Trumpeter John Martin (Giovanni Martini) -- Co. H Feb 13, 2011 10:37:38 GMT -5
Post by conz on Feb 13, 2011 10:37:38 GMT -5
This Reno's ford business is as full of obfuscation as Benteen's pace is...it is exactly the same phenomenon by all parties involved. And in both cases, LT Lee KNEW this, and tried to dig more details out of them, without success. Both were sensitive points at the inquiry.
In this case, we have all kinds of different times...
How long did it take the command to cross the water?
How long did it take to go through the woods on the other side?
Did they go through the woods as they crossed, or did they gather in the woods and then move the couple hundred yards out onto the plain?
How long did the horses stay in the water...did they water, or didn't they? Did they delay, or just "not much," or no delay at all?
How long did it take them to reform out on the plain once they got out of the timber (and presumably climbed a bank)?
This business about "how long it took to cross" is very vague, because you don't know if they just mean to cross the river, or to move through the timber, or to complete all their pre-combat activities. In the meantime, Reno has sent two messengers, WAITED for them to return, and only when they didn't in a "reasonable time," did he reluctantly begin to move downstream.
Point is, we can't just take each testimony's times for what WE think they mean...the testifier may be telling the time for a subset of all the above activities. And he may be doing it to deliberately cover up any shame in taking too long before beginning the attack...or just doing it innocently.
I suspect Reno kept his command within the timber belt while his scouts rode out to get the lay of the land.
Possible, and we do need to account for a lot of Reno "lost time" in the crossing, relative to Custer's movements. But there are no direct indicators for this.
Did Gerard get notice about the Indians on the far side of river, and recrossed back to Custer's side with the news?
When Gerard came back to Reno with the news that the Indians were not running but coming out to meet them in force, Reno decides to send Custer a message to this effect. Gerard rides off himself, before Reno's messenger is sent, to warn Cooke of this turn of events. When Custer gets the message he turns his command northwards up towards the bluffs, once crossing Ash Creek, he moves his command to the bluffs at the gallop.
I do think this was the order, and causes, of the events, but not all models believe so. Also, note that while Custer and his party (with Martin, the testifier), galloped up the bluffs, that doesn't mean the column did. They were probably trotting (still allowing for individual horses and trail companies to sometimes have to lope in order to catch up).
This is when Custer's command begins to overtake Reno's advance down in the valley. Reno at this time, would be shaking out his command just beyond the bluffs, where he must have dismounted his troops and had them cinch their saddles and load their weapons for combat. During this time, Reno would have sent his 2nd messenger to Custer. Before Reno gets underway down the valley, Custer is already on Mathey's Hill getting his first glimpse of the village.
If Reno had been out on the Plain when the party got up to Mathey's, they would have EASILY have seen him, and Martin would have said so, I think. I don't think we can model Reno being out on the plain until Custer's party is well up the bluffs.
It is entirely possible that Custer and party were at 3411, watching as Reno BEGAN his advance down the valley. We might even say "probable," especially if your model includes a column halt at the foot of Sharpshooter Ridge, as many/most do.
Varnum claims that it took Reno about 15 or 20 min to cover the 2 miles to where they deployed the 1st skirmish line. He also stated that it was only about 30 min or so since Reno's command separated from Custer by the lone tepee.
See, here's some more obfuscation...Reno's advance certainly moved at least 10 mph, overall...a bit slower than that for the first 1/4 or so of those 2 miles, and a bit faster near the end of it. A lope while still maintaining formation would be around 12-15 mph. So we're talking about 4-6 minutes for Reno to move most of that distance. So why is Varnum saying 15-20 minutes, more than twice as long?! I suspect he is including a lot of that "wasted time" here, and is trying to get his overall timeline back on track by including "down time" in Reno's "advance time." This makes Reno look better, doesn't it?
Reno did not take such a long time to get into position to attack, but it seems that Custer's command must have been moving at a good gallop up the bluffs to get ahead of Reno when he did. I don't think he was that far ahead of him, perhaps at the latter Reno Hill position by the time Reno had started out on his advance down the valley.
Sit down with some pieces on a map, and move them about in 2 or 3-min increments. Then you'll tell what is possible with the relative movements of these columns, and how long Reno MUST have taken to get collected before he advanced down the valley.
Varnum sees the Gray Horse troop crossing SSR just as Reno's command is dismounting to form his skirmish line.
He IMPLIES this. But it may be intentional, or unintentional, obfuscations. See what he really says in his sworn testimony. It allows for a bit of play as to the timing of his Custer column sighting.
Thus, I think Thompson's view of Reno's charge took place while Custer was viewing Reno's advance from atop SSR and just before they advance down beside Cedar Coulee.
Yes, I think that is pretty secure (as much as anything can be in this affair).
Custer must have moved off the bluffs as soon as he saw Reno dismounting to fight.
My model agrees with this...but that is Custer's party, not the column, which I think was well down Cedar Coulee by this point, right about at MTC by the time Reno dismounts. Custer then turns to catch up to it, Gall on Weir is moving back toward the village, and on the way (about near the end of his ride) Custer dispatches Martin.
I know what you are saying here, but I think we might explain the discrepancy by assuming that Custer stopped his rapid advance at the base of SSR, whence Kanipe goes back to the pack train and Custer and his brothers view the valley again from atop SSR or 3411. This might have taken up a good 10 min delay and allow Reno to move down the valley and begin to dismount for his skirmish line.
I think this is true.
This is gonna be hard to support, Clair. Varnum is regarded as a very good witness at the RCOI. He is very clear about when he saw the Gray Horse troop crossing the bluffs.
I don't have access to the RCOI from here, but let's drag out his exact testimony in context and decompose it, when I get back to the office.
Possibly, but you must factor in about a 10 min halt atop SSR for Custer to view the village and assess the situation. I don't think he wanted to leave the bluffs until he knew what Reno was up to.
I agree...it just means Reno spent even more time at Ford A that some believe. Time enough for Custer's column to TROT up to SSR and stop there, and wait for Reno to begin his advance.
I'll bet Custer was a little impatient, watching the slow poke get ready. <g> It is this issue of "being slow" that is such a slander to a cavalry officer's reputation...hence why both Reno and Benteen are VERY sensitive to such charges, as are their officers in implying any slowness for either column at ANY point.
I wonder if he didn't send Reno's first messenger back to him, because he was already up on the bluff waiting for him, and he figured Reno could see him all the way up there, and need no message to let him know to advance?