McCook, Acting Governor of the Territory of Dakota, by direction of the President of the United States, do … warn all unlawful combinations of men …, that any attempts to violate our treaty with these Indians, … by an effort to invade … said reservation, will not only be illegal … but will be disapproved , and Government will use … military power … to remove all .. who go there in violation of law.4
The first time the Army actually entered the Black Hills was in 1874. Everyone at that time knew you could find gold. The only question was how much and could you get it?
The War Chiefs agreed they would hunt in certain areas for a limited time, receive annual issues of sugar, coffee and cattle, and would stop harassing the railroads and settlers. The US Government agreed to remove the manned forts they had established protecting the Bozeman Trail. It’s the only treaty with Indians the government ever entered into that removed military posts from territory to be settled by the spreading population.
CHEAPER TO FEED THAN FIGHT
In the Secretary of War’s report of 1874 he wrote; “The feeding process by 1874 has been now continued for six years with the Sioux, has so far taken the fight out of them….They have been sitting down at the agencies along the Missouri River, to risk the loss of coffee, sugar, and beef in exchange for the hardships and perils of a campaign against soldiers. As a result the Custer expedition penetrated to the very heart of their wild country, and returned without any opposition; and the military camps at Red Cloud and Spotted Tail Agencies are in safety, though surrounded by a force of fighting men from ten to twenty times larger than their own number. To have tamed this great nation down to this degree of submission by the issue of rations is in itself a demonstration of what has been so often argued – that it is cheaper to feed than to fight wild Indians. 5
The purpose of a thousand men and their supply wagons entering the Hills and finding a route was to record what was there. President Grant was near the end of his second term as President, and he spoke bluntly to the Indian Chiefs when they visited him in Washington D.C. that he expected them to live in peace on reservations. He would not allow free roaming Indians to check in just to receive food, clothing, and money. Grant’s policy was — if you choose to roam/live free off your reservation; your tribe will not receive annuities – or land grants – or cash payments. Sioux Chiefs such as Spotted Tail and Red Cloud resisted being counted in the census claiming it was against their religion. Grant put a stop to their tribes receiving anything until they were counted.
Grant would not negotiate directly with the Chiefs; instead, they must negotiate with the Secretary of the Interior and the Church run (Quakers) head of the Indian Bureau.
Grant wanted Indians treated as citizens of the United States and insisted they deal with the Government through the responsible agencies. He amended the law to make Indians citizens instead of banning them as citizens. He expected them to learn English, and make their own way in a short time by working land. Indians were issued plows, seeds, and farm equipment.
The chiefs on the Northern Plains knew that Congress had designated reservations as sovereign areas and the army could not enter reservations except by permission of the tribal councils. Some insisted as heads of “Sovereign nations” they would deal only with the President – not with Indian Agents assigned by the Government – because as heads of nations they had equal rank of the President and they did not like Indian Agents telling them anything. The chiefs wanted to select their own agents to act for the Government in providing for them.
Grant lost his patience with argument and ordered the Secretary of the Interior (Columbus Delano) at the time which was essentially a privately run church related welfare operation financed largely by Government manpower and money, to feed and cloth only those Indians living full time on reservations .He also ordered the army headed by General Sherman to remove tribes from non reservation land after a two year deadline to their reservation. Trail herds of cattle from Texas had for several years been grazing during wintertime in Montana territory, replacing the depleted Buffalo herd on the Plains , and cattlemen wanted Indians put on reservations , not free and able to steal horses , raid local ranchers and run off their cattle herds.
In the Great Plains the Sioux and Cheyenne claimed hunting areas by treaty. They argued Grant could not take away rights approved by Congress in 1869, but never signed by two thirds of the bands affected called for by the treaty. The treaty let the railroads through the Great Sioux Reservation along the Platte River. Congress let the time limited parts of the 1868 Treaty run out (food and clothing) and expected Indians to be in “Indian Territory” (present Oklahoma) – or on reservation they set up in limited states on a case by case basis.
CUSTER BOOSTS AGRICULTURE FROM HARNEY PEAK
“Twenty six days were spent traveling inside the Black Hills, and about 300 miles of valley were traveled by the command. Placer Gold was found …; The search for gold was not exhaustive, … but at one point a shaft was sunk to a depth of eight feet, and gold was found amounting to five cents per pan at the top, … to twenty cents at … eight feet. ……Custer’s Gulch, where twenty of the explorers took gold claims, declaring their intention to work the claims as soon as a possession of the country can be obtained, seven miles south of Haney’s Peak.”6
When he climbed Harney Peak Custer wrote a promotional pitch. He said
“Cattle could winter in these valleys without other food or shelter than that to be obtained from running at large.” His published report caught the attention of Gen. William B. Hazen, commander of Fort Union, at the junction of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers, who was convinced the Great Plains was the Great American Desert.
‘”The lands are not worth a penny an acre,” said Hazen, and in the winter “men and beasts perish from cold.”
Custer thought General Hazen was fond of notoriety and “consequently scribbles a great deal for the papers.” Custer wrote a nine column article in the Minneapolis Tribune (published April 17, 1875, shortly after the Black Hills Expedition) refuting Hazen ……Custer had extravagant praise for the Black Hills country.7
“Agriculture in no portion of the United States, not excepting the famous Blue Grass region of Kentucky, have I ever seen grazing superior to that found growing wild in this hitherto unknown region. I know of no portion of our country where nature has done so much to prepare homes for husbandmen, and leave so little for the latter to do as here. In the open and timbered spaces a partly prepared farm of almost any dimension, of an acre and upward, can be found here. Not only is the land cleared and timbered for both fuel and building, conveniently located with streams of pure water flowing through its length and breadth, but nature oft times seems to have gone further, and placed beautiful shrubbery and evergreens in the most desirable locations ….The soil is that of a rich garden, and composed of a dark mould of exceedingly fine grain….Nowhere in the States have I tasted cultivated raspberries of equal flavor to those found growing wild here…Wild strawberries, wild currants, gooseberries, and wild cherries are also found in great profusion and of exceedingly pure quality. Cattle would winter in these valleys without other food or shelter than that can be obtained from running at large.”8
Joe Reynolds read these reports in the Chicago Inter Ocean newspaper while working successfully his gold claim in the mountains of Colorado. He was working a claim in high country near Leadville and decided to pack up his mule and head for the Black Hills. He settled in Custer, and returned to Colorado to bring back a wife. He developed a homestead in what today is known as Reynolds prairie. Today Ivan’s son is still operating a ranch on Reynold’s Prairie
CUSTER TAKES REPORTERS TO THE BLACK HILLS
What the first journalists in the Black Hills reported stimulated thousands moving to the Hills from all directions, filling up of the country to overflowing in 1875. Thousands of jobless, underemployed and immigrant men read in the papers the word “gold” and decided to head for the Black Hills.
New York City’s population at the time was near 2 million; Chicago was near 400,000, Kansas City was 350, 00, and Minneapolis was just short of 100,000.
Newspapers sent reporters with the Army to report on what was out their in unknown territory. The public was always interested in the activities of the hyperactive Civil War cavalry officer – George Armstrong Custer. Reporters invited along paid their own way, including horses, to be on the outing. 9
Promoting Agriculture and Grazing
“Portions of the Black Hills are well fitted for agriculture, especially those from two to three thousand feet above the level of the sea, and all are adapted to grazing. The general elevation of the hills varies from four to seven thousand feet above the level of the sea, their base alone having an altitude of from fifteen to twenty-five hundred. From this it will be seen that they are not very high, taking their altitude from base to summit.
“When the present expedition returns, mining companies will be organized to test the value of the minerals found, and they will go fully prepared to overcome all opposition from the combined force of Sioux, Arapahoes, and Cheyennes, who will soon throng the region in quest of game for their Winter food; and if they contain any treasures of importance these Argonauts will soon make the fact known.”10
The Acting Secretary of Interior Smith in his annual report of 1874 wrote;
“A military expedition to the Black Hills caused great excitement among all of the Sioux people. They regarded it as an infraction of their treaty, and were filled with the fear it might lead to their exclusion from a country they highly prized.
“The exaggerated accounts of rich mines and agricultural lands given in dispatches of Custer and news reporters with the expedition increased the eagerness of people to take possession of the country. The correction of these exaggerated claims, by statements that no indications of mineral wealth were found, and that the lands were undesirable for white settlements, along with the strict prohibition of the War Department of any intrusion into the Territory did not stop parties from fitting out and leaving from Yankton, Bismarck, Denver, and Helena Montana.”11
The dispatch of Custer announcing gold in the Black Hills set off a stampede of fortune-hunters into Lakota territory. Although the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty requires the government to protect Lakota lands from intruders, federal authorities were asked and felt they had to protect the miners traveling along the road Custer blazed for them, which they call “Freedom’s Trail” and the Lakota call “Thieves Road.
The Army with less than 25,000 men on active duty in the entire Army failed to keep Gold seekers out of the Hills with several companies. So did the 25,000 Sioux who were not fighting among themselves and other bands scattered all over the Great Sioux Reservation.
Both the Army and the Indian Tribes failed to keep the public out of the Hills when the public got Gold Fever.
THE LAKOTA WAR – 1876
A Senate commission meeting with Red Cloud and other Lakota chiefs in 1875 to negotiate legal access for the miners rushing to the Black Hills offered to buy the region for $6 million. But the Lakota refuse to alter the terms of the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty and declare they will protect their lands from intruders if the government will not. So Congress repealed the 1868 treaty in 1877, stopped all benefits the Indians argued they were to receive, and Congress took back 40 million acres of land.
(1) The Northern Pacific Railroad was built during the years of 1872-1873 to Bismarck across the River from the site of Ft Lincoln Custer was assigned to build. During those years, the country west of the 100 Meridian (which runs through the middle of South Dakota) had an above average rainfall. This resulted in a perception the land was suitable for farming. Custer reported the abundant grass on his 1873 expedition to Montana. His reports along with the railroad’s advertisements designed to sell land and entice settlers west, painted the country as conducive to settlement. Hazen refutes these claims by reports from those who experienced the normal seasons that received little rainfall.
(2) Samuel J. Barrows went with the Yellowstone Expedition of 1873 and with the Black Hills Expedition in 1874 as a reporter for New York newspapers. Barrows was elected to Congress in 1897. He promoted legislation to remove Indians from reservations, believing assimilation would lead to equality.
(3) Wikipedia encyclopedia – Internet
(4) The New York Times, published April 9, 1872
(5)Newspaper Chronicle of the Indian Wars, Volume 4, compiled by Marc H Abrams, Published 2010, Page 16
(6) The New York Times, published September 1, 1874
(7) My life on the Plains by Custer, representing the major part of Custer’s life, was first published some two years before the General’s Death. It is a vivid picture of the American West, the rigors of life for the settlers, and the horrors of Indian warfare. The first edition of the book included a chapter by General W R Hazen which Hazen later privately published separately as a pamphlet entitled These Barren Lands.
(8)His articles on the Plains Indians were first published in the Galaxy Magazine 1872-74, and then incorporated into his book, My Life on the Plains, or, Personal Experiences with Indians, published in 1874.
(9) Robert Strahorn spent his life writing and promoting. Instrumental in settling west of the Missouri river and developing its resources. He was one of the best at selling something that existed only in dreams. He touted farmland Often land so tough it would take 3 generations to succeed.
(10) The New York Times, published April 28, 1874
(11) The New York Times, February 1, 1874
By Jack Pennington
I have just finished reading Nathaniel Philbrick’s book, LAST STAND. I thought it was very interesting and well written from a literary standpoint, but from an analytical perspective it portrays the same accepted view of the battle. I do recommend it as required reading for the overall coverage and personnel highlights.
In my books and articles I have brought out the “cover-ups” that resulted from the Reno Court of Inquiry, and were necessary in protecting Major Reno, Captain Benteen, other officers and the Army. The main cover-ups could be listed under the headings of timing, sightings, and orders.
What is difficult for me to understand is how contemporary writers such as Philbrick can ride over the battlefield, read the books and articles he claims to have done, and still not question or make any essential connections. The following are examples related to one period of time:
(1) As Reno reached Ford A he sent a message to Custer which supposedly said the Indians were strong to his front. Reno starts down the valley, and Philbrick mentioned several times how Reno is unaware of the Indians because he can’t see their camp. According to the message Reno sent Custer, the Indians had to be aware of Reno’s troops, and we know if they were that there would be warriors harassing his troops all the way down the valley in order to protect and give time for their village to flee or prepare. This doesn’t raise a question to Philbrick or too many other writers whether the Indians coming down the valley could actually have been what Reno’s message was about. If writers put together Custer’s orders as reported by Reno’s orderly Davern and Custer’s orderly Martin, might they not assume that Reno’s message was more apt to have asked if he should wait for Benteen? Later, of course, he couldn’t say this, and so used a similar message to the one Girard said he sent in his attempt to trap Reno.
(2) Reno moves down the valley and he wasn’t able to see the village or any number of Indians coming to meet him. He realizes that the Indian camp is around the bend and he can see warriors and a great amount of dust being raised. Reno sets up a skirmish line. There are those that believe he should have attacked, but most believe he was wise not to. His reason was sound since he didn’t see any of his promised support coming. According to Reno he was looking for this support from behind and that it would be Custer. Shouldn’t the orders Custer gave as reported by Reno’s and Custer’s orderlies raise the question that Reno might have been looking for Benteen coming from behind, while hoping for some sign of Custer as he flanked the village?
(3) If Reno was waiting for Benteen and a sign that Custer had launched his flanking attack, why didn’t Reno say that was the reason he didn’t continue his attack and instead set up a skirmish line? Reno was right in waiting for the support or the rest of the attack to materialize, but he couldn’t say that for he knew it would mean that he knew there was a plan of attack. Reno and Benteen had to say they had no orders except for Reno to move against the village and he would be supported. Reno could have moved into the timber but he could not have justified fleeing the timber. This would definitely have been a court-martial offense. Any statement would also mean that Benteen would have been sent orders, undoubtedly carried by Sgt. Major Sharrow, and that Benteen should hurry to the Little Big Horn and enter the attack in support of Reno.
(4) Timing, as I have tried to bring out in my writings, was a major cover-up at the Reno Court. There had to be a timing cover-up because of the following: Major Reno’s report after the battle that he “charged” to the bluff and met Captain Benteen at 2:30 p.m. The accepted version as brought out by Philbrick is 4 p.m. I wish Philbrick and other writers would answer the question asked Reno by General Rosser. Rosser: “You do not state, but I have the impression from some of the accounts sent in from the field, that you began your skirmish with the Indians about half past twelve to one o’clock, and that you recrossed the river and occupied the bluff about two o’clock. Now, to the reporter of the New York Herald you state that you made a reconnaissance in the direction of the Custer’s trail about five o’clock. The Indians appear to have withdrawn from your front as soon as you recrossed the river. Why then could you not have gone in pursuit of Custer earlier?”
I have never been able to figure out how most writers know there were cover-ups at the Reno Court, but they will not accept Reno’s and Custer’s orderlies as to the orders Custer gave or Reno received, and by inference were sent to Benteen. No, they are enlisted men and Reno said his orders were only to attack the Indian village and he would be supported by Custer whom he thought would be following him. Benteen said he didn’t receive any orders except to go to some unknown valley, and I guess sit there after he got there. Davern had said Reno’s order was that Benteen would be on his left. Benteen should have reached the Little Big Horn valley south and west of Ford A and when moving to aid Reno would have been on his left. Martin said Custer in his order to Reno said he was going down to the other end and drive the Indians. The whole regiment would then be aiding Reno and in Custer’s circling movement Benteen would be in the center.
Shots were heard from the Custer field soon after Reno’s troops had reached the ridge. Could the 4 o’clock time have come about because Reno and Benteen could not justify a wait of two and one half hours while Custer’s men were getting slaughtered? Benteen had orders to come to Custer’s aid. The five o’clock time was too well known and accepted to change it to 4 o’clock, so the 2:30 time was changed to 4 o’clock. Going to check on Lt. Hodgson’s body would not have sufficed, nor would attempting to string out the time the packs arrived since there were too many reports that ammunition packs were not that far behind Benteen. However, changing the meeting to 4 o’clock, along with the need to take care of the wounded, waiting for the packs, and then moving at five o’clock, could be accepted. Changing the 2:30 time to 4 o’clock meant that earlier officer’s times had to be changed and enlisted men’s and Indians’ ignored.
Orders, timing, and sightings were cover-ups at the Reno Court of Inquiry that were necessary to prevent Reno and Benteen from court-martials, and protect the Army’s good name. I won’t get into the “accepted” picture of how the “attack minded” Custer, at a time when the Indian village was in a state of panic and the need to coordinate his attack with Reno’s was essential, is sitting around Medicine Tail Coulee, feinting at the Indians, waiting for Benteen, having conferences, and planning strategy.
I guess when I read accounts of the battle I’m still too concerned, and it is hard for me not to express my opinion. Although I have been critical of other writers, I know without their interviews and writings I could not have formed my views of the battle.
Compiled By Michael L. Nunnally ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
Before the smoke could clear at the Little Bighorn a great number of men claimed to be the only survivor of Custer’s command. The claims lasted from the 1870s well into the 1930s. Over 200 men made claims of being a Custer scout or last messenger but all were proven to be frauds. The newspapers of the day ran hundreds of such stories. Most of the accounts are complete flights of fantasy and offer no documentation to support their claim. Some of the men and their fanciful tales have believers to this day and have entered the realm of Little Big Horn folklore. Here are just a few:
Henry Benner- Benner said he escaped the last stand by riding through Indian lines on Custer’s “fast horse” to Major Reno who was “sixty-five miles away.” The Seventh, he said, was ambushed in a “narrow canyon.”
Charles L. Berg- “Captain” Charles Berg claimed to be the first person to discover the Custer Battlefield, a claim which was made by over two dozen other men and Calamity Jane.
Joe Blonger- Blonger (Belonger) (1847-1933) Claimed he missed the Battle of the Little Big Horn because there weren’t enough horses to go around. He said he arrived on the battlefield after the massacre and questioned the Indian children about what really happened. The Indian children also told him who killed Custer, a secret he only shared with family members. Blonger was good friends with Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Cochise and Wild Bill Hickock. He also scouted with Buffalo Bill. The Apaches called Blonger “Joe straight tongue.” Died 1933 Seattle, WA.
Billy Boutwell- According to Boutwell he and his fellow prospectors witnessed Custer and his men being ambushed in a narrow canyon. Boutwell said his fellow prospectors were killed and he made his way to a small settlement where he was nursed back to health.
William J. Carlyle- Claimed to be the “only living white man that saw the fight” where he witnessed Custer fall with a bullet in his breast. Died in Boston, Massachusetts.
Alfred Chapman- (?-1941) A Buffalo Bill look-alike Chapman claimed he was a scout for Custer and was captured by Indians and forced to watch the slaughter of Custer and his command. Chapman was more of a showman than the rest and appeared as himself in the 1915 silent motion picture Custer’s Last Scout and made numerous appearances at carnivals and fairs signing autographs and showing off the “bullet that killed Custer.” Died Portland, Oregon 1941.
S.B. Clark- Claimed to have been captured by Indians and forced to watch the destruction of Custer and his troops.
Jack Cleybourne- Said he had fought alongside the general at the Battle of the Washita and also the Little Bighorn where he was the only survivor.
Charles M. Davis- Wounded in both legs Davis escaped the last stand and fought his way through the Indians to Reno.
William Theodore Dugard- (1864-1937) Dugard claimed to be one of Custer’s ‘Mississippi Scouts.” Unfortunately Dugard was only twelve years old at the time of the battle and Custer had no “Mississippi Scouts.” During his lifetime Dugard was somewhat of a celebrity in his hometown of Tupelo, Miss., and played organ from the back of a wagon during parades. Buried Tupelo, Miss. In 2001 Mississippi erected a military tombstone with the inscription- “Custer Co. -Mississippi Scouts- Battle of the Little Bighorn .”
Harvey S. Faucett- Learned of the overwhelming number of Indians waiting for Custer and tried to warn him but Faucett’s horse died in the attempt.
Frank Finkel- (1854-1930) Finkel claimed to have escaped the last stand on a fast horse which carried him unconscious through the Indian lines. He then made his way to a remote cabin where he was nursed back to health from his wounds by two mysterious men. Finkel first made his claim in 1920 during a horseshoe tournament. No documentation exist to support his story although he still has his believers. The Frank Finkel Story: Possible Custer Survivor? by Dr. Charles Kuhlman relates Finkel’s claim. The subject of numerous books and articles. Buried Dayton, Washington.
Frank Fleck- Claimed he and 40 other men were left at the river due to “lame horses.” Fleck and his group were cut off and fought their own mini last stand with Fleck being the only survivor. When found wounded he was sent back to where the “women and children were.”
Thomas Frost- Claimed to be part of a relief force sent to rescue Custer.
Raymond Hatfield Gardner- (1845-1940) “Arizona Bill” Gardner claimed he entered Sitting Bull’s camp disguised as a “Canadian Indian.” He tried to warn Custer but was accused of treason by the general. In the 1930’s Arizona Bill had his own radio show in San Antonio, Texas. Documentation signed by Gen. Nelson Miles and Buffalo Bill exists supporting Bill’s tale although some researchers question the authenticity of the signatures. Died 1940, buried Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, San Antonio.
Charles Hayward- In his tale Hayward said he was the last man left alive after Custer and his men were killed and attempted to escape on Comanche but was captured and held prisoner until 1900 when he escaped his Indian captors.
Billy Heath- (1848-1891) A Pennsylvania miner, Heath told his family he had survived the last stand and was listed on the battlefield monument as “killed in action.” Other than the same name no evidence exists that supports the fable. The subject of a book Billy Heath: The Man Who Survived Custer’s Last Stand. Heath claimed to have been nursed back to health by a family named Ennis or Evans who were living in Sioux country. The story is similar to the Finkel tale but Heath’s fable is strictly “family oral tradition” since he left no written accounts behind. Heath died in 1891 and is buried in the Oddfellows Cemetery, Tamaqua, Pennsylvania.
Curly Hicks- Sent to Gen. Terry for reinforcements, Hicks escaped the battlefield by using two dead Indians as a shield. Hicks claimed he was the famed scout for Custer known as Curly.
John C. Lockwood- (1857-1928) Claimed to have survived the last stand. Subject of the 1966 book Custer Fell First: The Adventures of John C. Lockwood. Lockwood attended the 1926 Little Big Horn battle reunion and passed himself off as a veteran of the fight and appears in several photographs taken at the event. He was later dropped from membership in the Veterans of the Indian Wars Association for “unsubstantiated pretensions.” Lockwood had been a member of the Seventh Cavalry enlisting in August 1876, less than two months after the battle, but had no connection to the regiment at the time of the battle.
John A. Martin- A private in the Fifth Cavalry, Martin claimed he was the last messenger sent by Custer. John D. Martin (Giovanni Martini) of the Seventh Cavalry was the actual last messenger. Records indicate John A. was with the Fifth Cavalry over 250 miles away the day of the battle. John A. Martin is buried Oak Hill Cemetery, Plymouth, Indiana, with tombstone inscription: “Custer’s last messenger.” He wasn’t.
James Mannion- In one of the more outrageous tales Mannion says Custer attempted to lead his troops through a “gauntlet of 2,000 rifles.” His men failed to follow and Custer rode back and again attempted to lead his men through the 2,000 rifles but is trapped and dies with his men. Mannion said he was with Reno at the time although his name is listed nowhere in connection with the battle.
Willie McGee- (1857-?) Claimed Custer sent him and a bugler named Wagner for help during the battle. Wagner was killed and only McGee made it through to “General” Reno. Also claimed to be a Medal of Honor winner. Sentenced to eight years in Sing Sing prison in 1905 for killing his best friend in an argument over how to cook beef stew. During his murder trial a number of newspapers ran sympathetic stories on “Custer’s sole survivor’” which probably helped McGee receive only an eight year sentence for murdering his friend.
John McGrath- was an actual Seventh Cavalry veteran and survived the last stand by riding through Indian lines “disguised as an Indian, on an Indian pony.” Unfortunately McGrath’s enlistment ended in 1872 and he was living in North Carolina at the time of the battle.
Ben McIntosh- Claimed to be the Custer scout “Curley.” In his tall tale “Curley” Ben claimed he carried Custer’s body from the field to Mrs. Custer at Ft. Custer. Also claimed to be known as “Bloody Knife.” McIntosh claimed Custer died in his arms. “Curley Ben” was later sent to prison for raising cash for a fictious Indian school and pocketing the proceeds.
Robert Nixon- In 1927 Nixon claimed he was the first person to visit the Custer battlefield after the battle and saw Custer’s “severed head.”
D.H. Ridgeley- Claimed he witnessed the last stand and watched as Custer’s wounded were “burned at the stake.” One of the first sole survivor claims, his story was printed in the St. Paul Pioneer-Press less than three months after the battle in September of 1876. Ridgeley’s employer soon came forward and said Ridgeley was working for him at the time of the battle.
Ed Ryan- In 1950 Ryan wrote a book Me and the Black Hills in which he claimed to have served in the Seventh Cavalry under Custer. He was said to have appeared on an early Groucho Marx radio show in which he told his tale. The Chicago Daily News and Billings Gazette featured articles on the famous “sole survivor” in August of 1951. Ryan was later exposed to be 65, not the 95 he claimed. His hometown of Custer, South Dakota, labeled him the biggest liar in South Dakota.
Jay O. Spencer- Spencer claimed to have been in Custer’s ‘infantry’ during the battle of the Little Big Horn and survived the last stand by hiding in a nearby log. He applied for a pension over a period of several years but no records could be found of his service in the Seventh Cavalry. Spencer’s neighbor suggested he might have suffered from dementia.
Thomas Stowers- (1848-1933) Stowers was a member of B Company and an actual veteran of the Battle of the Little Big Horn and fought on Reno Hill. But his tombstone in Baxter, Tennessee, is inscribed “Sole Survivor of the Custer Massacre.” Stowers’ family oral tradition says he survived the last stand by hiding under a wagon or inside a large cooking pot.
Frank Tarbeaux- Tarbeaux claimed to have survived the last stand but was later exposed as a fraud. Tarbeaux changed his story to being a scout with Custer and being with troops nearby when the battle happened. This tale was believed by the public. A book written about Tarbeaux, The Autobiography of Frank Tarbeaux as told to Donald Henderson Clarke, was full of unbelievable adventures.
Charles L. Von Berg- Claimed to have carried messages for Custer and arrived on the battlefield after the battle was over.
Resources and Books
Boyes, William- No Custer Survivors or The Unveiling Of Frank Finkel. Booklet/pamphlet, 16 pages- Self published, 1977. Out of print. Boyes strips away the Finkel claim as nothing more than pure fable. At only sixteen pages a much sought after collectible by LBH enthusiasts.
Brininstool, E.A.- Was there a Custer Survivor? Hunter-Trader-Trapper magazine, April 1922. Brinistool researched a number of sole survivor claims and believed them all fraudulent.
Clarke, Donald Henderson- The Autobiography of Frank Tarbeaux. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1930. “The Great Adventurer’s” account of his days in the wild west hobnobbing with Custer, Hickock, Jesse James, Oscar Wilde and Calamity Jane by his side. Pure fiction. One of the first outlandish stories to be published in book form.
Dippie, Brian W.- Sole Survivor. True West Magazine, May-June 2001, pg.55. Dr. Dippie’s humorous look at a sole survivor convention.
Doran, Robert E.- The Man Who Got To The Rosebud. Research Review, The Journal of the Little Big Horn Associates, pg. 11. El Paso, TX: Winter 2002, Vol. 16, No. 1. Researcher Robert Doran’s argument on the Nathan Short-Rosebud saga.
Ellison, Douglas W. – Mystery Of The Rosebud. Self published, 2002. Ellison’s excellent expose on the Nathan Short fable. The small booklet picks apart testimonies on a number of so called eyewitnesses who claimed to have viewed Short’s body.
Ellison, Douglas W.- Sole Survivor: An Examination of the Frank Finkel Narrative. Aberdeen, South Dakota, North Plains Press. 1983.
Koster, John- Survivor Frank Finkel’s Lasting Stand. Wild West Magazine, June
2007, pg. 40. Frank Finkel rides again. More on the king of sole survivors.
Kuhlman, Dr. Charles- The Frank Finkel Story: Possible Custer Survivor? (edited by Michael J. Koury) Bellevue, NE: The Old Army Press 1968.
Nunnally, Michael L.-I Survived Custer’s Last Stand! Booklet/pamphlet 39 pages-Moonwolf books, self published, 2006. A listing of a number of “sole survivors” and other bizarre claims.
Nunnally, Michael L.-Sole Survivor: Fakes, Frauds, Impostors and the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Research Review, The Journal of the Little Big Horn Associates, pg. 25. Rockville, MD: Winter 2007, Vol. 21, No.1.
Ryan, J.C.(edited & compiled by)- Custer Fell First: The Adventures of John C. Lockwood. San Antonio, TX: The Naylor Company, 1966. Lockwood’s fantasy account of being Custer’s last messenger and also seeing the general killed.
Members of the Seventh Cavalry Who Later Lived and/or Died in the LBH Region (Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota) Including the Indian Scouts but Excepting Those Who Died in Other Battles
Joseph Bates, a private in M Company who participated in the valley and hilltop fights, died on September 13, 1893, in Sturgis, South Dakota, and was buried there in St. Aloysius Cemetery.
Black Calf, an Indian scout also known as Boy Chief, was with Reno’s Column. He died on June 4, 1922, in Armstrong, North Dakota.
James P. Boyle, a private in G Company who participated in the valley and hilltop fights and was wounded in the back, died on September 2, 1920, in Bismarck, North Dakota. He was buried on September 14, 1920, in St. Mary’s Cemetery, in Bismarck (Lot 8, Row 8, Block A).
Carl August Bruns, a private in E Company who was on detached service at the time of the battle, died on January 4, 1910, in Mandan, North Dakota.
John W. Burkman, also known as Old Neutriment, committed suicide on November 6, 1925, in Billings, Montana.
Michael C. Caddle, a sergeant in I Company who was on detached service at the time of the battle, died on May 1, 1919, in Bismarck, North Dakota.
Charles A. Campbell, a Private with Company B who was with the pack train and in the hilltop fight, died on August 2, 1906, in Bismarck, North Dakota.
John C. Creighton, also known as Charles Chesterwood, resided at 107 Seventh Avenue, Mandan, North Dakota, in 1927.
William Cross, a scout, died in July 1894 in Culbertson, Montana.
Curly, an Indian scout, died on May 21, 1923, at the Crow Agency.
William A. Curtiss, a sergeant with F Company, died on October 27, 1888, in Helena, Montana Territory.
John F. Donohue died on December 3, 1924, in Butte, Montana.
Peter Eixenberger, one of the musicians who stayed aboard the Far West, died on September 12, 1917, in Sykes, Montana, and is buried at St. Aloysius Cemetery in Sturgis, South Dakota.
James Flanagan, a sergeant in D Company who was in the hilltop fight, died on April 21, 1921, in Mandan, North Dakota.
Moses E. Flint, a packer with the Quartermaster staff, was with the pack train and in the hilltop fight. He died in 1902, presumably in South Dakota, and was buried at Spring Valley Cemetery in Pollock, South Dakota.
Harvey A. Fox, who was not at the battle, died on March 28, 1913, in Warm Springs, Montana.
Peter Gannon, who was not at the battle, died on June 12, 1886, at Fort Assinniboine, Montana Territory, where he was originally buried. He was reinterred on March 27, 1905, at the Custer Battlefield National Cemetery, Montana, in Section B, Site 1285.
Edward Garlick, First Sergeant in G Company, was on furlough at the time of the battle. He died on January 25, 1931, in Sturgis, South Dakota.
Goes Ahead, an Indian scout, died on May 31, 1919, at the Crow Agency and is buried in Custer Battlefield National Cemetery.
Hairy Moccasin died on October 9, 1922, in Lodge Grass, Montana, and was buried on October 11, 1922, in Saint Ann’s Cemetery in Lodge Grass, Montana.
Half Yellow Face died in 1879 at Fort Custer, Montana Territory.
John E. Hammon, a corporal in G Company who participated in the valley and hilltop fights, died on January 19, 1909, in Sturgis, South Dakota. He was buried in Bear Butte Cemetery, in Sturgis, South Dakota.
George B. Herendeen died on June 17, 1918, in Harlem, Montana.
Max Hoehn, a private in L Company who was on detached service at the time of the battle, died on January 6, 1911, in Sturgis, South Dakota. He was buried at St. Aloysius Cemetery in Sturgis.
Jacob Horner, a private in K Company who was on detached service at the time of the battle, died on September 21, 1951, in Bismarck, North Dakota.
John J. Keller died on February 8, 1913, in Butte, Montana.
Ferdinand Klawitter, a private in B Company who was on detached service at the time of the battle, died on May 17, 1924, in Nax, North Dakota.
John Lattman, a private in G Company who participated in the valley and hilltop fights, died on October 7, 1913, in Rapid City, South Dakota. He was buried in Elk Vale Cemetery which is east of Piedmont, South Dakota.
Little Sioux, an Indian scout who was with Reno’s column in the valley fight, died on August 31, 1933, in North Dakota.
John J. Mahoney, a private in C Company who was with the pack train and in the hilltop fight, died on July 27, 1918, in Sturgis, South Dakota and was buried at St. Aloysius Cemetery in Sturgis.
Samuel J. McCormick, a private in G Company who was in the valley and hilltop fights, died on September 10, 1908, in Fort Meade, South Dakota. He was buried in Bear Butte Cemetery in Sturgis, South Dakota.
Thomas F. McLaughlin, a sergeant in H Company who was wounded in the hilltop fight, died on March 3, 1886, in Jamestown, North Dakota.
Jan Moller, who was also known as James Moller, was a private in H Company who was wounded in the hilltop fight. He died on February 23, 1928, in Deadwood, South Dakota, and was buried there in the Mount Moriah Cemetery.
Lansing A. Moore died on July 27, 1931, in Rawlins, Wyoming.
William O’Mann, a private in D Company who was in the hilltop fight, died on April 26, 1901, in Fargo, North Dakota.
Daniel Newell, a private in M Company who participated in the valley and hilltop fights and was wounded, died on September 23, 1933, in Hot Springs, South Dakota. He was buried in Bear Butte Cemetery in Sturgis, South Dakota.
John Pahl, a sergeant in H Company who was wounded in the hilltop fight, died on January 28, 1924, in Hot Springs, South Dakota and was buried in Bear Butte Cemetery in Sturgis, South Dakota.
James Pym died on November 29, 1893, in Miles City, Montana.
Michael Reagan, who was not at the battle, died in 1917, in Columbia Falls, Montana.
Red Bear, who was also known as Good Elk, was an Indian scout who was in the valley fight. He died on May 7, 1934, in Nishu, North Dakota.
William Sadler, a private in D Company who was on detached service at the time of the battle, died on November 12, 1921, in Bismarck, North Dakota.
Hiram Wallace Sager may have homesteaded in the Black Hills of South Dakota in 1887. See http://ftp.rootsweb.com/pub/usgenweb/sd/campbell/land/camp-st.txt.
James W. Severs died about 1912 in Rock Springs, Wyoming.
Walter Scott Sterland, a private in M Company who was on detached service at the time of the battle, died on August 27, 1922, in Bismarck, North Dakota.
Strikes the Bear, an Indian scout who crossed the river with Reno’s Column, died on June 7, 1929, in Ree, North Dakota.
Strikes Two, an Indian scout who crossed the river with Reno’s Column, died on September 8, 1922, in Elbowood, North Dakota.
Peter Thompson, a private in C Company who was wounded in the hilltop fight and later awarded the Medal of Honor, died on December 3, 1928, in Hot Springs, South Dakota. He was buried in the Masonic Section of the West Cemetery in Lead, South Dakota.
James Weeks died on August 26, 1877, on the Crow Agency in Montana Territory.
Henry Charles Weihe, who was also known as Charles White, was a sergeant in M Company who fought in the valley and hilltop fights and was wounded. He died on October 23, 1906, in Fort Meade, South Dakota, and was buried in the Old Post Cemetery at Fort Meade.
John S. Wells, a sergeant in E Company who was on detached service at the time of the battle, died on July 16, 1932, in Dickinson, North Dakota.
Adam Wetzel died on March 20, 1909, in Bozeman, Montana.
White Man Runs Him died on June 2, 1929, in Lodge Grass, Montana, and is buried at the Custer Battlefield National Cemetery on the Crow Agency, Montana.
White Swan died on August 12, 1904, on the Crow Agency, Montana.
Felix Villiet Vinatiere, the Seventh Cavalry’s Chief Musician, was not present at the battle. He died on December 15, 1891, in Yankton, South Dakota.
Charles A. Windolph died on March 11, 1950, in Lead, South Dakota. He is buried in the Black Hills National Cemetery in Sturgis, South Dakota.
James Wynn, a private in D Company who was in the hilltop fight, died on March 21, 1892, in Fort Yates, North Dakota.
Younghawk, an Indian scout who participated in the valley and hilltop fights, died on January 16, 1915, in Elbowood, North Dakota.
CUSTER’S LAST BAND
By Shebby Lee
On June 22, 1876, Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer confidently led his 7th Cavalry, several officers’ wives and assorted hangers-on out of Fort Abraham Lincoln near present-day Bismarck, North Dakota. With him was the regimental band, a sixteen-piece brass band mounted on matching white horses and led by Chief Musician Felix Vinatieri. They played “Boots and Saddles”, and then Custer’s favorite, the cheerful tune of “Garry Owen”, which would forever after be associated with the ill-fated 7th Cavalry and its demise.
Custer’s only concern was that the wily Sioux would escape before he could engage them in battle, but his spirits were high, and the entourage took on the air of a summer pleasure outing. Hunting and scouting parties detached themselves occasionally to canter across the prairie.
When the party reached the confluence of the Powder and Yellowstone, General Terry’s orders were explicit: the band was to turn back. Custer, taking one bugler and the handsome white horses with him, rode into an ambush. The band arrived back at the fort – on foot – in time for the frontier Fourth of July celebration.
Thus, the Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2002 and 2004.
The SUPER BOWL??
The place kicker for the New England Patriots football team at that time was a young man named Adam Vinatieri, the great-great-grandson of Felix. Adam’s talented toe not only drilled the game-winning field goal as time expired in the Big Game, but he kicked five game-winning field goals during the 2001 season to get them there, including three in overtime. According to Patriots’ statistics, Vinatieri is the most reliable field goal kicker in franchise history, connecting on 80% of his kicks. He scored 24 points during the 2001 post-season and is now the top Patriots scorer in post-season annals with 54 points. Not bad for a kid who couldn’t get drafted after graduation from South Dakota State University, even though he is the Jackrabbits’ all-time leading scorer!
Now sports fans….
What if Custer had defied his superior and taken the band to the Little Bighorn that blazing hot summer day in 1876?
William Baker, a/k/a William Bailey, born April 1850, Alexandria, Virginia
Frederick William Benteen, born August 24, 1834, Petersburg, Virginia
Christopher Criddle, born 1851, New Canton, Virginia
Benjamin C. Criswell, born February 9, 1849, Marshall County, (West) Virginia
Harry Criswell, born 1855, Marshall, (West) Virginia
Henry Harrison Davis, born January 20, 1846, Bellvernon, Virginia
Edmond P. Dwyer, born December 1850, Fairfax County, Virginia
William Etzler, born 1852, Wheeling, (West) Virginia
Thomas E. Meador, born 1851, Bedford County, Virginia
Albert Pilcher, born 1838, Parkersburg, Virginia
William C. Williams, born March 28, 1856, Wheeling, (West) Virginia
Jacob Adams, born June 25, 1852, Stark County, Ohio
Charles Clinton Barnett, born May 7, 1857, Camden, Ohio
James C. Bennett, born 1848, Shelby, Ohio
L. Edwin Bobo, born 1845, Franklin County, Ohio
George Brainard, born 1846, Brooklyn, Ohio
Hiram Erastus Brown, born December 1846, Mount Vernon, Ohio
Thomas J. Bucknell, born 1849, Cincinnati, Ohio
Charles Burkhardt, born 1846, Summerville, Ohio
James Calhoun, born August 24, 1845, Cincinnati, Ohio
Thomas Cox, born 1844, Cincinnati, Ohio
John C. Creighton, a/k/a Charles Chesterwood, born March 4, 1850, Massillion, Ohio*
Boston Custer, born October 31, 1848, New Rumley, Ohio
George Armstrong Custer, born December 5, 1839, New Rumley, Ohio
Thomas Ward Custer, born March 15, 1845, New Rumley, Ohio
David Edward Dawsey, born 1851, Belleville, Ohio
Alexander Downing, born 1845, New Madison, Ohio
William Dye, born 1850, Marietta, Ohio
Thomas J. Finnegan, born September 1, 1850, Hillsboro, Ohio
Isaac Fowler, born September 15, 1844, Darke County, Ohio
George H. Geiger, born 1843, Cincinnati, Ohio
Edward Settle Godfrey, born October 9, 1843, Kalida, Ohio
Thomas Eaton Graham, born November 20, 1831, Alton, Ohio
George W. Hammon, born 1852, Fulton County, Ohio
John E. Hammon, born December 4, 1857, Lynchburg, Ohio
Weston Harrington, born February 9, 1855, Alton, Ohio
Leonard A. Harris, born October 1851, Cincinnati, Ohio
George B. Herendeen, born November 28, 1846, Parkman Township, Geauga, Ohio
Adam Hetesimer, born 1847, Cincinnati, Ohio
Jacob Hetler, born August 2, 1852, Mansfield, Ohio
Stanton Hook, born 1845, Coshocton, Ohio
Rufus D. Hutchinson, born 1850, Butlersville, Ohio
Fremont Kipp, born October 17, 1856, Noble Hill, Noble County, Ohio
Andrew Knecht, a/k/a Knight, Knect, Knicht, born April 12, 1853, Cincinnati, Ohio
Frank Lauper, born 1852, Montgomery, Ohio
George Lell, born 1847, Hamilton County, Ohio
Jasper Marshall, born April 26, 1852, Spring Valley, Ohio
John McKee, born 1853, Meigs County, Ohio
John Morrison, born 1843, Zanesville, Ohio
Frank Neely, born 1850, Collinsville, Ohio
Jacob Noshang, born 1847, Hamilton County, Ohio
Miles F. O’Harra, born September 1851, Alton, Ohio
Henry W. Raichel, born Hamilton County, Ohio
Thomas H. Rush, born 1841, Greenville, Ohio
Christian Schlafer, born 1846, Cincinnati, Ohio
Crawford Selby, born June 5, 1845, Ashland County, Ohio
Michael Vincent Sheridan, born May 24, 1840, Ohio
William C. Slaper, born November 23, 1854, Cincinnati, Ohio
Levi Madison Thornberry, born February 3, 1853, Marietta, Ohio
Michael Thorp, born February 1843, Somerset, Ohio
Thomas S. Tweed, born 1853, North Liberty, Ohio
Cornelius Van Sant, born May 1850, Cincinnati, Ohio
Thomas Benton (or Bell) Weir, born September 28, 1838, Nashville, Ohio
John Weiss, born March 16, 1849, Cincinnati, Ohio
John S. Wells, born 1832, Rose, Ohio
Albert Whytefield, born 1846, Sandusky, Ohio
Pasavan Williamson, born 1847, Petersburg, Ohio
George A. Wilson, born 1839, Madison County, Ohio
Henry N. B. Witt, born December 10, 1852, Cincinnati, Ohio
* Creighton’s birthplace is also listed as Memphis, Tennessee.
Thanks to Philip Sheldon and his family for sharing the program for the 1898 Cadet Officers Dance held at the University of Wyoming in 1898 when Captain Charles A. Varnum was there.
Cadets signed up to dance with the young women (above). Charles Varnum and his wife were on the Reception Committee (below).
This item belonged to Philip’s grandmother Bessie, who was the daughter of George C. Crager, a well-known scout during the Indian Wars period. Bessie was born in May 1882, so she would have been almost sixteen at the time of the dance.
Bessie attended the dance with her mother, Mary Elizabeth Lee (“Mollie”) Willoughby Crager Schalk, whose marriage to Crager had ended in 1882. She married C. F. Schalk in 1888. However, she reverted to the name Crager in the mid-1920s and, upon her death in 1939, she was buried as Crager.
Mollie was the younger sister of Jim “Kid” Willoughby who was a headline performer with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Jim Kid probably made at least one show tour with his brother-in-law, George Crager.
Times and statements in bold are based on John S. Gray’s tables in Custer’s Last Campaign: Mitch Boyer and the Little Bighorn Reconstructed, compiled by Diane Merkel with comments (regular font) from members of the Little Bighorn History Alliance Message Boards with their sources in parentheses.
June 25, 1876
12:30: The main column left the Busby camp on a night march under Custer.
2:50: 1st Lieutenant Charles Varnum and scouts arrived at a pocket below the Crow’s Nest.
3:15: The main column arrived at Halt 1 on Davis Creek where it was still dark. Local time = MST – 13 minutes to allow for sun transit at 12:13 at Busby and Crow Agency, MT. On a clear, moonless night, the first streaks of day appear at 1:55 local time. A pocket watch like Wallace’s can be read at 2:45 AM. It is daylight at 3:00 (Reno Court of Inquiry [hereinafter RCOI]: Wallace, Moylan, Benteen). Visibility is clear to the horizon by 3:18 although you cannot read print until 3:30. (All based on personal observation from the divide.) Wallace’s Official Report stated the night march ended about 2:00 (Federal View, p. 65). Godfrey (diary, p. 10) stated they halted the night march about 2 o’clock. Herendeen (RCOI) stated they marched until probably 2:00. Peter Thompson (Magnusson, p. 95) stated, “As soon as the first faint streaks of daylight appeared, we moved into a grove where we were ordered to unsaddle and rest for several hours.”
3:40: Two Crows saw the Sioux village at the Little Bighorn for the first time. From accounts by Red Star and Little Sioux, this could have been as early as just after 3 AM. It would be easily visible by 3:00 local time (personal observation).
3:50: Varnum was awakened for the climb to the peak. This would have been no later than 3:15 since Varnum (Northwestern Fights and Fighters, p. 340) said he got to the Crow’s Nest about 2:30, slept 45 minutes, and was awakened when it was just daylight, probably closer to 3:00 AM.
4:00: Varnum and the scouts study the village in the Little Bighorn Valley.
5:00: Varnum and the scouts saw the breakfast smoke at the Halt 1 camp.
5:20: Varnum sent two Ree scouts with a note to Custer who was still at Halt 1. It was possible for Varnum to have sent the messengers significantly earlier; e.g., 4.30 AM. Varnum (Northwestern Fights and Fighters) said 4:45 or 5:00. Translated to local time, that is closer to 3:30, more likely since Girard and the Ree scouts said Custer got Varnum’s message at 4:00 or when the sun was just rising, 4:09 local time. Note that Gray’s use of “Halt 1″ can be/is somewhat confusing since Wallace uses “Halt 1″ to refer to the halt at the divide and “Halt 2″ to identify the halt over the divide when Benteen was sent to the left. I now think it possible Varnum was using HQ time so he sent the messenger at 3.40 AM. This fits with the messenger arriving as reported by the Rees as the sun was rising; i.e., 4.13 AM.
5:40: The Crows saw two Sioux west of the Divide.
6:20: Varnum led a sortie against the two Sioux.
6:40: Varnum returns to the Crow’s Nest, unsuccessful.
7:10: The scouts saw two Sioux crossing the divide.
7:20: The two Ree couriers arrived at the Halt 1 camp from the Crow’s Nest. The assumption that the main courier travelled so slowly (less than 3 mph) is very doubtful and the journey time could easily be half the two hours claimed here. Cf. note above: Girard and Rees put it at 4:00-4:09 (Girard, Once Their Home, p 263; Arikara Narrative, p 149).
7:30: Custer read Varnum’s note, indicating that a village had been spotted in the Little Bighorn Valley.
7:45: Sergeant Curtis left the Halt 1 camp on the back trail in search of a lost pack.
8:00: Custer’s Crow’s Nest party (Fred Girard, Bloody Knife, Red Star, Little Brave, and Bob Tailed Bull) left Halt 1 for the Crow’s Nest. If the above comments are correct, Custer could have departed at least one and possibly two hours earlier. I now think Custer rode round the camp before 5am to tell troop commanders that the column would not march at the standard 5 AM but to be ready by 8 AM. This would have been the time Custer expected to return from the Crow’s Nest. Custer departed at or soon after 5 AM for the Crow’s Nest and arrived there as reported by White Man Runs Him at 6 AM (Custer Myth, p 15). Varnum recalled that Custer arrived from the coffee camp with the column, not before it. Herendeen and Churchill made the departure from the early halt at 7:00 or 7:30 (RCOI). Donohue (Fatal Day, p. 20) thought the column left at 6:00. Remembered times are always earlier than Wallace’s official time. Edgerly (“Narrative,” Research Review, 1986, p 5) says George Custer went up to the Crow’s Nest about 9 AM, “when the column halted, the command having previously halted from 2 to 5, without unsaddling” (Herendeen in Custer Myth, p 262) “About nine o’clock on the morning of the 25th of June and the last day of our march Custer halted his troops and concealed them as well as he could. . . .[Then he went to the Crow’s Nest.] Custer was gone perhaps an hour or an hour and a half. . . .”
8:05: Custer’s party was spotted by two Sioux as seen from the Crow’s Nest. Varnum saw two Sioux meeting Custer’s party.
8:25: Curtis party sights Cheyennes rifling through the lost pack.
8:45: Command under Reno departed Halt 1 camp and moved toward the Crow’s Nest. I now think the column marched at 7.25 AM under Tom Custer and met the irate Custer on his return from the Crow’s Nest as he had ordered the column to stay put. (See various Girard accounts.)
9:00: Custer’s party arrived at the Crow’s Nest.
9:00+: Custer studied the valley and discussed the findings.
10:07: Custer and the scouts watched the command arrive at the Halt 2 camp on Davis Creek for concealment.
10:20: Custer’s party left the Crow’s Nest with Varnum’s party. Curtis’ party arrived at the Halt 2 camp and reported seeing the Cheyennes with the lost pack.
10:30: Custer and the scouts are met by Captain Thomas Custer with Sergeant Curtis’ news.
10:35: Custer-Varnum party arrived at the Halt 2 camp. Cheyennes were spying. There is some evidence (De Rudio, Hare via Camp) that Custer made a second visit to the Crow’s Nest. The time taken for this would not be more than 30 minutes if Halt 2 was near the Crow’s Nest.
10:50: At officer’s call, Custer decided they will attack. Benteen (RCOI) and Edgerly (Custer Myth, pp 216, 219) put officers’ call at 10:00, after Custer had been on the Crow’s Nest for about an hour (Research Review, 1986; see also Donohue in Fatal Day, pp 20-21). Herendeen very early, therefore very reliably, put it between 10:00-10:30 (Custer Myth, p. 280).
11:45: Command under Custer departed Halt 2 camp and moved down Davis Creek. This departure time assumes the command halted within 0.75 mile of the Divide. It is likely that they were actually at least twice as far as this since participants reported the column as being concealed in a ravine. This would pull forward the departure time by 15 minutes or so. Hare, DeRudio, and Varnum agreed that the column was halted 1/4 to 1/2 mile east of the divide.
Noon: Command passed the Crow’s Nest and crossed the Divide. There is substantial testimony that the time for this event was significantly earlier. From comments above, it is not impossible that it was.
12:05: Command at Halt 3; Custer assigned the battalions. This is Wallace’s Halt 2, about 1/2 mile west of the divide. McDougall stated (RCOI): “On June 25th, about 11 o’clock a.m., I reported to General Custer for orders. He told me to take charge of the pack train and act as rear guard.” If Wallace’s watch (itinerary) was set to HQ St. Paul time — and Godfrey said definitely, ”Our watches were not changed,” (RCOI) — Wallace’s 12:05 is approximately equal to 10:45 local time, within 15 minutes of McDougall’s recalled 11:00. cf. Friedman recalled time is accurate within one hour excluding the possibility of chance (Memory & Cognition 15.6, 1987, pp 518-20).
12:12: Custer-Reno battalions left the divide half to descend to Reno Creek. Benteen’s battalion left the divide halt on an off-trail scout to the left. It is unlikely that all three columns actually set off at precisely the same time, but the impact is only a few minutes.
12:32: The packtrain left the divide half on Custer’s trail.
1:20: Benteen’s battalion arrived at upper No-Name Creek and turned down it. On a high ridge ahead, 1st Lieutenant Francis Gibson found the Little Bighorn valley empty. Many years later. Lt Gibson expressed doubt that he had actually viewed the correct valley (see interview with Camp).
2:00: Custer-Reno battalions passed No-Name Creek. Reno was called to the right bank. Knipe and Ryan, as well as Reno, say Reno was called to the right bank near the Lone Tepee. This subtracts a mile from Gray’s itinerary.
2:15: Custer-Reno battalions passed the lone tepee. Custer’s battalion left down the right bank of Reno Creek. The scouts reported Sioux in the Little Bighorn Valley. Custer ordered Reno to lead out at a trot.
2:17: Boston Custer trots ahead of the packtrain to overtake Custer.
2:32: Benteen’s battalion arrived at Reno Creek, 1/4 mile above the mouth of No-Name Creek. They saw the packtrain 3/4 mile above. Boston Custer joins them. Benteen (Custer Myth, p 180) recalled being at the morass at 1:00 PM. Godfrey thought 2:00. Assuming Hutchins/Knipe are right about the location of the morass, it is near the mouth of the South Fork.
2:37: Benteen’s battalion reached the morass to water the horses. Boston Custer trotted on.
2:43: Custer’s battalion trotted to the flat right behind Reno. The scouts reported the Sioux were alarming the village. Reno was ordered to charge taking Adjutant William W. Cooke. Custer sent two scouts to the bluff who joined Reno.
2:45: Boston Custer passed the lone tepee.
2:47: At the North Fork, Reno’s battalion crossed to the left bank of Reno Creek.
2:51: Custer’s battalion made a fast walk to the North Fork and halted to water.
2:53: Reno’s battalion crossed to the left bank of the Little Bighorn River at Ford A where it halted to water the horses and reform. The troops and the scouts saw the Sioux attacking.
2:55: Cooke left to report to Custer.
2:57: Benteen’s battalion departed the morass as the packtrain arrived. The packtrain halted to water and close up.
3:01: Cooke reported the Sioux were attacking Reno. Custer’s battalion started down the right bank of the Little Bighorn River, leaving the north fork of Reno Creek.
3:03: Reno’s battalion left Ford A and started its charge down the left bank of the Little Bighorn River. If Reno crossed Reno Creek near the Lone Tepee at 2:00 according to Wallace’s watch, he was about 3-3.5 miles from Ford A. The column proceeded at a trot or “slow gallop” for 15 minutes, again according to Wallace. This would cover about 2 miles at 7.5-8 mph. Wallace said Reno was ordered to attack about 2:15. He took the gallop and covered the remaining mile to the river in about 5 minutes (gallop 9-11 mph in Upton, 1 mile in 6 minutes according to Cooke) and crossed at Ford A at 2:20 in Wallace’s recollection. Using Anders’/ Graham’s 1 hour 20 minute difference between local time and official HQ time, then Reno crossed Ford A near 1:00, consistent with recollections of Girard, Porter, Knipe, and Taylor. Gray added 43 minutes and at least two miles between Reno’s crossing of the creek and fording the Little Big Horn.
3:05: Reno’s battalion saw Custer or the scouts on the right bank bluff.
3:10: Pony captors leave the Reno charge to capture Sioux herd. Hare (Custer in ’76, p. 65) said he and the Rees rode down the valley while Reno was watering the horses (i.e., crossing river?) and the Rees took off from him about a mile down river. William Jackson (William Jackson, His True Story, p.135) said scouts rode out ahead of Reno and turned straight down valley.
3:12: Benteen’s battalion walked past the lone tepee.
3:13: Reno’s battalion saw Custer’s battalion at Reno Hill. Custer’s battalion saw Reno charge and the village.
3:15: Sgt. Daniel Kanipe left for Capt. Frederick Benteen and the packtrain.
3:17: The packtrain left the morass.
3:18: Reno’s battalion halted and formed a skirmish line. They saw Custer’s battalion on the bluffs, disappearing. Custer’s battalion passed Sharpshooter Ridge and entered Cedar Coulee. Reno’s attack/formation of the skirmish line occurred about midday, probably 1:00 PM.
3:20: Little Sioux (Ree), Strikes Two (Ree), Red Star (Ree), Boy Chief (Ree), One Feather (Ree), Bull Stands in Water (Ree), and Whole Buffalo (Sioux) diverged from Reno’s charge and drove captured Sioux ponies up the bluff. They were joined there by seven stragglers who lagged behind on Custer’s trail and never crossed the Little Bighorn: Soldier (Ree), Stabbed (Ree), Bull (Ree), White Eagle (Ree), Red Wolf (Ree), Strikes the Lodge (Ree), and Charging Bull (Ree). If they left the column at 3:10 (above), how could they diverge from Reno’s charge at 3:20?
3:23: Custer’s battalion arrived at the bend of Cedar Coulee and halted.
3:24: Custer, his officers, Mitch Boyer, and Curley left the bend on a sidetrip to Weir Peak.
3:26: Three Crows left the halted command at the bend of Cedar Coulee (off-trail). Goes Ahead Tepee Book (2.6 June 1916) p.604 says scouts were told to make their escape at the trenches of the Reno-Benteen site.
3:28: Custer’s party arrived at Weir Peak and saw the village and Reno skirmishing.
3:28.5: The three Crows halted on the bluff above Weir Peak.
3:30: DeRudio saw Custer’s party at Weir Point. Custer’s party saw the concealed route to Ford B and the village. Not possible to identify individual and/or clothing on Weir from valley position. Who DeRedio saw remains open to question.
3:31: Custer and officers left Weir Peak to return to the command. The Arikara were fired on by the last of Custer’s column as it was disappearing over Weir (on the eastern edge), crossed Kanipe’s route, and encountered stragglers left behind Custer’s column (Custer in ’76, pp 180-1; Arikara Narrative, pp 115-6).
3:32: The packtrain passed the lone tepee.
3:32.5: Boston Custer passed Reno Hill. The Reno fight would have been visible for the next five minutes.
3:33: Reno withdrew the battalion into the timber. The three Crows saw Reno’s skirmish, fired at the Sioux, and left.
3:34: Custer returned to the halt at the bend from Weir Peak. Trumpeter John Martin left Custer’s battalion at the bend of Cedar Coulee for Benteen. Custer started down Cedar Coulee.
3:36: Pony captors overtook and passed Sergeant Kanipe.
3:38: John Martin met Boston Custer at the head of Cedar Coulee.
3:39: The three Crows halted, had a drink in the Little Bighorn River, and captured five ponies.
3:40: John Martin saw Reno’s battalion fighting in the timber.
3:40:5: Benteen’s battalion met the Rees driving the Sioux ponies.
3:42: Sergeant Daniel Kanipe meets Benteen’s battalion with a verbal message from Custer.
3:45: Little Sioux (Ree), Strikes Two (Ree), Red Star (Ree), Boy Chief (Ree), One Feather (Ree), Bull Stands in Water (Ree), Whole Buffalo (Sioux), Soldier (Ree), Stabbed (Ree), Bull (Ree), White Eagle (Ree), Red Wolf (Ree), Strikes the Lodge (Ree), and Charging Bull (Ree) drove the herd of Sioux ponies back to the packtrain and halted. Pretty Face (Ree) was with the packs until this time.
3:46.5: Custer’s battalion halted at the mouth of Cedar Coulee.
3:48: The packtrain met Kanipe who had Custer’s message.
3:49: Boston Custer overtakes Custer’s battalion at the mouth of Cedar Coulee with news. The three Crows continued upriver.
3:52: Black Fox (Ree) was at the bluffs and joined the three Crows who were given a Sioux pony.
3:53: Reno ‘s battalion began its retreat upstream. Girard (RCOI) puts this about 2:00. His watch, giving the time of sunrise near 4:00 AM local time and full dark at 9:00 PM, reflects local time fairly closely. Additionally, Girard’s watch times closely match the captured Rosebud watch, timing the entire fight from skirmish line to the surround on Reno Hill from 1:00-4:00. It is, per Hardorff, extremely unlikely that Crook, who was headquartered in Omaha, should have set his command watches to San Francisco time. HQ is where the general is, and the general had been in the field (Douglas, Wyoming, approximates HQ) for more than a year. HQ time is what the general says it is. Why set watches an hour and a half off daybreak or noon?
3:55: Rees switched to fresh Sioux ponies and started back to Reno. Custer’s battalion saw signals by Mitch Boyer and Curley on Weir Ridge.
3:56.5: Custer’s battalion started down Medicine Tail Coulee.
3:58: Benteen’s battalion met Trumpeter John Martin at the flat where they heard firing. The three Crows passed Reno Hill and saw Reno’s retreat.
4:00: Reno’s battalion retreats across the Little Bighorn River. Bob-tail Bull (Ree) and Little Brave (Ree) had been killed on the east bank by this time.
4:02: Benteen’s battalion took Custer’s trail at the North Fork.
4:04: Custer’s battalion halted in Medicine Tail Coulee where Boyer and Curley joined them.
4:04:5: The packtrain was overtaken by the Rees who were returning to Reno Hill.
4:05: Young Hawk’s party was trapped on the east bank bottom by the Sioux and fought. Herendeen’s party scrambled back to the timber from the retreat.
4:06: Benteen’s battalion saw Reno’s retreat at the knoll and halted.
4:08: Yates’ battalion (Companies F and E, off-trail) left the separation halt down Medicine Tail Coulee. Custer’s battalion (Companies C, I, and L) left the separation halt north out of Medicine Tail Coulee.
4:10: Benteen’s battalion met three Crows and one Ree and left the halt. Reno’s battalion climbed the bluffs obliquely to Reno Hill. William Baker (1/2 Ree), William Cross (Ree, 1/2 Sioux), Red Bear (Ree horse herder), White Cloud (Sioux rear guard), Ma-tok-sha (Sioux), and Caroo (Sioux) arrived at Reno Hill. Red Bear and White cloud left to join the pony captors. Herendeen’s party met 12 troopers who had been left in the timber.
4:15: Red Bear and White Cloud met three Crows and Black Fox and halted to await the return of the Crows.
4:16: Custer’s battalion arrived on Luce Ridge and halted on the defensive position.
4:18: Yates’ battalion arrived at Ford B. Light firing over the Little Bighorn began. Custer’s battalion saw and heard the firing.
4:20: Benteen’s battalion reached Reno Hill and joined Reno’s battalion. Three Crows and Black Fox arrived. The three Crows left to go downstream, passing Reno Hill, to find Reno’s two Crows. Custer’s battalion saw the Sioux coming up Medicine Tail Coulee to attack. I think the Gray time of 4:20 for Benteen on Reno Hill is completely wrong, and the time to be used is either 2:30 PM as per the Official Army Report or 3:45 PM which was Wallace’s HQ time estimate based on his testimony at RCOI, which he miscalculated as being 4:00 PM. Gray’s understanding of the time of events by this stage is so wrong that it is not really possible to comment further. There is no primary source evidence to support Gray’s 4:20 PM for this meeting.
4:23: Yates’ battalion crossed Deep Coulee and arrived on the cutbank unopposed. Custer’s battalion saw Yates start up the west rim of Deep Coulee.
4:25: Red Bear and White Cloud left for Reno Hill when the Crows failed to return. Custer’s battalion pinned down the Sioux with heaving firing.
Young Hawk’s party and Herendeen’s party heard heavy Custer firing downstream. Reno left in search of Hodgson’s body.
4:27: The packtrain halted at the flat to close up. Mathey sighted smoke. Custer’s battalion left Luce Ridge to meet Yates downstream.
4:30: Black Fox arrived at Reno Hill. Red Bear and White Cloud arrived for the second time. Young Hawk’s party and Herendeen’s party saw the Sioux leave the upper valley. The three Crows arrived at Sharpshooter Hill and heard Custer’s battalion firing.
4:32: Little Sioux, Strikes Two, Red Star, Boy Chief, One Feather, Bull Stands in Water, Whole Buffalo, Soldier, Stabbed, Bull, White Eagle, Red Wolf, Strikes the Lodge, Charging Bull, and Pretty Face returned to Reno Hill with the ponies from the lone tepee and were greeted by Red Bear and White Cloud. Custer’s battalion arrived at Nye-Cartwright Ridge.
4:33: Yates’ battalion ascended the west rim of Deep Coulee. The Sioux attacked its flanks.
4:38: Custer’s battalion fired at the Sioux on their left flank while negotiating a crossing of upper Deep Coulee.
4:40: Three Crows arrived at Reno Hill, reporting to Red Star that two Crows were killed.
4:45: Young Hawk’s party left for Reno Hill. Three Crows left for their home village.
4:46: Yates’ battalion fought on foot to the reunion point. Custer’s battalion joined Yates.
4:47: The packtrain left the flat and saw the troops on Reno Hill.
4:50: Reno returned from his search for Hodgson and talked with Varnum. Curley left Custer’s battalion for the mouth of the Bighorn.
4:52: Reno dispatches 2nd Lieutenant Luther Hare to speed up the ammunition mules.
4:55: The sound of Custer’s volleys prompted Capt. Thomas B. Weir to ask to move downstream.
4:57: The packtrain was at the North Fork and took Custer’s trail.
5:00: Young Hawk (Ree), Forked Horn (Ree), Red Foolish Bear (Ree), and Half Yellow Face (Crow) arrived at Reno Hill after being trapped on the east bank. White Swan (Crow) and Goose (Ree) who had been wounded and trapped on the east bank arrived on Reno Hill. They met Varnum and Reno.
5:02: The packtrain met Lieutenant Hare who had orders for the ammunition packs. Reno ordered Varnum to bury Hodgson, but they were awaiting tools.
5:05: Weir and Company D departed Reno Hill in search of Custer.
5:10: Herendeen’s party noticed that the heavy firing diminished, and they left with 12 troopers.
5:10-12: Custer’s last heavy firing was heard on Reno Hill.
5:12: 2nd Lieutenant Hare arrived on Reno Hill in advance of the ammunition mules.
5:15: Reno dispatched 2nd Lieutenant Hare to the north after Weir with orders to contact Custer.
5:19: Two ammunition mules arrived with tools.
5:21: Varnum left to bury Hodgson.
5:22.5: Benteen departed Reno Hill with Companies H, K, and M to join Weir.
5:25: McDougall, Company B, and Mathey arrived with the packtrain. Weir’s Company D arrived at Weir Ridge and halted. Both Companies B and D saw that the Custer fight has ended.
5:29: Herendeen’s party met Varnum’s burial party.
5:30: The Ree horse herders left Reno Hill for the Powder River. The Ree rear guard left to join the Weir advance party.
5:32: Herendeen’s party met the Ree rear guard on the Weir advance.
5:32.5: Hare left Weir Ridge to report to Reno.
5:35: George B. Herendeen, who had been left in the timber, arrived at Reno Hill. Benteen and Companies H, K, and M arrived at Weir Ridge and halted. All saw the Sioux coming to attack.
5:35+: Herendeen interpreted for Half Yellow Face and Reno.
5:40: Reno and his orderly left to join the Weir advance.
5:42.5: Benteen and Company H left Weir Ridge to find Reno. Hare met and joined the Reno party.
5:43: Varnum returned from his burial mission and joined Company A.
5:47.5: Benteen and Company H met the Reno party and halted for 10 minutes during which time they conferred. Hare left the halt for van with Reno’s retreat order. The impedimenta left Reno Hill for the Weir advance.
5:50: Hare arrived at Weir Ridge and joined Company K. Companies D, K, and M left Weir Ridge for Reno Hill.
5:52.5: Companies A, B, G, and the packtrain left to join the Weir advance. Reno, Benteen, and Company H left the halt for Reno Hill.
5:55: The rear guard, chased by the Sioux, passed Reno Hill while heading for the Powder River.
5:57.5: Reno, Benteen, and Company H met the impedimenta and ordered it back.
6:00: Reno, Benteen, and Company H arrived at Reno Hill.
6:02.5: Companies D, M, A, B, G and the packtrain arrived at Reno Hill.
6:10: Godfrey, Hare, and Company K, covering the retreat, arrived at Reno Hill and covered the rear.
6:17: The horse herders passed the lone tepee and slowed down.
6:43: The rear guard passed the lone tepee and slowed down.
7:47: The horse herders saw that the “sun touches hills.”
8:13: The rear guard was six miles beyond the lone tepee.
8:30?: The horse herders heard shots ahead and a pursuit behind them. They lost the trail. The rear guard experienced the final attack by the pursuing Sioux.
8:47: The rear guard passed the divide “before dark.”
9:00: The evening battle at Reno Hill ended at dark.
9:17: The horse herders halted to water, then crossed the divide “in dark.”
11:45: The rear guard passed the Rosebud (Busby).
12:04: The horse herders passed Rosebud (Busby) “at midnight.”
4:00: The rear guard passed Lame Deer Creek “at daylight.”
4:19: The horse herders arrived at Lame Deer Creek “at daylight” and camped.
5:15: The rear guard arrived at the mouth of the Rosebud “in evening” and camped.
8:00: The horse herders left their camp “at sundown.”
Time? Fred F. Gerard and William Jackson (Ree, 1/4 Blackfoot), who had been left in the timber, arrived at Reno Hill.
8:00: Black Fox overtook the rear guard at “8 A.M. breakfast.”
11:35: The horse herders arrived at the mouth of the Rosebud.
5:30: The rear guard camped for the night at the Tongue River.
7:05: The horse herders camped for the night just short of the Tongue River.
2:00: The rear guard arrived at the Powder River base camp
7:00: The horse herders arrived at the Powder River base camp.