The journey of exploration to the western territories brought the white man many great things, but they did face some opposition. The US government made plans to explore the Black Hills, after hearing of the gold it contained. This was not an easy task. The Sioux, with strong force, were not giving up their sacred land easily. The only way to gain the territory of the Black Hills was to wage war against the Sioux. The Battle of the Little Big Horn was one battle that the US will never forget. General George Custer led an army of men to take out the Sioux, one of the battalions was completely wiped out including Custer. The Sioux were very strong, but US had a lot more power and technology. Why did we get massacred? This question has been a mystery to many people throughout the years. Sergeant Windolph, of Benteens cavalry, and John F. Finerty, from General Crooks cavalry, bring us some personal accounts and memories of this tragedy.
There are many factors that did affect the outcome of this battle. George Custer could be to blame for such a tragedy. He did make the critical decisions that brought his soldiers down. Custers personal ambition got the best of him. Windolph explains, Custer was partially disgraced because General Terry had superseded him in command of the expedition (Windolph 174). He felt that he should have received control over the entire expedition. Custer made no secret of his intention to cut loose from Terry. General Terry, General Gibbon, and General Custer were all to meet on June 26, at the Rosebud, and plan their attack. But as soon as Custer struck the trail of the Indians he followed it till he came upon the Indian village on June 25. He disobeyed Terrys orders.
While Terry and Gibbon were meeting in Rosebud, Custer was already dividing his regiment into three separate battalions. Sergeant Windolph, from Renos battalion, recalls:
The enemy increased so greatly in numbers that we were forced into the timber for protection, but I firmly believe that if, at that moment, all our companies had been together the Indians would have been driven from their village (Windolph 166).
If Custer had not separated his troops into three battalions, they might have left victorious over the Sioux. Windolph also states that The Indians also stated that the separate detachments made their victory over the troops more certain (Windolph 161).
Custer also didnt take into consideration the unfed and exhausted condition of his men and horses. The Indians, on the other hand, were ready for the fight, with great energy.
Custer did make a frantic call out to Reno for help. Renos retreat into the woods may have been premature, but it would have been nearly impossible to help Custer, who was at hilltop, a considerable distance away. Finerty makes a comment of what his General Crook thought about the situation at the time saying had an officer of more resolution been in Major Renos place he would have attempted to join Custer at any cost (Finerty 203). Crook believed that Reno was to blame for such a big loss. This is one major factor for this horrific outcome.
Custer may also be to blame for not taking advice from his scouts. Windolph, the soldier who served under General Benteen, remembers the story of the scouts.
A few Indians scouts told Custer that the village could be seen from the top of the divide. Custer gathered up a few orderlies and galloped forward to look at the camp. Custer returned to the group claiming he could see no camp. While Custer was looking for the Indian village the scouts came in and reported that he had been discovered, and that the news was on its way to the village that he was coming (Windolph 157).
Custers lack of trust for his scouts ruined his surprise attack. Custers divided regiment could have possibly taken out the Sioux if they had that element of surprise. This was one major factor in the outcome of the war.
Custer was, pretty much, totally responsible for the happenings at Little Big Horn. He went against the command of General Terry, who led the expedition. Custer then divided his troops into three regiments, which really hurt him. He did not take the advice from the scouts of the Indians being near. This ruined the surprise attack. Custer also did not think about how tired and exhausted his soldiers and horses were before they began the battle. Reno could hold some of the blame, for if he would have showed up to help Custers troops they might have been able to take the Sioux. Windolphs comments from the book I Fought With Custer and Finertys memories of the battle from War-Path and Bivouac bring us a little closer to understand why this tragedy took place.