Dispatches from Custer’s last stand (1876)

While most contemporary accounts portray the Native Americans that annihilated Custer’s forces at Little Big Horn as nothing more than savages, it’s worth noting that the Sioux people had a long, proud tradition that vastly predated the coming of the white man to his territories.

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

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.

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Second dispatch

Confirmation of the terrible disaster to General Custer and his troops

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July 6 [1876] – 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.”

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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 battle field, 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.


Top image: Custer’s Last Stand by Edgar Samuel Paxson (1899); Image 2: Sitting Bull

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