That officer you mentioned having remarked about Custer having made the biggest mistake of his life by not taking the whole regiment in on the attack was Captain Myles Moylan. Godfrey recorded this in his first Custer's Last Battle, stating that a group of officers had gathered to look down into the valley, shortly after Benteen's junction with Reno. Godfrey removed it from his later versions, perhaps because of Moylan's performance in the valley, or for another reason unknown. It is conceivable that such a scene never occurred at all, and hence the excision. Nobody else seems to have mentioned it, and it would make a dandy tableau.
Last Edit: Jan 6, 2014 12:03:41 GMT -5 by moderator
Moylan, CPT (Bvt MAJ) Myles (aka, Charles E. Thomas; nicknamed “Aparejo Mickie”)—b. Amesbury, MA (one source claims Galway, Ireland), 17 Dec 1838 (or less likely, December 1, 1838) – d. San Diego, CA, December 11, 1909. Company A: Commanding Officer. Assigned to Reno’s battalion during the battle. Gray eyes, black hair, ruddy complexion; 5’ 9½” tall. DOR: March 1, 1872, sixth-ranking captain on the campaign. Parents moved to Amesbury, MA. Joined the regular army in 1857, and serving under Lewis Merrill, took part in the Utah Campaign. Took part in the battles at Fort Henry, Fort Donalson, and Shiloh. Commissioned a 2LT in the Fifth Cavalry in February 1863 (GAC was the unit’s 1LT). Fought at Gettysburg, Beverly Ford, and a number of other battles. In October 1863, he was arrested for traveling without a pass and dismissed from the service. Enlisting under an assumed name, he received another commission in January 1864.
After the Civil War, Moylan joined the Seventh Cavalry as a private, though he quickly became the regiment’s first sergeant major. By December 1866, Moylan was in Washington, D. C., taking the exam for officer candidacy. Custer tried to get him a commission, but he failed the test. With Custer’s help, he got another chance and passed. Moylan became part of the “Custer Clique.” LT Calhoun was his brother-in-law. He was the regiment’s adjutant from 1867 to 1870, and ultimately Company A’s CO for two decades. Promoted to captain, Company A, March 1, 1872. Participated in the Washita campaign, reconstruction duty, the Yellowstone Campaign—was in the August 4, 1873, and August 11, 1873 battles—and the Black Hills Expedition.
During the RCOI, SGT Culbertson testified he heard CPT Weir ask Moylan if Custer ever discussed orders with him. Moylan replied, no, Custer never told him what he was going to do, he just ordered Moylan to tell the company commanders what he wanted [Nichols, RCOI, p. 379].
According to PVT Goldin, Moylan was not a particularly popular officer and was thought to have a streak of yellow after his performance at the LBH [Goldin/Carroll, The Benteen-Goldin Letters, p. 129]. Moylan was, however, awarded the MH for action at Bear Paw Mountain, December 30, 1877, against the Nez Percé, so something must have changed. He was also wounded there.
Spent his career with the Seventh entirely on the frontier, also participating in the fight against the Crows (1887) and the Sioux at Wounded Knee (1890). Moylan was also not a particular favorite of Benteen, apparently spending too much time among the packs during the LBH battle and probably because Moylan was particularly close to George Custer. Goldin later referred to him as “Hard Tack Mick.” Benteen: Moylan had been, “pretty well protected from grave danger” [Sklenar, Research Review, Vol. 9, No. 1, p. 16]. Benteen: “I didn’t know the men of the regiment had such an aversion to Mylie Moylan, but my! How correct they were in so having.” Benteen: when Benteen reached Reno Hill, the first thing he saw “was the gallantly mustached captain of Troop A blubbering liked a whipped urchin, tears coursing down his cheeks.” James Donovan wrote that Moylan was “tough and capable… an able officer but for some reason beyond mere snobbery was not well liked” [ A Terrible Glory, pp. 60 and 61].
Married Charlotte Calhoun on October 22, 1872, in Madison, IN. She was LT Calhoun’s sister. She died March 29, 1916. No children.
1879—RCOI, Friday, January 24, 1879; Saturday, January 25, 1879; Monday, January 27, 1879.
NOTE—From the testimony given, it is obvious some of the interaction between various men was already public knowledge. There were a number of things alluded to, especially concerning Dr. Porter, that had not yet come out in the testimony and were clearly referred to as being general knowledge. It should also be noted that Moylan was very close to Custer, part of the “Custer Clan,” and married to LT Calhoun’s sister.
Before the divide—
1. Left the Rosebud camp [Busby bend] about 11 o’clock [PM] on June 24. They marched about 2½ hours and bivouacked without unsaddling. Orders were for the men to sleep and have coffee in the morning if potable water could be found. They were on a Rosebud tributary, “the dry fork.” 
2. Moylan got this order “by one of General Custer’s staff officers.” 
3. They remained until somewhere around 8 AM, then moved forward. Moylan did not know who ordered the move. 
4. Moylan described the country as rolling. “The country marched through was the valley of this dry fork… and on either side, at a distance of half a mile in some places to a mile and a half in others, were high, broken hills.” 
5. Moylan said they halted around 10:30 or 11 AM. He was not sure. “I don’t know that I know the time, I don’t give that time as definite.” 
6. The trail was very fresh, only a day or two old. Moylan included—maybe matter-of-factly—that the halt was at the foot of the divide.  • He told of a sergeant from F Company [Curtiss] who had lost some personal items from a pack mule and had gone back only to see 2 or 3 Indians rifling the bag and sitting on a box of hardtack.  • “… while at the second halt at the foot of the divide… a sergeant of one of the companies returned on the trail some miles… for the purpose of recovering… some clothing of his that had been lost from a pack mule the night before.” [215, hard cover edition] • He returned and notified CPT Yates who discussed it with CPT Keogh. They told LT Cooke. Custer, “… I was informed, was some distance ahead at a point of the divide from which these Indian ponies were visible.” 
From the divide to the approach to Ford A—
7. The organization into battalions was made about 1 mile to 1½ miles west of the divide, probably around 12:30 PM. “I don’t know definitely as to the time.”  • Moylan thought McDougall’s command consisted of about 40 men in his company and 1 NCO and 6 privates from each of the other companies.  • Q: “State if you knew at the time or as it appeared to you afterward, what officers were placed in command of these different battalions and how many there were.” A: “I know nothing personally of it myself. I afterward ascertained that Major Reno had a battalion, Captain Benteen had one, Captain Keogh had one, and Captain Yates had one. Each of these battalions I have named consisted of three companies, except Captain Yates’ which was two companies. Captain McDougall being absent with the pack train accounted for the other.” 
8. Benteen’s battalion departed first. 
9. Moylan lost sight of Benteen, then saw him again. He appeared and disappeared over very broken country. 
10. Benteen went off at almost a right angle. 
11. Reno and Custer’s columns moved down Reno Creek virtually neck and neck for several miles. Sometimes they were as close as 150 or 200 yards apart, at other times they diverged to 400 or 500 yards. They continued that way until they reached “a couple of abandoned Indian lodges….” At this point, Custer called Reno over to his side of the creek “and received orders to move forward with his battalion as the Indians were supposed to be a few miles ahead and retreating.”  • LT Hodgson told Moylan Reno’s orders were to charge the Indians—they were supposed to be running—and Reno would be supported by Custer’s command.  • Moylan was asked if a flank attack was considered “support.” He replied that it was in the sense it would draw Indians away from Reno. 
12. Reno gave the command “Trot!” and his column moved forward in a column – of – fours. Moylan claimed they moved for some 3 to 3½ miles before reaching the LBH [this is in some conflict with the testimony of Varnum, Wallace, Gerard, and Porter who all claimed this distance was only 1 to 1½ miles]. 
13. Hodgson told Moylan Custer said he would support Reno. 
14. Despite the fact that Moylan believed it was 3 to 3½ miles from when Custer gave Reno his attack order to where they crossed, Moylan said it only took Reno 20 or 25 minutes to reach the crossing. “It is pretty hard to fix those things.” [221 – 222]
15. They followed a fresh—a few days old—Indian trail. 
16. The companies moved in a column-of-fours toward the ford, an interval of 15, 20, or 25 yards between companies. 
17. Moylan believed his company was in the center.  • For much of the time Reno rode in the vicinity of Moylan. 
18. Moylan does not remember seeing Gerard. 
From Ford A, down the valley, to Reno’s timber—
19. Moylan said he took 38 men into the fight. 
20. After crossing the LBH, a slight pause was made to allow the companies to close up. [This could be when some watered their horses and ties in with Porter.] After closing up, the command moved out at a fast trot, the rear galloping to catch up. “They moved probably a third of a mile when the companies were formed in line, before the crossing was made on a little high ground on that side of the river.”  [The phrase, “before the crossing was made,” probably refers to the crossing of this “little high ground,” not the crossing of the LBH.] • After crossing the LBH, the battalion formed in a column – of – fours, Reno now at the head of the command.  • After moving down about 1/3 of a mile in the column formation, Reno moved them into a line. Reno’s command: “Companies form left front into line.”  • This was when Moylan first got sight of the Indians—in force. 
21. The distance from the crossing (Ford A) to where Reno dismounted was 1½ miles and they covered it at a gallop in about 5 minutes… or 10 minutes, or 10 or 15 minutes. “I don’t know the exact time.” 
22. “An immense cloud of dust was seen down the valley.”  • Occasionally they could see figures moving around in openings in the dust.  • The dust seemed to recede as the command advanced.  • Numerous mounted Indians could be seen coming out of the dust cloud and Reno halted his command.  • The Indians were firing on the troops before the soldiers dismounted. 
23. Moylan only saw the Indians turn back on Reno when he was within 500 to 600 yards of the point of timber [where he halted]. 
24. Moylan made it clear that had Reno continued to charge, “… and gone far enough, he would have been there yet.” 
25. The Indians were less than 500 yards of the command when Reno halted. From 200 or 300 or 400 yards.  • Moylan thought there were about 400 Indians within 500 yards of Reno when the command halted.  • There were lodges closer in to the timber, maybe less than 500 yards away. They were “scattered”—as a group—but in the main part of the village—farther downstream—the lodges were much closer together. Moylan used the word “compact.”  • “… [F]rom the timber Major Reno could not have done any damage to the village or anyone in it. The ground was so much lower than that on which the village stood that he would overshoot the village.”  • He thought the village averaged 200 to 300 yards in width, though he was way off with his three mile estimate of its length.  • Moylan said there were 400 wickiups scattered throughout the timber along the river.  • The lodges were more in the open ground. 
26. The battalion deployed as skirmishers and the horse holders brought the horses into the woods.  • The line advanced about 100 yards after initial deployment. 
27. Company G was on the right, Company A in the center, and Company M on the left.  [This would make sense if they wheeled right because it would have put A on the left and M on the right after G had gone into the timber.]
28. From the skirmish line’s right to the river was probably 150 to 200 yards. The first 30 yards were timbered, the balance being trees here and there with scattered underbrush. “In the timber was some heavy undergrowth.” 
29. From where the horses were put into the woods, the timber bent down toward the river [this was on the upstream side of the command]. There was no timber where they crossed during the retreat, but above that the timber began again. 
30. The village began not more than 300 yards from the extreme right of Moylan’s command. 
31. Moylan said his men fired most of their ammunition and he had to send men back to the horses to get more. When asked how long it would take to fire all that ammo—the 50 rounds they carried with them—he replied 40 minutes. 
32. After about 10 minutes Reno got a report that Indians were coming up along the left riverbank to threaten the horses. Reno withdrew the greater portion of G and went into the woods. This left a gap between Moylan’s right and the edge of the timber and he moved his troops wider apart to cover the gap.  • They remained there for “30 minutes or longer, probably 25 or 30 minutes,” with quite heavy firing.  • Moylan noticed Indians moving to the line’s left and he went to the edge of the hill [Gerard’s “brow”] and called to Reno to see what was happening. Reno came up, looked, and ordered the line withdrawn to the edge of the woods.  • Moylan also—as did Gerard—said the companies made a right flanking movement to get to the edge of the “brow.”  • “About half of M Company had to face to the left again in order to change front in the direction of the hills, as the attack was being made from that direction….”  • Moylan said there were Indians on the right side of the river as well.  • He also said men were moved to cover the bluffs on the other side of the river.  • A very interesting exchange: Q: “If General Custer in passing there and seeing such deployment [the skirmish line], would he expect that command would retreat in 30 or 40 minutes?” A: “No, sir, he would expect it would hold its position.”  • Moylan was prompted by Lyman Gilbert regarding what might be the conclusion if Custer saw Reno fighting on a skirmish line. Moylan replied that in his mind it would indicate the Indians were not running. 
33. Not less than 200 Indians had turned the left flank before it was withdrawn and others had gone through the foothills to come up on the left. They had closed to within 500 or 600 yards and were scattering all over the bottoms. 
34. The order was then given to mount up. 
35. They couldn’t form up in the timber, so Moylan ordered his men to mount in the timber and come out individually. When about half his command was mounted, Moylan left the timber and formed his men in a column-of-fours. 
36. M Company formed on Moylan’s left at a 15– or 20 – yard interval. 
37. Reno was there overlooking the units’ formations. 
38. Reno asked Moylan for his opinion where they should retreat to. 
39. Moylan estimated there were 400 to 500 Indians in the immediate vicinity of Reno’s command when the retreat began. He thought only 600 to 700 in the valley. 
40. By the time they left the woods, Company A had 1 dead and 2 wounded. 
41. If they had remained in the timber, Moylan said the command would have been “annihilated.” 
Retreat from the timber to the arrival on Reno Hill—
42. They moved at a trot then a gallop.  • It turned into a very fast gallop. 
43. Company A was on the right. 
44. There were no Indians in front of them, but there were to the right and rear. Moylan saw 30 or 40 Indians not far to the right of the ford where they were about to cross. 
45. There were a great many Indians in the timber—“I know there were a great many Indians in there”—and they closed in very close to the troopers. 
46. G Company was not as quick, but was in the column by the time they reached the river crossing. 
47. The shooting into A Company was very severe. Moylan fell back and saw that the rear of his company was broken up. 
48. When he reached the river, he found it full of horses and men. 
49. “I rather think the object in leaving the timber was… to save the command.” 
50. Moylan said if “the command stayed there 30 minutes longer, I doubt if it would have gotten out with as many men as it did.” 
51. Moylan was firm in stating they were not driven out of the timber—virtually driven, but not actually. “It would have been driven into the timber in a very short time, but when we left the timber the command did not leave because it was driven out.” 
52. Moylan felt the best place for the commander to be in a retreat of that nature was where he could best observe the whole command, in this case, the rear. 
53. Moylan felt if the Indians had followed the command onto Reno Hill “… it would be only a matter of time for the command without assistance.” 
On Reno Hill—
54. Once on the hill, Moylan tried to get his wounded together—he thought there were five—and Dr. Porter came up to attend to them. Moylan then heard some men say a column was approaching. 
55. “There was a skirmish line thrown out within in a few minutes from the time the command reached to top of the hill.” 
56. It was “rumored” among the men that Custer’s command had headed downstream this way, on this side of the river. This was the first Moylan heard of anything regarding Custer.  • Moylan’s belief was that Custer was at the rear of their trail and coming to their assistance. 
57. About ½ to ¾ of an hour, the packs came up and Moylan saw Weir’s company head downstream. 
58. Moylan heard firing from downstream after the packs had arrived; none before.  • Moylan mentioned it to McDougall who replied that he thought it was from Custer at the other end of the village. It was volley firing, but faint. 
59. Soon after the packs arrived, ammo was distributed and the order given to prepare to move downstream. 
60. After they were on the hill about 1 hour, the men who were left in the timber joined them. 
The Move to Weir Peaks—
61. Moylan stripped blankets from his horses to carry the wounded. It took four men to carry each of the five. Other men led his horses. 
62. After beginning to move, Moylan sent a man forward to tell Reno he needed help moving his men. Moylan moved forward and spoke with McDougall who sent back half his company. 
63. Moylan then reached Reno who told him it wouldn’t be necessary to move forward any more as “the whole force of Indians was in front of Captain Weir’s command (which was then dismounted) and firing at us.” 
After Weir Peaks—
64. After returning to the hill, action continued until after dark. 
65. Firing began again around 3 AM and kept up until the middle of the afternoon. 
66. Q: “Is 3 o’clock about daylight in that latitude at that time of the year?” A: “Well, between 2 and 3 o’clock was about daylight.” 
67. Moylan’s company was between Benteen’s and Weir’s.  [Company A was covering that low opening into the saddle area where the hospital was and where the horses were kept.]
68. Moylan estimated at least 900 to 1,000 Indians were there at all times, Indians constantly moving out of the village to relieve those in the hills firing into the troopers’ positions. 
69. Moylan’s men were shooting at a range of about 800 yards. 
70. There were a considerable number of Indians opposite Benteen’s position, some as close as 15 to 20 yards. 
After the 26th—
71. Moylan thought Calhoun’s company had been in skirmish formation. 
72. He counted 28 cartridge shells around one man. 
73. Moylan’s company was on the left, next to the river, when they were policing the battlefield. 
74. Moylan described finding “twenty-odd bodies of E Company” in the ravine marked “H” on the map used at the inquiry. This was clearly Deep Ravine, not Cemetery Ravine. He also described seeing the marks on the “almost perpendicular” wall they had tried to scramble up, the marks extending only half way up.  • This was ½ to ¾ mile from the river.  75. Moylan said there were 3 officers he knew of whose bodies were never found. He thought some 15 to 18 EM were never found. He felt the EM—certainly—were just never identified.  [He never mentioned the officers by name.] • Moylan said there were men he had known for 10 or 12 years whose bodies he could not identify except for certain marks.  • He felt the missing officers were buried with the men. 
76. Moylan was asked to estimate the number of Indians at the LBH. He used a number of two warriors per lodge, therefore 3,600 warriors—1,800 lodges; 3,500 to 4,000 warriors. [237 – 238]
77. It was nearly dark when the village moved away on the 26th. 
78. The sun had gone down and he could not distinguish mounted men from ponies. He thought their column was some 2½ to 3 miles long and several hundred yards wide: maybe ¼ to ½ mile in width, “… a very large herd of ponies being driven.” 
79. Other than Calhoun’s men, Moylan felt there was no evidence of organized resistance. There was evidence of retreat. 
That's all... for now.
Best wishes, Fred.
Last Edit: Sept 4, 2018 17:29:32 GMT -5 by moderator
I came across a copy of a letter written by Captain Myles Moylan to his brother-in-law Fred Calhoun (younger brother of Lt. James Calhoun) dated July 6, 1876, from camp at the mouth of the Big Horn River. This letter seems to clarify a few of the mysteries and suppositions that many battle students are forced to make due to a lack of more specific information. The following is part of the letter with my own commentary in yellow:
My dear Fred:
Long before this will reach you, you will no doubt have heard of our horrible fight with Sitting Bull's Sioux Indians on the Little Big Horn River on the 25th and 26th of last month. Our command left the Yellowstone River at the mouth of Rose Bud Creek 40 miles above Tongue River about the 22 of June. We had 12 companies, about 600 men in all. About 18 miles up the creek we struck an old camp of about 800 lodges; we followed the trail for several days; as we progressed up the creek the trail continued to grow larger and larger. It was the impression, however, that most of the bucks were out, but alas, such was not the case, as we found out to our cost. Having traveled most of the night of the 24th until the village was discovered about 10 miles in front of us. It could be seen from the bluff of the creek.
General Custer then decided to halt his command until night and make the march during the night of the 25th so as to strike them on the morning of the 26th; but during the morning of the 25th it was ascertained that we were discovered; then Custer decided to go forward and attack them at once. The command was then divided into four Columns of three companies each, as near as I can remember. Col. Reno had Cos. A, G & M. Col. Benteen had Cos. H, K & D. Col. Keogh Cos. I, C & B. Capt. Yates, F, E & L. [Moylan here apparently solves one of the ongoing mysteries of this battle. Here, he clearly delineates the correct company components of each battalion at the start of the battle. You will note in particular that B Co was actually assigned to Keogh's battalion while L Co was in Yates battalion. Many battle students mistakenly assume that L Co was in Keogh's battalion for no other reason than the fact that L Co was found in the Keogh sector at the end of the battle. Other battle students mistakenly place C Co in Yates' battalion.]
Each Column marching as near abreast of each other as possible. [Moylan gives us very important information here. He mentions that each of the Columns were marching down Reno/Ash Creek "as near abreast of each other as possible." This suggests that Benteen's column, furthest to the left of his mission, was expected by Custer to be marching in sync or abreast of the rest of the command, which is what Clair has been trying to tell us for a while now. Benteen quickly fell behind, but it seems that Custer expected all his Columns to be moving towards the LBH valley "as near abreast of each other as possible."]
Having marched in the above order (at a trot, for about five miles) we came to an abandoned village where some lodges were yet standing, from which bodies of Indians could be seen in the valley of the Little Big Horn, and it seemed to us, retreating in a rapid manner, driving off their stock and raising a heavy dust generally. [Here, Moylan confirms the battle model of Fred, myself and Clair-- as opposed to Gray and others supporting a slower pace-- by confirming what we all have assumed that the command moved down Reno/Ash Creek at a trot until reaching the lone tepee site, which is described as being an abandoned village. Moylan also describes "where some lodges were yet standing". He refers here to several lodges, not just one lodge, thus explaining the later confusion among battle students over where the lone tepee was located. The fact is, there were multiple tepees still standing, the first tepee reached after riding about 6.5 miles from the divide, the last tepee reached about 3 miles later. Moylan also tells us that Custer assumed the dust raised in the valley was due to the notion that the Indians "retreating" and "driving off their stock".]
It was at this point that Gen. Custer sent an order to Reno to move forward in column of fours (at) the gallop [Moylan gives the rapid gait that Reno took to reach the LBH river after he departed from Custer.], crossed the Little Big Horn and entered the plain of that stream (about a mile wide) with a few Indian scouts in front for a short time. A few shots having been exchanged between the Sioux and the scouts, we formed line and charged. [Important note: Moylan indicates that before Reno entered the plain and formed into a line to begin his advance down the valley, the scouts were already in front of his command and engaging the hostiles. He does not tell us how long, but just "a short time", probably during the time that Reno was waiting for a response from Custer to his sending 2 messengers to him with word that the Indians were not running away but were coming out to oppose him]
The Sioux retreated before us a few minutes only, when we passed over a little more ground and around a piece of timber [ie. on the south side of the Garryowen Loop] we came in sight of the entire village; at the same time, the Indians advanced coming down upon us in such numbers that Col. Reno assumed it advisable to dismount the three Cos., put the horses in the woods under cover, and fight on foot. [here Moylan suggests that Reno's command advanced mounted just beyond the timber on the south side of the Garryowen Loop before dismounting there and taking their horses into the timber position.], this was done very properly by the men, our line formed and a heavy fight commenced.
We fought them in this order for about thirty minutes when we found that they were in such numbers that they were surrounding us both in the valley and behind us in the woods. The order was then given to withdraw to another line [at the edge of the timber position], mount up and charge through them to the bluffs on the opposite side of the river. [Moylan does not describe G Co being taken off the line by Reno, but he does tell us that the valley skirmish line stood for "about thirty minutes" before being withdrawn to the timber position.] This took some little time, as the right of the line rested on the timber and the left extended far into the valley. [Moylan describes the withdrawal into the timber as taking "some little time"; he does not describe any lengthy defense of the timber position at all, but rather describes the troops mounting and charging to the rear. He also specifically mentions that the right of the skirmish line "rested on the timber" which would be true for the Vaughn site, but does not match up at all with the Pitsch lines.]
However, it [the withdrawal to the timber] was accomplished with small loss, most of the men having mounted, and in fact, all of them that I could see, having been among the last to leave the woods myself on account of some of my men being wounded. I could see that most of the men were mounted and moving out. [It is interesting to note that Moylan says that "most of the men" were mounted when the retreat to the bluffs began. Apparently not all of Reno's command had yet mounted and prepared to leave before his command began their charge to the rear.]
Meantime, the Indians had collected around the timber in great numbers and kept up a terrible fire. However, we move out and selected the nearest point of bluffs as our objective point, we started at the gallop and immediately the charge. It was a running fight all the way to the bluffs, and I can assure you, a hard one. The Indians rode almost side by side with us; I fired 3 shots at a fellow not 20 yards from me. The 3rd shot finally knocked a hole in him. McIntosh was killed in the charge, Reynolds was killed before we left the timber [Note: according to most witnesses, Reynolds was killed at the tail end of the retreat and well after the troops had left the timber. It is possible that Moylan is confusing Reynolds with the death of Bloody Knife in the timber], Gerard and some of the Indians got off and hid in the bushes for 2 nights. I lost 8 men killed and 7 wounded in the last charge. Also 13 horses killed in the fight of the 25th and 7 wounded. As we reached the river, you may imagine, our formation, Column of fours, was pretty well broken up, so much so that most of the command reached the bank at the same time. We found a perpendicular bank of about 8 feet, but that did not stop the men; with more death behind and some chance of escape in front, they took the leap into the river, striking almost into the middle of it. The water was about 5 feet deep. Quite a number of horses floundered then and there. The horse ridden by Lieutenant Hodgson, and Hodgson himself, were shot as the horse made the leap into the river. Hodgson was thrown into the river and shot dead as he was getting up the bank of the opposite side. Fortunately for us, we found a very good place to get out of the river on the opposite side, or every one of us would have been killed in the river.
(to be continued)
Last Edit: Dec 29, 2018 0:47:19 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 two hours, for the order that never came."
You will naturally ask where was Custer and the other 9 Companies all this time. It seems that when Custer reached the Little Big Horn where we had crossed [Note: here Moylan confirms Kanipe's recollection that Custer came right down close to the Ford A crossing before turning north along the bluffs], instead of crossing there, he kept down the right bank of the stream with 5 Companies leaving Benteen back with his Companies and McDougall's Company B to bring up the pack train. Custer underrated the number of Indians so much that I know he thought Reno's Command could have driven them away before them, and in order to cut off the retreat of the Indians, he marched his command down the right bank of the river to a crossing some 7 or 8 miles below, but before he could reach a point half that distance, we were driven across the river and the Indians were ready for him. Of his fight, the truth will never be known, unless indeed, the Indians tell it, as there can be no question that every officer and man in his Command was killed. All the officers were found stiff in death, stripped naked, and all more or less cut to pieces by the Indians, excepting Lts. Porter, Sturgis, Harrington and Dr. Lord, there was no doubt, however, of the death of Porter and Sturgis, as their clothing was found in the village covered with blood after the Indians left. No trace of any kind of Harrington or Dr. Lord have been found, but the bodies were disfigured so much when we buried them that it was impossible to recognize the greatest number of them. Jim [Calhoun] and young Crittenden of the 20th Infantry, son of Gen. Crittenden of the 17th Infantry, who was on duty with Jim in L Company, were found behind L Company. Gen. Custer, Tom, Yates, Cook and Smith were found together upon a small hill where the last stand was evidently made. Gen. Custer was shot through the ear and not scalped or disfigured in the least. He looked as natural as if sleeping. All the rest of the officers and men all over the field were badly cut up and their heads knocked in. I was present when Jim was buried and recognized him at a glance. Bos Custer and the General's nephew were killed some little distance from the General. Both were recognized, Altogether 200 officers and men were found. Some few may have been killed further off whose bodies were not found, but they could not have been many, as 206 nearly made up the number in the Command.
It was a most terrible affair for the 7th Cavalry. I think Gen. Custer made a great mistake in underrating the number of Indians and his dividing his Command. There could not have been less than 4000 fighting men in the village, the number of lodges were estimated at 1800, and besides those in the woods where Reno's Command fought them was full of brush huts, which it is thought were occupied by Indians from the Agencies. In all my experiences with Custer, it was the first time that my company had been separated from him. It would seem that by some Divine protection I was sent off with Reno that day. And even with us, it was the hardest fight and most wonderful escape I ever knew, that we got away at all; had we remained on the Plain 10 minutes longer we would have been surrounded and our escape cut off. The Indians did continue the fight with us after we crossed the river, but turned their attention onto Custer's Command. We could hear the fighting with Custer several miles away soon after we reached the bluffs, where we were joined by Benteen with 4 Companies. An effort was made then to join Custer by our Command. We moved several miles in the direction of the firing, but so slow was our march on account of the wounded men that several hours were consumed in making a few miles, we having no means of conveying the wounded except carrying them in blankets. Our effort in the direction of the Custer fight was suddenly brought to a close by a heavy attack being made upon us by an overwhelming force of Indians---Indians doubtless from Custer's fight, as that fight lasted but few hours. We were compelled to fall back to a good position for the protection of our animals, we having the entire pack train with us. This was about 5 pm of the 25th. It was as much as we could do to keep the devils at bay until we could put our animals into a ravine and deploy the Companies on the high ground around them. We finally succeeded in doing this and I assure you, it was not done a moment too soon as the devils attacked us from all sides with great fury. Our men, thank God, were cool and fought with great determination, the Indians finding they could not force our lines, took up strong positions around us from 200 to 700 yards as the ground would permit and kept up a heavy fire until after dark. Our position at some points was so much exposed that the Indians concentrated a fire upon those points from 3 different directions. [Note: Here Moylan contradicts the assertions of Reno and Benteen about this being a good defensive position.]
Bill, what is your source on this letter? I think he is pretty much spot on with a little shading to make it sound better. Why not believe his account on Reynolds? Guess I'd trust his account over some of the others. Notice that he has the fighting lasting a long time and suggests a pre-noon crossing at Ford A, ala Girard.
Britt, the letter was privately published by Tom O'Neil in his Arrow & Trooper booklets. I believe it was one of the first letters Moylan wrote after the battle. I am sorry I didn't come across it much sooner as it validates my theory of how the battalions were broken up, especially vis a vis the Keogh vs. Yates battalions. He also confirms our thesis that Custer moved down Ash Creek at a trot, and also supports Clair's contention that Benteen's battalion was acting as a flank guard on the advance down Ash Creek. These are all solid and valuable contributions to our understanding of the battle.
Now, the reason I don't go with Moylan's account of Reynold's death is due mainly to your reference to Moylan's shading his story when it comes to his own actions in the valley. Moylan is the only officer I know of who ludicrously refers to Reno's rout as "a charge". He falsely (I believe) states that he was one of the last to leave the timber, but I am convinced he was one of the first to get out, right beside Reno. All other accounts of Reynold's death put him at the tail end of the evacuation of the timber, after most of the troops had already left. Remember, he was with Girard just previously. Girard's saw him leave and described his death the best, in my view. I also suspect Moylan was not telling the truth when he claimed the troops on the skirmish line were ordered to fall back to their horses by Major Reno. Major Reno was never anywhere near the skirmish line (contrary to Moylan's RCOI account) and had no idea what was going on out there. He sent Varnum back to report on how things were going, as Reno was too busy engaged in the timber to bother with it himself. Before Varnum even got back to the skirmish line, he found it already falling back to the timber position. I suspect it was Moylan himself who told his troops to fall back to the horses, and not Reno.
So yes, Moylan's account of the battle does shed some valuable light on things, but when it comes to his own actions in the valley or on the retreat, it is best to take his descriptions with a large grain of salt. I think Gordie had it right. Moylan was the one of the main reasons why Reno threw in the towel early in the valley fight.
Moylan: "Each Column marching as near abreast of each other as possible." Moylan gives us very important information here. He mentions that each of the Columns were marching down Reno/Ash Creek "as near abreast of each other as possible." This suggests that Benteen's column, furthest to the left of his mission, was expected by Custer to be marching in sync or abreast of the rest of the command, which is what Clair has been trying to tell us for a while now. Benteen quickly fell behind, but it seems that Custer expected all his Columns to be moving to wards the LBH valley "as near abreast of each other as possible."
How is it possible that all 12 companies (as stated in the letter)were abreast of each considering there was a rear guard?
I think that logic would suggest Moylan was only referring to the 4 combat Columns and not the Pack train and rear guard.
My understanding is that Benteen did not go down Reno Creek but diverted to the left. There is no way at the beginning of the march of Custer down main stream Reno Creek that Benteen was abreast of the others. His direction would be away from it at an angle.
Isn't it true Steve, that Custer delayed his advance down Reno/Ash Creek as Benteen moved off at an angle? Some would interpret that delay as an effort to allow Benteen to get into position to move west towards the Valley, which is exactly what Benteen's route was once he finished his short oblique left march.
I think letters are written with the intent to create an impression and not always factual in my opinion. Some of the letter is first hand but the second hand information is told in the same manner.
I would agree with you on this. In my view, Moylan combines some very important factual information that has been missing or neglected by many battle students (such as the correct formation of the battalions or the correct pace down Ash Creek) along with some noted false impressions added in to cover for Moylan's own less than sterling behavior during the valley fight.
Actually where would they have been four abreast as described in the letter? Considering that Benteen was out of sight of the others within approximately 10 minutes and Custer was not in the main Reno Creek Valley before Benteen disappeared what information is Moylan providing from his personal observations of what Benteen was doing?
I would assume that Moylan would have discussed these matters with both Reno and Benteen after the battle to clarify much of these moves, unless Moylan was in position to hear Custer's orders more clearly than has been described by others. We really don't know how he came by this information. We either accept that he is being truthful or we reject it out of hand. I am sure that many battle students, considering some of the massive ego's involved, will reject any new information that comes out for no other reason than it contradicts their own self-conceived notions of how things played out. That's human nature. But to answer your question, the 4 battle columns would have been roughly spread out 4 abreast of each other at the very start of their march down Reno/Ash Creek. Benteen would have fallen behind once his battalion got out of sight of the other 3 columns. Perhaps the two messengers that were sent to Benteen a short time later telling him to continue his march to the next ridgeline were also sent to speed up his advance. We'll never really know, of course.
Benteen made every attempt at the RCOI to obfuscate his real route on his flank march. His testimony suggested he was to continue on his oblique march which would have placed his command many miles away from the others. He also greatly exaggerated about how many miles he traveled to further this false impression. The fact of the matter is, Benteen marched on his left oblique only a short distance before turning parallel with the rest of the regiment and was never more than 2 miles south of Reno's battalion. Benteen's total distance covered on this march was almost the same distance as that covered by the rest of the regiment moving down Reno/Ash Creek, maybe exceeding it by about 1/2 a mile.
That's a good question Strange. I suspect a good number -- including Benteen and a good many enlisted men of the 7th -- could accuse Moylan of less than gallant behavior, if not outright cowardice, if the same standards were applied to his conduct at LBH. French does not seem to have a problem with Moylan, so I suspect much of his animosity towards DeRudio stems from other sources besides his battlefield conduct.
Lets keep in mind that DeRudio and Moylan did not get along with each other long before June 25th, 1876. DeRudio was assigned as Moylan's 1st Lieutenant, yet Moylan refused to allow DeRudio to share in his mess. He was shunned from the very start. I suspect the bad feelings towards DeRudio from French, Moylan and a few others had more to do with his past reputation as an assassin who narrowly avoided the death penalty and was sent to prison on Devil's Island. The fact that he was Italian in those days did not help him rise in the popularity charts either. His benefactor in the regiment seems to have been Captain Benteen.
Since its right beside the Custer photos, I'm wondering if the man on the left could be Mylie Moylan.
It does bear a striking resemblance to him, Strange, and that looks a lot like Benteen on the right, with Lt. Bell sitting next to Moylan on the left. Not sure of the officer next to Benteen (if that's Benteen). Could it be French?
Last Edit: Dec 29, 2018 0:42:45 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 two hours, for the order that never came."
Captain Thomas B. Weir, Oct. 22, 1876.
General of the Army (Medicine Man/Chief))
A letter from Myles Moylan to Maggie Calhoun Custer (the General's sister and wife of Lt. Calhoun) dated Dec. 21, 1876 (from the BCWC Collection), with my annotations in brackets:
My Dear Maggie,
Your letter of the 17th just is received. I can write to you what you want to know very much better than I could have told it to you. On the morning of the 27th [sic. actually the 28th] of June last [when] we left our camp on the hills overlooking the Little Big Horn River, the scene of our two days siege, and marched down the right [ie. eastern] bank of the river on the trail made by General Custer on the 25th. My company was [the] rear guard and did not arrive on the Custer battle field until some time after the other companies had commenced the sad work of burying the dead. When I [finally] did arrive, my company was assigned the place nearest the river but one, [with] Captain McDougall's having the extreme left [nearest the river]. For the purpose of covering the whole ground, the companies were placed in position in about the order indicated in the diagram I enclose. [Note: this order of the companies from left to right -- or from west to east -- at 100 yard intervals, was: B, A, K, D, H, G, M]
As soon as I arrived on the field I asked Col. Reno to have me notified as soon as Jim's [ie. Lt. Calhoun's] body was found -- the sad work was commenced [with] each company moving forward in the place and burying the dead as they came to them. Positive orders were given that these officers should not leave their respective companies unless special permission was granted them to do so in order that none of the bodies should be overlooked. An accurate count was made of all the bodies buried and all marks on the bodies that would in any way tend towards identification were carefully noted. In about 1/2 or 3/4 of an hour, an orderly came to me from Col. Reno with the information that Jim's body had been found. I at once rode to the spot, [and] when I arrived the body was partially covered with earth -- from the neck to the waist was covered. I examined the exposed parts of the body carefully. It was all that remained of your husband. The face was not disfigured any, nor was his limbs mutilated, but like all the bodies that I saw, except [for] Genl. Custer, he was scalped. I could not tell where he was shot on account of the body being covered up.
Mr. Crittenden and Jim were not buried in the same grave -- the diagram will give you some idea of the field and the position of the bodies when found. I think most of what you have heard of the mutilation of Tom's body, except perhaps [the stories of] cutting out his heart, was true. His body was cut up very much, so much, indeed, that it was almost impossible to tell whether or not he had received any shots in the body. Bos [Custer] was shot in the body several times, [and] was mutilated some. Autie Reed was also shot in the body. I could not tell so much of the manner of his death, however, owing to the fact that most of the clothes had been left on the body. The bodies of all looked quite natural, considering that they had been in the hot June sun nearly two day. The distances I give in the diagram are as near correct as I can remember, of course, I cannot give them exact. I give you all the information in my possession and hope it may prove satisfactory in a final way. I am joined by [my wife] Lottie in kind regards to yourself and Mrs. Custer, also our other friends.
Your sincere friend,
[Ed: On his hand drawn map of the area it is interesting to note that Moylan identifies Lt. Smith's horse found in the basin at the head, and just north, of Deep Ravine.]
Here is an account of the LBH battle given by Capt. Myles Moylan at the Reno Court of Inquiry as reported by the Pioneer Press, with my annotations in brackets: Part I
THE CHAMPION WITNESS Special Telegram to the Pioneer Press
... Captain Moylan is, perhaps, the most interesting witness, as far as his testimony goes, who has yet been on the stand; for he not only talks without any reserve or embarrassment, but gives his opinion as thought he had formed it definitely from an intelligent comprehension of the circumstances. He did not know what was done to ascertain the number of Indians in Major Reno's rear [ie. to the eastward] in the timber. Major Reno was down there himself. The witness could not estimate the number of Indians there [ie. to the east of the timber position]. He saw, perhaps, forty or fifty, but there might [or might not] have been a great number more.
The Recorder -- Might there have been 200 [warriors east of the timber position]?
Witness -- There was room for 200.
Being questioned by the Recorder regarding the possibility of all the men forming a [defensive skirmish] line from the river [at the northwest corner of the timber position] to the first [or upper] bench to the left of the battalion, so that the [Reno] command would be able to protect itself, as Recorder Lee expressed it, [the] witness said, "Protect itself against what?"
Recorder -- Well, I don't mean protect itself against the whole Sioux nation.
Witness -- I do not think the command could have been so disposed as to hold the position and protect itself under the circumstances. Of the hundred rounds of ammunition that each man had -- fifty on his person and fifty on his saddle-bags -- the men of the witness' company [ 'A'] had fired away about all they had on their persons and were obliged to go back for their horses for more. [Note: This is an important admission by Capt. Moylan. He apparently ordered his entire troop back to the timber position for the purpose of resupplying them ammunition which he had allowed them to expend at a rapid pace while out on the skirmish line.] They were about 40 minutes in getting away with that amount of ammunition, [note: Moylan here is including the entire fight including the 20 minutes action on the skirmish line together with the 10 minutes more action in the timber and the remaining 10 minutes after falling back to their horses in the bottom and the final retreat from the valley,] and as far as the witness could judge, about two-thirds of it was judiciously expended. [Note: Here Moylan makes another remarkable admission in offering his view that roughly one-third of the rounds expended by his troop during the valley fight was expended injudiciously, thus explaining how his company managed to fire about 50 rounds in 40 minutes, or roughly 15 to 20 rounds more than the average expended by the other companies. This is an indication of poor or non-existent fire control exercised by the officers of A Troop during the valley fight.]
The Recorder -- Now state what was the object of getting out of the timber?
Witness -- I rather think the object of getting out of the timber was to save the command.
The Recorder -- Do you not think it would have been more judicious for the command to have remained in the timber than to have exposed itself to fire on the [open] bottom?
Witness -- I believe that in view of the uncertainty regarding support the retreat was less injurious than it would have been to remain in the timber; for the command could not have remained there thirty minutes longer [unsupported] without losing many more men than it did in the course pursued. [Note: Reno's battalion lost less than 6 men before its retreat from the timber.] I think that if the Indians had followed up the troops [on the retreat to the bluffs] and closed in upon them on the hill, the command could not have held out against them until relief came, for its ammunition would have given out. I do not know how many men were killed at the river-crossing; and did not think the crossing was covered to protect the rest in getting over.
The Recorder -- State whether the command was exultant or demoralized when it reached the top of the hill?
Witness -- Well, I don't think it was utterly demoralized or particularly exultant. Within a few minutes after reaching the top of the hill the command was in tolerably good condition -- so much so that a skirmish line was thrown out [ed. apparently by Capt. French].
The Recorder -- At whose order was this skirmish line thrown out?
Witness -- I don't know who would have any authority to give such an order unless it was the commanding officer, Maj. Reno.
The witness knew nothing about the expectations of the command in the timber as to receiving support except what was told him by Capt. Hodgekins [sic. Lt. Hodgson] to the effect that Maj. Reno had been made to understand that he would be supported by Gen. Custer's command.
Here is an account of the LBH battle given by Capt. Myles Moylan at the Reno Court of Inquiry as reported by the Pioneer Press, with my annotations in brackets: Part II
About half an hour after reaching the top of the hill [ie. Reno Hill] where Reno took up his [defensive] position, the witness, for the first time, heard firing in the direction of, what was afterwards ascertained to be, the Custer battle-field, and called Capt. McDougall's attention to it, asking him what he supposed it to be. He replied, he supposed it was Custer fighting at the [northern] end of the village down [in] the bottom. The firing was very faint, though it was evidently volley-firing. [Note: This is an interesting recollection made by Moylan. First, his estimate of the start of the Custer fight being about 30 minutes after the head of Reno's battalion (including Moylan) reached the bluffs, supports the majority of participants which place the start of the Custer fight about 10 - 15 minutes after Benteen joined with Reno on the bluffs. The participant timeline places this event at about 2:40 pm. However, Moylan's reference to discussing this firing with Capt. McDougall must have been over an hour later, as McDougall testified that he did not arrive on Reno Hill with the advance detachment of the rear guard until 3:45 pm, suggesting that the firing from Custer's field could be heard by the troopers on Reno Hill for well over an hour.]
Speaking of the evidence of desperate fighting on the part of Custer's men, the witness said that the body of Capt. Callahan [sic. Calhoun], his brother-in-law, having been found, he was called down to identify it. He found Capt. Callahan's [sic.] men killed in regular rows, and around one man's body counted twenty-eight cartridges. [Note: This observation of seeing men from Calhoun's troop "killed in regular rows" was likely an observation of the men from C Co. found dead on Finley Ridge, which was assumed to be an extension of L Co.'s deployment on Calhoun Hill. The dozen or so troopers found on the latter hill were not found "in regular rows".] There were traces on [sic. in] the [Deep] ravine showing where the men [ed. of mostly E and F troops] had crept along, helping themselves down [into the ravine] with their hands, clinging to the grass and bushes. Three officers [ie. Lt's Porter, Harrington & Sturgis] and about 15 men of Custer's command had never been accounted for.
The Recorder -- State what was the general belief as to what had become of these men.
Witness -- I don't know what was the general belief; but my belief was then that the those men were buried there with the rest, but never identified.
He saw the Indian village moving across the plains on the evening of the 25th [ed. this should be the 26th]. It could only be indistinctly seen as the sun went down, but looked like a vast buffalo herd, as he had seen them years ago, and was about three miles long and several hundred yards broad.
In concluding the direct examination Lieut. Lee asked the witness' opinion as to Major Reno's conduct in the bottom, whether it was, in short, brave or cowardly.
The witness replied that [during Reno's advance into the valley] at times Major Reno rode at the head of the column, at other times at the center, and again, at the rear. [Note: This observation by Moylan supports the testimony by other participants that placed Reno at both the front and the rear of the battalion during its advance into the valley.] In all the orders which he gave to [the] witness he manifested as much self-possession as many men would under the circumstances, and he saw nothing in Major Reno's conduct indicative of cowardice.
Cross examined by Mr. Gilbert -- I should like to give you an opportunity to state whether you, at any time, saw anything in Major Reno's conduct indicative of cowardice?
Witness -- No, sir; there were, probably, on his face, indications of such excitement as everyone naturally felt under the circumstances; but I saw no evidence of cowardice.
Mr. Gilbert -- What, in your opinion, would have been the result if Maj. Reno's command had continued on its charge down the bottom?
Witness -- Well, if he had kept on charging and had gone far enough [into the village] he would have been there now.
Mr. Gilbert -- You testify, I believe, that the command was withdrawn from the woods in order to save it. Now, what do you think would have been the result if it had remained in the timber?
Witness -- I think he would have been annihilated.
Mr. Gilbert -- Was there any pretense that the retreat out of the timber to the top of the hill was a triumphant march?
Witness -- I never heard of anybody who viewed the movement in that light.
After some further skirmishing between the recorder and Mr. Gilbert to draw out the witness in the particular way they desired, a process which was not attended with success by either party, the proceedings took an adjournment till Monday.