Second Lieutenant Charles Brewster Schofield wrote to Lilla bogert in the months surrounding the Battle of the Little Big Horn. He was born on June 26, 1849 in Illinois and graduated from West Point in 1870. His first field assignment was field duty at Fort Ellis where he was a Second Lieutenant. He fought for the Indian campaigns from 1872 to 1876, including the Sioux Expedition of 1876. The following year he fought in the Nez Perce War.
Lt. Charles B. Schofield's Letter to Lilla Bogert, dated July 4, 1876, from Tom O'Neil's The Battles of the Little Big Horn, Arrow and Trooper publications, with my annotations in brackets:
We arrived at the Little Horn on the morning of the 26th -- at this point, three Crow Indians, who had been sent with Custer from the mouth of Rosebud came in and reported that a big fight had occurred above us on the Little Horn and that Custer's command had been slaughtered. This story was not credited as everybody thought it impossible for such a disaster to occur. We then marched on up the stream. We of the cavalry wanted Gibbon to let us go ahead but he kept us with the Inft'y and consequently our progress was slow. The next morning we came upon the ground on where the village had stood and we soon saw that a fight had occurred. The bodies of twenty odd Indians were found and the ground was strewn with Indian camp equipage and dead horses, showing that the Indians had left in a hurry. About this time Lieut. Bradley, who was marching up the other side of the Little Horn with a detachment of mounted Inft'y, sent in word to Gen. Terry that he had found the bodies of twenty five cavalrymen in a ravine. After this messengers came in rapidly from Bradley as he continued to find more bodies until the number reached over two hundred. We then began to wonder what became of the rest of the regiment & were afraid for a while that they had all been slaughtered. In a few minutes, however, Captain Ball, who [was] some distance ahead with his company, sent back word that he had just found Col. Reno with part of the regiment in a fortified position on top of a hill.
We marched on and some of the officers came down from the hill and met us & you never saw a more joyful set of fellows. They said we had saved them all from being slaughtered. It seems the Indians had discovered our approach while we were still several miles away and have packed up and fled. I believe that if we had been allowed to go ahead with the cavalry when we first got the news, we could have routed them and made them drop all their property. Such, however, may not be the case, since we might have met Custer's fate. When we found Reno's command they asked where Custer was, & when we told them that Custer and his men have all been slaughtered about two miles below them, they were perfectly shocked, as they had seen nothing of him since the fight began two days before. It seems that before they attacked the village, Custer divided his command, sending Reno with three companies at one point and taking five companies himself at another point, and leaving the remaining four companies in reserve. This was a great mistake. Custer evidently underestimated the Indians & was too confident of success. The village was nearly four miles long and there were about four thousand warriors whereas Custer had only about six hundred & fifty men all told.
The Indians fought desperately and met the troops as they came to the attack. The Sioux had evidently assembled expecting an attack and were prepared for it, and intended to fight. It is their home and they had to fight if they ever intended to. Custer and his five companies, which he took with him, were all killed although it is evident they fought desperately and killed a great many Indians. A Crow Indian who was with him says they killed more Indians than there were white men. The bodies of all the soldiers and officers were stripped and horribly mutilated. I tell you it was a sickening sight and I never want to see the like again. Reno with his three companies was repulsed and driven on a hill when he met Captain Benteen with the other four companies & they made a stand & the Indians fought them until they saw us coming, and would have kept on until they had finished them off had we not arrived. There were over fifty wounded men with Reno & we had to make litters for them to be carried on mules.
The fight commenced on Sunday, the 25 of June & lasted two days. I don't suppose Custer's ___ ___ ___ lasted more than an hour or so. If Custer had not exceeded his orders we would also have been in the fight with him & might have been there a little before him, in which case I presume there would not have been a greasy spot left of us. Custer was as confident and as anxious to do it all himself that he made forced marches and arrived at the camp about two days before he should have. He was afraid we might get there first and clean up the village. When we were at the mouth of [the] Rosebud Terry offered to cross over our four companies of Cav. and send us with the 7th Cav. but Custer said no, he had all he wanted & was only afraid of not finding the Indians. ... Fifteen officers and about 350 [ed. about 265] men were killed. The Indians got about [two?] hundred carbines & pistols & about ten thousand greenbacks from the officers and men. We buried all the dead before leaving.
Last Edit: Jan 29, 2019 20:41:22 GMT -5 by moderator
"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."