A question, does the moderator believe Reno was coward?
I do not happen to believe that Reno was a coward on June 25th, however, I do, like Gen. Godfrey, have serious reservations about his tactical decisions and leadership exhibited that day. To the issue of Reno's alleged cowardice, there were some in the military who believed he did show the white feather that day. This would included a statement made by Lt. De Rudio (7th Cav), correspondence from Capt. Carter (4th Cav), and opinions voiced by Pvt. Peter Thompson (7th Cav), but like so much about this battle, their opinions would be countered by many others who felt differently. Reno had his defenders and his critics during his own lifetime just as he does to this very day.
Btw, for those looking to explore this issue more closely, we have a thread devoted to it with views both pro and con:
I cannot accept that view of the thing, i'm afraid. Your belief that Custer continued down river under control rather than reacting to being cut off and surrounded precludes a damning of Reno for being absent from his command at a critical juncture (time). There was no reason for Custer and Co. to consider that Reno and Benteen went where they did. Custer & Co. had no idea where Reno & Benteen were and by that time knew the true size of the camp and its fighting constituent.
Reo's duty, whether he went to Custer or not, was to place the four guidon which remained with him - on Weir Peak - urgently. Of course, according to Benteen per Brinninstool; there were up to five hundred hostiles on that hill who left to cross MTC. I admit that that was one hell of a situation to face but Reno's duty once he reached Reno Hill was to let Custer know where HE was. The five companies could have charged through to Reno Hill and I do not doubt that at all, at all. It would have been quite a charge and that was what Custer did throughout his short and illustriously maligned career.
This is basically what Rosser tossed into the pot.
Last Edit: Jan 4, 2018 12:11:35 GMT -5 by herosrest
If it walks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and looks like a duck ~ it is probably a goose.
A letter from Major Reno to Gen. Thomas Rosser, published in the New York Herald, with my annotations in brackets: Part I
HEADQUARTERS 7TH REGIMENT CAVALRY, CAMP ON THE YELLOWSTONE, July 30, 1876
Mr. T.L. Rosser:
SIR: When I read the first part of your letter, published in the Pioneer Press of the 8th inst., as copied from the Minneapolis Evening Tribune, my thought was that your motive had only the object of the defense of a personal friend -- a gallant soldier against whom you fought; but after reading all of it I could no longer look upon it as the tribute of a generous enemy, since, through me, you have attacked as brave officers as ever served a Government, and with the same recklessness and ignorance of circumstances as Custer is charged with in his attacks upon the hostile Indians. Both charges -- the one made against him and the one made by you against us -- are equally untrue.
You say: "I feel Custer would have succeeded, had Reno, with all the reserve of seven companies, passed through and joined Custer after the first repulse;" and after confessing that you are firing at long range say further: "I think it quite certain that Custer had agreed with Reno upon a place of junction in case of the repulse of either or both detachments, and, instead, of an effort being made by Reno for such a junction, as soon as he encountered heavy resistance, he took refuge in the hills and abandoned Custer and his gallant comrades to their fate." As I shall show, both the premises are false, and consequently all the conclusions in your letter fall to the ground, including your hifalutin talk about the last trumpet.
Custer's organization of the regiment into distinct commands was not made until half past 10 A.M. of the day he was killed [note: Reno is indicating here that Custer divided his regiment into 4 separate battalions at about 10:30 a.m. which, according to many participants accounts, would have placed the event during the last officers call on the divide. Other accounts would place this division just after crossing the divide a short time later], and was as follows: Companies M, A and G to be one battalion, commanded by me; Companies H, D and K another, commanded by the senior Capt. Benteen; Company B, Capt. McDougall, to be rear guard to take charge of the pack train; Companies C, E, I F and L to be his own immediate command, with Capts. Keogh and Yates as subordinate battalion commanders. He made his own selections of companies.
Benteen, with his battalion, was sent far to my left by Custer's order. When I went into the fight, he was out of sight. My battalion was to the left and rear when we approached the village, but was brought to the front by Custer. The only official orders I had from him were about five miles from the village [note: this would be a reference to the vicinity of the eastern or Crow lone tepee], when Col. Cooke, the regimental adjutant, gave me his orders in these words: "Custer says to move at as rapid a gait as you think prudent, and to charge afterwards, and you will be supported by the whole outfit." [Note: This statement by Reno is disputed by the recollection of Lt. Edgerly, who recalled in his narrative of the battle that Reno and Benteen were given attack orders (ie. to advance to contact with the enemy) shortly after crossing the divide. roughly 8.5 miles earlier than Reno alleges in his account here. It is interesting to note that all the officers knew that the hostile village was located in the LBH valley and was the main objective of their advance.] No mention of any plan, no thought of junction, only the usual orders to the advance guard to attack by the charge. [Note: Reno's reference to his battalion as the 'advance guard' of the regiment. This is a very important concept, as the advance guard has its own mission expectations that Reno would -- or should -- have been well aware of that day.]
A letter from Major Reno to Gen. Thomas Rosser, published in the New York Herald, with my annotations in brackets: Part II
When the enemy was reached [ie. in sight] I moved to the front at a fast trot, and at the river halted 10 minutes or less to gather the battalion. [Note: Reno does not mention that after crossing the river and making his way through the belt of timber, he would pause once again to send a messenger to Custer while assembling his battalion to prepare for their advance down the river.] I sent word to Custer that I had the enemy in my front very strong, and then charged, driving the reds before me about 3 miles or lees, to within a short distance of their village, supposing my command, consisting of 120 officers and men and about 25 scouts and guards [ie. guides], followed by the columns under Custer.
The village, about 3 1/2 miles long [ie. actually less than 2 miles long], was situated upon the Little Big Horn, and the topography of the vicinity may be briefly told. The steam was very crooked, like a letter S in its wanderings, and on the side on which the village was it opened out into a broad bottom, perhaps half or three-quarters of a mile wide. The stream was fringed, as usual, with the trees of the plains -- a growth of large cottonwood, and on the opposite side was a range of high bluffs which had been cut into very deep ravines by the surface water and by the action of the stream. Just at their base the earth had fallen in and left perpendicular banks, making what is known as cut-banks.
As I neared the village the Indians came out in great numbers, and I was soon convinced I had at least ten to one against me and was forced on the defensive. This I accomplished by taking possession of a point of woods where I found shelter for my horses. I fought there dismounted, and made my way to within 200 yards of the village, and firmly believe that if, at that moment, the seven companies had been together the Indians could have been driven from their village. [Ed: It is interesting to note that Major Reno expresses his opinion that 7 companies of the 7th Cavalry could have captured the village that day, despite the superior numbers of hostile warriors that day.] As we approached near their village they came out in overwhelming numbers, and soon the small command would have been surrounded on all sides, to prevent which I mounted and charged through them to a position I could hold with the few men I had. [Note: Here Reno explains the abandonment of his advance guard mission in the valley due to his apparent fear or concern of being surrounded. Other military observers would suggest that this was not an acceptable reason to abandon an advance guard mission whose primary function was to engage and occupy the attention of the hostile force until supported by the rest of the regiment.]
You see by this I was the advance and the first to be engaged and draw fire, and was consequently the command to be supported, and not the one from which support could be expected. [Note: The main criticism leveled against Major Reno that day focused on his decision to abandon his position in the valley after only 30 minutes of engagement, well before any of his promised support could have reached him in the valley. Defenders of Major Reno argue his inability to defend his position any longer -- or, like Major Reno, expressed an inordinate fear of being surrounded -- despite suffering only light casualties.]
(to be continued)
Last Edit: Dec 2, 2018 23:13:02 GMT -5 by moderator
A letter from Major Reno to Gen. Thomas Rosser, published in the New York Herald, with my annotations in brackets: Part III
All I know of Custer from the time he ordered me to attack till I saw him buried, is that he did not follow my trail, but kept on his side of the river and along the crest of the bluffs on the opposite side from the village and from my command; that he heard and saw my action [in the valley] I believe, although I could not see him, and it is just here that the Indians deceived us. At this time I was driving them with ease, and his [ie. Custer's] trail shows that he moved rapidly down the river for three miles sto the ford , at which he attempted to cross into their village, and with the conviction that he would strike a retreating enemy. [Note: Reno's assumption is likely mistaken here. It is more likely that Custer intent was to cross the river and envelope the enemy force confronting Reno's attack at the south end of the village.]
Trumpeter Martin, of Company H, and who the last time of any living person heard and saw Gen. Custer, and who brought the last order his Adjutant, Col. Cooke, ever pencilled, says he left [sight of] the general at the summit of the highest bluff on that side and which overlooked the village and my first battlefield [note: this is likely the summit of Sharpshooter Ridge, as described by Martin in his other accounts], and as he turned, Gen. Custer raised his hat and gave a yell, saying they were asleep in their tepees and surprised, and to charge. [Note: This incident is described by Martin in his own account of the battle, and took place on the summit of Sharpshooter Ridge prior to Martin being sent back with his message to Benteen.] Custer's order, sent to Benteen, and which I afterward saw and read, said, "Big village; big thing; bring up the packs."
Custer's disaster was not the defeat of the 7th Cavalry, who held their ground for thirty-six hours after, with a force outnumbered ten to one. The Indians made him over confident by appearing to be stampeded, and, undoubtedly, when he arrived at the ford , expecting to go with ease through their village, he rode into an ambuscade of 2,000 reds. [Note: According to Cheyenne and Sioux accounts, there were only a dozen or so warriors in the vicinity of Ford B when Custer first arrived there.] My getting into command of the seven companies was not the result of any order or prearranged plan. Benteen and McDougall arrived separately, and saw the command [ie. Reno's battalion] on the bluffs and came to it. They did not go into the bottom at all after the junction. [Note: Reno's comment here implies that if he had not retreated to the bluffs that the commands of Benteen and McDougall would have proceeded on "into the bottom." The reason they did not do so was due to their spotting Reno's battalion on the bluffs.]
They [later] attempted to go down the trail of Gen. Custer, but the advance company [ie. D Co. several hours later] soon sent back word they were being surrounded. Crowds of reds were seen on all sides of us, and Custer's fate [by that time] had evidently been determined. I knew the position I had first taken on the bluff was near and a strong one. [Note: Other observers have disputed Reno's assertion of the relative strength of his position on the bluffs.] I at once moved there, dismounted and herded the pack train, and had but just time to do so when they [ie. the Indians] came upon me by thousands. Had we been twenty minutes later effecting the junction [back to Reno Hill] not a man of that regiment would be living to-day to tell the tale.
As you have the reputation of a soldier, and, if it is not undeserved, there is in you a spirit that will give you no rest until you have righted, as in you lies, the wrong that was perpetrated on gallant men by your defense of Custer; I request you will publish this letter with such comments as that spirit will dictate. Respectfully,
MARCUS RENO, Major 7th Cavalry.
"The more I see of movement here (Little Big Horn Battlefield), the more I have admiration for Custer, and I am satisfied his like will not be found very soon again.”
~ Gen. Nelson Miles, Commanding General of the Army ------
"With our cherished ones deliverance within our grasp we waited breathless for the order that never came."
Reno's short interview given in while still in the field in Aug. of 1876 as recorded in the Army and Navy Journal on the Battle of the Little Bighorn and Related Matters by James Hutchins, with my annotations in brackets:
Colonel Reno then stated to the correspondent the details of his fight on the bluffs, which account does not differ from his official report published in the JOURNAL Aug. 5. He adds, however, the "ford we crossed in getting to the bluff was not the same we had passed in going to attack the village. It was in front of the bluff, and it was partially by accident we found it. [Note: It is more likely entirely by accident that they found it.] When I went into action I had 112 men and officers of the 7th with me and some twenty-five scouts. [Note: Reno actually had closer to 120 men and officers in his battalion along with about 30 scouts/guides/interpreters.] If I had not made the charge for the bluffs my command would undoubtedly been annihilated as Custer's was. The great mistake in the beginning was that we underestimated the Indian strength. The lowest computation puts the Indian force present at about 2,500, and some think there were 5,000 warriors present. [Note: No need to stop there; at the RCOI Benteen and Wallace estimated 9,000 warriors!] The Indians are the best light cavalry in the world. I have seen pretty nearly all off them, and I do not except even the Cossacks."
An Interesting Analysis Justifying His Conduct of the Fight in the River Bottom and Timber, During the Battle of the Little Big Horn, June 25-26, 1876, Commonly Referred to as “Custer's Last Fight.”
Two hundred and fifty copies published by E. A. Brininstool, at his expense, and with the permission of Col. W. A. Graham, Judge Advocate, U.S.A., to correct the false and malicious stories circulated about Major M. A. Reno, criticizing his fight in the river bottom and timber, at the battle of the Little Big Horn, June 25, 1876.
It would be useful to track down the relevant correspondence between EAB and WAG which underlies Graham's letter. Alas, Alonzo's correspondence, research, photographs, poetry (l believe) news Clippings and his own press and literary work is distributed to a number collections with History Nebraska listed holding some related stuff with more in Austin at UT. Nothing to do with Graham or Reno is listed for the Amon Carter Museum collection. It seems that, per the Briscoe Center, Graham refuted Earl's position as to when 'first news of the Battle of Little Bighorn was released' but that isn't going to launch a thousand ships, is it. So here's some easy and entertaining listening - Bridger of Hot Rock Springs.
Last Edit: Dec 11, 2018 14:00:40 GMT -5 by herosrest
If it walks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and looks like a duck ~ it is probably a goose.
The petition cover note application to fill Custer's boots. For various reasons and particularly idiosyncrasies, this letter was undoubtably drafted by his excellency Marcus A. Reno. It was his habit to defer reverential excellency.
Reno's report of the battle as acting CO, 7th Cavalry, is dated 5t July, 1876.
Also, of 4th July 1876, Reno penned a letter to Sheridan which was damning of Gibbon and Custer and also Terry. That communication, obviously, was not sanctioned by Terry and sent behind his back. It is a little known aspect of the post battle positioning which took place at the camp on the Yellowstone (Ft. Pease). Reno was in some fashion hoping to emerge from the debacle covered in glory rather tan leader of a sorely embarrassed and heavily defeated elite unit. His behaviour at this time was somewhat bizarre and particularly so the petition to fill vacancies and anull seniority.
Now, people being that and 'all' things generally being little more than slight of hand when the risks associated with military blunders, cowardly drunkeness in Reno's case and crass stupidity with Custer; materialise or are perceived present; then life becomes bizarre. If the information on page 35 of Reno and Apsaalooka Survive Custer by Ottie W. Reno is accurate to the point that it is correct and not name dropping - THEN in honesty one can only surmise that Reno wrote privately to Don Cameron (SoW), besides Sheridan and the petition for promotions got at the President. Reno covered his bases, his little donkey, spread the love and undoubtedly began to sate an unquenchable thirst.
I have seen his application for Colonelcy of the 21st Pennsylvania volunteer cavalry regiment and wanton use of excellency since 1865 when he took over the unit and fought Moseby's irregular's who attempted to destroy railway's and trains used to carry Lincoln and his representatives to secret meetings with disaffected Confederates trying to negotiate surrender. Interesting guy was Reno. He dipped his quill in red ink.
Do read up the part of Ottie's well researched book which tells of Marcus at Trevillian Station. I have read Reno's report and fully understand what a truly complicated gentleman he was. Enjoy.
The Country was shocked on Thursday by the news of a terrible disaster which had overtaken a portion of the forces engaged in punishing the wild Sioux. In an attack, on the 25th of June, made by General Custer on a vast Indian village along the left bank of the Little Big Horn River, Montana Territory, he himself and his entire command, consisting of ﬁve companies of cavalry, were overwhelmed and destroyed. Major Reno. who, acting under his instructions, had crossed the stream some three miles higher up with three companies, barely escaped sharing the same fate.
Recrossing with difficulty, and entrenching himself as well as he was able on a height commanded by the savages, he, together with four other companies which had joined him, barely succeeded in maintaining himself against incessant attacks, lasting from two o’clock on the 25th to six o‘clock of the' following day. The Indians withdrew on the approach of Colonel Gibbon’s command. General Terry, who accompanied the latter, estimates the number of killed at 250, the number of wounded at 51 ; the losses of the Indians must, as General Sheridan has remarked, have been at least as great. Besides General Custer, his brother and nephew and a large number of gallant ofﬁcers, whose places will not readily be ﬁlled, were slain at one or other of the two points of attack.
The question of the responsibility for the great calamity has been freely discussed since the ﬁrst news of it arrived. Custer's operations were part of a combined movement under Gen. Terry, and it does not appear that the total force was inadequate to the object in view, so that it seems unnecessary to allege as even the remote cause of the defeat the pennywise policy of Congress in reducing the regular army below the point of efﬁciency. On the other hand, it appears certain that if Custer’s advance had been delayed till it was possible to act in concert with Col. Gibbon, who was ascending the Little Big Born to fall upon Sitting Brill and his warriors in the rear, the Sioux would have been either beaten or broken up.
That Custer was too hot in following up the trail may be granted, as well as too precipitate in ordering an attack against odds which the trail enabled him to estimate closely, in a country not favoring a simple, powerful dash of cavalry, but broken and cut up by difﬁcult ravines, in which the Sioux had concealed themselves, and from which they poured a merciless ﬁre upon the devoted band. Gen. Custer made an ineffectual attempt to cross the river and attack the lodges, and on returning to the right bank found himself surrounded. Though he had had much experience of Indian ﬁghting ever since the close of the war, it will hardly be thought disgraceful that he allowed himself to be entrapped. His personal bravery was very exceptional, and his successes, especially in the last year of the war, when he was our model executive cavalry officer, were so great and so uniform, that to dare and to do naturally came to seem to him all one. For ﬁfteen years he had freely exposed his life in the service of his country against her foes, both white and red, while protesting in season and out of season against the nondescript policy of the Government towards the Indians.
Last Edit: Apr 3, 2019 13:42:11 GMT -5 by herosrest
If it walks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and looks like a duck ~ it is probably a goose.