Richard Fox's book on LBH Archaeology Aug 7, 2011 19:09:37 GMT -5
Post by keogh on Aug 7, 2011 19:09:37 GMT -5
You make a good case here and I agree with you.
This is what Fox appears to have done and I believe he explains some of the imponderables quite plausibly.
Yes, this is what Fox attempts to do, and, I believe, he does it quite well in certain cases. In others, he extends himself well beyond his expertise as an archaeologist, and this is where much of the criticism of his work comes in. He does try to explain some of these objections away, but I found some of these explanations to be lacking in credibility.
His acceptance (validation?) of the Cheyenne oral tradition of what happened on Cemetery Ridge, which seems to have been accepted by subsequent writers, is an example – or is that in still play too? He discovered the Henryville site as well.
I think Fox did an excellent job in attempting to validate John Stands In Timber's account of the action on Cemetery Ridge and the North Ford foray as well. Fox may well be taking credit for discovering 'Henryville' but that location as a main Indian firing position has been known by battle scholars for many years before Fox appeared on the scene. The fact is, he did not discover 'Henryville'.
Archaeological evidence is nothing whatever to do with "everything being there" as some posters seem to assume. If it did archaeology would be useless. It depends on the careful interpretation of whatever remains, even if it has been damaged by time, fire, weather, famine, pestilence, relic hunters – or even volcanoes (Pompeii). If the shell casing marks tell you that two bullets were shot from the same carbine 100 yards apart, whatever else is there or not there, there is a decent chance that a trooper moved over that 100 yards.
Very good points you make here, and I agree with them completely. Fox and his colleague Doug Scott did some excellent work on tracking Individual weapons across the battlefield in an attempt to track the movements of the troops and hostiles.
Archaeological history is certainly not ironclad but it does prompt some dispassionate, inquisitive reflection. This is the kind of forensic analysis and interpretation that Fox does well.
I think both Fox and Scott have done a tremendous job in their forensic analysis of the battlefield relics. They are both to be commended for their work in this area.
I take the proposed consequential analyses with a large dose of salt, never mind a grain. But many of the criticisms mentioned on this thread are addressed in the book. Do they make any sense? Some do, some might not. Fox accepts many reservations - as archaeologists always have to do.
Fox does address many of the criticisms mentioned in this thread, and as you say, some of his responses make sense, while some do not. I do think it important to note that not all of Fox's theories or interpretations are shared by his colleague Doug Scott, especially his radical notion of "no last stand". There appears to be quite a bit of controversy about this model, even among archaeologists themselves.
But from my own (admittedly non-LBH) military studies I found the cohesion (or lack thereof) psychology arguments among the least difficult of Fox's propositions to accept, especially when supported by the behavioural research of Keegan and Marshall.
I don't think anyone would argue that cohesion was lost separate and distinct from psychological considerations. Psychology has always been a part of warfare and cannot be separated from it. The main issue of contention is what brought about direct tactical disintegration at LBH. The notion of tactical disintegration resulting directly from psychological factors is a highly controversial notion, notwithstanding the research of Keegan and Marshall. Had their research the level of merit others assign to them, we should have seen tactical disintegration occurring with Godfrey's 30 man company when holding off 4 or 500 hundred hostiles on the retreat from Weir Point; or the same occurring at Beecher's Island when the 50 men there were surrounded by 700 or so Cheyenne warriors for nearly 9 days without support; not to mention the examples of the Hayfield Fight or Royall's cutoff battalion at the Rosebud. In none of those examples, did the research of Keegan and Marshall hold true. What made Custer's 5 companies at LBH any different? Fox has no answers to this.
The effects of serious psychological shock on battlefield performance are uncontroversial, undeniable and universal.
Yes, but what causes serious psychological shock on the battlefield, and what made Custer's situation at LBH any different from the examples I list above? (Royall's battalion at the Rosebud, Beecher's Island, the Hayfield Fight, the Wagon Box Fight, the Buffalo Wallow Fight, Godfrey's action at Weir Point, etc.) It is all well and fine to say that psychological shock led to tactical disintegration, but Fox does not adequately address what caused this psychological shock to occur in the first place and what made it different from any other battle in the Indian Wars mentioned above.
(Ironically, close-order cavalry action was developed to create just this kind of shock impact some 3,000 years ago.)
The only evidence we have for close-order cavalry action causing shock impact at LBH would have been Lame White Man's charge against C Co. Tactical disintegration occurred there due directly to the penetration of C Co's firing lines by this action, not because of psychological shock. The psychological shock would have come well after their outer defenses were penetrated by this mounted attack, not before, which is what Fox suggests to us.
Decisive battles invariably become decisive because of a psychological collapse of one side or the other followed by a physical collapse, and this may well have happened in two or three LBH sectors. And you only need one if your units are close enough together.
I think you are speaking more of the significance of morale factors in battle. Break the morale of your opponent's units and physical collapse will soon follow. Fox is speaking more of individual psychological factors leading to bunching at LBH, which he then thinks leads to physical collapse. I think he's got the cart before the mule here. I believe the evidence at LBH supports a physical collapse first, due to the ability of the hostiles to penetrate the outer defenses of Custer's squadrons by exploiting weaknesses in their deployments. That physical collapse, leading to melee combat, led to a breakdown in discipline. The psychological factors Fox speaks about resulted from the breakdown of order among the troops and were not the actual cause of that breakdown.
Tactical instability on the losing side is consistent with just about every decisive battle I have studied.
Agreed, but the question is, what causes tactical instability. Fox apparently believes that individual psychological factors are the main cause. He might have a better leg to stand on if he went with unit morale factors. But at LBH, tactical instability came from poorly deployed troop positions that permitted the Indians to close in and engage in melee (hand to hand) combat. I contend that had Custer and Keogh united their battalions and gone into a hedgehog perimeter defense on Calhoun Hill, there would have been no tactical disintegration regardless of the individual psychological fear factors existing among the troops. Unfortunately, this deployment was never done---for a number of reasons.
Little to do with “bravery” but everything to do with psychological preparation and small – and even large - unit cohesion, about which little was known until after WWII. Fox described several circumstances which might support this finding and militate against the 7th’s psychological resistance.
Again, Fox must address what happened at LBH that made things so much different from all the other Indian battles on the plains where US troops were greatly outnumbered, yet managed to survive and function in combat irrespective of individual psychological fear factors which are always present on the battlefield.
It is difficult for officers to prevent tactical stability under the kind of severe stress the 7th must have been under – overwhelming odds at several points - and almost impossible to re-establish it once lost.
At Beecher's Island, the Hayfield Fight, the Wagon Box Fight, Adobe Walls, the 1st Yellowstone Battle, the Buffalo Wallow Fight, and Royall's battalion at the Rosebud the US troops were under just as much severe stress as the 7th at LBH with overwhelming odds at several points. How is it that these very same so-called psychological fear factors did not lead to tactical instability in any of those encounters? Fox gives us no answers to this conundrum.
Fox blames neither officer nor trooper. He might not be an expert in military psychology but his findings are consistent with writers who are. Few armchair strategists (like me) understand much about archaeology either – but this doesn’t mean we have to trash anything the archaeologists contribute to the debate.
I don't think anyone here is trashing the contributions of the archaeologists. On the contrary, most here have gone out of their way to congratulate these experts when it comes to the contributions they make to our understanding of what happened at the LBH, especially as it relates to their field of expertise. It is only when they move into the realm of battlefield historian or tactician that they often overextend themselves and leave themselves open to legitimate criticism.
It is easy to nit-pick - particularly if you haven’t read the book. I wonder if there is a more recent book or academic paper that takes Fox’s research seriously to task?
I think you will find that most of us on this forum who "nit-pick" his book have done so after a careful study of his work. I don't believe there is a recent book or academic paper that takes Fox's research to task. Perhaps at some time in the future, when his ideas are taken more seriously by the majority of battle students such a book or paper may be produced. Until then, we only have online forums to debate and discuss some of his more controversial ideas.
Again, I think it is interesting to note that Fox's colleague, after looking at the same evidence as Fox, does not endorse Fox on his more controversial notions of tactical collapse due to psychological factors leading to "no last stand". Fox's views on these controversial subjects do not represent the views of archaeologists in general, and those who challenge his views are not challenging the contributions of archaeology to the correct understanding of this battle.