Battle of Little Big Horn

Armed conflicts in the history of humanity from the ancient times to the 20th Century.
Bgile
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Re: Battle of Little Big Horn

Post by Bgile » Tue Jan 12, 2010 3:39 pm

The real irony here is that some Federal cavalry were using repeating rifles some years earlier in the American Civil War. Custer may have even had some of them under his command then.

With respect to Reno, my recollection is the he stopped his charge and began a retreat/rout when it became apparent he was massively outnumbered. He fought a bloody retreat as he was pursued for several miles before finally forming a defensive perimeter on some high ground to be joined by Benteen. Meanwhile Custer was approaching the village from a different direction on higher ground.

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Karl Heidenreich
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Re: Battle of Little Big Horn

Post by Karl Heidenreich » Tue Jan 12, 2010 3:43 pm

Bgile:
With respect to Reno, my recollection is the he stopped his charge and began a retreat/rout when it became apparent he was massively outnumbered. He fought a bloody retreat as he was pursued for several miles before finally forming a defensive perimeter on some high ground to be joined by Benteen. Meanwhile Custer was approaching the village from a different direction on higher ground.
Steve, I think he had no idea of retreating when he stopped his charge. He stopped it and dismounted his men to form a skirmish line. It was a while, after that, that he realized his line was going to be broken so he started a retreat to a bushy area. But from one action to the other there was a span of time making me think that Reno´s first intention was, at least, not to retreat.

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Re: Battle of Little Big Horn

Post by lwd » Tue Jan 12, 2010 4:35 pm

Dave Saxton wrote:..... The standard procedure was to dismount and assume a firing position, hoping your poorly trained remount horse didn't bolt. ....
Indeed US cavalry during the ACW fought dismounted as much or more than it fought mounted. But a couple of questions.
1) Why were the cavalry horsees poorly trained?
2) I've normaly seen the term remount used for a second or subsequent mount was available. This doesn't appear to be what you mean here. Is it?

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Karl Heidenreich
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Re: Battle of Little Big Horn

Post by Karl Heidenreich » Tue Jan 12, 2010 6:17 pm

lwd:
Indeed US cavalry during the ACW fought dismounted as much or more than it fought mounted. But a couple of questions.
I think that is correct depending which side you are looking at. The North´s practices are as you describe. General Buford did that several times and so his succesors. The South was more prone, thanks to Stuart, to the "joy ride" and cavalry charge things. But basically cavalry, by then, was just mounted infantry.

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Re: Battle of Little Big Horn

Post by Bgile » Tue Jan 12, 2010 6:32 pm

I think there were quite a number of cavalry engagements involving horse charges and close range fighting from horseback in the ACW. There was a big one involving Custer at Gettysburg when Lee tried to send Stuart around the Federal right to exploit any success of Pickett's charge. I believe there were a number of others as well.

Dismounted combat was often resorted to when having to defend against the advance of infantry, such as at Gettysburg. One out of every four troopers had to be detailed to hold horses in such an action.

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Re: Battle of Little Big Horn

Post by tnemelckram » Tue Jan 12, 2010 11:34 pm

Hi All!

Evan Connell wrote this in his fabulous book Son Of The Morning Star: Custer And The Little Big Horn (1984):
Even now, after a hundred years, his name alone will start an argument. More significant men of his time can be discussed without passion because they are inextricably woven into a tapestry of the past, but this hotspur refuses to die. He stands forever on that dusty Montana slope. What a flamboyant, outrageous figure. What a sense of himself he had. General George Armstrong Custer! His name reverberates like the clang of a sword.
Karl is to be congratulated for choosing a subject so unlikely to provoke disagreement or heated discussion! :lol: With all due respect to the Bismark Sea Chace as a fertile topic for discussion, disagreement and controversy, I submit that Custer and Little Big Horn beats it by a mile! There's something for us to argue about! :dance:

Have any of you ever read Connell's book? Maybe the best book I ever read! EDIT TO ADD: It is full of offbeat anecdotes about the battle and personalities involved, which point out a sort of unique Americaness for the subject. In a twisted way this book makes me proud of my country despite the huge problems I have with its policies currently. The Germans and Brits can have their Bismark, we are lucky enough to have Custer and Little Big Horn!

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Karl Heidenreich
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Re: Battle of Little Big Horn

Post by Karl Heidenreich » Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:11 am

Son of the morning star.

I saw a TV miniseries with that name fifteen or so years ago. I think Patricia Arquette was there as Custer´s wife. Good movie that included the passage of some goverment scandal in which Custer testified against General Grant and General Sherman, I think (maybe Grant was President already). The Little Big Horn battle was, I think, quite faithfully potrayed with David Stratahairn as Captain Benteen. I do remember Custer decision not to take the Gattlings from that series.

Also, I have to mention, "son of the morning star" is the way asians refer to the Devil. Incredible, eh? I think the Sioux would have so recognized Custer.

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An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.
Sir Winston Churchill

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Re: Battle of Little Big Horn

Post by tommy303 » Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:29 am

Good movie that included the passage of some goverment scandal in which Custer testified against General Grant and General Sherman, I think (maybe Grant was President already).
I believe that the accusations were directed against Grant's secretary of war, William Belknapp for taking bribes, and President Grant's brother Orville for scandals concerning the Indian Agency trading posts. Custer's testimony, which was largely true and in good faith, had the immediate result of his being relieved of command and held in Washington. Only when Generals Sheridan and Sherman interceded on his behalf with Grant was Custer allowed to return to his command as it was readied for the 1876 expedition.

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They stood and Earth's foundations stay;
What God abandoned these defended;
And saved the sum of things for pay.

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Re: Battle of Little Big Horn

Post by tnemelckram » Wed Jan 13, 2010 12:48 am

Hi Karl!
I do remember Custer decision not to take the Gattlings from that series.
Connell's book relates a story about a competitive hunting party that Custer and some of his troops engaged in out on the Plains shortly before the battle. Custer saw a choice antelope or something on the distant horizon and recklessly tore off after the prize himself, chasing it for miles away from the rest of the party, and in doing so rode his horse so recklessly that he was thrown and then the horse ran off. So he's alone and on foot on the Great Plains, which is like being lost alone at sea because the perfectly flat horizon is the same all the way around with no landmarks. Out of 360 possible degrees, only one will get him back to his party safely, and wouldn't you know Custer chooses the right one. Custer got out of many similar scrapes and based on such evidence, thought himself bullet proof. This alone seems to explain why he would decide,, and be sure he was right, that he didn't need no steenkin' Gatlin' Guns.

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Re: Battle of Little Big Horn

Post by RF » Wed Jan 13, 2010 9:20 am

Would two or three Gatling guns have made any real difference? I think the battle result would have been the same - with these guns falling into the Indians hands along with the ammunition....
''Give me a Ping and one Ping only'' - Sean Connery.

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Re: Battle of Little Big Horn

Post by Karl Heidenreich » Wed Jan 13, 2010 11:30 am

An idea that would have never ocurred to the offensive minded Custer: leave a company behind with the Gatlings forming a defensive perimeter just in case things get sour he can fall back and not being butchered. Of course, this is very hindsight scenario.
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Re: Battle of Little Big Horn

Post by Bgile » Wed Jan 13, 2010 2:40 pm

I don't think the Gatlings would have made much difference, other than to slow him down. They were essentially light artillery, mainly useful against troop concentrations, and the indians didn't fight that way. I also don't think he really had much chance to retreat. His men were decimated as he advanced over several miles, and one of his troops actually seems to have died several hundred meters behind Custer's last position.

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Re: Battle of Little Big Horn

Post by tommy303 » Wed Jan 13, 2010 8:45 pm

I agree with Steve. Too much is made of Custer's decision not to take the Gatlings. Terry's column had considerable trouble moving them over broken terrain and they caused several injuries. They may have slowed him up enough that he might have arrived at the Little Bighorn only to find Terry's column decimated by the hostiles instead of the other way around. What is less understandable to my eyes, is Custer turning down the offer of another four companies or so of cavalry from another regiment to reinforce the 7th. That might well have made a big difference.

Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
They stood and Earth's foundations stay;
What God abandoned these defended;
And saved the sum of things for pay.

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Re: Battle of Little Big Horn

Post by Bgile » Wed Jan 13, 2010 8:53 pm

I didn't know he turned down reinforcements. That's huge ... probably an ego thing with him, but it might have made all the difference in the world.

I thought Terry's column was infantry and a lot more of them, so pretty much impossible for the indians to do much to as long as they exercised fire discipline, which of course they didn't do against Crazy horse.

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Karl Heidenreich
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Re: Battle of Little Big Horn

Post by Karl Heidenreich » Wed Jan 13, 2010 9:04 pm

Tommy303:
What is less understandable to my eyes, is Custer turning down the offer of another four companies or so of cavalry from another regiment to reinforce the 7th. That might well have made a big difference.
I heard about it but wasn´t shure. Four companies more would have given a much better chance to Custer.

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An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.
Sir Winston Churchill

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