The Battle of Little Bighorn: Original newspaper story (1876)

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On the morning of June 25, 1876, Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer and the 7th Cavalry charged into battle against Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne Indians. Custer’s orders were to wait for reinforcements at the mouth of the Little Big Horn River before attacking the Indians, but Chief Sitting Bull had been spotted nearby, and Custer was impatient to attack.

A treaty had given the Sioux exclusive rights to the Black Hills, but when gold was later discovered in the area, white miners flocked to the territory. Despite the treaty, the U.S. government ordered the Indians away from the invading settlers and back to their reservations.

Custer’s job was to force the Indians back to their reservations. Some of the Indians refused to leave their sacred land, and other hunters were camped in remote places and never learned of the order. The US Army prepared for battle anyway.

Custer planned to attack the Indian camp from three sides, but Chief Sitting Bull was ready for them. The first two groups, led by Captain Benteen and Major Reno, were immediately forced to retreat to one side of the river, where they continued to fight as best they could. Custer was not as lucky. Custer’s troops charged the Indians from the north. Quickly encircled by their enemy, Custer and 265 of his soldiers were killed in less than an hour. The Indians retreated two days later when the troops Custer had been ordered to wait for arrived.

The Battle of Little Big Horn was a short-lived victory for the Native Americans. Federal troops soon poured into the Black Hills. While many Native Americans surrendered, Sitting Bull escaped to Canada. – US Library Of Congress

Terrible battle with Indians

Gen. Custer, 15 officers, and every man of five companies slain

1878 - General Custer's death struggle. The battle of the Little Big Horn

The following is a report of a very disastrous fight with Indians in Montana Territory:

“Gen. Custer found the Indian camp ot twenty-five lodges on Little Horn, and immediately attacked it with five companies, charging into the thickest of the camp.

Nothing is known of the operations of this detachment after the charge, as they were only traced by their dead. Maj. Reno attacked the lower parts of the camp, with the seven remaining companies.

Custer, his two brothers, a nephew and a brother-in-law, with about three hundred men were killed; only thirty-one wounded. Two hundred and seven men were buried in one place. The Indians surrounded seven companies and held them in the hills one day away from water.

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Gen. Gibbon’s command then came insight. The Indians broke camp and left in the night. A regiment of the 7th cavalry, Gibbon’s command, is returning to the mouth of Little Horn, where there is a steamboat.

The Indians’got the arms of the killed soldiers. Seventeen commissioned officers were killed. The whole Custer family died at the head of the column.

Other accounts say the battle was fought on the 25th, 30 or 40 miles below Little Horn. Custer attacked the village of 2,500 to 4,000 warriors on one side, and Col. Rino on the other. Gen. Custer’s fifteen officers and every man of the five companies were killed.

Reno retreated under protection of the reserves. The whole number killed was 315. Gen. Gibbon joined Reno. The dead are much mutilated. Lieut. Crittenden, a son of Gen. Crittenden, was killed.

>> About The Battle of the Little Bighorn: Custer’s Last Stand (1876)

Chicago, July 6

A dispatch confirming the report of Gen. Custer’s fight on Little Horn river, has been received at Gen. Sheridan’s headquarters.

Further particulars

Washington, July 7

Gen. Custer left Rosebank on the 22d with 12 companies of infantry and the 7th cavalry. On the 24th a fresh trail was reported. On the morning of the 25th an Indian village three miles long and half a mile wide was reported 15 miles off.

Gen. Custer pushed for it. They had made 78 miles in 24 hours preceding the battle. When near the village, the Indians appeared moving as if retreating. Reno, with seven companies, was ordered to attack the right, and Gen. Custer, with five companies, vigorously attacked the left of the camp.

Reno felt them with three companies, and was immediately surrounded, and after hours ot fighting, losing Lieutenants Hodgson and Mcintosh and twelve men and several Indian scouts killed and many wound ed, cut his way out and gained a bluff 300 feet high, where he entrenched, and where he was soon joined by Col. Renton with 4 companies. Here the Indians made repeated assaults but were repulsed with great slaughter.

The Indians finally gained higher ground than Reno and with longer range guns than the cavalry, kept up a galling fire till night.

The Indians renewed the attack at daylight. Maj. Reno had lost 40 odd killed before reaching the bluff, many in hand-to-hand conflicts, the Indians outnumbering them ten to one.

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1907 - George Custer, kneeling on left, and soldiers shooting at indians; soldier in center is carrying a wounded soldier.

The men were without water 36 hours. They determined to reach water at all hazards, and Col. Benton made a sally and routed the main body, guarding the main approach to the water.

The water was gained with one killed and seven wounded. The fighting ceased for the night, during whjch Maj. Reno proposed to resist further attacks. They had now been 48 hours fighting with no word from Gen. Custer. Twenty-four hours more of suspense and fighting ended, when the Indians abandoned their village in meat haste.

Gen. Terry, with Gen. Gibbon’s command and his own infantny, had arrived, and as the comrades met the men wept on each others necks. Inquiries were then made for Gen. Custer, but none could tell where he was.

Soon, an officer came rushing into camp, and related that he had found Gen. Custer dead and stripped naked, and near him his two brothers, Col. Tom and Boston Custer, his brother-in-law Col. Calhoun, and his nephew Col. Yates, Col. Keogh. Capt. Smith, Lieut. Crittenden, Lieut. Sturgis, Col. Cooke, Lieut. Porter, Lieut. Harring ton, Dr. Lord, Maj. Kellogg, the N. Y. Tri bune correspondent, and one hundred and ninety men and scouts. Gen. Custer went into battle with Companies C, L, I, F and E, of the 7th cavalry, and the staff and non-commissioned officers of his regiment, and a number of scouts, and only one scout remained to tell the tale all were killed.

Gen. Custer was surrounded on every side by the Indians, and men and horses fell as they fought on the skirmish line or in line of battle.

Custer was amonsg the last who fell, but when his cheering voice was no longer heard, the Indians made easy work of the remainder.

The bodies of all save the newspaper correspondents were stripped and most of them were horribly mutilated. Custer was shot through the body and through the head. The troops cared for the wounded and buried their dead and returned to their camp for supplies and instructions from the General of the army.

Col. Smith arrived at Bismarck last night with 35 of the wounded. The Indians lost heavily in the battle. The Crow scout survived by hiding in a ravine.

He believes the Indians lost more than the whites. The village numbered 1,500 and it is thought there were 4,000 warriors.

The Herald correspondent, Kellogg, was killed.

Gen. George Custer, May 23, 1865
Gen. George Custer, May 23, 1865

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