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Go Back   Armchair General and HistoryNet >> The Best Forums in History > Historical Events & Eras > American Age of Discovery, Colonization, Revolution, & Expansion > The Wild West

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The Wild West Discussions on Cowboys & Indians, Mexican War, etc. Sponsored by Wild West magazine.

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  #1  
Old 23 Jun 17, 13:25
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Terry's orders and Terry's intent

Modern operations orders can be quite detailed. But included in a detailed operations plan is "the commander's intent."

"The commander's intent describes the desired end state. It is a concise expression of the purpose of the operation and must be understood two echelons below the issuing commander. It is the single unifying focus for all subordinate elements. It is not a summary of the concept of the operation. Its purpose is to focus subordinates on the desired end state. Its utility is to focus subordinates on what has to be accomplished in order to achieve success, even when the plan and concept of operations no longer apply, and to discipline their efforts toward that end."

We know what Terry's "orders" to Custer were. We have a record of them:

http://www.littlebighorn.info/Articles/terryord.htm

But what was Terry's intent according to the modern definition? As best I can tell from his "orders" his intent was, "it is hoped that the Indians, if upon the Little Horn, may be so nearly inclosed by the two columns that their escape will be impossible."
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  #2  
Old 23 Jun 17, 20:10
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I'm definitely no expert on the subject, but from my readings, I thought that was the intent of having the different columns?
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Old 23 Jun 17, 21:54
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I'm definitely no expert on the subject, but from my readings, I thought that was the intent of having the different columns?
I don't think I understand your question.

But when I say Terry's intent, I don't mean what did Terry want Custer to do, or how did Terry want Custer to go about it. I mean what endstate did Terry want the operation to achieve?

I guess what I'm driving out is that Terry's orders don't communicate an intent (desisted end state) very well, just a general operational plan, which is not the same thing.
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Old 24 Jun 17, 10:37
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Originally Posted by KRJ View Post
I don't think I understand your question.

But when I say Terry's intent, I don't mean what did Terry want Custer to do, or how did Terry want Custer to go about it. I mean what endstate did Terry want the operation to achieve?

I guess what I'm driving out is that Terry's orders don't communicate an intent (desisted end state) very well, just a general operational plan, which is not the same thing.
they had multiple columns, yes?
usually you don't want to divide your command [ as Custer did! ]--
Custer knew there were multiple columns, yes?
shouldn't Custer not have realized/known/etc the overall objective was for the columns to work ''together'' in defeating the NAs? instead of him just trying to do it by himself?
thanks for replies
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Old 27 Jun 17, 10:35
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Originally Posted by Moulin View Post
...shouldn't Custer not have realized/known/etc the overall objective was for the columns to work ''together'' in defeating the NAs? instead of him just trying to do it by himself?...
That point has been argued for the last 141 years.
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Old 27 Jun 17, 12:21
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Much debate on whether Terry 'knew' what Custer would do if he found the Indians. Still giving vague orders for the columns to work together.

Forcing the Indians to move into the 'trap' was the plan... Custer's seemed to be to kill/capture the Indian village before they could do so. Bit off more than he could chew.
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Old 28 Jun 17, 14:03
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Columns were meant to work alone

It wasn’t Custer who decided the three columns, Montana, Dakota and Wyoming, would not coordinate operations, it was Generals Sherman and Sheridan. Each column was considered large enough to operate on its own, even the considerably smaller Montana column. Three columns were sent, 1. On the theory that at least one of them would bump into the Lakota/Cheyenne and bring them to battle, and 2. Moving into the Powder River country from three sides might force the tribes to retreat to the east, back to the reservation. That was, after all, the purpose of the whole operation.
The entire U.S. Army, not just Custer, was thinking one thing, Indians would flee from a large Army unit and escape. Unfortunately for the Army in general, and Custer’s command in particular, the tribes were thinking, “If we have to, fight!!”
Sheridan gave no orders for the commands to even communicate with each other. It could have been done easily, using Crow as couriers. They knew the region well and could navigate between columns.
The Montana Column originally planned to operate out of abandoned Fort CF Smith to the West. Terry changed that only after learning how badly a detachment of the Wyoming Column, under Reynolds (splitting command?) had botched a March 17 raid on a Cheyenne village on the Powder River. He knew this only because he was still at his headquarters and could communicate with Crook’s command by telegraph to Ft. Fetterman.
He telegraphed Gibbon at Fort Ellis, to change the plan, by ordering Gibbon to stay north of the Yellowstone. He thought the tribes would flee north of the Yellowstone, where they would disappear in the uninhabited vastness of central and northern Montana Territory. Again, escape of the tribes was his primary concern. He thought the Montana Column, all 450 of them, might be able to stop them at the Yellowstone. Gibbon was sure enough of his capabilities that he planned to attack the tribes when they were on the Tongue, by himself, with no other support in sight. He was stopped only because his troops failed to get the horses to ford the runoff-swollen Yellowstone River. No coordinated maneuver with other columns contemplated there.
Terry’s orders to Custer, given verbally at a June 22 conference on the Far West steamboat, and put into writing after, assumed that the tribes might be found on the Little Bighorn. But he was unsure they would stay there. Thus Custer was to move up the Rosebud, provisioned with 15 days rations, for the purpose of getting up stream of the tribes.
He wanted Custer to find the Tribes, authorizing him to go to the headwaters of the Rosebud if need be, with the provision that he trusted Custer’s judgment to act as soon as he found the tribes. He hoped that they would be found on the Little Bighorn, that Custer would attack from upstream, forcing them downstream where they would eventually run into the combined Montana Column and the Dakota Column infantry. No part of Terry’s order called for a simultaneous attack by both columns.

It should also be noted that, because of no planned communication between columns, that no one on the Far West knew that one week before, the tribes had uncharacteristically attacked Crook's large force (the largest of the three columns) in his camp and that Crook had withdrawn out of the operations area.
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Old 28 Jun 17, 16:05
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Great summary.
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Old 28 Jun 17, 20:12
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Great summary.
I agree
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Old 29 Jun 17, 14:59
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"Now Custer dont be greedy, wait for us!"
"I-I won't."

Where did I read that?
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Old 30 Jun 17, 15:07
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"Now Custer dont be greedy, wait for us!"
"I-I won't."

Where did I read that?
Many sources might carry the this quote from Gibbon. I have it in my copy of his article for the Catholic quarterly. .The problem some have is reading too much into it. As Gibbon's own chief of scouts James Bradley, wrote just prior to Custer's departure, Custer was given every opportunity to be first on the kill. Gibbon was not in command of the maneuver, Terry was, so Gibbons comment was not a command to wait for them. Terry gave no such command. It was most likely just friendly banter between officers. Gibbon knew Custer would be first to attack.
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