Remember...all the Army has to do here is destroy (burn) the village property. This will almost certainly impoversh the tribes enough to cause them to come into the reservation before winter, instead of the next Spring as they historically did.
The only difference between a great defeat to the Sioux/NCheyenne tribes and a great victory is being able to live free for four more months of brutal winter...and to their pride.
Winning or losing battles, and hundreds of Warriors and Soldiers dying, is almost irrelevant to the outcome of their fate...all that matters is that the Army stays in the area.
So really, to WIN, the Indians have to destroy all the Army forces and enforce their territorial boundaries. Any other outcome results in their defeat.
That is why it was crucial that to remain free, they needed to destroy Terry and then turn back again on Crook and beat him up again. If they had done this, they would buy themselves at least another year, one in which they could try to negotiate for a couple more years. After that, their independence is still problematic.
So why did anyone fight this war? <g> Topic for another thread. Wild should love that one!
What blame can be placed on John Gibbon for the outcome of the battle? What role did he play in the Custer defeat? I have been reading both Philbrick and Donovan again and this question has come to mind over and over again. While Gibbon had a stellar reputation during the Civil War, especially at Gettysburg, how did his action or inaction lead to the defeat of Custer? It seems in all the hype to place blame on Reno, Benteen, or Custer, that some of the other characters in this drama have been ignored.
Looking forward to your comments.
Last Edit: Jan 5, 2014 23:10:05 GMT -5 by moderator
I'm not aware that there was any criticism of Gibbon, and I don't have any.
To put some blame on his decisions, I think you would have to assume that Terry intended Gibbon to be in on any fight Custer would get involved in. Since I don't believe that this was remotely the case, I can't see any responsibility Gibbon had toward the affair.
Now IF you assume Terry wanted Custer and Gibbon to hit the Northern Nation village at about the same time (on the same day), then one might criticize Gibbon's command, at least, for no moving faster than it did.
Is there any basis for other criticism, then?
I've got Philbrick, but haven't opened it yet...you might just get me to do that...
Post by mitchboyer on Aug 17, 2010 12:24:58 GMT -5
I believe the issue with Gibbon is his failure to notify Terry of the "village" location that was discovered by Lt. Bradley and scouts. They located a village seen on May 17Th on the Tongue River had moved westward to the lower Rosebud about May 19Th. Bradly, afraid of skepticism, wanted every soldier in his command to verify what he had seen. He was forced to leave rather than risk discovery by the warriors. Eventually, he arrived by boat to Gibbon's location and reported this news.
How important was this information? Very! The location and direction of travel of a large group of "winter roamers" could have been monitored while directing the three U.S. Military prongs toward them in preparation of a surround.
Earlier Gibbon initiated an attempt to move men and supplies across the ranging river separating his command from this very same village which, at that time (may 19Th) was located 30 miles above the Tongue River. After several horses drowned and other difficulties, he ceased any further attempts.
Gibbon may have decided not to take any further actions because of several reasons: One of which was to keep the Sioux to the south of the river and attack only if sure of success. This is understandable but, why the previous attempt if he were not sure of success?
However, from that point on he acted as if the village never existed. The same village that grew ever larger and, eventually, met and destroyed Custer's command was.somehow,ignored.
On May 27, he wrote a letter to Terry"
I have reached the point and have scouted the country on both sides of the Yellowstone. No camps have been seen, but war parties from 20 to 50 have been seen to the south of the river."
Imagine if Gibbon had maintained a recognizance of the village thereby allowing the authorities to know the exact location (regardless of where they moved) and disposition. There would have been no reason to send Custer on a "scout", all "prongs" could have met at a critical time at a critical place, together, and victory would have been assured;hopefully!
If anyone can offer reasons why Gibbon did what he did I would sure be interested.
Last Edit: Aug 17, 2010 12:58:15 GMT -5 by mitchboyer
Thanks Mitchboyer....that is exactly what I thinking about. His knowledge of the village and the size of the village. I don't think there was ever an expectation that he would attack the village on his own.
But once again, pertinent information was not passed on to central command!! I agree with you that had Gibbon kept an "eye" on the village, Custer would have been kept with the command and there would have been no massacre. Secondly, if Crook had connected with Terry about the aggressiveness of the natives, and the fact they had driven his command back, this information potentially could have changed the outcome of the campaign. He had more than ample time to send a scout or courier to Terry.
On a side note....is it just me or did these men who came through the Civil War with such experience and in some cases heroism, come up a few fries short of a happy meal in dealing with the natives. While I understand there is a huge difference fighting Indians compared to Confederates, there are still some basic tactical similarities that seems to have gone out the window.
Okay, I know there is a lot of discussion on this board about the specific Battle of the Little Big Horn. But what about the overall campaign? What were the flaws in the overall strategy set out by Sherman, Sheridan and Terry? What were the positive aspect of the campaign as it was planned? I believe that Custer's fight was only the outcome of poor campaign planning and administration. What are your thoughts?
Last Edit: Jan 5, 2014 23:09:25 GMT -5 by moderator
I think Sheridan should have prevented any force from moving into the Powder region until both of their forward operating bases were operational.
Crook got his forward camp ready much earlier than Terry did, and this gave the Northern Nation a break between dealing with the two invading columns.
Synchronization was hard out there, but I think communications were good enough so that the columns could be held until Sheridan was notified both were ready. Then Crook could leave Goose Creek, and Terry the Powder River depot (was that the main camp location?...whichever he established on the bank of the Yellowstone), at about the same day or two.
I find nothing wrong with the overall strategy of the three-pronged approach, other than coordination. To me, the breakdown was with Crook. If I am not mistaken, he was the senior officer of the three, yet he did nothing to effect coordination or cooperation. Not that he really could, of course, but Terry and Gibbon certainly managed to stay in some semblance of touch and coordinated their movements.
Gibbon's fault, in my opinion, was in his lackadaisical attitude toward Bradley's intel. That and his failure to cross the Yellowstone, though that may have been easier to say than to do. To me, Terry's plans were reasonably sound and the man showed a decent amount of flexibility. I, of course, have always believed Custer disobeyed his orders (not an argument I wish to get into), if not in fact (which I also believe to be the case), than in spirit certainly. No subordinate commander has the right to deprive a general officer of one of that general officer's prerogatives of maneuver or attack, something I believe Custer did when he failed to scout Tullock's Creek. By that failure, Terry was forced to use the route he used, thereby depriving the combined column of one of its forces.
That is not to say that things wouldn't have worked out the way they did anyway, but that decision was not within Custer's authority to do. It is also my opinion that had Custer somehow survived the debacle, he could conceivably been court-martialed, very much the same way that Benteen could have been court-martialed had he left Reno in the lurch.
Sheridan warned early on against attempts at "coordination," specifically because of the distances involved and the length of time it would have taken to effect such a plan. When Custer attacked, the campaign was already 40 days old, and the Indians were very much in the process of breaking up and going their separate ways. The irony here-- to me-- is that Custer's fear of scattering would have taken place within a week or so, regardless of what the army did. Those who justify Custer's actions fail to use that argument, probably their best defense. Fraught with irony!
So, in summary, while many blame Terry or condemn him for what happened or for his commentary after the fact, I see nothing wrong in what the man did or planned, and I see a great flexibility in his strategy. I think George Crook was the idiot stuck in the ointment. Imagine him doing such a thing in Afghanistan.
Oh, I think we have had several "Crooks" in Afghanistan. <g>
Units overextended from support; reserves not committed soon enough to save pinned down units; firebases overrun with slow reactions; enemy concentrations not identified and able to escape or ambush despite the world's greatest recon tools...goes on...
Yes, men continue to die due to the bad decisions by officers. But we still have the best officers in the world. This job is hard...
Post by mitchboyer on Aug 18, 2010 12:42:12 GMT -5
I have a theory that I've fostered for a long time about the Indians wars that may or may not have a little merit. It seems to me that the Command Staff and it's Officer Corps of the military were absolutely clueless regarding the true martial capabilities of the Indians. To compound the problem, certain officers were promoted not so much on merit as popularity.
Now, let's mix and stir the two elements of the equation. Incompetent senior officers with an ethnocentric mind-set of the "heathens" responsible for command decisions without true repercussions for any following blunders by them. Why? The status and competency of a post-Civil War military, besmirched by an suspicious public could not survive a public revealing of the military idiocy.
Thus we have Cooke failing to advise anyone of the Rosebud fiasco, Gibbon's forgetfulness, Sheridan's belated notification regarding the true amount of warriors gathered on the Little Big Horn,etc. I bet the list could go on and on and, backward (Civil War) as well.
Fred, Terry was the senior commander; Brigadier General 1866. Crook earned his star in 1873(?) after his success in Arizona. He leapfrogged from Lt. Col. to Brigadier, ruffling a lot of "full bird" feathers.
As for coordinating commands, remember you had the departmental boundaries; these guys likely respected same and didn't want to trample on each other's turf.
I never realized that about Crook's rank. Interesting. I guess we can credit that to some success against the Apaches.
As for departmental boundaries, I don't fault anyone for their respecting those and because of the different aims, objectives, and jump-off times, I don't fault either Terry or Crook for their lack of cooperation. To me, however, Crook's lack of overall aggressiveness can be faulted.
Also, the Sheridan reports were sent, but the reports were obtained much too late-- whose fault was that?; certainly not Sheridan's-- but it took entirely too long for the word to reach anyone. Blame? Fate... none other.
Great discussion....just q quick question. What is the distance between the Rosebud Battlefield and Terry's depot at the Bighorn/Yellowstone junction? What was the distance that would have had to have been traveled if a message was sent from Crook to Terry?