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'.

  • Just to enliven the warm summer evenings, some post-Little Big Horn battle events finishing off July and August 1876…
  • JULY 17, 1876—MONDAY
  • Godfrey received a letter from his wife (dated July 4) and another from his sisters (dated June 25). Apparently no one had even heard of the battle when those letters were written. Godfrey visited HQ and saw Dr. Williams, LT Thompson (Terry’s ACS), and COL Gibbon.
    ➢ A dispatch for Terry was received from CPT E. W. Smith and opened by Gibbon: “the distress at Lincoln was indescribable and heartrending. That the country was ablaze with indignation that such a disaster should occur….”
  • JULY 18, 1876—TUESDAY
  • Godfrey is Officer of the Day. Montana newspapers arrived; great indignation and excitement at the 7th’s defeat.
  • JULY 19, 1876—WEDNESDAY
  • 7:00 AM—Godfrey went over to some island with horses. He found the herders had gone and he “made them return & report in compliance with orders. This was done as a lesson, but was disapproved by Col. Reno.”
  • 1:00 PM—Godfrey arrives for lunch and hears CPT Thompson (L/2C) committed suicide at 5:30 AM.
  • 6:30 PM—CPT Thompson is buried. “He had been suffering from disease, consumption, the germs of which were laid in ‘Libby’ Prison, Va. [,] during the war. He had been sick two days.” Godfrey walked back to his tent with LT Edgerly who asked Godfrey to write to Mrs. Godfrey asking her to stop and see Mrs. Edgerly.
  • JULY 20, 1876—THURSDAY
  • 1 AM—Shots fired. Indians had passed by, probably trying to steal horses. Scouts saw tracks of about thirty horses.
  • JULY 21, 1876—FRIDAY
  • Despite a bad headache, Godfrey ate breakfast, then loafed at Tom McDougall’s tent. Felt better in the evening.
  • JULY 22, 1876—SATURDAY
  • Ordered to move camp to about one mile below Fort Pease.
  • 3:30 PM—Command begins move to a much better camp. Hostiles seen on the high bluffs, but soon disappeared. Had a sing at regimental HQ until about 11:30 PM.
  • JULY 23, 1876—SUNDAY
  • CPT Wheelan (G/2C), lieutenants Hamilton, Doane, and Low, with two companies of the 2nd Cavalry, a battery of artillery, and twenty-five Crow scouts head out to meet up with CPT Moylan, returning from the PRD.
  • JULY 24, 1876—MONDAY
  • 4:30 PM UNTIL DARK—Rained. A scout came in with word from Terry, who was aboard the Far West. No word from Crook. Gibbon placed Reno and CPT James Sanno (K/7I) under arrest.
  • JULY 25, 1876—TUESDAY
  • One of the pickets drowned this morning trying to ford a ravine that had swollen. It seems he was thrown from his horse and could not swim the rapidly moving water. [This was PVT Richard A. Wallace from Boston, MA, a B Company trooper.]
    ➢ Reno received his arrest charges from Gibbon.
    ➢ LT Godfrey: “It all comes from Col. R sending out some scouts as vedettes Saturday eve after we got into camp. I presume however Col Reno’s manner has as much to do with the results, as his manner is rather aggressive & he protested against the scouts being taken from the Reg’t.”
  • Godfrey made a comment about General Terry telling of LT Larned’s appointment as “Prof. of D’g. He was mad & thot [sic] it was an outrage as we all think him a systematic shirk” [Field Diary, 30]. [“D’g,” was “Drawing,” in all likelihood, an engineering or map-making subject.]
  • AUGUST 3, 1876
  • Troops of the 7th Infantry discover a dead cavalry horse, identified as belonging to the 7th Cavalry near the confluence of Rosebud Creek and the Yellowstone River. The Horse was found a short distance south of the river, on the east side of the Rosebud. CPT Walter Clifford (E/7I) was among the first of the troops to examine the carcass.
  • Over the years, the following men remarked on this horse and a body found in 1886 along the Rosebud:
    ➢ CPT Walter Clifford (E/7I)
    ➢ 2LT Charles Booth (B/7I)
    ➢ 2LT George Young (E/7I)
    ➢ 1LT Edward Settle Godfrey (K/7C)
    ➢ 2LT Richard Thompson (K/6I; Acting Commissary of Subsistence, Dakota column)
    ➢ SGT Richard Hanley (C/7C)
    ➢ SGT Daniel Kanipe (C/7C)
    ➢ George Herendeen (Scout)
    ➢ PVT Frank Sniffen (M/7C)
    ➢ PVT George Glenn (H/7C)
    ➢ CPT Henry Freeman (H/7I)
    ➢ 1LT Charles King (K/5C; regimental adjutant)
    ➢ John Finnerty (Newsman)
    ➢ 1LT John Bourke (D/3C; Crook’s aide and adjutant)
    ➢ PVT Ferdinand Widmayer (M/7C)
    ➢ PVT Jacob Adams (H/7C)
    ➢ PVT Anthony Gavin (G/22I)
  • AUGUST 5, 1876
  • LT Godfrey had four of his men—Charles Burckhardt (his cook); someone he misnamed Lahy, but whose name was actually John Foley; George Blunt; and Thomas Murphy—discharged. He regretted losing them, “as they have been excellent soldiers.”
  • AUGUST 7, 1876
  • 8:00 AM—Mounted inspection held. LT Godfrey gave the following counts for his Company K: 44 men in the ranks; 1 teamster; 2 troops at Regimental HQ; 5 troops at Department HQ, Artillery and Ordnance Detachments; 8 absent; 47 serviceable horses; 3 unserviceable horses; 3 on details (horses?) After the inspection, Godfrey went back—probably to his tent—and wrote a letter “to the Army and Navy Journal correcting the prevailing mistake that Col. Benteen’s column at the Battle of the Little Big Horn was a ‘Reserve’ by design.”
  • AUGUST 8, 1876
  • The Nathan Short tale now enters the picture, though no name was used: “A rumor spread that a man of C co. & his horse had been found both dead but it seems some “Dough-boy” got it off as a joke.”
  • AUGUST 27, 1876
  • Godfrey and Benteen went fishing. Benteen told him he had been assigned to recruiting duty, apparently a coveted assignment. Godfrey wrote he was happy for Benteen, who “certainly is entitled to it over everybody else.”
  • I just noticed, but these are my last three entries, all for September 1876. Might as well post them now: the volume is complete. Thank you all for your interest and all your wonderful comments. Ladies and gentlemen, you are the best and I shall never forget your graciousness throughout all these posts. Very best wishes, Fred.
  • SEPTEMBER 6, 1876
  • Godfrey put in an order to Brooks Brothers for a blouse and pants!
  • SEPTEMBER 14, 1876
  • Godfrey is OD, but is troubled by constant diarrhea. The command breaks camp, but as it departs discovers the area is on fire. Godfrey heads back to determine its origin. It started in the A Company area, and Moylan, blaming SGT Culbertson, reduces him in rank.
  • SEPTEMBER 23, 1876
  • This was the first mention of 2LT Edwin P. Eckerson who had been appointed to Company L, vice, Braden, on May 2, 1876, but had only joined on August 2, 1876; and 2LT Ernest A. Garlington, who had just graduated from the USMA on June 15, 1876, and had been appointed to H Company, vice, De Rudio.
  • THE END – “Thank you,” Fred.
  • [October 30, 2016 FCW wrote]  On Thursday, November 3, 2016, I shall begin posting a day-by-day breakdown of the summer campaign of 1876. ….  The day-by-day itself starts off slow: not much happened until the actual movement of troops began, so on off days (almost exclusively for the first four months) I will be including information on key personnel in the campaign and a lot of other data pertinent to the preparation of such an undertaking. Some of the “logistical” stuff—including the bios—can be found in PARTICIPANTS IN THE BATTLE OF THE LITTLE BIG HORN (2nd edition), but much is new as well.
  • I welcome all constructive comments, including corrections (when properly supported and documented). Sources will be given gladly, but PRIVATELY only. In some cases—where not in the public domain—sources of direct quotes are included.
  • The campaign and the ride begin soon… I hope all of you with an interest enjoy it.
  • For an incredible eight months Fred Wagner steadfastly stuck to his word and provided a well-researched, comprehensive, informative and thoroughly enjoyable day-to-day account of the events leading up to the Battle of the Little Big Horn and the immediate aftermath. We all owe him a great debt of gratitude for this truly amazing labour of love. The whole journey, plus a wonderful collection of supporting images, can be found on Fred’s own Facebook page but for expediency our journey starts here with the 7th US Cavalry preparing to leave Fort Abraham Lincoln on May 17, 1876. The daily accounts are published strictly in the order that they were originally posted.  I can guarantee you will not be disappointed.  [Peter Russell]
  • “I thought I would add these just as a sort of post-digestive carminative…” [FCW]
  • JUNE 30, 1876—FRIDAY
  • 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.”]
  • Telegram dated June 30, 1876, Omaha, Neb., to Asst Adjt Genl, Mil. Div. Mo., Chicago, Ill.—“The following dispatch from Commanding officer Fort Laramie just received. There is a report from Red Cloud that Indians coming in bring news of another fight with northern Indians. The troops not being Crook’s. A village was entirely destroyed. Hawkins, Act. Ass’t Adjt. Gen.”
  • JULY 1, 1876—SATURDAY
  • From the Acting Assistant Adjutant General, Department of the Platte—“Dispatch from Fetterman that 5 Companies from Medicine Bow arrived yesterday.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From the Acting Assistant Adjutant General, Department of the Platte—“Relative to return of 40 Indians from Gen. Crook’s Command who say that he is six days march ahead.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • JULY 2, 1876—SUNDAY
  • From Department of Dakota—“Relative to movement of wounded to Steamer. New supplies required especially for horses for Cavalry.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • JULY 3, 1876—MONDAY
  • From Brig. Gen. A. H. Terry—“Telegraphs a copy of written instructions given to Gen. Custer.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • Letter written by Major Marcus Reno, HQ 7th Reb. Cav’y, In the field, July 3, 1876, addressed to Adj’t Gen USA—
    In consideration of the great loss of officers in the engagement of June 25 & 26 I have the [illegible] to request the immediate return of Cap’t Bell, Jackson & Lt Larned, otherwise there is not an officer to accompany the companies. When there is an officer will be commanded by inexperienced & young men. I am [illegible] Very Respectfully. M. A. Reno, Maj 7th Ca’y.
  • JULY 4, 1876—TUESDAYrom the Assistant Adjutant General, Department of Dakota—“Repeats telegram from Gen. Terry reporting his arrival at mouth of Rosebud river and giving dispostition of troops.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From Col. W. Merritt—“Relative to movements of his command.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • Telegram dated July 4, 1876, from St. Paul, Minn., to Adj’t General Division Missouri, Chicago—“The following just received, mouth of Rosebud River June twenty-first via Bismarck July third arrived here this morning. No Indians met with as yet but traces of a large and recent camp discovered some twenty to thirty miles up the Rosebud, Gibbon’s column moves this morning on the north side of the Yellowstone for the mouth of the big horn where it will be ferried across by the supply steamer and whence it will proceed to the mouth of the Little Horn and so on. Custer will go up the Rosebud tomorrow with his whole regiment and thence to the head waters of the Little Horn and thence down the Little Horn. I hope that one of the two columns will find the Indians. I go personally with Gibbons. Signed Alfred H. Terry. Ruggles, Asst Adjt Genl.”
  • JULY 5, 1876—WEDNESDAY
  • From Department of the Platte—“Report 150 Snake Indians leave Camp Stambaugh [?] today for Crook [?].” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • JULY 6, 1876—THURSDAY
  • From C. McKeever, Assistant Adjutant General—“Asks for particulars of Custer fight on Little Horn and with reference to the safety of Capt Keogh.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
    ➢ LTC Chauncey McKeever had been the Army’s Assistant Adjutant General since March 3, 1875.
  • From Lieut. Gen. P. H. Sheridan—“Sends for news of Gen. Terry’s Command. Newspapers report Custer and 300 men killed.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From E. D. Townsend, Adjutant General—“Papers report disaster to Gen. Custer—Telegraph any information received.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
    ➢ BG Edward Davis Townsend was the Army’s Adjutant General. Appointed on February 22, 1869.
  • From the Commanding Officer, Fort Fetterman—“Received dispatch to Gen. Crook. Expects Richard [half-breed scout, Louis Richaud] in with Scouts and will send him out at once.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From J. E. Kingsley—“Brown received message will see that all dispatches for Gen. Sheridan reach him at once.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • Partial letter from Fort Laramie, Wyo. Dated July 6, 1876, to A. A. G., Omaha, Nebraska—
    Captain Jordan, Camp Robinson sends the following: About twenty Indians from hostile camp returned since second. They say that Sitting Bull had two thousand Indians in Rosebud fight and lost five killed and thirty wounded. Son of Dull Knife Cheyenne Chief killed. Son and son in law of Red Cloud in the fight. One Indian said he saw a great many soldiers charge on Sioux village when eight miles off: supposed to be Gibbon or Terry, or both. Agency Indians mourning a great deal and appear uneasy and frightened.
  • Telegram dated July 6, 1876 at 8:20 AM [or possibly 8:20 PM], Headquarters Dep’t of Dakota upon Little Big Horn River, June 27th, to Adjutant Gen. of Military Division of the Missouri at Chicago, Ill—“It is my painful duty to report that 2 days before yesterday the twenty-fifth inst. a great disaster overtook Gen. Custer & the troops under his command. At twelve o’clock of the twenty-second he started with his whole regiment & a strong detachment of scouts & guards from the mouth of the Rosebud proceeding up that river about twenty miles. He struck a very heavy Indian trail which had previously been discovered & pursuing it found that it led as it was supposed that it would lead to the Little big horn river. Here he found a village of almost unexpected extent & at once attacked it with that portion of his force which was immediately at hand. Major Reno with three Companies A G & Mof the regiment was sent into the valley of the stream at the point where the trail struck at. General Custer with five Companies C E F I & L attempted [illegible] to enter it about three miles lower down. Reno forded the river. Charged down its left bank dismounted & fought on foot until finally completely overwhelmed by numbers he was compelled to mount recross the river & seek a refuge on the high bluffs which overlooked its right bank. Just as he recrossed Capt Benteen who with three Companies D H & K was some two miles to the left of Reno when the action commenced but who had been ordered by Gen’l Custer to return came to the river & rightly cocluding that it was useless for his force to attempt to renew the fight in the valley he joined Reno on the bluffs. Cap’t McDougall with his Company B was at first at some distance in the rear with a train of pack mules. He also came up to Reno. Soon this united force was nearly surrounded by Indians many of whom armed with rifles occupied positions which commanded the ground held by the cavalry ground from which there was no escape rifle pits were dug & the fight was maintained though with heavy loss from about half past two o’clock of the twenty-fifth till six o’clock of the twenty-sixth when the Indians withdrew from the valley taking with them their village. Of the movements of Gen. Custer & the five companies under his immediate command scarcely anything is known from those who witnessed them for no officer or soldier who accompanied him has yet been found alive. His trail from the point where Reno crossed the stream passes along & in the rear of the crest of the bluffs on the right bank for nearly or quite three miles. Then it comes down to the bank of the river but at once diverges from it as if he had unsuccessfully attempted to cross then turns upon itself almost completes a circle & closes. It is marked by the remains of his officers & men. The bodies of his horses some of them dropped/bobbed along the path others heaped where halts appear to have been made there is abundant evidence that a gallant resistance was offered by the troops but they were beset on all sides by overpowering numbers. The officers known to be killed are Gen Custer Captains Keogh Yates & Custer Lieuts Cooke Smith McIntosh Calhoun Porter Hodgson Sturgis & Reilly of the Cavalry Lieut Crittenden of the twentieth infantry & acting ass’t surgeon Dewolf Lieut Harrington of the Cavalry & asst Surgeon Lord are missing. Capt Benteen & Lieut Varnum of the Cavalry are slightly wounded. Mr Boston Custer a brother & Mr Reed a nephew of Gen’l Custer were with him & were killed. No other officers than those whom I have named are among the killed wounded & missing. It is impossible as yet to obtain a nominal/reliable list of the enlisted men who were killed & wounded but the number of killed including officers must reach two hundred & fifty the number of wounded is fifty-one. At the mouth of the Rosebud I informed Gen’l Custer that I should take the steamer Far West up the Yellowstone to the ferry Gen’l Gibbon’s column over the river that I should personally accompany that column & that it would in all probability reach the mouth of the little big horn on the twenty-sixth inst. The steamer reach Gen’l Gibbon’s troops near the mouth of the Big Horn early in the morning of the twenty-fourth [illegible] four o’clock in the afternoon all his men & animals were across the Yellowstone at five o’clock the column consisting of five companies of the seventh infantry four companies of the second cavalry & a battery of three [?] Gatling guns marched out to & across Tullock’s Creek. Starting soon after five o’clock in the morning of the twenty-fifth the infantry made a march of twenty-two miles over the most difficult country which I have ever seen in order that scouts might be sent into the valley of the Little Big Horn the cavalry with the battery was there pushed on thirteen or fourteen miles further reaching camp at midnight. The scouts were set out at half past four on the morning of the twenty-sixth. The scout discovered the Indians who were at first supposed to be Sioux but when over taken they proved to be Crows who had been with Gen. Custer. They brought the first intelligence of the battle their story was not credited it was supposed that some fighting perhaps severe fighting had taken place but it was not believed that disaster could have overtaken so large a force as twelve Companies of Cavalry. The infantry which had broken camp very early soon came up & the whole column entered & moved up the valley of the Little Big Horn during the afternoon. Efforts were made to send scouts through to what was supposed to be Gen. Custer’s position & to obtain information of the condition of affairs but those who were sent out were driven back by parties of Indians who in increasing numbers were seen hovering in Gen. Gibbon’s front at twenty minutes before nine o’clock in the evening the infantry had marched between twenty-nine & thirty miles. The men were very weary & daylight was failing. The column was therefore halted for the night at a point about eleven miles in a straight line above the mouth of the stream. This morning the movement was resumed & after a march of nine miles Major Reno’s entrenched position was reached the withdrawal of the Indians from around Reno’s command & from the valley was undoubtedly caused by the appearance of Gen. Gibbon’s troops. Major Reno & Cap’t Benton [sic; Benteen] both of whom are officers of great experience accustomed to see large masses of mounted men estimated the number of Indians engaged at not less than twenty-five hundred. Other officers think that the number was greater than this. The village in the valley was about three miles in length & about a mile in width besides the lodges proper a great number of temporary brush wood shelter was found in it indicating that many men besides its proper inhabitants had gathered together there. Major Reno is very confident that there were a number of white men fighting with the Indians. It is believed that the loss of the Indians was large. I have as yet received no official reports in regard to the battle but what is stated in as gathered from the officers who were on the ground then & from those who have been over it since. Alfred H. Terry, Brig. Gen’l.”
  • Telegram dated July 6, 1876, 9 AM, from Camp on Yellowstone to the Adjt General, Military Division of the Missouri, Chicago, Ill.—“In the evening of the twenty-eighth 28 we commenced moving down with the wounded but were able to get on but four 4 miles as our hand litters did not answer the purpose the mule litters did excellently well but they were insufficient in number. The twenty-ninth 29 therefore was spent making a full supply of them in the evening of the twenty-ninth 29th we started again & at two AM the wounded were placed on the steamer at the mouth of the Little Big Horn the afternoon of the thirtieth 30th they were brought down to the depot on the Yellowstone. I send them tomorrow by steamer to Ft Lincoln & with them one of my aides Capt E. W. Smith who will be able to answer any questions which you may desire to ask. I have brought down the troops to the same point they arrived tonight they need refitting particularly in the matter of transportation before starting again & although I had on the steamer a good supply of subsistence & forage there are other things we need and I should hesitate to trust the boat again the the Big Horn. Col. Sheridan’s dispatch informing me of the reported gathering of Indians on the Rosebud reached me after I came down here. I hear nothing of Gen Crook’s movements at least a hundred horses are needed to remount the cavalry men now here. Alfred H. Terry, Brig. General.”
  • Telegram dated July 6, 1876, 11:30 AM, Louisville, Ky, to the Assistant Adjutant General, Division of Missouri, Chicago, Illinois—“Have you any particulars of Custer fight on Little Horn friends of Captain Keogh are anxious to hear concerning him. Signed McKeever, Assistant Adjutant General.”
  • Telegram dated July 6, 1876, 11:26 AM, Philadelphia, Pa., to R. C. Drum, Adjt Gen’l, Chicago, Ills—“Send any news that you receive from Terry’s Command without delay newspaper report from Helena information second July that Custer & some three hundred men were killed in fight on the Little Horn. P. H. Sheridan, Lieut. Gen’l, Comd’g.”
  • Telegram dated July 6, 1876, 5 PM, from Camp on Yellowstone near mouth Big Horn River, July 3 via Bismarck, DT, July 6, to the AA General, Headquarters, Military Div., Chicago, Ills—“The following is a copy of the written orders given to Gen. Custer, Camp at mouth of Rosebud River, June twenty-third 23 Eighteen seventy-six 1876. Lieut. Col. Custer Seventh 7th Cavalry. Colonel, The brigadier general commanding directs that as soon as your regiment can be made ready for the march you proceed up the Rosebud in pursuit of the Indians whose trail was discovered by Major Reno a few days since it is of course impossible to give you any definite instructions in regard to this movement & were it not impossible to do so the dep’t Commander places too much confidence in your zeal energy & ability to wish to impose upon you precise orders which might hamper your action when nearly in contact with the enemy [an illegible insert] however indicate to you his own views of what your action should be & he desires that you should conform to them unless you shall see sufficient reason for departing from them he thinks that you should proceed up the rosebud until you ascertain definitely the direction in which the trail above spoken of leads. Should it be found as it appears almost certain that it will be found to turn toward the Little (Big) Horn he thinks that you should still proceed southward perhaps as far as the head waters of the Tongue & then turn towards the little horn feeling constantly however to your left so as to preclude the possibility of the escape of the Indians to the south or south east by passing around your left flank. The column of Col. Gibbon is now in motion for the mouth of the big horn as soon as it reaches that point it will cross the yellow stone & move up at least as far as the forks of the Big and Little horns. Of course its future movements must be controlled by circumstances as they arise, but it is hoped that the Indians if upon the Little Horn may be as nearly enclosed by the two 2 columns that their escape will be impossible. The department Commander desires that your move up the Rosebud you should thoroughly examine the upper part of Tullock’s Creek & that you should endeavor to send a scout through to Col. Gibbon’s column with information of the result of your examination the lower part of this creek will be examined by a detachment from Col. Gibbon’s Command the supply steamer will be pushed up the Big Horn as far as the forks of the river is found to be navigable for that distance & the department Commander who will accompany the Column of Col. Gibbon desires you to report which then not later than the expiration of the time for which your troops are rationed unless in the meantime you receive further orders. Respectfully etc. Signed E. W. Smith, Cap’t, Eighteenth Infantry, Acting Ass’t Adj’t Gen’l, Alfred H. Terry, Brig. Gen’l.”
  • Telegram dated July 6, 1876, 6:20, 6:30, and 6:40 PM, from St. Paul, Minn., to the Adjutant General, Division Missouri, Chicago—“Your dispatch received. Colonel Smith General Terry’s aide de camp is at Bismarck & has telegraphed me from there today as follows: General Terry desires you to telegraph to Generals Sturgis & Crittenden the death of their sons in battle of June twenty-fifth 25th. Have you received dispatch via Ellis reporting the action. I am at Bismarck to correspond with division headquarters not having received the dispatch reporting the action. I so telegraphed to Colonel Smith & asked him for particulars. He replies as follows: on twenty-fifth 25th of June Custer with his whole regiment attacked Indian village on Little Big Horn. Repulsed with loss of fifteen 15 officers & over three hundred 300 men. General Custer Colonels Custer Keogh Yates Cooke Lieutenants Smith McIntosh Calhoun Hodgson Reilly Porter Sturgis & Crittenden killed. Lieutenants Harrington & assistant surgeon Lord missing all other officers withexpedition are well. Two hundred sixty-one 261 dead have been buried fifty-two 52 wounded brought away. Command is at mouth of Big Horn waiting to refit. Signed, Smith, aide de camp. I telegraphed this morning to Manager Western Union telegraph Company Omaha to hunt up & hurry up the missing dispatch from Fort Ellis. I also telegraphed Sturgis Crittenden & Mrs Crittenden. The following is from this evening’s paper “Special telegram to the Dispatch. Bismarck, D. T. July sixth 6th. The far west which left the Big Horn fifty miles above its mouth Monday traveling a distance of nine hundred miles since then arrived last night at eleven 11 o’clock bringing Col. Smith of Gen. Terry’s staff & the wounded from Major M. A. Reno’s three day battle with the Indians. Custer’s annihilation Gen. Custer with Companies C, I, L, F and E of the seventh 7th Cavalry was entirely wiped out not a man being left to tell the tale. Among the killed are Gen. Custer Col. Custer Boston Custer Col. Calhoun a brother in law and Reed a nephew of Gen. Custer Col. Yates Col. Keogh Cap’t McIntosh Cap’t Smith Col. Cook Lieut. Crittenden a son of Gen. Crittenden Lieut. Sturgis son of Gen. Sturgis Lieut. Hodgson Lieut. Harrington Lieut. Porter Dr. Lord Dr. DeWolf Charles Reynolds Mark Kellogg the Bismarck Tribune special Correspondent & soldiers swelling the aggregate of killed to two hundred & sixty-nine 269 wounded fifty-two 52 thirty-eight 38 of whom arrived on the Far West. The battle occurred the twenty-fifth 25th twenty-sixth 26th & twenty-seventh 27th June twenty 20 miles above the mouth of the Little Horn a branch of the Big Horn. Gen. Custer attacked a village of about four thousand 4,000 warriors on the right with five 5 companies & Reno on the left with seven 7 companies. Custer fought about one 1 hour when the entire command having been surrounded by twenty 20 times their number better armed than the Cavalry were killed. Reno’s battle: Reno cut his way through the Indians surrounding him with a loss of forty-one 41 killed & many wounded & reached a bluff where he entrenched and repulsed repeatedly the assault of the Indians without further serious loss. Reno’s battle raged for three days when Gen. Terry made his appearance and the Indians retreated in great confusion leaving their camp strewn with Buffalo robes fine dressed hides gorgeous & valuable costumes & trinkets one tepee containing the bodies on nine 9 chiefs painted gorgeously arranged etc and scores of their dead were found on or near the battlefield. Many of their dead with their wounded were carried away & it is believed their loss will exceed the loss of the whites. One 1 Crow scout of all those who went in with Gen. Custer lives &for three 3 days after the battle he could not give an intelligent account of it. He was so frightened he lay in a ravine near where Custer went. The wires are too much in use to give further details. Will telegraph when I get further particulars. Supposed Gen. Terry has telegraphed you direct. Bismarck line is reported crowded with business will have manager here hunt up and hurry up all dispatches for you. I know important dispatches have been sent you from what Smith has telegraphed. Ruggles, AA Gen’l.”
  • Telegram dated July 6, 1876, 10:12 PM, from St. Paul, Minn. to the Adjutant General, Division Missouri, Chicago—“Manager Western Union Omaha telegraphs me he thinks cause of delay in receipt of report Custer’s fight sent via Ellis is that lines have been down some days north of Ross Fork Idaho. Ruggles, AA Gen’l.” J
  • JULY 7, 1876—FRIDAY
  • Telegram dated July 7, 1876, 10:45 AM, from St. Paul, Minn., to the Adjutant General, Division Missouri, Chicago—“If it has not already appeared in Chicago papers I can telegraph you graphic account from Eye Witness of what was found on field after Custer’s fight as appears in this morning’s St. Paul Pioneer Press. Ruggles, Ass’t Adj’t General.”elegram dated July 7, 1876, 11:51 AM, from Ft. Leavenworth, Ka, to Col. R. C. Drum, AAG, Chgo, Ill.—“This department has now been stripped of so many officers and men for service north that I consider it dangerous to have so many officers absent from the posts of Sill Reno & Elliott in the midst of the large bodies of Indians in that region and I respectfully but urgently ask that all the officers from this Command now absent as witnesses in the trial of Gen. Belknap be at once returned to their posts. The departure of six Companies of the Fifth Infantry in addition to the eight Companies Fifth Cavalry heretofore sent makes it out of the question to send any officers to replace those now absent in Washington & I repeat that it is not safe to leave the posts in question stripped of so many officers. Jno. Pope, Bvt Maj. Gen., Cmd’g.”
  • Telegram dated July 7, 1876, 10:40 PM, from Camp on Little Horn, June 28, to Ass’t Adj’t Gen’l, Military Division of Missouri, Chicago, Ills—“The wounded were brought down from the bluffs last night & made as comfortable as our means would permit. Today horse & hand litters have been constructed & this evening we shall commence moving them toward the north [the word “mouth” was inserted over “north”] of the Little Big Horn to which point I hope that the steamer has been able to come. The removal will occupy three or four days as the march must be short. A reconnaissance was made today by Cap’t Ball of the Second Cavalry among [along] the trail made by the Indians when they left the valley he reports that they divided into two parties one of which kept along the valley of Long Fork making he thinks for the Big Horn Mountains. The other turned more to the Eastward. He also discovered a very heavy trail leading into the valley that is not more than five days old this trail is entirely distinct from one which Gen. Custer followed & would sum to show that at least two large bands united just before the battle. The dead were all interred today. Alfred H. Terry, Brig, Gen’l.”
  • JULY 8, 1876—SATURDAY
  • Telegram dated July 8, 1876, St. Paul, Minn., to Lieutenant General P. H. Sheridan, Chicago, Ills—“Your dispatch about remains of officers killed in Custer’s battle received. These bodies were buried on the field. The graves are marked. With the means at hand it was simply impossible to bring in these bodies subsistence had to be thrown away to get transportation to bring in the wounded. Ruggles, ass’t adj’t Gen’l.”
  • Telegram dated July 8, 1876, from Bismarck, DT, to Adjutant General, Military Division of the Missouri, Chicago—“Have just informed Major Ruggles that Fort Lincoln garrison has not one hundred rounds per man of rifle ammunition caliber forty-five command in the field has a reserve of only ten thousand rounds of same carbine and pistol ammunition sufficient. Smith ADC.”
  • Telegram dated July 8, 1876, Department of Dakota, A. A. G.—“Our ord. returns show no reserved supply of musket, carbine or pistol ammunition on hand at Lincoln. We have none here. I recommend that such supply as your Ord. Officer may deem necessary be forwarded at once. Added as a addendum: “See tel. to Col. Ruggles, July 10, 1876.”
  • First Endorsement—“Headqrs Mil. Div. Mo., Chicago, July 8, 1876—Respectfully referred to the Chief Ordnance Officer of the Division for his information and such action as he may deem necessary. By Command of Lieut. Gen’l Sheridan, [signature illegible] Ass’t Adj’t General.”
  • Telegram dated July 8, 1876, St. Paul, Minn., to Adj’t Gen’l Division Missouri, Chicago—“The following just received—Camp on Little Big Horn June twenty-seventh—Custer with his whole regiment & forty scouts and guides attacked an immense Indian village on the twenty-fifth & was defeated. I have telegraphed particulars to Division headquarters. The officers known to be killed are Gen’l Custer Captains Keogh Yates and Custer. Lieutenants Cook Smith McIntosh Calhoun Porter Hodgson Sturgis and Reilly of the Cavalry Lieut of the twentieth Infantry & acting asst surgeon Dewolf Lieut Harrington & asst Surgeon Lord are missing. Captain Benteen and Lieutenant Varnum are wounded but so slightly that they remain on duty. Mr Boston Custer the brother & Mr Reed the Nephew of General Custer were killed. Please telegraph to the Commanding officer at Forts Lincoln & Rice to break the news to the families of the deceased officers & inform the Commanding officer at Fort Totten of the death of Dewolf. Please telegraph also to General Crittenden at Fort Abercrombie & to General Sturgis at St Louis of the death of their sons. Inform Lieutenant Lord of the death at Fort Snelling that his brother is missing. It is impossible as yet to determine the number of killed but it must reach two hundred & fifty officers & men. There are fifty-one 51 wounded. No other officers than those whom I have named were injured. It has been impossible as yet to obtain a nominal list of the killed & wounded among the enlisted men. Ask Division Head quarters for a copy of my dispatch. Signed Alfred H. Terry, Brig. Gen’l.”
  • LATE-AFTERNOON, JUNE 25 TO JUNE 29, 1876
  • NOTE—Other than the 5:30 PM time immediately below, all other times are taken from various sources. Also, please note, this post ends my day-by-day commentary. Some of you may now go back to a normal existence. I may post one or two more if there is anything of substance, but this is the last where I feel comfortable with my own research.
  • 5:30 PM—Reno, Benteen (with his H Company) return to Reno Hill.
    ➢ Benteen: “We had not been there [on Weir Point] but two or three minutes before the gorge was filled with Indians rushing toward us, and then we fell back.”
    ➢ Godfrey verifies this by saying that Weir’s and French’s companies were being attacked and after Hare had come to him with the order to withdraw, “I had gone some distance… when, looking back, I saw French’s troop come tearing over the bluffs, and soon after Weir’s troop followed in hot haste. Edgerly was near the top of the bluff trying to mount his frantic horse… he vaulted into his saddle and then joined the troop. The Indians almost immediately followed to the top of the bluff…. They then started down the hillside in pursuit.”
    ➢ Godfrey halted his men and formed a skirmish line to protect the retreat of French and Edgerly.
    ➢ Reno claims this is about the time when they heard the last heavy firing from the direction of Custer.
  • 6:00 PM ± —A cordon of Sioux warriors kept Reno Hill surrounded under merciless fire.
    ➢ Liddic writes that the troopers were not forced off Weir Peak by the Indians, but pulled back of their own accord. Vincent Charley was apparently killed by a small group of Indians who fired at Edgerly and PVTs Wylie and Harrison (and Sanders?) as they pulled back from the peak. Indians on Calhoun Hill, either finishing up, or still fighting along the ridge, spotted the troops on Weir Peak and then headed in that direction.
    ➢ Godfrey and his K Company, along with Hare, covering retreat, arrive back at hill.
    ➢ They were about 500 yards from Reno Hill.
    ➢ Godfrey dismounted his men and sent the “fours” with the horses back, leaving about twenty-five men on the line.
    ➢ Liddic’s order of return was: the pack train first, followed by Reno and Weir with Companies A and B. Then Benteen and H. G followed, then M, D, and finally Godfrey and K.
    ➢ LT Mathey, apparently on his own, improvised a corral for the remaining horses and mules, picketing them to dead animals and arranging them all in such a way as to give them maximum protection from hostile firing from the ridges and to provide a protected area for the wounded men.
    ➢ The Indians had suffered few casualties up to this time, but now their most serious losses took place [CPT J. S. Poland’s report].
  • 6:50 PM—LT Bradley overtakes the infantry battalion just as it is going into camp. Orders left with the infantry tell Bradley to move on and join up with the cavalry battalion.
  • 7:00 PM—The Indians have now moved into all the surrounding high points and begin pouring in a high volume of fire. Many were on Sharpshooters’ Ridge, about 900 yards away.
    ➢ Liddic lists officers who exhibited extreme bravery: Benteen, French, Godfrey, and McDougall.
    ➢ He also listed several who were hugging the ground or mingling among the packs, not quite so heroic:
    o Gibson (hugging the ground, spending little time inspiring his men).
    o Mathey (in the hospital area). He apparently received a severe tongue-lashing from Benteen when several mules broke free and made a run for water.
    o Moylan (among the packs). Goldin later referred to him as “Hard Tack Mick.”
    o Benteen: Moylan had been, “pretty well protected from grave danger.”
    o Benteen: “I didn’t know the men of the regiment had such an aversion to Mylie Moylan, but my! How correct they were in so having.”
    o Benteen: when Benteen reached Reno Hill, the first thing he saw “was the gallantly-mustached captain of Troop ‘A’ blubbering liked a whipped urchin, tears coursing down his cheeks,”
    o Benteen, in the July 24th “installment” letter to his wife, remarked on Moylan, De Rudio, and Gibson, and the rumors of them showing the “white feather” on the 25th. Benteen does not include De Rudio, per se, but does mention that neither Moylan nor Gibson “exhibited any great degree of activity.”
    o In his October 19, 1894, letter to Goldin, Benteen wrote: at the Little Big Horn, “… had I anything to say in the matter, I should have recommended for brevets, first, Hare, then Varnum, and lastly, Godfrey, yes, Wallace, too, before Hare, then I think I should have stopped.”
    o At a later date, Benteen claimed four officers failed to distinguish themselves: Moylan, Godfrey, Gibson, and Mathey.
  • BEFORE SUNSET—Many Indians were between 200 to 500 yards from the troops and would direct about fifteen to thirty minutes of heavy fire and then charge. This happened a couple of times and each time heavy trooper firing threw them back. Some were as close as ten yards away.
    ➢ Primarily position to the south and northeast.
    ➢ Various reports claimed that there were five white men who fought with the Indians that day, including a Spaniard and a discharged soldier from the 22nd Infantry.
    ➢ Kill Eagle: “There were no white men in the fight or on the field.” There had been one, but he left for the Standing Rock Agency.
    ➢ “While I believe that white men were with the Indians at the Little Big Horn, they were not with the Sioux, because Bull was ‘peculiar’ and at such time objected forcibly to the presence even of half-breeds—or ‘breeds’ as we termed them”—Frank H. Huston, in a March 1925, letter to W. A. Graham.
    ➢ The troopers estimated that between 2,000 and 4,000 Indians opposed them at all times.
    ➢ Benteen claimed 8,000 or 9,000. He also said there were as many as a regiment standing in the valley, watching.
    ➢ Benteen had his men spread on the defensive perimeter at about twenty-foot intervals.
    ➢ More than one person, including Benteen, said there were so many Indians there was no place to put them.
    ➢ CPT Moylan: “I estimate that no less than 900 to 1,000 Indians were in that attack at all times; they relieved each other at intervals, coming from the village.”
  • LATER IN THE DAY—Kate Bighead claimed the Indians moved the camp a short way downriver after the battle [Pennington and Michno]. This also may have caused confusion in determining the size of the village. Soldiers most likely confused the rings made by the second camp as belonging to those made by the first camp, thereby exaggerating the overall size.
  • 7:53 PM—Sunset.
  • 8:30 PM—The Far West ties up on the left bank of the Big Horn River. Engineer sergeant, James Wilson recorded temperatures of a maximum of 91ºF, minimum temperature of 63ºF.
  • AFTER SUNDOWN—A lot of heat lightning.
    ➢ Indians celebrating and mourning.
    ➢ Large bonfires, some to cremate the dead.
  • 9:00 PM—Battle on hilltop ends as darkness sets in.
    ➢ Wallace: deep twilight arrived at about 9:00 PM.
    ➢ Gerard: when he and the other three left the timber about 9:00 PM, it had been dark only a short time.
    ➢ Godfrey: it was nearly dark between 9:00 PM and 10:00 PM.
  • 9:22 PM—Total darkness.
  • AFTER DARKNESS—Will Logan, son of CPT Logan (A/7I) is sent out by Terry in an attempt to locate Custer. He is handed written orders and information regarding the Montana column.
  • 10:00 PM—Indian firing ceases. Five soldiers were killed and six wounded on the hilltop so far.
  • LATE EVENING AND NIGHT—It rained on and off. No moon.
    ➢ Few, if any, of the soldiers and officers believed Custer was dead. They felt he either joined Terry or was simply unable to effect a juncture with Reno’s command. “Surprisingly, Reno best captured, in his official report, what the vast majority of the cavalrymen felt about Custer’s possible fate. ‘The awful fate that did befall him never occurred to any of us as within the limits of possibility.’” [Liddic, Vanishing Victory, 174.]
    ➢ Apparently, no one gave the slightest thought to the notion Custer may have met his fate. “On the contrary, memories of what had happened to Major Elliott and his little band at the Washita reasserted themselves, and among officers and enlisted men alike the belief was general that Custer had found the Indians too strong and had gone to meet Terry, leaving them to fight it out as best they could” [Graham, The Custer Myth, 337].
    ➢ Reno’s whereabouts that night was questioned. French, Godfrey, and Wallace said they did not see him at all. Edgerly, Dr. Porter, and Benteen said, “Reno was about, if anyone bothered to look for him.”
    ➢ “It was sometime in the late hours of the 25th or very early on the 26th, that according to Benteen, Reno brought up the subject of abandoning the wounded to him.” COL Graham always felt that too much was made of this “abandon the wounded” story. Others say Reno rejected even the suggestion of leaving the wounded.
    ➢ Little Wolf and his Cheyenne band joined the village.
    ➢ This was the group whose signs Custer’s scouts had spotted in the Rosebud valley on June 24 and who were seen on a ridge near the divide on the morning of the 25th. In addition, they were the same Indians who found the box of hardtack and who were chased off by SGT Curtiss and his men.
  • MIDNIGHT—Gibbon/Montana Column—Guided by the elderly Crow scout, Little Face, Terry moves into camp, the Gatling gun battery still ¼ mile behind. No fires or lights, and it is still raining heavily. He orders scouts to be sent out at daylight to find Indian camp. Guides were to be sent back for the infantry.
    ➢ Camp located in the delta area of Pocket Creek.
    ➢ According to Darling, the Gatling guns and one company of cavalry did not make it in to this camp until early the following morning, choosing instead to camp in a distant coulee.
    ➢ Matthew Carroll is unclear if he was with Terry’s group and equally unclear if he was hauling wagons, though it appears he was hauling the Gatling guns. He too camped at midnight; no wood or water. He wrote in his diary that at this point they were “1 or 2 miles from the mouth of the Little Big Horn.”
  • JUNE 26, 1876—MONDAY
  • From the Acting Assistant Adjutant General, Department of the Platte—“Reports departure of five Co’s Infantry for Fetterman Capt Powell Commanding.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From the Acting Assistan Adjutant General, Department of the Platte—“Repeats dispatch from Fetterman as follows: Train with wounded will reach here tomorrow. Capt Nickerson is with it.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From Col. Merritt—“Dispatch rec’d. Leave at once for Laramie.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • Some scattered showers early, then plenty of sun and heat.
  • 2:00 AM—Will Logan—sent out by Terry to try to locate Custer—hears war drums and voices in the distance; he halts [Coburn, The Battle of the Little Big Horn].
  • BETWEEN 2:00 AM – 3:00 AM—Daybreak.
  • ➢ 2:45 AM ± —The warriors began firing again, citing a number of sources: Reno, Edgerly, and McDougall: about 2:30 AM; Godfrey: between 2:30 – 3:00 AM; Wallace: before 3:00 AM; Moylan, Benteen, and Varnum: about 3:00 AM; Herendeen: peep of the day
  • 3:30 AM—The “Far West” starts out.
  • DAYLIGHT—Gibbon/Montana Column—Brisbin rouses Bradley and orders him out on a scout.
  • 3:30 AM—Bradley sends six Crows out in the lead.
  • 4:00 AM—Bradley leaves camp on his scout.
  • EARLY MORNING, BEFORE DAWN—7th Cavalry—LT De Rudio, PVT O’Neill, Fred Gerard, and Billy Jackson try to cross the river to reach Reno’s command. Gerard, superstitious, says a prayer to the Indians’ Great Spirit and tosses his watch in the river as a token, all this hoping to find a suitable crossing point. Gerard later denied the incident, claiming he lost his watch and threw his rifle into the river, trying to get it out of his way.
    ➢ They wind up coming across Indians and Gerard and Jackson—the only ones with horses—take off (this was pre-arranged), leaving De Rudio and O’Neill hidden in the brush.
  • 5:00 AM—Gibbon/Montana Column—The infantry column breaks camp and begins its move to catch up to the cavalry.
  • 5:30 AM—Far West reaches a creek flowing into the Big Horn on its right bank; they encounter rapids and meet with a long delay.
  • EARLY MORNING—About six miles below the mouth of the LBH horse tracks are seen in the grass and a little way further, three Indians are spotted on the other side of the Big Horn. A lone horse was also spotted on the same side of the river as the soldiers were on; this was the horse the Crows had let go when they tried to swim the river.
    ➢ The three Indians proved to be the Crows, White Man Runs Him, Goes Ahead, and Hairy Moccasin.
    ➢ They inform Prevo that Custer and all with him have been wiped out.
    ➢ After questioning them, Prevo concluded they were certainly exaggerating and had no definitive knowledge of what had happened.
  • 7:50 AM—Gatling gun battery arrives at the bivouac.
  • JUST BEFORE 9 AM—7th Cavalry—Willert claims this was when Benteen ordered the charge of Companies B, D, G, and K. Liddic claims it was about 3 PM, but I think it may have been somewhat earlier because the Indian firing had all but ceased by 3 PM.
  • 9 AM—Gibbon/Montana Column—Carroll’s trains break camp.
    ➢ They went 2 miles and came across some of the Crow scouts who were assigned to Custer.
    ➢ Crow scouts report big fight on the Little Big Horn with Custer being whipped badly.
  • 9:15 AM—Gibbon/Montana Column—LT Bradley sees Terry and the head of the cavalry command appear on a ridge a couple of miles back and decides it is his duty to inform the general of what the Crows said.
    ➢ His staff and COL Gibbon, who had re-joined the command earlier that morning, surrounded Terry.
    ➢ Terry’s diary mentions these reports as being of Sioux trails. Taylor reports more.
    ➢ Terry wanted to wait for his infantry to arrive, but now directed the command to move as soon as they could finish their coffee.
  • 9:30 AM—Far West passes Terry’s camp of June 25.
  • 10:00 AM—Terry begins to move toward the LBH valley. The infantry command is seen moving toward them.
  • 10:00 AM—Curley is far down Tullock’s Creek.
  • 7th Cavalry—Indians started grass and brush fires, probably to conceal their movements and to prevent soldiers from approaching river for water.
    ➢ Stewart felt there might have been “thousands” of Indians in the vicinity this day. “Captain Benteen stated later that there were ‘picnic parties’ of Indians as large as a regiment standing around the river bottom looking on, and that fully 2,000 hostiles were idling about, waiting for a place from which to shoot. He declared… there was not a foot of unoccupied land anywhere and that there were Indians everywhere… the command was surrounded by from eight to nine thousand hostiles.”
    ➢ Varnum felt there were as many as 4,000 Indians, many of whom were never engaged. The men on the hill could see large masses of them a good ways off.
    ➢ Herendeen felt there were 400 – 500 in the surrounding hills.
    ➢ Moylan put the number at 900 – 1,000 around the command.
  • MID-MORNING—A sergeant reports to Benteen—with LT Gibson’s compliments—that the Indians are giving H Company a devil of a time. Benteen reports to Reno and asks for reinforcements. The major refuses, but Benteen demands M Company and with French’s troops organizes a charge chasing the gathering Indians down a ravine and across the river.
  • A LITTLE BEFORE NOON—The trek down to the LBH for water began. One soldier killed, six wounded, getting water. Benteen positions four marksmen to protect the water carriers: SGT Geiger (H); BSM Mechlin (H); SAD Voit (H); PVT Windolph (H); SGT Fehler (A) (possibly stood in for Voit when Voit was wounded.
  • 12:30 PM—Gibbon/Montana Column—Having proceeded about 9½ miles up the LBH valley (on the east side of the river), the combined Terry/Gibbon command begins crossing the LBH to its west side. The river here was about twenty yards across, 2½ feet deep, and cold with ash growing along the stream.
  • 1:00 PM—7th Cavalry—Godfrey: “Indians had nearly all left us, but they still guarded the river….”
  • SOME TIME IN THE AFTERNOON—Varnum goes to Reno and volunteers to try to get a message out. SGT McDermott (A) offered to go with him. Reno refused permission, saying he couldn’t afford to lose two good shots and that they would probably be killed anyway. Varnum responded, “we might as well get killed trying to get relief as to get killed where we were.” Reno said, “Varnum, you are a very uncomfortable companion.”
  • 2:00 PM – EARLY AFTERNOON—The troops again came under heavy fire, this time from the north and east. Verified by Godfrey.
  • ABOUT 2:20 PM—Gibbon/Montana Column—With the entire command across the river, Terry orders a halt.
    ➢ An advance guard of Muggins Taylor and Henry Bostwick is sent out, each by a different route, to reconnoiter and try to link up with Custer.
  • 3:00 PM—7th Cavalry—Benteen ordered another charge, but this time Reno led it or went with it. Companies B, D, G, and K moved forward about seventy yards before falling back with no casualties. Indian firing was intense.
  • 3:00 PM—Indian firing ceased altogether and large numbers of warriors seen returning to the village.
  • 5:00 PM TO 5:20 PM—Gibbon/Montana Column—Terry’s advance up the LBH begins again.
    ➢ The infantry formed the left column (nearest the river); the cavalry was on the right. Terry and Gibbon marched up front, in between the two columns.
    ➢ The Gatling guns were in the rear.
    ➢ Trains are with them.
  • LATE AFTERNOON—7th Cavalry—The Indians begin firing the prairie in the valley. Under the cover of this fire—set to conceal their movements (as before)—the Indians broke camp and began to move away.
  • 6:20 PM—Gibbon/Montana Column—Terry’s column halts.
  • 6:30 PM – 6:40 PM—Gibbon/Montana Column—The scout, Henry Bostwick, sent out earlier to try to get a message to Custer comes riding back at a furious gallop. “You have been looking for Indians all summer? You’ll find all you want there!”
    ➢ Bostwick gestured excitedly up the valley, to a section of bench land about six miles up.
    ➢ Terry sends LT Roe (F/2C) toward the western bench land as an advanced guard along the column’s right flank.
    ➢ LT Bradley moves up the left side of the column, through the timber and brush that grew along the river.
    ➢ He continually saw Indians in the valley and on the bluffs to the right (where Roe was advancing), sometimes singly, pairs, or more. He also saw a group of 75 – 100, and heard rifle shots from the bluffs.
    ➢ At one point, Bradley saw a timbered area jutting far into the valley. Indians were riding from the bluffs into that woods, and he felt there were more than 100, plus whatever number had already been there.
    ➢ The Indians facing Roe were estimated to be as many as 300, their advance elements appearing to be wearing uniform jackets and carrying guidons. This group was between Roe and a large mass of people seeming to be moving from the Little Big Horn toward the Big Horn.
    ➢ Roe sent a sergeant and three men forward to see who these people were… and quickly found out!
    ➢ Bradley felt there were at least 1,000 warriors to the command’s front, “with plenty more to cooperate with them.”
    ➢ The Gatling guns and three companies of cavalry moved on the right in column, four companies of infantry were on the left, and one company of infantry in front and behind the pack mules in between the other two columns.
  • 7:00 PM—7th Cavalry—The Indian column emerges from the smoke of the prairie fire.
    ➢ The possessions of those who were in mourning were left behind, as was custom. That included the standing tepees.
    ➢ Some troopers estimated the Indian column’s length at five miles. Benteen thought it to be three miles long and ½ mile wide. Benteen said, “They had an advance guard, and platoons formed, and were in as regular military order as a corps or division.”
    ➢ Edgar Stewart: “Benteen, who was qualified to judge, estimated the strength of the hostiles as being equal to that of a full cavalry division. ‘It [the Indian column] started about sunset and was in sight till darkness came. It was in a straight line about three miles long, and I think half a mile wide, as densely packed as animals could be. They had an advance guard and platoons formed, and were in as regular military order as a corps or division.’”
    ➢ “It is beyond doubt that the hostile camp on the banks of the Little Big Horn River had been one of the greatest gatherings of Indians ever seen upon the plains” [Stewart].
    ➢ LT Godfrey: “… the Indian village moving… was, or seemed to be, about three miles long by ¾ [mile] wide and very closely packed.”
    ➢ PVT Windolph: “The heavy smoke seemed to lift for a few moments, and there in the valley below we caught glimpses of thousands of Indians on foot and horseback, with their pony herds and travois, dogs and pack animals, and all the trappings of a great camp, slowly moving southward. It was like some Biblical exodus; the Israelites moving into Egypt; a mighty tribe on the march.”
    ➢ LT Edgerly: “I thought before the ponies commenced to move that it was like a lot of brown underbrush; it was the largest number of quadrupeds I ever saw in my life…. It looked as though a heavy carpet was being moved over the ground.”
    ➢ Most troopers thought the Indians had run low on ammo or that Custer, with reinforcements, was coming to their rescue.
    ➢ The troopers on Reno Hill gave the Indians three cheers as they moved away! [Kuhlman, Legend into History, 138]
    ➢ LT Roe, moving up the bench lands, comes across a large body of warriors, maybe as many as several hundred in number. He sends an orderly back to Terry. He also sees the tail end of the moving village and objects on the eastern bluffs he takes to be dead buffalo. He waits, a good distance away.
    ➢ Terry’s column approaches a heavily timbered area, LT Bradley in the lead, and Indians are spotted amongst the trees and brush.
    ➢ Terry, in his June 27, 1876, battle dispatch, said both Benteen and Reno estimated not less than 2,500 warriors, but other officers thought the number of Indians engaged was much more.
  • 8:00 PM—Gibbon/Montana Column—LT Roe leaves the bench land to re-join the main column.
  • 8:40 PM – 9 PM—Terry decides to go into bivouac, as it is getting dark. He camped on the site of the present-day Crow Agency, the schoolhouse marking the approximate center of his camp.
    ➢ The infantry had marched some 29 to 30 miles.
    ➢ The camp was about 11 miles as the Crow flies, from the mouth of the LBH and about 8 – 9 miles from Reno’s position in the hills.
    ➢ There were fully 1,000 Indians to Terry’s front, yet this was only the rear guard, as the rest of the village headed south.
    ➢ Good camp: wide bottom, plenty of grass.
    ➢ Ten head of horses found during the day; not clear whose they were.
    ➢ Night passes quietly.
  • SUNDOWN—7th Cavalry—No Indians to be seen.
  • DARKNESS—Gerard and Jackson leave the timber above Ford A and head toward Reno’s command.
  • 9:30 PM—Far West moors on the west side of a large island near the right bank of the Big Horn. Maximum temperature recorded by SGT Wilson was 70º; minimum was 60º.
  • 11:00 PM—Gerard and Jackson reach Reno’s command.
  • 11:00 PM + – De Rudio and O’Neill reach Reno’s command.
  • JUNE 27, 1876—TUESDAY
  • From Col. Merritt—“Notes receipt of dispatch to Chug. Leaves for the front tomorrow or next day.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From the Commanding Officer, Fort Lincoln—“Scouts left last night with dispatches for Gen. Terry.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • EARLY MORNING, JUST AFTER FIRST LIGHT—Reno writes a message for Terry, whom he supposes is with Gibbon’s command somewhere down the Big Horn or Little Bighorn valleys.
  • Camp of the Little Big Horn
    Twenty miles from its mouth, June 27
  • Gen. Terry:
    I have had a most terrific engagement with the hostile Indians. They left their camp last evening at sunset, moving due south, in the direction of the Big Horn mountains. I am very much crippled and cannot possibly pursue. Lieutenant Mackintosh [sic] and Dr. DeWolf are among the killed. I have many wounded, and many horses and mules shot. I have lost both my own horses. I have not seen or heard from Gen. Custer since he ordered me to charge with my battalion (3 companies), promising to support me. I charged about 2 PM, but meeting no support was forced back to the hills. At this point I was joined by Capt Benteen with 3 companies and the pack train (rear guard, 1 company). I have fought thousands and can still hold my own, but I cannot leave here on account of the wounded. Send me medical aid at once and rations.
    M. A. Reno, Major 7th Cav.
  • ➢ The message was given to scouts and they headed downstream. They returned shortly, however, with word that a number of “warriors” occupied the lower regions and they could not get through.
  • 3:30 AM—The Far West starts again.
  • EARLY MORNING—Terry’s command has a light breakfast and starts its move upriver.
    ➢ The Indians have disappeared.
    ➢ LT Bradley fords the LBH and begins his scout on the east side of the river.
  • 7:30 AM—Terry’s column begins its advance.
    ➢ Moved between 1½ to two miles and stopped for ten minutes.
  • 7:40 AM—Terry moves onto a hill.
  • 8:20 AM—Spots a few tepees about two miles in front.
  • 9:00 AM—Troops from Reno Hill see a body of people moving up the valley. It turns out to be Terry’s force.
  • 9:30 AM—Godfrey uses this time when a cloud of dust was seen downriver.
  • 10:00 AM—The Far West reaches the confluence of the Little Big Horn and Big Horn rivers, approximately forty miles south of the Big Horn’s mouth. CPT Baker offloads his troops to reconnoiter the south side of the LBH valley.
  • LATER MORNING—Terry’s column advances into the abandoned Indian camp. Holmes Paulding finds Yates’ gauntlets, Porter’s buckskin shirt, and Sturgis’ underclothing and spurs.
    ➢ Gibbon viewed the dead soldiers along Reno’s retreat route and was then alerted to small dark figures atop the bluffs. Even with his binoculars he could not tell if they were soldiers or Indians. He was about 1½ miles away.
    ➢ Lodge poles and camp utensils found.
  • 11:00 AM—Terry reaches Reno’s position.
    ➢ Terry writes telegram to the Adjutant General of the Military District of the Missouri, Chicago, via Fort Ellis.
  • SOME TIME DURING THE DAY—probably late morning—CPT McDougall and privates Ryan and Moore (B Company men) buried Hodgson on “a little knoll between my position and the works on the hill and these two men and myself dug his grave and buried him.”
    ➢ Reno’s wounded brought over to Terry’s camp.
    ➢ Wagon master Matthew Carroll wrote he believed they would find many more dead Indians: had found twenty-five so far.
    ➢ Soldiers horribly mutilated.
  • 12:35 PM—The Far West starts again, continuing its move up the Big Horn River.
  • 5:30 PM—The Far West reaches “Sitting Bull Rapids,” taking one hour to ascend them.
  • 8:30 PM— Far West ties up, unable to ascend further rapids. Total distance traveled from the mouth of the Big Horn was approximately 66 miles. The day’s temperatures varied from a high to 76ºF to a low of 63ºF.
  • JUNE 28, 1876—WEDNESDAY
  • From the Acting Assistant Adjutant General, Department of the Platte—“Major Arthur, Paymaster leaves tomorrow for Fetterman.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From the Acting Assistant Adjutant General, Department of the Platte—“Forwards telegram from Gen. Crook rel. to paying troops of Big-horn Expedition.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From Capt Nickerson, ADC [or Crook’s Adjutant]—“Left Gen. Crook 21st inst. Met Schuyler at Crazy Woman’s Creek night of 22nd and he probably reached Crook with dispatch the following day.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From Capt Nickerson, ADC—“Reports having sent Courier with Gen. Sheridan’s dispatch to Gen. Crook. Will start Infantry and Supply Train Monday morning.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From Col. W. Merritt—“Reports forage and rations to include July 27th. Leaves for the command today.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • Telegram dated June 28, 1876, Fort Fetterman, Wy, to Lieut. Gen. Sheridan, Chicago—“Left Gen Crook morning twenty-first Camp on Goose Creek base Big Horn Mountain Schuyler met us at Crazy Woman’s Creek. Night twenty-second & probably reached General’s camp by ten next day with your dispatch. Your dispatch about Terry’s movements probably reached him the following day or by twenty-four. Nickerson, ADC.”
  • Reno abandons hill position. Combined command moved down the ridges and buried Custer’s command.
  • ➢ Establish bivouac next to Gibbon’s men, on their right.
    ➢ Day was spent making litters to carry the wounded and burying the dead.
  • MORNING—The Far West, unable to proceed up the Big Horn any farther, turns and rapidly descends the river, mooring at the mouth of the LBH where it remained all day.
  • MORNING—CPT Ball (H/2C) sent out to follow the Indian trail, south. He followed it for ten or twelve miles and it headed toward the Big Horn Mountains. On his way back he discovered a large fresh trail that led directly toward the village.
  • NOON—Engineer sergeant Wilson reports the arrival of the Crow scout, Curley. [In Hammer, Custer in ’76, 241, a civilian named James M. Sipes said this was on “Tuesday” morning.] Sipes, who was a sometimes-barber aboard the Far West —but mostly just a sightseer along for the ride—was fishing on the left bank of the Little Big Horn with Grant Marsh; the ship’s steward, Reuben Riley; and either James Boles or Walter “Bob” Burleigh, the ship’s owner and Clerk, when he said Curley rode into the water from the right bank. He had three ponies and a red Sioux blanket he had taken from a dead Sioux. A slight variation of this story appears in Stewart, Custer’s Luck, 479 – 480.]
  • 8:00 PM—Terry moves camp 4½ miles down the valley. They had great trouble moving the wounded on their hand litters.
    ➢ After they made the litters for the wounded, “two men were assigned to each hand-litter, but it was soon found that this was not sufficient, and the number had to be doubled, and, besides, two men had to be assigned to each horse-litter to steady it. Infantrymen and dismounted cavalrymen relieved each other every few minutes….”
  • JUNE 29, 1876—THURSDAY
  • Command remains in camp. Terry orders LT Maguire to make a survey of the battlefield. Also ordered horse litters made.
  • DURING THE DAY—Three scouts arrive at the Far West with news of the battle. The boat was immediately barricaded and preparations were made to receive the wounded.
    ➢ Continued to make litters for the wounded.
  • 6:30 PM—March commences again.
  • 10:00 PM—The van of Terry’s command reaches the Far West.
  • JUNE 25, 1876, SUNDAY
  • [FWC writes] I must apologize to all of you following this Day-by-Day account leading to the battle of the Little Big Horn.
    There is so much data for June 25th, I had to break it down into four long posts, one for each of the next four days. When I tried to post the first, Facebook would not accommodate it: too long; so I had to break it down further into two posts a day for the next four days.
    This is less than optimal when it comes to specific events and how they flow. It was not so much an issue at first, but the intra-day breakdown has complicated things. I hope it does not make the whole thing too convoluted and disjointed. So please forgive me if it does not read as well as it should.
  • PART I
  • MIDNIGHT TO BEFORE 8:00 AM: EINE KLEINE NACHTMUSIK
  • From Commanding Officer, Fort Fetterman—“Reports that Courier was employed by Correspondent to bring dispatches.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  •  
  • Telegram dated Fort Fetterman, Wy., June 25, 1876, to M. V. Sheridan, ADC, Division Headquarters, Chicago, Ill.—“I find that Courier was employed by Correspondents to bring dispatches and by Genl Crook to return with mail and the delay may have been an arrangement between them will report fully by mail. Coates, Comd’g.”
  • Telegram dated Camp on Old Woman’s Fork, June 25, 1876, to Ass’t Adjt General, Military Division of the Missouri, Chicago, Ills—“Lieut. Genls dispatch received. I took this road because it brings me on the trail a day or two farther west with camp of South Cheyenne near Powder River trail. We are all ready to push out should we delay much will need more supplies. Old Antoine Sadue and old Duval engaged as guides at five dollars per day. They are the only men to be found who have been on the trail. They say eighty lodges of Cheyennes under Little Wolf went on Powder River trail twelve days ago—sun dance was to be over today when it is said many Indians will go on war path. I have engaged two guides and ten scouts all told had to send in different directions for scouts at last moment and more came in than were expected. Please approve or disapprove; all will be useful. Crooks village of Indians may scatter and come this way but are likely to discover and avoid me. Will look out sharp and strike if possible. Have sent Stanton with scouts & a Company to examine trail etc. Carr.”
  • 12:30 AM—Keogh gets the last of the pack train across Mud Creek.
  • ➢ Keogh’s Company I was assigned to bring up the rear of the packs, replacing Benteen.
  • ➢ Half Yellow Face guided the column.
  • ➢ As the column was assembling, Fred Gerard sat with Custer and claimed Half Yellow Face and Bloody Knife told Custer (apparently Reno, as well), he could not cross the divide before daylight without being discovered by Sioux scouts. Bruce Liddic writes this occurred at 2 AM. This 2 AM time is also mentioned by Reno in his report to CPT E. W. Smith (A-d-C and AAAG), dated July 5,1876, and it makes more sense than at the Busby bend camp. James Willert wrote it was well after 1 AM when Custer queried Half Yellow Face if they could reach their goal this night. It was then the scout told Custer they would not reach the divide until after daylight. Custer asked the scout if it would be possible to move the command across the divide in daylight without being spotted by the Sioux. Half Yellow Face said no.
  • ➢ Custer ordered Gerard to make sure his scouts followed any left-hand trails—no matter how small—to make sure no Indians had escaped.
  • ➢ Delay caused mostly by trouble getting the pack train across Mud Creek.
  • ➢ The Busby camp was about 11½ miles from the divide.
  • ➢ A gradual climb from 2,340 feet to 4,000 feet elevation.
  • ➢ The bottom along the creek had occasional areas of timber.
  • ➢ Godfrey: extremely dark and difficult going. Some men even had to grab hold of the tail of the horse in front of them so they would not lose their way. A lot of choking dust, “whistling or hallooing.” The night was calm with a slight breeze. “We could not see the trail, and we could only follow it by keeping in the dust cloud… a slight breeze would waft the cloud and disconcert our bearings; then we were obliged to halt to catch a sound from those in advance….”
  • ➢ Troops followed the rattling of the equipment—canteens, tin cups—in front of them.
  • ➢ Despite the darkness and difficulty, the column moved quickly. According to Benteen, “the gait was a trot… kept up for perhaps eight or ten miles.”
  • ➢ George Herendeen said it was the right fork. He must have meant right, as he was looking up-river.
  • ➢ Some historians claim the route to the divide was up Thompson Creek, not Davis. This is incorrect: it was Davis Creek.
  • ➢ White-Man-Runs-Him told Hugh Scott Custer came through a pass to the head of the north fork of Upper Reno Creek. This pass followed up Davis Creek from the Rosebud.
  • ➢ “… [T]here is a possibility that the regiment followed Thompson’s Creek for a short distance, then turned up the dry bed of Little Thompson Creek, which comes in from the north, and followed it to its source near the summit of the divide. From that point there is an easy pass over to the headwaters of Davis Creek, so that the regiment would have crossed the divide at the same place regardless of the route taken to get there… Goes Ahead claimed that the last bivouac was made near its mouth; old-timers… of the vicinity still point out the spot where they say the ashes of Custer’s campfires were visible for many years afterwards; the only water in the vicinity that is heavily impregnated with alkali is on that route…” [Stewart, Custer’s Luck, 269 – 270].
  • Terry-Gibbon Column—Far West enters mouth of Big Horn River and heads upstream.
  • 2:00 AM – 2:30 AM— 11 miles—2.13 – 2.36 MPH, including smoking halts—Varnum arrives at small “pocket” just below the Crow’s Nest hill; scouts wait there for light.
  • ➢ The Crow’s Nest was about 4½ to 4¾ miles from Halt 1; 4,400-foot elevation.
  • ➢ Terrain from future Halt 2 site(s) to the “pocket” was “smooth-level and a little rising” (Fred Gerard).
  • ➢ USGS series 7.5′ series quadrangle map NW quarter of Section 34, T4S, R37E.
  • ➢ “‘… [A] rounded oval hill directly southeast of where the great trail crossed the divide, a half-mile or less from the Camp Marker. This hill is exactly on the divide, and from it about everything of note that could be seen from the higher peak was observable from its summit. A few pine trees are growing on it, and were in 1876, forming a slight screen from observation from the Reno Creek Valley. It was easily ascended, especially from the trail where it crossed the divide, and from the little branch of Davis Creek that had its beginning 40 rods [220 yards or 660 feet] southeast.’” [Dustin in Willert, Little Big Horn Diary, FN, 444].
  • ➢ “‘… [W]e do not know precisely which hill, but in all probability it was the fourth peak south of the pass which connects the valley of Davis Creek with that of Sundance or Reno Creek.’” [Stewart/Willert, Little Big Horn Diary, FN, 444].
  • “Tall grass carpeted the slopes of the divide below the… [Crow’s Nest], and the ravine that marked the headwaters of Davis Creek was cloaked in… pink and white wild rosebuds… From the north bank of this tributary, the terrain sloped upward several hundred yards to a stand of pine trees, from which vantage… certain observations could be made across the brow of the divide toward the Little Horn Valley. The divide was directly west of the slope, and to the south, dipped sharply into a broad ravine which formed the source of the south fork of the tributary known today as Reno Creek” [Willert, Little Big Horn Diary, 252].
  • ➢ The ride to the Crow’s Nest was rugged, ending in a small pocket and a climb to the summit. It took about 5½ hours in the pitch-black night to reach this point: 2.14 MPH for the 11¾ miles. They stopped a couple of times in the dense undergrowth along the stream so the Crows could have a smoke.
  • ➢ Varnum, Boyer, and White Man Runs Him led the horses into the pocket. Most of them—including Varnum—slept, waiting for it to get light enough to ascend to the summit. Two Crow—Hairy Moccasin and White Man Runs Him—begin climbing to the top rather than sleep.
  • 2:15 AM— 6.2 – 6.7 miles; 1.9 – 2.1 MPH—Column halts on Davis Creek—Halt 1. Still dark.
  • ➢ LT Wallace claimed they arrived when “it was too dark to read my watch,” implying it was before 3:34 AM, when civil twilight began.
  • ➢ Tom Heski claims the distance was 6.2 to 6.7 miles. [Bank on it!]
  • 3:00 AM—Heski claims it gets light in Montana in June around this time.
  • 3:40 AM—Two Crow scouts—Hairy Moccasin and White Man Runs Him—first spot the Indian encampment from atop the Crow’s Nest. They scurry back to tell the others.
  • 3:41 AM—[USNO]—2:44 AM, LOCAL SUN TIME—Nautical twilight begins—the end of full darkness.
  • 3:45 AM—Light on the horizon.
  • 4 AM—Terry-Gibbon Column—LT Bradley—on orders from Terry—sends six Crow scouts up Tullock’s Creek to look for Herendeen.
  • 4:30 AM—LT Bradley and his mounted infantry leave for a scout up Tullock’s Creek.
  • 4:31 AM, HQ TIME; 3:34 AM, LOCAL SUN TIME—Civil twilight begins—reading still impossible.
  • 4:45 AM—Dr. Williams—who had been left aboard the Far West with COL Gibbon—arrives in Terry’s camp.
  • 4:47 AM – 4:57 AM—7th Cavalry—Varnum awakened by scouts—Boyer—for a climb to the peak.
  • 5:00 AM—Terry-Gibbon Column—Carroll’s trains leave camp. “Went up to Tullock’s Fork 4 miles, thence to backbone between it and Big Horn. Arrived at Big Horn River after making 20 miles.”
  • ➢ Carroll watered his animals, then moved another three miles before “nooning.”
  • ➢ Road was bad and the battery of three Gatling guns had a lot of trouble.
  • 5:10 AM—Sunrise—7th Cavalry—Troops begin breakfast. Godfrey wrote, “After daylight some coffee was made….”
  • 5:15 AM—Varnum arrives at the Crow’s Nest peak and he and the scouts study Sioux village and two tepees along Reno Creek, one of which was partly wrecked or knocked over. Red Star joins the group.
  • ➢ Varnum had trouble seeing the village, eyes inflamed from loss of sleep and hard riding in the dust.
  • ➢ Varnum and scouts spot smoke from troopers’ breakfast fires. The Crows were very angry with this.
  • 5:30 AM—Terry-Gibbon Column—Terry orders Gibbon’s command up Tullock’s Creek toward the Tullock forks, then to head for the mouth of the Little Big Horn River.
  • ➢ This march would be some twenty-two miles over what Terry called “the most difficult country which I have ever seen.”
  • ➢ Terry would push the cavalry and the Gatling gun battery an additional thirteen to fourteen miles so the scouts could enter the Little Big Horn valley on the 26th.
  • 5:40 AM—7th Cavalry—The Crow spot two Sioux warriors about 1½ miles in front, west and parallel to the divide, but moving in the direction to where the trail crossed the divide.
  • ➢ Varnum wrote that one Indian was riding a pony and leading another horse on a long lariat, a boy following.
  • ➢ They were afraid the Sioux would turn right and cross the divide at the gap, thus discovering the advancing troops by the breakfast smoke.
  • ➢ Greg Michno says Indians had gone out to hunt and to look for some lost horses, but were seen and chased by “white scouts” who tried to kill them. One of the Indians outran the pursuers and reported back to the camp by noon.
  • ➢ This was one of two parties of Indians Varnum spotted. The following Indians were believed to have been east of the camp that morning: Deeds (One Hawk), a young Hunkpapa boy who was subsequently killed somewhat later near the LBH River; Brown Back (probably Oglala); and Black Bear, an Oglala.
  • 5:57 AM – 6:10 AM—Varnum wrote this in his note to Custer, handed it to Red Star and directed him and Bull to deliver it to Custer. Shortly after the Rees departed, Varnum and his scouts, “saw two Sioux about one mile and a half west, moving down Davis Creek toward the soldiers’ camp, and six other Sioux to the northeast over on Tullock Fork.”
  • ➢ Varnum: “About five o’clock I wrote a note to the General and sent it off by the Rees, telling him the information I got from the Crows.”
  • ➢ Bull lagged because of problems with his horse. Red Star, however, claimed, “he urged his horse on for he had the note.” He did not lose track, however, of his comrade.
  • 6:20 AM—Varnum leads dismounted sortie against the two Sioux. Varnum took Boyer, Reynolds, White Swan and one other Crow to chase the Sioux down and kill them, but as they set out they were called back. The Indians had changed direction.
  • ➢ Varnum wrote a letter to Walter Camp, dated April 14, 1909: “After sending off the Rees we saw one Indian riding a pony & leading another at the end of a long lariat & some distance behind, an Indian boy on a pony. They were evidently hunting stray stock and were perhaps a mile off toward the Little Big Horn and riding parallel to the ridge we were on. There was a gap in the range to our right and the Crows thought they would cross there & soon discover Custer. By this time smoke could be seen in a ravine towards the Rosebud showing where Custer was. The Crows were mad that he lighted fires. Boyer said that White Swan, who seemed to be a sort of leader, wanted us to try & cut him off & kill them where they crossed the range so they would not discover the troops. Boyer, Reynolds & two Crows with myself started off dismounted to do so. After, perhaps, a half mile of hard work through very broken country, where we could see nothing I heard a call like a crow cawing from the hill and we halted… we started back. I asked Boyer what was the matter but he did not know. On our return we learned that the Sioux had changed their course away from the pass but soon after our return they changed again and crossed the ridge. We could see them as they went down the trail towards the command and could then see a long trail of dust showing Custer was moving but we could not see the column. Before it came in sight the Sioux stopped suddenly, got together & then as suddenly disappeared, one to the right & one to the left, so we knew that the Sioux had discovered our approach. About this time… [6 or 7 Sioux] rode in single file along the crest of a ridge forming a divide of the stream running into the Rosebud and in the direction of that stream. That they would soon discover Custer’s command we knew and watched them accordingly. The crest where we were was higher than they were and as they rode along the crest, reflected against the sky their ponies looked as big as elephants. They rode leisurely but soon, all of a sudden, they disappeared and soon afterward one black spot took their place. They had evidently ran off to alarm their camp, leaving one man to watch the column. The command came in vision about this time and we watched it approach the gap where it halted. I rode down towards the column & soon met the Genl. He said, “Well you’ve had a night of it.” I said yes, but I was still able to sit up & notice things. Tom Custer & Calhoun then came up to us & Custer was angry at their leaving the column & ordered them back. I told the Genl. all I had seen, as we rode back towards the Crow nest hill and we climbed the hill together. Custer listened to Boyer while he gazed long & hard at the valley. He then said “Well I’ve got about as good eyes as anybody & I can’t see any village Indians or anything else,” or words to that effect. Boyer said, “Well General, if you don’t find more Indians in that valley than you ever saw together you can hang me” Custer sprang to his feet saying, “It would do a damned sight of good to hang you, wouldn’t it” and he & I went down the hill together…. We rejoined the command and he sent for the officers to assemble and I hunted for water & grub, as I had had none since about 8 o’clock the night before.”
  • 6:30 AM—9 miles from camp; 4½ MPH—Terry-Gibbon Column—LT Bradley, after traveling about nine miles up Tullock’s, orders a halt to wait further orders. The men brew coffee. There were absolutely no signs of Indians. By now, Terry was extremely concerned that he had had no word from Custer. The distance to the Little Horn confluence was still almost forty miles and he had promised Custer he would have Gibbon’s command there by June 26th.
  • 6:35 AM – 6:45 AM—2½ miles; < 3 MPH on average—The column had marched only two miles due to increasingly more difficult terrain, though the difficulty is questionable, especially in light of what happened next.
  • ➢ Terry calls a halt. He decides to leave the Tullock’s Creek valley and head to the tableland above, sending a squad of cavalry to tell Bradley.
  • ➢ According to Roger Darling, Muggins Taylor, who had caught Terry’s ear, precipitated this move. While the route up the creek’s valley did not appear to be that difficult, the easy sloping terrain up toward the ridge’s spine was deceivingly easy, only to turn into a nightmare a little farther along the ridge. Taylor had never been in this area and had no firsthand knowledge of the terrain.
  • ➢ The advance had been for only about one hour and had covered only between two and three miles.
  • 6:40 AM—7th Cavalry—Varnum returns to the Crow’s Nest.
  • 6:55 AM—Terry-Gibbon Column—Advance resumes. Brisbin, LT Doane, and Muggins Taylor lead the column toward what was believed to be tableland above the valley, only to discover the whole area was badlands. Terry wrote, “Turned to the right to gain the summit of the dividing ridge between Tullock’s and Big Horn.”
  • ➢ CPT Robert Patterson Hughes, Terry’s ADC and brother-in-law, blamed Custer for Terry’s move out of the Tullock’s Creek valley and into the brutal badlands separating Tullock’s Creek from the Big Horn River. Had Custer sent Herendeen down the valley as instructed—on June 24th—Hughes felt Terry would have simply moved up Tullock’s Creek, then made the easy move toward the Indian village, basically following CPT Ball’s route of a couple months earlier. Terry would then have been in position to assist in the battle.
  • 6:55 AM— 4½ miles; 6 MPH—7th Cavalry—Red Star, carrying Varnum’s note from the Crow’s Nest, arrives at Custer’s Halt 1 and report to Bloody Knife.
  • 7:05 AM—Isaiah Dorman spotted the courier(s) who was settling down for something to eat.
  • 7:08 AM—Dorman made Burkman wake Custer, who in turn woke Gerard and they went to the Rees’ camp.
  • 7:10 AM—Varnum’s scouts sight the two Sioux crossing the divide.
  • ➢ The two Sioux changed their course away from the divide, but then changed again, moving in the direction of the gap.
  • 7:12 AM—Custer awakened.
  • 7:20 AM—Red Star hands Custer Varnum’s note. Fred Gerard, Bloody Knife and others were there as well.
  • ➢ From the newspaper article by George Herendeen published July 7, 1876, Bismarck, D. T., and republished in the Army and Navy Journal, July 15, 1876: “About daylight we went into camp, made coffee, and soon after it was light the scouts brought Custer word that they had seen the village from the top of a divide that separates the Rosebud from Little Horn River.”
  • ➢ Custer rides back to saddle Vic and talks briefly with Bloody Knife and a few officers. Bloody Knife was morose and cautioned against attacking because the size of the trail leading away from the sun dance site indicated many more Indians than originally thought.
  • ➢ Custer may have now thought about sending Herendeen back, but since it was a fifty-mile hike, he probably thought it was useless at this point.
  • ➢ Willert claimed Custer decided to cancel the 8:00 AM move order and remain in camp all day, moving out when it became dark, position his troops, and launch a surprise attack in the early morning of June 26.
  • ➢ Custer decided to go to the Crow’s Nest himself and gathered Red Star, Gerard, and other Rees and began to move off. An officer asked Custer if he still wanted the regiment to move and Custer said, no; but he never formally countermanded his order.
  • BEFORE 8:00 AM—Custer mounted and rode to each of the companies, telling them to be ready to march. Godfrey remembered Custer gave orders to be ready to march at eight AM. PVT Martini—a Custer orderly that day—confirmed this.
  • PART II
  • 7:50 AM TO NOON: EINE KLEINE NACHTMUSIK
  • 7:50 AM—At about 6 – 8 MPH—Custer and others, leave for Crow’s Nest:
  • ➢ Red Star, Bob-tailed Bull, Little Brave, Bloody Knife, Fred Gerard, Tom Custer, and LT Calhoun.
  • ➢ Smalley lists Red Star, Bob-tailed Bull, Little Brave, Gerard, and an orderly-trumpeter. Also, Bloody Knife. Furthermore, he claims Custer made a second trip and this time took his brother Tom.
  • ➢ Liddic writes that Bull and PVT Martini were part of this group as well. There is some evidence Cooke joined the party.
  • ➢ Godfrey: “We started promptly at eight o’clock….”
  • ➢ Based on Varnum’s letter to Walter Mason Camp it appears Custer led the command himself and the eight o’clock departure was closer to 6:30 AM local sun time.
  • ➢ Herendeen: “… Some time after this [night bivouac] the scouts came back and reported that the location of the Sioux camp had been found. We moved forward again and about 9:00 AM [10:00 AM – 10:30 AM] were halted where Custer thought the command would be concealed.”
  • ➢ Godfrey confirms an 8 AM departure time, saying they traveled about ten miles—uninterruptedly—stopping around 10:30 AM.
  • 7:55 AM—Terry-Gibbon Column—Terry’s column halts.
  • 8:05 AM—7th Cavalry—Varnum sees the two Sioux spotting Custer’s party, or at least its dust.
  • ➢ These two “Sioux scouts” were not Sioux; they were Cheyenne from a hunting party under Little Wolf. And none of this group was involved in the afternoon’s battle, not joining the camp until after the engagement.
  • ➢ Varnum watched the Indians moving down the east side of the divide, stopping suddenly (spotting the trail of dust raised by Custer’s small party) and then disappearing. He figured they had spotted Custer’s approach.
  • SHORTLY AFTER 8:05 AM—Varnum spotted a party of seven Sioux riding single file eastwards along the crest of a spur ridge, parallel to Davis Creek. They disappeared suddenly, and then only one took the place of all seven. Varnum figured they had spotted the column or its back-trail and ran off to inform the village, leaving one man behind to watch.
  • ➢ John Gray and Tom Heski indicate these Sioux were agency Indians—Black Bear and his party from the Red Cloud Agency—heading back, thus posing no alarm-threat for the village. They did, however, meet some Cheyenne coming out from the agency. They were watching and trailing the troops.
  • ➢ Varnum: “On divide… there is a ridge running east and west at right angles to main divide. This spur ridge runs toward Rosebud, and Custer came along south of this ridge. The seven Sioux were going eastward along this ridge. There were two lodges at the lone tepee—one standing up and another had been broken down.”
  • ➢ PVT Theodore Goldin: “… About eight o’clock, the command moved out and marched steadily for perhaps two hours, when we found ourselves well-sheltered in the ravine at the base of the divide, halted, and remained concealed for some time.”
  • ➢ Moylan: They remained at Halt 1 until somewhere around 8:00 AM and then moved forward. Moylan did not know who ordered the move.
  • ➢ Moylan described the country as rolling. “The country marched through was the valley of this dry fork… and on either side, at a distance of half a mile in some places to a mile and a half in others, were high, broken hills.”
  • ➢ Moylan said they halted around 10:30 or 11 AM. He was not sure. “I don’t know that I know the time, I don’t give that time as definite.”
  • 8:15 AM— At 2.3 MPH—Tom Heski and I figure this to be about the time the command left Halt 1.
  • 8:30 AM— 4 miles; 6 MPH—Varnum spots Custer’s party—mistaking it for the “regiment”—approaching Halt Two; begins his descent to the “pocket.”
  • 8:35 AM— ½ mile, 6 MPH—Custer arrives near Crow’s Nest, having traveled at 4¾ MPH (± 5 miles from the camp).
  • ➢ Varnum rides down to meet him, though in his book Varnum claims this occurred about 10:00 AM. Remember, Varnum’s times are inaccurate.
  • ➢ Custer sends TWC and Calhoun back to the camp. Varnum does not mention Calhoun being with TWC.
  • ➢ James Willert has Custer reaching the base of the Crow’s nest at 9:30 AM, never explaining why it took him 1½ hours to get there.
  • ➢ Willert makes a case for Custer never having made the arduous climb to the Crow’s Nest, but having viewed the valley “from the higher ground rising to the north of Davis Creek… his party mov[ing] to that position.”
  • ➢ Graham claims Custer arrived at the Crow’s Nest after 10:00 AM and stayed there over an hour.
  • ➢ Most writers feel he did stay for more than an hour.
  • ➢ Custer had to have spent some time up at the Crow’s Nest checking out the terrain and the approaches to the village. He was not in a hurry at this point, already having decided to mount an attack the following day and also knowing he had to be very close to the hostiles. His main concern now was to make sure he had not been spotted.
  • ➢ Varnum informs him of all he had seen and that they had probably been spotted.
  • ➢ Custer cannot see village, but Varnum—who by now must have been convinced it was there—assures him he would “find more Indians in that valley than you ever saw together,” or else “you can hang me.” “It would do a damned sight of good to hang you, wouldn’t it?” Varnum claimed it was Boyer who made this remark.
  • ➢ Charley Reynolds convinces Custer the camp is there and the general finally agrees.
  • ➢ Varnum: “The column arrived at the trail-crossing of the divide about 10:00 AM, and Custer came at once to where I was, I riding out to meet him. We climbed the bluff and the Indians tried to show Custer what they saw.” Willert says this was not the Crow’s Nest, thereby supporting Smalley’s contention.
  • ➢ After the battle, the soldiers on Reno Hill estimated the size of the Indians’ pony herd to be between 20,000 and 28,000 horses. The troops saw the Indians heading south, up the valley.
  • ➢ Gregory Michno, using 1,500 warriors, claims there were probably only 12,000 horses. That’s eight horses per warrior, a very low estimate.
  • ➢ If you double the number of warriors, however, to 3,000, then 15,000 horses (five per warrior) would not be unreasonable. Using eight per warrior would make it 24,000 horses, right in between the soldiers’ estimates.
  • ➢ At five horses per warrior, 4,000 warriors would equate to 20,000 horses, in my estimation a more likely number and a figure jiving with the low end of what the troops on Reno Hill thought.
  • ➢ Michno says one study claimed it took three horses to haul an average-sized tepee plus belongings. Figure at least 1,500 tepees and that totals 4,500 more horses. 2,000 lodges would equate to 6,000 more horses. 6,000 “lodge” horses + 20,000 warrior horses would = 26,000 horses.
  • ➢ What appears to be exaggerated is the size—in area—that these horses occupied, especially since many of them were nowhere near the higher foothills to the west, but were, in fact, north of the Cheyenne rings. The McElfresh map shows this herd.
  • ➢ White Man Runs Him, a Crow (the Rees did not want to attack) tells Custer he should attack, that the Sioux have spotted his dust and the campfires.
  • ➢ Willert wrote: “To [the Crow], when the enemy was near-at-hand, attack was the only justified action. The decision of Gibbon to march against the hostile’s village [on May 17th] had pleased them, but the abrupt cancellation of the projected assault had confused and displeased them.”
  • ➢ Custer refuses to believe they have been spotted: “That camp has not seen us.” Ironically, Custer was probably correct. Custer is reported to have told Half Yellow Face through an interpreter, “This camp has not seen our army, none of their scouts have seen us…. I want to wait until it is dark and then we will march, we will place our army around the Sioux camp.”
  • ➢ Custer states he will carry out his original plan of waiting out the day in hiding and attacking early on the 26th.
  • ➢ The Crow scouts and the Ree, Red Star, apparently pretty much convinced Custer he had indeed been spotted and he should attack this day rather than take the risk of the Sioux attacking him. If he waited the warriors would come out to fight him to give the women and children time to escape, and then everyone would scatter.
  • ➢ Willert: “If the hostiles’ village was… alerted to the presence of the regiment, it would not be long before the warriors would swarm out to attack, to give their non-combatants opportunity to slip away…. Custer could not afford the risk.”
  • 8:35 AM— Regiment: ¾ MILE—SGT Curtiss (F/7C) informs CPT Yates—some claim he told Keogh, while Moylan clearly overheard it—some personal items had fallen from one of the pack mules, farther back on the trail. Yates sends Curtiss with four other EM to look for the lost pack. Custer was told of this upon his return from his first trip to Varnum’s Lookout.
  • 8:35 AM— Terry-Gibbon Column—Terry’s column resumes its march toward the mouth of the LBH.
  • 8:36 AM—7th Cavalry—CPT Keogh informs CPT Yates of the missing pack. Yates instructs Curtiss to take four men and retrieve the pack.
  • 8:37 AM— 6 MPH—Curtiss takes four F Company troopers with him: James Rooney, William A. Brown, Patrick Bruce, and Sebastian Omling. (Only Curtiss and Rooney survived the battle: they were assigned to the pack train.)
  • 8:43 AM—Curtiss group finds three Cheyenne rifling through pack, probably fairly near Halt 1.
  • ➢ After Curtiss chased off the three Cheyenne, the Indians made their way back to spy on the troops when they reached Halt 2.
  • ➢ These Indians were part of Little Wolf’s party of seven lodges that had left the Red Cloud agency to join the Sioux.
  • ➢ Two of them may have been Big Crow and Black White Man, the Indians who had spotted the troops in their Busby camp the day before.
  • ➢ These three Cheyenne came across a small party of seven Oglala—six men and one woman—led by Black Bear. The Sioux were from the Red Cloud Agency and had been looking for horses stolen by some of the Indians joining Sitting Bull. They were hiding, watching Custer’s column in Davis Creek when the Cheyenne met them: Black Bear, Owl Bull, Medicine Bird, Blue Cloud, Kill Enemy In Water, Knife, and Knife’s wife. These seven Sioux were probably the ones seen by Varnum from the Crow’s Nest.
  • ➢ They tried to warn the village, but could not circle around quickly enough and only arrived there after Custer was dead.
  • 8:44 AM – 8:50 AM—Curtiss’ detail runs off the Indians and secures the loose equipment.
  • 8:55 AM—Custer reaches top of Crow’s Nest. Among the Rees on the hilltop are Red Star, Bull, and Black Fox.
  • 8:58 AM— 8 MPH—Curtiss turns and begins trip back to column.
  • 9 AM + – 10 AM—Terry-Gibbon Column—The cavalry squad Terry had sent joins up with Bradley and informs him of Terry’s decision to cut across the Tullock-Big Horn divide.
  • 9:16 AM— 2.4 miles, 8 MPH—7th Cavalry—Curtiss and detail arrive back at the column and notify Yates of their findings.
  • 9:40 AM— Terry-Gibbon Column—Terry’s column halts.
  • 10 AM—Terry continues his march.
  • 10 AM— 3½ – 4½ miles; 2.3 MPH—7th Cavalry—Regiment halts in a timber-covered ravine on Davis Creek, ¾ mile from the summit of the divide, for concealment, 3¾ miles from previous halt and 10¾ miles from the Busby camp. This was Halt 2. This halt would have probably covered as many as three separate ravines, all close together.
  • ➢ This would have been the concealment halt had Custer stuck to his original plan of attacking on the 26th.
  • ➢ When the troops arrived near the Crow’s Nest, they moved into what Tom Heski has named, McDougal Ravine, named after Keith McDougal who found artifacts in the area. The ravine—as Halt 2 is commonly referred to—is one removed from the ravine outside the Crow’s Nest pocket.
  • ➢ It was not far from the Crow’s Nest.
  • ➢ Custer and scouts watch column arrive at this rest-halt, Halt 2, less than one mile away.
  • ➢ Vern Smalley calls attention to the precision of Wallace’s time, saying it “was one of the few times [Wallace] looked at his watch and immediately jotted down what he saw.” Wallace: 10:07 AM; Moylan: about 10:30 AM – 11:00 AM; Hare: 10:00 AM; Godfrey: 10:30 AM.
  • 10:05 AM—Custer, Varnum, and scouts leave Crow’s Nest.
  • ➢ Curtiss arrives back at halt-site, reporting chasing off the Cheyenne to Yates.
  • ➢ CPT Moylan: “While at the second halt at the foot of the divide… a Sergeant returned on the trail some miles for the purpose of recovering… some clothing of his that had been lost from a pack mule the night before.”
  • ➢ CPT Tom Custer and LT Calhoun ride out to tell Custer of Curtiss’ findings.
  • 10:10 AM—Custer arrives back down in pocket where the horses are kept.
  • ➢ They meet the Custer party coming down from the Crow’s Nest.
  • ➢ Apparently, some troops must have followed them: “Tom, who in the devil moved these troops forward? My orders were to remain in camp all day and make a night attack on the Indians, but they have discovered us, and are on the run.”
  • ➢ There is controversy about this move and whether or not Custer actually ordered the column forward before he left for the Crow’s Nest. Bruce Liddic seems to think he simply forgot to countermand his march order. He writes, “Gerard also recalled Custer ordered his Adjutant, 1LT William Cooke, to keep the command in camp until he returned.” Godfrey recalled Custer telling people to be ready to move.
  • 10:15 AM—After chewing out Tom Custer and Calhoun, GAC calls for an officers’ call.
  • 10:16 AM—LT Cooke informs Custer of the Curtiss lost pack incident.
  • 10:20 AM—Officers are all gathered alongside a small knoll occupied by C Company troopers.
  • ➢ PVT Peter Thompson (C) watched Custer and some officers talking on a small knoll in the Davis Creek valley. Heski claims this was after Custer’s return from the Crow’s Nest.
  • ➢ Herendeen told Custer the head of Tullock’s Creek was just north of where they were, but Custer said there was no longer any need to scout there, for the Indians were to the front. Herendeen agreed. In Custer’s mind, this also obviated the need to send any scouts to Terry, for Terry could have done nothing anyway if Custer attacked as quickly as he wanted to. Herendeen could never have reached Terry in time. Besides, if Indians were on the back trails, a messenger would probably not have succeeded in getting through. Fred Gerard was at this meeting and agreed with Herendeen’s recollections.
  • ➢ Boyer and other scouts warn Custer of the size of the Sioux encampment, but size was not what worried Custer; his overriding concern was the Sioux would break up and scatter. Godfrey called him “possessed” about this possibility.
  • ➢ In later years Godfrey also made a point to Walter Camp that fighting Indians “was an inexact science,” “dispositions… [had] to be ‘made in the dark,’ ” and, “In Indian warfare the rule is ‘touch and go.’”
  • ➢ It was at Halt 2 when company commanders were instructed to leave six men and one NCO with the packs. This number is verified by Godfrey—a company commander—in his narrative.
  • ➢ LT Mathey (M) is put in charge of packs.
  • ➢ Because he was the first to comply with giving seven men to LT Mathey for the packs, Benteen was given the honor of leading the advance.
  • ➢ Roger Darling notes some of Benteen’s friends within the regiment felt Custer was annoyed at Benteen’s promptness and this led to his sending Benteen on the “wild-goose-chase” to the left, thus keeping him out of the fight.
  • ➢ Company B, being the last to report, was assigned to guard the pack train: two officers, 134 troops, five civilian packers, and two scouts: 143, total. Many writers use six packers.
  • ➢ McDougall claimed it was about 11 AM when he was told to take charge of the packs.
  • ➢ PVT John Maguire (or McGuire) (C): “There was a detail of a Non-Commissioned Officer and seven men with each company’s pack mules. Officers say one NCO and six men. Besides these though, were strikers, cooks, headquarters details, and men leading officer’s extra horses to the number of two-three per company, or [thirty] additional men. Besides that, there were eleven men, citizen packers, or roughly 125 men, all armed, with McDougall’s company B. McDougall’s company plus the additional 125 or so men was larger than either Benteen or Reno’s command.”
  • ➢ Boyer tells Herendeen he has just spotted some Indians lurking near the camp. The two men searched and found some pony tracks. They had to have told Custer, further reinforcing his conviction they had been spotted.
  • ➢ There is also a story in Liddic’s, Vanishing Victory that Varnum gave Custer another report indicating a small camp of Indians— ± 60 tepees—was moving downstream. Apparently this was a group camped in the area of the lone tepee and headed for the larger village in the Little Big Horn valley. The obvious inference was the soldiers had been spotted and this group of Indians was on its way to warn the main camp. Another inference was the village was already beginning to break up and scatter.
  • ➢ Varnum made sure this report was relayed to Custer, so Varnum must have still been on the Crow’s Nest while Custer headed back to Halt 2.
  • ➢ There may also have been the feeling they might soon be surrounded or the Indians might attack.
  • ➢ Liddic brings up a valid point regarding Custer’s plans, a point I have advocated for years. He had no precise intelligence as to either the size of the Indian force or its exact location. Custer therefore, could not make a definitive attack plan. (He was roundly criticized by several officers at the Reno Court of Inquiry for not informing them of any attack plans.) If this theory is correct, it eliminates many scenarios regarding Custer’s so-called “attack” at Ford B.
  • 10:22 AM—George Herendeen wanders off some 500 or 600 yards up a dry creek and spots what he though might have been a deer or an Indian.
  • 10:25 AM—Boyer sees Herendeen and asks him about what he has seen. Boyer tells him he saw three Indians with three or four loose horses. They moved rapidly off in the direction of the village.
  • 10:35 AM—Boyer tells Custer what he and Herendeen have discovered. It was probably this report, on top of everything else, that convinced Custer to attack immediately rather than wait a day.
  • 10:40 AM—Custer tells of plan to attack. Officers’ call ends; Custer has decided to attack the village immediately, though he is still uncertain of its precise location and its size.
  • ➢ Not a single officer disagreed with Custer’s decision for action once they learned the Indians had seen them.
  • ➢ The Ree scouts did not like the idea of attacking the Sioux: “Otoe Sioux,” they cried, “Plenty Sioux; too many Sioux.” Custer had sat with several of them, including Bloody Knife, but seemed to pay them no heed; he was in a reverie of his own.
  • 10:40 AM – 10:55 AM—Assignments are made and Tom McDougall and B Company are assigned to accompany the pack train, “to take charge of the pack train and act as rear guard.” This was “on the divide between the Rosebud and the Little Big Horn.”
  • 10:50 AM—Someone—Boyer or Reynolds—convinces Custer to take one more look at the LBH valley using De Rudio’s field glasses.
  • ➢ There is another school of thought claiming Custer made a second trip to the Crow’s Nest and this was when he borrowed De Rudio’s field glasses. Hare’s statements to Walter Camp bear this out: “Custer had been out ahead with scouts viewing valley of the Little Big Horn…. [The column] lay concealed less than ½ mile from the divide for more than an hour. During this time Custer again went to Crow’s Nest to look at Indians.” Hare did not actually see Custer return, but heard he did.
  • ➢ At some point, Custer borrowed LT De Rudio’s Austrian-made field glasses. De Rudio agreed and said Cooke came to him and asked to borrow his field glasses.
  • ➢ Varnum was certain a second trip to the heights of the Crow’s Nest by Custer was never made.
  • 10:50 AM—Terry-Gibbon Column—Terry halts; Gatling gun battery breaks down.
  • ➢ Terry decides to head directly for the Big Horn River—seen to the west—rather than continue along the ridgeline toward Tullock Peak.
  • ➢ The infantry is now in quite bad shape, blisters from the difficult terrain and shortage of water beginning to wear down the men.
  • ➢ Terry sends scouts down Eckman Coulee—though not far—and chooses this route to the river.
  • ➢ The column’s descent begins shortly before Bradley reaches Terry.
  • 10:51 AM— 7th Cavalry—Custer agrees to go to the divide ridge in another attempt to see the village, and calls for his horse, taking a small party with him to the top of the divide.
  • 11:00 AM— ¾ mile; 6 MPH—Custer reaches the top of the divide, just 100 yards or so, from where the column is to cross.
  • 11:10 AM—Custer spends some time looking into the Reno Creek valley and the LBH valley. Finished, he turns and heads back to his regiment.
  • 11:18 AM— ¾ mile; 6 MPH—Custer arrives back at Halt Two. Convinced or unconvinced, he orders his command to get ready to move.
  • 11:19 AM – 11:44 AM—The command readies to move.
  • 11:20 AM—Terry-Gibbon Column—Terry’s column resumes march.
  • 11:30 AM— At 10 MPH, increasing speed—7th Cavalry—LT Varnum, PVT Strode, and the Rees lead out, cross the divide, and head to the left front. LT Hare takes the Crows and heads off to the right.
  • 11:45 AM—Column leaves Halt 2 site, beginning the fifteen-mile approach to the Sioux village. (Darling agrees with this time. It is also the time LT Wallace recorded.)
  • ➢ The head of Tullock’s Creek lay just north of this halt-site.
  • ➢ Column of fours, 50 to 60 feet interval between companies.
  • ➢ Wallace wrote, “grass short, soil poor, hills low. From the crest to the Little Big Horn the country was broken and the valley narrow… some timber along the little stream we followed down.”
  • ➢ Godfrey wrote, “a rough, broken country of considerable elevation, of high, precipitous hills, and deep, narrow gulches.”
  • 11:50 AM to NOON— Trot at 6 MPH—Custer begins crossing the Little Big Horn-Rosebud divide. The order of march seemed to be, H, D, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, ?, G, K, ?, B. ➢ Boyer tells Custer they will meet more Indians than they can handle. Custer responds by telling Boyer he can stay behind if he was afraid. Boyer said he would go wherever Custer went, but neither of them would leave the valley alive.
  • ➢ Bloody Knife understood their talk, glanced at the sun and signaled with his hands, knowing his end was near.
  • ➢ Scout Billy Jackson read Bloody Knife’s hands, choking up with emotion.
  • NOON—Custer halts column, its rear already below the top of the divide.
  • NOON – 12:10 PM—Between 12:05 PM TO 12:07 PM—Column halts on gentle curving slope, about ¼ to ½ mile west of the divide. Custer assigns battalions. 12:05 PM was the last official time recorded by LT Wallace. Custer and Cooke go off to the side, break the regiment into battalions, and inform Benteen to move off to the left.
  • ➢ Boyer and Reynolds had ridden somewhat out ahead and now quickly returned, reporting that the village was much larger than expected.
  • ➢ Custer and Cooke pulled off to the side to break down battalion/company assignments. Custer reasoned that by breaking the regiment into battalion units, he could approach the village from several directions at once, catch the Indians unprepared, confuse them so they could not concentrate their defensive efforts, then drive the inhabitants northward down the valley.
  • ➢ Edgerly maintained throughout the years, that Custer gave Keogh (C, I, and L) and Yates (E and F) their battalion assignments at this time as well. ➢ Myles Moylan, at the RCOI, stated Keogh had three companies.
  • ➢ Reno is assigned Companies A, G, and M, plus the scouts. o Company A: two officers, 39 EM; o Company G: two officers, 35 EM; o Company M: one officer, 46 EM; o Totals: five officers, 120 EM. o Attachments to battalion HQ: o Four officers: Reno; one Company A (Varnum), one Company K (Hare), one Company B (Hodgson, adjutant) o Seven EM: Strode (A), Trumble (B), Abbotts and Pendtle (E), Davern (F), Penwell and Clear (K). [SGT Kanipe eventually joined Reno after seeing Benteen and supposedly delivering the message to McDougall, but is not counted in Reno’s original strength.] o 34 others: two from Regimental HQ (the contract surgeons, Porter and DeWolf); three QM scouts; two QM interpreters; 21 Ree, four Dakota, and two Crow. o This totals 170 officers, EM, and scouts. Thirteen Ree scouts and the four Sioux did not join in the fighting. The pack escort (McDougall) and Benteen, each had one Ree scout assigned.
  • ➢ Benteen takes H, D, and K: 116 officers and EM. o + One Ree scout = 117 total o Company D: two officers, 43 EM; o Company H: two officers, 37 EM; o Company K: one officer, 31 EM.
  • ➢ Keogh gets C, I, and L: 128 officers and EM. o Company C: one officer, 42 EM; o Company I: two officers, 37 EM; o Company L: two officers, 44 EM. ➢ Yates takes E and F: 79 officers and EM. o Company E: two officers, 38 EM; o Company F: two officers, 37 EM.
  • ➢ HQ: 18 officers and EM, including attached orderlies (three for Custer, one for Lord) and the four Crow scouts. This includes TWC as aide-de-camp. o HQ attachments: Hughes (K), Martini (H), Dose (G), CPL Callahan (K). o Custer’s battalion: 225 officers and EM (including scouts and civilians).
  • ➢ McDougall with his Company B was placed in overall command of the packs, which included LT Mathey and seven men from each company. (The numbers do not fully compute to seven men per company, but some of the failure may be due to assignments no one seems to know about.) Total number assigned to packs and pack escort: 143 including two officers, one Ree, and five civilian packers.
  • ➢ Godfrey recalled that the whole mule train was an embarrassment. The mules were badly used up and the packers were new and had inadequate equipment.
  • ➢ Thought to be assigned to the packs: A Company (2): Franklin and Ionson; B Company (3): Campbell (?), Carey (?), and Stowers (?); C Company (8): SGT Hanley, Bennett, Fowler, Jordan, Mahoney, McGuire, Mullin, and Whitaker; D Company: None known; E Company (9): SGT Riley, Miller, Spencer, Berwald, James, Kimm, Lange, Liddiard, and McKenna (?); F Company (10): SGT Curtiss, Gregg, Howard, Hunter, Lefler, Lyons, Myers, Pickard, Reiley, and Rooney; G Company (4): SGT Brown, CPL Hammon, Campbell, and McEagan; H Company (1): Adams; I Company (9): SGT DeLacy, Braun, Jones, Kennedy, McNally, McShane, Owens, Ramsey, and Cooney; K Company (4): (according to LT Hare, K Company had only one NCO and five privates with the packs) SGT Rafter, Burkardt, Raichel, and Robers; L Company (13): SGT Mullen, Abrams, Banks, Brown, Burkman, Etzler, Logue, Marshall, McHugh, Moore, Rose, Stoffel, and Sullivan; M Company (3): SGT McGlone, SAD John Donahoe, and Henry Harrison Davis.
  • ➢ Richard Fox contends Custer stuck with the old seniority code of the army, giving Keogh—senior to Yates—three troops of cavalry. To do this, Custer would have had to detach L Troop from Yates.
  • ➢ Liddic states Custer originally wanted to take D Company with him instead of giving Weir’s unit to Benteen (remember, Weir was a Custer man). Benteen strongly objected, however, claiming D Company was one of the strongest in the regiment and Custer relented.
  • ➢ Benteen was issued his orders off to the side and out of earshot of all but the HQ staff.
  • ➢ If Benteen found any Indians trying to escape up the valley of the Little Big Horn, he was to intercept them and drive them back in the direction the village was supposed to be. Furthermore: he was to proceed to “a line of bluffs four or five miles away”; to send an officer [he chose Gibson] and six men, in advance, ride rapidly, pitch into anything he might find and send back word at once.
  • ➢ These “bluffs” actually turned out to be hills, the “first line” of which was really only 1.3 miles away, a serious miscalculation of distance. This miscalculation was probably due to the visual distortion from being higher up on the divide.
  • ➢ Willert writes the reason Custer sent Benteen off to the left was to police up Indians who might try to flee up the valley.
  • ➢ Benteen supposedly asked Custer: “Hadn’t we better keep the regiment together, General? If this is as big a camp as they say, we’ll need every man we have.” Custer responded, “You have your orders.”
  • ➢ Benteen: “We had passed through immense villages the preceding days… We knew there were eight or ten thousand on that trail.”
  • ➢ Benteen wrote to his wife on July 2, 1876: “I was ordered… to the left for the purpose of hunting for the valley of the river—or anything I could find.”
  • ➢ In a second letter, dated July 4, 1876, he wrote: “I was ordered… to the left, in search of the valley… and to inform Custer at once if I found anything worthy of same.”
  • ➢ In his official report of July 4, 1876, Benteen wrote: “The directions I received from … Custer were, to move with my command to the left, to send well-mounted officers with about six men who would ride rapidly to a line of bluffs about five miles to our left and front, with instructions to report at once to me if anything of Indians could be seen from that point. I was to follow the movement of this detachment as rapidly as possible… the ground was terribly hard on horses, so I determined to carry out the other instructions, which were, that if in my judgment there was nothing to be seen of Indians, Valleys, etc., in the direction I was going, to return with the battalion to the trail the command was following.”
  • ➢ As Benteen left on his mission, he passed by Reno and told him his orders were “to sweep everything before him.”
  • ➢ Godfrey: “Benteen’s battalion was ordered to the left and front, to a line of high bluffs about three or four miles distant. Benteen was ordered if he saw anything to send word to Custer, but to pitch into anything he came across; if, when he arrived at the high bluffs, he could not see any enemy, he should continue his march to the next line of bluffs and so on, until he could see the Little Big Horn valley.”
  • ➢ Liddic writes that by sending out an officer and six EM ahead of Benteen’s main column, Custer was showing his eagerness for timely intelligence. [Apparently, Custer did the same thing with Yates’ F Company as the command approached the lone tepee.]
  • ➢ The understanding of Custer’s orders and Benteen’s mission was clear and this understanding was re-iterated by Edgerly some time after the battle: “The idea I had was if they ran out of the village we would strike them on the left; and if to the right, then some other part of the command.”
  • ➢ In addition, Benteen wrote to his wife on July 2, 1876, “Custer divided the 7th Cavalry into three Battn’s—about fifteen miles from an Indian village, the whereabouts of which he did not know exactly.”
  • ➢ LT Gibson wrote in recall, after Benteen had been ordered to scout “to the left about five miles to see if the Indians were trying to escape up the valley… we were to hurry and rejoin the command as quickly as possible.”
  • ➢ If Custer’s order to Benteen to scout to the left had any military legitimacy, then it was because Custer needed to know the precise location of the Indians and prevent them from fleeing south.
  • ➢ While Benteen was pleased at his initial assignment, he became miffed when Custer modified his orders by first sending Chief Trumpeter Voss and then SGM Sharrow after Benteen with orders to keep ridge hopping until he could see into the LBH valley.
  • ➢ Benteen did not understand Custer’s rationale at the time, nor did Custer explain his intentions.
  • ➢ On August 8, 1876, Benteen wrote the New York Herald: “Before I had proceeded a mile in the direction of the bluffs I was overtaken by the Chief Trumpeter and the Sergeant Major with instructions from General Custer to use my own discretion, and in case I should find any trace of Indians at once to notify General Custer.”
  • ➢ By the time Benteen moved towards Reno Creek down Valley 3, he had already traversed two tough ridgelines, LT Gibson had mounted a 3rd (Ridge C), and there was at least another large ridgeline past C before Benteen’s command could enter the LBH valley.
  • ➢ Liddic writes, “Custer didn’t have a complete plan. The strategic part of his plan was complete… [S]urprise the village, capture it, and prevent as many Indians as possible from fleeing.”
  • ➢ Benteen even agreed Custer was correct in not having a formal plan at this point because he did not know the Indians’ precise location or their size.
  • ➢ Benteen, at the Reno inquiry stated, “When I received my orders from Custer to separate myself from the command, I had no instructions to unite at any time with Reno or anyone else. There was no plan at all. My orders were valley hunting ad infinitum.”
  • ➢ Benteen: “I received orders through the sergeant-major of the regiment that if I saw nothing from the second line of bluffs, to go on into the valley, and if there was nothing in the valley, to go on to the next valley.”
  • ➢ Godfrey estimated that within the 72-hour period from June 22 to now, the regiment had marched 113 miles. Obvious implication: tired men, tired horses. “We were tired and dirty and hungry…. Our horses hadn’t had a good drink of water since the day before.”
  • 12:04 PM— 4/10 of a mile; 6 MPH—Boston Custer turns back toward the packs to change horses.
  • 12:08 PM— 4/10 of a mile—Boston Custer reaches the packs, stops, and speaks briefly with CPT McDougall.
  • 12:08 PM— Speed varying—The pack train, driven by LT Mathey and CPT McDougall, having crested the divide, pauses right behind the main column.
  • 12:08 PM— Speed varying—The pack train, driven by LT Mathey and CPT McDougall, having crested the divide, pauses right behind the main column.
  • PART III
  • 12:10 PM TO 1:16 PM: LA SYMPHONIE PASTORALE
  • 12:10 PM— At 6 MPH—Benteen breaks off from regiment to scout to the left.
  • 12:12 PM— At 10 MPH—Custer and Reno leave the divide halt and start the descent of Reno Creek (also known as Sundance, Ash, or Benteen’s Creek), Custer down the creek’s right bank, Reno down the left bank.
  • ➢ The march interval between companies was probably around sixty feet.
  • ➢ Varnum sends Hare off to the right front of the advance while he takes the left front.
  • ➢ Hare: the six Crows, Boyer, Herendeen, and his orderly, PVT Elihu Clear.
  • ➢ Varnum: PVT Strode, the Rees, the four Dakota, and Isaiah Dorman. Varnum had to have lost the Rees after the divide, for they rode ahead of Custer and Gerard was nearby.
  • ➢ CPT Moylan thought they left the divide halt about 12:30 PM.
  • ➢ Custer moves down right bank of creek
  • ➢ Reno moves down left bank of creek, columns 100 – 200 yards apart.
  • ➢ Godfrey: “The Indian trail followed the meanderings of this valley.”
  • 12:13 PM— .15 miles from separation; 10 MPH, increasing to 12 MPH, varying down to 4 – 6 MPH—Custer sees the “line of bluffs” he has sent Benteen to are nothing more than a series of rounded hills, covered in places with brownish sage and grass, a rolling mountain pasture. Figuring Benteen will not be able to find a promontory from which to see the valley, he dispatches CTMP Voss to tell Benteen to go to the “second line of bluffs” if he discovers nothing at the first. This is supported by Benteen’s testimony at the RCOI.
  • ➢ Custer’s rate of march was anywhere from 4 MPH—or even a little less—to a quick gallop of up to 12 MPH. Custer did not want to out-distance Benteen. Scouts with reports were riding in and out all the time. Varnum and his scouts are out to the left front of the advance: “From every hill where I could see the valley I saw Indians mounted.” Varnum reported his observations several times. He saw the main village and more Indians than he had ever seen before: “It was impossible to get a good view of [the village] unless one got out on the valley floor because of the bends in the river and the timber around on the left bank.”
  • ➢ Hare and his scouts remained out to the right front of the advance.
  • 12:13 PM— .15 miles from separation; 7 MPH—CTMP Voss leaves the column and heads to Benteen.
  • 12:13 PM— 3/10 of a mile from separation; 6 MPH—Benteen’s column is moving toward the first line of ridges.
  • 12:15 PM—LT Bradley’s Scout—After a hard ride up West Burnt Creek, then Haystack Coulee, LT Bradley reaches the ridgeline along the top of the Tullock’s divide.
  • 12:16 PM— 6/10 of a mile from separation; 6 MPH—7th Cavalry—At this time Benteen is still advancing toward the first line of ridges.
  • 12:17 PM—Benteen’s men see Custer’s columns moving at a high rate of speed.
  • 12:18 PM—Voss reaches Benteen on the lower slope of the first “bluff.” Benteen had gone about one mile when Voss overtook him. Ascending these hills, Benteen and many of his men see the Custer column about ½ mile away.
  • ➢ At the RCOI, Benteen testified that the rugged terrain kept forcing him to move more and more to his right. Godfrey brings up this same point in his narrative: “The obstacles threw the battalion by degrees to the right until we came in sight of and not more than a mile from the trail.”
  • ➢ Godfrey also mentions that the horses were “jaded by the climbing and descending,” and that many fell behind.
  • 12:18 PM—Pack train leaves divide halt on Custer’s trail. Its van moved at a fairly constant 3 MPH walk. McDougall’s B Company, with a few extra horses, brought up the rear, making sure things were closed up and policing any stragglers.
  • ➢ After changing horses and as the packs begin to move, Boston Custer heads for the front of the main column, now some distance away and moving more rapidly.
  • ➢ The packs had gone a little over a mile when LT Cooke came back to tell LT Mathey to keep the mules off the trail as they were creating too much dust. Cooke came back a little while later to tell Mathey he was doing a good job keeping the dust down.
  • 12:18 PM—Voss: 6/10 mile from Custer; Benteen: ¾ mile from separation; 7 – 8 MPH—CTMP Voss reaches Benteen with Custer’s message: “If I found nothing before reaching the first line of bluffs, to go on to the second line with the same instructions.”
  • 12:18 PM— 0.83 miles from Voss separation; 0.97 miles from divide separation; 10 MPH down to 6 MPH—Custer’s column is advancing between two small knolls and approaching the waters of Reno Creek. He slows to a trot so Voss can catch up, but still concerned that his orders to Benteen are not specific enough, Custer dispatches SGM Sharrow with addition instructions.
  • 12:18 PM— 0.97 miles from divide separation; 8 – 10 MPH—SGM Sharrow leaves the column and heads to Benteen.
  • 12:18 PM— 8 miles from the divide crossing; 10 MPH – 6 MPH—Having just passed the morass, Varnum, Strode, and the Rees have moved down Reno Creek and now begin to swing toward their left, mounting the higher bluffs on the south and west side of the South Fork-Reno Creek confluence. Their speed decreases sharply.
  • 12:19 PM— 12 MPH—Voss turns from Benteen and heads back to main column.
  • 12:20 PM—Terry-Gibbon Column—Terry’s column halts. Terry sends Bradley off to the left to scout a ridge to look over the LBH.
  • ➢ Bradley would go as far as Tullock Peak before turning back. While he could not see into the LBH valley from the peak, he did spot black smoke in the distance.
  • 12:24 PM— 6/10 of a mile additional (1 1/3 miles from separation); 6 MPH slowing to 4 MPH—7th Cavalry—Benteen reaches the forward part of the plateau (Plateau A) formed beyond the hills of the “first line of bluffs,” 1.8 miles from the separation point with Custer.
  • ➢ Pack train now about two miles behind Custer.
  • 12:24 PM— 1.43 miles from divide separation; 6 MPH—Custer’s column is moving along Reno Creek as CTMP Voss re-joins it.
  • 12:24 PM— 1 mile; 10 – 12 MPH—Voss reaches the head of Custer’s column on the main trail along Reno Creek.
  • 12:26 PM—Sharrow: 1.2 miles; Benteen: 1.95 miles from divide separation; Sharrow: 10 MPH; Benteen: 5 – 6 MPH—Benteen, now with Gibson and the six troopers at the far edge of the first plateau (Plateau A), receives a message from SGM Sharrow, again from Custer: if he saw nothing from the second line of bluffs, proceed into the valley and if nothing was there, proceed to the next valley. Benteen now waits while the rest of his battalion catches up, then proceeds to obey his orders.
  • ➢ The terrain past this first plateau became more difficult—the west side was a near vertical descent—but only because his orders gave him no discretion in detouring from this direction or speed, i.e., there were easier ways to go other than those necessarily taken by Benteen.
  • ➢ The difficulty of the terrain was beginning to take a severe toll on the horses.
  • 12:27 PM— 10 – 12 MPH—Sharrow starts back for the main column.
  • 12:38 PM— 1.9 miles from meeting Benteen (3.14 miles from divide separations); 12 MPH, increasing to 14 MPH along Reno Creek—Sharrow reaches Reno Creek. The tail-end of Custer’s column can be seen far up ahead. Sharrow increases his speed.
  • 12:40 PM – 1:25 PM— ± 1 mile; 3 MPH (average speed, 4 MPH)—Benteen, having descended the first line of bluffs was now ascending the steep, winding sides of the second plateau (Ridge B) when he and some of his men observed Custer’s column and Smith’s Gray Horse Troop at the gallop. Benteen: “The last I saw of the column was the Gray Horse Troop at a dead gallop.” Men in Benteen’s column heard cheering and shots being fired; all verified by Godfrey: “During this march on the left we could see occasionally the battalion under Custer, distinguished by the troop mounted on gray horses, marching at a rapid gait. Two or three times we heard loud cheering and also some few shots….”
  • ➢ The order of march was H, D, K.
  • ➢ The speed of movement was rapid, Godfrey recalling, “that many of their horses were getting exhausted by the climbing and descending.”
  • ➢ This puts Custer on Reno Creek, about 3½ miles from the separation point, because Benteen would only have been able to see up the valley he had, or was traversing, about a mile of Reno Creek from near the top of the second plateau.
  • ➢ Distance from Benteen’s first stop to the second ridge: 1.2 miles (3 miles, total, from the separation point).
  • ➢ At the top of this second ridge/plateau, Benteen and Gibson observed a third ridge, just as high, with a rugged west slope of broken peaks and cliffs. ➢ They still could not see the LBH valley.
  • ➢ At this point, Benteen and some of his officers were extremely irritated with the increasingly fruitless assignment. Benteen appeared fine until Sharrow gave him Custer’s second set of instructions; now he thought they were on a wild goose chase.
  • ➢ Benteen now orders Gibson and the six troopers to the next ridge across the valley, while he himself decides to take the remainder of the battalion into the valley, heading slowly north, awaiting Gibson’s report.
  • ➢ Benteen has figured Gibson might now be able to see the LBH; he was correct.
  • ➢ LT Edgerly recalled Gibson went to the tops of various bluffs four times in six miles.
  • 12:41 PM— 6.9 miles; Average: 10 + MPH, with speeds varying from 6 MPH to bursts of 15 MPH—41 minutes from crossing the divide—Main column (Custer/Reno) reaches the confluence of No-Name and Reno creeks. Custer is moving with his five companies abreast—left to right—E, F, L, I, C. Reno is in a column-of-fours, A Company in the center.
  • 12:42 PM— 10+ MPH down to as low as 6 MPH—As the commands move down Reno Creek, varying speeds between rapid bursts and slower canters, a number of the Ree scouts begin to fall behind. These include Strikes The Lodge, Rushing Bull, Soldier, Bull, White Eagle, and Red Wolf.
  • 12:43 PM— 7.3 miles; 10 MPH—Custer passes the morass.
  • ➢ Custer sends Cooke back to Reno informing him to take the lead. Custer’s column would follow to the right and rear.
  • 12:45 PM— Declining gait, down to a walk—The fast pace of the advancing column now begins to take its toll on some of the troops’ horses. C Company trooper Private James Watson begins falling behind.
  • 12:45 PM—Terry-Gibbon Column—Terry’s column resumes march.
  • 12:47 PM— 7.9 miles; 10 MPH—7th Cavalry—47 minutes from crossing the divide—Command reaches confluence of South Fork and Reno creeks.
  • 12:48 PM— 12 MPH, increasing to 14 MPH—LT Hare, seeing Custer right behind him, increases his speed to move farther ahead.
  • 12:52 PM— 3.4 miles since reaching Reno Creek; 15 MPH—SGM Sharrow reaches No-Name Creek.
  • 12:53 PM— 2.3 miles; 3.9 MPH since leaving Reno Creek—Varnum and Strode—having lost the Rees along the way—reach a high elevation mark (“3,405,” grid square 13, USGS topographical map) where they halt, looking into the LBH valley. From this height, they can see up the valley as well as down the valley and part of the Indian encampment.
  • 12:57 PM— 9.8 miles from the divide crossing; Increasing to 12 MPH—The regiment enters the “flats.” Reno is called to the creek’s right bank.
  • 12:57 PM—Reno trots to flats (at 6 MPH). Custer moves right behind Reno, though at a walk; 2¾ miles from lone tepee. These flats were formed by the North Fork (or Custer Creek) joining Reno Creek. At the far end, where the two streams joined, the ground rose up forming a small butte.
  • ➢ The Crow scouts (Half Yellow Face, Curley, White Man Runs Him) who had moved forward onto this butte, report two Sioux warriors who spotted them and the large dust cloud raised by the command. These two Sioux—in all likelihood the Sans Arc warriors, Two Bears and Lone Dog—rode to the ridgeline leading to Reno Hill and began warning the village by riding in circles. The Crow kill one of them, Two Bears. Another party, of which Brown Back and the boy Deeds were a part of, came afoul of the scouts and Deeds was killed. This occurred near where Reno crossed to the west bank. What is clear here is there were a number of Indian parties ranging in size from two to considerably larger, that were outside the village—hunting, looking for stray horses, etc. – and several men warned the village of the on-coming soldiers.
  • 12:57 PM—Company F detail moving to 14 MPH—Seeing a tepee up ahead, LT Cooke orders a detail from Company F to move out ahead and check it out.
  • 12:57 PM— (9 MPH)—Varnum and Strode—alone atop the high ground lookout point overlooking the lone tepee—watch as the regiment enters the flats. They begin moving toward the flats.
  • ➢ In his interview with White Man Runs Him, GEN Scott asked the Crow scout a number of questions while they were in the vicinity of the lone tepee. A note accompanying the interview says, “Located nine miles down the north fork of Upper Reno from Custer’s point [Crow’s Nest]. On a flat near where Upper Reno forks into the south and north streams.” This clearly refers to a western lone tepee near Ford A and not the one traditionally referred to in books.
  • 1:01 PM— 10.11 miles from the divide crossing; 8.54 MPH, average, from the divide approach—Custer, riding ahead of Reno and the rest of the command, reaches the lone tepee/dead warrior tepee.
  • ➢ Brennan’s (C Company) horse gives out around this time.
  • ➢ The tepee contained the remains of Old She Bear, a Sans Arc warrior, mortally wounded in the battle with Crook. He died the night before Custer’s men found him. Custer had an argument here with several of his Rees. He had instructed them to move on, to stop for nothing. Instead, they stopped to desecrate the Sioux death lodge. In signs, he told them that if they were not brave enough, he would take away their weapons and make women of them. They replied that if he did the same thing to his scared soldiers, it would take a very long time. They laughed at him and told him they were hungry for battle.
  • ➢ Reno’s command is now moving ahead of Custer’s.
  • ➢ White Man Runs Him said the lodge was set afire by the soldiers.
  • ➢ These scouts were Boyer, Herendeen, and at least four of the Crows, including Curley. LT Hare may also have been among this group.
  • ➢ They watched as Sioux drove ponies toward their village.
  • ➢ These Indians had been warned by Indians from the small village Varnum had seen from the Crow’s Nest.
  • ➢ This latter group had departed the area of the lone tepee and was approaching the main village.
  • ➢ “Lieutenant Hare… said later that they had seen some forty or fifty hostiles as they approached the tepee. The Sioux were on a rise between him and the river, and from the fact that they disappeared almost immediately he concluded that they had also seen the soldiers” [Stewart, Custer’s Luck, 324]. This rise was probably the higher of the buttes between the lone tepee and Ford A. The lower hill was between the river and the higher butte. It would also make sense this higher hill was the one the scouts and Gerard climbed. This apparently gave everyone the impression the Sioux were beginning to run away.
  • ➢ Scouts now beginning to report many Sioux apparently set to run away; also see some in LBH valley (the pony drovers? The small village Varnum had reported? Both?).
  • ➢ These were some of the scouts on the bluff near the lone tepee.
  • ➢ Custer asks the Crow, Half Yellow Face, what all the dust in the distance was. The scout’s reply was, “The Sioux must be running away!”
  • ➢ Herendeen tells Custer the Indians are running.
  • ➢ There may have been as many as 100 Indians reported by Fred Gerard. Jerome Greene says forty or fifty. Willert claims Gerard was with LT Hare on these bluffs, about fifty yards to the right of the tepee. Gerard said he could “see the town, the tepees and ponies.” Furthermore, Gerard estimated the Sioux to be “about three miles away, on the left in the bottoms.” Hare recalled seeing “forty or fifty between us and the Little Big Horn. They evidently discovered us, because they disappeared at once.” It may have been this group of Indians, who, instead of heading back into the village, took the bluffs across Reno Hill, eventually causing Custer to veer off from the main column rather than following behind Reno.
  • ➢ Willert has Custer giving Reno the “attack order” at this time.
  • ➢ Smalley uses this same time for the “attack order,” though he says nothing about a so-called “lead-out” order. He does write, however, “Custer’s order to charge was given to Reno at about the flat, about 1½ miles from the river and roughly 12 miles from the divide.” Using an average speed of 6 MPH, he places the time at about 2:15 PM. He also cites the following, not all consistent: Reno: about 12:30 PM (1876); Reno: about 2 PM (RCOI); Wallace: about 2:15 PM; and Dr. Porter: about 1:00 PM.
  • ➢ Custer orders Reno to lead out at a trot, the famous—but spurious idea of a—“lead-out order,” as opposed to the “charge” or “attack order,” while he would follow directly behind.
  • ➢ The regiment did not even stop at this site.
  • ➢ Gerard and Herendeen appear to have gotten this “lead-out” order confused with the “attack” order, for both testified they heard Custer give it directly to Reno. Herendeen stated he was standing right beside the lone tepee when Custer told Reno to lead out and that he (Custer) would be with him.”
  • ➢ Liddic claims Custer stopped for a while—as long as 1 hour—about 4 miles above the crossing site. This is nonsense and is used because there is no other proper time reference to account for the comments of others. He quotes Curley: “We stopped by some pines for a little while, about 4 miles from the mouth of the creek.”
  • ➢ Custer heads down right bank of Reno Creek.
  • ➢ At this point, Stewart claims, “There was absolutely nothing to warn Custer of the immediate proximity of several thousand very belligerent Indians, except the repeated warnings of the scouts…. In defiance of even the most rudimentary and elementary rules of warfare, Custer had made no adequate reconnaissance to discover the strength and position of the enemy, but assumed, on the basis of insufficient evidence, that the village was already in flight.”
  • ➢ Stewart makes another interesting assumption here. As Reno rode off, Varnum approached Custer with the news he had seen a large force of Indians and a large village farther down the valley. This “report was apparently the first intimation—from what Custer considered a responsible source—of the immediate proximity of a large number of hostiles.”
  • ➢ The implication of Stewart’s thinking here is Custer sent Reno off just to chase those 40 to 50 Indians and this small village supposedly seen from the Crow’s Nest, was the bulk of the hostiles and they were already scattering.
  • ➢ Stewart also felt it was Varnum’s report of the larger village that caused Custer to veer off from Reno.
  • ➢ Weather: the temperature on this day was estimated to be in excess of 100° and there was a slight northern breeze blowing. “The day was sultry, cloudless and windless… as both the Indians and the officers… say. What little movement of air there was, was from north to south, as Gerard remembered it from the drift of the smoke where Reno had first fought in the valley, and where the Indians had fired the grass after the retreat of the troops” [Kuhlman, Legend into History, 180].
  • 1:01 PM – 1:05 PM—Fred Gerard rides to the bluff, sees the two Sioux and other Indians in the valley running ponies. Gerard waves his hat, signaling Custer and shouting, “The Indians are running like devils.” Stewart writes Gerard made this statement from the rise near the lone tepee. This is where Gerard spotted the Sioux running, not earlier at the so-called eastern lone tepee. The true location is just east of where North Fork joins Reno Creek. PVT Davern, Reno’s orderly, claimed there was a tepee 1½ to 2 miles from the river and that an order was given there. This makes the most sense of any account of the lone tepee’s location and where Reno received an “attack” order only. There was no “warning” or “move out” order issued by anyone. SGT Culbertson (A) testified that Reno’s command left Custer about ¾ of a mile from the LBH near a tepee. This virtually verifies Davern’s account, above. SGT Kanipe, however, who went this way possibly as many as three times that day, remembered only one lone tepee.
  • ➢ Custer sees the heavy dust cloud in the valley and asks Half Yellow Face what was causing it. The Crow scout replied, “The Sioux must be running away.”
  • 1:02 PM— 7 MPH—Gerard rides off the knoll and joins Reno’s column heading toward the LBH River in search of a ford. A number of his Rees precede him.
  • 1:02 PM—Several scouts, seeing a Hunkpapa youngster named Deeds and another warrior, kill Deeds as he tries to signal a warning to the village. Goes Ahead is the one who kills him.
  • 1:03 PM—Custer issues his attack order to Reno, via LT Cooke, stating the whole regiment, or “outfit,” would support Reno.
  • ➢ LT Cooke issues the attack orders to Reno: “Custer says to move at as rapid a gait as you think prudent, and to charge afterward, and you will be supported by the whole outfit.” LT Wallace: “The Indians are about two miles and a half ahead, on the jump, follow them as fast as you can and charge them wherever you find them and we will support you.” Dr. Porter: Reno asked if he would be supported, “if the general was coming along,” and Cooke answered yes, the general would support him. PVT Davern: “Gerard comes back and reports the Indian village three miles ahead and moving. The General directs you to take your three companies and drive everything before you.”
  • ➢ Cooke’s relayed orders lead to a significant misunderstanding. In Reno’s post-battle discussions, he relates his belief that these orders led him to understand Custer would support him directly, i.e., be right behind him.
  • ➢ While they disagreed on the exact wording, Reno and Dr. Porter—at the Reno inquiry—essentially agreed on Cooke’s orders to attack.
  • ➢ Liddic feels Reno was left with some question as to Custer’s precise “supporting” role.
  • ➢ LT Cooke: “The Indians are about 2½ miles ahead, on the jump. Custer says for you to take as rapid a gait as you think prudent and charge them afterward, and you will be supported by the whole outfit.”
  • ➢ Davern heard LT Cooke order Reno to charge: “‘Gerard comes back and reports the Indian village three miles ahead and moving. The General directs you to take your three companies and drive everything before you.’ Those I believe were the exact words.” “Colonel Benteen will be on your left and will have the same instructions.”
  • ➢ This obviously had to be before Gerard’s report of the Sioux coming out to meet Reno.
  • ➢ In a letter to the New York Herald six weeks after the battle, Reno denied Davern’s comment about Benteen being on the left. Martini remembered the orders to Reno, but said the reference to Benteen was that Custer “would have Benteen hurry up and attack in the center.”
  • ➢ Both Herendeen and Gerard remembered Custer giving the attack order directly to Reno.
  • ➢ LT Wallace agreed Custer told Reno to take the scouts, but Wallace said Custer transmitted the attack order through Cooke.
  • ➢ Liddic feels Reno used a little whitewash at the inquiry by denying he had spoken directly to Custer, but others, including Hare and Kanipe, also remembered Custer speaking with Reno after Cooke issued Reno the orders. This might indicate Reno’s desire to cover up the fact that Custer may have told him to attack the village while Custer himself made an end-run, thereby ruining Reno’s excuse for a retreat based on an understanding that Custer was to support him “directly.” It is more likely, however—based on Custer’s actions after Reno pulled ahead, he told the major to have Hare and scouts precede his column to avoid any possibility of ambush.
  • 1:03 PM—LT Hare, coming off the knoll, is ordered by Custer to take a mounted detail from Reno’s battalion and proceed toward the river ahead of Reno to hunt for Indians.
  • 1:04 PM— 10 – 12 MPH—LT Hare approaches CPT French for a detail to scout ahead. French orders his first sergeant—John Ryan—to cut out ten men to accompany Hare.
  • 1:05 PM— 10.3 miles from divide crossing; 8.16 MPH from divide approach—65 minutes from divide crossing—Reno’s command separates from Custer.
  • 1:05 PM – 1:09 PM— 6/10 of a mile from separation; 9 MPH—Reno moves toward the river. Formation is M, A, G, column-of-fours.
  • 1:06 PM— 1.2 miles from lookout point; 11.5 miles—total—from divide crossing; 9 MPH (average speed from divide: 7.2 MPH)—Varnum and Strode reach Custer, who instructs them to go with Reno. LT Wallace tags along.
  • 1:06 PM—Varnum, now with Custer, reports for the last time. He writes, “probably two miles from the river [the Little Big Horn], I saw squadron of three troops passing the head of the column at a trot. I asked where they were going and the Genl. said, ‘To begin the attack.’ I asked instruction and he said to go on with them if you want to. LT Hare and I and my whole party started at the trot. LT Geo. D. Wallace, a… dear friend… was riding at the head of the column with the Genl. … I called back to him, ‘Come on Nick, with the fighting men. I don’t stay back with the coffee coolers.’ Custer laughed and waved his hat and told Wallace he could go and Wallace joined me.” At the RCOI Varnum claimed this was about 1 mile from Reno’s crossing point. Varnum’s location when he saw this movement was probably at what Liddic calls “Varnum’s lookout,” a 3,405-foot elevation, south of Reno Creek and about 1.7 miles southwest of the lone tepee. Custer told LT Wallace, the acting topographical officer, he could go with Varnum and Hare. Liddic criticizes Wallace here, writing he perjured himself at the Reno inquiry by stating, “he always rode ‘near Major Reno’ and gave testimony as if he had.”
  • ➢ Varnum said Custer was at the head of his column, moving at a walk, while Reno’s column was moving out at a trot.
  • 1:07 PM— 1/6-mile from separation; at 5 MPH—Custer has slowed his column to a fast walk to put distance between him and Reno. Reno’s command passes by and Custer proceeds toward the river, only 1.6 miles away.
  • 1:08 PM—Custer instructs CPT Yates to send the NCO and 4 or 5 EM forward to act as an advance scout. These would be the same men Cooke ordered forward moments earlier.
  • 1:09 PM – 1:16 PM— 1.1 miles from separation; 9 MPH—Reno skirts behind Middle Knoll, re-crosses the stream, and takes a dry creek bed to the river. His lead elements reach the LBH. Running into Ash (Reno) Creek was another creek called North Fork, about ½ mile from the flats. At this point, Reno crosses to the left bank of Reno Creek at a trot, still following the Indian trail, LT Cooke riding with him.
  • ➢ Reno instructs his men to keep their horses “well in hand.” [Herendeen]
  • ➢ Varnum, with eight to ten Indians overtakes Reno, but the column forces him aside. As soon as Reno passed him, Varnum was joined by LT Hare.
  • 1:13 PM— 2/3 of a mile from separation; at 5 MPH—Custer is now 2/3 of a mile from the separation point and 1 mile from the LBH.
  • 1:13 PM—Some Ree scouts, having trouble with their horses, ride with Custer’s column, trying to catch up. These scouts are Soldier, Bull, and White Eagle.
  • 1:13 PM— 1½ miles from start; 10 – 12 MPH—LT Hare and the M Company detail reach the Little Big Horn. Seeing Indians ahead, Reno shouts for the men to wait and re-join their company. Hare crosses the river; the detail waits for Reno and French.
  • 1:13 PM – 1:14 PM— 1.7 miles from knoll and lone tepee; 7 – 8 MPH—Fred Gerard, riding to the left and out front of Reno by eight or ten feet, reaches a small knoll next to the river crossing at Ford A. He halts about 15 – 20 feet from the river’s edge.
  • 1:14 PM—The Ree scout, Stab—who had been with Benteen’s column initially—rides up to Soldier and the others. He rides on ahead, to follow Custer’s column up the bluffs.
  • 1:14 PM—Two more C Company troopers—Brennan and Fitzgerald—fall out.
  • 1:15 PM— 1.7 miles, total, from separation; 8 – 10 MPH—Reno, slightly ahead of his command and just behind Gerard, reaches the LBH River.
  • 1:15 PM—Gerard is informed by several of his Ree scouts that the Indians are coming back up the valley to confront the troops.
  • 1:16 PM— 1.7 miles, total, from separation; a speed of about 7.5 to 8 MPH, an occasional lope—Reno reaches Ford A, here, about 25-30 feet wide (Varnum) and crosses to left bank of LBH. Order of march: Company M behind Reno; Company A was in the middle; Company G was in the rear. As Reno enters the river, Gerard informs him of the turn of events. Reno ignores him.
  • ➢ Gerard pauses, then turns back and meets LT Cooke. Gerard informs the adjutant of the Sioux moving up the valley. Cooke turns immediately and heads back to Custer.
  • ➢ Varnum said the crossing began about ten or fifteen minutes after the two forces separated.
  • ➢ Taylor recalls it being 50 to 70 feet wide, two to four feet deep, and icy cold.
  • ➢ Reno changes his front from a column-of-fours to a column-of-twos to cross the river.
  • ➢ Company M crossed first, then A, then G.
  • ➢ Troops and some of the scouts spot Sioux “attacking.”
  • ➢ Liddic says Gerard was now east of the crossing on a small knoll—no longer ahead of Reno—and was informed by several scouts who had ridden upstream along the river’s high bank to get a better view and who looked north over the treetops, that the Sioux were not dismantling their village but were actually coming out to meet the soldiers.
  • ➢ Reno is in the river at this time.
  • ➢ This news is contrary to what Custer and his officers were expecting.
  • ➢ Gerard claims he told Reno this news, but Reno denied he ever spoke to Gerard about it, stating, “the scout ‘had no right to speak to me officially.’”
  • ➢ Reno had absolutely no use for Gerard and had once dismissed him for stealing government items at FAL.
  • ➢ Gerard decides Custer needs to know this and starts back when he sees Cooke near this same knoll.
  • ➢ Not seeing Custer’s column behind, Gerard reports to Cooke (probably within 80 yards of the river), that the Indians are not scattering, but are attacking. Stewart also uses 75 – 80 yards from the river crossing.
  • ➢ Cooke says, “All right, I’ll go back and report.”
  • ➢ Willert related this same story claiming it was the most significant element in Custer’s defeat. He said Gerard was impulsive and an inexperienced Indian fighter and that his report to Cooke was sheer conjecture. This report caused Custer to take the back trail rather than support Reno directly. ➢ Willert then claimed it was the sight of a number of hostiles up on the bluffs that caused Custer to veer off the trail and follow them.
  • ➢ Godfrey: “In all our previous experiences, when the immediate presence of the troops was once known to them, the warriors swarmed to the attack, and resorted to all kinds of ruses to mislead the troops, to delay the advance toward their camp or village, while the squaws and children secured what personal effects they could, drove off the pony herd, and by flight put themselves beyond danger, and then scattering made successful pursuit next to impossible.”
  • ➢ Gerard turns and gallops off toward the ford.
  • ➢ There is the story of PVT Theodore Goldin, detailed as an orderly to LT Cooke, going back to Reno with a note from Cooke, written as the command was on the bluffs before Reno Hill, the gist of which was, “Crowd them as hard as you can. We will soon be with you.” Goldin claimed to have ridden back—maybe five or six miles and crossing the LBH—delivering the note to Reno (who denied ever receiving it). The problem with the story rests more with Goldin’s overall credibility than with anything inherent about the tale itself. While there appears to be no other independent verification of Goldin’s story, Walter Mason Camp seems to have believed it. Liddic brings it up, as well, citing two sources, Brady and Sklenar.
  • ➢ In the Research Review article, Sklenar writes Goldin was dispatched about 1 mile after Custer began his move north from the flats, maybe ¼ mile from Reno Hill. He also feels McIlhargey and Mitchell would have reached Custer as he was crossing Reno Hill. Also, “‘Custer’s column was easily more than a mile from the river when he diverged sharply to the right, the trail later drew nearer the river, but, at the time I was turned back we must have been in the neighborhood of a mile from… (Reno Creek).’” Graham, meantime, thinks Goldin a complete liar, calling the story Goldin’s “‘Paul Revere ride’ to Reno.”
  • ➢ Cooke accompanied Reno to the LBH (apparently, Myles Keogh was with Cooke [Graham and Gray]) and by comments the adjutant made along the way [Fox], it appears Edgerly’s argument that Custer had already broken his own battalion into the two wings (Yates and Keogh) was correct.
  • ➢ Godfrey said Keogh and Cooke rode all the way to the ford and observed Reno’s battalion crossing. Of course, this had to have been hearsay.
  • ➢ Richard Fox believes the HQ detachment remained with the left wing, i.e., Yates’, throughout the entire battle. If Fox is correct—and I believe certainly he is—then Keogh, not Custer, led the right wing across Luce Ridge, Nye-Cartwright Ridge, and onto Calhoun Hill (coordinates—45º 33’ 50.08” N latitude; 107º 25’ 7.86” W longitude), while Custer, after viewing the situation from the heights of Luce went with Yates’ left wing, down MTC, to scout Ford B.
  • ➢ This defines the mission of the right wing as a more passive one, especially when you consider the right wing was the one that protected the rear of the left as the latter reconnoitered farther north.
  • ➢ Furthermore, it clearly defines the role of the left wing as the active one and the HQ (including Custer) must have been with it. That means Custer had to have gone with the left wing, down MTC, to Ford B (coordinates—45º 32’ 49.79” N latitude; 107º 24’ 59.21” W longitude). This also makes the most sense. Why would a commander of Custer’s temperament, who is clearly embarked on an intelligence-gathering sortie while awaiting the arrival of the rest of his command, entrust such an important mission to anyone other than himself?
  • ➢ Some claim Reno halted to water his horses. Herendeen tells Reno the Sioux are not running. Reno crossed at Ford A into an area of underbrush and timber that was variously said to be between 50 to 200 yards wide and difficult to traverse.
  • 1:16 PM— 1.7 miles, total, from separation; 5 – 7 MPH—Reno begins crossing the LBH at Ford A, his formation changing to column-of-twos. SGT O’Harra positioned to keep troops moving. Some pause, briefly, to water.
  • PART IV
  • 1:16 PM TO 1:34 PM: LA SYMPHONIE PASTORALE
  • 1:16 PM—Cooke leaves Gerard to report to Custer. Cooke stayed long enough to watch two companies ford the river; Keogh probably left a little earlier.
  • 1:16 PM—Herendeen informs Reno of Indians moving up the valley. Reno, thinking Custer is right behind, sends PVT McIlhargey back with a message.
  • 1:16 PM—Reno sends his striker, PVT McIlhargey (I), to tell Custer the Sioux were as thick as grass. The battalion was still crossing the LBH.
  • ➢ Reno also had SGT Charles White (aka, Henry Charles Weihe; M Company) and ten men as vedettes, out front of his crossing. Weihe/White probably sent a man back to report to Reno on the developments downriver.
  • ➢ A number of Rees were on a little knoll or rise just east of the crossing, discussing the Sioux to their front.
  • ➢ McIlhargey remained with his company—Company I—and was killed with Custer.
  • ➢ Gerard runs into McIlhargey, “hurrying east.”
  • ➢ While Reno was watering his horses, Hare and some of his scouts (this had to include Varnum) moved about a mile down the valley.
  • 1:19 PM—Cooke: 850 yards from previous knoll; Custer: 1 ± mile from separation from Reno; Cooke: 10 MPH; Custer: 5 – 6 MPH—As Custer is passing alongside Middle Knoll, Cooke intercepts him and informs him of Gerard’s report. They are ½ mile from the LBH.
  • ➢ Custer hears Cooke’s report and makes the fatal decision to try to get to the northern end of the village. He swings his command to the right and orders a gallop, at 9 – 10 MPH.
  • 1:19 PM—LT Cooke reports to Custer, Sioux coming out at Reno: “attacking.”
  • ➢ Custer probably felt the Sioux “attack” was simply a delaying action.
  • ➢ Custer starts down right bank of LBH River. This is where he suddenly veered off from Reno’s route.
  • ➢ Liddic says this 90° turn occurred about ¼ mile from Ford A.
  • ➢ He could very well be correct, for Varnum claimed that when he re-joined the column after riding down Reno Creek, Reno was passing by Custer and Varnum reported to the general. “That was about a mile from where Major Reno afterwards crossed the Little Big Horn.”
  • ➢ After the battle, SGT Kanipe said the battalion turned north immediately after spotting a group of one hundred Indians on the northern high bluffs. Walter Mason Camp also recorded this, though the figure was 60 to 75 Indians, north of Reno Hill. Kanipe made the report to 1SG Bobo, who in turn, reported it to LT Harrington, and so on, up to Custer.
  • ➢ Liddic agrees Harrington commanded C Company on June 25.
  • ➢ Liddic does say, however, Curley claimed this turn occurred about 1¼ mile from Ford A. Curley “further explained that they went to the north fork of Reno Creek, and crossed it, going to the hill, and turned westward along the ridge.” Many others agree.
  • ➢ Curley described Custer’s trail, “directly across the country, on the crest of a long ridge, running to the bluffs and coming out to a point about five hundred feet north of the Reno corral.”
  • ➢ Terry in his official report said Custer’s trail passed “along and in the rear of the crest of bluffs on the right bank for nearly three miles.”
  • ➢ This would still allow them to be seen as Varnum said he saw them.
  • ➢ Curley also contended that Custer started out before either Cooke or McIlhargey reached him, his move being precipitated by Kanipe’s report of the moving Indians.
  • ➢ Gerard, at the Reno inquiry, thought there might be two reasons why Custer veered off to the right: (1) when Custer heard the reports of the Indians coming out to meet Reno, Custer might have changed his plans; and (2) Custer saw a large trail—larger than the one followed by Reno to Ford A—that swung around the eastern side of the small knoll he had seen when riding with Reno.
  • ➢ PVT Martini reported seeing this same trail and knew it was a lodge trail, meaning women and children. This could very well have been the trail of the camp seen by Varnum from the Crow’s Nest, the ones who had camped at the lone tepee site.
  • ➢ Lodge trails usually led to easy river crossings and Custer obviously had to know this.
  • ➢ Godfrey wrote, as Custer’s command rode on the bluffs, the two commands—Custer’s and Reno’s—could not see each other. This is hearsay, but Godfrey obviously got it from officers who rode with Reno. It also jibes with Martini’s comments at the RCOI about Custer moving his command inland from the bluffs.
  • ➢ According to Walter Mason Camp’s research, Custer’s command was in a squadron formation, a company front in a column of twos, moving at a trot and gallop all the way up the bluff. This would be ten horses across 50 feet of frontage, about twenty horses per column (200 feet deep): Yates: E, F; Keogh: L, C and I.
  • ➢ Custer’s precise route of march is another bone of contention among writers.   ➢ Custer’s column is now spotted by Standing Bear, who is on or near Weir Peak with several other Minneconjoux and some women who were digging turnips. He had heard an alarm.
  • ➢ Boyer and the four Crows rode on ahead of Custer to view the valley from the bluffs. After they reached the bluffs, Custer ordered them to the high hill just north of where Reno entrenched.
  • 1:20 PM— 5 – 7 MPH—The last of Reno’s battalion has crossed the LBH. Hearing nothing from Custer, Reno sends his cook, PVT Mitchell, back with another message.
  • 1:20 PM – 1:21 PM— 335 yards; 9 – 10 MPH—Lead elements of Custer’s command reach a small stream—probably North Fork—and pause to water their horses. Custer uses a fast walk (3¾ MPH) to get to North Fork; halts to water less than ½ mile from flats. North Fork forms one side of the flats.
  • ➢ Custer orders two Crows—Half Yellow Face and White Swan—to scout ahead to the rising ridge leading to Reno Hill. These two, because of a misunderstanding, follow Reno instead of heading to the high ground. The misunderstanding was probably caused by Varnum’s attempt to gather in the scouts to go with Reno.
  • ➢ Boyer sees the mistake and leads the other four Crows to the ridge to see the village for Custer.
  • ➢ Gerard and other scouts precede Reno. They are across Ford A before Reno reaches it.
  • ➢ SGT Kanipe claimed to see a large group of Indians near Reno Hill (1½ miles distant).
  • ➢ Varnum, Hare, et al., allow Reno’s column to pass, then re-join it as Reno’s first company reaches the ford. Varnum and Hare are across the LBH by the time the first company completes its crossing.
  • 1:21 PM— 7 – 8 MPH, speed increasing—Reno pushes his troops on; early river crossers that stopped to re-cinch are now re-mounted. After the three companies crossed the LBH, Reno reformed his battalion into a column of fours and having no response yet from McIlhargey’s message, sends his cook, PVT Mitchell (I), to tell Custer the Sioux are forming and not running and that they were in overwhelming numbers. Both men remained with their company and were killed with Custer.
  • ➢ According to Dr. Porter, the horses were excited, vigorous, and in good condition.
  • ➢ Reno wrote in his report a few days after the battle, “I crossed immediately and halted about 10 minutes or less to gather the battalion, sending word to Custer that I had everything in front of me and that they were strong.”
  • 1:21 PM – 1:26 PM—Custer’s command waters its horses.
  • 1:22 PM— .48 miles to the open valley (840 yards); 10 – 12 MPH, varying in stretches—Reno begins his move into and down the LBH valley. Formation has M on the right, A on left, G in reserve. G is then brought into line on the left. He orders, “Left into line, gallop—forward, guide center.” This moved the battalion from a column of fours into a line, Companies A and M, left to right, with G in line behind as a reserve. As G Company was called into line, Reno’s frontage became around 120 yards, G Company to M Company (left to right), with Herendeen about 100 yards farther to the left.
  • ➢ At 10 – 12 MPH—CPT French instructs 1SG Ryan to take men and ride in skirmish formation along the river’s timbered edge to ferret out any Indians he found there. These men were probably SGTs White and O’Harra; CPL Scollin; and PVTs Newell, Meier, Thorpe, Galenne, Braun, Gordon, Turley, Wilber, Neely, and Klotzbucher, making it a total of 15 troopers.
  • ➢ As Reno begins his move down the valley, a number of Ree scouts move with him on the command’s far left. These scouts include Young Hawk, Goose, Red Star, Strikes Two, Little Sioux, Bob-tail Bull, Forked Horn, Red Foolish Bear, Boy Chief, Little Brave, One Feather, Billy Jackson, and Red Bear. Bloody Knife is with them, as well, as is the Dakota scout, Whole Buffalo.
  • ➢ “Reno did not, and indeed could not, know that his commander had apparently changed his original plans and was at that moment riding just on the other side of the bluffs that line the eastern bank of the LBH. MAJ Reno had been ordered to pursue an enemy who was believed to be running away and to attempt to bring him to battle. He was doing just that” [Stewart, Custer’s Luck, 345 – 346].
  • ➢ Varnum corroborates the forming of the battalion during the RCOI: “… I turned my head around and glanced back to see the cause [Indians to the front had stopped their circling and turned backward], and I noticed a battalion deploying from column into line….”
  • ➢ Two companies on line, one behind.
  • ➢ LT Wallace: “Companies A and M were formed in line with the Indian scouts under Varnum and Hare ahead; and my company [G] in rear in line as a reserve.”
  • ➢ 1SG Ryan: “… Company M, on the right and LT McIntosh’s company [G] on the left, and CPT Moylan’s [A] in the rear.” This is the formation going down the valley.
  • ➢ At the RCOI, LT Wallace said G Company was brought up on the left.
  • ➢ Varnum rode to Reno’s far left about seventy-five yards in front of the battalion.
  • ➢ The valley opened wider as the troops moved downstream.
  • ➢ The Indians in front of the moving soldiers numbered about 40 or 50 (LT Hare) and were firing and raising as much dust as they could, trying to obscure the village. Hare was toward the left of the line.
  • ➢ This dust-raising tactic was merely a stall to allow the non-combatants to gather what they could and flee. The huge dust screen hid their movements and concealed the number of Indians who were starting to come out of the village. The fact Reno could not see much beyond the wall of dust probably contributed to his dismounting.
  • ➢ The troops started out at a trot, then after about a mile, moved to a slow gallop.
  • ➢ Reno brings G Company up to A Company’s left.
  • ➢ They were only about one mile from the village.
  • ➢ The “charge” was for fully two miles before Reno dismounted.
  • ➢ Varnum: “I have always stated the distance to Major Reno’s skirmish line was about two miles… and from there it was about 800 yards to where the nearest tepees were in a bend of the river. Then the main bulk of the village was below that. There must have been quite a solid lot of tepees in that bend.”
  • ➢ Varnum also said he thought it was about 15 to 20 minutes from the time Reno finished crossing the river to when he ordered the skirmish line.
  • ➢ Beginning of move could not have been at a gallop, for it went on about 15 minutes before Reno dismounted.
  • ➢ Taylor says they started out at a fast walk, then moved to a trot, and when they saw the puffs of smoke and heard the “pinging” of bullets, were ordered to charge.
  • ➢ As Reno brought G Company into line, “the battalion did not break its fast gallop down the valley, riding faster than some of the troopers had ever ridden before.”
  • ➢ No large number of Indians were coming out to attack the galloping soldiers.
  • ➢ Herendeen: “… as we advanced down the valley, fires commenced springing up in the timber. We kept right on, facing a little point of timber that came out on the prairie.”
  • ➢ CPT Moylan: “we could see Indians coming out of the dust mounted. They were so numerous.”
  • ➢ Varnum rode down the valley with Hare and Wallace. “We put our spurs to our horses and crossed the river with the command and then pulled out ahead, with the scouts, guides, etc. The valley was full of Indians riding madly in every direction. We advanced rapidly down the valley, the Indians retiring before us for about a mile, Wallace, Hare and myself riding together.”
  • ➢ “LT Hare also joined, and with the scouts and attackers we rode to overtake Reno which we did as he was fording the stream and came out into the open valley ahead and covered the advance with my scouts, Lts Wallace and Hare, Charlie (sic) Reynolds, Herendine [sic], Boyer [sic] and Fred Gerard and Bloody Knife, with myself, leading but spread out across the front.”
  • 1:23 PM – 1:34 PM— ½ mile so far; 12 MPH—As Reno’s command moves rapidly down the valley, several of Reno’s men sight a figure they thought was Custer on the bluffs overlooking the LBH. This is now ½ mile from North Fork of Reno Creek.
  • ➢ By the time Gerard re-crossed the river he saw Reno’s battalion moving down the valley several hundred yards ahead.
  • 1:24 PM—The Ree scouts, Soldier, Bull, and White Eagle follow after Custer’s command.
  • 1:25 PM— 4 1/8 miles from separation; average speed: 3.3 MPH—After climbing three to four ridgelines, Benteen turns his command down No-Name Creek to return to the main trail. Benteen arrives at upper No-Name Creek—in the valley—and begins his turn down it, 3¾ miles from the divide halt.
  • ➢ Gibson reaches a high promontory on the third ridge (Ridge C) [Darling] and finds the upper reaches of the LBH valley empty.
  • ➢ Benteen realizes Custer had been correct: the view of the Little Big Horn was invaluable and proved the Indians were down the valley, not up.
  • ➢ Benteen: “I knew the Indians had too much sense to go any place over such a rugged country—that if they had to go in that direction they had a much better way to go…. I had an idea that General Custer was mistaken as to there being… Indians in that vicinity; and as there were no Indians there… I thought my duty was to go back to the trail and join the command.”
  • ➢ Benteen, in a letter to his wife: “I went up and down those hills for 10 miles… the horses were fast giving out from steady climbing—and as my orders had been fulfilled, I struck diagonally for the trail the command had marched on.”
  • ➢ Gibson ascended four different bluffs [according to Liddic], scanned the upper LBH valley with his field glasses and signaled Benteen that there were no Indians in that direction.
  • ➢ PVT Windolph remembered the country as quite rugged and very hard on the horses.
  • ➢ Benteen’s ride down No-Name Creek was along its right bank and was quite easy.
  • ➢ Godfrey: “Benteen very wisely determined to follow the trail of the rest of the command….”
  • 1:25 PM – 1:50 PM— (2.9 miles to travel to the main trail); at 7 MPH—Benteen’s battalion begins its move down No-Name Creek.
  • 1:26 PM – 1:27 PM— 300 yards; at 8 MPH—Finished watering (5 minutes), Custer’s command mounts the bluffs, rapidly, and is seen by some of Reno’s troops.
  • 1:27 PM— 10 MPH—Mitch Boyer, the four Crows—and Black Fox it appears, as well—leave Custer’s command a couple minutes early to head up the bluffs.
  • 1:27 PM – 1:29 PM— 670 yards, total, from watering; 8 MPH—Custer’s command continues to mount the bluffs and after about 300 yards, swings off on a right angle for another 600 – 700 yards.
  • 1:28 PM— 1 mile from crossing at Ford A; 12 MPH—Several Ree scouts including Red Star, Strikes Two, Little Sioux, and Boy Chief break away from the advancing troops to chase three Sioux women and two or three children hiding in the timber-line and trying to make it back to the village. They kill at least two of the women and the children, and then spot some 25 or 30 Sioux ponies. They herd the horses across a ford. They see One Feather and Pta-a-te (aka, Whole Buffalo, one of the Dakota scouts). Red Bear continued to ride with the troops down the valley.
  • 1:30 PM— Terry-Gibbon Column—Terry’s column reaches Big Horn.
  • 1:30 PM—7th Cavalry—Benteen claimed to have reached the morass at this time. [This is entirely too early.]
  • ➢ Godfrey uses the phrase, “Some time after getting on the trail we came to a water-hole, or morass, at which a stream of running water had its source.”
  • ➢ Herendeen thought so, for he told Custer when the latter rode up to the lone tepee about 45 minutes later.
  • 1:34 PM—Another ¾ of a mile; 9 MPH—Custer’s command continues to mount the hills, more inland and out of sight of Reno’s men, but with Custer closer to the bluffs.
  • PART V
  • 1:35 PM TO 2:07 PM: THE LIGHT CAVALRY OVERTURE
  • 1:35 PM—Approximately 2½ miles from Ford A crossing—Reno orders his command to dismount and form a skirmish line.
    ➢ Reno has critics as well as supporters for this action. A couple of Sioux even said if he continued his charge, he would have had the village. Several of his officers, however, felt his stopping when he did saved his command, regardless of why he did it. The critics also cannot have it both ways. Custer is criticized for not doing a proper reconnaissance and getting roped into a situation he was unable to handle. When Reno was confronted with a situation that was so unclear, he took the sensible action. That action saved his command.
    ➢ Hodgson ordered Company G to dismount; Reno ordered M and A to dismount.
    ➢ CPT French orders 1SG Ryan to take ten men to clear the timber. Once it was safe, the horse-holders moved into the woods with the horses (see below).
    ➢ Reno’s halt takes place in the middle of a prairie dog village and was apparently precipitated by out-riding vedettes signaling back that there was a ravine ahead. At the speed the troops were moving, stumbling into that ravine would have been catastrophic.
    ➢ Liddic: “The ravine was actually a small unnamed tributary which emptied into the Little Big Horn from the west. Today, this small tributary is the present irrigation canal located east of the defunct Reno Battlefield Museum.”
    ➢ In 1876, this ravine was about five feet deep and ten feet wide.
    ➢ What is interesting here is Liddic’s assertion the vedettes signaled back about the ravine is not corroborated by Varnum’s RCOI testimony. In his book, Varnum discusses heading down the valley on three separate occasions and never once mentions anything about the column being warned or halted by any outriders. He did say, however, that he and others had been working their way toward the left side of Reno’s charging line, so unless the ravine extended a good deal further out toward the bench lands, Varnum may not have seen it, while riders on the right side of the line did spot it. Varnum does say, however, that the ravine was there, but he did not know of it at the time.
    ➢ The Indian village began about 300 yards north of Reno’s right flank. Varnum claimed it was closer to 800 yards.
    ➢ Moylan said the beginning of the village was about 300 yards away. LT Wallace said the streambed angled northward to about 100 yards of the encampment.
    ➢ Varnum claimed there were only a few shots fired before Reno ordered the men to dismount and that when they were “[a]t the left toward the bluff… LT Hare I think fired a few shots.”
    ➢ This is also when Varnum spotted Custer’s command, though he did not know what companies Custer had taken. “[A]bout the time Major Reno’s command dismounted in the bottom, just as I joined it from the left and front, looking on the bluffs across the river to our right. I saw the gray horse company… moving down along those bluffs…. It was back from the actual edge of the bluffs. The head and the rear of the column were both behind the edge of the bluffs in a sort of hollow, and I just happened to catch sight of about the whole of the gray horse company. I think they were a little farther down [the river] than where we struck the bluffs we came upon them.” They were moving at a trot.
    ➢ Company G on the right; horses moved into timber. “A” in the middle (PVT Goldin [G/7C], in Graham, thought “M” was in the middle). Reno pulled part of “G” from the right, bringing it into the timber.
    ➢ According to Willert, it is about this time when Reno ordered CPT French to send ten M Company troops into the timber to clear the area and prepare a spot to secure the horses. Liddic talks about the ten M Company men skirting the timber and river as the command moved down the valley.
    ➢ Varnum, in his RCOI testimony stated: “Captain Moylan said the Indians were getting in on his left, and the horses were not covered by the skirmish line, and they would probably get in there.”
    ➢ This is when Moylan had backed into the timber, otherwise it implies A Company was on the left of the skirmish line, G Company was on the right, anchored in the timber, and M Company was in the middle.
    ➢ Reno halted without any real contact with the Indians and Varnum claimed the nearest Indians were still 500 yards away.
    ➢ Despite all the critics who condemn Reno for stopping and not charging through the village, LT Hare believed they could not last another five minutes if Reno had continued and not a single man would have made it through the village. Hare believed Reno’s order to halt was “the only thing that saved us.” Most of the battalion officers agreed with Hare, though it seems French was not among them.
    ➢ It was estimated that between 50 and 500 Indians faced them!
    ➢ Reno: 500 – 600.
    ➢ Wallace: 200+, all in or near the ravine, 500 yards from where the troops dismounted. After the troops dismounted, he noticed many more arriving.
    ➢ Varnum: the valley was full of Indians, riding in every direction. Once on the skirmish line, “[t]here was a very large force… soon after the command was dismounted, and there was a large force circling around us all the time, and passing around to the left and rear.”
    ➢ “I don’t think the entire force of the village was attacking us in the woods. I don’t think the entire force of the Indians was ever attacking us because after we got on the hill we could see parties of Indians a long way off…. I judge the main fighting force of the village was against us there after we dismounted.”
    ➢ SGT Culbertson: few Indians until they reached the area of heavy timber and dismounted. Few near the troops; 250 altogether.
    ➢ Gerard: less than 100 warriors in front of the skirmish line.
    ➢ Hare agreed with Gerard. No more than fifty Indians until they dismounted, then hundreds “moved down to the left and rear.” Two hundred continuously in Reno’s front. Between 400 and 500 hostiles emerged from “out of a coulee about 400 yards in front… and moved to our left and rear.”
    ➢ Herendeen: (on the extreme left of the line and about 100 yards in front) didn’t see any Indians in the immediate front of Reno’s line. They were all downstream until the troops dismounted. No more than 200 Indians.
    ➢ Dr. Porter: 75 – 100 Indians 800 – 900 yards away; maybe fifty confronting the troops; a good many more downriver.
    ➢ 1SG Ryan: 500, coming from the direction of their village.
    ➢ From its right near the edge of the timber by an old dry channel of the river, the line extended only a short way into the valley.
    ➢ According to LT Wallace, only about 75 men manned the line.
    ➢ If the normal five-yard interval were maintained, the line would have stretched about 375 yards from the edge of the timber into the valley.
    ➢ According to SGT Culbertson of Company A, the line was about 200 – 250 yards long.
    ➢ Bobtail Bull was the last man on the left of the line.
    ➢ Fred Gerard believed the foothills to be at least 1,000 – 1,200 yards beyond the left end of the line.
    ➢ Gerard, Herendeen, and Reynolds were about 100 yards to the left and behind the skirmish line, in a small swale.
    ➢ Varnum: “There was very heavy firing going on on both sides… The heaviest firing of the Indians was toward the right of the line… there were about 400 or 500 Indians in front of the line. There may have been a great many more.”
    ➢ Varnum: “It is almost impossible to estimate the strength of mounted Indians. There was a large force there soon after the command was dismounted, and a large force circling around all the time and passing to the left and rear…. I don’t think there were less than three or 400 Indians in Reno’s immediate front, and there may have been a great many more… up the valley the whole country seemed to be covered with them. How many the dust concealed it is impossible to estimate.”
    ➢ Dr. Porter: “The Indians were circling back and forth and coming nearer in squads and firing more rapidly as they came… There were many more [hostiles] down the river….”
    ➢ Reno’s men see Custer’s battalion, on bluffs, now disappearing down toward Cedar Coulee.
    ➢ PVT Newell (M): saw Custer’s troops on the bluffs as they charged down the valley.
    ➢ Varnum saw Custer’s troops going on the bluffs about the time the skirmish line was formed. “I saw the gray horse company moving down along the bluffs. I only saw it momentarily. It was back from the edge of the bluffs and the head and rear of the column were behind the edge of the bluffs.”
    ➢ Godfrey: “Some of Reno’s men had seen a party of Custer’s command, including Custer himself, on the bluffs about the time the Indians began to develop in Reno’s front. This party was heard to cheer, and seen to wave their hats as if to give encouragement, and then they disappeared behind the hills…. It was about the time of this incident that Trumpeter Martini left Cooke with Custer’s last orders to Benteen….”
    ➢ Godfrey goes further in explaining the note to Martini: “From this place (see A on map) Custer could survey the valley for several miles above and for a short distance below Reno; yet he could only see a part of the village; he must, then, have felt confident that all the Indians were below him; hence, I presume, his message to Benteen. The view of the main body of the village was cut off by the highest points of the ridge, a short distance from him.”
    ➢ Godfrey goes on: “Had he gone to this high point he would have understood the magnitude of his undertaking, and it is probable that his plan of battle would have been changed.”
    ➢ Godfrey: “He could see… the village was not breaking away toward the Big Horn Mountains. He must, then, have expected to find the squaws and children fleeing to the bluffs on the north, for in no other way do I account for his wide detour to the right. He must have counted upon Reno’s success, and fully expected the ‘scatteration’ of the non-combatants with the pony herds. The probable attack upon the families and the capture of the herds were in that event counted upon to strike consternation in the hearts of the warriors, and were elements for success upon which General Custer fully counted in the event of a daylight attack.”
    ➢ Liddic writes that there was poor fire control, troopers shooting at no particular targets, and many just wasting ammo. By running back to the horses for more, they diluted the skirmish line, soon only about 150 yards long.
    ➢ Willert on the other hand, quotes some veterans as saying the men were cool and calm, Reno, French, and Hodgson being the only ones standing, walking the line, urging the men on and telling them to fire low.
    ➢ Indians began to turn the left end of the line.
    ➢ Reno: “We were in skirmish line under hot fire for 15 or 20 minutes.”
    ➢ Indians begin flanking skirmish line on left. Hodgson reports this to Reno who places Hodgson in charge of the line while he checked out the woods.
  • 1:35 PM— 6 – 8 MPH—1SG Ryan orders the other M Company flankers to clear the woods, PVT Morris claiming to be among them, though this appears to be a dubious claim. “Ryan, in charge of the detail, gave the command, Double time! when we were close to the wood, and then, As skirmishers, march! We entered the woods, skirmished them to the river, saw no Indians in the woods and immediately returned.”
  • 1:36 PM—Reno’s troops begin deploying.
    ➢ Many agree the Indians were caught by surprise even though they were aware of the soldiers’ presence. This seems odd, especially in light of the way they reacted to Crook’s presence. Stewart: “Earlier, some of the warriors had seen dust clouds in the east… and later some of them had noticed soldiers about two miles east of the camp. They had seen Custer’s command riding along the eastern ridges toward the lower end of the camp as though on dress parade…. [W]hile the Indians seem to have been aware of the earlier division of the regiment, they claim to have had no suspicion of an attack from the south. … It was apparently this huge dust cloud [being made by Reno] rolling rapidly down the valley toward them which interrupted the hostiles’ speculation regarding the identity of the soldiers across the river and first warned them of their danger…. [W]hile most of the warriors rushed in the direction of the pony herd, a few went out to face Reno, some on foot and the others on ponies that, luckily, had been picketed in the village… [P]robably not more than one-fourth of the available fighting strength rode upstream to oppose the major’s detachment….”
    ➢ In his report to the Assistant Adjutant General, Department of Dakota, St. Paul, MN, dated July 24, 1876, CPT J. S. Poland, Commanding Officer, Standing Rock, claimed he found out from seven Sioux who had returned from the battle, that the attack on the village came as a surprise. Furthermore, as the Indians were driving Reno’s command up the bluffs, word came that more soldiers were attacking downstream. This also was a surprise.
    ➢ PVT James Wilber of Company M claimed about ten troopers, including himself, 1SG John Ryan, PVT Roman Rutten, and PVT John H. Meier, actually got among the Hunkpapa tepees. PVT William E. Morris was another. None of these men were killed during the battle.
  • 1:38 PM— 1+ miles from watering; 9 MPH—Custer’s command is approaching Reno Hill after picking up speed as the terrain evens out.
  • 1:38 PM— 1½ miles from watering; 10 – 12 MPH, slowing to 7 – 8 MPH—Custer’s scouts—Boyer, the four Crows (Goes Ahead, Hairy Moccasin, White Man Runs Him, and Curley), and it appears the Ree, Black Fox, as well—riding slightly ahead of Custer, are crossing over Reno Hill and beginning to slow as they swing left and approach the edge of the bluffs.
  • 1:40 PM—Five minutes from dismount—Skirmish line is deployed and begins moving forward. A gap begins to form between M Company and A Company as M moves toward the western foothills and A begins to swing more to its right.
  • 1:40 PM— 500 – 600 yards (.284 miles) from entering the timber; 4 MPH – 6 MPH—5 minutes from dismount—The other half of the M Company skirmishers—at least Meier and Wilber, but probably SGT White as well—have reached the first of the Indian tepees and begin setting them on fire.
  • 1:40 PM—A number of the Ree scouts deploy with Reno’s troops, almost all of them on the left. Red Bear said the Sioux were lying down, and “no one was riding around on horseback.”
  • 1:40 PM (to 2:10 PM)— 1 mile; 5 MPH, average—Ree scouts have captured a number of Sioux ponies and have herded them across the LBH and up a small coulee coming off the bluffs. They run into the tail-end of Custer’s command and are fired upon by some trailing soldiers who mistake them for Sioux. The scouts now include Rees, Red Star, Strikes Two, Little Sioux, Boy Chief, One Feather, Bull-Stands-In-Water, and the Dakota, Whole Buffalo. (They will meet several others who did not cross the river with Reno, including the Rees, Soldier, Bull, White Eagle, Stab, and Billy Cross; and the Dakotas, White Cloud, Caroo, and Ma-tok-sha.)
  • 1:41 PM—PVT Peter Thompson of C Company drops out of formation as his horse begins to break down. He is on the northern side of Reno Hill. The rest of the command passes him by.
    ➢ As Thompson dismounts to tend to his horse, the F Company advance scouts pass him by; at 10 MPH.
  • 1:42 PM—Varnum sees Gray Horse Troop on bluffs. Sighted 500 yards downstream from Reno Hill. Varnum writes that he saw the Gray Horse Troop as Reno was dismounting: “Suddenly the Indians began advancing towards us and looking back I saw that the troops were dismounting to fight on foot. My scouts had disappeared. We rode back to the line of troops which rested its right on the timber which bordered the stream. Across the timber, on the other side of the stream, was a high bluff and looking up I saw the gray horse Troop E in column…. As I joined [A Company] I happened to look towards the high bluffs on the other side of the river and saw the gray horse Troop E, in column, going down stream. The conformation of the ground on the bluff was such that I could see only that much of the column.”
    ➢ Varnum rather pinpoints his sighting of the Gray Horse Troop as being about ¼ mile below (north) of where Reno’s command occupied the hill. At the RCOI, Reno himself asked Varnum: “Did I understand you to say that a prolongation of the skirmish line across the river would strike the point where you saw the gray horse company?” Varnum’s reply was yes.
    ➢ Gerard sees Custer’s men about ½ mile below Reno’s entrenchment area.
    ➢ Gerard estimated it would have taken Custer 15 – 20 minutes to reach this point from where Gerard had last seen Cooke.
    ➢ LT Godfrey—who was not there—wrote: “On this ridge… Custer and staff were seen to wave their hats, and heard to cheer just as Reno was beginning the attack; but Custer’s troops were at that time a mile or more to his right. It was about this time that the trumpeter was sent back with Custer’s last order to Benteen.”
    ➢ As Custer returned to his command, he moved it forward a bit, closing in on Cedar Coulee. He halted, but a number of the troopers saw the village and in their excitement, rode past Custer. Custer halted the, saying, “Boys, hold your horses, there are plenty of them down there for us all.”
  • 1:42 PM— (2/3 of a mile across the river and into the village); (5 MPH)—The Hunkpapa warrior, Iron Cedar, on or near Weir Point, sees Custer’s column approaching near the bluffs to the south. He turns immediately and heads down the bluffs to warn the village of more soldiers.
  • 1:44 PM— 1 + miles; 7 – 8 MPH—Custer cautions his excited troops as they move toward the head of Cedar Coulee. The command begins to slow its pace considerably. “Hold your horses in, boys, there are plenty of them down there for us all.”
  • 1:45 PM—Distance unknown, but probably 500 – 600 yards and back.; 6 – 8 MPH—Having been split in two, the first group of M Company flankers have rapidly cleared the timber and have returned to their unit. PVT Morris claimed to be part of this group, though that claim is unsupported. Morris may have been with the pack train.
  • 1:46 PM—The scouts, now mingling around Custer and watching Reno’s command, are told by Custer to proceed to the high ground north—Weir Peaks. Boyer, Goes Ahead, White Man Runs Him, and Hairy Moccasin turn and head toward Weir.
  • 1:46 PM—At 6 – 8 MPH—The M Company flankers who had reached the village were now concerned about being cut off and begin to head back into the timber area.
  • 1:47 PM—Reno leaves the general area where he is with Moylan and heads into the timber, taking LT McIntosh and a group of G Company troops with him. Moylan is forced to spread his command farther apart to cover the gaps. Hodgson is told to keep Reno informed.
  • 1:47 PM—LT De Rudio arrives in timber.
  • 1:47 PM—It is not unreasonable to assume if SGT Daniel Kanipe was sent back with a message for CPT McDougall and the packs, he would have been sent about this time, from approximately the southwestern shoulder of Sharpshooters’ Ridge.
    ➢ Smalley questions Kanipe’s veracity here, claiming Kanipe lied about receiving a message for McDougall and the packs, but simply panicked when he saw the size of the village and dropped out of the column. “If you see CPT Benteen, tell him to come quick.”
    ➢ Kanipe started back along the trail, but when he saw the dust being rolled up by Benteen and the pack train, he cut across the backcountry directly toward them.
    ➢ About this time Custer orders five men from Company F forward to form a reconnoitering flank in front of the battalion.
  • 1:48 PM—Approximately 2½ miles from Middle Knoll—Custer passes Reno Hill (another 1 mile), approaches Sharpshooters’ Ridge and the top of Cedar Coulee. He moves to the edge of the bluffs. Thirteen minutes from Reno’s dismount—Custer arrives at 3,411. His troops slow even more and head for the depression of Cedar Coulee.
  • ➢ General Hugh L. Scott, who graduated from West Point on June 14, 1876, and who joined the 7th Cavalry not long after the battle, bunked with Luke Hare. The officers spent countless hours discussing the battle and Scott wrote, Custer “separated from Major Reno… near the mouth of… Reno Creek, went down some distance back from the LBH River, behind a long, low ridge that masked his approach, to the lower end of the Indian village….” Scott’s description here appears to refer to Sharpshooters’ Ridge, but it also fits with the depression behind the edge of the bluffs leading to Cedar Coulee.
    ➢ Troops are ordered into a set of fours; the Indians he was chasing are now gone.
    ➢ Custer sees the village for the first time and it was here where Custer uttered the comment about, “we’ve caught them napping!”
    ➢ Godfrey: “On the battlefield in 1886, Chief Gall indicated Custer’s route to me, and it then flashed upon me that I myself had seen Custer’s trail. On June 28, while we were burying the dead, I asked Major Reno’s permission to go on the high ridge east or back of the field [appears to be SSR] to look for tracks of shod horses to ascertain if some of the command might not have escaped. When I reached the ridge I saw this trail, and wondered who could have made it, but dismissed the thought that it had been made by Custer’s column, because it did not accord with the theory with which we were then filled, that Custer had attempted to cross at the ford, and this trail was too far back, and showed no indication of leading toward the ford.”
    ➢ If Gall watched as Custer descended Cedar Coulee into MTC, he did so from one of the knolls north of Weir Peak or from Weir Peak itself. In Lakota Noon, 93, the picture clearly shows Cedar’s junction with MTC, so Gall’s account could be accurate.
    ➢ Godfrey also believed Custer never went to Ford B, but continued on across the ridges to behind (east of) Calhoun Hill. Godfrey’s theory, however, does not account for the cartridge cases found along Luce/Nye-Cartwright.
    ➢ Liddic also says Custer probably saw the long dust cloud to the south that was both the packs and Benteen. Apparently Joe Blummer believed Custer could distinguish between the two columns and that was why he dispatched Martini with Cooke’s note. “‘… [I]f Custer had not seen the Benteen column coming, he would not have any way of knowing where Benteen might be.’”
    ➢ Apparently, Benteen never suspected that Custer saw him from there. In what could be a very telling comment (after analysis), Benteen said: “When that order was sent to me by Custer, he couldn’t tell within ten miles of where I might be found from the nature of the order I had received from him.”
    ➢ If correct, then Custer knew where his entire command was and knew that they were all mutually supporting—at the time!
    ➢ Some of Reno’s men see Custer’s battalion on Reno Hill.
    ➢ This could also be where Gall first spotted Custer’s column.
    ➢ Varnum spotted Custer’s column. “[H]e first ‘saw E Company about a quarter of a mile, some little distance like that, from the point where Major Reno was when we struck the hill.’”
    ➢ Custer passes Sharpshooter Ridge at a “not very fast trot” (Varnum saw the Gray Horse Troop) and enters Cedar Coulee, disappearing from view (another ½ mile).
    ➢ Gerard says “a fast trot” and “raising dust.”
    ➢ There is also no testimony among the Crow that they were with Custer while moving along the bluffs’ edge and on Weir Peak.
    ➢ Goes Ahead: Custer “rode to the edge of the high bank and looked over to the place where Reno’s men were…”
    ➢ Hairy Moccasin: “… we could see the village and could see Reno fighting…”
    ➢ It is here Martini claimed Custer saw the village “asleep.” Liddic feels this should not be taken literally and that Martini—an Italian immigrant—misunderstood the phrase “we’ve caught them napping,” for, “they’re asleep.” While Liddic views catching the village unprepared or quiet as incredible, he goes on to say Curley supported Martini’s story. The four Crow scouts and Boyer looked at the village and Boyer wondered aloud that maybe the Indians were out “campaigning somewhere.”
    ➢ Stewart writes Custer, accompanied by his brother Tom, LT Cooke, Autie Reed, and Martini, went to the top of Weir Peaks. This was when he saw the village as “napping.” This is when Boyer supposedly made his comment. “Custer is then said to have turned in his saddle, taken off his hat and waved it to attract the attention of the members of the command who had halted at the base of the hill, and called out, ‘Hurrah, boys, we’ve got them…’ It was probably this waving of the hat that Reno’s troopers in the valley saw and interpreted as intended to urge them on, whereas it probably meant nothing of the sort.”
    ➢ Martini said they could see nothing of Reno’s command from here, even though they were looking for it.
    ➢ What is strange about this is Kanipe said they had seen Reno earlier, “moving at full speed down the valley.”
    ➢ Willert’s view of Martini’s testimony is somewhat different. He feels Custer, from atop Weir Peak, saw Reno hotly engaged. As Custer scanned down the valley, he realized he had achieved surprise, and “so crowded were the lodges that only occasionally could movement be observed—and, curiously, this appeared passive. Martini said that ‘… children and some dogs…’ were visible, squaws were moving about…. The firing from up the valley was heavy, so sounds from the village downriver were almost nil. Smoke from cooking fires within the camp were visible, but in overall impression, the encampment for the most part appeared quiet and almost somnolent. The young Crow, Curley, recalled: ‘…When we looked down to the camp, we noticed there were not many around and Mitch Boyer said he thought the Indians were out campaigning somewhere…’”
  • 1:48 PM – 1:56 PM—Custer and two others—in all likelihood, LT Cooke and CPT Tom Custer—atop elevation point 3,411, watch the action in the valley below.
    ➢ Another quote from Custer, via Martini: “We will go down and make a crossing and capture the village.” Custer shouted it to the entire command.
  • 1:49 PM—De Rudio reaches the spot in timber where he is to see Custer.
  • 1:49 PM—Reno, with a number of his G Company troops, reaches the timber.
  • 1:50 PM—Varnum—hearing G Company is going to charge through the timber—leaves skirmish line for woods.
  • 1:50 PM— 8 1/8 miles from east of divide; 5.3 MPH – 7 MPH—Boston Custer, beginning to pick up speed, approaches the morass and sees Benteen’s command.
  • 1:50 PM— 2.9 miles from turn; 7.1 miles, total; Benteen’s scout before turning: 4.2 MPH—Benteen’s column reaches the confluence of No-Name Creek and Reno Creek, ¼ mile above mouth of No-Name Creek. The packs are seen about one mile up Reno Creek. A single rider—Boston Custer—is seen coming toward them. Benteen arrives at Reno Creek.
    ➢ This is an additional 4.2 miles of marching. This is approximately 5.4 miles east of Ford A.
    ➢ Benteen sights pack train, ¾ miles above, along Reno Creek.
    ➢ Boston Custer meets Benteen.
    ➢ At this point, LT Mathey estimated that the pack train was spread out two to three miles from front to rear and fairly well scattered.
  • 1:50 PM— 6.25 miles from the divide; 4.01 MPH—The head of the pack train reaches a point about 1 mile above No-Name Creek.
  • 1:51 PM— 1,150 yards, including the river; 5 MPH—Iron Cedar, having swum the river, reaches the Hunkpapa village and seeks out Gall.
  • 1:51 PM— 12 MPH—Now at a full gallop, Boston Custer passes Benteen’s battalion, waving as he goes by.
  • 1:53 PM— ¾ of a mile (1,350 yards); 7 – 8 MPH—Boyer and the three Crows—Goes Ahead, Hairy Moccasin, and White Man Runs Him—arrive at Weir Peaks.
  • 1:53 PM—De Rudio sees Custer at 3,411.
    ➢ LT De Rudio, leading several troopers into the timber to head off an attack by Indians on the right end of the skirmish line—and Reno, as well—spot Custer, Cooke, and another man (Boyer?) waving their hats from Weir Peak.
    ➢ Liddic quotes De Rudio: “It was on the highest point on the right bank, just below where Dr. DeWolf was killed… he was about 1000 yards from where I was.”
    ➢ De Rudio said he could see Custer, Cooke, and one other person, and could identify them because they wore buckskin pants and a blue shirt.
  • 1:54 PM— ¼ to ½ of a mile from the turn; 6 MPH—Benteen’s battalion begins arriving at the morass. Benteen arrives at the morass and stops to water horses; this is another ½ mile.
    ➢ This time is now more or less consistent with Darling.
    ➢ Boston Custer trots on.
    ➢ The morass is thought to be about 1 mile east of where South Fork runs into Reno Creek.
    ➢ “The exact location of the morass has never been certain, for it was seasonal and there are many potential sites along Reno Creek. All accounts agree only that the morass was above the lone tepee. Benteen’s route and the pack train interconnection provide the best evidence for its approximate location” [Gray, Custer’s Last Campaign, 264].
  • 1:55 PM—As the leading Rees reach the hills above Reno Hill, they are fired on by some troopers lagging behind Custer’s rear. The Ree scout, Stab, is amongst those shot at and he joins others with the stolen ponies.
  • 1:56 PM— 725 feet from the head of the column; 7 MPH—The last of Benteen’s battalion arrives at the morass.
  • 1:56 PM—Custer leaves 3,411.
    ➢ White Man Runs Him: Custer “did not leave that place until Reno had started fighting.”
    ➢ Curley: “Custer made a brief survey of the situation and turned and rode to his command… just saw Reno going down the valley but did not see him come back.”
  • 1:56 PM— ½ mile from the village; 6 MPH—M Company flankers who fired the tepees have made their way back into the Reno timber area and seek out other troops and their company.
  • 2:00 PM— 675 yards from 3,411 (4/10 of a mile); 6 MPH—Custer arrives at top of Cedar Coulee; instructs Cooke to send messenger.
  • 2:00 PM— (6 MPH)—Curley and Black Fox turn to head back down to Reno Creek.
  • 2:00 PM—Terry-Gibbon Column—Terry sends Brisbin’s cavalry up the Big Horn about 1½ miles to “Mission Bottom.” They unsaddle and rest.
    • Darling has Brisbin’s cavalry reaching the Big Horn River at this time. If correct, the cavalry did not stop to rest at the Eckman Coulee-Greene Coulee bottoms before moving on and crossing a high hill immediately to the south.
  • 2:01 PM—Cooke writes note; hands it to Martini. He was instructed to bring it to Benteen and also told to come back to the command if there was no danger, otherwise he was to stay with his company: “Benteen, Come on. Big village. Be quick. Bring packs. W. W. Cooke. P. S., Bring pacs [sic].”
  • 2:02 PM—Martini heads back with note.
    ➢ On his ride to deliver the note to Benteen, Martini saw Reno in action “from the same ridge from which … Custer saw the village.”
    ➢ Martini: “… the last I saw Reno’s men they were fighting in the valley and the line was falling back.”
    ➢ Martini claimed they could not see the LBH from their lookout point (the river runs too close to the bluffs in that area and cannot be seen from either 3,411 or Sharpshooters’ Ridge; it can, however, be seen from Weir Peak).
    ➢ Walter Camp: Martini told him he left the command about half way down the coulee.
    ➢ Stewart, Willert, and Dustin: Martini left at the junction of Cedar and MTC.
    ➢ Gray: he left at the head of the coulee (Cedar) or gorge before the command entered it.
    ➢ Weibert: just as Custer entered MTC.
    ➢ Kuhlman: Martini left after 300 yards down the ravine.
    ➢ Martini testified that about the time the command had executed the Column Left a little below the ridge and almost to the head of the ravine, he was ordered to Benteen.
    ➢ Smalley quotes various Martini testimonies and concludes he was in Cedar Coulee, near its head, some 500-600 yards from where Custer’s men saw the Indians from the bluffs.
    ➢ Martini’s testimony changed over the years and in 1910 he told Walter Camp he left with the message when he was half way down MTC. Benteen estimated Martini was about 600 yards from the river when he was sent, but by 1910 Benteen was already dead.
    ➢ Furthermore, Smalley believes Martini fabricated this “new” location so he could claim to have seen Custer retreating from the river.
    ➢ Martini was ordered to follow their trail back. Liddic says this was because of Benteen’s dust cloud Custer and Cooke spotted while on Sharpshooters’ Ridge.
    ➢ Martini recalled he traveled south about 600 yards and arrived on the same ridge from which he had seen the village with Custer not ten minutes earlier.
    ➢ Moved no slower than a trot.
    ➢ Ran into hostiles, but managed to escape. His horse was wounded.
    ➢ Apparently, these hostiles were the same ones who fired at the Rees herding the horses.
    ➢ Martini saw Reno engaged.
    ➢ Custer had not yet reached MTC.
    ➢ By this time, Custer’s strategy appears fairly clear: gather the fleeing inhabitants of the village and by this method render the warriors helpless.
    ➢ It was evident to Custer, the Indians were pulling their usual strategy when attacked: flight under cover of rear-guard action.
    ➢ At this point in the battle, Custer is gleeful, figuring he’s got them where he wants them.
    ➢ Gray categorically rejects any claim Martini was sent back from MTC. He also rejects Martini’s claim he witnessed Custer’s retreat from Ford B.
    ➢ Smalley feels Martini invented a lot of what he claimed to have seen.
  • 2:02 PM— 250 YARDS; 6 MPH—Curley and Black Fox pass over 3,411.
  • 2:05 PM— At 2½ – 4 MPH—Custer reaches the head of his column; begins move down Cedar Coulee. He slows because of the terrain and the fact he wants to keep his command closed up for fear of marauding Indians.
  • 2:05 PM—An additional 500 yards (.3 miles); 6 MPH—Curley and Black Fox are passing over Reno Hill.
  • 2:05 PM (1:53 PM – 2:12 PM)— The three Crow continue to watch the fighting in the valley.
  • 2:05+ PM— ½ mile down the coulee, five minutes at 6 MPH—Custer reaches bend of Cedar Coulee and halts.
    ➢ Boyer, Goes Ahead, Hairy Moccasin, and White Man Runs Him preceded Custer to Weir Peaks. There Boyer saw Reno’s advance, but did not see many warriors in the village. Boyer may have released the Crows just before reaching the peaks.
    ➢ In 1909 and 1913 interviews, Curley claimed the other three Crow went beyond Weir to bluffs farther downstream before leaving.
    ➢ Goes Ahead claimed Curley joined the Ree, Black Fox, prior to reaching Weir Peaks.
  • 2:06 PM— 675 yards from near the head of Cedar Coulee; Now, 6 – 7 MPH—Martini reaches 3,411; sees Reno’s troops fighting on the skirmish line in the valley. He continues on without pausing.
  • 2:07 PM— 1 mile; 3 MPH—Kanipe, walking slowly, is seen by the Rees who are still milling around the hilltops with the captured Sioux ponies. He is overtaken and passed by the Ree pony captors and stragglers. Stab, Little Sioux, Soldier, and others.
    ➢ Stab apparently told the others they should follow Custer’s trail, but when they got near Sharpshooters’ Ridge, they saw the Sioux starting to move around them.
    ➢ The Rees—according to Little Sioux—were pushing these horses up the bluffs about the time of Reno’s retreat. Curley claims he saw this movement, thereby negating any claims that he rode with Boyer to Calhoun Hill.
  • 2:07 PM—Reno and Hodgson reach the edge of the prairie; Moylan explains the situation and points out the Indians turning M Company’s flank. Reno orders a pullback to the “brow” at the edge of the timber.
  • PART VI
  • 2:07 PM TO 3 PM: THE LIGHT CAVALRY OVERTURE
  • 2:07 PM—Boyer, seeing Custer’s command moving down Cedar Coulee, releases the three Crow scouts and moves off Weir Point, heading for the front of Custer’s column in the coulee.
  • 2:07 PM—At 7 MPH—CPT Weir, impatient at the long watering delay, moves his D Company forward without Benteen’s permission. Godfrey said, “Weir became a little impatient at the delay of watering and started off with his troop, taking the advance, whereas his place in column was second. The rest of the battalion moved out very soon afterward and soon caught up with him.”
  • 2:08 PM—At 7 – 9 MPH to start, catching up with Weir—Benteen’s column begins leaving the morass. Benteen leaves morass just as the pack train arrives. Godfrey mentions no time here, just that the packs were arriving.
    ➢ Benteen claimed this halt was less than fifteen minutes. Godfrey claimed the delay at the morass was between 20 and 30 minutes. Edgerly testified they were there only eight to ten minutes.
    ➢ CPT Weir led out from the morass. Benteen—with his orderly—raced ahead and retook the lead. He would now be a few hundred yards ahead of his battalion.
    ➢ Firing was heard in the valley.
    ➢ Windolph (H) heard firing before they left the morass. PVT Morris (M) said PVT Moller (H) told him they heard heavy firing as they were watering the horses.
    ➢ Godfrey: “While watering we heard some firing in advance…. After we watered we continued our march very leisurely… Weir became a little impatient at the delay of watering and started off with his troop, taking the advance, whereas his place in column was second. The rest of the battalion moved out very soon afterward and soon caught up with him.”
    ➢ PVT Windolph: Godfrey’s statement is not supported by comments from PVT Windolph, who, after hearing firing in the valley, said, “We all knew we’d be in a fight before long…. We were trotting briskly now, and there was a good deal of excitement. Horses seem to know when they are heading into trouble the same as men do and some of the mounts were anxious to run away, tired as they were.”
    ➢ Benteen: “I pushed rapidly on, soon getting out of sight of the advance of the train, until reaching a morass, I halted to water the animals, who had been without water since about 8 PM of the day before. This watering did not occasion the loss of fifteen minutes, and when I was moving out, the advance of the train commenced watering from that morass. I went at a slow trot until I came to a burning tepee…. We did not stop.”
    ➢ The order of march was now D, H, K.
    ➢ Godfrey: “We heard occasional shots and I concluded the fight was over—that [we] had nothing to do but go up and congratulate the others and help destroy the plunder.”
    ➢ Some of Mathey’s pack mules, dying of thirst, smell the morass and make a break for the water. A number of them got stuck and it took McDougall’s men about thirty minutes to free them while Mathey had continued on with the rest.
  • 2:08 PM—33 minutes from dismount—Skirmish line begins pulling back.
    ➢ This area of timber had once been the bottom of the river. It was “[A]bout 25 yards wide and in the general form of a crescent, one point of which was within a thousand feet of the village… most of the timber was young and was filled in with a thick growth of underbrush… the timber was lower than the ground on which the lodges stood….” [Stewart, Custer’s Luck, 358 – 359]
    ➢ According to Willert the area of the timber was behind a dry loop of the river, several feet below the prairie, and it afforded the troops some measure of protection. The timber was on a rise some 30 feet above the river bottom.
    ➢ G Company moved first after Moylan reported to Reno that Indians were infiltrating the timber alongside the river.
    ➢ Indians in the timber were threatening the right flank and the horses.
    ➢ Company A moved towards the right to cover the gap left by G, further lengthening intervals between men and weakening the line.
    ➢ Only one or two casualties at this time.
    ➢ Gerard and Reynolds enter the woods, behind the troopers.
    ➢ Varnum: “I met Charlie (sic) Reynolds and Fred Gerard… and asked how things were going. They said things looked mighty bad. Fred Gerard had a half-pint flask of whiskey and said, ‘Let’s take a drink. It may be our last.’… Before I could do so, men were falling back into the timber and calling out, ‘They are going to charge.’”
    ➢ Willert claims the soldiers had fired about 5,000 rounds of ammo within a 30 to 40 minute time period. Reno had 137 soldiers (not counting scouts) and if each man had 100 carbine rounds, that is 13,700 bullets; 36% expended. Of course, only about 79 men manned the skirmish line.
    ➢ Richard Fox claims there was no substantial danger for Reno at this time or for the next several minutes.
    ➢ “The mounting pressure from the Indians… caused [Reno] … to pull his line back for a better defensive position in the timber. The second skirmish line was formed facing southwest, almost at a right angle to the first. The troops were now protected by the trees and the dry bed of an old loop of the river. East of them, to their rear, was an open glade of a few acres, and the lead horses were kept nearby. The second line extended about 160 yards” [Michno, Lakota Noon, 69].
    ➢ As the skirmish line pulled back, maintaining its rate of fire the Indians maintained their distance of hundreds of yards away.
    ➢ Some of the M Company troops turned and started for the woods, but CPT French stopped them and told them to fall back slowly, facing the Indians.
  • 2:09 PM—Varnum reaches end of timber; sees the line is moving back and is in the process of establishing a skirmish line on the “brow.”
    ➢ Some time in here, Varnum says, “When I had been on the line 10 or 15 minutes I heard someone say that ‘G’ Company was going to charge a portion of the village down through the woods, or something to that effect…. I rode down into the timber to go with the company that was going to charge the village.”
    ➢ Varnum describes the timber he went into: in the timber there was an opening (a glade) from where you could see the stream, probably the downstream side of it. (He assumed a detached part of the village was on the other side of the river and that was what they were going to attack. Reno was there with G or a part of it and Reno asked Varnum to return to the line and then report how it was faring.) “In the timber there is a little glade or opening, and I know in riding in on to this opening I could see the stream in one direction, so we must have been near the stream, and I could see the line of the opening in front, and supposed there was a detached portion of the village on the other side of the stream, and that is where they were going.”
    ➢ Varnum, on his way out of the timber, met Hodgson and they spent a moment or two discussing Hodgson’s possibly wounded horse. Hodgson went back to report to Reno, and when Varnum got to the edge of the timber he saw that the entire command had pulled back from the skirmish line to the cut bank at the edge of the timber.
    ➢ Varnum now saw Moylan at the far end and Moylan yelled out that the horses were at his end and the Indians were trying to swing around his left. This indicates A was on the left, G on the right, and M in the middle.
    ➢ A Company was now desperately short of ammo. Varnum brought the company’s horses forward so the men could reach their saddlebags.
    ➢ It was after this that Varnum moved to the right side of the line in the timber and met up with Charlie Reynolds and Fred Gerard.
    ➢ The woods in front and around the soldiers were heavily timbered with dense underbrush. Behind them, the woods opened into a glade or grassy place. The horses were held in this “park-like” area. All this time, the Indians are infiltrating Reno’s positions.
  • 2:09 PM— 3½ miles from passing Benteen; 12 MPH—Boston Custer passes the lone tepee.
  • 2:10 PM— 1¼ miles additional; 3.8 MPH—Lead mules of the packs begin reaching the morass. Mathey orders the men to push on without stopping.
  • 2:10 PM—By now, Ree scouts have captured a number of Sioux ponies—twenty-eight—and have herded them across the LBH and up a small coulee coming off the bluffs. As they were doing so, they ran into the tail-end of Custer’s command and were fired upon by some trailing soldiers who mistook them for Sioux. The scouts now include Rees, Red Star, Strikes Two, Little Sioux, Boy Chief, One Feather, Bull-Stands-In-Water, and the Dakota, Whole Buffalo. Stab has already joined them, and they are soon joined by several others who did not cross the river with Reno, including Rees, Soldier, Bull, White Eagle, Strikes The Lodge, and Billy Cross; and Dakotas, White Cloud, Caroo, and Ma-tok-sha.
  • 2:10 PM—Gall and Iron Cedar head off to swim the LBH and climb the bluffs to watch for the soldiers on the east bank.
  • 2:10 PM— 6 MPH down to 5 MPH—Martini, in the vicinity of Reno Hill, sees stragglers from C Company. He does not stop but begins to slow. His horse has been wounded, but he is unaware of it.
  • 2:11 PM— 250 – 300 yards; some running, 5 – 6 MPH—Last of A Company men reach the “brow,” forming a skirmish line with G Company.
  • 2:11 PM— (8/10 of a mile); 12 MPH—M Company, now fully mounted and harassed on its flank, makes a break for the timber line, supported by A and G’s covering fire.
  • 2:11 PM—Crazy Horse, followed by a considerable number of his warriors, begins arriving as M Company breaks for the timber.
  • 2:12 PM— 4 MPH – 6 MPH, stopping along the way—The three Crow scouts—Goes Ahead, White Man Runs Him, and Hairy Moccasin—begin heading north along the bluffs.
  • 2:12 PM— 7.5 miles from the divide; 3.95 MPH—McDougall arrives at the morass as the pack mules continue to be driven on. Five or six of the mules are stuck, however, and McDougall orders his men to extricate them.
  • 2:15 PM— 8/10 of a mile; 12 MPH—Last of M Company arrives at the “brow” of the timber.
  • 2:15 PM— 1 mile ± from lone tepee; 12 MPH—Boston Custer reaches Middle Knoll; turns to the right on Custer’s shod trail.
  • 2:16 PM— 335 yards; 12 MPH—Boston Custer reaches North Fork; pauses only briefly to let his horse gulp some water.
  • 2:16 PM—Varnum tells the Company A horseholders to mount up and follow him.
  • 2:19 PM—Martini: ¾ mile; Boston Custer: ½ mile; Martini: 5 MPH; Boston Custer: 13 MPH—Boston Custer meets Martini. They pause for only seconds, Boston pointing the way to Martini and Martini telling Boston where George Custer is. Boston points out Martini’s wounded horse.
    ➢ Martini meets one or two Company C troopers, probably Brennan.
  • 2:19 PM—Varnum reaches Moylan.
  • 2:20 PM – 2:30 PM—To the ravine: 250 yards from high point 3.375; Reno Hill: 900 – 1,250 yards—After hiding some of the Sioux ponies in a ravine to the east of the ridgeline, several Rees head toward Reno Hill. This is where they will see the soldiers in full flight, many scaling the bluffs to reach the hilltop.
  • 2:21 PM— Varnum spends a minute or two with Gerard and Reynolds. They have a quick drink.
  • 2:23 PM— 48 minutes after dismounting—Reno begins retreat.
  • 2:23 PM— 2/3 of a mile (1,150 yards); 3 MPH, including swimming the Little Big Horn River and climbing the bluffs—Gall and Iron Cedar reach the top of the bluffs. Iron Cedar points toward the troops near the mouth of Cedar Coulee.
  • 2:24 PM— 1 mile from Martini meeting; 13 MPH—Boston Custer is now passing over Reno Hill.
    ➢ Reno’s fight was visible to him for the next five minutes, so he could have at least reported this much to his brothers.
  • 2:25 PM— 1+ mile; 3 + – 4 MPH average, increasing to 8, then 10 MPH—After tough going down Cedar Coulee and its slopes, Custer reaches Medicine Tail Coulee and heads toward the LBH River and the village.
  • 2:26 PM—Gall and Iron Cedar watch as Custer turns into Medicine Tail Coulee.
  • 2:26 PM— 4/10 of a mile from mid-point of Reno Hill; 13 MPH—Boston Custer is passing over 3,411; he looks into the valley briefly and sees Reno’s command galloping from the timber, Indians in pursuit.
  • 2:27 PM— 6 to 8 MPH—McDougall’s troops get the last of the stuck mules out of the morass and push them on.
  • 2:28 PM— 1 to 1 1/3 miles from the morass; 3.5 MPH—Lead elements of the pack train begin reaching the opening to the “flats.”
  • 2:28 PM— 2.1 miles from leaving the column; 5 MPH—Curley and Black Fox reach Reno Creek. They stop and water their horses.
  • 2:29 PM—Gall and Iron Cedar turn to head back to the village.
  • 2:30 PM—PVT Watson of C Company is picked up by the packs; he is told to ride with McDougall’s B Company when it catches up.
  • 2:30 PM— 900 – 1,250 yards from sequestered horses—Boy Chief and several other Rees—Little Sioux, Soldier, Stabbed, Strikes The Lodge, and Strikes Two—arrive at Reno Hill where they see Reno’s men in full flight, many of the troopers scaling the bluffs, some beginning to reach the hilltop.
  • 2:30 PM ± – Terry-Gibbon Column—Brisbin’s cavalry reaches Mission Bottom. They unsaddle and make camp. At this point they are still 21 miles from the Little Big Horn River.
  • 2:32 PM— 9/10 mile (2+ miles, total, from top of Cedar Coulee); 10 MPH— 7th Cavalry—Riding hard down MTC, Custer begins to move up the slopes to Luce Ridge.
  • 2:32 PM— 1 1/3 miles from Weir Peaks; 4 MPH average, stopping and starting—The three Crows—Goes Ahead, Hairy Moccasin, and White Man Runs Him—reach the far end of the bluffs overlooking Ford B.
  • 2:32 PM – 3:10 PM—Halted on the bluffs—The three Crows watch as Custer’s command mounts the ridges to the north and east, then the Crows fire into the Indian village, their shots falling in the Sans Arc and Minneconjou camps.
  • 2:35 PM— 1¾ miles from Reno Hill; 10 MPH, average—Boston Custer turns into Medicine Tail Coulee. He increases his speed.
  • 2:35 PM— 3.4 miles from the morass; 7½ MPH—Benteen reaches the lone tepee. Slows down a bit and rides around the burning structure. He stops momentarily and peers in, then continues on, increasing his speed.
    ➢ Benteen: “I went at a slow trot [after he watered at the morass] until I came to a burning lodge with a dead body of an Indian in it on a scaffold. We did not halt.” “I… went on, I suppose about seven miles, when I came to a burning tepee. I rode around it, I am not sure whether I dismounted or not. I know it contained the dead body of a warrior. A mile or so from that tepee I met a sergeant coming back with instructions to the commanding officer of the pack train to ‘hurry up the packs.’”
  • 2:36 PM – 2:46 PM—De Rudio—still in the timber—watches as masses of Indians follow Reno’s command to the crossing, fighting all along the way.
  • 2:38 PM— Variously, 1.14 – 1.38 miles; varying speeds, from 13+ MPH down to a crawl—The first of Reno’s troops begin reaching the hilltop.
    ➢ Graham: “A force large enough to prevent Reno from assuming the offensive was left and the surplus available force flew to the other end of the camp, where, finding the Indians there successfully driving Custer before them, instead of uniting with them, they separated into two parties and moved around the flanks of his cavalry.”
  • 2:38 PM— 6 MPH—Billy Cross, Bull, Red Bear, Soldier, Stab, Strikes Two, White Eagle, Red Star, Red Wolf, and Strikes The Lodge start back to the ravine where the stolen ponies are hidden with the intention of driving them back along Reno Creek.
  • 2:39 PM— 2.6 miles; 3 MPH—Kanipe reaches Benteen.
  • 2:39 PM— (½ mile west of the lone tepee); Benteen: 5 MPH, up to 8 MPH—SGT Kanipe reins up next to Benteen, but again, Benteen does not halt and directs Kanipe to the rear in the direction of the pack train.
    ➢ According to Kanipe, the packs would now be about two miles east of Benteen’s command. This would put them some 3.2 miles east of the LBH River. Not a bad guess by Kanipe.
    ➢ Some of Benteen’s men heard Kanipe yell, “We’ve got them, boys,” as he rode for the pack train.
    ➢ Godfrey: “The sergeant was sent back to the train with [his] message; as he passed the column he said to the men, ‘We’ve got ’em, boys.’ From this and other remarks we inferred that Custer had attacked and captured the village.”
    ➢ LT Godfrey: “… recalled that it was shortly after they passed the old camp (Lone Teepee site) that they again stopped to water their horses.”
    ➢ LT Godfrey: the gunfire from beyond the hills and ridges… “became more distinct” and the column “increased gait.” From the sound of the firing—sporadic, sometimes sharp, but no longer heavy and furious—the engagement rendered impression of ending rather than of beginning or continuing. LT Godfrey: “I thought all was over and that it could only have been a small village to be over so soon.”
    ➢ Kanipe remembered he was not in sight of the pack train when he met Benteen.
    ➢ Benteen told Kanipe he made a mistake delivering Custer’s orders to him and that he should head for the packs and CPT McDougall.
    ➢ Kanipe rode down the column shouting, “We’ve got ’em boys!” and “the Indians [are] on the run!”
    ➢ Godfrey also heard Kanipe shouting these words.
    ➢ The command justly “inferred Custer had attacked and captured the village.”
  • 2:39 PM— 2/3 of a mile (1,150 yards); 4 MPH including swimming the Little Big Horh River—Gall and Iron Cedar have returned to the village and Gall seeks to rally any warriors he can find to head downstream and confront the new threat.
  • 2:39 PM— ½ mile; 6 MPH—Custer reaches the top of Luce Ridge.
  • 2:39 PM – 2:54 PM—Various; (8 MPH)—Gall rallies some warriors and begins to move toward Ford B. They are all mounted.
  • 2:40 PM— 6 MPH, moving up to 7 and then 8 MPH—Hearing occasional firing only, LT Godfrey concluded the fight was over and they would have little to do but congratulate the others and help destroy the plunder. As the firing became more distinct, however, the command began to increase its speed.
  • 2:41 PM— 2.7 miles from just below the head of Cedar Coulee; down to a 4.2 MPH, average—Martini reaches Benteen in the “flats,” less than one mile from the LBH.
  • 2:41 PM— .83 miles west of the lone tepee (1/3 mile from meeting Kanipe); 8 MPH—Benteen halts momentarily to read the message from Cooke. He shows it to Tom Weir and Win Edgerly who have caught up. Benteen now continues toward the river.
  • 2:42 PM— 6 to 8 MPH—Other Indians—primarily Cheyenne like American Horse and Brave Wolf—leave the valley fight and head back to their village.
  • 2:42 PM— 1.4 miles; 12 MPH—Boston Custer reaches the top of Luce Ridge. He informs his brothers of all he has seen, including the fact that Benteen is on the main trail.
  • 2:42 PM – 2:49 PM—Custer, Keogh, and Yates assess Boston Custer’s information about Benteen. Custer decides he has between 1½ – 1¾ hours before Benteen arrives, so he needs to hurry his reconnaissance and position himself where he can meet Benteen.
  • 2:44 PM— 1,100 – 1,300 yards from Reno Hill area—Several Ree scouts arrive back at the ravine where the stolen horses are sequestered. They begin culling out about 15.
  • 2:45 PM— > 2 miles from the morass; 3.5 MPH—Mathey continues to drive the pack train and is now less than 1½ miles east of the lone/burning tepee, fairly well confirming Kanipe’s observation, above.
    ➢ According to Walter Mason Camp, it took Kanipe another 20 minutes after leaving Benteen to report to McDougall.
    ➢ Kanipe claimed to have seen the head of the pack train about two miles from where he had met Benteen as Benteen’s battalion approached the lone tepee.
    ➢ Like Benteen said, Kanipe’s orders specified reporting to McDougall.
    ➢ Both McDougall and Mathey said no one reported to them with a message from Custer. Mathey claimed he only met one person and that was a half-breed.
    ➢ Liddic considers McDougall’s and Mathey’s claim to be a lie, sworn to at the Reno Court of Inquiry. He also quotes a testimonial McDougall wrote for Kanipe when the latter was seeking a job with the U. S. Revenue Service (McDougall was living in Wellsville, NY; January 9, 1897): “On the afternoon of June 25th, 1876 when the entire country was full of Indians, SGT Knipe brought to me an order from General Custer ‘to bring the pack train across the way’ where I found Major Reno… I take great pleasure in giving him this small certificate of merit.”
    ➢ There are, however, authors who agree with McDougall and Mathey and claim Kanipe, worried about meeting hostiles while riding between the two commands, simply lagged Benteen’s battalion and never did deliver the message to McDougall. One of them is Smalley and another was Willert, who quoted Kanipe: “McDougall and his outfit rode on to the top of the hill and reinforced Major Reno as he retired from the bottom of the bluffs. The Indians were following close at their heels, shooting and yelling, and the men were dropping here and there. They, the Indians, would hop on them and scalp them before we could rescue them.”
    ➢ Willert quotes Kanipe saying after he delivered the message to McDougall, he went on to Benteen to tell him as well. Yet he had already passed Benteen and told him. “If Kanipe had departed McDougall as soon as he had delivered his message, how could he have ridden with him to the bluffs to observe the attack upon Reno’s command?”
    ➢ At the Reno Inquiry, the two civilian packers, Churchill and Frett, testified that a sergeant (obviously Kanipe) rode up to them and told them the column needed to hurry, that Custer was attacking.
  • 2:45 PM— < 2 miles from the morass; 6 to 8 MPH—McDougall with the recalcitrant mules catches up to the rear of the main body of the train, which is continuing to string out further.
  • 2:46 PM—De Rudio watches as Indians continuing harrassing Reno’s command at the crossing. Some of the warriors stop and begin pointing upriver. De Rudio looks and sees troops approaching the ford where Reno crossed. He assumes it is Benteen. As the troops get closer to the ford they turn and disappear over a bluff.
  • 2:48 PM— 1,525 yards from meeting Martini; 7 MPH—Benteen reaches the Little Big Horn River and has now seen friendly Indians on the bluffs just north of Reno Creek. These scouts direct him toward Reno Hill. It appears they were the young Crow, Curley, and the Ree, Black Fox, and may also have been joined by a couple more Rees with stolen ponies.
  • 2:49 PM— At 6 MPH moving to 8 MPH—After viewing the LBH valley and the hills to the north, Custer drops off Keogh with instructions to deploy his battalion and protect Custer’s rear, then heads toward the river along the ridgeline with HQ and Yates’ battalion.
  • 2:49 PM— (At 3 – 5 MPH)—Several Rees take about 15 horses from the ravine and head down the hills toward Reno Creek. In all likelihood these are, Billy Cross, Bull, Red Bear, Soldier, Stab, Strikes Two, White Eagle, Red Star, Red Wolf, and Strikes The Lodge. They run into both Benteen’s command and the pack train. After the packs turned toward the hills, trailing Sioux retrieved their horses and the Rees returned to the hilltop.
  • 2:50 PM— Variously, 1.14 – 1.38 miles—SGT Culbertson reaches the hilltop.
  • 2:50 PM— 8 MPH—LT Algernon Smith and Company E break off from the Yates battalion and head into MTC.
  • 2:50 PM—Crazy Horse, now alerted to more troops mounting the bluffs and hearing that there are additional troops farther downstream, begins to gather his warriors to head off Custer’s command.
  • 2:52 PM—The Oglala warrior, Shave Elk, and several others begin to move up MTC. They see Smith’s command and immediately turn around to head back to Ford B.
  • 2:52 PM—As Benteen’s command begins to mount the bluffs and follow their commander, they are passed by several Indian scouts—not sure if they were Crow or Ree—driving some Sioux ponies, and the scouts yelled, “Soldiers,” pointing to the hilltop to the right.
  • 2:53 PM— 1½ miles; 8 – 10 MPH—Cheyenne warriors American Horse and Brave Wolf, having left the Reno fighting, reach the Ford B area of the Cheyenne village.
  • 2:55 PM— (8 MPH)—Crazy Horse, with a number of his warriors, turns and heads toward the village.
  • 2:55 PM— 6/10 mile; 8 MPH—Custer and Yates arrive at the bluff overlooking Ford B.
  • 2:55 PM— As Yates’ F Company pulls up, PVT William Brown’s horse bolts and runs down the bluff, across the flats and into the river. Brown is dragged off by Indians and killed. (There is the possibility Brown may have been one of the F Company outriders.)
  • 2:57 PM— 6.3 miles from the morass; 8 MPH from meeting the scouts; 7.7 MPH, from the morass—82 minutes from the time Reno dismounted/112 minutes from the Custer-Reno separation—Benteen arrives on Reno Hill.
  • 2:58 PM— 1 mile; 8 MPH—LT Algernon Smith arrives at Ford B and proceeds to the river’s edge, deploying his troops and dismounting some of his men. He sets up a screening force covering the troops on the ridge above him. There is also some evidence from Indian interviews that a soldier wearing buckskin was wounded at this time. That could have been Smith.
  • 3:00 PM—After the command left the timber, LT De Rudio linked up with Gerard, PVT O’Neill, and Billy Jackson—he had run into them a few moments earlier—all of them fearing the progress of the fire. He then said the wind died down and a few drops of rain fell, impeding the fire’s progress.
  • 3:00 PM—Benteen’s troops begin arriving on Reno Hill.
  • 3:00 PM—Terry-Gibbon Column—Terry’s infantry and battery arrive at Big Horn River.
  • PART VII
  • 3:02 PM TO 3:43 PM: THE ENIGMA VARIATIONS
  • 3:02 PM—Indians still in full force in valley. Estimates ranged from 600 to 1,000 or more.
  • 3:05 PM—Last of Benteen’s command reaches Reno Hill.
    ➢ Benteen directs his companies to form a dismounted skirmish line along the bluffs. Godfrey estimates 600 to 700 Indians in the valley with more arriving. In addition, he spots quite a number in the ravines on the east side of the LBH. He also sees dust from ther packs and estimates they are some 3 to 4 miles away. In reality, the packs are within ½ mile of the lone tepee. Edgerly estimated 800 – 1,000. Benteen used a figure of 900.
  • 3:05 PM— 6 MPH—His rear protected by Smith’s Gray Horse Troop at the ford, Custer moves across Custer’s Bluff/Butler Ridge and into Deep Coulee, then the flats beyond, heading for the northern ridgeline later named Finley-Finckle Ridge and Calhoun Hill.
  • 3:06 PM— 8 MPH—Trailed by sharp, sniping fire, Smith—his company fully remounted—begins moving away from Ford B. He heads for the Finley-Finckle Ridge area and Calhoun Hill. Yates protects his rear.
  • 3:07 PM—Keogh spots Indians coming down North MTC—in all likelihood Wolf Tooth and Big Foot—plus Indians along West Coulee’s ridges, and orders his troops to open fire.
  • 3:07 PM— Between 150 and 500 yards from Ford B; increasing to 8 MPH—As Custer enters Deep Coulee, TMP Dose is killed.
  • 3:07 PM—On Reno Hill, heavy or volley firing is heard from downstream. Loud firing continues for several minutes.
  • 3:07 PM—Herendeen, still in Reno’s timber, hears heavy firing from downstream. It lasted about an hour.
  • 3:07 PM— 1½ miles—to this point—from the Reno retreat crossing; 8 MPH—Crazy Horse and his warriors—cantering back toward the village—hear the volley firing as they near the Hunkpapa circle of Sitting Bull.
  • 3:09 PM— 1.4 miles from last report; 3.4 miles from morass; 3.5 MPH down to 2 to 3 MPH—Lead mules of the pack train begin arriving in the vicinity of the lone tepee and Gerard’s Knoll. Mathey slows down so the train can close up. McDougall rides up to meet him. The tepee was smoldering and McDougall stops to peer inside where he sees three dead Indians.
    ➢ When Mathey reached the lone tepee, he halted the pack train to allow McDougall to try to catch up after corralling the mired mules and closing up the column.
    ➢ McDougall estimated “it was about four miles from the morass to the tepee.” Smalley puts the morass about 5½ miles from the Little Big Horn. This is too far.
    ➢ Another point to be factored in: it was Kanipe who claimed—many years after the battle—that Tom Custer told him to tell McDougall to bring “the pack train straight across the country.”
    ➢ Mathey spots a good deal of smoke up ahead.
    ➢ A half-breed scout (possibly William Cross who was originally with Custer’s column) passes Mathey and tells him there are too many Indians up ahead for Custer to handle.
    ➢ Liddic takes issue with Mathey, as well. Because Mathey allowed the mules to water, the apparent fifteen minute halt Liddic refers to “belies the fact Custer wanted the pack train brought forward as rapidly as possible.”
  • 3:09 PM— 1½ miles; 6 MPH—Gall arrives in the vicinity of Ford B; sees Smith’s command (E Company) pulling back toward Finley-Finckle Ridge.
  • 3:09 PM—Keogh, seeing Custer and Smith pulling out, orders his troops to head for Nye-Cartwright Ridge. His troops continue to fire at the harassing Wolf Tooth band.
  • 3:10 PM— 8 MPH down to 6 MPH—Crazy Horse and some followers pick their way through the Hunkpapa circle—still in great turmoil—and head toward their own camp.
  • 3:10 PM—As Benteen orders his men to consolidate the hilltop and set up a skirmish line, LT Edgerly sees they are still coming under some fire from Indians hidden on the hilltops and behind rocks and bushes. He also sees a number of Reno’s wounded. Benteen orders the Indians to be driven away.
  • 3:10 PM— 6 MPH—Goes Ahead, Hairy Moccasin, and White Man Runs Him leave the bluffs above Ford B and head back along the way they came. They now begin to move faster.
  • 3:12 PM— Dismount; 6 – 8 MPH for the horsemen—Some of Smith’s troops begin to dismount on the Deep Coulee “flats” to provide stable covering fire for the withdrawing horsemen.
  • 3:12 PM— ¼ mile; 8 MPH—Keogh arrives on Nye-Cartwright Ridge where he continued to fire on marauding warriors.
  • 3:12 PM – 3:17 PM—Keogh, on Nye-Cartwright, sets up a mounted skirmish line and continues to fire at encroaching Indians.
  • 3:12 PM—A number of troops from Benteen’s battalion head for the marauding Indians atop the hills to drive them away.
  • 3:12 PM—Black Fox—identifiable by a white bandana tied around his head—leaves Curley and joins fellow Rees driving stolen Sioux ponies.
  • 3:13 PM – 3:15 PM—Some Indians—initially three Cheyenne and four Sioux warriors—cross the LBH and continue to harass Smith’s men; this is the beginning of the Indian movement across Medicine Tail Ford. Wolf Tooth and Big Foot continue to engage Keogh’s troops, albeit from a distance.
  • 3:14 PM— 3 to 4 MPH—Mathey starts the train moving again.
  • 3:14 PM – 3:17 PM— 8 MPH—Custer and Yates, with Smith’s E Company following to cover the move, begin arriving on Calhoun Hill to re-unite with Keogh.
  • Starting at 3:15 PM and continuing— 650 yards to 1 mile; 10 – 12 MPH—More Indians arrive at Medicine Tail Ford and begin crossing. Some on horseback ride up Deep Coulee for as far as 1 mile; others dismount and begin making their way on foot toward the Calhoun Coulee area.
  • 3:15 PM— CPT Weir discusses the situation and the firing heard downstream with his lieutenant, Win Edgerly. Edgerly assures him he would follow if Weir were to head north.
  • 3:16 PM – (3:31 PM)— 1 mile from where he heard the volley firing; 6 MPH—Crazy Horse reaches his camp circle and pauses to prepare for more fighting.
  • 3:17 PM—Edgerly discusses the situation with the D Company first sergeant, 1SG Michael Martin. They agree that the command should go toward the sound of the firing.
  • 3:17 PM—More Indians begin leaving the valley and heading downstream.
  • 3:17 PM—CPT Weir decides to discuss the situation with MAJ Reno.
  • 3:17 PM – 3:25 PM— 1 to 1.1 miles from Ford B; 6 to 8 MPH—Smith begins arriving on Calhoun Hill.
  • 3:18 PM— .38 of a mile (670 yards) to 1 mile; 12 MPH (mounted); 5 – 6 MPH on foot—Lead Indians on horseback—crossing at Ford B—dismount in Deep Coulee and begin infiltrating up the cut-bank, into the flats, and across toward Calhoun Coulee. Others continue to ride up the coulee toward Henryville.
  • 3:18 PM— ¼ of a mile west of the burning tepee—McDougall and Mathey watch as 8 to 10 Rees drive about 15 captured Sioux ponies past them. One of them—possibly the half-breed, Billy Cross—tells Mathey there are too many Sioux to fight.
  • 3:18 PM— 2 miles from picking up the horses in the ravine; 5 MPH—Eight to ten Rees drive about 15 stolen Sioux ponies along Reno Creek and meet the pack train west of the lone tepee. One of them was the half-breed, Billy Cross. It appears some of the others were the Ree stragglers, Bull, Red Bear, Soldier, Stab, Strikes Two, and White Eagle, along with Red Star, Red Wolf, and Strikes The Lodge. After the packs turned toward the hills, trailing Sioux retrieved their horses and the Rees returned to the hilltop. These are the same scouts who passed Benteen on his way to Reno Hill.
  • 3:18 PM—Black Fox, seen with a white handkerchief tied around his head, leaves the Rees and joins the pack train.
  • 3:18 PM— 10 MPH—LT Hare is sent to get ammo mules from the pack train. LT Godfrey lends Hare his horse.
  • 3:19 PM and continuing… — ¾ mile (1,350 yards); 5 – 6 MPH—Indians, mostly on foot and out of range of the cavalry carbines, make their way toward Greasy Grass Ridge and Calhoun Coulee.
  • 3:20 PM— 10 MPH—Wolf Tooth sees Keogh’s movements and begins mounting and crossing the ridges, heading toward Calhoun Hill.
  • 3:20 PM—Benteen’s troops who had chased the Indians from the hilltop return and stand-to-horse.
  • 3:22 PM— .86 of a mile (1,500 yards) from Nye-Cartwright; 8 MPH—Keogh arrives on Calhoun Hill.
  • 3:23 PM – 3:26 PM—Custer, Keogh, Yates, and Cooke discuss their dispositions and the situation they see in the valley. Custer asks Boyer if there is a ford farther downstream, a ford beyond where they see the refugees gathering. Boyer assures him he will be able to find one farther north.
  • 3:23 PM— 1 1/3 miles from bluffs above Ford B; 6 MPH—The three Crow reach a point near Weir Peaks and instead of re-mounting the Weir complex, head over toward Cedar Coulee.
  • 3:23 PM—Company B, now in advance of the packs, meets a Crow scout—in all likelihood, Curley—who explains in sign-language that “much soldiers down.”
  • 3:23 PM – 3:27 PM—CPT Weir is with MAJ Reno and CPT Benteen. Whether or not Weir seeks permission to move downstream has never been satisfactorily established, but he leaves the meeting and goes to get his striker. Edgerly claimed, “He told me later that he hadn’t spoken to Reno or Benteen, but rode out on the bluff hoping to see something of Custer’s command.” PVT Fox claimed to have heard Weir speaking with Reno just before Weir moved out from Reno Hill. “Weir remarked, ‘Custer must be around here somewhere and we ought to go to him.’ Reno said ‘We are surrounded by Indians and we ought to remain here.’ Weir said, ‘Well if no one else goes to Custer, I will go.’ Reno replied, ‘No you can not go. For if you try to do it you will get killed and your Company with you.’” Fox also claimed Moylan and Benteen overheard this conversation “and talked as though to discourage him,” but neither man ever supported Fox’ contention.
  • 3:25 PM – 3:43 PM— 3.42 miles from Reno’s retreat crossing; 8 – 10 MPH—Many Indians who left the Reno battlefield are arriving at Ford B. Some continue on toward Ford D. Others—who did not get into the valley fight—are arriving, as well.
  • 3:25 PM—Varying speeds; some men re-mounted, others—on foot—still firing at encroaching Indians—The last of Smith’s Company E troops arrive on Calhoun Hill. These were the men who had dismounted and formed a rear guard for the leading horsemen.
  • 3:27 PM— 1.14 miles (2,000 yards); 10 MPH—Part of Wolf Tooth’s band reach upper Deep Coulee and the Henryville area. They sequester their horses in the ravine and begin infiltrating toward Calhoun Hill.
  • 3:27 PM— 10 MPH—Custer takes HQ and the Yates battalion and heads north in search of a crossing point.
  • 3:27 PM—Company L men take up skirmish line positions.
  • 3:27 PM—As Weir turns and leaves, Reno takes SGT Culbertson and several men and heads down the bluffs to find LT Hodgson’s body.
  • 3:27 PM – 3:44 PM—Keogh deploys his battalion, moving his horses into the swale area behind Calhoun Hill.
  • 3:27 PM – 3:34 PM—Weir turns and leaves, and seeking out his striker, mounts up to head downstream.
  • 3:29 PM— 1 ± mile from area of Gerard’s Knoll; 3.5 MPH—Mathey and the lead mules are in the Middle Knoll area when LT Hare approaches. Mathey halts the train.
  • 3:29 PM— ¾ mile (1,350 yards) up Deep Coulee; 5 – 6 MPH—Lead Indians on foot from Deep Coulee, begin reaching Calhoun Coulee, still out of effective range of the cavalry carbines atop Calhoun Hill and Battle Ridge. They begin their slower infiltration toward Calhoun Hill-Battle Ridge. Others continue up Deep Coulee into what is now called “Henryville.”
  • 3:30 PM— 2 miles from Reno Hill; 10 MPH—LT Hare reaches the packs and Mathey cuts out two ammo mules.
  • 3:31 PM— At 8 – 10 MPH—Crazy Horse and a large band of warriors leave the Oglala camp heading for the Ford B area.
  • 3:31 PM—Mathey—listening to Hare—orders two ammo mules cut out of the train to follow Hare.
  • 3:32 PM— (10 MPH)—Hare begins the trip back to Reno Hill.
  • 3:32 PM— (7 MPH)—The ammo mules follow right behind Hare, but at a slower pace.
  • 3:32 PM— 3.5 to 4 MPH—Mathey starts the pack train forward, following Hare’s lead up the bluffs.
  • 3:32 PM— 8 MPH—Pistols drawn, CPT McDougall places one platoon of B Company behind the pack train, and one platoon ahead, and moves forward toward the men on the hilltop.
  • 3:33 PM— 1.2 miles from Ford B crossing; 3 MPH—Gall, with more warriors, reaches the Henryville area.
  • 3:34 PM – 3:37 PM— 570 yards into Calhoun Coulee (now, 1.1 miles from Ford B); 2½ to 4½ MPH—Lead Indians, infiltrating on foot, begin reaching a point within 100 yards of Battle Ridge/Calhoun Hill. Their arching arrows begin to threaten the troops and held horses in the swale and along the ridge.
  • 3:35 PM— 6 MPH—CPT Tom Weir takes his orderly and starts downstream.
  • 3:37 PM— Forward and backtracking, 1 – 1½ miles; variously, 10 – 12 MPH—The F Company scouts, backtracking, meet Custer and Yates. The scouts inform Custer that there appears to be a crossable ford ahead, and that they can see the full extent of the Indians gathering in Squaw-Chasing Creek. A brief, but sharp exchange occurs with Indians in front on the troops, probably some warriors from the Wolf Tooth/Big Foot band.
  • 3:37 PM— Various speeds—More and more Indians involved in the valley fighting begin to leave, heading downstream to the sound of the volley firing.
  • 3:38 PM— 1½ miles after turning from Weir Peaks; 6 MPH—The three Crow arrive amidst the confusion on Reno Hill.
  • 3:38 PM— 1 mile from the Oglala village circle; 8 – 10 MPH—Crazy Horse and his band reach Ford B. They stop momentarily to see what they can from the edge of the ford.
  • 3:40 PM— At 12 MPH—Deciding not to cross at the Medicine Tail ford, Crazy Horse spurs his horse on and heads downriver for Deep Ravine ford.
  • 3:40 PM— 6 MPH—Edgerly begins moving D Company downstream.
  • 3:42 PM— 2.33 miles; 10 MPH—Custer arrives at Ford D.
  • 3:42 PM—Keogh, Calhoun, and Harrington discuss the threat to their horses from arching arrows falling amongst them from Indians moving up Calhoun Coulee. Keogh roders Harrington to ready his company for a charge into the coulee.
  • 3:43 PM— 10 MPH—Hare is approaching Reno Hill after cutting out a couple of ammo mules. He sees Edgerly and Company D beginning to head downstream.
  • 3:43 PM—The three Crow scouts meet up with the Rees, Red Bear and White Cloud, on Reno Hill, all of them milling around the pack mules.
  • PART VIII
  • 3:44 PM TO 5:45 PM: THE ENIGMA VARIATIONS
  • 3:44 PM— (650 yards [.37 miles]); (12 MPH)—Keogh sends C Company into Calhoun Coulee to relieve pressure from Indians infiltrating up the coulee. (This was the beginning of the general firing heard by Fred Gerard after the “scattering” shots many described as volleys.)
    ➢ This was the beginning of the general firing heard by Fred Gerard and others, upstream, after the “scattering” shots many described as volleys.
  • 3:44 PM – 3:46 PM— Up to 650 yards; 12 MPH—Harrington charges into Calhoun Coulee, scattering Indians all around the coulee. He moves approximately 400 to 650 yards and orders his troops to dismount and set up a skirmish line.
  • 3:45 PM— 2 miles—Hare reaches Reno Hill. The ammo mules are a couple hundred yards behind him.
  • 3:45 PM—Most of the Indians are now out of the valley, only about 100 – 150 remaining on both sides of the river.
  • 3:46 PM— 12 MPH—Custer begins moving away from Ford D.
  • 3:47 PM – 3:49 PM— 825 – 850 yard length, north ridge to south ridge—Harrington deploys his troops, possibly spreading them too thinly for as much as 850 yards. (An alternative scenario would have been his ordering the men into squads to occupy small enclaves.)
  • 3:48 PM— 1.43 miles (2,500 yards) from Ford B; 12 MPH—Crazy Horse and his lead warriors reach the Deep Ravine crossing.
  • 3:48 PM— 2 miles; 5 – 7 MPH—The two ammo mules reach Reno Hill and one of them is stripped immediately, the boxes broken into and ammo distributed.
  • 3:48 PM— 2 miles; 8 MPH—CPT McDougall and one platoon of his B Company approach and begin arriving at Reno Hill.
  • 3:49 PM— (1,200 yards from the crossing to Battle Ridge); 6 – 7 MPH—Crazy Horse is across the Deep Ravine crossing and starts up the ravine. He was followed by Crow King and his Hunkpapa warriors.
  • 3:49 PM— At 6 MPH (foot) to 12 MPH (mounted)—C Company is suddenly attacked and routed by hordes of warriors. Troops begin running for Finley-Finckle Ridge. (It is possible this ridge is where Yellow Nose snatched the company guidon.)
  • 3:49 PM— 1¼ miles from Reno Hill; 6 MPH—CPT Weir reaches Weir Peaks and heads up its slope.
  • 3:50 PM— ½ mile; 7 MPH—Marc Kellogg, probably near the rear of Custer’s command, is cut down and killed by trailing Indians.
  • 3:50 PM— 9/10 mile; 6 MPH slowing to 4 MPH—Edgerly and D Company reach the head of Cedar Coulee and begin descending it.
  • 3:51 PM—CPT Weir reaches the top of the northernmost peak.
  • 3:52 PM— 6 MPH—LT Hare leaves for Weir Point to tell CPT Weir to try to contact Custer.
  • 3:52 PM— 4 – 6 MPH—Lead elements of the main pack train are less than one mile from Reno Hill.
  • 3:53 PM— 5 MPH (foot) to 12 MPH (mounted)—C Company breaks and makes a run—both on foot and on horseback—for Finley-Finckle Ridge.
  • 3:53 PM— 675 yards from river crossing; 7 MPH—Crazy Horse reaches the headcut of Deep Ravine.
  • 3:53 PM— Keogh, having realized the threat, feverishly seeks to deploy I Company to head off the Indian attack emanating from Deep Ravine.
  • (3:53 PM – 4:25 PM)— It is during this timeframe that the fighting on Calhoun Hill and the Keogh Sector becomes intense with panicked C Company troops fleeing up Finley-Finckle Ridge to Calhoun Hill; emboldened Indians beginning to storm the southern end of Calhoun Hill; and Crazy Horse assaulting I Company across Battle Ridge.
  • 3:54 PM—Packs seen several hundred yards off; Reno orders the command to begin moving north and they do so, following Custer’s trail.
  • 3:54 PM—LT Calhoun, watching the rout of C Company, quickly orders a partial shift of his skirmish line from south to west, ordering his troops to cover the retreating soldiers.
  • 3:54 PM— 1¼ – 1½ miles from Ford D; 12 MPH—Custer reaches Cemetery Ridge.
  • 3:54 PM – 3:59 PM—Custer rapidly sets up his dispositions on Cemetery Ridge. He and Yates confer as they see masses of Indians mounting the head-cut of Deep Ravine and heading up to Battle Ridge, effectively splitting the two commands.
  • 3:55 PM— 3.4 miles to Ford B; 2.3 miles to Ford D; 8 MPH through the camp; 12 MPH thereafter—The first Indians from the Reno fight are beginning to arrive in the vicinity of Ford D at this time.
  • 3:55 PM—LT Harrington, still mounted and trailing about eight of his retreating troopers up Finley-Finckle Ridge, kills a Cheyenne warrior, then a Sioux Indian, before he himself is cut down.
  • 3:55 PM – 3:57 PM— ¼ mile (450 yards); 6 – 12 MPH, on foot and horse—Lead elements of routed C Company reach Finley-Finckle Ridge, pursued mostly by Indians on foot coming up from Calhoun Coulee and the lower end of Deep Coulee.
  • 3:55 PM – 3:59 PM— 525 yards from the Deep Ravine head-cut to Battle Ridge crest; 600 yards from the crest of Battle Ridge to Crazy Horse Ridge; 10 MPH—Crazy Horse and his warriors—unaware of Custer and Yates to their northwest—crest Battle Ridge and charge down through Keogh’s men, splitting his command off from Custer and the Yates battalion. They charge through the troops and up to the ridge to the east.
  • 3:55 PM – 4:25 PM—Fighting in the Keogh Sector begins to rage, ultimately with panicking troops from companies C and L intermingling with I Company men. Indians pressing from the Calhoun Hill area force troops north along Battle Ridge, some soldiers fleeing westward across the ridge.
  • 3:55 PM – 4:17 PM— 2 miles from meeting Hare; 12.7 miles from divide crossing; 2 2/3 to 4 MPH (3.51 MPH from divide crossing)—Pack train begins arriving on Reno Hill. Benteen’s timing would have put the arrival of the first mules at about 4:15 PM.
  • 3:56 PM—A number of LT Calhoun’s troops, having established a second skirmish line facing toward Finley-Finckle Ridge, attempt to cover the withdrawal of C Company, but are faced with increasing dust and smoke making visibility difficult.
  • 3:57 PM— (670 yards to Calhoun Hill); 6 – 12 MPH, on foot and mounted—Additional elements of C Company reach Finley-Finckle Ridge as others begin running toward Calhoun Hill. Fighting is hand-to-hand and the troops are overwhelmed.
  • 3:57 PM— 3/10 additional miles; 3 MPH—LT Edgerly and D Company, using Cedar Coulee, reach the east side of Weir Point.
  • 3:58 PM—Indians from the Henryville area and from the ridge east of Calhoun Hill—watching as L Company troops re-deploy and hearing the action of Crazy Horse’s charge through Keogh’s I Company—begin to charge Calhoun’s men from their close-in positions.
  • 3:58 PM—Various speeds—Indians from the Reno fight—having been told that soldiers were spotted across Ford D—begin fording the river at “D” to chase after Custer.
  • 3:59 PM— (½ mile); 8 MPH—Custer sends Yates (F) into basin area as a reserve and to try to head off the infiltration of Indians out of Deep Ravine.
  • 3:59 PM—Crazy Horse reaches the ridge east of Battle Ridge. He moves down its east slope and turns to head back and resume his attack. He pauses a few minutes to gather his warriors and discuss the situation with Indians who had come up from Deep Coulee.
  • 4:00 PM— 5 – 7 MPH—The general move toward Weir Peaks begins, Benteen’s command leading out. Godfrey first claimed he was third in line, then told Camp the order of march was M, K, H; Wallace said H, then K led. Edgerly said H, K, and M.
  • 4:00 PM—As he arrives on Reno Hill, Tom McDougall sees the tail-end of Edgerly’s troops in Cedar Coulee.
  • 4:00 PM— Terry-Gibbon Column—Terry moves out toward his cavalry. He leaves orders for the cavalry to move at five PM and for the infantry to move by at least four AM the next morning.
  • 4:02 PM— 1.6 miles, total, from Reno Hill; 3 to 4 MPH—7th Cavalry—D Company reaches its farthest point in advance of Weir Peaks. Edgerly stops his troops and sees CPT Weir motioning for him to return and come to the high ground. He begins turning his troops toward Weir.
  • 4:04 PM – 4:15 PM—Crazy Horse and the Minneconjou warrior, White Bull, lead a charge from east of Battle Ridge, into the middle of panicking and re-deploying troopers, breaking the back of Keogh’s command and overrunning Calhoun’s L Company.
  • NOTE… 4:05 PM— 1.15 miles from lower Finley-Finckle Ridge to Last Stand Hill; 5 MPH, average—This is the earliest any C Company troopers on foot could have possibly reached Last Stand Hill.
  • 4:06 PM— ½ mile (875 yards); 8 MPH—Yates and F Company arrive in the basin area. He deploys his men in an attempt to stem the flow of Indians from Deep Ravine.
  • 4:07 PM – 4:08 PM— 1 to as much as 1¾ miles; 12 – 14 MPH—Indians from the Ford D area now arrive north and west of Cemetery Ridge, putting extreme pressure on Custer. The Indians were both dismounted and on horseback.
  • 4:09 PM— (4/10 of a mile; 700 yards); At 6 MPH (foot), 8 MPH (mounted)—Now under increasing pressure, Custer begins moving up Cemetery Ridge to Last Stand Hill. E Company—partially dismounted—is overrun. Casualties are fairly heavy—maybe as many as six troops killed—and the unmounted horses are run off.
  • 4:09 PM—A cautious crawl—An orderly from Reno reaches Varnum mid-way down the bluffs and tells him to return to the command. They are moving downstream.
  • 4:09 PM— 1¼ + miles; 5 – 6 MPH—Hare, climbing the steep peaks, reaches CPT Weir and tells him of Reno’s request that he try to contact Custer.
  • 4:12 PM— (3/10 of a mile; 525 yards); at 8 MPH—Yates, under heavy pressure and seeing Custer moving, re-mounts his troops and heads for Last Stand Hill.
  • 4:13 PM— 4/10 of a mile; 8 MPH (mounted)—In a semi-controlled move protected by the mounted troops, lead elements of HQ and E Company reach Last Stand Hill.
  • 4:14 PM— 1 mile; 5 MPH—LT Edgerly and D Company have moved back up Cedar Coulee and climbed the slopes of the Weir loaf to get in position.
  • 4:14 PM— 1¼ miles; now, 4 MPH—Benteen, French, and Godfrey approach Weir Point, the command stretched out behind them.
  • 4:15 PM— 4/10 of a mile; 6 MPH (on foot), pulling their horses with them—Final stragglers of E Company reach Last Stand Hill.
  • 4:15 PM— 3/10 of a mile; 8 MPH—Yates and F Company begin arriving at Last Stand Hill.
  • 4:15 PM—Crazy Horse and White Bull now join in the fighting for Last Stand Hill.
  • 4:15 PM – 4:25 PM—The fighting intensifies around the Custer command on the ridge, up to the top of the knoll. Stragglers from the Keogh debacle—no more than about 11 men—continue arriving, Indians chasing them slowing down, keeping their distance.
  • 4:15 PM – 4:40 PM—Indian fire north of Custer Hill threatens troops there.
  • 4:17 PM—The last of the pack train arrives on Reno Hill.
  • 4:18 PM – 4:25 PM— (1¼ – 1 1/3 miles); 12 MPH – 15 MPH—CPL John Foley (C Company) bolts from the Keogh Sector fighting and tries to get away, south, toward Reno’s troops now on and approaching Weir Point. He is pursued by three Indians one of who is the Minneconjou warrior, Turtle Rib.
  • 4:18 PM—Edgerly orders D Company to commence firing at Indians within range. These are the remnants of the Indians left behind after the valley fighting. Both Weir and the company “had stopped back at the south end of this sugarloaf and Edgerly said he would go out to the end of the sugarloaf to look down and see if he could see Custer while they were out there.”
  • 4:18 PM – 4:25 PM— (1¼ – 1 1/3 miles); 12 MPH – 15 MPH—CPL John Foley (C Company) bolts from the Keogh Sector fighting and tries to get away, south, toward Reno’s troops now on and approaching Weir Point. He is pursued by three Indians one of who is the Minneconjou warrior, Turtle Rib.
  • 4:20 PM – 4:25 PM—A cry goes up amongst the Indians that the suicide boys are arriving.
  • 4:20 PM—Varnum returns to Reno Hill from his foray to try to find and bury Hodgson. Sees most of the command heading downstream.
  • 4:20 PM—Benteen climbs highest point of Weir Peaks and is now with CPT Weir. His first sight of the village was from “that high point.” It was the only point from which the village could be seen and he estimated about 1,800 tepees. When Benteen reached Weir Peaks and saw for the first time the extent of the Indian village he realized they had bitten off too much.
  • 4:20 PM – 4:35 PM—Companies H, K, and M are positioning themselves alongside Company D on the Weir Point complex of hills.
    ➢ LT Godfrey moves his own K Company along the edge of the bluffs, closest to the river. “Weir’s and French’s troops were posted on the high bluffs and to the front of them; my own troop along the crest of the bluffs next to the river….”
    ➢ CPT French moves M Company all the way to “Edgerly” Peaks, where he can look down in the direction of Battle Ridge. When PVT Pigford first looked over in that direction he saw Indians firing from a large circle. It gradually closed until it “converged into a large black mass on the side hill toward the river and all along the ridge.” Hare said M, K, and H “were strung out along bluffs behind Company D parallel with the river but not quite up to Company D.”
    ➢ Edgerly described the H Company position as occupying the two peaks—as Benteen said, in a file—and D Company deployed on the loaf at a right angle to H. Edgerly said M was a little to H’s rear. Godfrey’s K seemed to be adjacent to D, on a narrow spur along the bluffs adjacent to the river.
  • 4:21 PM—With the pressure mounting and the realization they are surrounded, E Company men release their horses allowing horse-holders to fire accurately. Their remaining mounts stampede down the ridge toward the river, giving the impression of a charge.
  • 4:25 PM—E Company men under the command of LT Sturgis prepare to charge off Custer/Last Stand Hill down the South Skirmish Line.
  • 4:25 PM – 4:31 PM— (550 – 875 yards); (5 to 10 MPH)—E Company troops charge down the South Skirmish Line. Some troops are mounted, but most are on foot.
  • 4:25 PM – 4:32 PM— (1¼ – 1 1/3 miles); (12 MPH – 15 MPH)—SGT Flanagan of D Company sees a lone rider cresting the ridges just to the west of Luce/Nye-Cartwright ridges. This was CPL John Foley of C Company. Flanagan sees Indians in pursuit and suddenly Foley shoots himself in the head.
  • 4:27 PM – 4:31 PM— 550 – 875 yards; 5 to 10 MPH—Running and charging E Company troopers on horseback begin arriving parallel to the top of Deep Ravine. Those on foot take a little longer and because of the distance and the heat, they begin slowing. Initially, Indians in their way separate and retreat.
  • 4:32 PM – 4:36 PM— 350 – 700 yards (2/10 – 4/10 of a mile); 6 to 12 MPH—Led by the suicide boys, Indians on Cemetery Ridge charge off the ridge—some on horseback, many on foot—and burst in amongst the exhausted troopers along the SSL. At the same time, other Indians—including the suicide boys on Cemetery Ridge—charge up to Custer/Last Stand Hill. The final fighting becomes furious, all the more so because of the extreme dust and gunsmoke.
  • 4:34 PM – 4:36 PM— 700 yards; 6 to 12 MPH—Indians on foot and horseback overrun Custer/Last Stand Hill and the last of George Custer’s command is wiped out.
  • 4:40 PM—The Custer battle is ending. The last of the E Company men are forced into Deep Ravine where they are slaughtered.
  • 4:40 PM—According to De Rudio, the firing from downstream died off 1½ hours after he heard it first.
  • 4:42 PM— 1¼ miles; 8 MPH—Varnum reaches the “sugarloaf” of Weir Point and joins Edgerly and D Company. “I went to the position of Captain Weir’s company at the far point of the ridge down-stream. At that time his men were firing at pretty long range—I should say seven or eight hundred yards—at Indians here and there. At that time I could see all over the plain where… the Custer battlefield had been, and it was just covered with Indians in all directions, coming back towards us.”
  • 4:43 PM—At some point, the heavy firing from downstream ceased and Herendeen began his move out of the timber. This is more than a two-hour stay in the woods, though Herendeen claimed some three hours.
  • 4:45 PM—Word begins to spread amongst the Indians in the Calhoun-Custer sectors that additional soldiers can be seen on the high bluffs upstream. Some of the Indians in the Calhoun Hill area begin moving toward Weir Peaks.
  • 4:50 PM— (2 + miles); 8 – 10 MPH—More Indians begin moving toward Weir Peaks.
  • 4:51 PM— (1± mile); 8 MPH—Benteen, seeing the Indians begin to move toward the troops, hustles back to Reno to tell him this position is untenable.
  • 4:53 PM—D Company firing eases as it becomes apparent Indians are beginning to move toward the troops at Weir Point.
  • 4:57 PM— ¾ of a mile; 8 – 10 MPH—Benteen reaches Reno and tells him about the approaching Indians. Reno agrees to the pull-back and orders TMP Penwell (K) to inform French, Godfrey, and Weir. Penwell leaves immediately.
  • 5:00 PM—Herendeen and the men from the timber would be arriving at Weir Peaks at this time.
  • 5:03 PM— ¾ of a mile; 10 MPH—TMP Penwell signals to French to begin pulling back, then reaches Godfrey and tells him of Reno’s orders to withdraw.
  • 5:03 PM— 10 MPH—French’s M Company begins its withdrawal. French yells over to Edgerly ordering D Company to withdraw.
  • 5:04 PM—LT Godfrey directs LT Hare to take ten men and occupy some high ground on the right facing the Indians. Hare had just cut the men out when orders came—through TMP Penwell—to fall back as quickly as possible. Penwell informed Hare, who then told Godfrey.
  • 5:04 PM— 8 – 10 MPH—D Company begins its withdrawal. Edgerly sees everyone off before attempting to leave.
  • 5:06 PM—As Hare moves to occupy the high ground, Godfrey orders K Company to mount up and prepare to move back.
  • 5:07 PM— 8 – 10 MPH—Last of D Company leaves the Weir “sugarloaf” down a draw and into Cedar Coulee. Edgerly struggles with his horse as his orderly, SGT Harrison stands nearby. Edgerly had trouble mounting and claimed Indians got within 15 feet of him and his orderly, an old veteran. The horse kept moving away from him, so Harrison moved in such a way to prevent the horse from going any farther. He smiled and told Edgerly the Indians were bad marksmen from so close.
  • 5:09 PM— 8 – 10 MPH—Godfrey’s K Company—the last one to leave the Weir Point complex—begins its move toward Reno Hill.
  • 5:10 PM— (As much as 3½ – 4 miles); 12 – 14 MPH—The Indians are moving toward Weir Peaks with the lead elements approaching the struggling Edgerly and SGT Harrison—no more than 150 to 200 yards away—on the Weir “sugarloaf.”
  • 5:10 PM—According to Hare, it was about 1½ hours from the time Weir left Reno Hill to when the “general engagement” on Reno Hill began.
  • 5:11 PM— ¼ of a mile off the “sugarloaf”; 10 MPH—As D Company moves up Cedar Coulee in front of the on-coming Indians, FAR Vincent Charley is hit in the hips and falls from his horse.
  • 5:11 PM— 10 – 12 MPH—Finally, as Indians begin to reach the top of the “loaf,” Edgerly has managed to mount his horse and he and Harrison fight their way off and down a draw toward Cedar Coulee.
  • 5:11 PM— 3½ – 4 miles; 8 – 14 MPH—There are now as many as 200 Indians near Weir Point, with many more closely behind. They slow, first to gather numbers, second to assess what the soldiers are doing.
  • 5:14 PM – 5:15 PM— ¼ of a mile off the “sugarloaf”; 12 MPH to a halt—Entering the coulee and riding hard toward its head, Edgerly and Harrison come across the injured and un-horsed Vincent Charley. Edgerly instructs him to crawl into a ravine and they would come back for him as soon as he could get reinforcements. As Edgerly and Harrison rode on and looked back they saw the Indians finishing off Charley.
  • 5:14 PM— 10 MPH—Warriors follow after Edgerly and Harrison.
  • 5:17 PM— 1 mile from its position on the Weir complex; 8 – 10 MPH—As he headed back, Godfrey realized he needed to protect the rear of the retreating troops, so he halted, dismounted his men, and formed a skirmish line, sending his “fours” and their led-horses back, leaving about twenty-five men on the line. The Indians firing “was very hot,” but none of his troopers was hit. Several horses were hit. They were about 500 yards from Reno Hill.
  • 5:25 PM— 1 – 1¼ miles—Based on the 3:55 PM time as the beginning of the “general” move from Reno Hill to Weir Peaks, a 1½-hour time frame would place the command back on Reno Hill at this time. This would be in general agreement with packer B. F. Churchill, who said the round trip to Weir and back took about one hour for the packs.
  • 5:30 PM— 1 – 1¼ miles—Varnum agreed with Hare, citing a 5:30 PM return to Reno Hill from Weir Peaks. Varnum’s estimate was 3 hours, from Reno first reaching the hilltop at 2:30 PM. SGT Culbertson thought 1½ hours from beginning of move to Weir to the return to Reno Hill. Herendeen and Edgerly claimed they were back on Reno Hill by 5 PM (in all likelihood, too early an estimate).
  • 5:30 PM—Terry Gibbon Column—Terry moves out of Mission Bottom camp with the artillery and cavalry. Begins raining heavily. Once in Mission Coulee the going becomes extremely difficult. CPT Ball and LT McClernand act as guides. LT Bradley joins up with the cavalry column in Mission Coulee.
  • 5:45 PM—7th Cavalry— < 2 MPH – 6 MPH; 500 – 650 yards—The last of Godfrey’s K Company troopers reaches the Reno Hill perimeter.
  • JUNE 24, 1876—SATURDAY
  • UP THE ROSEBUD
  • NOTE—From June 22 onward through the 24th, almost every event carries a time of occurrence. These times are my particular forté, but in many cases mine differ markedly from those used by other authors. To distinguish between my data and those of others, I have placed “FCW” next to all times I have developed or agree with; and have placed in brackets—[ ]—all the times others claim events occurred. Where there is neither “FCW” nor [ ], we agree on that particular time. It should also be remember ALL MY TIMES are HQ/St. Paul, Minnesota time.
  • From the Assistant Adjutant General, Department of Dakota—“No dispatch rec’d here from Lt. Gen’l to Gen. Terry. Have instructed C. O. Fort Lincoln to be on look out for it.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From the Assistant Adjutant General, Department of Dakota—“Lieut. Gen’l’s dispatch to Gen. Terry received.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From the Commanding Officer, Fort Laramie—“I do not understand dispatch of today. I did not send telegram about Gen. Crook’s dispatch.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”] From Lt. Col. E. A. Carr—“Rel. to hiring of two guides who report hostile Indians on Powder river.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • 4:21 AM, MST (LOCAL)—According to the U. S. Naval Observatory, sunrise was at this time.
  • 4:30 AM (JUST BEFORE DAYBREAK)— FCW—Five Crow scouts eat their breakfast and leave early to scout the route of advance.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column—The Far West passes Bradley’s camp.
  • 5:00 AM (HEADQUARTERS/ST. PAUL, MN, WATCH TIME)— FCW—The 7th Cavalry leaves camp, moving up the right bank, riding hard. Half Yellow Face and Boyer rode with Custer. (Time verified by Wallace and Herendeen.)
  • ➢ The air was cool, crisp, and invigorating with a brisk headwind blowing from the south.
  • ➢ LT Wallace: “After we had been on the march about an hour, our Crow scouts came in and reported fresh signs of Indians, but in no great numbers. After a short consultation, General Custer, with an escort of two companies, moved out in advance, the remainder of the command following at a distance of about half a mile. We followed the right bank of the Rosebud; crossed two running tributaries, the first we had seen. At 1:00 PM the command was halted, scouts sent ahead, and the men made coffee. The scouts got back about four, and reported a fresh camp at the forks of the Rosebud. Everything indicated that the Indians were not more than thirty miles away. At 5:00 PM the command moved out; crossed to left bank of Rosebud; passed through several large camps. The trail now was fresh, and the whole valley scratched up by the trailing lodge-poles. At 7:45 PM we encamped on the right bank of Rosebud. Scouts were sent ahead to see which branch of the stream the Indians had followed. Distance marched today, about 28 miles. Soil in the valley very good, and in many places grazing very fine. Timber scattering, principally elder and ash. Hills rough and broken, and thickly covered with pines. Weather clear and very warm.”
  • ➢ CPT Yates designated OD (Officer-of-the-Day), therefore making Company F the pack train escort for the day.
  • ➢ Company M was the rear guard.
  • ➢ Curley soon returns to the main column.
  • ➢ “Evidences of deserted camps continued to be found along the valley; but, interestingly, none appeared to be significantly larger than those already examined” [Willert, Little Big Horn Diary, 236].
  • 5:00 AM— FCW—On the Yellowstone—The steamer Far West arrives at old Fort Pease.
  • ➢ The following men formed the crew of the Far West: Grant Marsh, captain and pilot; Walter Burleigh, owner and clerk; Dave Campbell, pilot; Ben Thompson, first mate; George Foulk, chief engineer; John Hardy, engineer; Reuben Riley, ship’s steward; James M. Sipes, a sometimes-barber; Buford, kept the daily log; James Boles (?). Approximately thirty deck hands.
  • ➢ Also aboard: James Coleman, one of the post-traders for the expedition. A fellow named Hall—nothing known about him other than he was an “experienced western farmer” [from engineer sergeant James Wilson’s report, January 3, 1877]. George Morgan—married to a Crow woman. Translated what Curley said when he came aboard the Far West after the Custer battle. John Smith, “Post Trader” for the expedition.
  • 6:00 AM— FCW—Gibbon/Montana Column—Gibbon’s infantry and Bradley’s scouting command leave their bivouac.
  • 6:10 AM— FCW—7th Cavalry—Four Crows reach Lame Deer Creek [R – 53¾] where they find fresh trails of summer roamers joining the main trail. ➢ Godfrey wrote they “passed a great many camping places, all appearing to be of the same strength.” Then, in one of the more telling admissions of error, he remarked, “One would naturally suppose these were the successive camping-places of the same village, when in fact they were the continuous camps of several bands. The fact that they appeared to be of nearly the same age, that is, having been made at the same time, did not impress us then.”
  • 7:00 AM— FCW—Gibbon/Montana Column—The infantry and Bradley join with the cavalry command. Cavalry issued six pack mules per company; four per company for the infantry. Kirtland’s B/7I left behind to guard bivouac, wagon, and supplies while the rest of the column starts up the Yellowstone. Two of the Gatling guns are left behind at Fort Pease.
  • 7:00 AM ± — FCW—7th Cavalry—Custer tells Herendeen to get ready to take Charley Reynolds and scout Tullock’s Creek, but Herendeen tells him it is too early yet, the gap leading to the creek’s headwaters is still farther ahead. Boyer concurs.
  • 7:10 AM—[LATE MORNING]— FCW—Suddenly, to everyone’s surprise, “the first of the campsites to be of considerable size and dimension was encountered. This had been the place of the Sun Dance celebration of the Indians” [Willert, Little Big Horn Diary, 237]. [R – 46, Gray.] This was the 4th Sioux camp.
  • ➢ According to Wooden Leg, the sun dance camp would have been the 5th Indian camp along the Rosebud.
  • ➢ John Gray claimed this was the first camp encountered this day and this was the first halt, around 6:30 AM.
  • ➢ Gray places the halt distance at one mile above the camp at R – 47 (4 miles for the day, so far).
  • ➢ It was a short distance below the valley which today guides to the small settlement of Lame Deer.
  • ➢ A scalp was found on a willow twig and someone brought it to Custer. It was identified as belonging to PVT Stocker (H/2C), one of the three men killed from Gibbon’s command. Godfrey claimed this was found in the sun dance camp.
  • ➢ George Herendeen apparently identified the scalp as Stocker’s.
  • ➢ The “sun dance” camp was much larger than the others and Godfrey remarked, “It was whilst here that the Indians from the agencies had joined the hostiles’ camp.” It was located near the Deer Medicine rocks.
  • ➢ As the site was being examined, Custer’s personal flag—which had been stuck in the ground—blew down. LT Godfrey picked it up and stuck it back in, but it blew down again. LT Wallace considered it an omen of Custer’s demise, though he apparently kept it to himself at the time. This being the location for the incident is verified by Paul Hedren.
  • ➢ Sun dance pole was probably in excess of thirty-five feet high.
  • ➢ Troops discovered a sand pictograph (in a sweat lodge), the Ree and Crow scouts interpreted to mean “many soldiers plummeting towards an Indian village.”
  • ➢ Also found an iconograph—three red stones in a row—meaning a Sioux victory.
  • ➢ Also: a cairn of rocks with the skull of a buffalo on one side and the skull of a cow on the other, with a stick aimed at the cow. This meant the Sioux would fight like bulls and the whites would run like women.
  • ➢ All these things indicated just how confident the Indians were.
  • ➢ Located several hundred yards west of the state highway that now parallels Rosebud Creek. (Willert claimed it was “a short distance below the valley which today guides to the small settlement of Lame Deer.”)
  • ➢ Distances: Sun Dance site to Lame Deer Creek: 1.8 miles. Another seven miles to Muddy Creek; 8.8 miles total, from the sun dance site.
  • 7:10 AM— FCW—The Crows return reporting fresh tracks, “but in no great numbers” [Herendeen]. The Crows also told Custer the trail was fresher ten miles ahead.
  • ➢ Godfrey: “… Three or four ponies and of one Indian on foot.”
  • ➢ “The tracks of the ponies and that of the lone Indian constituted the first evidence of the recent presence of Indians on the trail. It did not signify much, but it was enough to put Custer on the alert, hold a short conference with his officers and personally lead an advance guard of two companies” [Kuhlman, Legend into History, 34].
  • ➢ Custer now calls his officers together for a quick briefing.
  • 7:30 AM—Gibbon/Montana Column—Carroll’s wagon train arrives at Ball’s cavalry camp, two miles above Fort Pease. 7
  • 7:30 AM— FCW—7th Cavalry—The regiment marches at a fast walk, up the creek’s right bank.
  • ➢ Custer moved out in front with the scouts and two companies, the remainder of the regiment following about ½-mile behind. They moved at a fast walk.
  • ➢ Regiment was required to march on separate trails to keep the dust clouds down.
  • ➢ They now moved slowly, up the right bank (the east bank).
  • ➢ Custer sends the four Crows ahead again.
  • ➢ LT Godfrey: “The march during the day was tedious. We made many long halts so as not to get ahead of the scouts, who seemed to be doing their work thoroughly, giving special attention to the right, toward Tulloch’s (sic) Creek, the valley of which was in general view from the divide. Once or twice smoke signals were reported in that direction. The weather was dry and had been for some time; consequently the trail was very dusty. The troops were required to march on separate trails so that the dust clouds would not rise so high. The valley was heavily marked with lodge-pole trails and pony tracks, showing that immense herds of ponies had been driven over it.”
  • ➢ They moved slowly, up the right bank (the east bank).
  • ➢ More and more pictographs were discovered on the sandstone out-cropping.
  • 7:30 AM + — FCW—Gibbon/Montana Column—Kirtland’s B/7I left behind to guard bivouac, wagon, and supplies while the rest of the column starts up the Yellowstone.
  • ➢ Two of the Gatling guns are left behind at Fort Pease.
  • 9:20 AM— FCW—7th Cavalry—The Crows, trotting at 6 MPH, reach the abandoned Sioux camp at East Muddy Creek [R – 58]. This would be the 5th Sioux camp (Wooden Leg does not account for this camp).
  • 9:40 AM— FCW—The Crows head back to the column after studying the campsite. 10:30 AM— FCW—Pass Lame Deer Creek (6 miles; R – 53¾, Gray), basically where Boyer had turned back to the column when he was on Reno’s scout; Crows report again.
  • ➢ The four Crows report the abandoned campsite at East Muddy Creek [R – 58]. ➢ Herendeen spots an Indian trail that diverged up Lame Deer Creek and he follows it. It continued to diverge and he turned back to report to Custer.
  • 10:30 AM— FCW—Terry-Gibbon Column—Terry orders a reconnaissance up Tullock’s Creek valley. He expects the scouts to run into Herendeen, who’s probably on the way down the valley.
  • ➢ Once Terry finds out what is going on with Custer, he can further develop his plans.
  • ➢ The best description of the Tullock’s area—the valley and the divide between the Big Horn River and Tullock’s Creek—comes from Roger Darling and his, A Sad and Terrible Blunder, 159 – 160, and outlined below. The divide itself runs almost directly north-south: “At its northern tip, the range begins its rise near the mouth of Tullock’s Creek on the Big Horn River, at the very site of Terry’s June 24th camp. Extending 28 miles southward, the range ends abruptly at a vast elevated plateau, dissipating as a gently rolling descent into the Little Big Horn Valley. At its greatest east-west bulge, Tullock divide is only 13 miles wide. “Tullock’s Creek, a placid stream meandering through a mile wide valley, constitutes the eastern boundary. Although gorges and deep winding ravines emerge from the divide ridgeline hovering hundreds of feet above and to its west, this initial ruggedness of the eastern drainage surface gradually smoothes itself into gentle pastures and rangeland by the time it descends to the creek bed. In consequence of this natural topography, Tullock Creek valley has offered an ideal trail for movement through the region since prehistoric time. “The Big Horn River which marks the divide’s western boundary and drainage outlet is not so hospitable to man’s uses. The river’s eastern bank is a continuous cliff from Tullock Creek mouth to near the Big Horn-Little Big Horn River forks, while just to its west stretches the broad fertile valley, the Big Horn Valley, taking its name from the river. For nearly the Tullock divide’s entire length, sharp, steep-curving coulees gouge that western slope from the higher elevations to the river’s edge. Hundreds of feet deep in places, these channels claw into the softer earth and scattered patches of sandstone moderating only occasionally to form manageable trails for human passage down their courses…. Where these streams slice through the cliff face, they create the few access points to the river water. “Between Pocket Creek and the Big Horn forks to the south, the elevated plateau stretching between them is cut by North and South Cottonwood Creeks, Nine Mile, and Dry Creeks. These channels are deep, occasionally mistaken for rivers when they flow full of water for miles from their headwaters at the ridgeline. Whereas north-south human movement over the eastern, more tempered ground of Tullock Creek is easy, these cleavages of the divide’s western drainage do not absolutely preclude, but place severe obstacles in the way of such transit. “The narrowness of the 28 mile ridgeline is notable. The first third of its entire length, a linear 9 miles, constitutes a steady rise from Tullock Creek mouth southward to Tullock Peak, 800 feet above the valley floor. Along this route the ridgeline is often indistinguishable as such. Meandering across wide patches of rangeland, randomly splattered with prickly yucca and sumac plants, scrub pine, ponderosa forests, and massive sandstone outcroppings, the ridgeline loses its identity. The diverse plant growth coupled with a gently rising surface gives the topmost region the deceptive appearance of soft, rolling hills. Occasionally, the huge sharp ridge spine reappears as a narrow path a dozen feet wide negotiating between huge rocks and trees. As one nears Tullock Peak, broad panoramic vistas of both Tullock and Big Horn valleys come into view; even the Yellowstone River to the north and Big Horn Mountains to the far south are clearly seen…. “Tullock Peak is not a distinctive mountain top. A family of three, adjacent, curving hills forms a small plateau, a bowl-like depression at it center. Looking south from this elevation, Holmes Peak is clearly seen eight miles away. “The intervening terrain constitutes the second, or middle third of Tullock divide, an abrupt and distinct departure from the more gentle northern third. Holmes Peak is a prominent, elongated ridge wall stretching east and west. Butte-like in appearance, its western edge drops off abruptly. Higher than Tullock Peak, Holmes rises 1,000 feet above the valley floors. What little definition there is of the ridgeline stops at Tullock Peak. Between Tullock and Holmes it disappears entirely and is replaced by a labyrinth of coulees forming the headwaters of Rough and Pocket Creeks. The waters draining this maze eventually blend into Pocket Creek which slices through the cliffs at the Big Horn River. Direct human passage through this middle third region of the divide is all but impossible. “The final southern third of the divide stretches from Holmes Peak to the headwaters of Dry Creek. Here, another discontinuous upheaval of rocky heights creates the headwaters of North and South Cottonwood Creeks and various other streams cutting the high plateau. That ridgeline definition which disappeared between Tullock and Holmes Peaks does not re-establish itself here either. Any north-south traveler through this more mountainous portion of the divide is forced to move well below the upper ridges and along the smoother surfaces of the river cliff tops.”
  • ➢ The linear distance is twenty-two miles from Tullock Peak to the forks of the Big Horn River.
  • 10:35 AM— FCW—Terry begins sending a detachment of Indian scouts to the right bank of the Yellowstone, instructing them to scout Tullock’s Creek.
  • 11 AM— FCW—Twelve Crow scouts are ferried across the Yellowstone and ordered to scout Tullock’s Fork until they found “a Sioux village on a recent trail” [Bradley].
  • SOME TIME IN MID-MORNING— FCW—Indian village—The Indians dismantle their village, preparing to cross to the west side of the LBH, and begin moving downstream, the Cheyenne leading, the Hunkpapa bringing up the rear.
  • BEFORE NOON— FCW—7th Cavalry—The advance is continued.
  • ➢ Herendeen—Godfrey, as well—spots an Indian trail of lodge poles diverging up a tributary valley leading to Lame Deer Creek. He reports this to Custer. ➢ Custer sends out scouts, some to summon Varnum, and when he reported in Custer instructed him to check out Herendeen’s diverging trail. Varnum protested his scouts could not have missed any such trail, but he went out to check anyway. Varnum claimed Custer told him it was LT Godfrey who reported the diverging trail.
  • ➢ LT Hare was now assigned to assist Varnum. NOON—Sun at the meridian.
  • NOON— FCW—Gibbon/Montana Column—Gibbon’s command begins ferrying across the Yellowstone to the east bank of the Big Horn confluence, aiming for Tullock’s Fork, a tributary of the Big Horn.
  • 1:00 PM— FCW—7th Cavalry—Custer orders a halt, waiting for Varnum’s return. This was the second halt of the day, at East Muddy Creek [R – 58], 5th Sioux camp (five miles). (Halt time verified by Wallace.)
  • ➢ Varnum and his scouts follow the diverging trail and discover it was merely a branch-off from the main trail and it swings west, re-joining the main trail.
  • ➢ There was some speculation as to why the trail had diverged.
  • ➢ Custer sends out Crows to scout the advance.
  • ➢ It was probably here the Indian trail became “more than a mile wide, the earth so furrowed by thousands of travois poles that it resembled a plowed field” [Connell]. ➢ Kuhlman claimed this halt was at the sun dance camp.
  • ➢ “The assemblage was a straggling one, since the hostiles did not move in ‘Indian file’ but in a wide, irregular column, each family traveling by itself, and the group was spread out probably one mile wide and over three miles in length” [Stewart, Custer’s Luck, 192]. Despite the cumbersome formation, they could move with remarkable speed, covering as much as fifty miles a day.
  • ➢ Gray never mentions specifically Connell’s huge trail, but he does say, “everyone noted puzzling changes in the Indian trail…. Instead of a single heavy trail with old campsites a day’s journey apart, there were now multiple trails in various directions and small scattered campsites, some growing fresher and fresher. These were, in fact, converging trails left by summer roamers coming out to join the winter roamers.”
  • ➢ Gray goes on to explain why this was of such concern to Custer and why he spent the next four hours bivouacked, while he sent scouts scurrying hither and yon. This is also an extremely important point when considering Custer’s actions and strategy during the battle: “Every officer on the frontier knew only too well that Indians shunned pitched battles and were so mobile and elusive as to be frustratingly difficult to corral. Thus the overriding fear was that the village would break up and scatter.”
  • ➢ Troops made coffee and prepared a meal.
  • ➢ After about a twelve-mile trot over two hours, out and back, Varnum reported Herendeen’s trail did diverge, but it eventually re-joined the main trail. He also reported the trail became fresher by the mile and the signs indicated an immense force of Indians.
  • ➢ Tom Heski: “Lame Deer Creek joins Rosebud Creek…. Near the junction of the two streams, the crossing of Lame Deer is mandatory. Rosebud Creek skirts the high banks on the left bank, making travel on the right bank more accessible due to the opening up of the valley on that side. The vast Indian trail heading up Rosebud Creek all but obliterated any good crossing of Lame Deer Creek. Therefore, if any of the bands of Lakota traveling near the end of the vast assemblage wanted to cross Lame Deer Creek, they most likely would have turned and headed up Lame Deer Creek a short distance, crossed the creek, and instead of following the creek back down to the Rosebud, would have cut across country picking up the main trail again farther on.… [T]he deviant travois trail left Rosebud Creek, traveled southeast up Lame Deer Creek about 0.7 miles from the Rosebud, crossed the creek, thence skirting bluffs to the south eventually wound its way back to the trail again. This deviation most assuredly followed the ‘short cut,’ or tribal road for a short distance before rejoining the main trail.” Heski feels the reason Custer halted was to wait for Varnum to return.
  • ➢ Heski states, “Another reason for the halt… was the remains of another village site a few miles west of Muddy Creek.” Herendeen said the halt was for two hours—between 1 PM and 3 PM: “… the command started ahead on the large trail again, which became fresher as we advanced. We passed over places where a number of camps had been pitched quite close together from which we wrongly inferred that the Indians had been traveling very slowly and moving only for grass… these camping places represented the village of separate bands or tribes simultaneously encamped and not successive camps by any one band.”
  • AFTERNOON—Indian Column—The Indians’ move downstream begins. Most accounts claim they were preparing to move again, either the same day or the day after Custer struck, making this only a temporary camp.
  • 4 PM— FCW—Crow courier (White Swan) returns and reports finding a fresh camp at the forks of the Rosebud, some 10 – 12 miles farther south.
  • ➢ Heski feels this was an indication the hostiles were no more than thirty miles away.
  • ➢ “… [W]hat the Crows reported during the second halt [this one] brought [Custer] up sharply; for here was something wholly unexpected, something that might call for action radically different from what was contemplated in his orders. The Crows had been over the trail made, evidently, only a day or two before by a large body of Indians coming from the agencies to join the camps on the Little Big Horn. They had not followed the Indian trail down the Tongue, i.e., the course taken by the rest during their spring wanderings, but had crossed over to the Rosebud a little above the site of the Sundance lodge, where, as related in the report of Wallace, the troops struck it soon after resuming the march at five o’clock” [Kuhlman, Legend into History, 34].
  • ➢ Varnum returns and reports the diverging trail links up again with the main trail, up the Rosebud and farther westward.
  • ➢ Varnum also told Custer, “the trail sign indicated a force of immense size ahead, that the trail was fresher by the mile, that a ‘… fresh camp…’ had been found ‘… at the forks of the Rosebud…’ some ten or a dozen miles west, and that the hostiles, at this time, were probably ‘… not more than thirty miles away….’”
  • Terry-Gibbon Column The ferrying of Gibbon’s command is completed. Their march up the Big Horn begins.
  • 4:15 PM— FCW—Brisbin tells Terry scouts Muggins Taylor and Henry Bostwick have found a good crossing of Tullock’s. Terry immediately orders the troops to advance.
  • ➢ Terry, assuming he will be hearing from Herendeen, orders a bivouac to be found along Tullock’s Creek.
  • ➢ Barney Prevo accompanied this group.
  • ➢ Bradley heads out and finds a suitable site about one mile up the creek from its mouth into the Big Horn.
  • 5:00 PM— FCW—Gibbon’s troops begin their move to Tullock’s Fork—a tributary of the Big Horn—though without Gibbon and Kirtland’s B/7I. They are to camp on lower Tullock’s Creek. Gibbon sick on board the “Far West.”
  • 5:00 PM— FCW—7th Cavalry—Custer resumes his march up the Rosebud, now across to the narrow, sage covered left bank of the valley, passing “‘… through several large camps. The trail was now fresh and the whole valley scratched up by trailing lodge poles.’” [Wallace]. Departure time verified by Wallace.
  • ➢ Custer sends out flankers—Varnum took the left front; Hare took the right front—to check for diverging trails, again worried about the village breaking up. “‘He said he wanted to get the whole village and nothing must leave the trail without his knowing it.’” [Herendeen].
  • ➢ Only converging trails found, but Custer and his officers never grasped the meaning, always thinking the trails moved away. “The fresh side trails represented agency Indians finally joining the large camp” [Donovan, A Terrible Glory, 198].
  • ➢ Column moves very slowly.
  • ➢ Several more campsites found.
  • ➢ A number of halts were made; very dusty. Trail heavily marked by lodge poles and pony herds.
  • ➢ Herendeen was impressed by the fact the village sites seemed so close to one another.
  • 5:30 PM – 6:00 PM— FCW—Terry-Gibbon Column—The Montana column goes into bivouac on Tullock’s Fork, about a mile above its mouth, at the foot of a perpendicular wall of rock.
  • ➢ The distance from this camp to the staging area at the fork of the Big Horn and Little Big Horn rivers is thirty-seven miles via Tullock’s Creek valley, then westward.
  • ➢ Terry, his staff, HQ, and escort leave the Far West and head up the Big Horn. ➢ Gibbon, still very sick, remains on board the Far West. Dr Williams is with him.
  • 6:30 PM— FCW—7th Cavalry—Custer and his lead elements reach the gap in the western hills that led to the headwaters of Tullock’s Creek. Herendeen told Custer, but the latter only kept moving forward and Herendeen simply remained in the column. No trails went in the direction of Tullock’s Creek.
  • ➢ “But Custer—Herendeen recalled—only looked at him, said not a word, and finally the civilian scout reined back to once again take his place in the moving column. Herendeen was unable to fathom Custer’s curious behavior at this junction, but Custer’s reason should have been obvious—the hostiles trail continued up the Rosebud Valley, but where did it lead?” [Willert, Little Big Horn Diary, 241].
  • ➢ Godfrey wrote smoke signals were reported—once or twice—from the direction of Tullock’s Creek valley.
  • 7:30 PM— FCW—Terry-Gibbon Column—Terry arrives at camp on lower Tullock’s Creek, having been delayed by repacking mules. ➢ No word from Custer and Terry expresses visible disappointment.
  • 7:53 PM—Sunset. 8:04 PM, MST—According to the U. S. Naval Observatory, sunset was at this time.
  • 8:20 PM— The sun is behind the mountains to the west, creating shadows in the valley and giving one the impression of sundown. [Heski]
  • 8:31 PM—Civil twilight ends: too dark to read.
  • 8:42 PM, MST—According to the U. S. Naval Observatory, civil twilight ended at this time.
  • 8:42 PM— FCW—[7:30 PM – 7:45 PM {NEARLY SUNSET}]—7th Cavalry—Custer orders the command into camp at the Busby bend (present-day town of Busby, Montana, approximately 70 miles from the Yellowstone), on the right bank (12 miles; 27 miles for the day; Godfrey claimed 28 miles). Time established by Wallace and verified by Godfrey as “[a]bout sundown….” It was here Varnum had discovered the fresh camp. This would be the 6th Sioux camp discovered by the regiment, bringing it in line with the Wooden Leg figure.
  • ➢ PVT Windolph wrote: “… went into camp at sundown. In late June up here in the Northwest country that means around 9 o’clock.”
  • ➢ Heski goes on to say that around 7:00 PM in June, the sun is behind the Wolf Mountains, creating shadows in the valley. If there are no clouds, you can still see objects until about 10 PM.
  • ➢ The camp was approximately two miles below and opposite the (upper) Rosebud forks, specifically, Davis Creek. On the right was a high bluff and between this bluff and the river was a level, grassy plateau (about 200 yards wide) covered with wild roses.
  • ➢ Camp was located in a freshly abandoned summer roamer campsite.
  • ➢ George Herendeen stated: “About four o’clock we came to the place where the village had been apparently only a few days before, and went into camp two miles below the forks of the Rosebud [i.e., Davis Creek]. The scouts all again pushed out to look for the village….” Heski explains the time difference by saying Herendeen probably arrived at the bivouac site earlier with the scouts.
  • ➢ Charley Reynolds distributed his personal belongings to several of the troopers obviously fearing he would not survive. He did not.
  • ➢ Somewhere around this time two Cheyenne warriors from Little Wolf’s party of seven lodges that had left the Red Cloud agency to join the Sioux—Big Crow and Black White Man—spot this camp.
  • EVENING— FCW—Indian Column—The Cheyenne village held a dance, a social affair. Similar dances were being held in each of the Sioux circles.
  • ➢ The list of primary Sioux and Cheyenne camps: 1st camp—R – 19, where Custer made the remark to Varnum; 2nd camp—Teat Butte, R – 26; 3rd camp—Greenleaf Creek, R – 34; 4th camp—Sundance camp, R – 46; 5th camp—East Muddy Creek, R – 58; 6th camp—Busby bend, R – 70. ➢ Wooden Leg: “The Cheyenne location was about two miles north from the present railroad station at Garryowen, Montana. We were near the mouth of a small creek flowing from the south-westward into the river. Across the river east of us and a little upstream from us was a broad coulee, or little valley, having now the name Medicine Tail coulee.”
  • ➢ There were only six main Indian circles: Cheyenne, Minneconjou, Oglala, Sans Arcs, Hunkpapa, and Blackfeet Sioux. The Brulé, Assiniboine, and Waist and Skirts (Santees) stayed in their own groups, but close to another circle: Santee: next to the Hunkpapa. Brulé: part by the Oglala, part by the Blackfeet. The general order was Cheyenne, Sans Arcs, Minneconjoux, Hunkpapa along the river. The Oglala were away from the river and southwest of the Cheyenne and Sans Arc. The Blackfeet were also back from the river and between the Oglala and Hunkpapa, nearer the latter. All the camps were east of the 1930 highway and the railroad. Wooden Leg said there were no whites or mixed breeds. Cheyenne: 300 lodges; Blackfeet: 300 or a few less; Sans Arc: more than 300; Minneconjou: more than the Sans Arcs; Oglala: more than the Sans Arcs; and Hunkpapa: 600 lodges.
  • ➢ According to Douglas Scott, the camps were configured as follows: Hunkpapa circle was the southernmost. Just below and slightly northwest was the Blackfeet circle. The Minneconjou circle was northeast of the Blackfeet and close to the river. Due west of the Blackfeet was the Brulé circle. Right next to the Brulé, slightly north and west, was the Oglala. Near the river and at the mouth of Medicine Tail Coulee was the Sans Arc circle. Near the river, just to the north and west of the Sans Arc—but still across from the Medicine Tail Ford—was the Cheyenne circle.
  • 8:45 PM— FCW—Terry-Gibbon Column—The twelve Crow scouts returned reporting seeing only buffalo about six miles up Tullock’s Creek. An arrow had wounded one of the buffalo and the Crows thought this momentous news. In reality, they were afraid to go any farther. There was no news from Custer.
  • ➢ Terry sends orders to Far West to enter Big Horn River at noon tomorrow (the 25th) and head to mouth of the Little Big Horn by noon the day after (the 26th).
  • ➢ Bradley expresses disappointment and disgust, for the Crows had only gone about ten miles—or less—in eight hours, bringing back no worthwhile intelligence other than a wounded buffalo, probably hurt by a Sioux hunting party.
  • ➢ Terry decides to send Bradley up Tullock’s Creek in the morning.
  • ➢ Terry also chooses LT McClernand to pick the trail for the column to move up the Tullock’s Creek valley.
  • 8:45 PM— FCW—7th Cavalry—As darkness was falling, three Crow scouts returned to report the Sioux had turned west and crossed the divide to the lower Little Big Horn valley. They were not sure which direction the hostiles were heading, however. Custer went over to their camp and had a talk with them. Varnum claimed five Crows were at this meeting, Half Yellow Face still out somewhere.
  • ➢ Herendeen probably now wondered if Custer would send him down Tullock’s Creek, but again, Custer gave no sign that’s what he wanted to do.
  • ➢ Custer now decided to send the Crows out again, to follow the trail until they could locate the village or they had traveled until noon of the following day. The command would stay put until the Crows reported back.
  • ➢ Even though Terry’s orders had suggested Custer by-pass the trail if it led west toward the LBH, Custer felt it better to camp this night on the trail until he could be certain of where it went and then make his decision.
  • ➢ The Crow scouts now made a suggestion they ride to a promontory (the Crow’s Nest) where they could view the Little Big Horn valley when it got light. This way they could give Custer reliable information without having to ride all night and into the valley.
  • ➢ Custer accepted this suggestion and instructed Varnum to go with them.
  • ➢ He also would send Boyer, Reynolds, and eight or ten Rees (Red Star).
  • ➢ “The prospect of an earlier awareness as to the hostiles’ position—if they should be in the Little Big Horn Valley—now prompted Custer to cancel his earlier plan to stay the night in his present position… and to proceed in a night march… toward the divide” [Willert, Little Big Horn Diary, 243].
  • ➢ Custer told Varnum to leave around 9 PM, so the meeting was probably held a bit earlier than this. Custer said he would move the command at 11 PM. ➢ Gray felt this was the final proof Custer still had not known, even by the time he reached the Busby bivouac, the Sioux had crossed the divide to the Little Big Horn.
  • ➢ The trail was so fresh it became obvious the Sioux had to be on the lower Little Big Horn and had not yet gone to its upper reaches.
  • ➢ “The unexpected news brought by the Crows that the Sioux were probably on the lower, rather than the upper, reaches of the Little Big Horn posed a serious problem that demanded a weighty decision from Custer” [Gray, Custer’s Last Campaign, 219].
  • ➢ Terry’s plan was a flexible one, but of all the scenarios envisioned, a Sioux encampment on the lower LBH was the one the plan could least accommodate.
  • ➢ Custer’s orders were to scout the upper reaches of the Rosebud, cross the divide to the upper Little Big Horn, move north, down that river, and drive the Sioux north into Terry’s blocking position, which he was to reach on the 26th.
  • ➢ It was only the 24th, however, and Terry would be a good thirty miles from his blocking position.
  • ➢ Custer’s choices were to continue south along the Rosebud, risking detection and losing track of the village, or to cross the divide from the Busby camp at night and hide out for a day while Terry moved into position.
  • ➢ This latter plan meant Custer’s scouts could still keep track of the village and Custer would still have the element of surprise, still attack from above, and still block escape routes to the east.
  • ➢ “Custer could follow Terry’s recommendation by marching up the Rosebud tomorrow and starting down the Little Big Horn the next day, thus preserving the timing. Even if these marches were made at night, however, he would leave a trail as readable as a poster, and discovery would warn the village to flee and scatter. He would also lose track of the village and at best have to search for it again; at worst it could escape undetected back to the Rosebud and eastward or down the Bighorn and attack Terry’s weaker force on the march” [Gray, Custer’s Last Campaign, 220 – 221].
  • 9:20 PM— FCW—LT Varnum and his scouts (fifteen men, total) leave camp for Crow’s Nest (approximately 11¾ miles away). It was already dark. Varnum had probably traveled as many as seventy miles this day, checking out every possibly Indian trail, especially those leading off to the left or east. PVT Elijah Strode (Varnum’s orderly), Boyer and Reynolds; five Crows—White Man Runs Him, Curley, Goes Ahead, Hairy Moccasin, White Swan; six Rees—Forked Horn, Black Fox, Red Bear, Strikes The Lodge, Red Star, Bull. Varnum says he took “about a dozen Rees….” Smalley says Red Foolish Bear, not Red Bear, and Heski calls him Bear. In an April 14, 1909, letter to Walter Camp, Varnum says eight or ten Rees.
  • 9:22 PM—Nautical twilight ends—full darkness begins; night-time.
  • 9:25 PM— FCW— [Also, see 9:30 PM, below] Custer called officers together informing them of the Indians’ probable location and that there would be a night march to cross the divide so as to not be seen.
  • ➢ There was great difficulty finding it in the deep dark night. ➢ The plan was to lay low on the 25th, scout the area, find the actual location of the village, and make plans for the attack. They would then make a night march to the village and attack the morning of the 26th.
  • ➢ Reno wrote in his July 5th report, Custer notified the assembly it was necessary to cross the divide at night as “it would be impossible to do so in the daytime without discovering our march to the Indians.”
  • ➢ Reno also stated Custer said, “beyond a doubt the village was in the valley of the Little Big Horn.”
  • ➢ Edgerly: “[T]he Indian’s village has been located in the valley of the Little Big Horn and the object (of the night march) being to cross the divide between the Rosebud and the Little Big Horn before daylight.”
  • ➢ Custer “… told the officers they would have the fight of their lives.” Apparently, Fred Gerard had told Custer he could expect to find 2,500 to 3,000 warriors.
  • ➢ Gerard claimed to have told Terry there would be as many as 4,000 warriors if all those who had left the reservations united. ➢ The meeting was short and sweet. Benteen missed it—because of the dark—but Keogh told him of the plans.
  • ➢ Several officers sang a few songs for Custer: “Little Footsteps Soft and Gentle”; “The Good Bye” (“The Good-Bye at the Door”); “Doxology” ; “Annie Laurie”; “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”; and “Tenting Tonight.”
  • 9:25 PM – 9:30 PM— FCW—Godfrey says he and LT Hare lay down to take a nap.
  • ➢ As they had just settled in, they were called for an officers’ conference with Custer.
  • ➢ It was clearly dark at this time for Godfrey describes the difficulty he and Hare had locating Custer’s bivouac area.
  • ➢ Custer orders all officers to report to his tent.
  • ➢ There was great difficulty finding it in the deep dark night. ➢ Custer informs the officers of his plan for a night march, leaving at 11:00 PM, and finding a place to hide during the following day so the situation could be studied, and then an attack planned for June 26th.
  • [9:30 PM – 10:00 PM]—Other authors claim Varnum and the scouts left for the Crow’s Nest at this time. Willert estimated they moved about 3 MPH, figuring twelve miles between the Crow’s Nest and the Rosebud.
  • [9:45 PM – 10:00 PM]—Heski has Varnum leaving for the Crow’s Nest. He claimed there was a total of fourteen men.
  • [10:00 PM]—Liddic has Varnum leaving for the Crow’s Nest and Custer calling his officer’s together at this time.
  • 10 PM— FCW—Troops awakened for the night march.
  • 10:44 PM, MST—According to the U. S. Naval Observatory, the waxing crescent moon (12% of the disk illuminated) set at this time.
  • [11:00 PM]—Original kick-off time, but the move may have been delayed. Smalley claims 11:00 PM is the time the command began to move and cites the following witnesses: Godfrey: 11:30 PM; Herendeen: 11:00 PM; Benteen: 11 PM, sharp; Gerard: about 11:30 PM; Moylan: about 11:00 PM; Reno: 11:00 PM; Hare: 11:00 PM; De Rudio: 11:00 PM; Wallace: near 1:00 AM (in 1877); Wallace: 11:00 PM (in 1879). 11:00 PM— FCW—Benteen wrote: “We were to move at 11 o’clock that night, at which hour we did move, however, there was an hour and a half consumed [11:00 PM – 12:30 AM], in getting the pack train across Mud Creek [Rosebud flood plain below confluence of Busby and Rosebud Creek]. Colonel Keogh had charge of the packs [rear guard escort] on that move and the column remained impatient on [the] other bank of the creek while Keogh was superintending crossing the pack train.”
  • ➢ As the column was assembling, Fred Gerard sat with Custer and claimed Half Yellow Face and Bloody Knife told Custer (apparently Reno, as well), he could not cross the divide before daylight without being discovered by Sioux scouts. It appears, however, this occurred around 2 AM near Halt 1 and not here and at this time.
  • [11:30 PM]—LT Godfrey believed the night march began at this time. He also quotes Martini as saying the same time. LT Wallace, in his report, claimed they left at 1:00 AM, but Heski disputes that saying Wallace may have been referring to the time the packs cleared the Rosebud.
  • ➢ Godfrey mentions nothing of the departure time in his Century Magazine article. [Time discrepancies here are clearly the result of variable cueing.] 11:48 PM—Crescent moon (about 12%) sets.
  • JUNE 23, 1876—FRIDAY
  • UP THE ROSEBUD
  • NOTE—From June 22 onward through the 24th, almost every event carries a time of occurrence. These times are my particular forté, but in many cases mine differ markedly from those used by other authors. To distinguish between my data and those of others, I have placed “FCW” next to all times I have developed or agree with; and have placed in brackets—[ ]—all the times others claim events occurred. Where there is neither “FCW” nor [ ], we agree on that particular time. It should also be remember ALL MY TIMES are HQ/St. Paul, Minnesota time.
  • From the Acting Assistant Adjutant General, Department of the Platte—“Repeats telegram received from Capt. Nickerson A. D. C. reporting fight with Indians on Rosebud Creek. Nine men killed and twenty-one wounded.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From Gen. Geo. Crook—“Reports fight with Indians on Rosebud Creek.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From the Acting Assistant Adjutant General, Department of the Platte—“Repeats telegram from Ge. Crook, directing five companies of infantry to join his command.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From the Acting Assistant Adjutant General, Department of the Platte—“Reports the sending of 3 Co’s of Infantry in accordance with Gen. Crook’s directions.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From the Acting Assistant Adjutant General, Department of the Platte—“Company H, 3rd Cav. ordered to North Platte Bridge.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From the Acting Assistant Adjutant General, Department of the Platte—“Notes receipt of dispatch and orders given in accordance therewith.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From the Commanding Officer, Fort Laramie—“Telegram from Flagler to Gen. Carr the only one rec’d. Detachment will start at 4 PM.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From the Commanding Officer, Fort Laramie—“Notes the receipt of two telegrams for Gen. Carr.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”] From the Commanding Officer, Fort Laramie—“Gen. Carr will probably receive 1st telegram before he reaches Sage Creek. Capt. Montgomery will take second in the morning.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • 3:00 AM—FCW—Stable guards moved throughout the camp waking the troopers. Their breakfast consisted of black coffee and fried bacon cooked over small fires dug into the earth.
  • 4:00 AM—FCW—Reveille. 5:00 AM— FCW—The regiment departs camp. Custer led out, followed by two sergeants, one carrying the regimental standard, the other carrying Custer’s personal flag. Godfrey mentioned it was the same flag Custer carried in the “Rebellion.” The column continues up the Rosebud, crossing and re-crossing, for about 30 miles. Benteen’s H and two other companies brought up the rear, behind the recalcitrant mules, now re-organized into one command following the main column. (Time verified by Wallace, Godfrey, and Herendeen.) It appears SOP dictated each company would detail four to six men, each day, for duty with the pack train. Another very hot day.
  • ➢ Willert, in a different context, mentions Godfrey was not part of Benteen’s three-company, bring-up-the-rear assignment. Yet when the divide was crossed on June 25, Benteen was assigned companies D, H, and K, the latter being Godfrey’s. This is merely another example of Custer’s proclivity for doing whatever he wanted, assigning whatever company he wanted, whenever he wanted to do so.
  • ➢ The lead party probably consisted of Custer, Bloody Knife, Boyer, Herendeen, and Half Yellow Face.
  • ➢ LT Wallace: “All were ready at the appointed time, and the command moving out we crossed to the right bank of the Rosebud. The bluff being very broken, we had to follow the valley for some distance, crossing the Rosebud five times in three miles; thence up the right side for about ten miles. There we halted, to allow the pack train to close up. Soon after starting, crossed to the left bank and followed that for fifteen miles, and camped on right bank at 4:30 PM, making a distance of over thirty miles. The last of the pack train did not get into camp until near sunset. About five miles from our last camp we came to the trail made by Major Reno, a few days previous, and a few miles farther on saw the first traces of the Indian camps. They were all old, but everything indicated a large body of Indians. Every bend of the stream bore traces of some old camp, and their ponies had nipped almost every spear of grass. The ground was strewn with broken bones and cuttings from buffalo hides. The country passed over after the first few miles was rolling, and a few deep ravines the only obstacle to hinder the passage of a wagon train. Soil poor, except along the creek. Grass all eaten up. Plenty of cottonwood along the creek. During the last five or six miles of the march, the cottonwood timber was gradually replaced by ash and a species of elder. The valley was about one-fourth of a mile wide, and for the last fifteen miles the hills were very steep and rocky, sandstone being present. The country back from the hills looked to be very much broken. The hills were covered with a short growth of pines. No game seen during the day; weather warm and clear.”
  • 6:00 AM—Gibbon/Montana Column—Wagons leave camp. Because of the heavy rains wagons had difficulty crossing creeks. Day became very warm.
  • 6:05 AM— FCW—LT Bradley’s mounted scouts leave their bivouac area. 7:40 AM— FCW—7th Cavalry—Custer crosses the stream to its right bank, and the column passes the 1st Sioux camp (8 – 9 miles). “Here’s where Reno made the mistake of his life. He had six troops of cavalry and rations enough for a number of days. He’d have made a name for himself if he’d pushed on after them.” Remark made to Varnum. Benteen said the village was “immense.”
  • ➢ This was the camp below (R – 19) where Reno entered the valley (R – 22¾).
  • ➢ It should be noted here, according to Wooden Leg, there were six Indian camps along the Rosebud. The “sun dance” camp was number 5 and the Busby/Mouth-of-Davis Creek camp was the 6th and last. A 7th was in Davis Creek valley; the 8th, along Reno Creek; the 9th and 10th in the Little Big Horn valley.
  • ➢ This was the Indian camp Bradley had seen on May 27th: 350 – 400 lodges.
  • ➢ LT Godfrey was perplexed by the “numerous stands of brush, whose crowns had been joined to form a kind of overhead framework.” At first, the troops thought it was to protect the Indians’ dogs, but it was later learned—and Wooden Leg also told Marquis—these were wickiups housing young, single warriors who had joined the main camp.
  • ➢ Reiterate: the Indian Office in Washington, D. C., had told Custer they estimated the winter roamers at 3,000 persons, i.e., 850 warriors. That tallied further with Boyer’s estimates of villagers on the Tongue and Rosebud Rivers, i.e., 400 lodges, 800 warriors. Custer figured 1,000 + another 500 coming out of the agencies, the so-called “summer roamers.” What Custer did not know was that Sheridan’s attempts to control the agencies with larger garrisons (the 5th Cavalry) drove exceptionally large numbers of Indians out of the agencies. These summer roamers joined the winter roamers. How did Custer ever reconcile the vast discrepancies in these numbers? What about the telegrams Terry sent to Sheridan, first 2,000 lodges, then 1,500 versus what he was seeing now?
  • ➢ As a review: Spotted Tail: instead of 9,610, there were 2,315; Red Cloud: instead of 12,873, there were 4,760; Cheyenne River: instead of 7,586, there were 2,280; Standing Rock: instead of 7,322, there were 2,305. Totals: instead of 37,391, there were 11,660.
  • ➢ At one of these first Sioux encampments, the Ree scouts discovered ancient pictographs (they mistook for new) Bloody Knife interpreted to mean: “Do not follow the Dakotas into the Bighorn country… for they will turn and destroy you.”
  • 10:20 AM— FCW—Pass 2nd Sioux camp (Teat Butte, 26 miles up the Rosebud: R – 26), right bank; another 8 miles.
  • 11:00 AM— FCW—Go another 2 miles; halt for pack train.
  • 11:30 AM— FCW—Leave halt up right bank.
  • 1:30 PM— FCW—The column crosses Greenleaf Creek and reaches the 3rd Sioux camp—the Greenleaf site (34 miles up the Rosebud), six miles farther up. Wooden Leg claimed this was the 4th Indian camp on the Rosebud. See May 28th.
  • ➢ These last two camps were no more than fourteen miles from the first and the trail kept widening. Everyone assumed the camps were simply consecutive locations of one village and not possibly separate villages, all ultimately moving in the same southerly direction. Reno worried about this, but apparently was the only one who did.
  • ➢ Varnum wrote: “We struck not only the trail of the Indians but the entire valley of the Rosebud appeared to have been a camp, where they had moved along as the grass was grazed off.”
  • ➢ Custer would spur his command forward, usually leaving Benteen and the pack train and last three companies well behind. This was more than thoughtless, because Custer himself—prior to advancing up the Rosebud—cautioned his commanders not to lag behind.
  • ➢ “The trail in some places was at least 300 yards in width and deeply worn. The scouts said it had been made by about 1,500 lodges and since there were doubtless other trails, they agreed that it proved that enormous numbers of Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho had left the agencies to join Sitting Bull. But the officers, misled by the report that there were only five to 800 warriors in the hostile bands, missed the significance of the trail entirely and persisted in believing that these large camps—they were from 1/3 to ½ a mile in diameter—were a succession of camps of a single band, rather than what they were, the single camp of several large bands together” [Stewart, Custer’s Luck, 259].
  • ➢ Wooden Leg: “Our trail… was from a quarter to half a mile wide at all places where the form of the land allowed that width. Indians regularly made a broad trail when traveling in bands using travois. People behind often kept in the tracks of people in front, but when the party of travelers was a large one there were many of such tracks side by side.”
  • 2:30 PM – 3:00 PM— FCW—The valley narrowed to about ¼ mile in width, bordered by steep, rocky hills covered in pine. It was along this stretch that Reno turned back. LT Wallace wrote, the “country back from the hills looked to be very much broken.” It was ideal country for an ambush.
  • 4:30 PM—5:00 PM— FCW—The column moved up the right bank, another 9 miles. Custer orders the regiment to pitch camp on a broad, sage plain. The camp was located near the present-day junction with the Colstrip Road [Gray]. Willert said where Lee Coulee enters the Rosebud Valley. They had traveled 33 miles for the day, 43 miles from the mouth of the creek. (Halt time verified by Wallace; Godfrey claimed it was “about 5 PM.”)
  • ➢ Pleasant summer aromas of plum, crab apple, and wild roses. Ash and elder covered the creek banks rather than the more common willow and cottonwood. To the west, rugged pine-covered bluffs; to the east, less rugged cliffs of sandstone, topped with pine.
  • ➢ Stewart claimed the column was under constant surveillance by the Sioux and Cheyenne. This is probably incorrect, but if not, then nothing became of it.
  • AFTERNOON—Gibbon/Montana Column—2nd Cavalry command arrives at Fort Pease, about two miles above the old trading post, and establishes a bivouac.
  • 5:30 PM— FCW—Gibbon/Montana Column—The wagons, having made 22 miles, and 7th Infantry camp ½ to one mile below Fort Pease. ➢ Plenty of fresh meat in the camp.
  • ➢ Boats had not arrived as yet.
  • ➢ Indians were seen across the river, but Carroll believed they were some of the Crow scouts.
  • 8:40 PM— FCW—The Far West, with Terry and a very sick Gibbon, ties up about eight miles below Fort Pease, fifteen miles below the Big Horn-Yellowstone confluence.
  • SUNSET (APPROXIMATELY 8:50 ± PM)— FCW—The last of the pack train arrived in camp. EVENING—This seems to be the evening Custer’s personal guidon blew down repeatedly, interpreted by some officers as a bad omen. LT Godfrey was the one who kept putting it back up. Both Edgar Stewart and James Willert claimed the incident occurred while the command was checking out the sun dance camp the following morning.
  • The Indians prepared to move downriver as even more Indians joined them. They would move the next morning.
  • IT BEGINS… HANG ON TIGHT… 
  • From June 22 onward, almost every event carries a time of occurrence. These times are my particular forté, but in many cases mine differ markedly from those used by other authors. To distinguish between my data and those of others, I have placed “FCW” next to all times I have developed or agree with; and have placed in brackets—[ ]—all the times others claim events occurred. Where there is neither “FCW” nor [ ], we agree on that particular time. It should also be remember ALL MY TIMES are HQ/St. Paul, Minnesota time.
  • LTC EDWARD S. LUCE, LETTER TO CHARLES G. DUBOIS, DATED FEBRUARY 26, 1953. CHARLES G. DUBOIS HISTORICAL COLLECTION. PROVIDED THROUGH THE COURTESY OF BRUCE R. LIDDIC:
  • “A cavalry horse walks 4 miles per hour; trots 8 miles per hour; gallops 12 miles per hour, and the extended gallop or charge is 16 miles per hour. Normally in good weather a troop would average about 9½ miles per hour. They generally start off for the first ten minutes, then halt about two minutes… then trot for about 20 minutes, gallop for some 10 come down to a trot and then a walk.”
  • Cavalry marches from Colonel Emory Upton’s 1874 Cavalry Tactics, as described by French MacLean, Custer’s Best, 70: “…[T]he formation would march initially for one hour, at which point the column would halt for 10 to 15 minutes to adjust tack (saddle, bridle, saddle girth, etc.). The troopers would then remount and the column would resume the march for another hour. After the second hour, the troopers did not rest, but rather dismounted and led their horses for 20 minutes. The cavalrymen then re-mounted and the column moved forward at the trot (a rate of speed of seven to eight miles an hour) for 20 minutes. The column then slowed—but stayed mounted—to a walk (3¾ miles per hour). At the end of this third hour—and at the end of each succeeding hour—the column would halt for five minutes. This pattern of dismounted walk, trot and walk was maintained, along with short gallops to allow the horses to stretch (nine to eleven miles per hour), was designed to conduct a march of six hours per day, during which the column would cover 25 miles.
  • JUNE 22, 1876—THURSDAY 
  • AFTER 2:00 AM— Dakota Column – FCW—Custer remained awake writing letters in his tent: one to his wife and a second, an anonymous correspondence to the New York Herald.
  • ➢ In both, he iterated a common theme: Reno may have alerted the Indians by his unauthorized scout and the major should be court-martialed because he disobeyed Terry’s orders.
  • ➢ The New York Herald, July 23, 1876: “In the opinion of the most experienced officers it was not believed that any considerable, if any, force of Indians would be found on the Powder River; still, there were a few, including Major Reno, who were convinced that the main body of Sitting Bull’s warriors would be encountered on Powder River. The general impression, however, is, and had been, that on the headwaters of the Rosebud and Little Big Horn rivers the hostiles would be found.”
  • 4:00 AM—Reveille.
  • ➢ The day was turning gloomy and cloudy, with a chilly west wind.
  • ➢ A good, solid breakfast was had by all: coffee, bacon. 5:18 AM—FCW—(4:21 AM, LOCAL TIME)—Sunrise.
  • 6:00 AM— FCW—Gibbon/Montana Column—CPT Ball orders Gibbon’s cavalry on the march. They were to head to Fort Pease as rapidly as possible. The infantry was to follow as soon as it could.
  • 7:00 AM— FCW—LT Bradley’s scouts and CPT Freeman’s infantry start their march, soon passing the cavalry whose trains got stuck in mud.
  • 11:00- AM— FCW— Dakota Column—Custer receives his official marching orders.
  • Camp at Mouth of Rosebud River Montana Territory, June 22, 1876 Lieut. Col. Custer, 7th Cavalry
  • Colonel: The BG commanding directs that as soon as your regiment can be made ready for the march, you will proceed up the Rosebud in pursuit of the Indians whose trail was discovered by MAJ Reno a few days since. It is, of course, impossible to give you any definite instructions in regard to this movement, and were it not impossible to do so, the Department Commander places too much confidence in your zeal, energy, and ability to wish to impose upon you precise orders which might hamper your action when nearly in contact with the enemy. He will, however, indicate to you his own views of what your action should be, and he desires that you should conform to them unless you should see sufficient reason for departing from them. He thinks you should proceed up the Rosebud until you ascertain definitely the direction in which the trail above spoken of leads. Should it be found (as it appears almost certain that it will be found) to turn towards the Little Horn, he thinks that you should still proceed southward, perhaps as far as the headwaters of the Tongue, and then turn towards the Little Horn, feeling constantly, however, to your left, so as to preclude the possibility of escape of the Indians to the south or southeast by passing around your left flank. The column of COL Gibbon is now in motion for the mouth of the Big Horn. As soon as it reaches that point it will cross the Yellowstone and move up as least as far as the forks of the Big and Little Horns. Of course its future movements must be controlled by circumstances as they arise, but it is hoped that the Indians, if upon the Little Horn, may be so nearly enclosed by the two columns that their escape will be impossible.
  • The Department Commander desires that on your way up the Rosebud you should thoroughly examine the upper part of Tullock’s Creek, and that you should endeavor to send a scout through to COL Gibbon’s column, with information of the result of your examination. The lower part of the creek will be examined by a detachment from COL Gibbon’s command. The supply steamer will be pushed up the Big Horn as far as the forks if the river is found to be navigable for that distance, and the Department Commander, who will accompany the column of COL Gibbon, desires you report to him there not later than the expiration of the time for which your troops are rationed, unless in the meantime you receive further orders.
  • Very respectfully, Your obedient servant,
  • [Signed] E. W. Smith, CPT, 18th Inf., AAAG
  • NOON – 12:10 PM— FCW—Custer and the entire 7th Cavalry paraded before Terry, Gibbon, and Brisbin—in a column of fours—with the regimental trumpeters playing “Garryowen,” as Gibbon’s men cheered. As each company reached the reviewers, its officers went up to Terry, saluted, and the general spoke a few words to each of them. When the review was over, they started out for the Rosebud Creek valley (south). Verified by Wallace, Godfrey, and Herendeen. ➢ Vern Smalley speculates this was when times between the two columns were synchronized.
  • ➢ As the parade ended Gibbon wrote, “I made some pleasant remark. Warning [Custer] against being greedy, and with a gay wave of his hand he called back: ‘No, I will not’….” Gibbon: “Now, don’t be greedy Custer, as there are Indians enough for all of us!”
  • ➢ Gibbon: “The pack-mules, in a compact body, followed the regiment; behind them came a rear-guard, and as that approached Custer shook hands with us and bade us good-bye. As he turned to leave us, I made some pleasant remark, warning him against being greedy, and with a gay wave of his hand he called back, ‘No, I will not,’ and rode off after his command. Little did we think we had seen him for the last time, or imagine under what circumstances we should next see that command, now mounting the bluffs in the distance with its little guidons gayly fluttering in the breeze.”
  • ➢ Godfrey wrote that the command moved out in a column of fours, each company followed by its pack mules.
  • ➢ CPT Benteen—It was shortly after the parade when Custer issued the order breaking up the wings and battalions.
  • ➢ MAJ Reno—Battalion assignments had been done away with before the regiment left the Yellowstone.
  • ➢ LT Godfrey—Battalion formations abolished on June 22 when starting the move up the Rosebud. Each company commander was made responsible for his own company regarding grazing and watering of horses.
  • 12:30 PM— FCW—John Gibbon—“The pack-mules, in a compact body, followed the regiment; behind them came a rear-guard, and as that approached Custer shook hands with us and bade us good-bye. As he turned to leave us, I made some pleasant remark, warning him against being greedy, and with a gay wave of his hand he called back, ‘No, I will not,’ and rode off after his command. Little did we think we had seen him for the last time, or imagine under what circumstances we should next see that command, now mounting the bluffs in the distance with its little guidons gayly fluttering in the breeze.”
  • 12:40 PM— FCW—The 7th Cavalry reached the mouth of the Rosebud. Wallace described the stream as a narrow creek, about three or four feet wide and three inches deep! The mouth, however, was broad. High bluffs to the west, sage-covered hills to the east. The narrow creek snaked through the eastern flats. It was a rainy day.
  • ➢ Column stops to re-tie packs, sloppily done in the early morning, probably because most of the packers were hung-over.
  • ➢ LT Wallace: “It was a clear running stream, from three to four feet wide, and about three inches deep; bottom gravel, but in many places water standing in pools. Water slightly alkaline…. We had plenty of wood and water, and grass for our animals. During the greater part of the march the trail followed the high ground, or second bottom, where the soil was poor, the grass thin, and crowded out by sage-brush and cactus. In the lower part of the valley the soil appeared to be good, the grazing fair, the bottom timbered with large cottonwood. Small willows grew thickly along the banks in many places. For the first eight miles the hills sloped back gradually, but near camp were more abrupt, and covered with stones and cactus. Several deep ravines were crossed during the day. The only serious obstacle to a wagon-train would be the numerous crossings of the bends of the Rosebud. Weather clear, but not unpleasantly warm. No game visible. Plenty of fish in the creek.”
  • ➢ Cross to west side of the Rosebud (left bank).
  • ➢ Custer sent the Rees out in advance—though their fear of the Sioux kept them remarkably close to the column—with Soldier leading one group and Bob-tail Bull leading another.
  • ➢ Because the valley narrowed sharply, Custer was forced to cross and re-cross the creek, causing problems with the pack mules as they struggled through the foliage-hidden creek bed.
  • ➢ Custer was still very concerned Reno’s unauthorized scout up the valley had alerted the hostiles and that they were watching the column. SOP in those days was the Indians would allow the soldiers to get only so close to their village and then they would attack, allowing time for the village to slip away.
  • ➢ As the column moved farther up the valley, the terrain became more difficult.
  • 1:00 PM—FCW—Custer sends the Rees out in advance—though their fear of the Sioux kept them remarkably close to the column—with Soldier leading one group and Bob-tail Bull leading another. LT Wallace wrote: “… the trail followed the high ground, or second bottom, where the soil was poor, the grass thin, and crowded out by sagebrush and cactus. In the lower part of the valley the soil appeared to be good, the grazing fair, the bottom timbered with large cottonwood. Small willows grew thickly along the banks in many places…”. As the column moved farther up the valley, the terrain became more difficult.
  • 3:00 PM— FCW—Terry-Gibbon Column—Terry—aboard the Far West—dispatches six Rees with mail to PRD. He also requested MAJ Moore send additional supplies upriver on the Josephine. Heavy, cold wind blowing out of the north.
  • 4:00 PM— FCW—7th Cavalry—Custer ordered camp near the base of a steep bluff on the west bank of the creek, about 12 miles from where they started, 10 miles up the Rosebud. Wood, grass, and water were in adequate supply. (Verified by Godfrey [Smalley, Little Bighorn Mysteries, 2 – 2].)
  • Terry-Gibbon ColumnFar West leaves the mouth of the Rosebud and heads upriver toward old Fort Pease. Terry, Gibbon, and Brisbin were on board.
  • 5:00 PM—Gibbon/Montana Column—After traveling some 22 miles over bad roads, the wagons camped along the Yellowstone, below the cavalry. Plan is to continue to old Fort Pease where the boats will join up and ferry the cavalry over the Yellowstone.
  • 5:30 PM— FCW—Freeman, Ball, and Bradley go into camp along the Yellowstone, the infantry and cavalry in sight of one another. They had traveled about 29 miles. The cavalry resumes its trumpet calls.
  • 8:15 PM— FCW—The Far West moors after traveling only about seventeen miles against a strong current. Rain stopped. Took in wood.
  • EVENING (ABOUT SUNSET: 8:50 ± PM)— FCW—7th Cavalry—Officers conference called by Custer.
  • ➢ Not a cheery get-together.
  • ➢ Flare-up between Custer and Benteen: Custer questioned loyalty of some of his officers and said they were grumbling behind his back to Terry. Benteen challenged Custer to name names, but Custer said Benteen was not one of those in question. (It was probably Keogh.)
  • ➢ Custer became very conciliatory after that (Gray does not mention this flare-up, but does say Custer encouraged his officers to cooperate; he does mention Benteen’s testiness, however). Willert brings it up, saying Benteen was the only person to have ever mentioned it and neither Godfrey nor Gibson—both of who wrote of the meeting—ever brought it up. Custer, uncharacteristically, even called for suggestions.
  • ➢ Custer tells his officers of his estimates of the size of the Indian force: Indian Office in Washington estimated 3,000 persons, translating to 850 warriors. That tied in with Boyer’s estimate of 400 lodges = 800 warriors. Custer figured another 500 might come out of the agencies for the summer, making a maximum of 1,500. “This figure was an underestimate, for General Sheridan’s attempts to control the agency Indians with heavy garrisons would drive out exceptionally large numbers of summer roamers. That was what Custer did not know” [Gray, Custer’s Last Campaign, 208].
  • ➢ Custer announces no more trumpet calls.
  • ➢ Officers’ watches were synchronized at this meeting.
  • ➢ Stable guards were to wake the troops at 3 AM; they were to march at 5:00 AM.
  • ➢ Benteen designated Officer-of-the-Day for the following day.
  • ➢ LT Godfrey wrote that watches were compared to ensure they were set on “official time.” This was the only instance of comparing watches mentioned in any of the journals.
  • ➢ Godfrey: “We did not have the local time, our watches were not changed.” Custer gave great discretion to the troop commanders, saying the only thing to come out of his HQ would be, “when to move out of and when to go into camp. All other details, such as reveille, stables, watering, halting, grazing, etc., on the march would be left to the judgment and discretion of the troop commanders; they were to keep within supporting distance of each other, not to get ahead of the scouts, or very far to the rear of the column.”
  • ➢ Godfrey claimed Custer showed a lack of self-confidence. “His manner and tone, usually brusque and aggressive, or somewhat rasping, was on this occasion conciliating and subdued.”
  • ➢ As lieutenants Wallace, Godfrey, and McIntosh were walking away, Wallace made the comment, “Godfrey, I believe General Custer is going to be killed… I have never heard Custer talk in that way before.”
  • ➢ Godfrey made the necessary preparations and gave the necessary orders to his company. During this routine, he came to the bivouac area of the scouts and met up with Mitch Boyer, Bloody Knife, and Half Yellow Face. Boyer saw him and—apparently at the suggestion of the Crow—asked Godfrey, “‘Have you ever fought against these Sioux?’” The following conversation ensued: Godfrey: “‘Yes,’ I replied. Then he [Boyer] asked, ‘Well, how many do you expect to find?’ I answered, ‘It is said we may find between one thousand and fifteen hundred.’ ‘Well, do you think we can whip that many?’ ‘Oh, yes, I guess so.’ After he had interpreted our conversation, he said to me with a good deal of emphasis, ‘Well, I can tell you we are going to have a —– big fight.’”
  • JUNE 21, 1876—WEDNESDAY
  • Terry-Custer/Dakota Colum
  • 6:00 AM—Custer marches the 7th Cavalry west towards the Rosebud.
  • 8:35 AM—Terry, on the Far West, arrives at Gibbon’s camp, immediately ordering him to send the remainder of his command up to the mouth of the Big Horn, picking up his “road-workers” along the way.
    ➢ Terry takes six of Bradley’s Crow scouts and assigns them to Custer (picked by Boyer): Half Yellow Face, White Swan, White Man Runs Him, Hairy Moccasin, Goes Ahead, and Curley.
    ➢ Terry hires George Herendeen to scout for Custer, primarily down Tullock’s Fork [present-day Tullock Creek] and then to meet Terry at the mouth of the Bighorn.
    ➢ Assigns Boyer to Custer.
  • 9:30 AM—Terry, Gibbon, Brisbin, Boyer, and the six Crows, steam up Yellowstone for mouth of Rosebud.
  • PRIOR TO 10:00 AM—Terry writes his June 21st report to Sheridan. In it, he mentions his plan to send Gibbon (and himself) to the mouth of the Little Big Horn and Custer up the Rosebud and across to the headwaters of the Little Big Horn, and down that river.
    ➢ This is similar in concept to his Rosebud plan: a quasi-pincer movement.
  • Terry wrote: “No Indians have been met with as yet, but traces of a large and recent village have been discovered 20 or 30 miles up the Rosebud. Gibbon’s column will move this morning on the north side of the Yellowstone for the mouth of the Big Horn, where it will be ferried across by the supply steamer, and whence it will proceed to the mouth of the Little Horn (sic), and so on. Custer will go up the Rosebud tomorrow with his whole regiment and thence to the Little Horn (sic), thence down the Little Horn (sic). I only hope that one of the two columns will find the Indians. I go personally with Gibbon.”
  • ➢ It is also interesting to note, Terry never said anything about a “pincer” attack, any plan of having the two columns meet. This was probably “in accordance with Sheridan’s idea that it was an absurdity to expect cooperation in such an open and broken country, especially since each column was believed able to take care of itself if it met the Indians” [Stewart, Custer’s Luck, 239]. Apparently, however, he used the phrase, “double movement.”
    ➢ This is also an insight into Terry’s thinking and plans for Custer’s route, using the discretion he would receive in an area other than his route up the Rosebud.
  • 11:45 AM—“Far West” arrives at mouth of Rosebud to await Custer’s arrival.
  • NOON—Custer finds a good place to camp, two miles below the mouth of the Rosebud and about 16 miles from previous camp, Yellowstone/Rosebud, Camp 24.
  • 12:30 PM—Tents pitched.
    ➢ Terry and Gibbon steam back down the two miles to Custer: “… the better point selected by Custer for his camp.”
    ➢ Crows report to Custer (in his “big” tent near the river’s edge), who in turn, has them report to LT Varnum.
    ➢ Not long after the camp was established, a mackinaw boat pulled into the south bank of the river. It was probably this boat that had the merchants from Bozeman. They sold fresh eggs and many other things, including straw hats, and they sold them much more cheaply than the traders and sutlers that had latched onto the column in its westward march.
    ➢ This is where Reno bought his straw hat for 25¢.
  • 2:00 PM – 4:00 PM—Strategy conference held on board the Far West: Terry, Gibbon, Custer, and Brisbin.
    ➢ Gibbon’s scouts had recently reported seeing smoke from the vicinity of the Little Big Horn, so it was assumed the Sioux were somewhere in that area.
    ➢ In an article published in the Los Angeles Times on November 8, 1884, MAJ Brisbin wrote, “The Indians had left the Rosebud and gone no one knew exactly where, but we had a pretty good idea, through our Crow scouts. The Sioux were on the big bend of the Little Horn.”
    ➢ Terry believed the Indians were at the headwaters of either the Little Big Horn or the Rosebud.
    ➢ Because of the melting snow fields of the Big Horn Mountains, it was thought that if the Indians were in the Little Big Horn valley, they could only be approached from two ways: “… the Indian position could only be approached from the north or east. If a concentrated attack were made from the north, a line of escape was left open to the eastward…. Terry’s plan was for Custer’s column… ‘to occupy this eastward line and so cut off escape in that direction before the Indians were disturbed, while Gibbon’s column closed in from the north.’” [Willert, Little Big Horn Diary, 197].
    ➢ Because of the disparity in troops and distances (Gibbon’s column, with its infantry, would be slower; Custer said he could move thirty miles a day; and Gibbon was sixty miles from the Big Horn), it was decided, if Custer reached the Little Big Horn valley by June 25th, he would have to lay low and mark time for a day until Gibbon’s command could reach the area.
    ➢ Terry wrote Sheridan telling of his desire Custer bypass the Indian trail if it led west into the Little Big Horn valley, and continue south (Custer should send scouts along the Indian trail). This way, Custer could ensure if the hostiles had moved south, up the Little Big Horn valley, or south and then back east, Custer would intersect them. If they had moved west and Custer were to follow their trail and the Sioux had turned south, Custer would find himself between Gibbon and the Sioux, merely forcing another chase and negating Terry’s “trap.”
    ➢ Terry wanted to bring the infantry into the fight. When Custer said his 7th Cavalry could win the fight without any support, Terry said, “I will not have the infantry out of the fight!”
    ➢ The idea was not a simultaneous attack, but an attack where one force—Gibbon’s—would act as a blocking force, and the other force—Custer’s—driving the Indians into the anvil.
    ➢ If the Sioux had moved south, it was figured they would run into Crook.
    ➢ LT Bradley wrote: “… a combined movement between the two columns in the neighborhood of the Sioux village about the same time and assist each other in the attack, it is understood that if Custer arrives first he is at liberty to attack at once if he deems prudent. We have little hope of being in on the death, as Custer will undoubtedly exert himself to the utmost to get there first and win all the laurels for himself and his regiment.”
    ➢ Both Terry and Gibbon emphasized to Custer the importance of adhering to this plan. Apparently, Custer was rather disconsolate about it.
    ➢ If the Sioux had not turned west and gone into the Little Big Horn valley, but had continued south, then Custer was to pursue them and send messengers back to inform Terry.
    ➢ COL John Gibbon wrote: “Hence it was agreed that Custer, instead of proceeding at once into the valley of the Little Big Horn, even should the trail lead there, should continue on up the Rosebud, get closer to the mountains, and then striking west, come down the valley of the Little Big Horn, ‘feeling constantly to his left,’ to be sure that the Indians had not already made their escape to the south and eastward. General Terry, applying a scale to the map, measured the distances, and made the calculation in miles that each command would have to travel.”
    ➢ There was some thought the Sioux may have been camped on Tullock’s Creek, “a broad valley, running oblique to the Yellowstone, whose western terminus touched the lower Big Horn River, and whose eastern opening emerged somewhere near the valley of the Rosebud…. [T]he plat was accurate on Terry’s official map” [Willert, Little Big Horn Diary, 200].
    ➢ Gibbon would explore the lower reaches, Custer the higher.
    ➢ In his American Catholic Quarterly article, Gibbon states his assignment was: “… and up [the Little Big Horn River] to co-operate with Custer’s command.”
    ➢ Because of his knowledge of that area, George Herendeen was transferred to Custer.
    ➢ Brisbin wrote a letter to Godfrey in January 1892, saying, “… that at General Terry’s request he traced the routings of the troops on the map and placed pins to show their probable places en route; that Custer turned to the right and left the Rosebud just twenty miles short of his furthermost point on the Rosebud routing.”
    ➢ In a footnote, Graham seems to indicate his belief Custer “is given discretion” in these orders, “when so nearly in contact with the enemy, etc.”
    ➢ Obviously, in Terry’s report afterwards, he noted the trail should not have been followed, but Custer should have proceeded up the Rosebud.
    ➢ Custer refuses LT Low’s Gatling battery as too slow and cumbersome—condemned cavalry horses. Battery ordered to join Gibbon’s column, report to CPT Ball, and take thirteen mules, injured with Reno’s march, with him. According to Brisbin, initially Custer accepted Low’s battery then changed his mind, probably having asked Reno his opinion.
    ➢ Custer’s orders: Sioux thought to be on upper reaches of the Little Bighorn. Custer ordered to move up the Rosebud to its headwaters. Once there, he was to swing west, cross the Little Big Horn-Rosebud divide, and aim for the upper reaches of the Little Big Horn River, all the while feeling out towards his left to make sure the Sioux did not escape to the east. Once at the upper Little Big Horn, he was to head down the valley towards the blocking position at the mouth of the river established by the Terry/Gibbon forces. The latter column—smaller, slower, less mobile, and with fewer scouts—was expected to be in position by June 26th, thus some emphasis on Custer going up to the headwaters of the Rosebud to give Terry the time to enter the Little Big Horn valley. Custer was to drive the Sioux towards the blocking position. He was given almost total discretion in his execution of the plan.
    ➢ At this time the scouts placed the Indian strength at some 5,000 warriors, while Custer and a few others anticipated 1,000 to 1,500. It appears most officers felt even that number was too high.
    ➢ In a very good synopsis of what was expected of Custer, Neil Mangum wrote: “If the trail veered west to the Little Big Horn as expected, Custer was it ignore it and continue south up the Rosebud before turning west and descending the Little Big Horn—unless he saw sufficient reasons to change the orders. The rationale for not directly following the Indian trail across to the Little Big Horn was to minimize the possibility of detection, and reduce the chances of ‘scattering’ the enemy. Indians were notorious for scattering into small bands and melting into the countryside to avoid major confrontations and to elude pursuers, much the way partisan rangers, such as those under John Singleton Mosby, had done during the Civil War. Terry expressed to Custer the necessity of preventing the Indians’ escape by advancing far enough south before turning west. Custer’s positioning on the headwaters of the Little Big Horn River would enable him to intercept fleeing warriors, give battle, or at least drive them north, down the valley, into Gibbon’s column marching up the Little Big Horn” [Mangum, “The Little Big Horn Campaign,” Blue & Gray, 2006, 19 – 20].
    ➢ Custer’s total strength: 607 uniformed personnel—31 officers, 576 EM. Five scouts and QM employees—Mitch Boyer, George Herendeen, Charley Reynolds, Bloody Knife, and Boston Custer. Two interpreters—Isaiah Dorman and Fred Gerard; 34 enlisted Indian scouts—24 Ree, six Crow, four Dakota. Two civilians—Autie Reed and Mark Kellogg; five civilian packers.
    ➢ Total: 655
    ➢ Twelve pack mules assigned to each company (Bruce Liddic claims 175 mules accompanied Custer’s column; Willert also used 175 mules. In the Army and Navy Journal, it was reported Custer took 185 pack mules.
    ➢ In addition, according the Ree scout, Red Star, five mules were assigned to the scouts.
    ➢ Fifteen days rations of hardtack, coffee, and sugar, and twelve days rations of bacon.
    ➢ 24,000 rounds of reserve ammunition carried on the twelve strongest mules (two boxes of 1,000 rounds, each, per mule).
    ➢ 100 rounds of carbine and twenty-four rounds of pistol ammo issued to each man. These were to last for the duration of the final push, estimated to be 15 days.
    ➢ Twelve pounds of oats issued to each man for his individual horse.
    ➢ An extra supply of salt in case they were forced to eat horsemeat.
  • AFTER 4:00 PM—Officers’ call was sounded and the 7th Cavalry’s officers assembled in and around Custer’s tent for a briefing.
    ➢ His manner was curt. His emphasis was on locating and pursuing the Indians, and he blamed Reno for possibly alerting them.
    ➢ Custer dissolves his wing and battalion commands. This came as a surprise.
  • 7:00 PM + — A short, but fierce, hail and thunderstorm hits.
  • EVENING—Many sang songs: “Larboard Watch” (Reno and LT John Carland, B/6I), Shenandoah, Annie Laurie, and Lorena:
  • The year creeps slowly by Lorena,
    The snow is on the grass again,
    The sun’s low down the sky, Lorena,
    The frost is where the flowers have been,
    But the heart throbs on as warmly now
    As when the summer days were night;
    Oh, the sun can never dip so low
    As down affection’s cloudless sky.
  • Annie Laurie was the war song of the Crimean War. The last verse:
  • Go soldiers to your honored rest
    The bravest are the tenderest
    The loving and the daring
  • ➢ Other favorites were “Bonny Jean,” “Fairy Bell,” “Over the Sea,” “Lightly Row,” “Little Brown Jug,” “Mollie Darling,” “Captain Jinks,” “Drill Ye Tarriers,” “The Man on the Flying Trapeze,” “Dinah’s Wedding,” “La Paloma,” “Grandfather’s Clock,” “Little Footsteps, Soft and Gentle,” “The Good-Bye at the Door,” “Jeannie With the Light Brown Hair,” “Susan James,” “Soldaten Lieder,” “The Blue Danube,” and “Doxology.” Another favorite, composed by the bandleader, Felix Vinatieri, was “The Mosquitoes of Dakota Waltz.”
    ➢ A verse from Captain Jinks:
  • I joined the Corps when twenty-one,
    Of course I thought it capital fun,
    When the enemy comes, of course I run,
    For I’m not cut out for the Army.
  • NIGHT—Dark and cloudy. No moon, just a few stars; slight sprinkle.
    ➢ It was this evening or night when Custer and Benteen got into something of a tiff. A group of officers—including Custer and Benteen—sat around discussing the campaign and Benteen mentioned he hoped he would be better supported than he was at the Washita. The exchange between the two men got rather heated.
    ➢ Indian scouts singing and dancing their death dances.
    ➢ It was truly an evening and night of gloom and apprehension.
  • LATE NIGHT TO > 2:00 AM—A high-stakes poker game on the “Far West” finally broke up: Tom Custer, Jim Calhoun, CPT William Crowell (6th Infantry), Grant Marsh, and others. Apparently, Crowell won several thousand dollars (one source claimed $6,000). George Custer, Boston Custer, Autie Reed, and Walter Burleigh (clerk of the Far West) were there as well, all attended to by PVT John Burkman, Custer’s striker.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • 6:00 AM—Gibbon, anticipating the change in Terry’s plans, sends three companies (H, E, and K, 7th Infantry) under CPT Freeman, up the north bank of the Yellowstone to do some roadwork and build bridges. The Big Horn confluence was some sixty miles away.
    ➢ Gibbon now had at his command: A, B, and I/7I, and F, G, H, and L/2C; and the Diamond-R supply train contingent.
  • ➢ LT Bradley, with his mounted infantry and Crow scouts, leaves to scout the van for Gibbon’s column. He was very upset at losing Boyer and six of his best Crow scouts.
  • 9:30 AM – 10:00 AM—Gibbon’s column starts up north bank of Yellowstone for Fort Pease and the Big Horn River.
  • 7:00 PM—Gibbon’s column marches about nineteen miles and establishes a bivouac a short distance below the mouth of the Great Porcupine. They pick up Freeman’s three companies of the 7th Infantry (E, H, and K) who were building roads in advance of the column. Heavy hailstorm, then a short shower ended the day.
  • MIDNIGHT—LT Low’s Gatling gun battery catches up to Gibbon’s bivouac.
  • JUNE 20, 1876—TUESDAY
  • Dakota Column
  • Terry’s new orders directed Custer to take the remaining six companies of the 7th Cavalry, LT Low’s Gatling battery, the pack train, and the Ree scouts, up to Reno’s bivouac, assume command and proceed to the mouth of the Rosebud. Another very hot day, maybe the warmest yet.
  • 8:00 AM—Custer leaves Tongue River camp to join Reno.
    ➢ Heads south along east bank of Tongue, looking for a suitable ford.
    ➢ About two miles upriver, Custer crosses and leads a brisk march toward Reno’s camp, eager to chew Reno’s butt for disobeying orders.
  • 9:15 AM—Far West, now loaded with supplies, heads up the Yellowstone to Reno’s camp.
  • 11:30 AM—Custer arrives at Reno’s bivouac.
    ➢ Custer administers the appropriate tongue-lashing to Reno, though Terry’s arrival smoothed things over somewhat.
    ➢ Custer was furious Reno could not report the exact number of Indians and the precise direction they were heading instead of “guessing.”
    ➢ Some time in here is when Reno’s six companies had their sabers crated up.
    ➢ Troops now looked like tough, hardened veterans, with faded uniforms, trimmed beards, and they spent some time relaxing and cutting hair, cleaning, etc.
  • 12:30 PM—Terry, on the Far West, arrives at Reno’s camp.
    ➢ Conference on board the steamer.
  • 3:45 PM—Terry starts up Yellowstone, on the steamer, to join Gibbon at mouth of the Rosebud.
    ➢ Takes the entire Gatling battery with him to spare them the rugged march up to the Rosebud.
  • 4:00 PM—Custer resumes march up Yellowstone to Gibbon’s camp (four miles below mouth of Rosebud).
    ➢ Rosebud is approximately seventy miles from the mouth of the Powder River.
  • 8:02 PM, LOCAL TIME—Sunset.
  • 8:30 PM—Custer goes into camp, Yellowstone, Camp 23, about fourteen miles west of Reno’s camp.
  • EVENING—Doctors Porter and DeWolf, LTs Harrington and Hodgson, go out pistol shooting. Porter came out best, DeWolf next.
  • 9:00 PM—Far West arrives at its mooring spot, alongside the Seventh’s encampment.
  • 11:00 PM—LT Godfrey and his K Company, the rear guard, finally arrive at the camp.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • Remained in camp all day. Train issued rations and took inventory: 48,000 lbs of stores.
  • The Indians
  • The Sioux and Cheyenne remained in their camp on the east side of the Little Big Horn, up-valley from Reno Creek. Scouting parties had spotted fresh signs of antelope downriver near where the Little Big Horn flows into the Big Horn. Plans to move up the valley were changed.
    ➢ Other scouts reported Crook’s column was moving farther away.
    ➢ No scouts were in the vicinity of the Yellowstone or lower Rosebud.
    ➢ The last time the Indians had seen any soldiers along the Yellowstone, those soldiers—Gibbon’s column—were moving downriver. They had pulled their scouts, so had no idea that the soldiers had reversed course and were now headed back upstream and into the Rosebud valley. This, obviously, was a mistake.
  • JUNE 19, 1876—MONDAY
  • Reno Scout
  • 4:30 AM—Reno breaks camp and heads down the south bank of the Yellowstone to join Terry at the mouth of the Tongue River. The trail was so rugged, it took Reno four hours to go the first 9¾ miles.
  • 3:00 PM—Reno again moving through torturous terrain.
  • 4:00 PM—Finally, Reno decided his troops and horses had enough and he camps on the south bank of the Yellowstone, on a plateau in the badlands above the river and eight miles above Terry and Custer on the Tongue, having covered 33 miles that day. The total reconnaissance was 240½ miles.
    ➢ Reno sends a courier to Terry with Gibbon’s note and his own report. The courier was probably Mitch Boyer, since he was the only one who knew this territory (another Indian scout may have accompanied him). Willert says Reno sent two Indian scouts. Reno, in his report, makes no effort to predict where the Sioux are, though he does say where they are not.
  • SUNSET—Boyer, with reports, reaches Custer at Tongue/Yellowstone camp.
  • Dakota Column
  • Another very hot day.
    ➢ Custer remains in camp, Mouth of Tongue River, Camp 22A.
  • While Terry was very upset Reno was not only late (he was expected back on June 16th or 17th) and had “flagrantly disobeyed” his orders, he also realized Reno had saved them all from extreme embarrassment and a serious fiasco on the Rosebud.
    ➢ Custer was even more furious at Reno: “Had [Reno] pursued and overtaken the village, this error would have been forgotten; but instead, he countermarched to the rear… to report his blunder.”
    ➢ Terry immediately set about devising a new and more flexible plan and ordered his aide, CPT Robert Hughes up to Reno’s camp to tell him to stay there and he would be joined by the rest of the column.
    ➢ When Hughes returned to the Tongue River camp after speaking with Reno, he briefed Terry, who then called a strategy meeting with Custer, Benteen, and other officers.
    ➢ “It was military economics that well-trained troops could probably outfight and defeat an untrained, undisciplined adversary three times their number” [Willert, Little Big Horn Diary, 189].
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • Remained in camp all day.
  • EARLY EVENING—Wheelan and Thompson return. They found no sign of the Sioux north of the Yellowstone, but they had decided to probe the region just south of the confluence of the Big Horn and Yellowstone: the Crow scouts with them “reported seeing large fires in the direction of the Little Horn (Valley)…”; moreover that the Crow Village had moved westward!
    ➢ LT Bradley felt the westward movement of the Crow village indicated the Sioux were likewise headed in that direction. “The Crow village which some weeks ago was on the Big Horn seems to have disappeared from that country—another indication that the Sioux are heading in that direction. It is pretty well demonstrated that they have no intention of crossing to the north side of the Yellowstone, as they would not have passed so high up the stream for that purpose.”
  • Crook/Wyoming Column
  • 1:00 AM—Crook’s nervous pickets fire on unknown objects. A recon was sent out, but nothing was found.
  • LATER IN THE DAY—Crook’s command reaches Goose Creek. The Shoshone scouts depart.
  • The Indians
  • The Indians had moved down Medicine Dance Creek (Ash/Reno Creek), but did not cross the Little Big Horn. Instead, they “entered the valley by skirting the east bank of the river, where it angled across the valley from its channel along the western hills. The Little Horn… sources are in the Big Horn Mountains… [and the river] etches obliquely across the valley floor to continue its northward course beneath the valley’s eastern bluffs. The Indians had moved into the valley above this oblique channel, and had thus avoided having to ford the river” [Willert, 187].
    ➢ The Cheyenne were camped to the south, heading up the valley, for this was their original intent. It was only after they were there awhile, that the decision was made to move down the valley.
    ➢ Indian scouts tracked Crook’s forces away from the Indian camp, so they felt the threat from the soldiers was subsiding.
  • JUNE 18, 1876—SUNDAY
  • Reno Scout
  • 5:30 AM—Reno breaks camp and travels the 18¾ miles down the Rosebud, plus another 1 – 1¼ miles down the south bank of the Yellowstone—east—to a point, opposite and within three miles of Gibbon’s camp. The day was very hot.
  • NOON – 2:00 PM—Reno goes into camp, a nice area with plenty grazing for the horses. All their grain had been consumed and the grazing on the scout had been very poor.
  • ➢ Gibbon’s scouts report the approach of Reno’s column.
  • ➢ Gibbon, not knowing it was Reno, assumed it was Terry and tried to get a note to him across the raging Yellowstone. Two Crow scouts—one of them Jack Rabbit Bull—swam the river with the note.
  • ➢ While it was difficult for Reno and Gibbon to communicate (because of the river), Reno did manage to inform Gibbon that he had seen no Sioux.
  • ➢ The two commands apparently communicated by Army signals.
  • ➢ With all this, Gibbon wrote Terry he thought the Indians were either near the headwaters of the Rosebud or the upper Little Bighorn. Never once—despite later protestations—did any of them think of the lower Little Bighorn. “Gibbon would express this uncertainty as to the hostiles whereabouts at this time: ‘… As it was, we were still groping in the dark in regard to the location of the hostile camps, and had every reason to believe that the Sioux (,) with their women and children (,) were solicitous only to avoid us.’”
  • ➢ Gibbon obviously knew Terry’s attack plan had to be changed.
  • ➢ This note was delivered to Reno to give to Terry.
  • ➢ LT Bradley wrote in his diary: “Boyer… counted 360 lodge fires, and estimated that there were enough beside to make the number of lodges about 400… The lodges had been arranged in nine circles, within supporting distance of each other, within which the Indians evidently secured their horses at night, showing that they considered an attack not unlikely and were prepared for it. A well-defined trail led from the site of the village across the plain toward the Little Big Horn, and it is now thought that the Indians will be found upon that stream.”
  • Dakota Column
  • Custer remains in camp, Mouth of Tongue River, Camp 22A.
  • ➢ LT Maguire somehow measured the width of the Yellowstone here and found it to be 426 yards across.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • Gibbon remains in camp.  The wagon master, Carroll, wrote in his diary that scouts came in this evening reporting a large Indian camp supposed to be on the Big Horn.
  • Crook/Wyoming Column
  • Crook begins his move to Goose Creek. After traveling 22 miles, Crook pitched camp near the divide separating the Tongue River valley from the Little Big Horn valley.
  • BEFORE NIGHTFALL—Crow scouts inform Crook they are departing, but will return in fifteen days. They never do.
  • The Indians
  • The Indian camps moved this morning. They reached the Little Big Horn and turned south, camping along the east side of the river.
  • ➢ The Indians never camped in a straight line during this period. The form of the land and the streams determined the tribes’ locations. The only protocol was none would camp ahead of the Cheyenne or behind the Hunkpapa.
  • ➢ They stayed in this location for “six sleeps….”
  • ➢ The five Arapaho joined the camp during this period, as did more Cheyenne.
  • ➢ The Cheyenne and Sioux camp was now located along the east bank of the Little Big Horn River and south of the confluence of Reno Creek.
  • JUNE 17, 1876—SATURDAY
  • Reno Scout
  • 8:00 AM—Reno breaks camp and continues to march up the Rosebud for 7½ miles (R – 33¾).
    ➢ Willert brought up an interesting point when he conjectured, if roving Indian scouts had happened upon Reno, the Indian force could have conceivably attacked him instead of Crook.
    ➢ The Ree scouts preceded the column.
    ➢ Portions of the lodge pole trail seemed to be from one to two weeks old, some appearing fresher than others. There were no indications the Indians were in any hurry.
  • 10:00 AM—Reno Scout—Reno halts for several hours. This halt was probably between Pony Creek and Greenleaf Creek [R – 34]. His troops examined an old entrenchment area where 149 prospectors from Bozeman held off a large party of Sioux, April 5, 1874. [Township 12, Section 13, NW ¼, Rosebud County.]
    ➢ The scouts examined the next Sioux campsite at R – 34 (junction of Greenleaf Creek and the Rosebud), abandoned June 4th. They also had to assure themselves the heavy and deep trail continued up the Rosebud rather than southeast along Greenleaf Creek.
    ➢ During this halt, Reno took extra precautions to guard against discovery: no trumpets or loud noises and pickets were posted around camp.
    ➢ While Reno waited at his halt, Boyer, the only scout familiar with the territory, led the Rees up the Rosebud, and about 12¼ miles out, reached the next Sioux camp at R – 46. This was Sitting Bull’s famous sundance camp (abandoned June 8).
    ➢ When Custer’s column reached this site on June 24, LT Godfrey noted the size at 300 – 400 lodges.
    ➢ Boyer figured the village sites were up to several weeks old, but the trails between those sites were much newer, maybe only one week. The inference being the village of about 400 lodges (containing an estimated 3,000 Indians, maybe 1/3 to ½ of whom were warriors) had been more recently joined by other bands of Indians moving after the main body.
    ➢ Stewart wrote, Reno reported finding, “a great Indian trail more than half a mile wide made by thousands of trailing lodgepoles.”
    ➢ Boyer continued up the Rosebud and at R – 53, came to another oblique bend of the river, at a point where Lame Deer Creek joins from the southeast.
    ➢ Boyer, in all likelihood, scouted just enough more to ensure the trail did not leave the Rosebud at this point. In fact, it continued up the Rosebud.
    ➢ Boyer turned back here, and when reporting to Reno, said the soldiers could overtake the Sioux in a day’s march. John Gray stated these claims were made not based on a fresher campsite, but on fresher overlay trails that joined at Lame Deer Creek.
    ➢ It was probably somewhere near here as well, the Indian trail became “more than a mile wide, the earth so furrowed by thousands of travois poles that it resembled a plowed field” [Connell, Son of the Morning Star, 267].
    ➢ “Along the way, they examined travois trails that appeared to be even fresher than the village sites. Clearly, other bands were moving after the main camp” [Donovan, A Terrible Glory, 165].
    ➢ “If asked, [Boyer] could have added that the trail would probably continue to the Busby bend of the Rosebud (R – 70), where it could turn south up the Rosebud, west toward the Little Bighorn, or north down Tullock’s Fork” [Gray, Custer’s Last Campaign, 192].
    ➢ Reno now decides to turn back, stating Custer had said to, “turn back if we found the trail” [Gray, 192].
  • 4:00 PM—Reno heads downriver, covering another fifteen miles.
  • 8:00 PM—Reno goes into camp at R – 18¾, about four miles below where he entered the valley.
  • Dakota Column
  • 4:00 AM—Reveille. It had rained an hour or two earlier and the morning was cool and misty.
  • 6:00 AM—Custer’s column moves out, riding briskly, Benteen in the lead.
  • 8:00 AM—Far West starts out for mouth of Tongue River
  • 8:30 AM—
  • Custer reaches the Tongue River junction with the Yellowstone (near present-day Miles City, Montana), and pitches camp in heavily wooded area on the Tongue’s east bank, Mouth of Tongue River, Camp 22A.
  • NOON—Far West arrives, mooring near Custer’s camp.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • Gibbon remained in bivouac.
  • PLEASE NOTE—THE CROOK/ROSEBUD BATTLE FALLS WELL BEYOND MY EXPERTISE. MUCH OF WHAT YOU READ BELOW HAS BEEN SUMMARIZED FROM NEIL MANGUM’S SUPERB BOOK, BATTLE OF THE ROSEBUD.
  • Crook/Wyoming Column
  • 3:00 AM—Stirring in the camp, fires lit, men preparing coffee. Everyone knew they were in the heart of Sioux country.
    ➢ The Rosebud at this camp was a sluggish stream, no wider than twenty yards in any place and less than ten yards in most, with thickets of wild roses along its banks.
    ➢ Crook always moved the infantry first, then cavalry, then packs.
  • 6:00 AM—Column began to move.
    ➢ They traveled less than three miles when the creek’s north fork entered the main stream from the left.
    ➢ For the next 2¾ miles the creek flowed eastward through a narrow valley; then switches back to a northward flow.
    ➢ The lead battalions were Mills (A, E, I, and M/3C) and Noyes (A, B, D, E, and I/2C).
  • 8:00 AM—Crook ordered a halt to brew coffee and rest. 
     ➢ Crow scouts warned Crook there were signs of Sioux in the area.
    ➢ Crook dispatched pickets to the hills north of the camp.
    ➢ At this point the valley was ½-mile wide.
    ➢ To the south, bluffs rose 500 feet above the valley floor.
    ➢ North of the camp was a series of ridges 150 – 800 yards from the creek.
    ➢ The main crest, now known as Crook’s Hill, was about one mile north of the ridges and extended for about three miles, northwest to southeast.
    ➢ “A spur ridge comes in one mile west of Crook Hill and runs at an acute angle southeast for one mile until its termination several hundred yards above the creek, ½-mile east of the west bend [of the creek].” This is called Royall’s Ridge today.
    ➢ Between Royall’s Ridge and Crook’s Hill lies a broad expanse known as Kollmar. “The head of Kollmar originates just over one mile west of Crook Hill. Kollmar parallels Royall Ridge and extends southeast for two miles before emptying into Rosebud Creek at a point midway between the west bend and the Kobold House.”
    ➢ Mills occupied the right bank of the Rosebud opposite the Kobold House.
    ➢ CPT Van Vliet (C and G/3C) was in the center.
    ➢ CPT Henry (B, D, F, and L/3C) followed Van Vliet.
    ➢ Noyes was on the left bank, opposite Mills.
    ➢ After Noyes came MAJ Chambers’ infantry (D and F/4I; and C, G, and H/9I).
    ➢ The packers and miners were in the rear and were not yet fully in camp.
    ➢ Gunfire was heard to the north (where the pickets were), but nothing was thought of it, many believing the scouts were just having some fun. As it grew in intensity, others believed it was just firing at buffalo. Soon, the shots were heard spreading out.
    ➢ A number of Shoshone and Crow scouts moved north and about eleven miles from the camp, ran into a small force of Sioux on Corral Creek. Pushing back the small band of Sioux, the scouts suddenly encountered larger bands and finally, they pulled back quickly, followed by several hundred hostiles.
    ➢ Sioux were not only in the north, but east and west of the valley.
  • 8:30 AM—Near the head of the Rosebud (R – 91), Sioux and Cheyenne warriors commenced their attack on Crook’s Wyoming column, whipping him in an indecisive battle lasting most of the day. Crook was forced to retire with his wounded, camping along Goose Creek.
    ➢ The Sioux village, having already left the Rosebud at its Busby bend, was camped west of the Little Big Horn-Rosebud divide. This was the camp on Reno Creek where the so-called “lone tepee” was later found.
    ➢ Stewart claimed they used only half their force of warriors to attack Crook, the rest staying back to protect the camp.
    ➢ Stewart also claimed the tribes had gone into the Little Big Horn valley, but finding game scarce, they moved back into the Rosebud valley, then later, back across into the Little Big Horn. The camp was said to have contained 12,000 inhabitants.
    ➢ The Cheyenne were camped at the lone tepee.
  • ➢ CPT Randall, Chief-of-Scouts, quickly formed his scouts on a skirmish line north of the camp and for the first twenty minutes of the fight, Randall’s scouts and the pickets formed the only barrier between the Sioux and the rest of Crook’s command.
    ➢ Indians got within 500 yards of the camp.
    ➢ The main Indian thrusts were from the northeast and west.
    ➢ Crook decided he needed to secure the bluffs to his south, as well as the high ground to the north. He sent Van Vliet to take the southern bluffs. Indians had the same idea, but Van Vliet ran them off: “… the top was a broad flat plain.”
    ➢ An excellent description of the Indians’ tactics was provided by CPT Azor H. Nickerson, Crook’s adjutant: “The warriors dashed here, there, everywhere; up and down in ceaseless activity… Our efforts were directed toward closing in with the enemy by a series of charges, and theirs to avoiding close contact until, by the nature of the ground, our forces began to get scattered, and then their tactics changed from the defensive to the offensive. Each separate detachment was made the objective of terrific onslaughts; the warriors charging up to them, careening on their horses, and firing from behind them, while exposing as little of their own persons as possible. All the time they were whooping and yelling, hoping thereby to strike terror into the hearts of their adversaries and if possible, stampede them.”
    ➢ The Indians “‘were extremely bold and fierce,’ said the reliable Lieutenant Bourke, who took notes during the fighting, ‘and showed a disposition to come up and have it out hand to hand…. They advanced in excellent style.’”
    ➢ Crook’s left rested near where the Rosebud’s north fork joins the main creek; this was the west bend of the Rosebud.
    ➢ Henry’s battalion was ordered to occupy and hold a low hillock south of the Rosebud, some 300 yards east of the west bend. This—with Van Vliet’s positioning—secured Crook’s left and rear.
    ➢ Crook now ordered captains Burrowes (G/9I) and Burt (H/9I) to take the ridges to the immediate north; and captains Cain (D/4I) and Luhn (F/4I) and CPT Munson (C/9I), west of the others, were ordered to move forward, northward, as well, as skirmishers. The miners and packers were on the infantry’s left flank. Large numbers of warriors charged in quickly on the infantry.
    ➢ Strips of red cloth had been issued to the scouts to differentiate them from the hostiles [CPT Henry Rowan Lemly, “The Fight on the Rosebud,” Valor in Arms, Summer 1975, 9 – 10].
  • > 9:30 AM—By this time Crook had stabilized his command and had driven the Indians back. He was spread out over three miles, however, and this concerned him.
    ➢ The miners and packers got into the fight and at this time held the northwestern edge of Crook’s defense at Packers Rock. Some men held the southern edge of the ridge. These latter men were facing west looking at the broad Kollmar Creek valley.
    ➢ Crook was on the ridge’s southwest crest along with three companies of Mills’ cavalry.
    ➢ Three infantry companies occupied the center of Crook’s Hill.
    ➢ To the infantry’s right was Noyes’ 2nd Cavalry along a long sloping ridge leading to a gap.
    ➢ Royall, with five companies of cavalry—B, D, F, I, and L/3C—charged the warriors, but his position in the Kollmar valley separated him from the rest of Crook’s command. Elements of CPT Andrews’ I/3C under LT Foster got too far out front and Andrews had to order him back, both officers realizing Foster’s peril.
  • 10:00 AM—Royall now concentrated his command at the head of Kollmar Creek, one mile west of Crook’s Hill, at the eastern end of a series of rocks and ledges. Andrews was at the western end of what is known today as Andrews Point.
    ➢ One of the officers wrote: “Nothing had been accomplished by our repeated charges except to drive the Sioux from one crest, to immediately reappear upon the next…. Nothing tangible seemed to be gained by prolonging the contest. When we took a crest, no especially advantage accrued by occupying it, and the Sioux ponies always outdistanced our grain-fed American horses in the race for the next one.” [Lemly, “The Fight on the Rosebud,” 8].
    ➢ Indians recognized Royall’s precarious position and about 500 warriors converged on him from the west, north, and south. The troops’ carbines, however, kept them at a distance.
  • 10:30 AM – 11:00 AM—Crook ordered Royall back toward the main body, but Royall sent only one company—Meinhold’s B/3C.
    ➢ It was around this time when Crook figured the only reason the warriors were fighting this hard with this many was their camp was nearby. This, of course, was incorrect.
    ➢ Crook now ordered CPT Mills to search out the village down the canyon.
    ➢ In all likelihood, seeing this, the Indians interpreted Mills’ departure as the beginning of a general retreat. The Indians would severely press a retreating force and they attacked Royall furiously.
    ➢ Royall now tried to re-join Crook’s force to the east, but he had waited too long, and Indians drove a wedge between Royall and Meinhold.
    ➢ Seeing this, Royall decided he could only move south to a long ridge south of Kollmar.
    ➢ Royall sent his held-horses first; then endured fierce charges… without a casualty.
    ➢ Royall’s second position was at the western edge of the ridge’s crest.
    ➢ Andrews (I/3C) and Vroom (L/3C) were posted to the north slope, facing their first position which was now occupied by the warriors. Henry (D/3C) and Reynolds (F/3C) were to occupy the south slope, arriving just ahead of warriors attempting to outflank the command.
    ➢ In the meantime, another force of warriors charged down Kollmar, splitting Crook and Royall, and wound up in the camp area the troops had just occupied. Only Van Vliet’s arrival stemmed the attack (see 11:30 AM).
    ➢ The warriors backed away from Van Vliet’s cavalry.
  • 10:45 AM ± —As the Indians moved back up Kollmar, they were attacked in the flank by the Crow and Shoshone scouts under Randall and Bourke.
    ➢ The warriors pulled back in confusion, but rallied, and fighting became hand-to-hand. Finally, the warriors were forced to pull back.
  • 11:00 AM—Scouts returned to their position after driving off the Sioux.
    ➢ By this time Sioux were pressuring Royall from three sides.
    ➢ Crook now ordered his infantry to advance on the Indians occupying Conical Hill, the higher ground forming the northwestern extension of Crook’s Hill. The companies of captains Cain (D/4I), Luhn (F/4I), and Munson (C/9I) advanced, Cain on the left—his flank anchored by the edge of the bluffs—Luhn in the center, and Munson on the right, his flank bordered by the edge of the plateau.
    ➢ The Indians pulled off Conical Hill; the infantry occupied it momentarily and then withdrew.
  • 11:30 AM—Van Vliet (C and G/3C) arrives, taking up the slack from the departed Mills.
    ➢ Again, Crook sent a messenger to Royall to pull back. Royall, however, was sorely pressed and had only about 150 dismounted cavalrymen (not counting horse-holders).
    ➢ As the troops backed away in preparation to mounting, they came under tremendous Indian fire from three sides.
    ➢ Royall sent LT Lemly—his adjutant—to Crook with an urgent plea for assistance.
    ➢ Realizing his error of sending off Mills to hunt for the village, and knowing he had underestimated the Sioux, Crook sent his adjutant—CPT Nickerson—to Mills with a message to return. He then sent infantry to help extricate Royall.
    ➢ Royall ordered Vroom to drive back marauding Indians, in the hope of buying some time for others to reach their horses.
    ➢ The fighting became so serious around Vroom that Royall had to send CPT Henry to extricate Vroom. In a brief span, Vroom lost five killed and three wounded.
    ➢ Four of Royall’s companies formed a 325-yard skirmish line atop this ridge, now called Royall’s 3rd position. Estimates of Indian strength ran 500 – 700 warriors.
    ➢ Indians were so close to the skirmishing troopers that the firing singed the warriors’ horses.
    ➢ It was during this phase of the fighting when Guy Henry was shot in the face.
    ➢ As the Sioux approached Henry’s body, soldiers and Crow and Shoshone scouts rushed to his rescue, driving back the Sioux. At this time, as well, the troops saw their opportunity to rush for their horses in Kollmar.
    ➢ Indians continued to pour fire at the retreating troopers, but the infantry now rushed to their aid: Burt (H/9I) and Burrowes (G/9I). They arrived at a small knoll about 600 yards north of Kollmar, northeast of Royall’s position, and just about the time the cavalrymen were breaking for their horses.
    ➢ The Crow and Shoshone scouts, however, formed a defensive line and more than anyone else—except possibly Burt and Burrowes’ commands—were responsible for saving the bulk of Royall’s command.
    ➢ In the meantime, warriors from Conical Hill nearly overran the packers, miners, and troops on Packers Ridge, but were also driven off.
  • 1:00 PM—Royall’s command has finally reached the safety of Crook’s Hill.
    ➢ The return of CPT Anson Mills and CPT Henry E. Noyes’ battalions—eight companies, about 350 men—saved Crook’s command on the Rosebud.
    ➢ The warriors reassembled near Conical Hill, ready for another assault, when Mills re-appeared.
    ➢ Mills’ route took him in a counter-clockwise route down the Rosebud, then to an approach east of Conical Hill. He had approached an area of the valley only about 150 yards wide with bluffs of some 400 feet on either side and his scouts refused to proceed, afraid of a Sioux ambush. This fear was heightened further with the appearance of 30 – 40 warriors. Mills order CPT Sutorius (E/3C) to chase them, which he did.
    ➢ Nickerson arrived with Crook’s message to return.
  • 2:30 PM—Mills has returned to the main command and the battle has ended.
    ➢ Crook persisted, however, and led his cavalry downstream until reaching the bottleneck Mills had faced. The scouts refused to go on—fearing an ambush—and Crook turned back.
  • 4:00 PM—Crook has returned to the battlefield from his downstream foray. Infantry was posted on Conical Hill.
  • 7:00 PM—Crook withdraws his infantry. The command is now in the camp they maintained at the start of the battle.
  • EVENING—Crook holds a council and proposed a night march to locate the village for a dawn attack. Again, the scouts refused and Crook, loath to advance without their assistance, decides to return to Goose Creek to replenish stores, send for reinforcements, rest his troops, and attend to his wounded.
  • ➢ According to LT John Bourke, Crook suffered 57 killed and wounded:
    • 3rd Cavalry (LTC William B. Royall)—9 KIA, 15 WIA.
    • 2nd Cavalry—2 WIA.
    • 4th Infantry—3 WIA.
    • 10 killed outright; 4 mortally wounded.
    ➢ Crook: 9 KIA, one Indian (Shoshone) scout KIA; 21 WIA. [These numbers are correct.]
    • 3rd Cavalry: 9 KIA, 16 WIA including CPT Guy Henry.
    • 2nd Cavalry: 2 WIA.
    • 4th Infantry: 3 WIA.
    ➢ Phil Sheridan in his November 25, 1876, report, said 13 Indians were left dead on the field; Crook’s losses were 9 EM killed; and 1 officer, 23 EM wounded.
    ➢ Thomas C. MacMillan (a correspondent): concurred with Bourke: 1 officer and 10 EM “dangerously wounded”; 30 others slightly wounded.
    ➢ Frank Grouard: 28 soldiers KIA; 56 WIA.
  • ➢ After the battle, Crook ordered the Indians pursued, but they broke and scattered.
    ➢ Crook realized the formidability of the Indians and when Sheridan implored him to “hit them again!” Crook replied, “How do you surround three Indians with one soldier?” Crook estimated he was out-numbered by three to one.
    ➢ It appears Crook understood and admitted to being over-confident prior to the battle and he admitted to underestimating both the size and formidability of the Indians.
    ➢ “They had nearly caught [Crook] by surprise. Their numbers had been far greater than anyone had suspected, or believed… [Crook’s] troops had fired 25,000 rounds this day to keep the warriors at bay” [Willert, Little Big Horn Diary, 170 – 171].
    ➢ The Indians carried off all but thirteen of their dead. The Blackfeet Sioux chief, Kill Eagle, claimed four Indians were killed and left on the field and twelve died in camp. He said there were as many as 400 wounded. They had 180 horses killed.
    ➢ Willert estimated 2,000 Indians attacked Crook.
    ➢ Stewart estimated the Indian force at between 1,000 and 1,500.
    ➢ James Donovan estimated, “… at least seven hundred warriors….”
    ➢ Standing Bear: “… I was not in that fight. There were many who were not.”
    ➢ It appears neither Gall nor Crow King were there. If correct, that would mean many more warriors would have joined the village after the Crook fight.
    ➢ “Never before on the plains had such a large force of Indians attacked an even larger force of soldiers, or fought with such cohesion and tenacity, and that knowledge would almost certainly have altered Terry’s plans” [Donovan, A Terrible Glory, 154].
    ➢ Wooden Leg made the following estimates of Indians killed at this battle: Cheyenne: one (Black Sun); Cu Brulé: one; Minneconjou: one; Other Sioux: approximately twenty.
  • JUNE 16, 1876—FRIDAY
  • Reno Scout
  • 5:00 AM—Reno breaks camp, marching about eight miles down the east bank of the Tongue, to a point three miles above the Sioux camp spotted by Bradley and Boyer on May 16th.
    ➢ Reno’s scouts—including Mitch Boyer—had gone ahead and now reported back, describing the abandoned camp. Boyer confirms 400 lodges (i.e., 800 warriors).
    ➢ According to Heski, “the site of the Indians’ camp of 16 May was probably 8 miles northwest of Garland School, ‘in a bend of the river.’” [Willert/Heski, ‘Another Look at the Reno Scout’, Research Review, Vol. 14, No. 2, Summer 2000, 25]
    ➢ Gray said Reno was now only thirty-three miles from completing his mission, but it is here where he decides to violate his orders “drastically by moving to the Rosebud.” Gray added, Boyer probably told Reno this was the same village seen on the Rosebud a week later and a village that large would have to move every few days. “By now it could be so far away that Terry’s plan to strike it on the lower Rosebud would prove a fiasco.”
    ➢ Not only was the camp found, but “a broad lodgepole trail was discovered—guiding west toward the Rosebud. This camp—Boyer probably advised Reno—would have been the village discovered May 16 by Lieut. Bradley, and the trail would probably lead directly to the May 27th village along the Rosebud” [Willert, To the Edge of Darkness, 163].
    ➢ Reno now turns west for nineteen miles.
    ➢ Heski: the column forded the Tongue River (USGS map, Section 1, Township 3N, Range 46E) and headed west. They then turned southwest, and crossed the tributaries of Horse Creek, Six Mile Creek, and Miller Creek, continuously south and west. [Willert/Heski, ‘Another Look at the Reno Scout’, Research Review, Vol. 14, No. 2, Summer 2000, 26 – 27]
    ➢ The country was hilly with pine-covered hills.
    ➢ They then crossed the tributaries of Cow Creek, Ranch Creek, Coal Creek and the headwaters of Cottonwood Creek and Dry Creek. That brought the command to a hill known as Gobbler’s Knob, 4 ½ miles from the Rosebud valley (USGS map, Section 7, Township 2N, Range 44E). [Willert/Heski, ‘Another Look at the Reno Scout’, Research Review, Vol. 14, No. 2, Summer 2000, 27]
    ➢ Reno moved cautiously, sticking to ravines and avoiding ridges. Scouts were well out to the front and flanks.
  • 8:00 AM—Reno begins crossing the Tongue-Rosebud divide.
  • 2:00 PM – 2:30 PM —Reno halts 4½ miles short of the Rosebud (after traveling 27 miles), and waits for his scouts to report back. Boyer immediately finds the old Sioux camp (at Gray’s R – 19 benchmark)–380 lodges—Bradley had discovered on May 27. It was apparently abandoned on or around May 29. The camp had been set up in such a way as to tell Boyer the Sioux had “considered an attack likely.”
    ➢ Young Hawk, one of Reno’s Ree scouts, climbs Teat Butte and discovers the next Sioux camp (R – 26) at the base of the Butte, abandoned May 30.
    ➢ Boyer reports to Reno with news of both camps and a heavy trail leading up (south) the Rosebud valley.
  • 8:00 PM – 8:30 PM—Reno moves again, traveling eight miles down John Hen Creek: 4½ miles to the Rosebud (R – 22¾), entering the valley probably not far from where Sprague Creek enters the Rosebud from the west and Pony Creek enters from the east, and an additional 3½ miles, camping (R – 26¼) at the upper end of the Sioux/Teat Butte campsite. [See, Willert/Heski, ‘Another Look at the Reno Scout’, Research Review, Vol. 14, No. 2, Summer 2000, 27]
    ➢ Willert also estimated Reno’s entry into the Rosebud valley 22 – 23 miles above the creek’s mouth: where Sprague Creek enters from the west.
    ➢ Boyer counted cooking fires, estimating the village contained some 360 – 400 lodges and as many as 800 warriors; several thousand Indians.
    ➢ “Boyer is said to have counted 360 lodge fires arranged in nine circles, all within supporting distance of each other. There was evidence, also, to indicate that the pony herd had been driven inside the circles at night, showing that an attack was expected and that the hostiles were prepared to meet it” [Stewart, Custer’s Luck, 236].
    ➢ Dr. DeWolf wrote, “… find large trail week-old trail lodgepole…”
  • 11:30 PM—Reno camps for the night.
  • Dakota Column
  • 2:30 AM —Repairs to the Far West are completed and she starts moving again.
    ➢ The day starts out very warm.
  • AFTER DAYLIGHT
  • —Custer moves toward Tongue River, reaches its vicinity early, and decides to pitch camp on the remains of an old Sioux winter campsite, two miles east of the Tongue, Vicinity of Tongue River, Camp 22.
    ➢ There they discovered the remains of a dead soldier. According to Willert, this unfortunate fellow could have been either a missing trooper from the Custer fight with Sioux on August 4, 1873, or one of the Crook/Reynolds men from the March 17th Powder River battle.
  • 8:20 AM— Far West reaches Buffalo Rapids; has difficulty negotiating them. Water was six feet deep in only one spot.
  • 12:15 PM—Far West and Terry finally reach Custer’s camp.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • Column and trains remain in camp. The Crow scouts discover a heavy smoke up the Yellowstone and on its right (southern) side, in the vicinity of O’Fallon’s Creek. There was speculation either Custer or Crook had attacked the Sioux, but Bradley felt it more likely hostiles were moving in that direction and had accidentally set the grass on fire. By evening it had died out.
    ➢ Freeman reported the same smoke in the direction of Sarpy Creek. Freeman, however, corrected this some time later, believing it to be from Reno’s scouting column on or near the Rosebud. Even this proved incorrect.
    ➢ Four soldiers from Wheelan’s company (G/2C) return with 1SG John Ruth, who had become ill about twenty-five miles upriver: inflamed tonsils.
  • Crook/Wyoming Column
  • 5:00 AM—Crook’s column breaks camp.
    ➢ The column marched north and skirted the left bank of the Tongue to avoid difficult terrain. The route swung northwestward gradually, crossing the Tongue-Rosebud divide.
  • NOON—The column halted on the Spring Creek divide and scouts were sent out in search of Sioux.
    ➢ While the resting troops boiled water for coffee, the scouts spotted a large, grazing buffalo herd, also seen by Cheyenne Indians under Little Hawk, who were camped on Reno Creek. Another group of Cheyenne under Magpie Eagle, camped on Trail Creek, spotted the herd as well. Throwing insults at one another, the Cheyenne scattered and headed toward the Rosebud. Grouard reported the incident to Crook who believed the hostiles were located on the Rosebud (they were not!).
  • ➢ Both Little Hawk and Magpie Eagle returned to the camps to warn of soldiers on the upper Rosebud.
    ➢ Neil Mangum claims estimates of warrior strength ran “from a low of 750 upwards to 2,000 or more.”
  • 7:20 PM—Crook went into camp at the head of the south fork of Rosebud Creek, having marched 35 miles for the day.
  • NIGHT—Crook told the Indian scouts he wanted them to go out, but except for one small party, they refused.
  • The Indians
  • NIGHT OF JUNE 16 INTO THE 17TH
  • Cheyenne under Young Two Moon(s), Spotted Wolf, and Two Moon(s) were moving up Trail Creek to the Rosebud. Sioux, under Crazy Horse, were moving up the south fork of Reno Creek and down Corral Creek to the Rosebud.
  • JUNE 15, 1876—THURSDAY
  • Reno Scout
  • 5:00AM—Reno breaks camp. He traveled about ten miles, west, up a branch of the Little Pumpkin called Nameless Creek, by a broad valley, to a point three miles north of wooded Liscom Butte (elevation, 4,377 feet).
  • ➢ From there, Reno traveled northwest down Lay Creek to its junction with the Tongue (forty-four miles from its mouth and fifteen miles below—north of—present-day Brandenburg, MT).
  • ➢ Another three miles down the Tongue brought them to their campsite.
  • ➢According to Tom Heski, the column marched westward, up Lone Tree Creek, and then turned northwest in pine-timbered valleys. They then crossed Foster Creek, passed through more badlands, crossed Foster’s south fork and proceeded north along Lay Creek for 7.7 miles. Because of extremely bad badlands, the column was forced to head north by northwest down a wide valley to the Tongue River. [Willert/Heski, “Another Look at the Reno Scout, Research Review, Vol. 14, No. 2, Summer 2000, 23]
  • ➢ The day’s march was very hard, through pine-covered hills, narrow trails that jammed the horses into one another, and through deep ravines where they had to unlimber the Gatling guns, unhitch the horses, and carry the guns by hand.
  • 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM—Reno makes camp, having traveled 25 miles. The camp was located about two miles below where Lay Creek enters the Tongue valley. Tom Heski placed the camp site in Section 36, Township 3N, Range 45 – 46E, on the USGS map. The camp was located on the east bank of the Tongue. At this point the river was about 75 yards wide and two feet deep, water cold and sweet. Cottonwood and ash trees were abundant, along with wide meadowlands on both sides of the river. [Willert/Heski, “Another Look at the Reno Scout, Research Review, Vol. 14, No. 2, Summer 2000, 25]
  • Dakota Column
  • 6:00 AM—Benteen had his wing ready to move, and the command held a parade, the regiment passing in review. Benteen then began the march, with six companies, scouts, and a train of pack mules, up (west) the south side of the Yellowstone towards the Tongue River to rendezvous with Gibbon, Reno, and Terry (when he reached there on the Far West).
  • 6:00 AM+ — Custer joins Terry for a brief conference aboard the Far West.
  • 7:00 AM—Custer departs the Far West and sets out to join his column.
  • ➢ It was at this time LT Nick [George] Wallace was chosen to keep the regimental itinerary.
  • ➢ Terrain between Powder and Tongue Rivers is pitted with ravines and gullies and in some cases, the bluffs extend to the water’s edge. Custer moved as much four miles inland to avoid some of the more difficult terrain.
  • ➢ Mark Kellogg wrote the, “country north of the Powder River, for a distance of twelve to fifteen miles, is very poor, low and causing hard marching, with a soil producing no grasses, only sagebrush and cactus.”
  • ➢ Kellogg also wrote, they passed through an abandoned Indian village, probably less than a year old, containing between 1,200 and 1,500 lodges. ➢ Kellogg described the Yellowstone as resembling “yellowish clay at this point… cool and pleasant to the taste and is a larger body of water than that of the Missouri River above its mouth, but very much superior for purposes of steamboat navigation.”
  • ➢ Kellogg: “The waters of the Tongue River are of a deepish red color, running swiftly, and not very palatable to the taste.”
  • ➢ Column moved leisurely, but still made 25 miles and camped on the riverbank, Yellowstone River, Camp 21.
  • 1:30 PM—Terry and Baker’s B/6I begin moving up-river by steamer Far West to join Custer.
  • 5:30 PM—Far West breaks down after moving up-river for fifteen miles.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • EARLY—Gibbon sends out Wheelan (G/2C) and Thompson (L/2C) to examine the north bank of the Yellowstone, from the Rosebud, westward to the mouth of the Big Horn, a total of about sixty miles; six Crows went with them.
  • Crook/Wyoming Column
  • Preparations were made to depart. CPT Furey—the QM—would remain behind with about 100 men including teamsters and packers. About 175 infantrymen were given a brief lesson on mule riding.
  • ➢ CPT Henry Noyes’ 2nd Cavalry battalion: 269 men.
  • ➢ CPT Anson Mills’ 3rd Cavalry battalion: 207.
  • ➢ LTC William Royall’s 3rd Cavalry battalion: 327.
  • ➢ MAJ Alexander Chambers’ infantry battalion: 175.
  • ➢ Crow scouts: 176.
  • ➢ Shoshone scouts: 86.
  • ➢ Packers: 20.
  • ➢ Montana miners: 65.
  • ➢ Total: 1,325.
  • The Indians
  • The Northern Cheyenne chief, Little Wolf, departs the Red Cloud Agency with 1,000 of his people, including 200 warriors. They headed northwest. Other sources—probably MORE reliable—suggest Little Wolf had seven lodges.
  • JUNE 14, 1876—WEDNESDAY
  • Reno Scout
  • 5:00 AM- Reno breaks camp and heads slightly north of west, up Hay Creek for 12 miles to a point a little northwest of present-day Coalwood, MT. From there, he moved 8½ miles northwest (along present-day route U. S. 212) down S. L. Creek (an eastern branch of the Pumpkin) to the Pumpkin, one mile below the mouth of Little Pumpkin (2 miles). This is about four miles south of present-day Volborg, MT.
    ➢ Another extremely hot day.
    ➢ Tom Heski proposed a different route, since 1SG James Hill’s diary differs from DeWolf’s (above): “Heski’s on-the-ground research has suggested the column moved up Ash Creek five miles, then turned northwest by the head of Lake Creek, marched through timbered valleys to Camp Creek, paralleled the Pumpkin for 6.3 miles until bluffs obliged a crossing to the Little Pumpkin and camp was made 1.4 miles from that confluence” [Willert, To the Edge of Darkness, 158; see also Willert/Heski, “Another Look at the Reno Scout, Research Review, Vol. 14, No. 2, Summer 2000, 23].
    ➢ Dr. DeWolf wrote: “Crossed from Mizpah Creek… on west fork about 12 miles… to divide fair road divide some pines & ravines but not so bad as to Powder from O’Fallon’s Creek… march up Pumpkin Creek from [illegible] mile to about 1 mile above forks fair day trails S or W.” [Willert/Heski, “Another Look at the Reno Scout, Research Review, Vol. 14, No. 2, Summer 2000, 23]
  • 1:00 PM—Reno makes camp, having traveled 22½ miles.
  • Dakota Column
  • Terry-Custer at Powder River Depot (PRD), Yellowstone/Powder River, Camp 20.
    ➢ The following would be left behind as security at the PRD: HQ—1 officer, 2 EM; Co. A—4 EM; Co. B—19 EM; Co. C—9 EM; Co. D—11 EM; Co. E—3 EM; Co. F—8 EM; Co. G—16 EM ; Co. H—2 EM; Co. I—4 EM ; Co. K—21 EM; Co. L—6 EM; Co. M—6 EM; Band—14 EM.
    ➢ That totals one officer, 111 EM, + the band.
    ➢ Most of these were recruits and they also included those who still did not have horses (probably most of the original 78).
    ➢ The band’s horses were re-distributed, the fittest going to the troopers who needed them the most.
    ➢ There were several others who were listed as “sick,” “AWOL,” or “detached duty”: Co. C—2; Co. E—1; Co. F—1; Co. I—1; Co. M—1
    ➢ Four Rees were left at PRD.
    ➢ Seven more Rees were carried as “detached.”
    ➢ One Dakota (Left Hand) left the command at PRD (he was eventually killed at the Little Big Horn when he joined the Sioux relatives and fought against the troops).
    ➢ Terry issues orders for Custer with six companies of the 7th Cavalry and the “Battery” to move for the Tongue River at 6:00 AM the following morning. Custer to take twenty-five additional mules to replace any Reno might have lost.
    ➢ The soldiers from the companies on the Reno scout were probably detached before Reno left on the scout.
    ➢ Wagons would remain at PRD.
    ➢ 900 mules remained.
    ➢ Except for a few of the officers’, all tents were left at PRD.
    ➢ PVT W. O. Taylor claimed companies B, G, H, and K had a large number of recruits, maybe as many as twenty-five apiece. [Obviously, he was wrong about H Company.] Benteen, in his after-action report to Reno, said he had a large number of recruits in his battalion (D, H, and K).
    ➢ Troops moved forage from Josephine to the Far West.
    ➢ Stationed at the PRD besides those left by the 7th Cavalry, were MAJ Moore’s three companies of the 6th Infantry: Powell’s, C; Murdock’s, D; and Walker’s, I; the two companies of the 17th Infantry would also stay at the PRD: McArthur’s, C; and Sanger’s, G.
    ➢ CPT Baker’s B/6I would remain on the Far West.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • 7:00 AM—Gibbon’s 7th Infantry and the wagon train were guided by LT Bradley through a coulee and onto firmer ground and into a long valley.
    ➢ A cool and cloudy day.
    ➢ Roads were very heavy and the wagons lost a couple of hours getting down a steep hill.
  • 2:00 PM—They camped about four miles east of the mouth of the Rosebud, near where the Indians had killed Gibbon’s three men. It was the same area Brisbin’s cavalry had camped at the night before.
    ➢ Gibbon orders captains Thompson (L/2C) and Wheelan (G/2C) to ride upriver to Fort Pease (a five-day jaunt) to see if Indians had crossed the river. They were to leave the following morning.
    ➢ According to Matthew Carroll, the wagons arrived at the camp at this time as well. They traveled 13 miles for the day.
  • Crook/Wyoming Column
  • Crook remains in the Goose Creek camp.
    ➢ Scouts Grouard and Richaud return—along with an old Crow Indian—relieving Crook’s anxiety. Pourrier and some 175 Crow warriors were ten miles behind them.
    ➢ It was also discovered at this time the voices chased by Ben Arnold were, in fact, a Crow scouting party of fifteen led by scout “Big Bat” Pourrier.
    ➢ The older Crow informed Crook of the Sioux crossing the Yellowstone and raiding Gibbon’s Crow scouts’ pony herd (May 3rd).
    ➢ He also told Crook Gibbon was currently opposite the mouth of the Rosebud, and said “the Sioux were on the south side of the Yellowstone, believed to be somewhere on the Tongue, between the mouth of Otter Creek and the Yellowstone River” [Mangum, Battle of the Rosebud, 43].
    ➢ Grouard told Crook from the signs he had seen, he believed the Sioux were on the Rosebud.
    ➢ The Shoshone Indians arrived as well.
    ➢ Most of the Shoshone carried better weapons, .45-caliber Springfields, while most of the Crow had .50-caliber rifles.
  • AFTER “RETREAT” [THE BUGLE CALL]—Crook called in his battalion commanders and issued orders:
    ➢ Wagons were to be left behind.
    ➢ Every man was to carry four days rations (hardtack, bacon, and coffee) and 100 rounds of ammunition.
    ➢ No tentage; men would carry one blanket each.
    ➢ All infantrymen would ride a mule.
    ➢ If a village were attacked, all food supplies would be preserved for later or if they continued to the mouth of the Rosebud to link up with Terry and Gibbon.
  • The Indians
  • JUNE 10 – JUNE 14
  • The Sioux had moved up the Rosebud valley (south), camping where Davis Creek enters the Rosebud, then moving up Davis Creek and crossing the divide into the Reno Creek valley. The Cheyenne camped on the east side of the Rosebud, just across from Davis Creek. The Sioux followed and camped downstream from the Cheyenne, while the Hunkpapa circle was just below the present Busby school.
    ➢ A council was assembled to discuss what should be done about the encroaching soldiers. The younger warriors wanted to attack, but the older men were more cautious.
    ➢ Scouts were sent out to watch the soldiers.
    ➢ By now, the Indians were aware of Crook’s column, but had lost touch with Gibbon, probably thinking he was still moving eastward down the Yellowstone. The Indians had no idea Gibbon had returned to the Rosebud.
    ➢ The Sioux were completely unaware of Reno’s movements and Terry’s presence.
    ➢ “This poor reconnaissance on the part of the hostiles was a usual habit with them—contrary to the popular notion—for they were not as reconnaissance-minded as some writers would have us believe. Indeed, their carelessness… could have brought them defeat at Little Big Horn, had not their numbers compensated, for Custer, Terry and Gibbon were able to advance… almost to the hostiles’ village limits without detection…” [Willert, Little Big Horn Diary, 139].
    ➢ In all likelihood, the Indians crossed the Rosebud-Little Big Horn divide around June 11, having stayed in the Davis Creek/East-of-the-divide camp only one night, June 10
  • JUNE 13, 1876—TUESDAY
  • Reno Scout
  • 5:00 AM—Reno Scout—Following a trail breakfast (hard tack, bacon and coffee), Reno breaks camp and proceeds about 13.4 miles along the west bank of the Powder River, as much as 5½ miles short of the forks (the Little Powder), before impassable bluffs forced him to turn west.
    ➢ Finding no Indians, Reno swung west, eight miles over the divide, to Mizpah Creek (a rough crossing over a very crooked trail). The last six miles of the day were down the Mizpah.
  • 1:00 PM—Reno makes camp on the Mizpah, at the mouth of Ash Creek, near Wolf Creek, having traveled 24½ miles (James Willert uses Lake Creek as the camp area, slightly north of Heski’s Ash Creek). The branches of the Mizpah were almost all dry, with little water where they camped.
    ➢ In conjunction with Tom Heski, Willert wrote, “The track followed was an old trail made by buffalo traveling between the Powder and Pumpkin Creek Valley. The Indians had used it as well. The trasil was narrow and very crooked, difficult to pass through. Ravines were frequent and invariably steep…. The column had to proceed in single file much of the way. The Gatling gun and carriage had to be dismantled and the parts carried by the soldiers. The badlands extended over seven miles before pine-crested buttes were reached.” [Willert/Heski, “Another Look at the Reno Scout, Research Review, Vol. 14, No. 2, Summer 2000, 22]
    ➢ This was now half of Reno’s mission and he had followed orders precisely.
    ➢ It was here, Reno decided to disregard his orders and veer west towards Pumpkin Creek.
    ➢ It is probably a good bet Reno had spoken with Mitch Boyer and learned of Bradley’s discovery on the Tongue. The prescribed route in his orders—moving to the Mizpah, then back over to the Tongue—would bypass that village. Bradley had seen the Sioux about thirty miles above the mouth of the Tongue, but Terry’s orders would have taken Reno to the Tongue below that camp. Once there, Reno could count the lodge-sites and return with some useful intelligence.
    ➢ The 1872 map proved useless in this vicinity.
    ➢ Several abandoned camps, all of them small, were passed.
    ➢ Reno sends companies B (McDougall) and C (Harrington) north, about 13 miles to scout for signs. Such a move “would have taken them to the vicinity of Hay Creek or Dick Creek…” [Willert/Heski, “Another Look at the Reno Scout, Research Review, Vol. 14, No. 2, Summer 2000, 23].
  • 10:00 PM—Reno Scout—McDougall and Harrington return from their scout down the Mizpah having found abandoned camps only.
  • Dakota Column
  • 3:00 AM—The Far West departs Stanley’s Stockade with the last of the supplies and CPT Daniel Murdock’s D/6I.
  • ➢ Terry-Custer remain at Yellowstone/Powder River, Camp 20. The Rees referred to this camp as Camp 20.
    ➢ Custer had the 7th Cavalry crate up its sabers. Reno and the six troops on his scout crated theirs after they returned from their scout. [In Lakota Noon, 288, Greg Michno quotes an Indian named White Shield: “They had sabers with them.” And the body White Shield thought might have been Custer’s was found with a six-shooter and a saber next to it. Fantasy!]
    ➢ Lieutenants De Rudio and (possibly) Mathey retained their sabers.
    ➢ Troops transferred supplies from wagons to pack mules.
  • 8:00 PM—The Far West finally arrives (after bucking the upstream currents of the Yellowstone at an average speed of about 4.2 MPH, compared with a downstream speed of 28 MPH!), completing the move from Stanley’s Stockade at Glendive Creek to the Powder River depot. The Far West would accompany the column to the Tongue River and beyond.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • EARLY—Brisbin’s cavalry breaks camp.
  • 7:00AM—Gibbon’s split command resumes its difficult march.
  • ➢ Wagon train breaks camp at this time.
    ➢ Roads were soft and muddy.
    ➢ Hottest day of the season to date.
  • 1:00 PM—Paused for two hours to build roads.
  • 4:00 PM—After 13 miles of soggy and arduous terrain, Gibbon goes into camp at the mouth of Coal Creek.
  • NIGHT—Wagons camped at the foot of a long gulch along the Yellowstone. Trains had made 15 miles for the day.
  • Crook/Wyoming Column
  • Crook remained in camp.
    ➢ Increasingly nervous about the scout situation and the safety of the three he dispatched to the Crow Agency, Crook sends out LT Samuel Swigert (D/2C) and a detail to old Fort Phil Kearny to try and locate the Shoshone scouts.
    ➢ Swigert returned with no news.
  • JUNE 12, 1876—MONDAY
  • Dakota Column
  • 5:00 AM – Reno Scout – Reno breaks camp. After riding about 10 miles out, the column reached a broad creek called Blacktail where they discovered the remains of an abandoned Indian camp. One of the hottest days since leaving FAL.
  • LATE MORNING—Reno’s advance scouts find an abandoned Indian camp. Mitch Boyer walked among its ashes and told Reno. Dr. DeWolf wrote in his diary: “‘Twenty-six lodges… camped here about one week earlier… perhaps thirty families’… between 175 and 200 Indians. Their trail sign suggested a westerly departure… perhaps no more than 75 or 80 warriors…” [Willert, Little Big Horn Diary, 127].
    ➢ Continuing south, they discovered “several” other camps, at least a week old.
    ➢ At 4 more miles out, Reno reaches Stump Creek; 4 miles farther, they camp.
  • 12:30 PM—Far West leaves PRD and heads to Stanley’s Stockade for more supplies.
  • 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM—Reno Scout—Reno makes camp, nineteen miles short of the Powder’s junction with the Little Powder River (as far as they were ordered to go) having made 24 – 26 miles. DeWolf noted in his diary that they had seen a large, abandoned, thirty-lodge Indian camp (in all likelihood summer roamers heading out to join the winter roamers).
  • 4:00 PM—Far West reaches Glendive (Stanley’s Stockade).
    ➢ Terry-Custer remain at Powder River Depot, Yellowstone/Powder River, Camp 20. Troops bought supplies from the traders and sutlers: John Smith and James Coleman.
    ➢ Straw hats
    ➢ Canned fruit and tomatoes.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • 2:00 AM—Reveille for the cavalry.
  • 5:00 AM—Matt Carroll and the wagon train depart camp: no grass or water. Take 3½ exhausting hours to climb the hill. Then, for 3 miles, followed “a gravelly backbone and after a while came into Stanley’s road.”
  • 9:00 AM—Finally, on a clear, beautiful day, Gibbon’s column resumed its splintered march up the Yellowstone, following on the trail ruts of Stanley’s 1873 expedition.
  • 6:00 PM—Brisbin’s cavalry goes into camp, some ten to twelve miles in advance of the trains and the infantry.
  • 7:00 PM—Gibbon established a camp on a flat about three miles north of the Yellowstone (probably in the vicinity of present-day Sheffield, MT).
  • LATER IN THE DAY—Carroll’s wagon train came upon two springs with ash trees growing. They camped on the river bottom in a ravine where they found water. They used sagebrush for fuel.
    ➢ Had made 16 miles this day and were twenty-six miles from the Rosebud.
  • 11:30 PM—Wagon train’s mules out until this time.
  • Crook/Wyoming Column
  • Crook remains in Goose Creek camp. The weather was turning milder and the area was beautiful, with clear cold water, luxuriant grasses, and plenty of wood.
  • JUNE 11, 1876—SUNDAY
  • Dakota Column
  • 3:00 AM (SHORTLY AFTER DAWN)—Since Weir had yet to return, Terry asked Custer to locate a suitable route. Custer was up and preparing for the move downstream.
    ➢ Godfrey’s K Company placed in charge of pack mules.
  • 3:30 AM—Reveille at Terry-Custer camp.
  • 5:00 AM—Terry-Custer break camp. Custer takes one cavalry company and the Rees and leads out.
  • 5:00 AM – 5:30 AM—Reno Scout—With Yates’ F Company in the lead, Reno breaks camp and moves up the east bank of the Powder for 6 miles. He crosses to the west bank at the “well-known” ford, about 2.3 miles below the Mizpah, then forded the Mizpah, remaining on the west bank of the Powder. They moved 10 miles up the west bank and crossed Ash Creek. He traveled another 10 miles up the Powder before bivouacking.
    ➢ They passed through groves of cottonwood trees bordering the river, still making slow progress because of the rain-soaked ground.
    ➢ The river was about one hundred yards wide and two feet deep.
    ➢ Along the river’s west bank grew the ubiquitous cottonwood trees, plus now sagebrush, prickly pear cactus, and “bunch” grass.
    ➢ High cliffs blocked passage to the west.
  • ➢ Terry takes the remainder of the 7th Cavalry down the Powder (north) toward the Yellowstone.
    ➢ Country is the usual sagebrush, dry, alkaline earth.
    ➢ The column and the wagons were able to travel on several plateaus on east side of river, making it much easier for wagons. Custer found this route, due east of the river.
  • 5:50 AM—Terry’s diary records this as the departure time.
  • 6:15 AM – 8 AM—Successive halts for road building. They reached the plateau previously scouted and marched on it for ¾ mile, then halted.
  • 9:30 AM—March resumed.
  • 10:00 AM—Custer, with the advance, finds Weir, and a favorable high plateau the wagons would be able to cross.
  • 10:30 AM—Terry halts column near the head of a deep ravine. They managed to traverse the ravine and reach a high plateau beyond.
  • 12:20 PM—Column halts again on high plateau.
  • 12:55 PM—Advance resumes.
  • EARLY AFTERNOON—Terry-Custer move out, traversing yet another deep gorge.
  • AFTERNOON—Heavy rains.
  • SOME TIME BETWEEN 1:30 PM AND 3 PM—Reno Scout—Reno makes camp, having traveled 26 miles. Dr James DeWolf noted the flats they had crossed were very soft and made for difficult riding. He bivouacked between Ash Creek and the Powder, and below where Alkalai Creek enters the Powder.
  • 1:55 PM—Terry reaches creek. Column halts to make road.
  • 2:45 PM—March resumes.
  • > 3:00 PM—Halt.
  • 4:05 PM—March resumes.
  • 6:15 PM—Terry-Custer arrive at Yellowstone near mouth of Powder River. steamer Far West is there.
    ➢ Band plays Garryowen to welcome all the arriving troops.
    ➢ The song is an old Irish quickstep, traced back to about 1800. (It is definitely Irish, though some thought it was originally Scottish.)
    ➢ Used by several Irish regiments, including the 5th Royal Lancers.
    ➢ “Garryowen” is Gaelic for Owen’s garden:
  • 1
    Let Bacchus’ sons be not dismayed
    But join with me each jovial blade;
    Come booze and sing and lend your aid
    To help me with the chorus.
  • CHORUS
    Instead of Spa we’ll drink down ale.
    And pay the reck’ning on the nail;
    No man for debt shall go to gaol
    From Garry Owen in glory.
  • 2
    We are the boys that take delight in
    Smashing the Limerick lights when lighting;
    Through the streets like spotters fighting
    And clearing all before us.
  • 3
    We’ll break windows, we’ll break doors
    The watch knock down by threes and fours;
    Then let the doctors work their cures,
    And tinker up your bruises.
  • 4
    We’ll beat the bailiffs out of fun
    We’ll make the mayors and Sheriffs run;
    We are the boys no man dares dun,
    If he regards a whole skin.
  • 5
    Our hearts so stout have got us fame
    For soon t’is known from whence we came;
    Where’er we go they dread the name,
    Of Garryowen in glory.
  • 6
    Johnny Connell’s tall and straight,
    And in his limbs he is complete,
    He’ll pitch a bar of any weight,
    From Garryowen to Thomondgate.
  • 7
    Garryowen is gone to rack,
    Since Johnny Connell went to Cork,
    Though Darby O’Brien leapt over the dock,
    In spite of judge and jury.
  • ➢ Powder River Depot established (approximately six miles, southwest of present-day Terry, MT), as wagon train is left there with the infantry companies under MAJ Moore: C and G/17I. Yellowstone/Powder River, Camp 20.
    ➢ Custer and his six remaining companies remained here until June 15.
    ➢ Total distance traveled to date: 318.5 miles.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • 5:30 AM—Brisbin’s cavalry resumes its march.
  • 6:20 AM—Gibbon’s infantry and the wagon train begin the trek back up-river.
  • 10:00 AM—Gibbon’s infantry column approached “Sunday” Creek, about six or seven miles east of the Tongue confluence. The continuing rains had turned it into a “river.”
  • NOON—Gibbon’s column halts to bridge the creek.
  • 1:00 PM—Rain begins again.
  • LATE AFTERNOON—After more heavy rain, Gibbon calls it quits and goes into a bivouac.
    ➢ Roads were very bad and a dry creek crossed by the trains a few days before had turned into a river; only one crossing made by the trains.
    ➢ Trains made only 10 miles.
  • ➢ The Indians crossed the divide—probably around this date—heading into what Wooden Leg called, Great Medicine Dance Creek, what we now call Reno Creek.
    ➢ They camped along Ash/Reno Creek, about two miles between the western Cheyenne camp and the eastern Hunkpapa camp.
    ➢ The center of the camp was where the present road crosses a bridge at the fork of the creek.
  • Crook/Wyoming Column
  • Crook departs camp.
    ➢ Crook sends dispatch to Sheridan—dated the 11th—telling him of the skirmish on the 9th. He also expressed his belief the Indians were located on either the Tongue River or the Little Rosebud.
    ➢ Command moved back up Prairie Dog for 11 miles, then turned west.
    ➢ After 7 miles more—in a hailstorm—Crook’s column reached Goose Creek.
  • JUNE 10, 1876—SATURDAY
  • Dakota Column
  • MORNING—Raining until 11:00 AM. Column still at Powder River, Camp 19.
  • NOON—Based on this new intelligence and consultation with Custer, Terry changes his plans to head south and west, and orders Reno out on a scout as part of his new plan.
  • ➢ The PRD detachments from Reno’s companies were also probably made at this camp and accompanied Custer, the next day, to the mouth of the river.
  • ➢ Since fifteen days elapsed since Bradley had seen the Indians on the Rosebud, Terry figured they could have gone anywhere. He discards his old plan to take the entire 7th Cavalry south and west in a blind search for the Sioux and decides instead on a two-stage plan.
  • ➢ The first stage would be a recon by MAJ Reno far up the Powder River valley, back, and over to the Tongue, down it to the rendezvous point.
  • ➢ The second stage would be a two-pronged attack on the Sioux village on the lower Rosebud.
  • ➢ Custer would take nine companies of the 7th Cavalry up the Tongue, cross west to the Rosebud and descend it to attack the village from above (south).
  • ➢ Terry would take the three remaining companies of the 7th Cavalry up to Gibbon’s camp, then take Gibbon with his four cavalry companies and five infantry companies, cross the Yellowstone, head up the Rosebud and attack the village below (north).
  • ➢ Apparently, Custer saw little need for this scouting operation. He felt strongly, the Sioux were west, on the Rosebud and the scout was a waste of time. On the other hand, some believe Custer was furious at not being selected to run this scout.
  • ➢ Furthermore, “Terry explicitly and positively ordered Reno not to move in the direction of the Rosebud, for fear it would ‘flush the covey’ prematurely” [June 22 dispatch by Custer].
  • ➢ Terry, likewise, never expected Reno to encounter any Indians. This was merely a precautionary scout.
  • Headquarters Department of Dakota
  • In The Field, Camp on Powder River, M.T.
  • June 10, 1876
  • Field Special Order No. 11
  •     … 2. Major M.A. Reno, 7th Cavalry, with six companies (right wing) of his regiment and one gun from the Gatling battery, will proceed at the earliest practicable moment to make a reconnaissance of the Powder River from the present camp to the mouth of the Little Powder. From the last named point he will cross to the headwaters of Mizpah Creek, and descend that creek to its junction with the Powder River. Thence, he will cross to Pumpkin Creek and Tongue River, and descend the Tongue to its junction with the Yellowstone, where he may expect to meet the remaining companies of the 7th Cavalry and supplies of subsistence and forage.
  • Major Reno’s command will be supplied with subsistence for 12 days, and with forage for the same period at the rate of two lbs. of grain per day for each animal.
  • The guide Mitch Bouyer and 8 Indian scouts, to be detailed by Lt. Col. Custer, will report to Major Reno for duty with this column.
  • Acting Assistant Surgeon H. R. Porter, is detailed for duty with Major Reno.
  • By command of BG Terry. Edw. Smith, CPT, 18th Infantry Acting Assistant Adjutant General
  • ➢ Terry’s diary entry for June 10th makes no mention of Reno not proceeding to the Rosebud: “Issued orders for Reno to make scout up the Powder to go to the forks of the Powder thence to go to the head of Mizpah Creek thence down to the mouth of the Mizpah and then by Pumpkin Creek to Tongue River.”
  • ➢ Reno’s orders, in brief: go up (south) the Powder to its forks (the mouth of the Little Powder; near present-day Broadus, Montana; about 77 miles), thence across to the headwaters of the Mizpah (west), down the Mizpah (north) to its junction with the Powder (near present-day town of Mizpah, Montana), then over to where Pumpkin Creek runs into the Tongue River (west), and down (north), about fourteen miles, to its mouth at the Yellowstone.
  • ➢ This move to the Tongue was merely the most direct route to the rendezvous and would have been below where the Sioux encampment on the Tongue had been.
  • ➢ The orders sanctioned no deviation, no precise purpose, and no instructions as to what to do if Reno were to run into any hostiles.
  • ➢ The entire route was about 175 miles, and the plan was to cover it in six or seven days, tying in nicely with Terry/Custer’s arrival at the rendezvous on June 16th.
  • ➢ Reno takes his right wing, two battalions: companies B, C, and I under Keogh; companies E, F, and L under Yates. Also, Mitch Boyer and eight Indian scouts: Rees: Forked Horn, Young Hawk, One Feather, and William Baker (or Tall Bear); Dakotas: Caroo, Ma-tok-sha, Whole Buffalo (Pta-a-te), and White Cloud (Machpeya-ska). The Ree scout, Red Star, mentions only four names: Caroo, Forked Horn, Young Hawk, and One Feather.
  • ➢ Varnum did not accompany Reno on this scout.
  • ➢ Acting assistant surgeons, Dr. Henry R. Porter and Dr. James M. DeWolf.
  • ➢ One squad of 20th Infantry with one Gatling gun, under LT Francis X. Kinzie. Two condemned cavalry horses would pull the gun carriage.
  • ➢ Pack train of sixty-six mules (eleven for each company) and five QM packers.
  • ➢ Eleven pack mules were designated for each company.
  • ➢ One NCO and four privates were designated for each company as “packers.”
  • ➢ Twelve days’ rations.
  • ➢ Terry orders LT Gibson to take H Company and scout the west side of the Powder River, and Weir to take his D Company to scout the east side, ostensibly to find an easy way to take the wagons downriver to the Yellowstone.
  • ➢ By nightfall, Weir’s company had not returned. Terry scrawled testily into his brown notebook: “… Gibson did nothing.”
  • [3:30 PM—Reno leaves camp on scout.]
  • 5;00 PM—Terry’s diary says Reno left at this time. [This is probably a more accurate time than the 3:30 PM, above.]
  • 6:30 PM—After traveling 8 miles, Reno makes camp (approximately four miles south of present-day Locate, MT), between Meyer’s and Horse creeks.
  • ➢ The column traveled along the east bank of the Powder.
  • ➢ In a later article, James Willert claimed the column camped at 10:00 PM, but given either start time this seems too late. [Willert/Heski, “Another Look at the Reno Scout, Research Review, Vol. 14, No. 2, Summer 2000, 20.]
  • EVENING—Gibson returns without having found a good wagon-road. Weir does not return.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • 3:30 PM—Gibbon’s cavalry heads back up-river, per orders, but does not go much more than a few miles because of the rains and swollen ravines. They reach a point about four miles below the mouth of the Rosebud. They remain in camp until the 21st.
  • ➢ Barney Bravo and six Crows accompanied the column.
  • ➢ Because of the bad road conditions—very muddy—Gibbon delayed his move for a day.
  • ➢ LT Godfrey, in his 1908, revised edition of his Century Magazine article, quoted from a June 10, 1876, letter: “The 2nd Cavalry officers were greatly disgusted; one company has to be mounted all the time; the C. O. selects very poor camps for cavalry and their horses are in very poor condition.”
  • Crook/Wyoming Column
  • Crook remained at the Tongue River camp.
  • JUNE 9, 1876—FRIDAY
  • Dakota Column
  • > 3:00 AM—Grant Marsh, the skipper of the Far West, orders the boilers started in preparation for the trip upriver.
  • 4:00  AM—Terry starts up the Yellowstone on the Far West. Troops remain at Powder River, Camp 19. Still raining.
  • ➢ The river was very high and the current swift. The steamer could only average about 4.2 MPH and it would take 6½ – 7 hours to reach Gibbon’s camp.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • 2:00 AM—George Herendeen and the Crow scout ride into Gibbon’s camp with orders from Terry to leave the command in camp and meet downriver on the Far West that morning. The Dakota column had reached the Powder.
  • ➢ An Indian courier reported at Fort Laramie that there was a great throng of Indians at the mouth of the Tongue: 1,273 lodges under Crazy Horse set to be on its way to the Powder to fight Crook.
  • 7:00 AM—Gibbon takes Ball (H/2C), and follows Boyer, Bradley and his mounted infantry and Crows, downriver to meet with Terry.
  • MORNING—Tom LeForgé is thrown from his horse, breaking his collarbone.
  • 11:00 AM—Terry meets Gibbon on steamer Far West, upriver from the Powder.
  • ➢ It took 1½ hours for the steamer to make its way to Gibbon’s upriver camp.
  • ➢ LT Bradley, the best intelligence officer in the entire campaign, was sent back upstream and did not even attend the conference.
  • NOON—Bradley and Ball reach their camp. The Far West was in sight.
  • ➢ At the conference, Terry orders Gibbon to backtrack and set up base at mouth of Rosebud.
  • ➢ It appears virtually none of Bradley’s first-rate intelligence as to the location of the Indians was accepted at this conference.
  • ➢ Gibbon casually mentions Bradley’s recon and report of Sioux on Rosebud, though not stressing its importance.
  • ➢ No one thought to question Mitch Boyer who could have provided full info about the size and movements of the Sioux village.
  • ➢ Terry’s march from Fort Lincoln uncovered no significant indications of Indians.
  • ➢ It appears Terry now believed the Indians may be in this vicinity. “However, he could not discount the possibility that, during the interval, the Indians may have moved!—perhaps east or west!” [Willert, To the Edge of Darkness, 141]
  • ➢ Terry’s plan indicates woefully defective knowledge of the location and size of the Indian village meaning Bradley’s intel was virtually ignored. Gibbon never did admit Bradley’s findings.
  • ➢ Boyer now attached to Terry.
  • 12:30 PM—Far West.
  • ” reaches Gibbon’s bivouac. Conference ended; reception held for officers.
  • 1:00 PM—Far West headed back downstream.
  • 2:45 PM—Tied up again at mouth of Powder River. Terry orders CPT Powell to advise MAJ Moore to transport—by steamboat—the remainder of the troops (Murdock’s D/6I and Walker’s I/6I) and supplies from Stanley’s Stockade at Glendive to Powder River Depot.
  • 3:40 PM—Terry begins the arduous twenty-four-mile return to Custer camp up the Powder River. Twenty minutes later, a heavy downpour began and lasted the whole trip to camp. Boyer led the way.
  • 4:00 PM – 4:10 PM—Heavy thunderstorms, making it difficult for Terry. Raining the whole trip back, through noon the next day. Rains had swollen the river so much the fords were considerably more difficult to cross.
  • ➢ Brisbin delayed until the next day.
  • 9:50 PM – 10 PM—Guided by Mitch Boyer—who smelled the smoke of the campfires—Terry arrives back at camp.
  • ➢ According to Wooden Leg, the next Indian camp after the “sundance” camp was across the Rosebud from Davis Creek. The Cheyenne set up on the stream’s east side and the Hunkpapa were down by the Busby school. This would be Indian Camp # 6. They may have stayed here for only one night.
  • Crook/Wyoming Column
  • Crook remained in camp.
  • 6:30 PM—Bullets from the bluffs above struck the camp. Three companies of infantry (C, G, and H, 9th Infantry) were dispatched to deal with the threat, crossing the river and mounting the bluffs, but the Indians fled.
  • ➢ Anson Mills moved his battalion (A, M, E, and I/3C) up the Tongue and crossed, dismounting and scaling the bluffs. He spotted the Indians 1,000 yards away on the next bluff.
  • ➢ Back at the camp, more firing was heard as additional warriors tried to drive off the livestock.
  • ➢ The Indians were a small band of Cheyenne under Little Hawk, alerted to the troops’ presence by Wooden Leg.
  • ➢ A steady, cold rain fell during the night.
  • JUNE 8, 1876—THURSDAY
  • Dakota Column
  • Terry begins preparing a major operation, based on inferences from Gibbon’s dispatches.
  • 6:00 AM—Williamson and Sargent arrive at PRD with their “harrowing” story of encountering “hostile” Indians.
  • 11:00 AM—Ree scouts, Goose and Stabbed, sent out the night before (covering 44 – 48 miles in about thirteen hours), return with dispatches from CPT Powell (and MAJ Moore… or was Moore still at Glendive?) aboard the Far West at Powder River junction with Yellowstone. One dispatch reports a war party of about forty Sioux near the Tongue River. This was a mistake. These Indians were the Crow spotted by Williamson and Sargent. Main body of troops remains in Powder River, Camp 19.
  • ➢ Powell’s note mentions that he has seen no hint of Indians.
  • ➢ “On reading this, why would Terry lead the 7th Cavalry far south and west, when the hostiles were nearby and due west? He may have recalled that Gibbon mentioned, as an afterthought, a village on the Rosebud…. Delayed he (Gibbon) must have been…. Had Gibbon found the Sioux and attacked? or been attacked? If not, he must be very close, and the boat was now available at the mouth of the Powder. By going down now, Terry could contact Gibbon in person, save time, get the latest information, and arrange a concerted action against a possibly known target” [Gray, Custer’s Last Campaign, 174].
  • NOON—Based on the Powell dispatches—and thinking the Sioux may be in the region of the Tongue and Powder Rivers, Terry abruptly changes plans and takes Companies A and I of the 7th Cavalry and heads north to mouth of Powder.
  • ➢ Terry alerts Reno to be ready for a long scout. No wagons; only pack mules.
  • ➢ At the camp, troops made ready for the scout, breaking mules for packsaddles (“aparejos”), re-packing equipment, cleaning weapons, re-outfitting worn equipment, etc.
  • 2:00 PM—Terry halts for ten minutes.
  • ➢ The first six miles Terry traveled were easy riding and he did it in 1½ hours along the flat, left bank (west) of the Powder—a fast walk.
  • 2:35 PM—The terrain now got rough and the troops forded the river to its right bank—four hundred feet wide—via an island, shallow on the west side, too deep for wagons on the east.
  • 3:25 PM—Terry reaches a second ford. Lost thirty minutes searching for a wagon road, but found none. Not finding suitable terrain or crossings for the wagons, Terry re-crossed to the west side.
  • ➢ Marched on left bank through extremely rough country to a point five miles from the mouth.
  • ➢ After another long delay—almost an hour—they find another ford, also not practicable for the wagons.
  • 4:00 PM—Begins raining.
  • 8:00 PM—Terry reaches the Far West and is told by Powell of Williamson’s error in mistaking the Crow for Sioux.
  • DARK—After CPT Clifford arrived Terry dispatched Herendeen (see Montana column, below) with a message to Gibbon to remain in place wherever he was. Terry would travel on the Far West the following morning to meet Gibbon.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • AFTER BREAKFAST—Gibbon sends Bradley out ahead. Morning was cool and pleasant.
  • ➢ Clifford loaded 10,000 rounds of ammunition into his boats and was joined by MAJ Brisbin and LT Doane. 7:40 AM—Gibbon’s command moves out.
  • ➢ Bradley’s Crows discover the sack of provisions and ammo dropped by Williamson and Sargent. Bradley correctly figures the sack belonged to couriers from Terry. He sends it back to Gibbon.
  • SOME TIME DURING THE AFTERNOON—Gibbon had sent CPT Clifford down the Yellowstone, ferrying the “Fort Pease” boats. On board were MAJ Brisbin, 1LT Doane, George Herendeen, and several Crow scouts. They arrived at the Powder River Depot, thereby “uniting” the two commands. It was now discovered the “hostiles” Williamson and Sargent had seen were actually Crow scouts.
  • 3:00 PM—Having covered 10½ miles, Gibbon halts for two hours.
  • 5:00 PM—The march is resumed and they traveled another 6 miles.
  • 7:40 PM – 8 PM—Gibbon moves a total of 16 miles; pitches camp seventeen to eighteen miles below the Tongue, near present-day town of Kinsey, MT. They are now 334.32 miles from Fort Ellis.
  • ➢ Valley about three miles wide and fifteen miles long, with heavy grass.
  • ➢ Clifford’s boats made good time and as they approached the Powder, the steamboat Far West came in sight, moored to the riverbank.
  • ➢ Brisbin, Clifford and the rest are welcomed aboard and information is exchanged.
  • 8:00 PM—Terry arrives at the Far West. Terry is told by Clifford and Brisbin all that was going on with the Montana column.
  • ➢ Apparently, Gibbon had instructed Brisbin to take the boat to the next campsite, but intentionally or not, Brisbin interpreted Gibbon’s order to mean all the way to the PRD site.
  • ➢ Gibbon was reported to be “very hot about it”—Brisbin’s meeting with Terry.
  • ➢ Trains made 16 miles on bad roads; camped on the Yellowstone.
  • DARK—General Terry sends a message to Gibbon, carried by George Herendeen and a Crow scout.
  • Crook/Wyoming Column
  • Crook remained in his Prairie Dog Creek-Tongue River camp, giving the men and animals a day of rest.
  • ➢ 65 miners joined the camp.
  • ➢ Two couriers arrived bringing news from GEN Sheridan that 120 Shoshone scouts would be joining the command in a few days.
  • ➢ Also, the 5th Cavalry had departed Kansas and would bolster Crook’s rear.
  • ➢ The dispatches also told of warriors departing the Red Cloud Agency.
  • ➢ … and the wires connecting to the Crow Agency had been severed.
  • JUNE 7, 1876—WEDNESDAY
  • From Lt. Col. Merritt—“Relative to about 2,000 Indians having left Red Cloud since May 10th a large proportion of whom are warriors.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • Telegram dated June 7, 1876, to Lieut. Gen. P. H. Sheridan, Military Hdquarters, Chicago, Ill.—“Have just arrived and have opportunity to send dispatch by courier. Have seen Indian Agent and talked with Captain Jourdan. It is thought that from fifteen hundred to two thousand Indians have left the reservation. Since tenth of May a large proportion of those who have gone are warriors. The agent is inclined to underestimate those who have gone. I made proposition for him to call for certain young men I would name to show themselves when he admitted reluctantly that Red Cloud had informed him that some of his and other principal families had gone but that they were absent to recover stock stolen by Northern Indians. Some of the sons of principal chiefs are absent. The Indians here are not friendly in their feelings in fact they are generally hostile. The feeling at Spotted Tail is better though some Indians have left there. I will be able to send more definite information when I return to Laramie. Merritt.”
  • Dakota Column
  • 3:00 AM—Dakota Column—Reveille.
  • 4:45 AM – 4:50 AM—On the road. Heavy mists, dark clouds. Custer guided the column this day, rather than Reynolds. He took his two brothers, Weir’s D Company, and the scouts, up front.
  • 6:45 AM—First halt.
  • 7:10 AM—Advance resumed.
  • 8:10 AM—Halt.
  • 8:25 AM—Advance resumed. Had to build a bridge.
  • 9:25 AM—Advanced again.
  • 10:35 AM—Halted on a wooded ridge.
  • 11:25 AM—Advance resumes.
  • 12:45 PM—Halt to excavate a road.
  • 1:30 PM—Advance resumes.
  • 2:50 PM—Halt at a ravine. Constant stop-start to cut roads.
  • AFTERNOON—Couriers Williamson and Sargent turn back a little below the Tongue River after spotting what they thought were hostile Sioux—but who were actually Bradley’s Crows—losing their ammo and rations.
  • 3:30 PM—Custer and Weir arrived at the Powder (Custer told Terry the day before, he would guide them to the Powder by 3 PM).
  • 4:40 PM—Advance resumed.
  • 6:55 PM—Terry/Custer camp on Powder River, 22 – 24 miles above its mouth and on the site of the present-day town of Locate, MT). Powder River, Camp 19. The column had now traveled 287½ miles since leaving FAL.
  • ➢ A long and grueling march this day, 32.3 miles. Terry wrote his sisters, letter dated June 2nd – 12th: “… it was through an extremely difficult country and over a ridge which must be more than 1,000 feet above both our starting point and the valley of the Powder. For the first time we met pine covered hills—long ridges wooded to their tops. We had at times literally to dig and ‘pick’ our way through….” The area covered was the eastern face of the divide separating O’Fallon’s Creek from the Powder River valley.
  • ➢ The valley was at least a mile wide. Adequate timber for fuel and the valley was covered in good grass. The river itself was about 200 feet wide and two to three feet deep; gravel bottom with some quicksand.
  • ➢ Often called “the filthiest stream of water in America’… ‘too thick to drink and too thin to plow’.” “… [F]our hundred miles long, a mile wide, and an inch deep.”
  • ➢ Yellow water. First white man to see it was LT William Clark in 1806. Got its name from the dark, powdery sand along its banks.
  • 9:00 PM—Last of the wagons and the rear guard reached camp.
  • 10:00 PM—Terry sends out the Ree scouts, Goose and Stabbed, to the Far West, to advise of his location on the Powder.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • 7:40 AM—Gibbon’s column leaves bivouac. Weather cold and blustery, cloudy and dark. Ground covered with large cacti.
  • ➢ About 7¾ miles from previous camp they encountered a large, rock-strewn creek bed. A halt was made to smooth the road.
  • ➢ Reaching another plateau—with magnificent soil and grass—they glimpsed the Tongue River stretched out in the southern distance. LT McClernand estimated they could see 12 miles up the Tongue. To the east they could see the broken hills west of the Powder River.
  • 8:00 AM—Wagons break camp.
  • ➢ Crossed three ravines, then went up a good grade on the Stanley road.
  • ➢ Hit a spring and wagons sank in the mud. Doubled the teams to pull free.
  • ➢ Finally reached a prairie “with the best grass I ever saw” [Carroll, Diary].
  • 7:00 PM—Descending to the river—after traveling 22 miles for the day—Gibbon goes into camp about two miles below the confluence of the Tongue and Yellowstone rivers, on the north bank, but is extremely uncomfortable, especially with his communications. “In three days, the column had covered only forty-one miles of the 130 miles downriver to Glendive Creek to meet Terry. The command, moreover, had been delayed nearly a full week. And, there was no way of knowing whether the three couriers had been able to contact Terry! Such was the cost of having no practicable communication system in the wilderness! Gibbon felt certain that Terry had already arrived at the Glendive rendezvous, and had been wondering why the ‘Montana Command’ had not put in appearance? [sic] Perhaps Terry was even now sending scouts upriver to make contact! And it was also remotely possible that Terry feared that his own dispatches had not gotten through to Gibbon!” [Willert, Little Big Horn Diary, 99].
  • ➢ Forty miles between Tongue and Powder rivers.
  • ➢ Warm weather and rains caused the Yellowstone to rise and it was now “booming” and rushing onward.
  • ➢ As the column would have to move inland, Gibbon advised Clifford to take two days rations as he moved his boats downriver, the main column probably not being able to reach the Yellowstone again during that period.
  • ➢ River rose six feet that night.
  • 8:00 PM—Wagons made camp, two miles below the mouth of the Tongue River. Area heavily timbered; 21½ miles for the day.
  • 9:00 PM—Gibbon’s camp in pretty good shape.
  • 10:00 PM—Troops finally eat dinner.
  • Crook/Wyoming Column
  • Crook, rather than admitting his navigating error, chose to continue down Prairie Dog Creek, traveling 17 miles through torturous terrain until he reached the creek’s mouth on the Tongue River. He camped there. PVT Tierney died in camp.
  • MIDNIGHT—Voices were heard on the bluffs across the river. The courier, Ben Arnold, was sent to investigate. He could not make out what was being said or what language was being spoken, so he called out in Sioux and the parties vanished in the night. Crook was incensed because he believed the voices may have been Crow scouts… he turned out to be correct.
  • JUNE 6, 1876—TUESDAY
  • From Assistant Adjutant General, Department of the Platte—“Col. Carr desires to employ Pawnees as Indian Scouts. Can authority be granted?” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From Lt. Col. Sheridan—“Your dispatch about concentration at Powder river received.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • Dakota Column
  • 4:35 AM—Began their march, south and west. Clear, cool, light breeze.
  • ➢ LTC Michael V. Sheridan—LG Philip Sheridan’s brother—dispatched a message to Terry: “Courier from Red Cloud Agency reported… [on June 5, 1876] that Yellow Robe… says that 1,800 lodges were on the Rosebud and about to leave for Powder River… and says they will fight and have about 3,000 warriors.”
  • 6:40 AM—First halt.
  • 6:55 AM—March resumed.
  • 7:00 AM—Reached south fork of O’Fallon’s Creek.
  • ➢ They had gone about ten miles when the command made the middle reaches of O’Fallon’s Creek, but Charley Reynolds misidentifies it and the column heads south following the south fork of O’Fallon’s rather than north along the main stream and towards Yellowstone.
  • 8:45 AM—Advance resumed.
  • 10:00 AM—The two men from Company H who were missing the previous night, re-joined the column.
  • 10:10 AM—Halt. Traveled sixteen miles.
  • 11:05 AM—Advance resumed.
  • NOON—Reached valley of O’Fallon’s.
  • 12:20 PM—Halted to water in branch of O’Fallon’s.
  • 12:30 PM—Column realizes its mistake.
  • 4:30 PM—Column makes camp. Plenty of wood, no grass, little water. Column made 18 miles this day (Willert says 22 miles), including the backtracking. O’Fallon Creek, Camp 18 (255½ miles since leaving FAL).
  • ➢ This night, Terry changes plans again, deciding to head west over the badlands directly to the Powder River.
  • 9:15 PM—The Far West, with CPT James W. Powell’s C/6I, arrives at Powder River to set up new supply depot.
  • NIGHTTIME—The Far West brings the two couriers, Sargent and Williamson—at extra pay—five miles farther upstream with Terry’s dispatches to Gibbon.
  • ➢ Heavy lightning storm with high winds and heavy rains that night… then a full moon as the rains cleared.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • 7:40 AM—Gibbon breaks camp, Bradley and his scouts out front, as usual.
  • 8:00 AM—The column reaches the base of a steep plateau, taking the wagons several hours to climb it. Bradley halts to wait for the main column.
  • 11:00 AM—Train finally makes the grade and is on the plateau. The column moves on for about 3 miles, then begins the descent to the river.
  • 4:00 PM—After continuing along the Yellowstone for about 10 miles, Gibbon chooses a beautiful cottonwood in which to make camp.
  • 4:30 PM—Wagons make camp as well. Raining slightly.
  • EVENING—High winds arose, with lightning off in the distance; slight rain.
  • Crook/Wyoming Column
  • Crook’s column passes over Lodge Trail Ridge: Goose Creek was now only about 12 miles away.
  • ➢ The column, however, made a wrong turn, heading north following Prairie Dog Creek, away from Goose Creek. (Prairie Dog Creek is also known as Peno Creek)
  • ➢ They moved for 18 miles before realizing their error. Then it poured.
  • ➢ Unknown to Crook and his men, a party of Cheyenne—including Wooden Leg—spotted them, then followed for a day before returning to their camp on the Rosebud.
  • ➢ CPT Noyes, however, had been sent out earlier to scout the Goose Creek area. He did so and when Crook’s column did not show up, Noyes went looking for the command. Noyes camped a short distance away so as not to spook Crook’s pickets. They linked up the following morning.
  • JUNE 5, 1876—MONDAY
  • From Commanding General, Department of the Platte—“Repeat telegram from C. O. Fort Laramie relative to reports from hostile Camp and attack on mail carrier and that Gen. Merritt left Red Cloud June 4th.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From General W. T. Sherman—“Relative to appointment of a Commissioner to confer with Red Cloud and Spotted Tail with a view to release their rights to the Black Hills, and to protection of route thereto.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From Commanding Officer, Fort Fetterman—“C. O. Fort Laramie telegraphs important Indian news to Gen. Crook and relative to enlistment of Snake Indians to co-operate with him.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From 1st Lieut. Wm. Quinton—“Reports his inability to procure Crow Scouts required by Gen. Crook.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • ➢ 1LT William Quinton had been assigned to the 7th Infantry on May 3, 1870. He was born in Ireland and had been in the U. S. Army in one capacity or another since 1861. He was the commanding officer of C Company and not on the campaign as such.
  • Telegram dated June 5, 1876, from unknown/missing source [though it appears to be from General Sherman], Washington, D. C., to Gen. P. H. Sheridan, Commanding Div. Chicago, Ill.—“Just came from conference with Sect’ys Chandler and Cameron the former says he thinks a bill will pass today appointing commission to confer with Red Cloud and Spotted Tail with a view to obtain the consent of the peaceful Indians to release their rights to Black Hills to emigrate to some other reservation. You can use the eight companies Fifth Cavalry as escort to these commissioners and being at the agencies they can exercise a supervision each [sic; such] as General McKinzie [Mackenzie?] now does at Fort Sill whilst Crook & Terry are dealing with the hostiles. Meantime the old treaty to be respected & no intrusion on the reservation to be encouraged or permitted. No military protection promised on the Fort Pierre route on that from Sidney north only patrols on the road from Laramie lying mostly outside the reservation and this in the interest of humanity. Judge thinks our orders discriminate against Yankton whereas the…” [remainder of telegram missing].
  • Dakota Column
  • 5:00 AM—On the move; heavy dew and a very warm day.
  • ➢ Advanced 1.88 miles and arrived at a ravine/creek that required bridging. Halted, then began moving over very fine country with rolling prairie and luxuriant grass.
  • 7:00 AM—Halted.
  • 7:40 AM—On the move.
  • 8:40 AM—Halt on edge of more badlands. Traveled 10.48 miles so far.
  • 9:20 AM—On the move.
  • 10:00 AM—Halt to repair road.
  • 10:30 AM—Moved.
  • ➢ Headed south down Beaver Creek, for about 10 miles (three hours), then crossed Pennel Creek and turned west.
  • ➢ They were following Stanley’s 1873 trail.
  • ➢ Heavy sagebrush, cactus, prickly pear, very alkaline, dry land; lots of rattlesnakes. Grassland left behind. Mark Kellogg considered this the toughest day’s march so far.
  • 12:15 PM—Main column halts at creek. Traveled eighteen miles so far.
  • 1:05 PM—The Far West begins the 78-mile trip up the Yellowstone from Glendive Creek to the proposed site of Camp Supply at the Powder River confluence.
  • ➢ On board were CPT James W. Powell, CO, C/6I, and supplies. Gibbon’s scout, John Williamson, was also on board.
  • 1:45 PM—March resumed.
  • 2:20 PM—Camped. Made 20½ miles for the day (237½ miles from FAL), camping on Pennel Creek; Pennel Creek, Camp 17. Willert called it Cabin Creek, the camp being near the headwaters. Grass was thin, almost no water except snow run-off, and virtually no wood.
  • ➢ According to Chorne and Willert, two men from Benteen’s company went out hunting this night, but did not return. It was believed the Sioux had taken them.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • 3:30 AM—Reveille.
  • 8:55 AM—Gibbon leaves camp.
  • 9:00 AM—Wagon train—loaded with about 8,200 lbs. per team—pulled out of camp.
  • 1:45 PM—Gibbon goes into camp along the Yellowstone.
  • ➢ CPT Thompson recognized the area as being about ½ mile from where he and CPT Wheelan had concealed their troops on May 19, watching as the fifty Sioux attempted to cross the river. The campsite was beautiful.
  • ➢ Afternoon weather was warm.
  • 2:00 PM—After traveling about 10 miles, wagon train makes camp at the foot of a big hill.
  • ➢ They were now on Stanley’s road of 1873.
  • ➢ Water, wood, and grass were excellent [Carroll, Diary].
  • Crook/Wyoming Column—Column passes Lake DeSmet.
  • EVENING—Having traveled 16 miles, Crook camps at the site of old Fort Phil Kearny, along Big Piney Creek, east of the ruined fort.
  • JUNE 4, 1876—SUNDAY
  • From Commanding Officer, Fort Fetterman—“Repeats telegram from CO. [illegible name, but possibly Strombaugh] relative to Snake Indians enrolled for service with Gen. Crook, and his reply that it will cost $400 to reach Gen. Crook from that point.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • Letter dated June 4, 1876, from Headquarters, U. S. Military Station, Standing Rock, D.T., to the Assistant Adjutant General, Department of Dakota, St. Paul, Minn.—
  • Sir: An Indian recently arrived from Cheyenne Indian Agency reports that a large war party, composing Indians from Spotted Tail’s and Cheyenne River Indian Agencies, left the latter place with the avowed intention of going to Fort Berthold Agency to attack the Rees.
  • One of the party came into this agency last night, probably to obtain reinforcements. He reports the war party seven days out and at some distance below Standing Rock awaiting other reinforcements from Cheyenne. The above information I have communicated by scout to the Commanding Officer of Forts Rice, Abraham Lincoln, and Stevenson, D.T.
  • I learn from reliable authority today, that Kill Eagle a prominent chief of the Blackfeet Sioux at this Agency who lately left with twenty (20) lodges, ostensibly to hunt, has certainly joined the hostile Sitting Bull. Many of the young men belonging to this Agency have left the agency. Some on the pretext of hunting game, who are now probably with Sitting Bull. The principal chiefs remain here, and did they receive an adequate and proper supply of food, would I think continue here, disposed upon every consideration to keep the peace. But notwithstanding that the agent has officially reported and estimated for rations for over 7,000 Indians at this agency and he is required by U. S. statutes to issue to and report the number actually present, and that there has not been to exceed a monthly average of 4,500 the rations are so diminished as to cause partial distress and dissatisfaction.
  • The following memorandum of issues June 3rd was prepared on the statement of one of the most reliable Indians at this agency. A diminished quantity of flour and corn, a little coffee, usual quantity of beans, but the corn is not ground, and beef has not been issued for three weeks.
  • Bacon has not been issued for three months.
  • Pork has not been issued for three months.
  • Sugar and tobacco have not been issued for two weeks.
  • The corn is not available as food, yet an engineer and miller and mill are, but not used.
  • Other items go to show that there is, besides the deliberate falsehoods uttered by this agent in his official report to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs as to the products of Indian labor, etc., last year, either gross maladministration or inefficiency, or both—as the supplies sent here for 7,000 certainly should be ample for 4,500 Indians.
  • Last year these Indians starved for one month.
  • In consideration of the organized expeditions against the hostiles—their relatives—should these agency Indians generally join the hostile camp it ought to be charitably attributed to the want of food two years in succession which they have been compelled to suffer, and which if issued to them, would keep them, as no other bond or attraction can, at these Reservation homes with confidence in the promises of Great Father.
  • Very respectfully,
  • Your obedient servant,
  • (Sgd) J. S. Poland
  • Captain, 6th Infantry
  • Commanding
  • Dakota Column
  • 4:55 AM – 5:00AM— Terry-Custer on the move, southward, along the east bank of Beaver Creek.
  • 6:15 AM—Column halts.
  • 6:30 AM—March resumed.
  • 6:50 AM—Halt to build bridge across ravine.
  • 9:40 AM—March resumed.
  • NOON—Halt at crossing of Beaver Creek.
  • ➢ Terry sends Reynolds and three men out front to search for water.
  • ➢ They build a bridge across Beaver Creek.
  • ➢ Weather clear and pleasant; afternoon was very warm.
  • ➢ Passed through a prairie dog town. Beaver Creek.
  • ➢ Column meets up with Reynolds. No water within five miles. Scouts discovered week-old Indian signs, probably hunters; three wickiups were found with leaves still green.
  • 2:35 PM—Camped. Beaver and Ash (Cottonwood) Creek, Camp 16 after covering 18 miles for the day (217 miles from FAL). It was a site Stanley had used in his 1873 expedition.
  • ➢ This would be the last comfortable camp for the entire expedition.
  • ➢ Abundant grass; plenty of wood; cold, clear and swift running water.
  • ➢ The most important prairie grasses for sustaining herds of horses and buffalo were blue stem, blue grama, and buffalo grass [Monnett, Where a Hundred Soldiers Were Killed, 18].
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • 5:00 AM —CPT Logan and A/7I march downriver to build bridges.
  • 6:00 AM—Diamond-R train resumes its march downriver, traveling through a canyon.
  • ➢ The day was warm and dry.
  • 2:00 PM—Sanno/Roe and English reach Gibbon’s camp with Diamond-R contract-train, thus restoring Gibbon to full strength.
  • ➢ Wagons loaded with grain for the return trip.
  • ➢ Gibbon decides he must now move his camp downriver.
  • Crook/Wyoming Column
  • Column marches about 20 miles and camp was pitched on Clear Creek.
  • ➢ “During the day’s advance, Indian sign began to reveal a significant and unusual characteristic: pony tracks were everywhere in evidence, but the tracks of dragging lodge poles were not! Bourke observed: ‘… men were slipping out from Red Cloud and Spotted Tail agencies and uniting with the hostiles, but leaving their families at home, under the protection of the reservations.’… If the women, children and other non-combatants were being left behind, and the warriors only were gathering, there could remain no doubt but that the Indians fully intended to fight the white man’s armies” [Willert, Little Big Horn Diary, 90].
  • JUNE 3, 1876—SATURDAY
  • From Lt. Col. Wesley Merritt—“Dispatches received. Leave for Red Cloud tomorrow morning. Nothing new.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • Dakota Column
  • 5:15 AM—Broke camp, moving west. Temperature was 35° with heavy, biting, raw winds. “We passed through a most picturesque country. Our path was down a wide valley with peaks of naked earth and stone of the most fantastic forms bounding it on either hand…” [Terry].
  • 5:45 AM—Terry uses this time as the start.
  • ➢ Snow vanished in a fast and sloppy thaw; winds still cold.
  • ➢ Guides were unfamiliar with this country.
  • ➢ After about a six-mile march, they reached rolling prairie again.
  • ➢ Weather suddenly turned beautiful.
  • 6:55 AM—Column halts.
  • 8:00 AM—Arrives at a wooded ravine. Builds fire.
  • 9:00 AM—Column moves.
  • 10:05 AM—Column spots three riders, riding hard, coming at them from the northwest.
  • ➢ Terry sends Reynolds out to greet them.
  • ➢ They were the couriers from Stanley’s Stockade at Glendive with the dispatches from Gibbon and Moore. One of them was Gibbon’s scout, John Williamson. Couriers probably traveled some forty-five miles before finding Terry. Dispatch from Gibbon mentions the killing of the three men by Sioux (May 23rd). Also: Terry’s supplies have reached the field depot; the Yellowstone afforded excellent navigation; the Far West was waiting to serve Terry; the Josephine had returned to Bismarck. No mention—at all—was made of Bradley’s discoveries, other than the disingenuous references mentioned above. In essence, Terry had learned nothing of any real importance. Gibbon reported Sioux east of the Rosebud, south of Yellowstone and in great numbers.
  • ➢ Terry changes his plans based on this intelligence and the intelligence gathered from Custer’s reconnaissance of the Little Missouri.
  • ➢ Terry made his decision and wrote his sisters: “Gibbon’s dispatches coupled with the entire absence of any evidence that Indians had been on the Little Missouri for a long time past convinced me that the best policy would be to keep Gibbon opposite the Rosebud and make myself for the Powder River….”
  • ➢ He figures Sioux are now south of Yellowstone and east of Rosebud (incorrect, based on the reports from Gibbon, who ignored Bradley’s recon intelligence).
  • ➢ “Custer had spent May 30 scouting up the Little Missouri, where Sitting Bull’s army was expected to make a stand… Moore and his scouts had found no signs around the depot or on the trail to Terry’s column; and now Gibbon had nothing to report from the upper Yellowstone. Terry could only draw the obvious conclusion that the hostile Sioux were still south of the Yellowstone and east of the Rosebud. This error was the first consequence of Gibbon’s concealment” [Gray, Custer’s Last Campaign, 169].
  • ➢ Terry orders Moore to move supplies from Stanley’s Stockade at Glendive Creek to mouth of Powder River by steamboat and await Gibbon. He sends Williamson. Also gives the scout a message to Gibbon to hold his position and not move farther down the Yellowstone.
  • ➢ Orders Custer to move column up Beaver Creek (south), cross, circle west to head of O’Fallon’s Creek, then descend O’Fallon’s north to the Yellowstone; up the Yellowstone (west) to mouth of Powder.
  • ➢ To their left was the Powder River ridgeline. ➢ To their center were the badlands.
  • ➢ To their right was rolling country, then the Yellowstone bluffs.
  • ➢ Temperature climbed to 59°.
  • 10:15 AM—Halt was for only ten minutes. Column moves.
  • 1:15 AM—Column halts.
  • 1:10 PM—Column moves.
  • 2:55 PM—Halt.
  • 3:20 PM—Column moves.
  • 4:25 PM—After a march of about 25 miles (longest march so far) they camp at junction of Beaver Creek and Duck Creek (MT). Beaver Creek, Camp 15 (200 miles from FAL). Situated seven miles west and three miles south of present-day Beach, ND. As late as 1967 the site was still inaccessible.
  • ➢ Beaver Creek was about 30 – 35 feet wide, one to six feet deep, cold and clear (LT Maguire). Banks had thick growth of brush.
  • ➢ Found Stanley’s bridge partially washed away; Terry said there was no wood to repair it.
  • ➢ Plenty of wood, excellent grazing.
  • ➢ Plenty of mosquitoes making it difficult to sleep.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • 2;00 AM—Picket positions assumed again; still no threat. Very cold and icy.
  • 5:00 AM—Wagon train leaves camp.
  • ➢ Traveled 2 miles and reached a benchland.
  • ➢ CPT Ball’s company (H/2C) starts upstream to go as far as Big Porcupine Creek to find the best place for wagons to cross and to build the necessary bridges.
  • ➢ CPT Logan (A/7I) heads downstream to build bridges for a movement in that direction.
  • 12:30 PM—Wagon train reaches the Big Porcupine.
  • ➢ Train crosses the stream, then watered its teams in harness.
  • ➢ Roads were heavy and hard on the mules.
  • ➢ They began looking for a camp for the night when Ball’s command rode up and advised they were only sixteen miles from the main column. Having already traveled 23 miles, they all went into camp.
  • Crook/Wyoming Column
  • Crook departs old Fort Reno.
  • ➢ Despite ground frost, the going was easy and signs of spring could be seen on the prairie.
  • ➢ The next watering hole was thirty miles away.
  • NOON—Purported Indian signal fires could be seen in the distance and cavalry was ordered to investigate: nothing came of it.
  • EVENING—Crook bivouacs on Crazy Woman Creek.
  • JUNE 2, 1876—FRIDAY
  • From Lt. Col. Wesley Merritt, 9th Cavalry—“Gives disposition of troops for protection of routes to Black Hills and relative to young warriors who have left Agencies to join hostiles.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • From Commanding Officer, Camp Robinson—“Reports that at least 2,000 Indians left Red Cloud Agency since 10th ult.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • Telegram dated June 2, 1876, from Fort Laramie, Wyo., to Lieut. Gen’l Sheridan, Military Headquarters, Chicago, Ill.—“The following is the disposition of troops with regard to protection of routes to Black Hills two companies of infantry at Sidney two companies of infantry & one of cavalry at Laramie four companies of infantry at Robinson and one company of infantry & one cavalry at Sheridan there are two companies of infantry en route to this post & the company of cavalry at Sheridan has been order to change stations with a company of Infantry from Robinson the two companies en route here to take station on the Black Hills road one at the head of Sage Brush Creek sixty-two miles from here the other at the east end of Red Can[y]on about fifty miles from the above & forty miles from Custer also a company of Infantry is ordered from Robinson to take station at the Laramie road crossing of the running water. The cavalry is to scout the roads. The company at this post and the company at Robinson alternating. It is safe to say that a great ma[n]y Indians have left the Red Cloud Agency it is said there are not five hundred warriors remaining there some families have gone. It is hard to tell how many as the Indian agents are themselves but poorly informed & are interested in understating the number of Indians now on reservations are bitter against all who took part in last winters expedition & there was no chance of Crook’s inducing any of them to go with him this time. Captain Egan whose report you have seems positive that from seven hundred to a thousand warriors have left the two agencies. He also says some have gone from Missouri river agencies [?] it would be well if two more companies in Infantry could be sent here one for service at Robinson. The Black Hills road cavalry would answer better. I don’t know what arrangements [illegible, but it seems, have been made] for the protection of the Sidney road to Sheridan. The post Commander here has sent to the post Commander at Robinson for all information as to Indians who have left agencies up to this time. I will await instructions from headquarters here. Merritt.”
  • Letter dated June 2, 1876, from Head Qts Camp Robinson, Neb., to Major E. F. Townsend, 9th Infantry, Commanding, Fort Laramie, W. T.—
  • Major: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of the 29th ultimo asking for information as to the number of Indians that have left Red Cloud and Spotted Tail Agencies. In reply thereto I would report that I can give no definite information on the subject but from the result of inquiries made at the Agency and elsewhere and from my own knowledge I believe that at least 2,000 Indians (1,500 Sioux and 500 Cheyennes) men women and children have left the Agency here for the North, since the 10th ultimo, containing among the number at least 500 warriors. I would report further that the Agent here claims that 12,000 Indians men women and children belong to his Agency. I will report relative to the number of Indians that have left Spotted Tail Agency as soon as practicable.
  • I am Major, Very respectfully, Your obedient Servant (Sgd)
  • Wm H. Jordan
  • Captain, 9th Infantry
  • Commanding Post
  • Dakota Column
  • Stayed in camp because of heavy snow and squalls. Andrews Creek-Snow Camp, Camp 14. Mud high.
  • ➢ MAJ Moore sends three messengers to find Terry and give him messages from Gibbon and himself. In all likelihood, these couriers were John Williamson (from Gibbon’s column), and Charles Sargent and Crow Bear, MAJ Moore’s men from Glendive.
  • NOON—Snow ends, still cloudy. Snow on ground rapidly disappearing and ground drying.
  • ➢ Charley Reynolds and Chief Wagon Master Charles Brown sent out to examine the road.
  • ➢ They report road good for 2½ miles, then bad for a short stretch, then good again over rolling prairie.
  • ➢ Terry orders train to cross the stream so they would be ready to move in the morning.
  • ➢ Terry sends Maguire out to check the bad part of the road.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • 4:00 AM—Train’s mules turned out.
  • 6:00 AM—Wagon train breaks camp; a very arduous trip.
  • ➢ Had to double teams across creek.
  • 7:30 AM—Train reaches the tableland. “[H]ad to double up a short, steep pitch, thence across bench to where Devil Froze Creek empties into the Yellowstone; thence down bottom, which was very wet and sluggish, camping on the bank of the Yellowstone…” [Carroll].
  • 2:30 PM—Train camps on banks of Yellowstone.
  • ➢ Wood, grass, and water were good; plenty of elk and antelope as well.
  • ➢ Gibbon’s column remains in camp. ➢ General John Pope (Fort Leavenworth, KS) receives telegram from LTG Phil Sheridan directing him to send eight companies of the 5th Cavalry under LTC Eugene A. Carr to Cheyenne, W. T., ostensibly to police the agencies and to make sure no one leaves for Sitting Bull’s encampment.
  • MID-MORNING—Snow ceases.
  • 2:30 PM—After traveling 16 tough miles, the wagon train goes into camp along the Yellowstone.
  • Crook/Wyoming Column
  • A raw and cold day. Crook continued moving northwest: the Big Horn mountains could be seen on the far horizon; Pumpkin Buttes plateau could be seen in the east; and much farther east one could see dark vestiges of the Black Hills (with binoculars).
  • ➢ The column arrived at Fort Reno: dilapidated and in ruins.
  • ➢ It was this day when “Calamity” Jane was discovered with the wagon train.
  • ➢ Van Vliet returned having seen no sign of scouts.
  • ➢ Concerned over the Indian scouts issue, Crook sent out scouts Grouard, Pourrier, and Richaud to travel to the Crow Agency, 300 miles away through what was country probably infested with hostile Sioux.
  • ➢ Before departing, they advised Crook to head for the forks of Goose Creek (near present-day Sheridan, WY): fresh clean water and good grazing.
  • Indian Village
  • The Indians left their Greenleaf camp around this time. The next camp was where the Sioux held their sun dance, Indian Camp # 5.
  • JUNE 1, 1876—THURSDAY
  • Dakota Column
  • Stayed in camp because of heavy snow. Andrews Creek-Snow Camp, Camp 14.
  • 6:30 AM—Three inches of snow on the ground.
  • ➢ Snow fell all day, finally stopping late at night.
  • ➢ Terry writes that the assumption the badlands were only a four mile strip along the river was erroneous. This was the worst part of the badlands, but they extended further on.
  • ➢ Dispatches sent to Fort Lincoln: Barking (Scabby) Wolf and Left Hand (a Dakota who eventually joined the Sioux at the Little Big Horn and was killed there.)
  • 7:00 AM—Snow began falling even harder.
  • 10:00 PM—The Far West arrives at Glendive (Stanley’s Stockade), under the command of LT Nelson Bronson and his detachment of Company G, 6th Infantry, with additional supplies.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • 5:00 AM—Despite the snow, the wagon trains were moving. Roads very “heavy.”
  • ➢ Since the loads were lighter, they moved at a good pace and kept on the heels of the government wagons.
  • ➢ Had to double all teams.
  • ➢ Snowing and cold: very unpleasant day.
  • LATE AFTERNOON OR EARLY EVENING—The wagon train goes into camp, 4 miles below Fort Pease.
  • Crook/Wyoming Column
  • 5:00 AM—Crook’s column, despite the wind and heavy snow, is on the march.
  • ➢ Later in the campaign, Crook changed marching times to 6 AM for the infantry and 7:30 AM for the cavalry.
  • ➢ As the storm abated, Crook made camp on the Dry Fork of the Powder River. The command had traveled another 20 miles.
  • ➢ CPT Meinhold returned, finding no Indians, friendly or otherwise.
  • MAY 31, 1876—WEDNESDAY
  • Dakota Column
  • 8:00 AM-Broke camp. The night was wet and there was no dry kindling for fires. The troops ate a breakfast of hardtack and raw bacon, with muddy water. The river bottom was firm, hard gravel, but the banks were soft and it took almost an hour to get all the wagons across.
  • ➢ Terry crossed the river with the advance guard. Halted near Gable Butte. LT Gibbs reported from the rear that the wagons had cleared. Reno comes up while Custer “played” wagon master. Terry then moved out again with the advance.
  • ➢ Custer then heads out on a “lark” with his entourage.
  • ➢ Misty; heavy, dark threatening clouds; chilled wind from the east. Day’s temperature hovered between 58° and 65°.
  • ➢ Traveled through badlands: torturous gullies, ravines, canyons and finally onto a butte. The column got lost and had to backtrack, infuriating Terry, especially since Custer was nowhere to be found.
  • 9:00 AM—Custer, now ahead of everyone, picks a bivouac site.
  • 9:30 AM—Terry halts. Odometer shows 5 1/3 miles.
  • 11:30 AM—Terry moves on.
  • ➢ Terry moves about two miles when he received a message from Custer saying they were not on Stanley’s trail. Terry backtracks.
  • 2:00 PM—Camped 8 miles southeast of Sentinel Buttes (ND), straddling a small branch of Andrews Creek. Andrews Creek–Snow Camp, Camp 14. Traveled between 10 – 12 miles, 175 miles from FAL.
  • 7:00 PM—Heavy, cold, freezing rain began; turned to sleet.
  • MIDNIGHT—Begins snowing.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • 2:00 AM—Troops took up usual position on picket lines in case of surprise attack. Cold winds blowing.
  • > DAYLIGHT—Gibbon—anxious about the supply trains and Indians crossing to intercept them—sends CPT Wheelan’s G/2C for another scout, 16 miles upriver and back with LeForgé and five Crows, but found nothing.
  • ➢ Yellowstone rising rapidly.
  • 6:00 AM—The Maclay wagons break camp.
  • 9:30 AM—Maclay wagons reach the Yellowstone.
  • 10:30 AM—LT Jacobs and CPT Sanno with his twenty-four empty wagons joins up with the Maclay train. Since the cargo transfer took most of the day, camp was established where they met.
  • ➢ Loaded 459 sacks of grain on the Sanno trains.
  • ➢ Mules were kept in all night.
  • 5:00 PM—Wheelan arrives back in camp.
  • NIGHT—The spring blizzard began: cold rain, sleet, then snow.
  • Crook/Wyoming Column
  • Crook’s column made another 20 miles, then camped on the North Fork of the Wind River.
  • ➢ It was this evening while chopping wood for a camp fire, PVT Tierney accidentally shot himself, the wound proving mortal. He died in camp on June 7, 1876.
  • MAY 30, 1876—TUESDAY
  • From Commanding Officer, Fort Laramie—“Telegraphs that about 800 or 1,000 Indians have left Red Cloud Agency to mouth of Powder river and 50 lodges from Spotted Tail also gone.” [“Briefs of Papers in Relation to the Sioux War of 1875, 1876, and 1877.”]
  • ➢ This is very interesting for it reinforces the reports of a smaller village on the eastern flats beneath Weir Point at the time of the battle.
  • Dakota Column
  • Most of the troops remained in Little Missouri, Camp 13, while Custer and four companies of cavalry went on a scout.
  • 3:30 AM—Reveille for companies going out on the recon.
  • 4:00 AM—Breakfast.
  • 5:00 AM—Custer reconnaissance up the Little Missouri (south) begins. Taylor claims fifty miles, round-trip.
  • ➢ The valley itself is about one mile wide, with badlands on both sides. The river meanders all over and the troops had to cross it some thirty-four times.
  • ➢ Took companies C, D, F, and M.
  • ➢ LT Varnum and twelve Ree scouts. ➢ Tom Custer (had been riding with the staff), Autie Reed, and Dr. DeWolf.
  • ➢ Five pack mules with forage.
  • ➢ Ordered to return by seven AM the following morning.
  • ➢ Terry’s plan, as outlined to his sister, Fanchon (“Fanny”), in a letter begun May 23, 1876: he expected to move on the next day, head west, “go two or three marches west, halt and send out reconnaissance, right, left, and south hoping to find some trail leading to an Indian camp. If I do not, I shall move to the Yellowstone….” He went on: “I had reason to hope that we should find the Indians here in force prepared to fight but now I fear that they have scattered….”
  • AFTERNOON—Ree scouts arrive from FAL bringing mail and dispatches.
  • ➢ LT Maguire at work building road at the river crossing.
  • ➢ Terry reconnoiters route with CPT Edward Smith (AAAG).
  • ➢ Terry returns to camp and sends Smith with 1LT Eugene Beauharnais Gibbs (ADC) and three companies to repair road.
  • 6:00 PM—Custer returns, ahead of schedule: had traveled about 55 miles.
  • ➢ No sign of Indians. He conferred with Terry and they decided to move on to the Powder River country where the Indians had been in March 1876.
  • NIGHT—Heavy thunderstorm.
  • Gibbon/Montana Column
  • 2:00 AM—Gibbon, still worried about the proximity of the Sioux, wakes his command.
  • 6:00 AM—Maclay train leaves camp at Pompey’s Pillar.
  • LATE MORNING—After traveling 9 miles train “noons” on a small creek.
  • ➢ Rained in the afternoon.
  • 3:00 PM—Williamson, Evans, and Stewart reach Glendive depot (Stanley’s Stockade), but find only MAJ Moore and his battalion of 6th Infantry.
  • LATER IN THE DAY—After making 18 miles train camps on Sunset Creek. “Plenty of water in holes; wood and grass scarce…” [Carroll, Diary].
  • AT DUSK—Two Crow scouts cross Yellowstone to again try to steal Sioux ponies. Quickly return after running into a war party of about thirty.
  • Crook/Wyoming Column
  • Crook, worried about Sioux activity in the region, dispatches two companies to reconnoiter west: CPT Meinhold (B/3C) and CPT Vroom (L/3C). They took four day’s rations and were to re-join the column at old Fort Reno.
  • ➢ Proceeding northwest, the main column traveled 20 miles, camping on the South Cheyenne River, “… a shriveled stream of muddy and alkaline water standing in pools.” [Bourke’s Diary.]
  • 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.
  • 3:00 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
  • 4:00 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
  • 2:00 AM—Troops again wakened to be on the alert for Indians.
  • ➢ Day was very warm.
  • 11:00 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.
  • 9:00 AM—The column crossed the survey line of the Northern Pacific Railroad.
  • 2:00 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.
  • 2:00 PM—Train got over a tough grade, having to repair the roads. Camped at dark.
  • MAY 23, 1876—TUESDAY
  • Dakota Column
  • 3:00 AM—Reveille.
  • 5:00 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.
  • 8:00 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
  • 6:00 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.
  • 9:00 AM—The Maclay train reached White Beaver Creek where it halted for two hours. Good water and grass.
  • 1:00 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.
  • 6:00 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.
  • 7:00 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
  • 3:00 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.
  • 10:00 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.
  • 1:00 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.
  • 9:00 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.
  • 7:00 AM—Column halts.
  • 9:00 AM—Command moves again.
  • 10:00 AM—Command halts.
  • 11:00 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—
  • 6:00 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.
  • 4:00 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.
  • 5:00 PM—Bivouac complete.
  • 6:00 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.
  • 9:00 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.
  • 9:00 AM—Bradley meets messengers. Raining.
  • 10:00 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.
  • 6:00 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:o0 AM—Terry’s diary records reveille at this time.
  • 5:00 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.
  • 8:00 AM—Terry-Custer column begins crossing after Maguire’s engineers and infantry prepare road and riverbeds.
  • 8:30 AM—Train is across the Heart.
  • 9:00 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.
  • 2:00 PM—Terry arrived in camp. Diary records distance at 10.8 miles.
  • 3:00 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.
  • 5:00 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
  • 4:00 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.
  • 5:00 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.
  • 6:00 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.
  • 7:00 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.
  • 2:00 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.
  • 9:00 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.
  • 5:00 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.
  • 4:00 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.
  • 6:00 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.
  • 9:00 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.
  • 4:00 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].
  • 6:00 PM—Reluctantly, Bradley starts back, talked into returning by his Crow scouts.
  • 7:00 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.

& The Small Print

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