Author Topic: Excellent read on The Battle of the Little Bighorn  (Read 684 times)

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Offline CoconutXO

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Excellent read on The Battle of the Little Bighorn
« on: April 05, 2020, 05:40:53 AM »
A famous chapter in American history.

Trumpeter Giovanni Martini was the last white man to see Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer alive. He also became the first enlisted man to serve as a scapegoat for the catastrophe at the Little Bighorn.

There was plenty of blame to go around after five companies of the 7th Cavalry were virtually exterminated on June 25, 1876, and most of it fell on Custer’s two top subordinates: Major Marcus Reno, accused by Custer’s partisans of cowardice in the face of the enemy; and Captain Frederick Benteen, who earned the Medal of Honor for heroism on the periphery of Custer’s Last Stand but failed to break through the Indians with the remaining seven companies of the 7th Cavalry, some of whom lived into the 1920s, or in one case into the 1950s. Benteen, in particular, shifted the blame onto trumpeter John Martin—born in Italy as Giovanni Martini.

If Private Martini had not garbled the message Colonel Custer sent back to Benteen, the irascible captain argued, the rescue attempt by Benteen’s and Reno’s seven companies might have proceeded with greater urgency. Subsequently, members of the antiCuster faction in the polarized world of Custer historians have seen the bugler as a bungler and wondered why Custer entrusted a vital message to an Italian immigrant who couldn’t speak English.

Martini’s real message—the one he told Indian wars researcher Walter Mason Camp in 1917—got lost in the shuffle and was only revealed in the 1980s through the battlefield archaeology of Richard Allan Fox. The man accused of contributing to the disaster through confused communications actually made what really happened all clear for the first time. As cited by Fox, Martini brought back word to his buddies (but perhaps not to Benteen) that the Indian village was bare of warriors and was targeted by Custer for a roundup of women and children.

The basic facts are clear: On June 25 Custer had split the 7th Cavalry into four elements, hoping to surround the Lakota and Cheyenne Indians he was trailing and bring them back to their agencies. The sight of the biggest Indian village any of the soldiers had ever seen on the Little Bighorn prompted Custer to send his trumpeter, Martini, back to inform Captain Benteen and his three companies of the size of the village and the need for speed at about 2:45 p.m. Custer’s adjutant, Canadian-born Lieutenant William W. Cooke, put the message in writing:

Benteen. Come on. Big Village. Be quick. Bring Packs. P.S. Bring Packs.

Martini took off on his tired horse; met “forage master” Boston Custer, who passed him going the other way at a run to join his two older brothers, George and Tom Custer; and reached Benteen and his three companies just as firing was breaking out in the distance. “What’s the matter with your horse?” the crusty Benteen demanded. “He’s just tired out, I guess,” the trumpeter said. “Tired out!” Benteen snapped. “Look at his hip! You’re lucky it wasn’t you!”

Martini looked and saw that his horse had been shot and that blood had splattered onto his own back. Benteen—who later reported that Martini had told him the Indians were “skedaddling”—stopped to water his own companies’ horses before he advanced toward the insistent sound of gunfire. As Benteen reached the hills overlooking the Little Bighorn, he saw Reno’s troopers fleeing from the timber and up the side of what came to be called Reno Hill. Benteen quickly diverted to assist Reno, but stopped in the drive to reach Custer as ordered in writing.

Martini was immediately advanced to the role of scapegoat as Benteen reflexively blamed the misleading news on the messenger, “a thick-headed, dull-witted Italian, just about as much cut out for a cavalryman as he was for a king. He in formed me that the Indians were ‘skidaddling’…we saw going on what was obviously not skedaddling on the part of the Indians, as there were 12 or 14 men on the river bottom and they were being ridden down and shot by 800 or 900 Indian warriors….We concluded that the lay of the land had better be investigated a bit, as so much of the Italian trumpeter’s story hadn’t panned out.”

Benteen rescued what was left of Reno’s command, and his courage in the fight on Reno Hill won him the admiration of the enlisted survivors. Martini joined Reno and Benteen in the defense of Reno Hill, and his trumpet call was the first contact with General Alfred Terry, who arrived on June 27 to rescue Reno and Benteen’s seven companies and find out that Custer’s five companies had been wiped out.

Benteen’s foot-dragging response when other officers wanted to ride to Custer’s rescue—given his hatred of Custer and coupled with the visible panic of Major Reno—led to a court of inquiry in Chicago in 1879 to try to fix blame for the defeat. Benteen advanced one possible candidate: Martini. Benteen implied that if the Italian trumpeter hadn’t confused the message, Benteen would have shown more haste in his ride to Custer’s relief.

Custer was born the son of a blacksmith and was very wanted and loved as a child. As a young man he soon became aware that if he wanted to rise in the world being the son of a working class father was not in his favour. One of the few ways of rising in the American social world of the 1850/60’s was to become an officer and a gentleman, and to win the hand of the girl he (1)loved this was imperative.

Custer, with the help of some political friends managed to get a place at West Point in 1857 passing out in 1861. Custer’s time at West Point has been very well documented, and yes, he did accrue the most demerits ever at West Point, and he did pass out bottom of his class. However, he had the sense and determination to pass out and become an officer in the American Military and so made the move into the ranks of gentlemen. No one can take that away from his record.

So what about his Civil War career? Being in the right place at the right time, always willing to put himself in danger without a second thought was a way of getting noticed, and he did! Whilst working as a staff officer for Major General George B. McClellan, then commander of the Army of the Potomac, Custer was promoted to the rank of temporary captain. When McClellan was relieved of command in November 1862 Custer reverted to his rank of first lieutenant.

He then fell under the gaze of Major General Alfred Pleasonton then in command of a Cavalry Division. After the battle of Chancellorsville Pleasonton was given command of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac in 1863. Pleasanton recognised Custer’s leadership qualities and three days before the battle of Gettysburg Pleasonton promoted Custer from Captain to Major General giving him command of the Michigan Brigade of Cavalry.

Custer was one of the youngest Major Generals in the Union Army and was depicted in the press as (2)“The Boy General”. By the end of the war Custer had gone on to win many honours and ended up as a household name. He was present at General Robert E. Lee’s signing of the surrender document in the Appomattox Court House in 1865.

Custer, being Custer, rode away from the Court House after the surrender with the table on which the surrender document had been signed balanced on his head. General Sheridan had presented Custer with the table as a souvenir of the signing, and as a gift for his wife. The table is now in the Smithsonian Institution but sadly there is no record of what Elizabeth Custer said on receiving the gift!

Custer and Gen Pleasonton on horseback - So what about Custer after the war? In 1866 Custer was mustered out of the volunteer army and reverted to the regular army with the rank of Captain in the 5th Cavalry. On September 21st 1866 Custer took command of the newly formed 7th Cavalry at Fort Riley, Kansas, with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

However, due to the intervention of General Sheridan he obtained a brevet appointment as a Major General. A brevet authorised a commissioned officer to hold a higher rank with pay but only for the duration of the assignment.

It is from this point that I think we start to see why things went so wrong for Custer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. In 1867 the American Government decided to bring the Southern Cheyenne under control by a show of force.

They gave command to a Civil War hero, Winfield Scott Hanchicken with a mixed force of 1400 men including infantry, artillery and Custer’s 7th Cavalry. Hanchicken’s brief was first to try to talk the Cheyenne onto a reservation but if that failed to force them to comply. The whole campaign turned into a total disaster because of Hanchicken’s misunderstanding of the Indians’ determination not to accept the white man’s rule.

It was about this time that it began to dawn on Custer how difficult it was to track and fight Indians. Conventional forces moved far too slowly and needed a very cumbersome logistic train to back them up. Indians could, and did travel a lot faster than white troops even with their families in tow. Indians had a great advantage over American troops because their ponies could survive on grass and did not need oats like the cavalry horses. Thus they were able to travel much faster than the troopers.

The other problem was finding Indians in the first place. Indians could see the troops coming long before the troops had any idea they were getting close to a village so the Indians could move away very quickly. An entire (3)Indian village could move lock stock and barrel in about half an hour and then move faster than the troops trying to catch them. The Indians also had the advantage of knowing the country intimately.

At the end of the summer long campaign Custer was desperate to see his wife. He deserted his command and for this action was court-martialled at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas for being AWOL. He was suspended for one year without pay missing the 1868 summer campaign. The 1868 campaign, commanded this time by Gen. Phil Sheridan, was as dismal as Hanchicken’s 1867 effort had been.

However it decided Sheridan that it was virtually impossible to catch Indians in the summer. Sheridan now advocated total war against the Cheyenne who like most other tribes went into more permanent camps in the winter. Sheridan wanted a winter campaign: he also wanted Custer whom he admired. So at his request, Custer was allowed to return to duty with the 7th before his term of suspension had expired.

Brevet Major General G A C in service dress 1865 - The Battle of the Washwita. Under Sheridan’s command Custer established Camp Supply in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) in November 1868 as a base for the coming winter campaign. On November 26th Custer stumbled across the Indian village of (4)Black Kettle near the Washwita River.

He attacked the camp at first light on the 27th, dividing his command into four units, sending one unit around the back of the village so that when he attacked the village head-on, the Indians would be driven into the troops on the other (5)side. The other two detachments’ jobs were to stampede the Indian ponies: an Indian afoot was easer to kill than one on horseback.

As it was mid-winter the women, children and old folks had to try to get away in thick snow thereby impeding the warrior’s job of trying to defend them. This was the standard way of attacking an Indian encampment and on this occasion the attack was entirely successful as the village was quite small. However this approach would turn into a disaster at the Little Big Horn eight years later.

This was the first real success against the Cheyenne in two years. As most of the Southern Cheyenne reluctantly moved onto reservations after the battle, Custer’s action was seen as an even bigger success. It was this one fight that built the image of Custer as being the best Indian fighter in the army at that time.

Shine shine mine

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Re: Excellent read on The Battle of the Little Bighorn
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2020, 01:55:42 PM »

Can I just watch and adore and not read  -daydream It is funny thing, it takes a long time from me to see there is no much of clothes because I just keep staring that hair   -heart I have no idea where I got that long hair obsession   -shrug

Offline CoconutXO

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Re: Excellent read on The Battle of the Little Bighorn
« Reply #2 on: April 06, 2020, 01:55:27 AM »
Custer was simply too outnumbered in this case.

In a cavalry battle, the side with better horsemanship would usually pull a flanking or pincer maneuver to throw the opponent's formation into chaos.

Pincer movement at the Battle of Cannae 216 BC
Carthage (50,000) vs Rome (86,400)

Gisgo, a commander in the Carthaginian army, sat on his horse nervously as he waited with other members of the staff for their general, the now-famous Hannibal, to complete his final inspection. Moving easily, like the superb horseman he was, Hannibal detected the apprehension of his staff as he rejoined them for a final appraisal of the situation. He had been outnumbered before by Roman legions, but had always managed to win victories through carefully laid traps, hidden ambushes, and other tactical means. Today’s battle would be a fully set piece, with everything out in plain sight. What disturbed the staff, and the entire Carthaginian army for that matter, was the size of the army facing them. Gisgo, seeking some kind of reassurance, decided to point out the obvious to Hannibal.

“Sire, they are more than twice our number!”

“I noticed that, Gisgo,” replied Hannibal, “but I also noticed something that you have apparently overlooked.”

“And that, Sire?” asked Gisgo.

“In that entire army, large as it is, there is not one man named Gisgo,” Hannibal replied.

Gisgo thought for a moment, and then began to laugh. Soon the entire group of officers was laughing. It proved to be infectious and moved through the other two lines and to the horsemen on either flank. The stodgy Romans opposite thought the entire Punic army to be mad and ordered their skirmishers forward. Hannibal’s jest had served to break the tension felt in his army and buck them up for the coming contest—The Battle of Cannae—his most spectacular battle in the Second Punic War.

Alexander the Great did similar thing in Persia where he was also outnumbered.

So sad

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Re: Excellent read on The Battle of the Little Bighorn
« Reply #3 on: April 06, 2020, 05:10:46 AM »
I still could not read bury my heart at wounded knee, I cry so much that I cannot breath.

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