The problem I have with splitting Custer's command while it was in motion is that Calhoun Hill was apparently held long enough for a considerable force of Indians to gather in an arc around the hill. That meant that part of Custer's command was deployed on Calhoun before any other split.
The bodies found on the lower reaches of the eastern slope of Custer Ridge appear more likely to be there as the result of the men retreating, mostly dismounted, from the Calhoun Hill area after that position fell. If the command had been split while mounted, I think, the men south of the split would be more likely to make for Calhoun and more bodies would have been found on Calhoun Hill because they probably would have been trapped there with significant numbers of Indiams on the east side of Custer ridge preventing any retreat. north.
If the men were mounted when split and driven down the eastern slope of Custer Ridge they probably could have riden to or toward the next ridge to the east, leaving a trail of bodies running east/west rather than north/south.
I don't believe that any great number of Indians were east of Custer Ridge until Calhoun fell and that's why Keogh's men got as far as they did.
Custer's command had be be somewhere,it had to occupy some piece of real estate.The problem is that you can suggest a scenario about any geographical feature. Each feature ,fords, ridges,hills,ravines each suggest a possible story.If the feature is tactically sound the troops were deployed there. If it has no military value the troops were trying to use it as an escape.If it makes no sense the troops were driven into it. You have to take the battlefield as a whole and that suggests no order or command and control.
Yes, you are exactly right. So we must uncover why Yates and Keogh's battalions were further apart than prudent. They would not, I believe, have been "posted" there for a determined defense. They would have been together on Calhoun Hill.
I think rch's comment is unavoidable due to Fox's evidence and witness statements...there was a BIG battle for Calhoun Hill, where obviously Keogh's battalion was posted, and it lasted a while...the piles of cartridges around Calhoun indicate a heavily defended skirmish line position that was there for a LONG time, before it fell apart. That kinda negates any "overrun in motion" theory. It also greatly lessens the probably of a "reverse flow" model, although not entirely...you can s t r e t c h credulity and make an argument that Keogh was an advance guard that got stopped at Calhoun Hill going back south, and Yates couldn't catch up.
But if you don't believe that, why was Yates not next to Keogh? Is there ANY explanation, except that it went to fords D, and the Warriors got between him and Keogh before they could rejoin?
Post by benteeneast on Jun 8, 2009 23:45:54 GMT -5
If I had to pick a point I would pick about 2000 feet above lone tree in MTC and then up the drainage toward Blummer for Custers movement. Wiebert states the Indian firing position is 400 due east of Blummer. The splitting force could have come up Deep Coulee and taken the drainage leading toward Blummer.
Why would Custer have continued on? He could see the village did not end at MTF. Now I need to find an account that supports this.
You and I may be taking different approaches. I'm looking for any evidence that Custer's wing was split and destroyed quickly and at pretty near the point of split. That is why I'm focusing on the Battle Ridge area.
Good luck on those Indian accounts. I'm still going through them. The only thjing of interest I've found so far is the possibility that E & F came off the high ridge at NC/Blummer to approach the ford at MTC instead of following the coulee.
I didn't mean to be topographically selective. I was offering comments on the possibility that Custer's five companies were split while moving. I think it is unlikely that the command was split by direct enemy action.
To put things in context this is what I think happened.
When Custer sent Martin to Benteen, he expected Benteen to follow the trail to the LBH and cross in support of Reno. He intended to cross the river himself at Ford B. At some point Custer realized that Indians were on the east side of the river in numbers that could not be ignored. He shifted the axis of his attack north, drove the Indians before him without any great loss on either side, and took position on Calhoun Hill. At that time there was no great threat to Calhoun Hill. While he was waiting for the wieght of Benteen's arrival to restart Reno's advance, Custer took Yates' battalion down Custer Ridge to see what was at the other end or to further drive off Indians in that area, without any intention to of crossing the LBH at Ford D. In the meantime Reno was driven from the valley, several hundred Indians were released to go down river, and the build up around Calhoun began. Eventually, Keogh probably sent the commander of Company C, Capt Custer, to inform Gen Custer that the situation on Calhoun was getting serious. Custer by then was probably facing more Indians than he expected and couldn't easily withdraw. Keogh was forced off Calhoun. Custer was only able to get back to Custer Hill and there formed the Last Stand.
1. You have Tom Custer with Co. C and not HQ and ordering TC to Custer by Keogh. You are probably the only one (so far anyway) that I have read that ever believed TC was more than 2 steps from Custer from the time they left the divide. If the action going on was really important enough for TC to have stayed with, commanded, and fought with his company C, I doubt Keogh would order a company commander to send a message to Custer and if TC was really fighting with his company, I doubt he would accept an order to run to his brother.
2. You say Custer went to ford D to drive off NAs without any intention of crossing, then how do you reconcile Fred Girard's RCOI testimony, a man with 29 years frontier experience with frontier NAs, rides up the river and finds shod tracks where a large mounted force attempted to cross at D1 and then did cross at D2. I believe his testimony is clear that there were shod tracks going into ford D2.
When Custer sent Martin to Benteen, he expected Benteen to follow the trail to the LBH and cross in support of Reno. Military procedure would oblige Benteen to report his command to the Custer.
I do not believe that to be true in regards to Custer's intent. The intent is to get into the battle at the Big Village and make sure the pack train is in safe place and can support the whole regiment with ammunition and the equivalent of three companies of troopers.
Benteen would be expected to exercise his own judgment and be able to explain his decisions as he proceeds to the Big Village. Report directly to me without Big Village or pack train in the order would make more sense if that was the intent as you state it.
1. I don't mind being ahead of the curve or out of the box, and if I'm wrong I'll blame it on someone else. Tom Custer was sometimes with his brother and sometimes not. Gen Custer and Cooke conferred about the battalion assignments after the divide was crossed. I don't recall anybody mentioning Tom Custer involved in that or being mentioned in connection with the orders issued to Benteen and Reno. If Keogh asked Tom Custer to go, I think he would have gone, but it's also possible that Keogh didn't send him. Tom Custer could have been among the survivors who made their way to the Last Stand.
I've seen no convincing evidence that Tom Custer was acting as an aide.
2. I'm not sure that Custer got to the Ford or intended to go that far. I think by the time Custer got beyond Custer Hill there would be a significant build up of Indians to his front.
As for the basic question of this thread, it's possible that Custer took all 5 companies beyond Custer Hill, and that 3 eventually returned to the Calhoun Hill. I personally don't think that that's what happened. Kuhlman's theory involved such a movement.
[In any case, I don't think the 5 company command was split for the reasons I gave above.]
The sentence placed in brackets above was poorly written and can be read as meaning that I don't think Custer's 5 companies were seperated at all. What I meant to say was that I don't think the seperation occurred because of direct enemy attack and that I gave the reasons why I think that way in a prior posting. I'm sorry for the confusion. rch
So we know there are splits...between Benteen and Reno, between Reno and Custer, between Yates and Keogh, between Benteen and the trains.
Then we can see where the Warriors took advantage of the splits and placed their forces into them, to "divide and conquer:"
Between Reno and Custer, and between Yates and Keogh.
The division between Reno and Custer was enabled by Custer's flanking move, and effected by the Warriors aggressive attack on Reno, and Reno's retreat. It would not have happened had Custer not decided to make a flanking move.
Note that I don't believe Custer made that flanking move because he thought the Indians were retreating/fleeing...if he thought that, he would have taken the quicker route and followed in Reno's trail, I think. I believe he made that move only after being told that the Warriors were coming out to fight...making a stand against Reno. THAT is why he split his forces...to break that Warrior resistance that would cover the villages withdrawal (so in this sense, he certainly believed the village was going to run, as indeed the families actually did initially).