From the Army and Navy Journal, Aug. 13, 1881, explanatory comments in yellow:
Crow King then said that if Reno had held out until Custer came, and then fought as Custer did, they would have whipped the Indians. The Indians would then have been compelled to divide to protect their women and children, and the whites would have had the advantage. He expressed great admiration for the bravery of Custer and his men, and said that the fight impressed the Indians that the whites were their superiors, and it would be their destruction to keep on fighting them. . . . Crow King said he had 2 brothers killed in the fight, that from 30 to 50 Indians were killed, and a much larger number who were wounded died afterward.
"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 two hours, for the order that never came."
Crow King (Hunkpapa Sioux) gave his account of the LBH battle in 1881, published in the Leavenworth Weekly Times, and reprinted in The Custer Myth, my interpretive comments in brackets:
We were in camp and not thinking there was any danger of a battle, although we had heard [from the visiting Agency Indians] that the long-haired chief [Custer] had been sent after us. Some of our runners went back on our trail, for what purpose I do not know. One came back and reported that an army of white soldiers was coming, and he had no more than reported [this] when another runner came in with the same story, and also told us that the command had divided [on Ash/Reno Creek], and that one party [ie. Custer's 5 troops] was going round to attack us on the opposite side. The first attack [by Reno's battalion] was at the camp of the Uncpapa tribe. The shots neither raised nor fell. (here he indicated that the whites commenced firing at about 400 yards distance.) The Indians retreated -- at first slowly, to give the women and children time to go to a place of safety. Other Indians got our horses. By that time we had warriors enough to turn upon the whites, and we drove them to the hill [across the river] and [then] started back to camp.
Then the 2nd band of white warriors came. We did not know who was their chief, but we supposed it was Custer's command. The party [under Custer] commenced firing at long range. (Indicating nearly a mile.) We had then all our warriors and horses. There were 80 warriors in my band. All the Sioux were there from everywhere [having all left Reno to converge on Custer]. We had warriors [as] plenty as the leaves on the trees. Our camp was as long as from the fort to the lower end of our camp here. (More than 2 1/2 miles.) Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse were the great chiefs of the fight. Sitting Bull did not fight himself, but he gave orders. We [now] turned against this 2nd party [under Custer].
The greater portion of our warriors came together in their front [ie. south facing Calhoun Hill and cutting off Custer's retreat back to the Weir Peaks] and we rushed our horses on them [ie. charged them at Calhoun Hill]. At the same time, warriors rode out on each side of them [on the east and west sides of Battle Ridge] and circled around them [Keogh's battalion] until they were surrounded. When they saw they were surrounded, they dismounted. They tried to hold on to their horses, but as we pressed closer they let go [of] their horses. We [then] crowded them toward our main camp and killed them all. They kept in order and fought like brave warriors as long as they had a man left. Our camp was on Greasy Grass river. (Little Big Horn.)
When we charged, every chief gave the cry "Hi-yi-yi." (Here, Crow Chief gave us the cry in a high, prolonged tone.) When this cry is given, it is a command to all the warriors to watch the chief and follow his actions. Then every chief rushed his horse on the white soldiers [both in Keogh's swale and on Last Stand Hill], and all our warriors did the same, everyone whipping another's horse. There was great hurry and confusion in the fight. No one chief was above another in that fight. It was not more than 1/2 an hour after the long-haired chief [Custer] attacked us before he and all his men were dead. [probably a reference here to the last 30 minutes of melee, hand-to-hand fighting as opposed to the length of the entire battle.] Then we went back for the 1st party [Reno's command on the bluffs]. We fired at them until the sun went down. We surrounded them and watched them all night, and at daylight we fought them again.
We killed many of them [note: Reno had about a dozen killed on the bluffs and 50 or so wounded]. Then a chief from the Uncpapas called our men off. He told them [that] those men had been punished enough; that they were fighting under orders; that we had killed the great leader and his men in the fight the day before; and we should let the rest go home. Sitting Bull gave this order. He said, "This is not my doings, nor these men's. They are fighting because they were commanded to fight. We have killed their leader. Let them go. I call on the Great Spirit to witness what I say. We did not want to fight. Long Hair sent us word [through the Agency Indians] that he was coming to fight us, and we had to defend ourselves and our wives and children." If this command had not been given, we could have cut Reno's command to pieces, [One wonder how? Since they failed to do so in the previous 24 hours.] as we did Custer's. No warrior knew Custer in the fight. We did not know him, dead or alive. When the fight was over, the chiefs gave orders to look for the long-haired chief among the dead, but no chief with long hair could be found. (Custer had his hair cut short before starting on this march.)
Crow King said that if Reno had held out [in the timber position in the valley] until Custer came, and then fought as Custer did, that they would have whipped the Indians. The Indians would then have been compelled to divide [their forces] to protect their women and children, and the whites would have [then] had the advantage. He expressed great admiration for the bravery of Custer and his men, and said that fight impressed the Indians that the whites were their superiors and it would be [to] their destruction to keep on fighting them. Both he and Low Dog said they they did not feel that they would be blamed for the Custer fight or its results. It was war; they were attacked; Custer tried to kill them; they killed him. Crow King said [that] he had two brothers killed in the fight [ie. Swift Bull and White Bull (Hunkpapas) killed during Reno's retreat from the valley west of the river], that from 30 to 50 Indians were killed, and a much larger number who were wounded died afterward.
Post by mitchboyer on Aug 18, 2012 20:31:56 GMT -5
Crow King confirms a military truism that is actually self explanatory in that a military force divided must work in unison and/or reunite to accomplish the mission or be destroyed piecemeal.
We now know Benteen "came up" before Reno's entire command reached the bluffs. Had Reno remained in positron (timber) for an additional few minutes more the Indians would have been faced with two military fronts simultaneously. In addition, Custer's encroachment at MTC would have constituted an additional military 'thrust" that the Indians would have been forced to contend with.
Reno's scamper from the timber left Benteen and Custer unassisted and unsupported. A conjunction between the three could have saved the day.
From the horses own mouth, Crow King, says it all!
Edward H. Allison, Chief of Scouts (1881) for the Military Department of Dakota under Gen. Alfred Terry gives an account of the battle as related to him by Crow King and his family and friends while visiting Sitting Bull's camp in Canada, my interpretive comments in brackets. This account can be found in the book: Voices of the American West: The Settler and Soldier Interviews of Eli Ricker:
Patriarch Crow King, Kan-gi Ya-ta-pi, improperly interpreted [as] Crow King, was a name of influence in the tribe second only to Chief Gall, and absolutely fearless. For these reasons I cultivated his friendship and support. I often visited him in his lodge where I heard from him, his wife and his children, and other men, women and children who were visiting there, the story of the attack [by Reno's battalion] at the upper end of the camp [at Little Big Horn]. I will repeat, as near as I can recall them, the exact words as I heard them. I asked if they were forewarned [of Custer's attack that day]. If they knew the soldiers were coming. They answered: "We had heard that soldiers [ie. Gen. Crooks command] were approaching from the South, but they were reported so far away that we had no fear of them. We had no knowledge whatever of the approach of the soldiers [under Custer] who attacked us that morning. The very first intimation we had of the presence of an enemy was when we heard the report of fire-arms and the whistle of bullets [from the Ree scouts] and the shriek of a woman who was wounded in the shoulder while standing near our teepy [sic. tepee]. Our horses were grazing away in the bluffs west of the camp. We didn't know how many soldiers were upon us" and of course, the wildest confusion seized the entire village.
The women seized their little ones and fled, screaming with terror, toward the hills west of the camp. Those who had no children seized what valuables they could carry and fled with them. One woman was so badly panic stricken that she seized a bundle of fagots [ie. firewood] brought to the lodge for fuel, and fled with that on her back. So beside herself with fright that she imagined she was carrying away something of value. Sitting Bull's own wife had twin babies 3 weeks old, both boys. She was so frightened that she forgot she had twins, seized only one and fled with it for the hills. She was almost to the hills when an acquaintance asked who had the other twin. She then realized what she had done. Passing the child she had to her neighbor, she ran back to her teepy [sic. tepee] and brought away her other twin. The one she carried away first was [later] named Yu-ha Nan pa-pi. The one left in the lodge was [later] named Ih-pe-ya Nan pa-pi. The word Yu-pa means to have, to hold or to possess. The word Ih-pe-ya means to cast away, to abandon, to loose [sic. lose]. Nan-pa-pi -- [means] they fled. So there you have the names of the twins, Fled With and Fled and Abandoned. One [twin] Fled With, is still living and still bears the name given him on acc't of that event, an unimpeachable wittness [sic. witness] to the fact that the Indians were taken by surprise and that they [the noncombatants] fled in fear before the attack of Reno's command.
Had Reno possessed half the courage of a Chinaman he would have charged down thro the [Hunkpapa] camp, as Custer ordered, for he would have met with no opposition, for warriors, women and children all fled together to the hills where their ponies were grazing. Benteen would have swept down the valley on Reno's left flank, and if need arose could have joined him in the central attack. Custer, on the right flank, would have struck the enemy lower down, and the victory would have [been] complete. But whats the use of telling it all over again? We all know how Reno entered the timber and how he run. Run before he had lost a man [on the skirmish line]. The Indians were running for their lives [or for their ponies] to the hills West of the camp when they discovered Benteen's advance [towards Ford A] "There they come too!" they cried. Others looking back saw Custer's men moving down thro the bluffs on the East side of the river. "Yes, and look yonder! The country is full of soldiers!" All [of] this intensified their terror and accelerated their flight, so that if Reno had even held his place in the timber just a little while longer, and there was no reason why he shouldn't, the Indians would have continued their flight indeffinately [sic. indefinitely] and Custer would have taken possession of their camp, and being left with nothing but what they carried on their backs, they would have been compelled to sue for peace.
[But instead,] The warriors, looking back while they ran [for their horses] saw Reno in his reckless ride to the rear (For the first time in his life he led his command). The Indians wondered and said to each other "See! The soldiers are running away. What can they be running from? Surely invisible allies have come down from the skyes [sic. skies] and are fighting for us." And then they said to each other "What are we running for?" "Surely there is nobody fighting us," and they halted in their crazy flight and turned on Reno; many had by this time reached their horses and came back [to the Garryowen Loop south of the village] mounted. The troubles all over when you once get a man on the run. The Indians had a picnic sending Reno, who was [later] joined by Benteen, to the East side of the river. Then realizing that they had nothing to fear from him they left perhaps 200 of their old men and boys with sawed off shot guns, muzzle loaders and flint locks to keep Reno scared to death while the entire fighting force, no longer panic stricken but flushed with an easy victory [over Reno], rushed to the lower end of the camp, which they saw was threatened by Custer.