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American Age of Discovery, Colonization, Revolution, & Expansion Military history of North America. .

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  #31  
Old 22 Jun 16, 17:22
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Originally Posted by Mountain Man View Post
Custer's command had a number of problems, revealed by the forensic battlefield exam performed a few years ago.

For starters, many of his troops were younger than they should have been and untrained in combat.

The minimum age for a trooper was set at 22, but Custer had many troopers in their teens.

His men were generally in poor health. The forensic exams revealed a great deal of arthritis, even among the young troopers, and a lot of relatively severe dental problems, and well as clear evidence of lack of proper nourishment.

Custer ignored his scouts and split his command, unforgivable and fatal tactical errors.

The Amerinds had better weapons. They could trade for whatever they wanted, and generally their rifles were more modern repeaters.

The greatest advantage the Amerinds possessed, beyond overwhelmingly superior numbers, was their intimate knowledge of the terrain, which they used at every opportunity.

Finally, forensics demonstrated that there was no "last stand" - the troopers broke and fled moving in small groups and even as individuals with no attempt to stand and mount an organized defense, and the Amerinds hunted them down and killed them.
Indeed.
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  #32  
Old 22 Jun 16, 18:10
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Originally Posted by jf42 View Post
Um, "would have helped him greatly" do what?

If in the end repeating rifles (which weren't on offer) would have made no difference, i.e. in terms of preventing the anihilation of his command, then surely firepower was not the issue- at least not on the U.S. side.

Clearly, the ability to pick off soldiers from cover, with a superior rate of fire would have been helpful to the Indians.

The 2nd Cavalry contingent with Fetterman at Fort Phil Kearny in 1866 had Spencers, with some scouts' Winchesters, but it didn't help them much. Of course, it's fair to say the odds were much worse than at LBH. Apparently, having kept good order -unlike Custer's men- they lasted about 20 minutes before being overrun. The Indians had few guns that day. Only six soldiers were reported to have died by gunshot.
No, estimates are something like 1/4 had repeating rifles, 1/4 had muzzle loaders, the other halve were armed with an assortment of pistols, bows and arrows, and spears.

"There were 2,361 cartridges, cases and bullets recovered from the entire battlefield, which reportedly came from 45 different firearms types (including the Army Springfields and Colts, of course) and represented at least 371 individual guns. The evidence indicated that the Indians used Sharps, Smith & Wessons, Evans, Henrys, Winchesters, Remingtons, Ballards, Maynards, Starrs, Spencers, Enfields and Forehand & Wadworths, as well as Colts and Springfields of other calibers. There was evidence of 69 individual Army Springfields on Custerís Field (the square-mile section where Custerís five companies died), but there was also evidence of 62 Indian .44-caliber Henry repeaters and 27 Sharps .50-caliber weapons. In all, on Custerís Field there was evidence of at least 134 Indian firearms versus 81 for the soldiers. It appears that the Army was outgunned as well as outnumbered."
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  #33  
Old 22 Jun 16, 20:49
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Originally Posted by Mountain Man View Post
We Americans surely do like to celebrate our military disasters.

Custer did absolutely everything wrong and paid the ultimate price for it, which included the deaths of the soldiers obliged to follow him. Then. historians did everything possible to place the blame everywhere but where it belonged - solely on the shoulders of Custer.

A century or so later the US Army had still not learned the most vital lesson from the Little Bighorn - technology does not overcome Third World 4G troops fighting on their own territory - in a nation called Viet Nam.
You can thank Elizabeth Custer for the way people have viewed Custer.
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  #34  
Old 22 Jun 16, 21:58
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mountain Man View Post
Custer's command had a number of problems, revealed by the forensic battlefield exam performed a few years ago.

For starters, many of his troops were younger than they should have been and untrained in combat.

The minimum age for a trooper was set at 22, but Custer had many troopers in their teens.

His men were generally in poor health. The forensic exams revealed a great deal of arthritis, even among the young troopers, and a lot of relatively severe dental problems, and well as clear evidence of lack of proper nourishment.

Custer ignored his scouts and split his command, unforgivable and fatal tactical errors.

The Amerinds had better weapons. They could trade for whatever they wanted, and generally their rifles were more modern repeaters.

The greatest advantage the Amerinds possessed, beyond overwhelmingly superior numbers, was their intimate knowledge of the terrain, which they used at every opportunity.

Finally, forensics demonstrated that there was no "last stand" - the troopers broke and fled moving in small groups and even as individuals with no attempt to stand and mount an organized defense, and the Amerinds hunted them down and killed them.
Exactly, many of these troopers had lumbar degenerative disc disease causing lower back pain. The development was the result of hard riding, and those McClellan saddles added much to the problem.
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  #35  
Old 23 Jun 16, 04:36
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Originally Posted by 101combatvet View Post
No, estimates are something like 1/4 had repeating rifles, 1/4 had muzzle loaders, the other halve were armed with an assortment of pistols, bows and arrows, and spears.

"There were 2,361 cartridges, cases and bullets recovered from the entire battlefield, which reportedly came from 45 different firearms types (including the Army Springfields and Colts, of course) and represented at least 371 individual guns. The evidence indicated that the Indians used Sharps, Smith & Wessons, Evans, Henrys, Winchesters, Remingtons, Ballards, Maynards, Starrs, Spencers, Enfields and Forehand & Wadworths, as well as Colts and Springfields of other calibers. There was evidence of 69 individual Army Springfields on Custerís Field (the square-mile section where Custerís five companies died), but there was also evidence of 62 Indian .44-caliber Henry repeaters and 27 Sharps .50-caliber weapons. In all, on Custerís Field there was evidence of at least 134 Indian firearms versus 81 for the soldiers. It appears that the Army was outgunned as well as outnumbered."
Not on 21st December, 1866.

Last edited by jf42; 23 Jun 16 at 06:54..
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  #36  
Old 23 Jun 16, 06:26
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Originally Posted by jf42 View Post
Anybody mention 'ambush'?
Wouldn't have thought so. It appears to have been an excellent example of a double envelopment with Custer's command caught between Gall and Crazy Horse.
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Last edited by BELGRAVE; 23 Jun 16 at 06:33..
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  #37  
Old 23 Jun 16, 06:55
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Ah, quite so.
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  #38  
Old 23 Jun 16, 12:57
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Custer was operating under the assumption that had developed after more than a decade of US troops in off and on again conflict against the Sioux and Cheyenne. That assumption being the tribes will not stand up and fight a large unit of soldiers unless you threaten a village and then only long enough for them to secure the escape of the village. Speed was the essence. However, things changed, and Crook probably should have done more after Rosebud to spread the news that um guys, they are up for a stand up fight against a force the size of our columns. Could a messenger have found Gibbon's and Terry's/Custer's column? I dunno, it is a big rough area to cover, but it should have been tried. I have tried to search to see if Crook did send out any attempt to contact the other columns but haven't found anything suggesting he did.

Still Custer really should have listened to his scouts. Shoulda, coulda, woulda.

Last edited by Jimmy_Bob; 23 Jun 16 at 13:04..
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  #39  
Old 23 Jun 16, 13:31
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My impression is that after the fight on the Rosebud, Crook and his command were too busy, ah, 'regrouping.'

Given the large group of highly irritated Indians between him and the Yellowstone, who would Crook have sent? Too few to get through and too many to die in the attempt, I'd say. He couldnt spare any of his cavalry, already quite badly mauled in the Rosebud fight. And if any group, having survived, caught up with Custer, would he have paid attention to their warning (Particularly if Crook sent Indian scouts, who had the best chance of getting through)? Custer wanted the Indians to stand rather than run.

Still, it's fun to kick it around.
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Old 23 Jun 16, 14:14
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My impression is that after the fight on the Rosebud, Crook and his command were too busy, ah, 'regrouping.'

Given the large group of highly irritated Indians between him and the Yellowstone, who would Crook have sent? Too few to get through and too many to die in the attempt, I'd say. He couldnt spare any of his cavalry, already quite badly mauled in the Rosebud fight. And if any group, having survived, caught up with Custer, would he have paid attention to their warning (Particularly if Crook sent Indian scouts, who had the best chance of getting through)? Custer wanted the Indians to stand rather than run.

Still, it's fun to kick it around.
That's what the Indians said about Custer.

Any way we look at it, Custer did everything wrong once the situation went south on him. He committed the single worst offense a leader can commit in a combat situation - he utterly failed to come up with a plan B because in his blinding arrogance he never imagined he would need one.

The two critical questions the military pounded into me time and time again during the Cold War: "What's the worst thing that van happen?" "What are you going to do about it?"
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  #41  
Old 23 Jun 16, 15:30
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Originally Posted by jf42 View Post
My impression is that after the fight on the Rosebud, Crook and his command were too busy, ah, 'regrouping.'

Given the large group of highly irritated Indians between him and the Yellowstone, who would Crook have sent? Too few to get through and too many to die in the attempt, I'd say. He couldnt spare any of his cavalry, already quite badly mauled in the Rosebud fight. And if any group, having survived, caught up with Custer, would he have paid attention to their warning (Particularly if Crook sent Indian scouts, who had the best chance of getting through)? Custer wanted the Indians to stand rather than run.

Still, it's fun to kick it around.
I do want to make sure to point out I am not attempting to absolve Custer of his mistakes, his were many, more pointing out that a lot of mistakes were made in this campaign by Army leaders. If not for the hard fought delaying actions by the Crow and Shoshone the Sioux and Cheyenne may have decisively beaten two of the three columns.

My understanding was Crooks biggest concern was lack of ammo. I have my doubts knowing the terrain of the area that messengers would have found the column, but the change in the Sioux and Cheyenne not only being up for a fight but attacking an Army force of that size called for making the risk imho. That assessment of course has the benefit of hindsight and Crook doesn't know where the hostile or friendly forces are.
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Old 23 Jun 16, 18:42
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There does seem to be a touch of bitterness in how critics emphasise Crook's failings in dealing with the Plains tribes, coming as he did from successful dealings with the Apache in the the south west, which bore no comparison with the situation on the northern Plains

To what extent there were elements of jealousy or resentment towards Crook within the army, following his success in the southwest, I am not sure, but I wonder if that contributed to suggestions that he overreacted to the check on the Rosebud. Interesting to examine how the 5th Cavalry adapted in that regard on moving north from Arizona.

Utley presents Crook as retiring to the Tongue river forward base, shaken by the sustained aggression of the Indians over a six-hour fight and refusing to budge until he received reinforcements. Perhaps that was only sensible. Your observation regarding Crook's concerns over ammunition is interesting in that regard.

Crook had already clocked up a successful winter campaign (without losing a battalion to Indian counter-attack) and did manage not to get wiped out on the Rosebud, despite being caught unawares on a coffee break by an undetected Indian force in the neighbourhood. He was not outnumbered, so that outcome was perhaps not likely, but it seems he was lucky to get off as lightly as he did, although reports of casualties vary considerably (didn't they keep rolls these guys?).

He was not hampered by the hothouse tensions within a regimental column such as those suffered by the 7th Cavalry (admittedly the result of Custer's questionable command skills) and had good subordinates like Anson Mills in command of their own regimental detachments, who made good independent decisions, and he was very well served by his Indian auxiliaries.

Nonetheless, I feel Crook is not someone to dismiss lightly.
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  #43  
Old 23 Jun 16, 20:31
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Crook had Infantry attached to his column, plus Shoshone and other allied Indians. The Shoshone Chief was over 70 years old! While Crook's troops did maneuver a bit, they stayed near each other. In the end, Crook had more troops and they stayed concentrated.

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Old 23 Jun 16, 21:06
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Wouldn't have thought so. It appears to have been an excellent example of a double envelopment with Custer's command caught between Gall and Crazy Horse.
True, but is there any evidence it was planned that way? Was the double envelopment the result of either Gall or Crazy Horse being a master tactician executing a great tactical plan? Or was it simply the result of vastly superior Indian numbers where everybody had to go somewhere and they just ended up going all around?

I think it was a swarming mob. A brave and successful swarming mob but a swarming mob none the less.
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Old 23 Jun 16, 21:35
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