Hours Monday — Friday: Major Marcus Reno claimed:
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When that position proved indefensible, they retreated uphill to the bluffs east of the river, pursued hotly by a mix of Cheyenne and Sioux. Just as they finished driving the soldiers out, the Indians found roughly of Custer's men coming towards the other end of the village, taking the pressure off of Reno 's men.
Cheyenne and Hunkpapa Sioux together crossed the river and slammed into the advancing soldiers, forcing them back to a long high ridge to the north. Meanwhile, another force, largely Oglala Sioux under Crazy Horse's command, swiftly moved downstream and then doubled back in a sweeping arc, enveloping Custer and his men in a pincer move.
They began pouring in gunfire and arrows. As the Indians closed in, Custer ordered his men to shoot their horses and stack the carcasses to form a wall, but they provided little protection against bullets. In less than an hour, Custer and his men were killed in the worst American military disaster ever. After another day's fighting, Reno and Benteen's now united forces escaped when the Indians broke off the fight. They had learned that the other two columns of soldiers were coming towards them, so they fled.
After the battle, the Indians came through and stripped the bodies and mutilated all the uniformed soldiers, believing that the soul of a mutilated body would be forced to walk the earth for all eternity and could not ascend to heaven.
Inexplicably, they stripped Custer's body and cleaned it, but did not scalp or mutilate it. He had been wearing buckskins instead of a blue uniform, and some believe that the Indians thought he was not a soldier and so, thinking he was an innocent, left him alone.
Because his hair was cut short for battle, others think that he did not have enough hair to allow for a very good scalping. Immediately after the battle, the myth emerged that they left him alone out of respect for his fighting ability, but few participating Indians knew who he was to have been so respectful.
To this day, no one knows the real reason. Little Bighorn was the pinnacle of the Indians' power. They had achieved their greatest victory yet, but soon their tenuous union fell apart in the face of the white onslaught. Outraged over the death of a popular Civil War hero on the eve of the Centennial, the nation demanded and received harsh retribution.
The Black Hills dispute was quickly settled by redrawing the boundary lines, placing the Black Hills outside the reservation and open to white settlement. Within a year, the Sioux nation was defeated and broken. The Dakota War of Fetterman's pursuit over the ridge, in violation of Carrington's orders, led to the death of the entire command.
The shooting started about noon, and was over by Many of the bodies were found by Capt. They were stripped and mutilated much in the same manner as were the Cheyenne at the Sand Creek massacre earlier. Indian oral history accounts indicate that Fetterman himself was killed by famous Sioux warrior, American Horse Note: It may be that the Battle of the Little Bighorn is the most written about subject in American history.
For more than years, people have speculated about how Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer and five companies of the 7th Cavalry were overwhelmed in southeastern Montana Territory by a combined force of Lakota and Cheyenne Indians on June 25, Yet, the controversy does not appear any closer to resolution today. A number of reasons have been given for the defeat: Custer disobeyed orders, disregarded the warnings of his scouts, violated the principles of warfare by dividing his command, was ambushed or was the victim of a conspiracy; internal regimental jealousies caused the defeat; the regiment was too tired to fight; there were too many raw recruits or too many Indians; the Indians had better weapons; or the Army had defective guns.
Most of the conjectures are moot, for they can be debated endlessly—with intellectual and emotional biases interfering with reasoned arguments.
The Ordnance Department staged field trials of 89 rifles and carbines, which included entries from Peabody, Spencer, Freeman, Elliot and Mauser. There were four primary contenders: Although repeating rifles such as the Spencer, Winchester and Henry had been available, particularly in the post-Civil War years, the Ordnance Department decided to use a single-shot system. It was selected instead of a repeating system because of manufacturing economy, ruggedness, reliability, efficient use of ammunition and similarity to European weapons systems.
Ironically, the board of officers involved in the final selection included Major Marcus A. The guns were all tested for defective cartridges, endurance, accuracy, rapidity of fire, firing with excessive charges, and effects of dust and rust. The Springfield was the winner. The Model carried by the 7th Cavalry was a carbine that weighed 7 pounds and had an overall length of 41 inches.
The best effective range for this carbine was under yards, but significant hits still could be scored out to yards. A bullet was driven out of the muzzle at a velocity of about 1, feet per second, with 1, foot-pounds of energy. The trapdoor Springfield could hurl a slug more than 1, yards and, with proper training, could be fired with accuracy 12 to 15 times per minute.
By , the percussion cap models were being converted for use with metallic cartridges. Ordnance testing in narrowed the field to two final contenders: The Schofield won only in speed of ejecting empty cartridges. The Colt won in firing, sanding and rust trials and had fewer, simpler and stronger parts. It had a muzzle velocity of feet per second, with foot-pounds of energy. Its effective range dropped off rapidly over 60 yards, however. The Colt became ubiquitous on the frontier.
Overall, the soldiers were pleased with their weapons. They seem to give great satisfaction. George Custer carried a Remington. French of Company M carried a. Bailey of Company I had a preference for a Dexter Smith, breechloading, single-barreled shotgun. Identification of the Indian weapons is more uncertain. Participants claimed to have gone into battle with a plethora of arms—bows and arrows, ancient muzzleloaders, breechloaders and the latest repeating arms. Bows and arrows played a part in the fight.
Some warriors said they lofted high-trajectory arrows to fall among the troopers while remaining hidden behind hill and vale. The dead soldiers found pincushioned with arrows, however, were undoubtedly riddled at close range after they were already dead or badly wounded. The long range at which most of the fighting occurred did not allow the bow and arrow a prominent role. Not until archaeological investigations were conducted on the battlefield during the s did the extent to which the Indians used gunpowder weapons come to light.
Modern firearm identification analysis revealed that the Indians had spoken the truth about the variety and number of weapons they carried. Eagle Elk, an Oglala, started the battle with a Winchester. White Cow Bull, an Oglala, also claimed to have a repeater. There were 2, cartridges, cases and bullets recovered from the entire battlefield, which reportedly came from 45 different firearms types including the Army Springfields and Colts, of course and represented at least individual guns.
It appears that the Army was outgunned as well as outnumbered. Survivors of the remaining seven companies of the 7th Cavalry asserted that the Indians were equipped with repeating rifles and mentioned Winchesters as often as not. Major Marcus Reno claimed: The Winchester, in fact, was almost a duplicate of the repeater developed by B.
The Henry used a grain bullet with 25 grains of powder, while the Winchester used a grain bullet with 28 grains of powder. Velocity was 1, feet per second, with foot-pounds of energy. Cartridges were inserted directly into the front of the Henry magazine, while the Winchester had a spring cover on the right side of the receiver. The carbine and the rifle had a capacity of 13 and 17 cartridges respectively.
The Springfields recorded percent accuracy at yards, but so did the Winchesters, Henrys, Sharps, Spencers and various muzzleloaders. At yards, the Springfield. Weapons such as the Springfield. At yards, both Springfields could still hit the mark 32 percent of the time, while the Winchesters and Henrys were almost useless at ranges over yards.
In effect, all of these weapons fared equally well at short ranges. The long-range weapons the Indians had were too few there is evidence of only one Sharps. And the Indian narratives tell a story of a battle that, until the last desperate moments, was fought generally from long range more than yards —a dubious advantage to the cavalrymen, since the relatively slow muzzle velocity of their Springfields meant a high trajectory that made chances of hitting anything slim.
Overall, the pluses and minuses probably canceled each other out. It has been said that the 7th Cavalry might have won had it still used the seven-shot Spencers it carried at the Washita battle in , but the Spencers were no better in range or accuracy than the Henrys or Winchesters, and they carried fewer bullets.
The contention that the Springfields suffered from a significant number of extractor failures was not borne out. Only about 2 percent of the recovered specimens showed evidence of extractor problems. Custer has been criticized for not taking along a battery of Gatling guns, but General Nelson A. Miles commented on their usefulness: Equipping the cavalry with another type of weapon probably would not have made much of a difference at the Little Bighorn.
The explanation appears to lie in the fact that weapons are no better than the men who use them. Marksmanship training in the frontier Army prior to the s was almost nil.
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