Originally Posted by KRJ
Okay, rusty memory here, but without looking it up I thought the last 28 men of Gray Horse Troop went down in the Deep Ravine. Where was the South Skirmish Line in relation to Deep Ravine?
The South Skirmish Line is to the right and out of the picture you have of Deep Ravine. Though, as with other aspects of the battle, the South Skirmish line is in dispute. From Indian testimony it appears that E Company, on the grays, was sent downhill to push back warriors seen to be coming up the slope, apparently getting to that part of the battlefield under the protection of Deep Ravine. The south Skirmish line is marked by the marble stones along the lower part of the trial leading to Deep Ravine. There are those who believe that Lame White Man's charge rolled up the E Company skirmish line there.
Deep Ravine has it's own controversy. Though some of the reburial stories seem to indicate 28 (more or less) bodies in Deep Ravine, others contest that. Gregg Michno makes a compelling argument that no one is buried in Deep Ravine in his book, "The Mystery of E Troop." One thing backing up Michno is that fact that in spite of digs and test holes bored at suspected places in DR, not a single human bone has been found there. 28 bodies would yield more than 5,000 bones. Of course, those that hold to the Deep Ravine story say that's just because digs and test holes have not reached the right place yet. Maybe so. The jury is still out on both Deep Ravine and the South Skirmish line.
One thing known is that E Company commander Lt. Algeron Smith's body was found among the bodies of F Company and the Headquarters element on LSH, while it is generally accepted that most of the marble stones on the lower trail to Deep Ravine mark burial spots of his E Company troops. Young Sturgis's body was never identified in the field, but since Smith is not located with his company, one explanation was that Smith may have been wounded early in the fight, and under Dr. Lord's care in the HQ perimeter. That would leave young Sturgis in command of E Company and supposedly leading his company in a drive to push warriors back at the South Skirmish line.
There are those that hold that the stones on the lower DR trail do not mark a fighting line at all, but a "flight line." Only two bodies are identified for sure at this location. Frederick Hohmeyer, first sergeant for Company E, was identified because the body was still wearing a stocking with Hohmeyer's name stenciled on it. The men marked their uniform clothing to be sure they got it back from the laundry while at garrison. That supports a theory that E Company was deployed to the South Skirmish line.
Mitch Bouyer, the scout loaned to Custer by Gibbon, was identified fairly recently when the fire and digs uncovered most of the facial bones, indicating mixed European and Indian ancestry. Bouyer was half French and half Lakota, though he was married to a Crow woman and lived with the Crow people. He would have been the only one with mixed racial heritage on the Custer field. Also the teeth indicated a pipe smoker, which Bouyer was and a mother-of-pearl button at the site indicates the person was wearing civilian clothes.
Bouyer would have been expected to have been with the HQ element on top of the hill. But there is Indian testimony that some from the HQ/F perimeter made a break down slope after fighting ended on the hill, possibly explaining Bouyer's presence of the South Skirmish Line. Of course he could have accompanied E Company too, though being among that handful of last fleeing survivors sounds most logical.
The finding of Boston Custer and "Little Autie" Reed (Custer's teenage nephew)together outside the perimeter and only 50 or so yards down hill, also suggests a last-minute run out of the perimeter. GA Custer may have ordered Boston to stay with young Reed and keep him down. Since they are closest to the perimeter, they may have been the first of the fleeing ones to go down. Probably one went down wounded and the other stayed in an effort to rescue.