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

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  #61  
Old 23 Dec 16, 16:23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post
The Gatlings would have saved Custer because as their teams were horses condemned for cavalry service, they would have slowed him down long enough for the plan to actually have worked.

If they had miraculously arrived with the 7th, given the terrain and the mobile nature of the fight they would have had no effect. If they were with Custer or Reno they would have been in bad terrain amidst charges which quickly reversed themselves. If they were with Benteen they would have been on the bluff, but the Indians weren't inclined to charge entrenched cavalry, so they weren't going to do much there.

The Indians were gathered at the Little Big Horn for a grand council, the last of its kind ever to be seen on the Plains. They thought they were safely out of reach of the Army there.

They were meeting to decide what should be done. The bison were evaporating under the guns of the buffalo hunters, the Army would not back down, and whites were flooding into their territory. Hardliners like Sitting Bull and Gall wanted to fight on, others wanted to go as a group and negotiate a better deal than they had been getting so far. Notably absent was Red Cloud, widely regarded by the northern tribes as the best war chief they had left alive. Red Cloud had refused to leave the reservation.

It is hard to say what they would have done had Custer just arrived and made himself known. Sitting Bull, Gall, and Crazy Horse would certainly want to fight, but others would not be so included, and still others were not fond of stand-up fights with the bluecoats.

But Custer, besides being a glory-hungry idiot, knew nothing about Indians. He had exactly one skirmish and one attack on a village to his credit. He attacked the village, which given previous events caused the Indians to expect a massacre of women and children, so their response was all-out.

The Plains Indians to this day, amongst ourselves, see that day on the Greasy Grass as the end. No one really knew who Custer was before that day, but afterward he is seen as the bringer of the Indian downfall. When Custer's bungling got half the 7th Cavalry killed, every Indian knew it was over. They knew their chances of negotiation were finished. Sitting Bull, the ill-tempered blowhard, fled to Canada. Crazy Horse surrendered and was murdered with the help of a man he considered his friend. Only Gall died fighting.

Red Cloud lived to see (actually mostly blind by then) the 7th get revenge at Wounded Knee, after Sitting Bull was killed by his own tribe.

So yes, if Custer had hung back, or better yet had followed orders and arrived with Terry, I think there was a chance that the Little Big Horn would be remembered as the place the Plains Indians negotiated their peace.
Excellent points, except that this
Quote:
The Gatlings would have saved Custer because as their teams were horses condemned for cavalry service, they would have slowed him down long enough for the plan to actually have worked.
contradicts the rest of your line of reasoning because Custer was never after peace, but intent on destroying all Indians to promote his greater glory.

Quite frankly, I doubt Custer had the wisdom to properly deploy those Gatlings to begin with, and his troopers, including those vital Gatling gunners, were largely inexperienced in the kind of warfare seen in the West.

Incidentally as some posters have commented on the difficulty of moving wagons across the prairies, it should be remembered that the pioneering settlers did it all of the time, and in fact made the original trails, far more heavily laden that military wagons, so cavalry troops could certainly take wagons along as well. They just couldn't travel fast enough to satisfy Custer's hunger for glory.

Remember as well that Custer and his troops dragged along a commissary wagon in order to feed his troops.
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  #62  
Old 23 Dec 16, 19:32
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Originally Posted by Mountain Man View Post
Actually, IIRC, those things could be broken down and moved on pack mules, and they would have made all of the difference in the world. Might even have delayed Custer's death by several hours. Problem is he was up against well armed warriors who had learned to shoot straight in order to survive, and the gunners would have been prime targets...and he was still out-numbered some 10:1, so it all probably would have come down to how much ammo he had on hand, and we know he refused to wait for the Regimental trains to be brought up which included his artillery...and his reserve ammunition. Those Gatlings burned through a lot of ammo in a very short time, and the Indians would not have been slow targets marching into the guns, but very rapidly moving targets on widely divergent paths.

Interesting thought, though. Exactly how much additional force would Custer have needed to have survived, given his demonstrated ineptness at command and tactics?
Very VERY funny! Too soon for a rep but deserved.
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  #63  
Old 23 Dec 16, 19:45
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Libbie and Custermania

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Originally Posted by Mountain Man View Post
Excellent points, except that this contradicts the rest of your line of reasoning because Custer was never after peace, but intent on destroying all Indians to promote his greater glory.

Quite frankly, I doubt Custer had the wisdom to properly deploy those Gatlings to begin with, and his troopers, including those vital Gatling gunners, were largely inexperienced in the kind of warfare seen in the West.

Incidentally as some posters have commented on the difficulty of moving wagons across the prairies, it should be remembered that the pioneering settlers did it all of the time, and in fact made the original trails, far more heavily laden that military wagons, so cavalry troops could certainly take wagons along as well. They just couldn't travel fast enough to satisfy Custer's hunger for glory.

Remember as well that Custer and his troops dragged along a commissary wagon in order to feed his troops.
This is also very true. Custer, if we recall, had been charged and found guilty in the latter part of 1867 for "Absence without leave from his command" and "conduct to the predjudice of good order and discipline" and been court martialed on the orders of US Grant himself. He was sentenced to suspension of rank and pay for a year (a generous sentence indeed, they could have cashiered him out altogether)

I do believe it was this charge that began his slide toward constantly having to disprove the Army's growing opinion of him as a reckless officer, and a man unfit for command. He drove his people much harder than ever before after this decision. It also spoiled much of any chance he might have had up to that point for gaining that coveted Medal of Honour that he'd spent the entire Civil War chasing. Remember that their was a rivalry in the Custer family that bordered on insanity, and good old brother Tom had been awarded not one but TWO Medals of honour!

As usual, though, Faithful 'Libbie' makes light of everything and anything that could, and eventually did, make her treasured dead husband something less in the eyes of The Nation. "Libbie" more than any other single factor, is the primary cause of the Custer Mania that permiates this period of American Frontier History. I believe she had suspicions that if she did not take matters into hand to publish and prevent the record from being swamped with Custer detractors, "Audie" would have disappeared mostly from the annals of Heroism in the pages of American history, and dropped into obscurity as an incompetent that had met a well deserved end at The Greasy Grass.

Drusus
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  #64  
Old 23 Dec 16, 21:08
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Originally Posted by Mountain Man View Post
[FONT=Lucida Sans Unicode]Actually, IIRC, those things could be broken down and moved on pack mules,
Model 1866's? Not a chance. Too big. Too heavy, and not designed to be broken down.


Quote:
and they would have made all of the difference in the world. Might even have delayed Custer's death by several hours.
I suspect the Indian tales of Custer being wounded or killed early in the fight (at the Ford) is probably accurate, and would explain the quick break down of his command.

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Old 23 Dec 16, 21:12
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Originally Posted by Drusus Nero View Post
This is also very true. Custer, if we recall, had been charged and found guilty in the latter part of 1867 for "Absence without leave from his command" and "conduct to the predjudice of good order and discipline" and been court martialed on the orders of US Grant himself.
Drusus
It was because Custer had just testified before Congress of maltreatment of the Indians and corruption by the Indian Department and named names including Grant's brother-in-law (or was it brother, I can never remember which).
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Old 23 Dec 16, 22:39
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That may well have been the motivation for filing charges, but Custer did desert his troops and killed his horse to get back to the fort early so he could meet Libby. He was lucky not to get ran out of the Army.

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Old 24 Dec 16, 00:35
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A re-visited Custer thread that hasn't flamed into nonsense. Outstanding!!
IMO The Gatlings would have been useless due to the terrain and fighting style of the Natives. Bringing them down MT Coulee would have been a disaster. Leave them on the ridge and individual snipers engage them. As has been mentioned ammo would have been problematic also.
Custer understood the problems of wagons. He had a huge train in the '74 Black Hills Ex.
Libby and her Publisher were hot to benefit from the upcoming publication of the Bio. hence the media blitz that leads to the Reno-Benteen Inquiry. In her defense, I believe that the two had a very unique and devoted marriage. This isn't the place to include Custer's possible actions we have all heard of..
A question I have never heard posed before now was "How many men would it have taken for Custer to succeed?" Lot's of variables of course, but Gibbons was bringing 10 companies, Terry 5 more along with the Gatlings and a large supply train. (Infantry)
Certainly enough to handle the camp, if the Natives all froze in position until the Army was ready.

What if? Given a better line of communications between all three units, Custer doesn't attack. He does have plenty of strength to flush the horse herd. The mounts in the camp would have allowed pursuit by warriors, but not evacuation of the women and children, supplies etc.. 48 hours and Terry et.al. would be on site.
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Old 24 Dec 16, 02:19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tuebor View Post
Model 1866's? Not a chance. Too big. Too heavy, and not designed to be broken down.




I suspect the Indian tales of Custer being wounded or killed early in the fight (at the Ford) is probably accurate, and would explain the quick break down of his command.
Tuebor
Actually, the breakdown of custer's command could have more to do with what is acknowledged to be a complete breakdown of morale with his troops, leading to many suicide 'pacts'. the Indians themselves tell from more than a couple of accoutns of soldiers "shooting each other in the breast", and it was, apparently, quite common for frontier troopers to "save the last bullet for thmeselves".

I could post Indian accounts, but it probably won't change opinions too much. These occurances are, of course, speulative no matter what side of the Custer 'camp' your opinion lay in.
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Old 24 Dec 16, 03:54
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I suspect the Indian tales of Custer being wounded or killed early in the fight (at the Ford) is probably accurate, and would explain the quick break down of his command.

Tuebor
I disagree with the theory that Custer's command broke down. Like Reno, his charge was repulsed, and what Custer did next was textbook for the US Cavalry at the time: withdraw to high ground, dismount, and fight on foot in open order. In the 1870s the US Army viewed Cavalry as dragoons, primarily fighting on foot if a sudden rush from surprise could not be pulled off.

Which is exactly what occurred.

The problem is that since Custer had failed to make any sort of recon, the high ground he took was cut with arroyos and gullies which allowed the Indians to work close and bring their numbers to bear.

The suicide issue is also unlikely. The green troops wouldn't think along those lines, and the veterans would expect the Indians to break off once it came down to a slugfest (as they did when Reno reached the bluff).

What was different about the LBH is that the Indians were caught by surprise, and most charged into battle without their 'medicine', the elaborate preparations for war. The war leaders had only modest control over their warriors (not that Plains Indians other than the Dog Soldiers ever had much control). Many warriors thought they were fighting a rearguard action so their families could escape (which was itself false, because the pony herds were caught at a distance from the villages).

By all accounts the battle was heavy and confusing, and coated in powder smoke; I doubt any Indian had a good enough view to see multiple suicides.

What I do believe is the Indian's lament that they had captured many firearms but few cartridges; the Seventh fought hard, taking ammunition off the dead and wounded. Spotted pony recounts he took four cartridge belts off what would be called Last Stand Hill, and still ended up with only a fistful of cartridges, not enough to make up for his own ammunition expended, not to mention the horse he had shot out from under him.

The Indians captured over two hundred carbines, but only a handful were turned in or recaptured in the next two years; according to tribal sources they dumped most because they captured so little ammunition.

Custer's portion of the LBH was virtually unique in the Indian Wars on the Plains: Soldiers and Indians in large numbers fighting in a determined engagement. Other battles were highly mobile (Rosebud), or where one side caught and pinned the other (Fetterman, Wagon Box, second Adobe Walls*). Both sides suffered terribly. The Indians scored a tactical victory but a terrible strategic defeat.


* = Not a US Army fight
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Old 24 Dec 16, 10:18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pruitt View Post
That may well have been the motivation for filing charges, but Custer did desert his troops and killed his horse to get back to the fort early so he could meet Libby. He was lucky not to get ran out of the Army.

Pruitt
A small point perhaps but Custer shot his horse accidentally while pursuing a buffalo a considerable distance from the column,leaving hims to make his way back on foot through hostile territory.

The 1867 Court martial for "Absence without leave from his command; conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline"- ( the most serious charge being mistreatment of deserters, including alleged ordering of summary execution) was an entirely separate matter from Custer's arousing President Grant's resentment with his allegations to the Belknap enquiry in spring 1876.

Fred Grant went along on the Black Hills Expedition of 1874.

Custer's feeling the need to clock up a military success to salvage his career is not an unreasonable speculation, but do we have any evidence?
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Old 24 Dec 16, 13:10
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That depends on what you mean by "evidence".

I feel that Custer's many sessions with the "Tin Typr" photographers is one particular pointer towards vainglory and therefore a deep seated need to regain some of the respect he had earned during the ACW.

also, i mentioned that rivalry in the custer family was bordering on insanity, and i meant that lirerally. Tom custer's two medals of honour must have niggled "Armstrong" more than one probably gives it credit for.

Also, he'd fought under Grant, Grant ws President at the time of his return and Custer then went about hard-arseing all concerned, pushing them beyond the point.

I am reminded of the "Old blood and guts" retort..."Yeah..our blood his guts" when thinking of custers performances at the Washita and other hard knocks battles.

also the very decision to go after the lodge city at LBH was not only foolish, but more than a little 'hard arsed' in the same fashion. IF they had waited for Crook and the others, the size of the indian camp would have left a trail a mile wide, and been enourmously simple and easy to follow, probably even if his Crow scouts had disappeared!

All adds up to.....?
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Old 24 Dec 16, 13:49
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Originally Posted by Arnold J Rimmer View Post
...

The problem is that since Custer had failed to make any sort of recon, the high ground he took was cut with arroyos and gullies which allowed the Indians to work close and bring their numbers to bear.

...
I have also heard that the Bow & Arrow played a major part, maybe for the last time in a battle this size.
What they did was fire from the base of the hill, out of sight of the Troopers on the top, so that the arrows would drop amidst the Cavalry and their panicked horses.
Sounds odd and I'm not sure if I believe it myself, but it must have been helpful to have hand-held indirect fire support that could be used in such a way.
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Old 24 Dec 16, 13:55
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A small point perhaps but Custer shot his horse accidentally while pursuing a buffalo a considerable distance from the column,leaving hims to make his way back on foot through hostile territory.

The 1867 Court martial for "Absence without leave from his command; conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline"- ( the most serious charge being mistreatment of deserters, including alleged ordering of summary execution) was an entirely separate matter from Custer's arousing President Grant's resentment with his allegations to the Belknap enquiry in spring 1876.

Fred Grant went along on the Black Hills Expedition of 1874.

Custer's feeling the need to clock up a military success to salvage his career is not an unreasonable speculation, but do we have any evidence?
The key evidence can be found in his letters to his peers and superiors, and their opinions of him.

Custer was ambitious, and an expert apple-polisher as it well-documented.

And not unique only to him, he was suffering from what was certainly career depression, if not clinical depression. He graduated West Point (barely) and plunged immediately into the ACW. He made general in record time, commanded large bodies of men, won considerable glory, and unusually was never wounded. He was at scenes of great historical significance, winning distinction at Gettysburg and being present when Lee surrendered.

Then the war ended. His brevet rank was rescinded, and he became a lieutenant-colonel, XO of a regiment (although effectively commander as the actual CO was on detached duty). He was off in the West, on low pay, rough living conditions, boring duty, burdened with administrative details that had been ignored or minimized during the war.

His Indian-fighting career was going nowhere: his attack on Black Kettle's village was deemed a massacre by some, and he lost a detachment slaughtered which nearly led to another court-martial. Others were making a reputation as Indian-fighters, but not Custer. His frustration can clearly be seen in his letters to family and friends.

The Seventh was not the body of (relatively) patriotic men under wartime discipline that he was used to, but a ever-changing regiment of single-term enlistees who were prone to desertion (a trooper earned $16-18 a month in this period, whereas most semi-skilled laborers in the area earn a dollar a day, starting wage). His officers had been regimental or brigade commanders in the ACW and were no better reconciled to regimental duty that he.

And the enemy would not stand and fight. The Plains Indians only fought on their own terms, or when they took an obsessive interest (Second Adobe Walls is a prime example). This led in a large part to Custer's demise: he never paid much attention to native culture (few Army Officers did, although the most successful did). He blindly assumed that the Indians would never stand and fight man-to-man.

It was the bad luck of the men following him that Custer stumbled into the exact conditions where the Indians would break custom and go toe-to-toe.

Reno saved his command by halting his charge short of the village. This avoided the ditch or gully he was unknowingly leading his battalion towards (again, no ground recon) and meant his command didn't directly challenge the village. The warriors facing him flanking his skirmish line (dismounting and fighting in open order, straight from the book) to get to the horse holders. Reno ordered a withdraw to high ground (textbook), but lost control during the ensuing rout. He regained control on the bluff, and his men dug in. The Indians harassed the bluff, but they had no interest in trying to dig the bluecoats off of it.

Custer attacked the village; in fact, one of his trooper galloped all the way through it, either in panic or on an out-of-control horse. That gave the Indians the motivation to really push the fight home.

Spotted Pony, whom I mentioned before, lost a brother and two uncles in the fight, either killed on the field or died of wounds later. He literally crawled the length of the final ridgeline skirmish line and up Last Stand Hill. Bolder warriors attacked on horseback and paid the price.

I think Custer's ambition has been over-emphasized and made to sound unique. I expect every ACW veteran desired to reach his brevet rank and regain some of the glory they had tasted in the ACW. Miles' ambition and ruthlessness was certainly of an extremely unprincipled nature.

We should also recall that these officers as a group were riddled with PTSD. Countless examples of mental breakdowns decimated their ranks. Reno, who commanded a brigade with distinction during the ACW, self-medicated his way out of the Army. Custer saw heavy combat in the ACW, and undoubtedly was fighting those same demons.
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Old 24 Dec 16, 14:07
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Originally Posted by Drusus Nero View Post
That depends on what you mean by "evidence".

I feel that Custer's many sessions with the "Tin Typr" photographers is one particular pointer towards vainglory and therefore a deep seated need to regain some of the respect he had earned during the ACW.

also, i mentioned that rivalry in the custer family was bordering on insanity, and i meant that lirerally. Tom custer's two medals of honour must have niggled "Armstrong" more than one probably gives it credit for.

Also, he'd fought under Grant, Grant ws President at the time of his return and Custer then went about hard-arseing all concerned, pushing them beyond the point.

I am reminded of the "Old blood and guts" retort..."Yeah..our blood his guts" when thinking of custers performances at the Washita and other hard knocks battles.

also the very decision to go after the lodge city at LBH was not only foolish, but more than a little 'hard arsed' in the same fashion. IF they had waited for Crook and the others, the size of the indian camp would have left a trail a mile wide, and been enourmously simple and easy to follow, probably even if his Crow scouts had disappeared!

All adds up to.....?
With due respect, sir, I think the answer would have to be be 'No.'
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Old 24 Dec 16, 14:46
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Well yes, but the point that a village and collection of natives this size would have been easy to track still remains quite valid...So one can draw ones opinions from this fact alone.

the trail that they would have left would be HUGE, and VERY easy to follow.

Nice to see someone being polite when saying NO...deserves a 'pip' on its own!
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