Survivors in Bighorn Folklore

 

Custer Survivors in Little Bighorn Folklore

Compiled By Michael L. Nunnally, 1948-2010

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 BlongerBlonger (Belonger) (1847-1933) Claimed he missed the Battle of the Little Bighorn 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, 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.

While the horse Comanche is considered the only real survivor from Custer’s command over thirty cavalry mounts survived the battle. Over fifteen were taken from American Horse’s camp, several were recovered from Sitting Bull’s camp by Northwest Mounted Police in Canada and some were offered for trade by Indians at Fort Custer. Some accounts say one dog also survived the battle.

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. Also, Chapter 11 of Troopers with Custer;: Historic incidents of the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

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 Liars. 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.

Those Who Later Lived Near the Battlefield

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

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.

7th Cavalry Band

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?

Members of the Seventh Cavalry Born in Virginia

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

Members of the Seventh Cavalry Who Were Born in Ohio

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.

Early History of the Battlefield

Early History of the Custer Battlefield

and Park Superintendents, 1893 – 1958

by Michael L. Nunnally

In the years following the 1876 battle, the Custer Battlefield began a rich history of its own. The battlefield languished for a number of years until 1893 when A.N. Grover was appointed as the park’s first superintendent and guardian. Grover and a number of his early fellow superintendents faced a number of hardships in the wild and remote area of Montana. Lack of running water, shelter and the haunting isolation were the most common complaints. A great deal of praise must go to these early superintendents, known among the Crows as the “ghost herders,” and their families for their contributions to the National Park Service. Most of the information contained here comes from Don Rickey, Jr.‘s History of Custer Battlefield published in 1967. Dr. Rickey served as area historian at the park from 1955 to 1960.

1876: The Battle of the Little Bighorn.

1877: Reburial of soldiers and removal of officers.

1879: Cordwood monument built on Custer Hill. Custer Battlefield becomes a National Cemetery.

1881: Burial of Fort Phil Kearney dead on Custer Hill. Granite monument erected on Custer Hill.

1886: The Tenth Reunion of the battle drew a handful of notables including Capt. Frederick Benteen and son, Capt. Thomas McDougall, Dr. Porter, Capt . Edward Godfrey, Curley and Gall.

1890: Marble markers placed for locations of U.S. Troops.

A. N. Grover: July 11, 1893 to April 24, 1906. The first park superintendent A.N. Grover was a retired military man. With his wife and daughter in tow Grover assumed the first superintendent job at the battlefield in 1893 and was faced with extremely harsh living conditions residing in a tent until a temporary house could be built. Upon arriving at his new position Grover learned that the superintendent’s chief duty appeared to be keeping a fragile peace between local ranchers and local Crow Indians who were constantly at odds with each other over cattle herds which roamed free in the area and the timber which bordered the battlefield on the Little Bighorn River. Cattle had to be constantly herded off the national cemetery and the problem continued to plague a number of subsequent superintendents.

1894: Stone house built for custodian storage.

W. H.H. Garrett: April 25, 1906 to March 24, 1909.

Oscar Wright: March 25, 1909 to July 27, 1910. In 1910 Superintendent Wright set a stone marker for Lt. Porter whose body was never found. Wright had no evidence on the location of Porter’s death and simply chose a random spot for its location. Wright also set stone markers for Lt. Hodgson and Lt. Sturgis. Numerous questions from tourists made Wright realize that an official version of the battle was needed. “…a definite and accurate account of the Custer massacre…is desired at this place, as it would explain to visitors the facts connected with this historic event…I find nothing official in this office to guide or instruct a Superintendent intelligently along this line.”

G.W. Thomas: July 28, 1910 to June 15, 1912.

James McGowan (Acting): June 16, 1912 to July 18, 1912. McGowan acted as interim superintendent until Daniel Dommitt arrived to take over the position.

Daniel Dommitt: July 19, 1912 to December 13, 1913. Dommitt was a retired military man who had served in the 1876 campaign and had first viewed the battlefield several days after the battle when he arrived with the Terry-Gibbon column. Like his predecessors he complained of the hardships and isolation of the park and was at constant war with relic hunters and vandals who were constantly at work chipping away at the stone makers and monument. The Custer marker had to be replaced several times and a large number of other markers were severely damaged and had to eventually be replaced. Several photographs taken at around this time period show the severity of the problem.

Eugene Wessinger: December 20, 1913 to August 22, 1929. During his sixteen year tenure at the park Wessinger dealt with a number of problems including the continuing problem of vandalism to the stone markers which were being chipped away as souvenirs at an alarming rate. In 1915 Wessinger recommended to his superiors that “…a neat iron fence, high enough to keep anybody out, be paced around the markers of Custer’s last stand.” In a letter to Elizabeth Custer in 1924 Wessinger stated that the summer attendance at the battlefield was “about 10,000 people.” In December 1923, Senator Walsh of Montana introduced a bill in congress calling for the building of a structure for the comfort of the public.

Ever anxious to please the increasing tourists, or perhaps as a diversionary action to stop the vandalism of the markers, Wessinger began the practice of seeding the battlefield with empty cartridge shells which were taken from the Ft. Custer firing range. The practice continued for a number of years. In 1924 Gen. Charles King sought to have former Private Theodore Goldin appointed as the park superintendent but his action was blocked by General Edward Godfrey who believed Goldin had made several deliberate false statements about his role in the battle. During Wessinger’s administration the battlefield hosted two of the largest events in the park’s history, the 1916 celebration and the 1926 event which celebrated the park’s 50th Anniversary.

1925: Mrs. Thomas Beaverheart, the daughter of an Indian named Vehoenxne who was killed in the battle, made a request for a marker for her father to be placed upon the battlefield. The request went unanswered.

1926 Fiftieth Anniversary: No other event in the park’s history attracted such a large crowd and gathering of actual participants than the 1926 Anniversary and reunion. The crowd was estimated at over 50,000 people for the three day event. Both soldier and Indian veterans of the battle gathered for one last meeting of the famous battle. Former Sioux warriors shook hands with former cavalrymen led by Gen. Edward Godfrey. Also in attendance were scores of veterans and Indians from other Indian wars and battles. Some of the more notables in attendance were: Army veterans of the battle– Charles Windolph, Gen. Edward Godfrey, W.E. Morris, William Slaper, Peter Thompson, Theodore Goldin and Daniel Newell. Indian veterans of the battle: White Bull, Shoot Walking, Young Hawk, Little Moon, Red Tomahawk, Wm. Wolf Moon, Two Moon, White Moon, Big Beaver, Black Crain, Bob Tail Horse, Powder Face, Big Nose, White Horse, Black Whetstone, Chief Little Wolf, Beaver Heart, Dog Friend, Pine, Hollow Wood, Limpy, Sun Bear, Kills Night, Just Walks. Also: L.A. Huffman-post photographer for Miles, Thomas LeForge-scout. The 1926 event also featured the reburial of a soldier christened the “unknown soldier.” A bizarre footnote to the event was the appearance of W.C. Lockwood, a man who had posed for years as a veteran of the battle. Lockwood managed to acquire a veteran’s badge and appears in several photographs standing with veterans of the battle.

Joseph Morrow: December 2, 1929 to January 22, 1930. Morrow was unable to endure the isolation factor of the area and resigned after one year.

Alex Naylor (Acting): January 23, 1930 to August 3, 1930. Naylor was appointed on an interim basis to feel the vacancy created by Morrow.

1930: The Ft. Phil Kearney burials located on Custer hill were moved to the Custer Cemetery.

Victor A. Bolsius: August 4, 1930 to June 8, 1934. Notable achievements during Bolsius’s tenure included the planting of 13 trees in 1931 and 25 red cedar and 150 blue spruce trees in 1933. Although trees had been planted in preceding years it was under Bolsius that the Custer Cemetery took on its present day tree-lined appearance.

1931: The iron fence requested under Wessinger’s administration was finally erected on Custer Hill.

1932: Lt. John J. Crittenden’s body which had remained buried where he fell during the battle was moved to the cemetery to make room for a road to accommodate the growing number of tourists.

Harvey A. Olson: June 9, 1934 to July 14, 1938 Under Olson the park’s first pamphlet was printed (6 pages) and Battlefield Ridge road was graded. Olson encouraged William White 85, an Indian Wars veteran, to conduct tours of the battlefield for tourists. White had been a soldier under Gibbon and assisted in the burial of the Custer dead. A non-paid position his salary was funded by the sale of Marquis’s books and tips from tourists. White’s interpretation of the battle turned out to be less than accurate and his age limited him as a guide.

1938: U.S. Army grades Battle Ridge road graded.

William O. Mickle: July 15, 1938 to April 8, 1939 Charley Reynolds marker erected.

Fulton Grigsby: April 9, 1939 to November 21, 1940.

Harold Montague: December 22, 1939 to November 30, 1940.

Edward S. Luce: January 6, 1941 to May 1, 1956. Major Edward S. Luce was an actual veteran of the 7th Cavalry having served from 1907 to 1910. Prior to arriving at the battlefield Luce spent several months in training at the Arlington National Cemetery and in 1941 he became the first National Park Superintendent. Perhaps no other superintendent was more qualified for the job than Edward Luce who had a deep interest in the battle. “During Major Luce’s early years in the 7th Cavalry,” former park historian Don Rickey, Jr., said, “he spent much time working up the history of the regiment as a troop clerk in regimental headquarters.” Luce’s passion for the Custer fight earned him the reputation as an authority on the battle and in 1938 he published, Keogh, Comanche and Custer. His wife, Evelyn Luce, also a gave a large amount of her time in administrative duties at the park. A number of noteworthy achievements and events happened under Luce’s leadership.

1941: Horse Cemetery-while laying a new drain pipe on Custer Ridge workers uncovered a number of horse bones, part of the battle debris buried long ago by cleanup details from Fort Custer.

1943: Nye-Cartwright Ridge discovery.

1947: Robert Utley hired as seasonal guide.

1949: Custer Battlefield handbook written by Luce and Evelyn published and sold for 15 cents.

1949: Edgar J. Stewart served as seasonal interpreter. Dr. Stewart would later write Custer’s Luck, considered by many scholars as one of the more comprehensive studies of the battle.

1951: The 75th Anniversary of the battle. The last surviving Sioux warrior from the battle, Dewey Beard (Iron Hail), attended the event. Jacob Horner, the last surviving 7th Cavalryman of 1876, was expected to attend but ill health forced him to cancel.

1952: New visitor center opens on June 25.

1954: Battle Ridge road paved.

1955: Don Rickey, Jr., becomes area historian. Author of History of Custer Battlefield.

1958: Wooden marker placed on the battlefield indicating where Lame White Man was killed.

Sources and suggested reading:

Brust, James, Brian C. Pohanka, Sandy Barnard- Where Custer Fell. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2005.

Rickey, Jr., Don History of the Custer Battlefield. Old Army Press, 1967.

Swanson, Glen- Custer and His Times. Swanson Productions, Inc., 2004.

Upton, Richard (Editor)- The Battle of the Little Big Horn & Custer’s Last Fight. El Segundo, CA., 2006.

Utley, Robert Custer and Me. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004.

Utley, Robert – Custer and Me. Article. True West magazine, May/June 2001.

Web:
http://littlebighorn.info/
http://www.nps.gov/libi/
http://www.friendslittlebighorn.com/
http://www.friendslittlebighorn.com/upton50anniversary.htm
http://www.friendslittlebighorn.com/Horsecemetery.htm

Charles Varnum at the University of Wyoming, 1898

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.

1898dancecard1

1898dancecard2

1898dancecard3

Cadets signed up to dance with the young women (above). Charles Varnum and his wife were on the Reception Committee (below).

1898dancecard4

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.

The Custer Conspiracy

A Novel by Lorin Lee Cary

Bloomington: AuthorHouse, 2009

http://www.lorinleecary.com/

Available as an e-book ($7.95), paperback ($13.95) or hardcover ($22.95)

I do not normally enjoy historic fiction, but I did enjoy this book. Rather than try to portray Custer in some “pretend” scenario, full of over-contrived descriptions of him, this book takes a quick glimpse of Custer through the journal of an unidentified member of his inner circle and runs with a modern story of whodunit and charm.

The story begins in Hardin with an Indian who has the journal. He sends it to his college student niece, Sally Wolf, in hopes she can discover its apparent value. The protagonist, Walter Reeves, is the niece’s history professor who has inner conflicts concerning his marriage and his career. Walter gets the necessary remedy for the boredom in his life as he finds himself entwined in a journey involving burglary, kidnapping, and murder. Along the way are a militia group, determined to protect Custer’s reputation, and radical Indians, all trying to get their hands on the journal.

The author, Lorin Lee Cary, is a retired history professor who has taken his knowledge and humor on a fun ride. Die-hard Custer fans will find some minor faults, but the book is a good read. It may be a good peripheral introduction to the Custer story for their less-enthused family and friends this Christmas.

Little Bighorn Battle Timeline

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

AM

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.

PM

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).

June 26

AM

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.

PM

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.

JUNE 27

AM

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.

PM

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.

JUNE 28

AM

PM

2:00: The rear guard arrived at the Powder River base camp

7:00: The horse herders arrived at the Powder River base camp.

Custer in the Movies

Custer in the Movies

By Michael L. Nunnally

briton

Hollywood has attempted the Custer/Little Bighorn saga a number of times usually with disastrous results. Facts have never really mattered to tinsel town and early movies were full of fictitious characters and absurd situations. Several attempts in recent years have been quite good but one major problem lies in the fact that Hollywood has always felt compelled in making George Armstrong Custer either a hero or villain. A true historical bio has never been accomplished. His image in more recent years has been based on the political climate in America rather than any actual historical facts. The battle scenes in the first Custer movie, Custer’s Last Stand filmed in 1909, were later used in several other silent movies on the subject. Custer’s Last Stand featured in a number of early TV shows including the Twilight Zone, Have Gun Will Travel, Branded and many others. In 1967 Custer appeared in his own TV show Custer starring Wayne Maunder. Much of the information contained here comes from two excellent articles by Custer film historian Paul Gagliasso. I don’t claim this list is a definitive list but rather a good starting point into the subject at hand. Corrections or additions are welcome.

d (director) w (writer) c (cast)

The Badlands of Dakota Universal Pictures 1941 B&W When Wild Bill Hickok (Dix) steals saloon keeper Bob Holliday’s (Crawford) girl trouble begins. Featuring an array of Western legends including Hickock, Calamity Jane and George Custer (Addison Richards). Entertaning Western.
d Alfred E. Green w Gerald Geraghty
c Robert Stack, Ann Rutherford, Richard Dix, Francis Farmer, Broderick Crawford, Andy Devine, Addison Richards

Bob Hampton of Placer Bob Neilan Productions 1921 B&W Based on the novel and character created by Randall Parrish. The adventures of Bob Hampton (Kirkwood) with General Custer (Dwight Crittendon) on the Little Big Horn. A very young Howard Hawks served as asst. director. Filmed in Montana and Arizona.
d Marshall Neilan w Marion Fairfax
c James Kirkwood, Wesley Barry, Marjorie Drew, Dwight Crittendon, Pat O’Malley, Noah Berry

Bugles in the Afternoon
Cagney Productions 1952 Technicolor A scouting part led by Schaffer (Milland) into Sioux country supplies General Custer (Sheb Wooley) with much needed information on the hostile Indians.
d Ray Rowland w Harry Brown, Daniel Mainwaring
c Ray Milland, Helena Carter, Hugh Marlowe, Barton McLane, George Reeves, Sheb Wooley

Campaigning With Custer
Bison Motion Pictures 1913 B&W (Lost film) c William Clifford, Sherman Bainbridge, Val Paul, Clarence Burton

Chief Crazy Horse U-I 1955 Technicolor Crazy Horse (Mature) leads his tribe against Custer at the Little Bighorn. Low budget treatment with cheesy last stand. Standard Hollywood stuff. Captain William J. Fetterman makes an appearance. James Millican plays Gen. George Crook and had also played Custer in 1951’s Warpath.
d George Sherman w Franklin Coen, Gerald Drayson Adams
c Victor Mature, Suzan Ball, John Lund, Ray Danton, David Janssen, James Millican

Crazy Horse
Turner Pictures 1996 color Made for TV movie about the famous Sioux warrior. A very good attempt.
Written by Robert Schenkkan who played Captain Thomas Weir in 1991’s Son of the Morning Star.
d John Irvin w Robert Schenkkan
c Michael Greyeyes, Ned Beatty, John Finn, Peter Horton, Wes Studi, August Schellenberg, Daniel O’Haco

lastfight

Custer’s Last Fight Bison 101 1912 B&W The only surviving copy ends in the middle of the battle. Some of the battle sequences are known to have been used in other movies. Filmed in the hills near Malibu using the famed 101 Ranch and ranch hands as extras. Francis Ford (Custer) served as both star and director of the movie. Grace Cunard played Mrs. Custer. Re-released in 1925 as Custer’s Last Raid. Ford was the older brother of famed director John Ford and in later years appeared in a number of the younger Ford’s pictures in walk on parts. Francis Ford later appeared in another Custer picture, 1941’s They Died With Their Boots On, directed by Raoul Walsh. Ford appeared in an astonishing 479 motion pictures and is best remembered as the sick old man who gets out of bed to watch the town’s big fight in The Quiet Man directed by brother John.
d Francis Ford w Richard V. Spencer
c Francis Ford, Grace Cunard, William Eagle Shirt, V. Barney Sherry

Custer’s Last Raid
This 1925 movie was the same movie as Custer’s Last Fight released in 1912 (above).

lastscout
Custer’s Last Scout Bison Motion Pictures (as 101 Bison) 1915 B&W (Lost film) Alfred Lorenzo Chapman toured the country making personal appearances at carnivals and fairs signing autographs and telling his extraordinary story of witnessing Custer’s Last Stand. Hollywood recognized a good tale when they saw one and cast Chapman as the ‘scout’ in the movie based on his incredible story. Listed as Scott Chapman in credits. One of Hollywood’s early attempts at the Custer saga. Clifford had starred in Campaigning With Custer two years before and stock footage from that movie could have been used in Custer’s Last Scout. No copies are known to exist. Check your attic. Directed by Henry MacRae who directed some of the first Tarzan pictures.
d Henry MacRae w (?)
c William Clifford, Marie Walcamp, Scott Chapman

Custer’s Last Stand
Selig Polyscope Company 1909 B&W (Lost Film) Believed to have been shot in Selig’s Chicago studio it is considered the first movie on the Custer/Little Big Horn story. Some later Custer movies may have contained stock footage of the battle scenes taken from the movie. Film no longer exists.
d Francis Boggs
c Hobart Bosworth, Bett Harte, Fran Walsh “The cast includes three Sioux who were present at the actual event in 1876 that the film is based on. The producer had hoped to gain historical information from them, but said later that “the most we could get out of them was that the fight was over so quickly that they could remember little about it.” The Internet Movie Database (IMDb)

“American Film Institute Catalog of Film Beginnings 1893-1910 erroneously credits Tom Mix in the cast of this film; it’s a Selig West Coast production made before Mix came to California and before he entered films.” IMDb

Custer’s Last Stand
Stage and Screen 1936 B&W Another of Hollywood’s earlier attempts on the famous last stand. A gold prospecting Indian attempts to warn Custer (Frank McGlynn, Jr.) of danger. Starring William Farnum who was the brother of Dusty Farnum, who played Gen. Custer in 1926’s The Flaming Frontier. Elizabeth Custer (Ruth Mix) makes an appearance.
d Elmer Clifton
c William Farnum, Rex Lease, Reed Howes, Jack Mulhall, Frank McGlynn, Jr., Ruth Mix

Custer of the West
Cinema/Security 1967 Super Technirama A fat Custer fights Hollywood Indians. Shaw, sporting a bad wig, is totally miscast as George Armstrong Custer. Shaw’s then wife Mary Ure plays Elizabeth Custer. Dreadful stuff. Writer Bernard Gordon and the production department did very little research into the actual event. The worst of the Custer films and a terrible Western to boot. Filmed in Spain. Did I mention it was dreadful?
d Robert Siodmak w Bernard Gordon
c Robert Shaw, Robert Ryan, Jeffery Hunter, Mary Ure, Ty Hardin, Lawrence Tierney “Fairly ambitious bio of famed general suffers from script that doesn’t quite know how to characterize him.” Leonard Maltin

The Flaming Frontier
Universal 1926 B&W One of the earliest attempts on Custer’s Last Stand and the Pony Express. Supposedly filmed with a staggering $400,000 budget in 1926, the 50th Anniversary of the Custer fight. Shot in California with Umatilla and Cayuse Indians as extras. Several veterans of the Battle of the Little Bighorn attended the New York premiere among which was 85 year old Brig. Gen. Edward Godfrey. Elizabeth Custer declined an invitation.
d Edward Sedgwick w Charles Kenyon, EdwardJ. Montagne
c Hoot Gibson, Ann Cornwall, Dustin Farnum (Custer)

The Glory Guys
Levy-Gardner-Laven 1965 color An Indian hating army general with political aspirations leads his men against overwhelming hordes of Indians. Sound familiar? Filmed in Durango, Mexico, this was a thinly veiled version of the Little Bighorn story. The fort was later used for Chisum.
Written by a young Sam Peckinpah.
d Arnold Levin
c Tom Tyron, James Caan, Slim Pickens, Senta Berger, Harve Presnell

The Great Sioux Massacre
Columbia/FF 1965 Eastmancolor Major Reno (Cotton) and Captain Benteen (McGavin) are court-martialed after Custer’s Last Stand. Standard Hollywood treatment of history. Actor Phil Carey (Custer) played Capt. Keogh in 1958’s Tonka. Average at best.
d Sidney Salkow w Fred C. Dobbs
c Joseph Cotton, Darren McGavin, Phil Carey, Nancy Kovack, Julie Sommars, Michael Pate

Little Big Man Stockbridge/Hiller/Cinema Center 1970 Technicolor Based on Thomas Berger’s novel in which the sole white survivor of Custer’s Last Stand tells his life story. Filmed near the actual battlefield on the Crow Reservation in Hardin, Montana. Custer and his soldiers in the movie appear as the bad guys. Unlike the character in Berger’s novel Penn’s Custer is a racist fool with no redeeming qualities and as ridiculous as any character in Blazing Saddles. The battle scenes are well done although Custer’s attack on the village is closer to Reno’s valley fight which isn’t shown. Chief Dan George was nominated for best supporting actor. “General, you go down there…if you got the nerve!”
d Arthur Penn w Calder Willingham novel Thomas Berger
c Dustin Hoffman, Martin Balsam, Faye Dunaway, Chief Dan George, Richard Mulligan, Jeff Corey

The Plainsman
Paramount Pictures 1936 B&W Wild Bill Hickok (Cooper) attempts to stop an Indian uprising started by gun-runners. Buffalo Bill and George Custer (Miljan) throw in their support to Hickock but this DeMille movie lacks a good script.
d Cecil B. DeMille w Courtney Ryley, Frank J. Wilstack
c Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, James Ellison, Charles Bickford, Helen Burgess, John Miljan
“About as authenticate as Blazing Saddles but who cares–it’s still good fun.” Leonard Maltin

Red Tomahawk
A.C. Lyles/Paramount 1967 Technicolor Deadwood, South Dakota goes on the alert after Custer’s defeat on the Little Bighorn.
d R.G. Springsteen w Steve Fisher
c Howard Keel. Joan Caulfield, Broderick Crawford, Scott Brady, Wendell Corey, Richard Arlen, Tom Drake

The 7th Cavalry
Producers-Actors Corporation 1956 Technicolor An army captain who missed the Little Big Horn battle tries to redeem himself by volunteering for burial detail. Capt. Benteen (Michael Pate) and Maj. Reno (Frank Wilcox) make an appearance. Filmed in Mexico.
d Joseph H. Lewis w Peter Packer, Glendon Swarthout
c Randolph Scott, Barbara Hale, Jay C. Flippin, Frank Faylen, Denver Pyle, Harry Carey, Jr.

The Scarlet West
Frank J. Carroll Productions 1925 B&W (Lost Film) Cardelanche (Robert Frazier), an Eastern educated Indian, returns to his people and is rejected. He saves a cavalry detachment and is promoted to captain and falls in love with the post commander’s daughter (Clara Bow). When his people massacre Custer Cardelanche realizes he can no longer live among the whites and returns to his people leaving his love behind. Elizabeth Custer (Ruth Stonehouse) is the only real person portrayed in the film. No copies of The Scarlet West are known to exist. Ruth Stonehouse was one of the few women involved in the actual business end of the film industry at the time–she co-owned Essanay Films studio along with actor ‘Gilbert M. ‘Broncho Billy’ Anderson’ and businessman George K. Spoor and made over 100 films for the company.
d John G. Adolf w Anthony Paul Kelly
c Robert Frazier, Clara Bow, Robert Edeson, Walter McGrail, Ruth Stonehouse

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
RKO/Argosy 1949 Technicolor Retiring cavalry officer must deal with Indian uprising. Beautifully written and acted Ford film with all of the Ford ingredients including real Indians. Not really a Custer movie but at one point in the movie Wayne’s character Capt. Brittles talks about the deaths of Custer, Tom Custer, Myles Keogh at his wife’s grave.
d John Ford w Frank Nugent, Laurence Stallings
c John Wayne, Joanne Dru, John Agar, Ben Johnson, Harry Carey Jr., Victor McLaglen, Mildred Natwick, George O’Brien, Arthur Shields

Sitting Bull
UA/W.R. Frank/Telvoz of Mexico 1954 Eastmancolor A cavalry officer befriends the legendary Sioux leader (J. Carroll Naish) after the massacre of Custer (Douglas Kennedy ) on the Little Bighorn. Average grade B Hollywood western. Sidney Salkow went on to direct another Custer movie 1965’s Great Sioux Massacre.
d Sidney Salkow w Jack de Witt, Sidney Salkow
c Dale Robertson, Mary Murphy, J. Carrol Naish, Iron Eyes Cody, Douglas Kennedy John Litel

Son of the Morning Star
Republic Pictures 1991 color Made for television account based on Evan Connell’s bestseller book on the Battle of the Little Bighorn. As near to fact as Hollywood has ever come to the actual event and the only Custer picture to show the principal characters. Both the Custer and Reno fights are well done. Script written by Harrison Ford’s then wife Melissa Mathison. An excellent attempt at the real event. “Tonight we go home by a road we do not know.”
d Mike Robe w Melissa Mathison
c Gary Cole, Rosanna Arquette, Stanley Anderson, Rodney Grant, David Strathairn, Michael Medeiros, Edward Blatchford, Tom O’Brien, Terry O’Quinn, Nick Ramus, Tim Ransom, Dean Stockwell, Robert Schenkkan

They Died with Their Boots On
Warner 1941 B&W Dashing Errol Flynn as dashing George Armstrong Custer and his death at the Little Bighorn. Custer sacrifices his command to stop Crazy Horse (Quinn) and a corrupt Indian agent (Kennedy). Of little historical value and rather silly but loads of fun and incredibly charming. Flynn considered this his favorite movie role. Filmed in the rolling hills of Warner Studio’s back lot of Lasky Mesa in Agoura, CA. All American Indian athlete Jim Thorpe appears as an extra. The flame that lit the candle for thousands.
d Raoul Walsh w Wally Kline, Aeneas Mackenzie
c Errol Flynn, Oliva de Havilland, Arthur Kennedy, Anthony Quinn, Sidney Greenstreet, Charles Grapewin, Gene Lockhart, Hattie McDaniel, Francis Ford.
“Studio head Jack Warner was a notorious spendthrift who didn’t like the expense of sending a film company out to a distant location. Still, no film had more influence on the public’s perception of Custer than this 1941 epic, until the cynical ‘Little Big Man’ came along in 1970.” Paul Gagliasso, Old West Journal, Winter 2000

Tonka
Walt Disney 1958 Technicolor Disney’s story of Comanche, the noble steed of Capt. Keogh (Phil Carey) and sole survivor of Custer’s Last Stand and his many adventures. One of the first movies to portray Custer in a negative light which was quite surprising coming from Uncle Walt. Movie tagline: The Untold Story Behind the West’s Strangest Legend. d Lewis R. Foster w same
c Sal Mineo, Phil Carey, Jerome Courtland, Rafael Campos, H. M. Wynant

Warpath
Paramount Pictures 1951 Technicolor John Vickers joins the Seventh Cavalry seeking revenge for his fiancée’s murder. Filmed on the Crow Reservation, Hardin, Montana. James Millican (Custer) later played Gen George Crook in 1955’s Chief Crazy Horse.
d Byron Haskin w Frank Gruber
c Dean Jagger, Edmond O’Brien, Forrest Tucker, Harry Carey, Jr., James Millican (Custer).

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Sources:

Custer in the Movies list compiled by Dan Gagliasso, LBHA Research Review, Volume V, No. 2, Summer 1971 Errol Flynn’s Custer & The Test Of Time by Louis Kraft, Research Review, The Journal of the Little Big Horn Associates-Vol. 13, No. 2. Summer, 1999 Following The Custer Movie Trail. By Dan Gagliasso. Old West Journal, Winter 2000 The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) Leonard Maltin’s 2007 Movie Guide. Penguin Books. Silver Screen: greatest silent film about Custer by Dan Gagliasso. Greasy Grass, Vol. 16, May 2000 Custer: the Man, the Myth, the Movies by John Langellier. Stackpole, 2000. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102962/usercomments Son of the Morning Star comments