While Chief Red Cloud and his faction of the Lakotas agreed to cease their aggressions after decimating a series of forts along the Bozeman Trail, and to restrict themselves to the reservation in what is now the western half of modern-day South Dakota, Chief Sitting Bull would have no part of this treaty.
As a result, any native Americans not within the area set forth by the treaty by January of 1876 were considered hostile. So was set in motion the deadly chain of events that would lead to Custer’s troops being overwhelmed — both in numbers and tactics — by Sitting Bull’s force of 8,000 Lakota and Cheyenne.
And so with the reflection of hindsight, it can be seen that Sitting Bull was merely doing what any modern American would do when faced by invasion of his land by an outside force: defend what they considered rightfully theirs — their land, their lives, and their way of living. – AJW
Battle of Little Bighorn: Terrible battle with Indians
Gen. Custer, 15 officers, and every man of five companies slain
The following is a report of a very disastrous fight with Indians in Montana Territory:
Gen. Custer found the Indian camp of 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 infantry, had arrived, and as the comrades met the men wept on each other’s 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. Tribune 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 among 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.
Dispatches from Custer’s last stand – Battle of Little Bighorn (1876)
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
By telegraph, special to the Sentinel
Terrible result of a battle with Indians – General Custer and 17 other officers and five companies of cavalry killed!
July 6. – The San Francisco special today says that Gen. Custer met and had a fight with Indians on July 1st, on Little Horn River. General Custer and seventeen other officers were killed and five companies entire of the Seventh Cavalry either killed or wounded, and all trace of them lost except the dead and about thirty wounded.
Confirmation of the terrible disaster to General Custer and his troops
July 6  – The Union special dated, Still Water, Montana Territory, July 1st, says:
“George Taylor, scout for General Gibbons arrived here last night direct from Little Horn River. He brings tidings that General Custer found an Indian camp of about two thousand lodges on the Little Horn, and immediately attacked it. He took five companies and charged into the upper portion of the camp. Nothing is known of the operations of this detachment, only as they are traced by the dead.
Major Reno commanded seven other companies and attacked the lower portion of the camp. The Indians poured in a murderous fire from all sides and the greater portion fought on horseback. General Custer had two brothers, a nephew and a brother-in-law. They were all killed and not one of his detachment escaped. Two hundred and seventy men were buried in one place, and the number of killed is estimated at three hundred, with only thirty-one wounded.
The Indians surrounded Major Reno’s command and held them far out in the hills cut off from water, until General Gibbon came in sight, when they broke camp in the night and left. The Seventh Cavalry fought like tigers, but were overcome by brute force. The Indian loss cannot be estimated, as they carried off and cached most of their killed. The remnant of the Seventh Cavalry, together with General Gibbon’s command are returning to the mouth of the Little Horn, where stores lie.
The Indians got all the arms of the killed soldiers. There were seventeen commissioned officers killed. The whole of Custer’s family died at the head of their companies. The exact loss is not known. Both Adjutants and Sergeant-Majors were killed. The Indian camp was from three to four miles long and twenty miles up the Little Horn from its mouth. The Indians actually pulled men from their horses, in some instances.”
The above is confirmed by other letters which say that Custer met a frightful disaster. The Montana Times’ Extra confirms the report and says that the whole number killed was three hundred and fifteen. General Gibbon joined his command at Reno. When the Indians left the battlefield, it looked like a slaughter pen, as it was, being in a narrow ravine. The dead were horribly mutilated.
The situation now looks serious. General Terry arrived at Gibbon’s camp on a steamer and crossed his command over to join General Custer, when it was camping before the fight. Lieut. Crittendon, son of General Crittendon, was also among the killed.
The field of glory: Custer’s last stand & the Battle of Little Bighorn (1876)
Custer, whom Grant attempted to disgrace, dies like a brave soldier, at the head of his column – Latest particulars
July 6  — An Inter-Ocean special dated Bismarck, Dakota Territory, July 1st, says information from the Sioux expedition dated Mouth of Big Horn, July 1st, says that General Custer left the mouth of Rosebud with twelve companies to follow the Indian trail of a large band of Hostile Sioux, and followed it up in the direction of the Big Horn. The Indians were making for the eastern branch of the little Big Horn.
General Terry, with Gibbon’s command of five companies of infantry and four of cavalry, started to ascend the Big Horn to attack the enemy in the rear. On the morning of the twenty-fifth two Crow scouts brought news of a battle on the previous day. Upon the receipt of this news the command commenced to march in a southernly direction, where smoke could be seen, which indicated that General Custer had fired the Indian village.
On the next morning the head of the column entered a plain bordering on the bank of the Little Big Horn River, where had recently stood an immense Indian village, three miles in length. The ground was strewn with slaughtered horses, cavalry equipment, and the dead bodies of nine Indian chiefs. The clothing of Lieutenants Sturgis and Porter were also found pierced with bullets. Further on was found the body of Lieutenant McIntosh.
Just then arrived the news that Colonel Reed was entrenched with the remnant of the Seventh Cavalry on a bluff nearby, waiting for relief. The command pushed on, and found Reed with the remainder of seven companies of Reno’s command which had been fighting since noon of Sunday, the twenty-fifth, until relieved by Terry on the night of the twenty-sixth. Terry’s arrival caused the Indians to retire.
Reno knew nothing of the fate of the other five companies which were separated from them on the twenty-fifth to make an attack, under Custer’s command, at a point about three miles down the right bank of the stream. Custer had apparently made an attack on the Indians, and was compelled to retreat, but was cut off from the main body. They were forced into a narrow recess, where horses and men were slaughtered promiscuously.
Here was found the bodies of Custer, his two brothers and nephew, Mr Read, Colonels Yates and Cook, and Captain Smith, all lying in a circle of a few yards, and here one after another of Custer’s brave command fell. Not a man escaped to tell the tale.
About The Battle of the Little Bighorn: Custer’s Last Stand (1876)
The Battle of the Little Bighorn was fought along the ridges, steep bluffs, and ravines of the Little Bighorn River, in south central Montana on June 25 and 26, 1876.
The Battle of the Little Bighorn has come to symbolize the clash of two vastly dissimilar cultures: the buffalo/horse culture of the northern plains tribes, and the highly industrial/agricultural based culture of the U.S., which was advancing primarily from the east coast.
The combatants were warriors of the Lakota Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes, battling men of the 7th Regiment of the U.S. Cavalry. This battle was not an isolated soldier versus warrior confrontation, but part of a much larger strategic campaign designed to force the capitulation of the non-reservation Lakota and Cheyenne.
In 1868, many Lakota leaders agreed to a treaty, known as the Fort Laramie Treaty that created a large reservation in the western half of present day South Dakota. They further agreed to give up their nomadic life which often brought them into conflict with other tribes in the region, with settlers, and with railroad surveys. Agreeing to the treaty meant accepting a more stationary life, and relying on government-supplied subsidies.
Lakota leaders such as Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse rejected the reservation system. Likewise many roving bands of hunters and warriors did not sign the 1868 treaty, and consequently, felt no obligation to conform to its restrictions, or to limit their hunting to the unceded hunting land assigned by the treaty. Their sporadic forays off the set aside lands brought them into conflict with settlers and enemy tribes outside the treaty boundaries.
Tension between the U.S. and the Lakota escalated in 1874, when Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer was ordered to make an exploration of the Black Hills inside the boundary of the Great Sioux Reservation. Custer was to map the area, locate a suitable site for a future military post, and to make note of the natural resources. During the expedition, professional geologists discovered deposits of gold.
Word of the discovery of mineral wealth caused an invasion of miners and entrepreneurs to the Black Hills in direct violation of the treaty of 1868. The U.S. negotiated with the Lakota to purchase the Black Hills, but the offered price was rejected by the Lakota.
The climax came in the winter of 1875, when the Commissioner of Indian Affairs issued an ultimatum requiring all Sioux to report to a reservation by January 31, 1876. The deadline came with virtually no response from the Indians, and matters were handed to the military.
General Philip Sheridan, commander of the Military Division of the Missouri, devised a strategy that committed several thousand troops to find and to engage the Lakota and Cheyenne, who now were considered “hostile”, with the goal of forcing their return to the Great Sioux Reservation.
The campaign was set in motion in March, 1876, when the Montana column, a 450 man force of combined cavalry and infantry commanded by Colonel John Gibbon, marched out of Fort Ellis near Bozeman Montana. A second force, numbering about 1,000 cavalry and infantry and commanded by General George Crook, was launched during the last week of May, from Fort Fetterman in central Wyoming.
In the middle of May, a third force, under the command of General Alfred Terry, marched from Fort Abraham Lincoln, Bismarck, Dakota Territory, with a command comprised of 879 men. The bulk of this force was the 7th Cavalry, commanded by Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer.
It was expected that any one of these three forces would be able to deal with the 800-1,500 warriors they likely were to encounter. The three commands of Gibbon, Crook, and Terry were not expected to launch a coordinated attack on a specific Indian village at a known location. Inadequate, slow, and often unpredictable communications hampered the army’s coordination of its expeditionary forces.
Furthermore, it must be remembered that their nomadic hunting put the Sioux and their Cheyenne allies constantly on the move. No officer or scout could be certain how long a village might remain stationary, or which direction the tribe might choose to go in search of food, water, and grazing areas for their horses.
The tribal gathering
The tribes had come together for a variety of reasons. The well watered region of the Powder, Rosebud, Bighorn, and Yellowstone rivers was a productive hunting ground. The tribes regularly gathered in large numbers during the spring to celebrate their annual sun dance ceremony. The sun dance ceremony had occurred about two weeks earlier near present day Lame Deer, Montana. During the ceremony, Sitting Bull received a vision of soldiers falling upside down into his village. He prophesized there soon would be a great victory for his people.
On the morning of June 25, the camp was ripe with rumors about soldiers on the other side of the Wolf Mountains, 15 miles to the east, yet few people paid any attention. In the words of Low Dog, an Oglala Sioux, “I did not think anyone would come and attack us so strong as we were.”
On June 22, General Terry decided to detach Custer and his 7th Cavalry to make a wide flanking march and approach the Indians from the east and south. Custer was to act as the hammer, and prevent the Lakota and their Cheyenne allies from slipping away and scattering, a common fear expressed by government and military authorities.
General Terry and Colonel Gibbon, with infantry and cavalry, would approach from the north to act as a blocking force or anvil in support of Custer’s far-ranging movements toward the headwaters of the Tongue and Little Bighorn Rivers. The Indians, who were thought to be camped somewhere along the Little Bighorn River, “would be so completely enclosed as to make their escape virtually impossible”.
On the evening of June 24, Custer established a night camp twenty-five miles east of where the fateful battle would take place on June 25-26. The Crow and Arikara scouts were sent ahead, seeking actionable intelligence about the direction and location of the combining Lakota and Cheyenne. The returning scouts reported that the trail indicated the village turned west toward the Little Bighorn River and was encamped about twenty-five miles west of the June 24 camp. Custer ordered a night march that followed the route that the village took as it crossed to the Little Bighorn River valley.
Battle of Little Bighorn: Strategies
Early on the morning of June 25, the 7th Cavalry Regiment was positioned near the Wolf Mountains about twelve miles distant from the Lakota/Cheyenne encampment along the Little Bighorn River. Today, historians estimate the village numbered 8,000, with a warrior force of 1,500-1,800 men. Custer’s initial plan had been to conceal his regiment in the Wolf Mountains through June 25th, which would allow his Crow and Arikara scouts time to locate the Sioux and Cheyenne village.
Custer then planned to make a night march, and launch an attack at dawn on June 26; however, the scouts reported the regiment’s presence had been detected by Lakota or Cheyenne warriors. Custer, judging the element of surprise to have been lost, feared the inhabitants would attack or scatter into the rugged landscape, causing the failure of the Army’s campaign. Custer ordered an immediate advance to engage the village and its warrior force.
At the Wolf Mountain location, Custer ordered a division of the regiment into four segments: the pack train with ammunition and supplies, a three company force (125) commanded by Captain Frederick Benteen, a three company force (140) commanded by Major Marcus Reno and a five company force (210) commanded by Custer. Benteen was ordered to march southwest, on a left oblique, with the objective of locating any Indians, “pitch into anything” he found, and send word to Custer.
Custer and Reno’s advance placed them in proximity to the village, but still out of view. When it was reported that the village was scattering, Custer ordered Reno to lead his 140 man battalion, plus the Arikara scouts, and to “pitch into what was ahead” with the assurance that he would “be supported by the whole outfit”.
The Lakota and Cheyenne village lay in the broad river valley bottom, just west of the Little Bighorn River. As instructed by his commanding officer, Reno crossed the river about two miles south of the village and began advancing downstream toward its southern end.
Though initially surprised, the warriors quickly rushed to fend off Reno’s assault. Reno halted his command, dismounted his troops and formed them into a skirmish line which began firing at the warriors who were advancing from the village. Mounted warriors pressed their attack against Reno’s skirmish line and soon endangered his left flank. Reno withdrew to a stand of timber beside the river, which offered better protection.
Eventually, Reno ordered a second retreat, this time to the bluffs east of the river. The Sioux and Cheyenne, likening the pursuit of retreating troops to a buffalo hunt, rode down the troopers. Soldiers at the rear of Reno’s fleeing command incurred heavy casualties as warriors galloped alongside the fleeing troops and shot them at close range, or pulled them out of their saddles onto the ground.
Reno’s now shattered command recrossed the Little Bighorn River and struggled up steep bluffs to regroup atop high ground to the east of the valley fight. Benteen had found no evidence of Indians or their movement to the south, and had returned to the main column. He arrived on the bluffs in time to meet Reno’s demoralized survivors.
A messenger from Custer previously had delivered a written communication to Benteen that stated, “Come on. Big Village. Be Quick. Bring Packs. P.S. Bring Packs.” An effort was made to locate Custer after heavy gunfire was heard downstream. Led by Captain Weir’s D Company, troops moved north in an attempt to establish communication with Custer.
Assembling on a high promontory (Weir Point) a mile and a half north of Reno’s position, the troops could see clouds of dust and gun smoke covering the battlefield. Large numbers of warriors approaching from that direction forced the cavalry to withdraw to Reno Hill where the Indians held them under siege from the afternoon of June 25, until dusk on June 26. On the evening of June 26, the entire village began to move to the south.
The next day, the combined forces of Terry and Gibbon arrived in the valley bottom where the village had been encamped. The badly battered and defeated remnant of the 7th Cavalry was now relieved. Scouting parties, advancing ahead of General Terry’s command, discovered the dead, naked, and mutilated bodies of Custer’s command on the ridges east of the river.
Exactly what happened to Custer’s command never will be fully known. From Indian accounts, archeological finds, and positions of bodies, historians can piece together the Custer portion of the battle, although many answers remain elusive.
It is known that, after ordering Reno to charge the village, Custer rode northward along the bluffs until he reached a broad coulee known as Medicine Tail Coulee, a natural route leading down to the river and the village.
Archeological finds indicate some skirmishing occurred at Medicine Tail ford. For reasons not fully understood, the troops fell back and assembled on Calhoun Hill, a terrain feature on Battle Ridge. The warriors, after forcing Major Reno to retreat, now began to converge on Custer’s maneuvering command as it forged north along what, today, is called Custer or Battle Ridge.
Dismounting at the southern end of the ridge, companies C and L appear to have put up stiff resistance before being overwhelmed. Company I perished on the east side of the ridge in a large group, the survivors rushing toward the hill at the northwest end of the long ridge. Company E may have attempted to drive warriors from the deep ravines on the west side of the ridge, before being consumed in fire and smoke in one of the very ravines they were trying to clear. Company F may have tried to fire at warriors on the flats below the National Cemetery before being driven to the Last Stand Site.
About 40 to 50 men of the original 210 were cornered on the hill where the monument now stands. Hundreds of Lakota and Cheyenne warriors surrounded them. Toward the end of the fight, soldiers, some on foot, others on horseback, broke out in a desperate attempt to get away. All were pulled down and killed in a matter of minutes. The warriors quickly rushed to the top of the hill, cutting, clubbing, and stabbing the last of the wounded. Superior numbers and overwhelming firepower brought the Custer portion of the Battle of the Little Bighorn to a close.
The battle was a momentary victory for the Sioux and Cheyenne. General Phil Sheridan now had the leverage to put more troops in the field. Lakota Sioux hunting grounds were invaded by powerful Army expeditionary forces, determined to pacify the Northern Plains and to confine the Lakota and Cheyenne to reservations. Most of the declared “hostiles” had surrendered within one year of the fight, and the Black Hills were taken by the U.S. without compensation.
General Custer’s defeat and obituary (1876)
The fierce Sioux – Details of Custer’s defeat – The massacre during Battle of Little Bighorn
National Republican (Washington DC) July 08, 1876
The massacre of the Custer party in the Big Horn river ambuscade was the principal topic of conversation yesterday. General Custer was known as the bravest of the brave men, but in view of the dispatches received so far it was generally felt that the dash and bravery of a Custer or a Kilpatrick, with their waiving of judgment to be in the front in a fight, could only be atoned for in the fact that the old motto, de mortius nil nisi bonum, wiped out every pang of the death of the brave three hundred who followed him, and excused disobedience of orders in the man who led them his reckless way. So it is with the engineer who dies wrecking a train and killing all the passengers.
The massacre of the brave Custer and his brave force is generally looked upon by Congressmen and well-read and experienced army officers as the most horrible thing in history outside of the Spanish Inquisition, as detailed by Leorento, and the Democratic house comes in for the larger share of the glory of it.
Reducing the army is a good peace policy, and Sitting Bull is a good man to exemplify it. He is the chief of the so-called mythical Teton Sioux, for whom the Democrats have for three years argued against an appropriation for supplies, on the ground that they did not exist. General Custer was a Democrat, and the probabilities are now that the army will not be so materially reduced as Sam Randall has proposed. The gory track in a Montana ravine, where two hundred brave men lie buried in a mass, is a warning.
The fallen braves (during the Battle of Little Bighorn)
General George A Custer
General Custer, reported killed in a fight with the Indians a few days since, was born in Ohio about the year 1844. He was educated at the West Point Military Academy, whence he was graduated in 1861, a year in advance of the ordinary course. He at once entered active service, having been appointed a second lieutenant in the 2nd Cavalry on the 24th of June. On the 17th of July, 1862, he was appointed a first lieutenant in the 5th Cavalry, and on the 8th of May, 1864, was promoted captain of the same regiment in the regular army.
Meanwhile, owing to meritorious services, his promotion in the volunteer service and by brevet commissions was much more rapid. He was brevetted a major July 3, 1863, for gallant conduct at Gettysburg; a lieutenant colonel May 11, 1864; a colonel September 19, 1864, and a brigadier and major general March 13, 1865. He was made brigadier general of volunteers June 29 1863, and major general of volunteers April 15, 1865. He was mustered out of the volunteer service February 1, 1866.
The Seventh regiment of cavalry was organized July 28, 1866, and General Custer was appointed its lieutenant colonel the same day. This position he has held in service on the frontier for nearly ten years without promotion.
General Custer was a great favorite with his men, and generally popular with his brother officers.