The Great Summer Campaign of 1876 by Frederic C. Wagner III

Frederic C. Wagner III, author of the best-selling 'Participants in the Battle of the Little Big Horn: A Biographical Dictionary of Sioux, Cheyenne and United States Military Personnel' and 'The Strategy of Defeat at the Little Big Horn: A Military and Timing Analysis of the Battle'.

  • MAY 29, 1876—MONDAY
  • From Assistant Adjutant General, Department of the Platte—“Expedition leaves Fetterman today. Gen. Crook remains till evening to receive any dispatches, then goes to Camp.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From General George Crook—“Reports all young warriors from Red Cloud Agency gone to join hostiles who are concentrating at mouth of Powder river.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • Telegram dated May 29, 1876, from BG George Crook, Fort Fetterman, Wyo., to Lt. Gen. Sheridan, Chicago, Ill.—“Egan encountered about six hundred warriors going north from Red Cloud Agency he has information of all young warriors going north from this agency leaving families to be protected can’t you do something to stop this. Either warriors return or families join them. Indications are that we shall have the whole fighting force of the Sioux nation to contend with. Command marches today. I shall wait till towards evening and join Camp sixteen miles out hostiles are said to be concentrating at mouth of Powder River. George Crook, Brig. Gen’l.”
  • Dakota Column
  • 3:00 AM—Reveille.
  • 4:45 AM—Troops break camp. Time agrees with Terry’s diary.
  • 6:20 AM—Terry-Custer and advance guard reach the Little Missouri (near what is now, Medora, ND), still in the badlands, choosing a campsite. Banks of the river were lined with groves of cottonwood, elm, and pine. The Sioux called it, “Thick Timber River.” Edgar Stewart claimed this camp was not reached until May 30th.
  • 9:00 AM—Wagons and troops begin arriving at campsite. Little Missouri, Camp 13. This would be a two-day camp. Troops traveled 6.4 miles, for a total of 165.87 miles from FAL.
  • EVENING—Terry and Custer agree Custer should reconnoiter southwards, through the badlands, to see if he can pick up some sign of the Indians.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • 5:00 AM—Carroll has his wagons rolling, objective Pompey’s Pillar, 25 miles away. Cloudy and raining. Train now hauling some tents and bedding for English and his men.
  • 8:30 AM—Rain ends, but heavy clouds remain, making the day cool for traveling. SOME TIME IN THE MORNING—Gibbon sends CPT Sanno (K/7I) and Roe, along with LT Jacobs, RQM, and all the wagons (24)—empty—back to lighten the contract-train and hurry it along. Gibbon’s after-action report says Sanno and Roe were sent on the 28th, but this was the date they prepared to leave.
  • 11:00 AM—Train “nooned”; a dry camp.
  • 1:00 PM—Carroll’s Maclay train breaks camp, heading for Pompey’s Pillar. 2 PM—Ball/Thompson scout returns from Tongue River, having seen no hostiles.
  • ➢ The three couriers sent by Gibbon arrive at Stanley’s Stockade, but not finding Terry, proceed downriver where they encountered the “Far West.” They rode that back to the supply camp.
  • 7:00 PM—Maclay train makes Pompey’s Pillar and goes into camp, having traveled 25 miles. EVENING—Dr. Paulding reported a “squabble” among the officers in which Bradley called an officer whose name he did not know and who claimed he had not seen the Sioux village, a “liar.” (“Since he had accomplished more than all the others put together, he had a right to be miffed” [Gray, Custer’s Last Campaign, 160].)
  • Crook/Wyoming Column
  • NOON—Crook opens his “second” campaign:
  • ➢ Five companies of the 2nd Cavalry; ten companies of the 3rd Cavalry; three companies of the 9th Infantry; two companies (D and F) of the 4th Infantry (one source says three, but this is an error); 33 officers, 959 EM. The column was accompanied by CPT William S. Stanton, Corps of Engineers.
  • ➢ 103 wagons each pulled by a six-mule team.
  • ➢ Unknown to anyone and disguised as a man, “Calamity” Jane was one of the teamsters.
  • ➢ The column moved north from Fort Fetterman, along the Phil Kearney-Bozeman Trail route to the headwaters of the south fork of the Tongue River (Goose Creek) where a temporary camp was set up. This was the same route followed in the March expedition. The column stretched out for more than four miles.
  • ➢ After traveling 12 miles for the day, Crook camped on Sage Creek.
  • ➢ In the meantime, General Sheridan wrote to General Sherman: “As no very accurate information can be obtained as to the location of the hostile Indians, and as there would be no telling how long they would stay at any one place, if it was known, I have given no instructions to Generals Crook or Terry, preferring that they should do the best they can under the circumstances and under what they may develop, as I think it would be unwise to make any combinations in such country as they will have to operate in. As hostile Indians in any great numbers cannot keep the field as a body for a week, or at most ten days, I therefore consider—and so do Terry and Crook—that each column will be able to take care of itself and of chastising the Indians should it have the opportunity. “The organization of these commands and what they can expect to accomplish has been as yet left to the Department Commanders. I presume the following will occur: General Terry will drive the Indians toward the Big Horn Valley, and General Crook will drive them back toward Terry, Colonel Gibbon moving down on the north side of the Yellowstone to intercept, if possible, such as may want to go north of the Missouri to the Milk River.”
  • MAY 28, 1876—SUNDAY
  • From Charles G. Wicker—“Relative to allowing provisions train to go to Black Hills by Pierre route.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • Dakota Column
  • 4:25 AM—Broke camp. Both Terry and Custer, knowing of reports of hostiles in the region of the Little Missouri, figured they might start seeing signs of the Indians fairly soon.
  • ➢ Godfrey’s K Company brought up the rear this day.
  • 4:45 AM—Terry’s diary: advance begins.
  • ➢ Advance guard two miles in front.
  • 5:00 AM—Began building the first of eight bridges that day, within the Davis Creek valley of the Little Missouri badlands. ➢ 80°, though considerably warmer in the canyon walls.
  • ➢ Hardest day—in terms of work—of the entire expedition.
  • 5:45 AM—Reached first crossing of Davis Creek: 3.95 miles.
  • ➢ Second crossing: 1¾ miles.
  • 6:45 AM—Third crossing: 200 yards, 40 minutes.
  • 8:45 AM—Fourth crossing.
  • 10:00 AM—Fifth crossing.
  • 10:30 AM—Seventh crossing.
  • 12:30 PM—Went into bivouac. Davis Creek, Camp 12. 7 miles traveled; 158 miles from FAL. The camp was about mid-way down the canyon. ➢ Good grass and wood; water was too alkaline to drink.
  • AFTERNOON—LT Maguire, along with companies G (McIntosh), K (Godfrey), and M (French) go out and build two more bridges to facilitate the next day’s march.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • Gibbon, with a cavalry escort, makes a short foray downriver to examine the ground.
  • ➢ A fine rain fell, cooling the day.
  • NOON—Linas McCormick’s boat arrives.
  • ➢ Brought a cargo of vegetables, canned goods, tobacco, butter, cigars, and mail.
  • ➢ Reported seeing no Indians downriver from Benson’s Landing. ➢ Saw the Diamond-R train below the Stillwater, two days prior.
  • ➢ Upon Gibbon’s return he is handed a dispatch from Terry (dated May 14th at FAL) ordering him to march for the stockade (Stanley’s) above Glendive Creek, cross the Yellowstone, and move east to meet him.
  • ➢ It is in this note Terry tells Gibbon he expects to fight Sitting Bull on the Little Missouri: “… the hostiles were concentrated on the Little Missouri, and between the Missouri River and the Yellowstone… [March your column]… at once to a point on the Yellowstone opposite Stanley’s Stockade.”
  • ➢ Stanley’s Stockade was located about 130 miles downriver from where Gibbon was presently camped.
  • ➢ Gibbon read Terry’s note and wondered, if the Sioux were where Terry said—some 200 miles eastward—then why was Gibbon’s column seeing so many Indians a mere eighteen to twenty miles away and on the Rosebud? Terry’s note was two weeks old. “It is exceedingly unlikely that such a concentration is taking place, for the village opposite us is apparently working the other way, having already crossed from the Tongue to the Rosebud.”
  • ➢ Gibbon’s dilemma is simple: he has orders to move some 130 miles in the opposite direction from where he knows are Indians and other than the messengers he sent, has no way of informing Terry. Obviously, he is concerned the Indians will simply move farther away and then scatter. His solution is a short delay, hoping, in the interim, he would receive a note from Terry telling him to stay put. He decides to send Sanno (K/7I) and Roe (F/2C) with some wagons, back up the Yellowstone to speed along the Diamond-R wagons (with LT Kendrick’s detachment). This will buy him some time.
  • ➢ LT Kendrick (H/7I) and the Diamond-R train meet LT English and 2LT Alfred Bainbridge Johnson (I/7I) with 37 men, one Gatling gun, and the John W. Power Co. train, 6 miles below Baker’s battleground. According to Matthew Carroll, the Power train would be discharged after returning to Fort Ellis.
  • ➢ LT English requested the train stay the night.
  • ➢ The train made only 10 miles this day and had to make Pompey’s Pillar the following day as there was no water at this location.
  • ➢ Heavy windstorm and rain at night.
  • Crook/Wyoming Column
  • —A day prior to departure, Crook—concerned about enlisting scouts for his expedition—sends out two companies of cavalry to try to locate and recruit Crow and Shoshone scouts: CPT Van Vliet (C/3C) and LT Crawford (G/3C).
  • Indian Village
  • The 4th Indian camp was set up in the Greenleaf Creek area along the Rosebud [R – 34], the Cheyenne occupying that confluence, with the Hunkpapa circle about a mile below. This was also the first camp where one of the Sioux circles camped on the west side of the Rosebud.
  • ➢ More Cheyenne joined them here, telling the Indians the soldiers were coming to fight them.
  • ➢ They remained at this site for five or six nights.
  • MAY 27, 1876—SATURDAY
  • From the Governor of the Dakota Territory—“Asks if protection will be furnished a provision train which it is proposed to send to the relief of the Black Hills miners.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • Dakota Column
  • 3:00 AM—Reveille.
  • 4:30 AM—On the march. The rain from the night before had done away with much of the dust, but an early fog obscured landmarks and the column got lost looking for the Davis Creek valley entrance into the badlands. This route would take them to the Little Missouri.
  • 5;00 AM—Terry’s diary has the march beginning at this time.
  • 6:15 AM—Halt.
  • 8;00 AM—Column moves.
  • 9:20 AM—Halt. Badlands in sight.
  • ➢ Custer in advance with Company D and scouts, looking for trail.
  • ➢ Terry sends CPT Michaelis with fifteen men and PVT McCue as the guide, south, to find Stanley’s trail.
  • ➢ Reynolds scouts to the south; Indian escorts out. 1 PM—After fog lifted, Custer spotted the Sentinel Buttes, thereby correcting his bearings.
  • ➢ Looking for the Stanley trail from the Yellowstone Expedition of 1873. It was the only trail through the badlands.
  • ➢ Warm and clear with pleasant westerly winds.
  • ➢ Reached the badlands, the Mauvaises Terres. Days getting much hotter and the horses having some difficulty with wild cactus.
  • 2:00 PM—Entered the long narrow valley of Davis Creek.
  • 2:15 PM – 2:25 PM—After marching about 17 miles and one mile into the valley, they went into camp. A direct route would probably have been about 7 miles. Head of Davis Creek, Camp 11. (Now about 151 miles from FAL, though some of it is back and forth.) Camp set up about six miles south and one mile west of present-day Fryburg, ND.
  • ➢ Poor quality grass, sparse cottonwoods, water was highly alkaline.
  • ➢ Custer had the band play for the troops.
  • ➢ In the Army and Navy Journal of this date, it was reported “The Sioux are said to be at Blue Stone River, Montana, 300 miles from Fort Fetterman, with 3,000 lodges or 12,000 warriors. Three thousand warriors have left Cheyenne Agency to join Crazy Horse….”
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • 5:00 AM—By this time, ferried across the Yellowstone by CPT Clifford and his boats, LT Bradley sets out on another scout to see what has become of the Sioux camp (the Sioux seemed to have abruptly disappeared). Gibbon was extremely concerned the hostiles had possibly moved east.
  • ➢ Bradley takes his mounted infantry (thirteen troopers), Tom LeForgé, and five Crow, including Curley and White Man Runs Him—twenty, in all.
  • ➢ Bradley heads south toward the Wolf Mountains, crossing some open country “which they found strewn with recently killed buffalo and laced by hundreds of pony tracks” [Gray, Custer’s Last Campaign, 157]. Indian signs were abundant.
  • ➢ Bradley wrote, by the signs it was apparent, “there must have been hundreds of mounted Indians here within a recent period. Near the mountains, where they had been compelled to travel close together to pass defiles, they had left a beaten track like a traveled road.”
  • ➢ Approaching the lookout point from the earlier scout (14 miles out), they found the warrior trail seen by the Crow on the 19th. It led toward the lower Rosebud. Concluded that these warriors had been the vanguard of the “leisurely” movement of the entire village from the Tongue to the Rosebud.
  • ➢ Bradley finds an immense 400- to 500-lodge Sioux camp (8 – 10 miles distant up the valley) on the Rosebud—which was a surprise (Gibbon feared they may be moving east)—only 18 miles from Gibbon’s base camp below Rosebud’s mouth. It appeared to be spread out over a distance of some two miles. Bradley and his hard-riding infantry detachment had earned the sobriquet, “The Shoo-flies.” This camp was now only eighteen to twenty miles from Gibbon. “The fact that they had moved down within easy striking distance…’ Bradley observed, ‘seemed to prove that they held us in no awe.”
  • ➢ Before Bradley could have each of his soldiers ascend the peak and peer into the valley to see the village—for verification—some of his scouts spotted villagers driving some ponies as if they had spied the Crow. Reluctantly, Bradley and his men withdrew and he led them on a hard ride back to the Yellowstone. CPT Clifford had boats waiting to ferry them across.
  • ➢ John Gray—“Obviously, such movements (of the Sioux) so near the Montana column meant it stood in little awe of the troops it had been raiding…. The information Bradley reported at this time was the most valuable Indian intelligence discovered during the campaign. It established the present location and direction of movement of the consolidated force of winter roamers.”
  • ➢ Bradley estimated the village at about 400 lodges and 800 to 1,000 warriors. LT Roe, however—who was not with this scouting party—later expressed the opinion there were between 1,500 and 2,000 warriors in this particular village. Roe may have been correct for even Stewart claims more and more Indians were joining, so the camp had to be growing over this period.
  • 11:30 AM – NOON—Bradley returns to base camp with news. As usual, his report was greeted with skepticism.
  • NOON—The Maclay train halted for lunch having been in harness for six hours and traveling 12 miles.
  • 3 PM—Wagons roll again.
  • 7:45 PM—Maclay train camps just below Baker’s Battleground, 10 more miles. Made 41 miles in two days. Good grass for grazing.
  • AT DARK—Gibbon sends dispatch (mentioning Bradley’s report as a “PS,” since the report had been prepared prior to Bradley’s return) with privates William Evans (Bradley claimed it was PVT Bell) and Benjamin Stewart (both E/7I) and scout John Williamson, downriver to Terry (130 – 150 river-miles away). Bradley said the one trooper was James Bell, rather than Evans, but since Evans was awarded the Medal of Honor for his efforts, Bradley was obviously wrong. Gibbon verified it was Evans and Stewart.
  • ➢ Gibbon cleared this up in his October 1877, American Catholic Quarterly article, “Hunting Sitting Bull.” After the debacle at the Little Big Horn, Terry and Gibbon were anxious to communicate with BG Crook, especially since they had now heard of his defeat on the Rosebud. Gibbon asked for messengers and twelve men volunteered, including the intrepid Evans and Stewart, but this time PVT Bell (E/7I) as well. Those three were chosen… Sunday, July 9, 1876.
  • ➢ Gibbon’s decision not to attack the Sioux village—if he even fully believed Bradley’s report—was based on several factors: his orders were to keep the Sioux south of the Yellowstone and attack only if certain of success. He was still smarting over his failure to get his force across the river several days earlier and the Yellowstone was even higher now. He was extremely concerned about his supply train and even now was contemplating sending two more companies back to reinforce its escort, further reducing his offensive force.
  • ➢ These reasons were all valid, but what is incomprehensible is Gibbon’s failure to fully believe Bradley, follow-up at least, on his discovery, and report it to Terry like it was real and not just some ephemeral hope of his chief scout. Part of Gibbon’s hesitancy to fully believe Bradley may have stemmed from the fact Terry had expected the Sioux to fight him on the Little Missouri. This belief had to have been communicated to Gibbon much earlier.
  • AT DARK—Gibbon sends CPT Ball (H/2C) and CPT Thompson (L/2C) down the north bank of the Yellowstone to the Tongue to check for any Sioux crossings and to provide moral support for the three couriers.
  • 11:30 PM—Train’s mules pulled back in.
  • ➢ After only one night in the Teat Butte camp—their third on the Rosebud—the Indians moved again.
  • MAY 26, 1876—FRIDAY
  • From Commanding Officer, Fort Ellis—“Relative to Crow Indian Scouts being induced to join Gen. Crook’s command.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • Dakota Column
  • 3:00 AM—Scouts depart camp with mail for FAL.
  • SHORTLY AFTER DAWN—Scouts arrive from Fort Lincoln with mail.
  • 5:00 AM—Terry: column began to move.
  • 5:30 AM—Break camp. March resumes, ascending a long and easy slope to an alkaline plain covered with cactus and prickly pears. Beds of red gravel interspersed the terrain.
  • ➢ Several streams had to be bridged, causing delays.
  • ➢ Hottest day so far, 79°, muggy. Reached the highest elevation since leaving FAL, 3,279 feet.
  • ➢ Annoying plants: Devil’s Club, hay-needles, prickly pear, cockleburs.
  • ➢ Nearing the badlands of the Little Missouri, red-topped, conical-shaped hills coming in sight.
  • ➢ Custer riding far in advance with Weir’s D Company.
  • ➢ Reynolds, looking for Davis Creek, got lost, going about three miles too far; had to backtrack.
  • 5:30 AM—Terry: column halts.
  • 6:00 AM—Column begins to move.
  • 7:10 AM—Column halts to build bridge.
  • 9:20 AM—Terry: column begins to move.
  • 10:40 AM—Column halts.
  • 1:00 PM—Column moves.
  • 2:30 PM—Camped. Belfield, Camp 10. Covered only 12 miles (now 134 miles from FAL). The campsite was about 3½ miles south of present-day Belfield, ND.
  • ➢ Plenty of grass; no wood. Very warm with lots of mosquitoes and grasshoppers.
  • ➢ Heavy rainstorm that night.
  • ➢ The “Far West,” also with supplies, leaves Bismarck. Approximately 37 occupants. The steamer “Far West” was built in 1870 at Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, by the Herbertson Engineer Works of Brownsville, PA. It was 190 feet long; beam, 33 feet; draft with full load of 400 tons, 4 feet, 6 inches; draft, light, 20 inches, and carried three boilers. Her stern wheel was operated by two engines of five-foot stroke and 15-inch diameter cylinders. It also carried twin capstans on her forward deck, quite unusual for the time. Unloaded, the Far West drew about twenty inches, but when carrying two hundred tons of freight, she drew just another ten inches for a total draft of 2½ feet. She would use up to 30 cords of wood a day when fully loaded. During the campaign the Army paid $360 a day for the steamer.
  • Its owner and crew, along with some known passengers—
  •    Boles, James.
  •    Buford—Kept a daily log for the “Far West.”
  •    Burleigh, Walter “Bob”—Clerk and ship’s owner.
  •    Campbell, David—Pilot.
  •    Coleman, James—One of the post traders (sutler) for the expedition.
  •    Foulk, George—Chief Engineer.
  •    Hall—Nothing known other than he was an “experienced western farmer” [from engineer sergeant James Wilson’s report, January 3, 1877].
  •    Hardy, John—Second Engineer.
  •    Marsh, Grant Prince—b. 1834 – d. 1916. Ship’s Captain and pilot. LT Godfrey spoke very highly of Marsh. “He was a man of tremendous energy and resources to fight and overcome all obstacles” [Graham, The Custer Myth, 148]. Everyone seemed to agree. Buried in Bismarck, ND.
  •    Morgan, George—Married to a Crow woman. Translated what Curley said when he came aboard the “Far West” after the Custer battle.
  •    Riley, Reuben—Ship’s steward.
  •    Sipes, James M. — Barber on board the steamship.
  •    Smith, John W., “Captain”—One of the post traders/sutlers for the expedition.
  •    Thompson, Benjamin—First Mate.
  •    “A little, fat Dutch woman,” name unknown—Stewardess [Willert, To the Edge of Darkness, 135 – 136]. • Approximately 25 – 30 deck hands.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • 2:00 AM—Command again turned out on picket line in case of attack. Again, nothing.
  • ➢ The day was very warm and dry. 10 AM—LT Roe and his F/2C return to camp after escorting the John W. Power wagon caravan toward Fort Ellis.
  • ➢ Rare occurrence—the evening star—Venus—was seen.
  • ➢ Puzzling—no Indians seen now for a couple of days.
  • ➢ Gibbon told Bradley to prepare for a scout tomorrow to try to locate the Indian camp.
  • ➢ Maclay train moving. Sees the trader, Linas McCormick heading down the Yellowstone.
  • ➢ Passed Clark’s Fork.
  • <NOON—Wagon train “noons.” Halted “where road leaves the river to cross a big prairie for eight miles” [Carroll, Diary].
  • NOON—Wagon train leaves halt.
  • 6:00 PM—Having passed the mouth of Clark’s Fork, the wagon train camps for the night about ½ mile from the river having made another 15 miles.
  • MAY 25, 1876—THURSDAY
  • From General George Crook—“States that he will have someone meet the “Crows” at Reno. Reports Indians watching their movements.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From General George Crook—“Wishes any information up to 30th inst. telegraphed to him at Fort Fetterman.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • Dakota Column
  • 4 AM – 4:15 AM—March begins; day is clear and mild, 48°. “The country passed over was rolling, grassy plain, soft underfoot, and lush green as far as the eye could view. The grass was tall—sometimes as high as the horses’ knees…” [Willert, Little Big Horn Diary, 48].
  • 4:45 AM—Terry has column moving at this time.
  • 6:30 AM—Halted, then resumed march at this time.
  • 7:45 AM—Halted. Valley country with easy slopes.
  • 8:15 AM—Resumed march.
  • 9:30 AM—Halted.
  • 10:30 AM—March resumed.
  • 11:20 AM—Halted to build bridge.
  • NOON—A wash had to be bridged.
  • ➢ Mid-day temperature was now about 74°.
  • 2:40 PM—Campsite selected by Custer, near a high butte called Crow Ridge, along a tributary of the Heart, five miles north of present-day South Heart, ND. Crow Ridge, Camp 9. Column marched almost 20 miles this day (122.32 miles from Fort Lincoln), the longest so far.
  • ➢ This was another easy day and another excellent campsite.
  • ➢ The Indians were probably moving from their first Rosebud camp on this day or the next. At their second camp—twelve miles upstream from the first—Crow Indians were reported to have been seen. Later in the evening it was reported to have been an error.
  • ➢ They stayed in this location only one day, then moved another twelve or fifteen miles to the Teat Butte camp. The Teat Butte camp was probably their Camp # 3.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • 2 AM—Troops again wakened to be on the alert for Indians.
  • ➢ Day was very warm. 11 AM—The Maclay train had another hard day of travel, reaching the river at this time. The road was rough, but good.
  • 2:06 PM—They began again at this time, then camped 4 miles below the old Camp Supply.
  • MAY 24, 1876—WEDNESDAY
  • From the Assistant Adjutant General, Department of Dakota—“Forwards copy of telegram from Col. Gibbon, reporting that he leaves Fort Pease with his command on May 10th, 76.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From the Chicago Times: “In all there are Cheyennes, Sioux, and others, some 3,000 ready to fight out this campaign against Gen. Crook. They have numerous allies and people well-informed place the actual hostile Indian camp at from 7,000 to 8,000 first class fighting men…” 
  • Dakota Column
  • 4:10 AM – 4: 15 AM—Break camp. Bright, clear, very warm day. Rolling prairie.
  • 9 AM—The column crossed the survey line of the Northern Pacific Railroad.
  • 2 PM—Terry orders camp made on the Green River, a branch of the Heart. The Green is about thirty feet wide, a foot deep, alkaline, swift flowing, and clear. Lots of different fish. Green River, Camp 8. About 1½ miles northwest of present-day Gladstone, ND.
  • ➢ Made 19 miles this day (now 102 miles from FAL).
  • ➢ Good fishing, ample grazing, good water, bathing, good wood. Area loaded with wild roses. Temperature in the mid-70s. Troopers did a lot of washing.
  • ➢ Red Bear returns from FAL with mail.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • 2:30 AM—Reports of Indian crossings kept the command alert.
  • ➢ Very hot day. Column remained in camp with no incidents except a solitary Indian spotted ½ mile below the camp. He was chased.
  • NOON—Without LT Jerome, the Maclay train started, making slow progress, only 7 miles because of the difficult terrain.
  • 2 PM—Train got over a tough grade, having to repair the roads. Camped at dark.
  • MAY 23, 1876—TUESDAY
  • Dakota Column
  • 3 AM—Reveille.
  • 5 AM—Break camp.
  • 5:20 AM—On the march. Weather was cool—48°—clear, breezy; southerly winds, indicating warming trend. Comfortable day, with no clouds; prairie grasslands. ➢ “To the north were ‘badlands’—deep ravines and ‘boggy’ watersheds of the Knife River region—and, to the south, more ‘badlands’ and many buttes… Buttes dotted the region as well, and depressed wooded ravines presented deep, impassable barriers…” [Willert, Little Big Horn Diary, 40]. ➢ Temperatures moved into the upper 50’s. ➢ For the first time, they spot elk and Custer pursues. Discovers fresh campfire and indications of hostile Indians, “a short distance beyond the high, round hillock—known as Young Man’s Butte (two miles east of present day Richardson, ND)” [Willert, 40].
  • 6:30 AM—Command halts.
  • 7:05 AM—Command begins to march again.
  • 8 AM—Terry arrives with the advance at the place where he chooses to bivouac.
  • 8:20 AM—To rest troops for harder day’s march, Terry decides to go into camp early. Young Man’s Butte, Camp 7. Made only 8 miles (now 83 miles from FAL).
  • ➢ Camped on beautiful tableland, buttes visible to west; overlooking Knife River Valley, one mile west of Young Man’s Butte.
  • ➢ Plenty of wood, water and grazing; lots of trees in valley.
  • ➢ Indians spotted in late evening moving along a distant ridgeline; heavy guards posted. ➢ Moore again arrives at Stanley’s Stockade (Glendive), unloads, and heads back.
  • NEARLY DUSK—A party of Indians was observed, moving slowly west along a butte, silhouetted against the darkening sky. They were too far away to go after.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • 6 AM—The Maclay wagons broke camp, rolling eastward.
  • 7:30 AM—LT English (I/7I), accompanied partway by LT Roe (F/2C), started back to escort the contract-train of John W. Power—18 wagons—whose company had recently been discharged. When he met the new contract-train of E. G. Maclay and Company’s Diamond-R, he was to release Power’s wagons and escort Diamond-R’s with the supplies from Fort Ellis.
  • ➢ Gatling gun and crew, commanded by LT Alfred B. Johnson; Barney Bravo; and two Crow scouts accompanied the wagons.
  • ➢ Gibbon’s command was about two miles below the confluence of the Rosebud and Yellowstone. The Indians, unbeknownst to Gibbon, were now camped about seven or eight miles up the Rosebud.
  • ➢ Gibbon sends out LT Hamilton (L/2C) to scout for Indians. Reports seeing two parties, fifty and seventy in strength.
  • ➢ Unbeknownst to the troops, a large party of warriors—maybe as many as 200—had crossed the river and were in the hills north of the camp.
  • ➢ These Sioux kill three of Gibbon’s men who are out hunting. George Herendeen heard the firing and returned to camp to tell the news: PVT Henry Rahmeir, H/2C; PVT Augustus Stocker, H/2C, the only one of the three who was scalped; and civilian teamster, Matt [or James] Quinn.
  • ➢ Herendeen and four soldiers were also out hunting.
  • ➢ The Indians were pursued and a trail of about forty was found, then another of about 150 to 200.
  • 9 AM—The Maclay train reached White Beaver Creek where it halted for two hours. Good water and grass.
  • 11 AM—Maclay train starts rolling again.
  • NOON—Maclay train crosses Middle Beaver and East Beaver creeks. With the exception of the creek crossings, the roads were good. They had to double the teams when crossing streams.
  • ➢ Carroll writes that “Quinton and Countryman” overtook them at East Beaver Creek, informing them LT Jerome had to go back to Fort Ellis. This must have been LT Quinton (C/7I) whose company was not on the campaign.
  • 1:30 PM—The bodies of the three dead men were brought back to camp.
  • 6 PM—A mackinaw from Benson’s Landing arrives bringing a full load of eggs, butter, tobacco, and fresh vegetables: “Colonel” J. D. Chestnut, trader from Bozeman, and his crew of four.
  • ➢ Very steep prices: potatoes, 8 cents a pound; butter, $1 a pound; eggs, $1 a dozen.
  • 7 PM—The three men were buried while a Sioux war party “lined the bluffs across the river, solemnly watching the ceremony” [Gray]. (It is interesting to note here, Bradley wrote in his diary of seeing an Indian with an immense war bonnet, shaking it defiantly at the troops… and he was “about a mile distant”… yet De Rudio, when he described—at the Reno Court of Inquiry—the three riders on a bluff 1,000 yards away, was hardly believed.)
  • 7 PM—The Maclay wagon train makes camp.
  • MAY 22, 1876—MONDAY
  • Dakota Column
  • 3 AM—Reveille. Brisk morning, bright and clear. Good night’s feed for animals. Hot breakfast and coffee for troops.
  • 4:25 AM – 4:40 AM—Column moves out, Benteen’s wing on left, Reno’s on right, Reynolds and Bloody Knife in the lead, followed by Terry, Custer, and Kellogg; 44° and clear skies.
  • ➢ Reno spends a lot of time leading the regiment because Custer rides farther ahead with Terry.
  • ➢ Ground wet, but firm; no dust.
  • ➢ Expected to have to cross Big Muddy, but instead, traversed a muddy plain that proved to be the creek’s headwaters.
  • 10 AM—Column hits Custer’s return trail from his 1874 Black Hills expedition, about 6½ miles southeast of present-day Hebron, ND. Column stops for lunch.
  • NOON—Advance party had made 15½ miles (75 miles from FAL) and Terry decides to go into camp near headwaters of the Knife River, seven miles east of Young Man’s Butte, because of the proximity of wood and water.
  • ➢ Temperatures were in the mid-60s. Much drier territory, rock-strewn with sage and prickly-pear cactus (and rattlesnakes).
  • ➢ Reynolds bags three more antelope.
  • EARLY AFTERNOON—Column moves on, catching up with advance.
  • ➢ Has to cross tributary—Thin-Faced Woman’s Creek—of Knife River: dry riverbed, but with twelve-foot high embankments that had to be cut down.
  • 1 PM—After a teamster accident with an overturned wagon, column goes into camp. West of Hebron, Camp 6. Camp was about 3½ miles west of Hebron, ND.
  • ➢ New grass (after an old prairie fire) for horses. Plenty of wood, game birds, etc.
  • EVENING—Band entertains troops.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • Three troopers from Gibbon’s column go out hunting for antelope and buffalo and stumble into the Sioux war party—eight to ten strong—that had followed Bradley’s trail. The soldiers managed to escape and head back to camp to warn Gibbon. The colonel now sends CPT Wheelan’s G/2C downriver two or three miles with orders to then cut north; Bradley heads upriver to do the same thing; and the Crow scouts are sent directly north.
  • ➢ The Sioux, however, avoid the trap by moving north.
  • 9 AM—Wagon train, having difficulty crossing Sweet Grass Creek—having to repair roads—is finally on the move, on an up-grade.
  • ➢ Traveled only 10 miles for the day.
  • NOON—After moving only about 4 miles, the train halts “at mouth of canyon below the forks, where we found a good spring, being the only water in the creek” [Carroll, Diary].
  • 5:30 PM—Wheelan’s company, Bradley, and the Crows return to camp without seeing any appreciable Indian signs. Gibbon, however, is now fully aware the Sioux are watching him.
  • ➢ The train finally got through the canyon after some rough going—only 2 miles—and went into camp having traveled only 10 miles for the day; no water for the mules.
  • ➢ Some time after May 16, the hostile camp moved west to the Rosebud valley and was increasing in size as Indians from the agencies were joining. The first Rosebud camp was about seven or eight miles up from the Yellowstone.
  • 11 PM—Train mules put in a corral.
  • MAY 21, 1876—SUNDAY
  • From General George Crook—“Acknowledges receipt of dispatch but no letter. Is informed that Buffalo are moving west, and that the Indians must keep near them.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • MAJ Moore again heads to Stanley’s Stockade (Glendive) depot on the “Josephine,” with more supplies.
  • Dakota Column
  • 2 AM—Charley Reynolds saddles up and heads out to seek a good route of advance for the day.
  • 3 AM—Dawn—Reveille. Advance was ordered for 5 AM, but then postponed when Terry ordered a route change.
  • ➢ Still occasional rain; very gloomy, misty.
  • 6:30 AM—Column moved across the Little Muddy after Maguire’s engineers built a bridge.
  • ➢ Ground was marshy and initially uphill, straining the mules pulling the wagons.
  • ➢ Route was now about two miles north of that taken in the 1873 and 1874 expeditions.
  • ➢ Weather continually threatening.
  • 7 AM—Column halts.
  • 9 AM—Command moves again.
  • 10 AM—Command halts.
  • 11 AM—Command moves.
  • NOON—Sun came out and it became much warmer; also, entered grassy valleys, with long, flat and gently sloping hillsides. Wagons now made much better time.
  • ➢ A toll was already being taken on the men and animals. One mule had to be shot, another left behind. Three men had to be carried in an ambulance: two were sick, one accidentally shot himself in the heel while mounting.
  • 12:10 PM—Command halts.
  • 2:45 PM—Command moves.
  • AFTERNOON—Passed by “Maiden’s Breasts” or “Twin” Buttes.
  • ➢ Other butte names: “Rattlesnake Den,” “Wolf’s Den,” “Dog Teeth Butte,” “Rainy Butte,” “Cherry Ridge.”
  • ➢ Mark Kellogg filed a dispatch for the New York Herald, published in the June 19, 1876 edition: “… the term hill is never heard on the Plains; every prominent elevation is spoken of as a butte; instead of ridges one hears only of divides, while valleys are seldom heard of, but in their stead one constantly hears of ravines….”
  • 3:30 PM—After the “pioneer” battalion bridged another crossing and after traveling 13½ miles (60¾ miles from FAL), they made camp—Head of Hay Creek, Camp 5. Camp location was approximately 8½ miles north and ½ mile west of present-day Glen Ullin, ND.
  • ➢ Rocky terrain, plenty of water, fair grassland. Nearest wood was a small stand of cottonwoods two miles away.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column—
  • 6 AM—The Diamond-R wagon train departs camp. Weather cool and cloudy with an east wind.
  • ➢ Gibbon orders LT Jacobs to take the wagons and some men from each company and go back up-river to retrieve their tents and equipage. Bradley and CPT Clifford and his men would go along to retrieve the boats left there.
  • ➢ Jacobs and Bradley arrive at Kirtland’s camp during the morning, load everything and proceed back downstream.
  • ➢ Bradley and Clifford move back down the river to an old abandoned and burnt-down trading post, old Fort Van Buren.
  • NOON—Diamond-R train halts for lunch.
  • ➢ Wagon Master Carroll and LT Jerome rode ahead of the train all day.
  • 4 PM—Kirtland’s wagons arrived carrying the supplies from the previous bivouac.
  • 4:30 PM— The Thompson-Wheelan-Boyer scout returns to the new Gibbon camp with its news.
  • 5 PM—Bivouac complete.
  • 6 PM—Having covered 21 miles on good roads, the Diamond-R train camps for the night on Sweet Grass Creek; good grazing. They arrived too late to attempt a crossing of the creek.
  • MAY 20, 1876—SATURDAY
  • From Assistant Adjutant General, Department of the Platte—“Statement of strength and designating the Companies of Gen. Crook’s Command.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From General George Crook—“Reports interview with Miner from Fort Phil Kearny who states that he saw no sign of Indians on his trip and intimates that they are following the Buffalo.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • Dakota Column
  • 5 AM—Reveille. More heavy rains in early morning. Terry orders out Reynolds, LT Maguire, and ten Rees to find a suitable crossing over the Muddy, some nine miles ahead.
  • 7:30 AM – 8 AM—Troops began to move, finding Maguire and company. Raining intermittently.
  • ➢ Many coulees cut the terrain; very slow-going for wagons. 7:45 AM—Terry’s diary has the advance guard leaving at this time. 9 AM—First creek crossed; 4¼ miles. 11:15 AM—March began again.
  • NOON—Terry says Little Muddy reached at this time.
  • 1:30 PM—Reached the Little Muddy River, 9½ miles for the day (47¼ miles from FAL)—Hail Stone Creek, Camp 4.
  • 2:45 PM—Bridge building begins.
  • 9:15 PM—Custer writes his first letter to Libbie.
  • 9:30 PM—Scouts sent back with messages and mail, after dark, so as to avoid hostiles: Bull Stands In Water, Red Star, and Strikes The Lodge.
  • ➢ Willert claims the scouts were One Horn and Red Foolish Bear.
  • NIGHT—More heavy rain.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column—The day starts out with a steady rainfall and Gibbon orders the column to remain in camp.
  • ➢ The Diamond-R wagon train started out, an east wind drying the roads to make travel easier. The roads were “heavy,” but drying.
  • 8 AM—The four unmounted Crows return, reporting the large body of Sioux—several hundred warriors; one report claiming 700!—moving toward the mouth of the Rosebud from the direction of the Tongue.
  • 9 AM – 9:30 AM—After hearing the Crows’ report of the large body of Sioux, Gibbon orders his column out in search of Boyer and CPT Thompson’s detachment downriver. Gibbon’s column, less CPT Kirtland’s B/7I, leaves camp looking for signs of Sioux. They cross the Little Porcupine and travel 8.66 miles, camping one to two miles below the Rosebud and staying there for two weeks.
  • ➢ A drenching rain continued falling.
  • ➢ Across the river are the Big Wolf Mountains and farther east, a line of broken ridges on the west side of the Tongue River.
  • ➢ No Indian crossings were found.
  • ➢ Bradley continues his scout for another 13 miles, passing the confluence of the Rosebud and Yellowstone, but turns back when he discovers Thompson’s trail. He cannot, however, find Thompson, and heads back upstream.
  • ➢ Unknown to Bradley, a Sioux war party had crossed the Yellowstone farther downriver and had come upon his trail, following it.
  • NOON—Train halts for two hours.
  • ➢ Diamond-R wagon train camped along Little Timber Creek.
  • 11 PM—Bradley reaches Gibbon’s camp, having gone about 22 miles down and back.
  • 11:45—SGT Belicke (C/7I) accidentally killed by a sentry in the Little Timber camp.
  • MAY 19, 1876—FRIDAY
  • From the Assistant Adjutant General, Department of Dakota—“Forwards copy of telegram from Col. Gibbon saying that Capt. Ball just in reports no sign of Indians—proposes to move down as soon as supplies reach him.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • Dakota Column
  • 4:20 AM—Wake-up call. Not yet raining, but heavy clouds and cool weather.
  • 5 AM—Terry’s diary has the column beginning its move at this time.
  • 6:30 AM—Column began its march.
  • ➢ Encountered rough and broken country, with more huge boulders, deep ravines and bogs; prairie dog villages.
  • ➢ Only a mile from the encampment, the column was faced with the problem of Sweet Briar Creek, swollen by the rains to a fast-running creek, almost fifty feet wide and ten feet deep. Column detoured to the south.
  • ➢ Rain threatened; ground was very soft and again, wagons became mired.
  • ➢ Charley Reynolds brought back a pronghorn antelope.
  • 7:20 AM—Column halts to close up.
  • 10 AM—Scouts from FAL reach the column with mail.
  • 10:35 AM—Column resumes march. 11:30 AM—Halts for camp.
  • NOON—Advanced party, consisting of Custer and Terry, pitched camp after traveling about 13½ miles (37¾ total)—Crow’s Nest Butte, Camp 3. Also called Buzzard’s Roost Butte or—by the troops: Turkey Buzzard Camp. It was a flat stretch along the southwest edge of present-day New Salem, ND. It was a miserable site, with no water, no wood, little grass, and wet buffalo chips.
  • ➢ Furious thunderstorm with large hailstones, then bright sun and heavy winds drying things out.
  • 1:15 PM—Violent storms subsides.
  • 6 PM+ — Last of the wagons arrived and were corralled in the center of the bivouac, with the horse and mule remuda picketed just beyond. The tents came next, the pickets just beyond those, then on the highest ground, the mounted pickets (vedettes).
  • ➢ Night was cool and very windy. Heavy rains.
  • SUNSET—Mail sent back with One Horn and Red Foolish Bear, two of the Ree scouts.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column—Gibbon and Brisbin still sick.
  • ➢ Falling snow makes traveling miserable for LT Kendrick and the Diamond-R wagon train. Little progress made previously, they remain in camp. Wind from the west; heavy snow on the hills.
  • 9 AM—Bradley meets messengers. Raining.
  • 10 AM—After eating breakfast, Bradley’s detachment and the couriers head back to camp.
  • ➢ The Thompson/Wheelan scouting party—preparing to move—stops suddenly when Boyer and the Crow scouts report forty to fifty Sioux warriors ascending the Yellowstone on its south riverbank, twenty miles downriver from Gibbon’s main camp.
  • ➢ As the Indians moved westward up the river seeking a suitable ford, they left their led horses under the care of two or three young warriors.
  • ➢ Boyer and Hairy Moccasin (Willert said it was Goes Ahead; Freeman journaled it was Hairy Moccasin and one other Crow) swim the river in an attempt to steal the ponies left behind with the Sioux youngsters.
  • ➢ Kids run the horses off and Boyer and Hairy Moccasin swim back.
  • ➢ Scouting party continues to the Tongue River but finds nothing except the trail where Bradley had turned back after spotting the winter-roamers’ village.
  • NOON—The four unmounted Crow sent out in the afternoon of the day before, are on the high summit of the Wolf Mountains where Bradley had spotted the Sioux village. They run across a Sioux war party of several hundred warriors and are barely able to escape, leaving behind their horse-stealing ambitions.
  • ➢ The warriors disappear into the Rosebud valley, heading downstream toward the confluence.
  • 3:30 PM—Bradley reaches camp with the two mail couriers.
  • ➢ This was probably the day the Indians reached the Rosebud. Wooden Leg said their first camp was about seven or eight miles up from the stream’s confluence with the Yellowstone River.
  • ➢ All the camps were on the east side of the creek.
  • ➢ Charcoal Bear—the chief medicine man of the Cheyenne—joined the camp here. He brought more Cheyenne with him.
  • ➢ The camp remained in this area for six or seven days, then moved about 12 miles up the stream.
  • ➢ The warriors had spotted Gibbon’s command trying to ford the Yellowstone, and reported this to the village. They were warned to leave the white men alone; the village was set up for defense, not aggression. This is the same as their camp on the Little Big Horn on June 25, 1876.
  • ➢ Wooden Leg said the Indians were unaware they had been spotted at this camp.
  • 6 PM—Rain and snow finally stop. Wagon Master Carroll journals that they can finally move in the morning, though the going would probably not be easy.
  • MAY 18, 1876—THURSDAY
  • From the Assistant Adjutant General, Department of Dakota—“Forwards tabular statement showing the composition of Gen. Terry’s Command and its approximate strength.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • Dakota Column
  • 2:40 AM—Reveille.
  • 3:AM—Terry’s diary records reveille at this time.
  • 5 AM—Column ready to go, but has problems crossing the Heart. A corduroy road had to be laid: planks, cottonwood logs, branches, and earth.
  • 5:04 AM, LOCAL SUN TIME—Sunrise.
  • 8 AM—Terry-Custer column begins crossing after Maguire’s engineers and infantry prepare road and riverbeds.
  • 8:30 AM—Train is across the Heart.
  • 9 AM—The Dakota column moves.
  • ➢ Slow going for column: trail-less and unknown terrain.
  • ➢ Many narrow streams. 10:30 AM—Command halts. 11 AM—Steamer “Josephine,” with MAJ Moore, arrives at Stanley’s Stockade (Glendive) and unloads troops and supplies. Once unloaded, Moore heads back to Buford to retrieve more supplies.
  • 1:45 PM—Campsite located on a plateau approximately fifty feet above a tributary of Sweet Briar Creek and about seventy acres. Made 10¾ miles (24¼ miles, total)—Sweet Briar Creek, Camp 2. The countryside was glacial moraine, with many immense boulders and small round hillocks. It is approximately two miles west of the present-day Sweetbriar Station of the Northern Pacific Railroad. Off to the southwest could be seen the Dakota badlands.
  • 2 PM—Terry arrived in camp. Diary records distance at 10.8 miles.
  • 3 PM—Heavy rains and fierce lightning for about twenty minutes, then steady rain at intervals.
  • 6:10 PM—The last of the wagons arrived.
  • ➢ Terry’s dinner consisted of roast beef, mashed potato, warm biscuits, and raw onions in vinegar for salad.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column—Gibbon and Brisbin sick. Raining again.
  • ➢ Wagon Master Matthew Carroll says he joined the train this day “while breaking camp on Hunter’s bottom on Yellowstone River (Hunter’s Hot Springs).”
  • < NOON—Boyer, two Crow, and captains Wheelan (G/2C) and Thompson (L/2C) head out on a three day scout down north side of Yellowstone to the Tongue (about forty miles). The objective was to make sure the Sioux had not slipped down the Tongue and cross the Yellowstone to the north.
  • AFTERNOON—Four unmounted Crows sent out by Bradley to steal Sioux ponies.
  • 5 PM—Wagons camped for the night. Train has “no guide, and no one in train who knows the country below Baker’s battle-ground.”
  • EVENING—Rainy and cloudy; rain turned to snow.
  • AT DARK—Bradley and twelve of his mounted infantry, LeForgé, and five Crows move upriver to meet expected couriers from Fort Ellis.
  • ➢ Moved 12 miles before establishing a bivouac. No fires. Crook/Wyoming Column—After leaving Camp Robinson, Crook and Bourke headed for Fort Laramie.
  • ➢ At Laramie Crook received a telegram informing him Terry had departed Fort Lincoln, though it gave the date as the 16th rather than the 17th.
  • ➢ Crook and Bourke leave Laramie on this date bound for Fort Fetterman.
  • MAY 17, 1876—WEDNESDAY
  • We now go to Part 3 of today’s five posts…It begins… this is the day… hang on… Because of the length of today’s post, I am breaking it down into five separate sections and since we have a general officer running the whole show, I will organize it by Alfred Terry’s General Staff: G – 1, Administration; G – 2, Intelligence; G – 3, Operations; and G – 4, Logistics. Colonel Gibbon’s Montana column will add a 5th post. First, however, we need to check the mail… From the Commanding General, Department of Dakota—“Gen. Terry’s column left Fort Lincoln at five o’clock this morning.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From the Commanding General, Department of the Platte—“Relative to Indian Scouts, who would accompany the expedition for what plunder they could capture. Leaves for Fort Fetterman in the morning.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”] The mail is rather neutral so let the expedition begin!!!
  • We start out with Part 1… G – 1,  ADMINISTRATION…
  • Dakota Column
  • 4 AM—Reveille sounded. Too wet to start fires, so breakfast consisted of hard tack and water. Morning was raw and cold with heavy mist and fog.
  • 5 AM—The trumpeter at HQ, signaling the taking down of the tents and preparation to move, sounded the “general.”
  • ➢ Units were bivouacked on a plateau about ½-mile below (south of) the cavalry barracks at Fort Abraham Lincoln (Missouri River on the east, the prairie to the west).  “Boots and saddles” now sounded: horses saddled and troops ready to mount.
  • ➢ The following men were assigned Special Duty for all or part of the campaign: Brainard, PVT George—Orderly for General Terry. Murphy, SGT Robert L. — Orderly for General Terry. O’Toole, PVT Francis—Orderly for General Terry. Lynch, PVT Patrick—Orderly for General Terry. Hughes, SGT Robert H. — Orderly-trumpeter for George Custer. Dose, TMP Henry C. — Orderly-trumpeter for George Custer. Martini, TMP PVT Giovanni—Orderly-trumpeter for George Custer. Burkman, PVT John W. — George Custer’s orderly/striker. Goldin, PVT Theodore W. — LT Cooke’s HQ orderly/messenger. Callahan, CPL John J. — Hospital orderly and Dr. Lord’s assistant. Abbotts, PVT Harry—Dr. DeWolf’s attendant. Ryder, PVT Hobart—Hospital orderly for Dr. Porter. Davern, PVT Edward—MAJ Reno’s orderly. McIlhargey, PVT Archibald—MAJ Reno’s striker. Korn, PVT Gustave—CPT Keogh’s orderly. Kelly, PVT Patrick—CPT Keogh’s striker. Pickard, PVT Edwin H. — CPT Yates’ orderly, then assigned to packs. Deihle, PVT Jacob—CPT Moylan’s orderly. Lorentz, PVT George—CPT French’s orderly. Klotzbucher, PVT Henry—CPT French’s striker. Sanders, PVT Charles—CPT Weir’s orderly. Dorn, PVT Richard B. — CPT McDougall’s orderly. Penwell, TMP George B. — LT Godfrey’s orderly, then Reno’s trumpeter. Rapp, PVT John—LT McIntosh’s orderly/striker. Hackett, PVT John—LT Wallace’s orderly. Harrison, SGT Thomas Wilford—LT Edgerly’s orderly. McVeigh, TMP David—LT De Rudio’s orderly. Strode, PVT Elijah T. — LT Varnum’s orderly. Trumble, PVT William—LT Hodgson’s orderly. Kramer, TMP William—Possibly LT Harrington’s orderly. Clear, PVT Elihu F. — LT Hare’s orderly. Klawitter, PVT Ferdinand—Libbie Custer’s orderly at Fort Lincoln.
  • 6 AM (HQ, ST. PAUL TIME)—The wagon train was on the road, escorted by the infantry.
  • 6:02 AM (5:05 AM, LOCAL SUN TIME)—Sunrise. ➢ MAJ George Gillespie, Chief Engineer of the Military Division of the Missouri, in his 1876 annual report, reported the column’s strength as: 30 Indian scouts; 45 officers; 905 enlisted men.
  • ➢ LT Maguire, in his annual report, listed: 50 officers; 968 EM; 190 civilian employees; 1,694 animals. He also included 45 Indian scouts, guides, and interpreters. Maguire was given a four-mule ambulance for his instruments and men. The odometers were attached to its wheels.
  • ➢ The Army and Navy Journal of July 15, 1876—after the battle—listed again the strength of the units leaving Fort Lincoln: 7th Cavalry: 28 officers, 747 EM; 6th and 17th Infantry: eight officers, 135 EM. Gatling gun battery: two officers, 32 enlisted personnel. Three Gatling guns (making a total of five on the campaign). Indian scouts: 45. Total uniformed personnel: 952, plus Terry’s staff.
  • ➢ Mark Kellogg, the correspondent for the Bismarck Tribune, claimed 1,207 men left FAL.
  • ➢ Headed northwest for the bench-land above the fort and west of Fort McKeen (the old, abandoned infantry post). Post named for Colonel Henry Boyd McKeen (or McKean) who died at Cold Harbor. Construction began in June 1872; housed the 6th Infantry. On November 19, 1872, the fort’s name was changed to Abraham Lincoln. “When Custer arrived in late summer of 1873 after the Yellowstone Expedition another post had been built on the adjacent plain… inherited the name Fort Abraham Lincoln when the infantry fort on the bluff was abandoned. West of the parade ground stood Custer’s home, flanked by those of subordinate officers. In February of 1874… Custer’s home was luxuriously rebuilt: a thirty-two-foot living room with a bay window, billiard room on the second floor, library, plenty of space to exhibit his gun collection and stuffed trophies. Behind the house were gardens, enclosed by a fence to keep out the dogs. At some later date a ballroom was added….” [Connell, Son of the Morning Star, 400].
  • 6:45 AM or 7 AM—Cavalry was passing in review at the barracks.
  • ➢ The scouts led the parade, first passing by the log huts of the Ree scouts, located south of the garrison, intoning a dirge-like chant Libbie Custer hated.
  • ➢ Column of fours. Godfrey said a “column of platoon.”
  • ➢ The column then passed “laundress row,” the cabins occupied by the troopers’ families. Tear-streaked wives, some wailing children. A lot of sorrowful women.
  • ➢ The column entered the parade ground where it halted one last time so the officers could embrace their wives. The band then switched over from Garryowen to The Girl I Left Behind Me.
  • ➢ It then passed Officers’ Row and began its long ascent to the plain above.”
  • G – 3, OPERATIONS…
  • ➢ Regiment divided into two wings: Right wing under Reno, two battalions: Keogh (I): B, C and I; and Yates (F): E, F, and L. Left wing under Benteen (H), two battalions: Weir (D): A, D, and H; and French (M): G, K, and M. Bruce Liddic claimed the breakdown under Benteen was as follows: Weir (D): D, H, and K; and French (M): A, G, and M.
  • ➢ Area of operations for the three columns took in some 100,000 square miles.
  • ➢ Willert makes the point, “The task of each of the three principal… commands… had been explicitly stated: located [sic] the camps of the recalcitrants and destroy them.”
  • ➢ Many soldiers anticipated a short, sharp campaign, maybe no longer than two weeks.
  • 7 AM—Infantry and wagons were assembled on the hill. After the parade the cavalry joined the infantry and wagons and the column formed up. The general order of march was as follows: one battalion as advance guard; one battalion as rear guard, behind everything; one battalion on each flank. The rear guard would assist any wagon that had broken down. The flank battalions were to remain within 500 yards of the column and never go beyond or get behind the train by more than a half-mile. On the flanks, one company was allowed to get ½ mile ahead of the train, then it would halt and dismount, resting the horses. When the other two companies caught, the routine would continue. That way there were always two companies along each side of the train. In rough country, flankers were sent out farther to insure against surprise attacks. Custer and his aides led, followed by one cavalry company selected each day from the advance guard. Then the lead two companies in the forward battalion (which changed each day) were under LT Maguire’s charge and served in “pioneer” duty, e.g., bridging, road building, etc. The Gatling guns; government wagons, followed by the civilian wagons—all closely supported by the infantry—were in the middle. The wagon train was assembled in a column of fours. To the sides on the wagons were the beef herd and spare horses (the horse remuda) and mules. The scouts fanned out to the front. The ground was damp, so there was little dust on this first day. Each cavalry company was assigned one wagon: five days rations and forage; troops’ mess kit; officers’ mess kit, tents, and baggage; ten days’ supplies for the officers’ mess; no sabers; each troop horse carried between 80 – 90 pounds plus the rider.
  • 1:30 PM – 2: 30 PM—Column moves some 13.5 miles—almost due west—over rolling prairie with numerous hillocks and camped on the Heart River (here, about three feet deep and thirty yards wide; empties into the Missouri, right near Bismarck)—Heart River Camp, #1. Approximately one mile south of the present-day [1997] Northern Pacific Railroad siding at Lyons, ND, and 1½ miles above the confluence of Sweetbriar Creek.
  • ➢ “The camp was established in the bottom, which is about 500 feet square, and was fenced in on three sides by high bluffs, the fourth side being bounded by the gentle slope leading to the prairie… The grass was good and plentiful, and there was no lack of wood. A slight rain fell during the night” [Maguire Annual Report].
  • ➢ First water since FAL; not uncommon on campaign.
  • ➢ No trails. In 1876 there was not a ranch west of Bismarck, Dakota, nor east of Bozeman, Montana.
  • ➢ “… [B]eautifully located on level grassy plateau nearly surrounded by the Heart River. A fringe of trees borders the river’s edge—many of which… are dead and dry so [there] can [be] roaring fires tonight.” [Terry, in a letter to his sister Harriet.]
  • ➢ The camp was on the same ground where Custer’s command had stopped for an afternoon lunch when returning from the 1874 Black Hills Expedition.
  • ➢ General David S. Stanley’s expedition had also camped there in 1873, en route to Fort Rice.
  • ➢ Overrun by rattlesnakes the soldiers promptly disposed of.
  • ➢ The main guard generally consisted of four or five NCOs and twelve to fifteen privates.
  • ➢ One NCO and three privates would be posted at prominent points.
  • ➢ Reveille was generally at 4:20 AM.
  • ➢ Stable call, supervised by an officer, followed reveille.
  • ➢ Two hours after reveille, the command would be on the march.
  • 2 PM—Terry notes in his diary that he and the main body arrived at the Heart River Camp 1 at this time; total distance 13½ miles.
  • This is the last part of today’s post,
  • Part 5— Gibbon/Montana Column—
  • DAYLIGHT—Bradley reaches base camp and reports to Gibbon, crossing the river to reach him. The camp had been preparing to move.
  • ➢ Gibbon decides to remain in camp, preparatory to an attack on the Indian village. His orders had been to move his camp further downriver on the 17th. In his after-action dispatch to Terry, he tells of his scouts finding a Sioux camp on the Rosebud [sic, the Tongue, Gibbon’s error] and he decided to attack it, setting out on this day.
  • ➢ He would leave only CPT Sanno’s K/7I to guard the camp and supply train.
  • ➢ That would leave an attack force of about 392 men.
  • ➢ Five companies of infantry: A, B, E, H, and I, 7th Infantry.
  • ➢ Four troops of cavalry: F, G, H, and L, 2nd Cavalry.
  • ➢ 34 officers, 350 EM.
  • ➢ Crow scouts and eight civilian “camp followers.”
  • ➢ Thirty pack mules.
  • ➢ Within an hour of Bradley’s arrival back at camp, Indians were seen on the prairie across the river.
  • 9 AM—The move to cross the Yellowstone began. The cavalry was to cross first, establish a defensive perimeter on the south bank, then ferry the infantry across by the mackinaw boats. The river, however, had become a raging torrent of muddied water. There was great difficulty getting the horses into the water.
  • NOON—Gibbon attempts to ford the Yellowstone, but it was a torrent and after having four horses drown, he abandoned the effort.
  • ➢ 75 – 100 Sioux were watching from across river—beyond carbine range—thereby negating surprise.
  • ➢ Some of the Indians got within 200 yards of Bradley’s men, still on the south side of the river.
  • 5 PM—Very few cavalry mounts made it across and the effort was abandoned.
  • ➢ Some confusion here: James Willert claimed SGT John McCabe (H/2C) helped try to get the horses across the Yellowstone, but Loyd Overfield claims McCabe was sick at Fort Pease.
  • ➢ John Gray claimed Gibbon’s failure to cross Yellowstone dispirited him for the rest of the campaign. He also blew his opportunity to reap further important intelligence by not following up on Bradley’s coup.
  • EVENING—According to Matthew Carroll, LT Jerome joined the wagon train in the evening, but this seems suspect. 2LT Lovell Hall Jerome (H/2C) was at Fort Ellis, in arrest since March 17, 1876. [Jerome had been on a mission in February, so he may have been released by this time.] 10 PM—A false alarm arouses the camp.

  • MAY 16, 1876—TUESDAY
  • Telegram dated May 16, 1876, from Headquarters, Military Division of the Missouri, Chicago, Illinois, to Brig. Gen. A. H. Terry, Fort A. Lincoln, D. T.—“Your telegram received. I will hurry up Crook, but you must rely on the ability of your own column for your best success. I believe it to be fully equal to all the Sioux which can be brought against it, and only hope they will hold fast to meet it. Keep me as well posted as you can, and depend upon my full assistance in every respect. You know the impossibility of any large number of Indians keeping together as a hostile body for even one week. (Signed) P. H. Sheridan, Lieut. General.”
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • SHORTLY AFTER MIDNIGHT – It was now too dangerous to go on without first seeing what was ahead, so Bradley stopped to camp, rest his men, and allow the horses to graze.
  • 4 AM—Bradley, furious at the Crows because they had deceived him again—they were still some five miles from the Wolf Mountains—advances another 5 miles, using ravines and avoiding ridges.
  • ➢ Day starts off foggy, but by the time they reached the hills it had cleared and the day became bright and sunny.
  • 6 AM—Bradley, from a sheltered ravine, climbs to a high peak in the Wolf Mountains. They could now see the Rosebud valley for thirty miles above its mouth, but see no sign of Sioux. A high ridge ran between them and the Tongue River.
  • 9 AM—Bradley decides to move closer to the Tongue.
  • ➢ The detachment proceeds east and they find the trail of the thirty Sioux his unmounted Crows had seen earlier.
  • ➢ Bradley feels this trail led from the Tongue, probably some fifteen to eighteen miles above its mouth.
  • ➢ Almost certain of finding a village now, they proceed very cautiously. Ascending through a pine-covered ridge Bradley halts on the ridge summit and glimpses the Tongue, five to six miles ahead.
  • 4 PM ± — From about five miles downstream, Bradley spots a haze of smoke—no tepees could be seen because of the terrain—which turned out to be a 300 – 400-lodge Sioux camp on the Tongue River (near Garland, today), thirty miles south of the river’s mouth (Stewart writes it was about eighteen miles from the confluence with the Yellowstone; Stewart was probably incorrect). Probably 800 – 1,000 warriors. While Bradley wanted to get closer—they could see only smoke plumes, no tepees—the Crows were adamant about going any closer. The Crows estimated 200 – 300 lodges. This village represented “nearly all the winter roamers gathered in one camp—the very target of the campaign” [Gray, Custer’s Last Campaign, 153].
  • 6 PM—Reluctantly, Bradley starts back, talked into returning by his Crow scouts.
  • 7 PM ± —Bradley halts to water the horses, allow the men to eat.
  • ➢ The Sioux discover Bradley’s tracks and follow them all the way back to the Yellowstone and Gibbon’s camp.
  • 9:30 PM—Having moved very rapidly, Bradley halts for two hours to rest men and horses.
  • 10:15 PM—At the Montana column’s bivouac, pickets fired at what they believed were Indians.
  • 11:30 PM—Bradley is on the move again. The night is very dark. Now the Crow scouts seemed to know all the shortcuts and easiest traveling route! Bradley still worried about the thirty Sioux to their front.
  • MAY 15, 1876—MONDAY
  • From the Assistant Adjutant General, Department of Dakota—“Gen. Terry’s column left Fort Lincoln this morning.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From the Assistant Adjutant General, Department of Dakota—“Departure of troops from Fort Lincoln delayed on account of rain.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From the Commanding General, Department of Dakota—“States that reports place the Sioux camp on the Little Mo. river, that he has ordered Col. Gibbon to move Eastwards, and suggests that the Co-operation of Gen. Crook’s Column would be desirable.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”
  • Telegram dated May 15, 1876, from Fort Lincoln, D. T., to Ass’t Adj’t Gen’l, Military Division, Chicago, Ill—“Information from several Independent sources seems to establish the fact that the Sioux are collected in camps on the Little Missouri and between that and the Powder river I have already ordered Col. Gibbon to move eastward and I suggest that it would be very desirable for Gen’l Crook’s column to move up as soon as possible. It is represented that they have fifteen hundred lodges are confident and intend to make a stand. Should they do so and should the three columns be able to act simultaneously I should expect great success. We start tomorrow morning. Alfred H. Terry, Brig. Gen.” Terry originally wanted to start out this morning, but the rainstorm delayed departure until the 17th
  • ➢ Reports indicated Sitting Bull had assembled the Sioux and Cheyenne on the Little Missouri, ready for a fight.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • Gibbon remained in camp on the Little Porcupine a short distance above the mouth of the Rosebud and on the opposite, north side, of the Yellowstone. Rain and snow.
  • ➢ E. G. Maclay & Company’s Diamond-R train leaves Fort Ellis. LT Kendrick and his eight men formed the escort. Matthew Carroll accompanied the train; he would become wagon master for the Montana column. In his diary, Carroll wrote “Diamond-E” train. [This appears to be incorrect.]
  • ➢ According to Carroll, the train consisted of fourteen teams and twenty-eight wagons: the Diamond-“E” twelve teams; twenty-four wagons, ninety-seven mules and five horses; and a sub-train of two teams, four wagons and twenty mules, with freight, as per the bill of lading. Number of men employed, eighteen. Rain and snow, and the train had a rough time, making little headway.
  • 10 AM—Bradley’s four unmounted Crow return, reporting a Sioux trail of about thirty mounted warriors leading up the Yellowstone from the Tongue. Bradley, now believing the village would be found on the Tongue, seeks permission to go on another scout. Gibbon reluctantly agrees.
  • ➢ Several officers felt the mission was doomed to failure and there was a great deal of apprehension as the men began to depart.
  • ➢ Bradley started out with his twelve mounted infantry; eight volunteer soldiers, including privates Elijah Hall and Henry Rice (both from Freeman’s H/7I) (none of the cavalry volunteered); Barney “Bravo” Prevo; five Crow scouts, including Curley, none of whom volunteered. Mitch Boyer was NOT on this scout.
  • TOWARD EVENING—One by one, the men left camp and gathered in a copse of timber. They were ferried across the Yellowstone in Clifford’s boats and gathered on the south bank in the dark.
  • ➢ They headed southeast, crossing the Rosebud 5 miles out and resting for the night, 14 miles out, total. The terrain was extremely difficult to negotiate and Bradley felt the Crow were deliberately leading the column into rough terrain. He paused to chastise them.
  • ➢ They soon emerged into better country, confirming Bradley’s suspicions, and cross the Rosebud.
  • MAY 14, 1876—SUNDAY
  • Telegram dated May 14, 1876, from Fort Pease, Montana, to General Terry, Commanding, St. Paul, Minn.—“Captain Ball, just in with two companies from C. F. Smith, went out on Phil Kearny road as far as Rotten Grass; thence over on to Little Big Horn at Tullock’s fork and down that. He saw no signs of Indians. My scouts report now on Rosebud. As soon as my supplies reach here, say in ten days, I propose, if no news comes from you, to move down the river. (Sgd.) Gibbon, Commanding.”
  • 3:30 PM—MAJ Moore leaves Fort Buford (Bismarck, ND)—at the mouth of the Yellowstone—for Stanley’s Stockade (Glendive Creek) on the steamer “Josephine.” (Mart Coulson was the captain of the steamer.) Three companies of the 6th Infantry were aboard (C, D, and I).
  • ➢ Terry telegrams Sheridan: “It is represented that they have 1,500 lodges, are confident and intend making a stand.”
  • ➢ Terry received information from a number of independent sources and concluded the Indians were concentrated either on the Little Missouri or between that river and the Yellowstone.
  • ➢ Terry sends a telegram to Fort Ellis, to be forwarded to Gibbon, “directing him to move down the Yellowstone to ‘Stanley’s stockade,’ to cross the river, and move out on ‘Stanley’s trail’ to meet the column from Lincoln.”
  • ➢ MAJ Marcus Reno, commanding Fort Abraham Lincoln in Custer’s absence, had previously reported large numbers of Indians leaving the agencies. Gibbon/Montana Column—
  • 7:45 AM—Gibbon breaks camp. Rain threatening.
  • ➢ In 3.7 miles they reach and cross the Great Porcupine.
  • ➢ While the wagons are crossing, Bradley continues on to “Castle Rock.”
  • 4:45 PM—Gibbon goes into camp, about one mile above the Little Porcupine; traveled 16.97 miles for the day. He halts for six days, six miles above the Rosebud and one mile above the Little Porcupine (called Table Creek by Lewis and Clark), fifty-two miles downriver from Fort Pease.
  • ➢ Right after pitching camp, a thunderous hailstorm erupted, accompanied by high winds, then heavy rain. While fierce, the worst of the storm lasted only 10 – 20 minutes, blowing down tents, flooding the camp and soaking everyone. Rain continued throughout the night.
  • ➢ Gibbon sends out LT Bradley on another scout.
  • ➢ LT Kendrick (H/7I) leaves Fort Ellis with a detachment of fifteen men and the Diamond-R train carrying 100,000 pounds of freight. [According to the diary of the wagon master, Matthew Carroll, this convoy left the following day.]
  • 8 PM—Rain continuing. Night extremely dark.

Fort Abraham Lincoln, Dakota Territory 1876

  • Just to give you an idea of some of these new journal entries that will be heading the daily posts, here is one dated June 30, 1876, five days AFTER the initial battle. It is so eerie it almost gave me chills. They are not all like this, but when you already know what will happen and you read the lead-ups every day, knowing what awaits, it adds a vibrant element of suspense one almost wants to shout out at these guys. Anyway, here is a preview for a date beyond… From the Acting Assistant Adjutant General, Department of the Platte—“Repeats dispatch from C. O. Fort Laramie rel. to another fight with Indians the troops engaged not being Crook’s.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]

 

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