Reno's short interview given in while still in the field in Aug. of 1876 as recorded in the Army and Navy Journal on the Battle of the Little Bighorn and Related Matters by James Hutchins, with my annotations in brackets:
Colonel Reno then stated to the correspondent the details of his fight on the bluffs, which account does not differ from his official report published in the JOURNAL Aug. 5. He adds, however, the "ford we crossed in getting to the bluff was not the same we had passed in going to attack the village. It was in front of the bluff, and it was partially by accident we found it. [Note: It is more likely entirely by accident that they found it.] When I went into action I had 112 men and officers of the 7th with me and some twenty-five scouts. [Note: Reno actually had closer to 120 men and officers in his battalion along with about 30 scouts/guides/interpreters.] If I had not made the charge for the bluffs my command would undoubtedly been annihilated as Custer's was. The great mistake in the beginning was that we underestimated the Indian strength. The lowest computation puts the Indian force present at about 2,500, and some think there were 5,000 warriors present. [Note: No need to stop there; at the RCOI Benteen and Wallace estimated 9,000 warriors!] The Indians are the best light cavalry in the world. I have seen pretty nearly all off them, and I do not except even the Cossacks."
An Interesting Analysis Justifying His Conduct of the Fight in the River Bottom and Timber, During the Battle of the Little Big Horn, June 25-26, 1876, Commonly Referred to as “Custer's Last Fight.”
Two hundred and fifty copies published by E. A. Brininstool, at his expense, and with the permission of Col. W. A. Graham, Judge Advocate, U.S.A., to correct the false and malicious stories circulated about Major M. A. Reno, criticizing his fight in the river bottom and timber, at the battle of the Little Big Horn, June 25, 1876.
It would be useful to track down the relevant correspondence between EAB and WAG which underlies Graham's letter. Alas, Alonzo's correspondence, research, photographs, poetry (l believe) news Clippings and his own press and literary work is distributed to a number collections with History Nebraska listed holding some related stuff with more in Austin at UT. Nothing to do with Graham or Reno is listed for the Amon Carter Museum collection. It seems that, per the Briscoe Center, Graham refuted Earl's position as to when 'first news of the Battle of Little Bighorn was released' but that isn't going to launch a thousand ships, is it. So here's some easy and entertaining listening - Bridger of Hot Rock Springs.
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The petition cover note application to fill Custer's boots. For various reasons and particularly idiosyncrasies, this letter was undoubtably drafted by his excellency Marcus A. Reno. It was his habit to defer reverential excellency.
Reno's report of the battle as acting CO, 7th Cavalry, is dated 5t July, 1876.
Also, of 4th July 1876, Reno penned a letter to Sheridan which was damning of Gibbon and Custer and also Terry. That communication, obviously, was not sanctioned by Terry and sent behind his back. It is a little known aspect of the post battle positioning which took place at the camp on the Yellowstone (Ft. Pease). Reno was in some fashion hoping to emerge from the debacle covered in glory rather tan leader of a sorely embarrassed and heavily defeated elite unit. His behaviour at this time was somewhat bizarre and particularly so the petition to fill vacancies and anull seniority.
Now, people being that and 'all' things generally being little more than slight of hand when the risks associated with military blunders, cowardly drunkeness in Reno's case and crass stupidity with Custer; materialise or are perceived present; then life becomes bizarre. If the information on page 35 of Reno and Apsaalooka Survive Custer by Ottie W. Reno is accurate to the point that it is correct and not name dropping - THEN in honesty one can only surmise that Reno wrote privately to Don Cameron (SoW), besides Sheridan and the petition for promotions got at the President. Reno covered his bases, his little donkey, spread the love and undoubtedly began to sate an unquenchable thirst.
I have seen his application for Colonelcy of the 21st Pennsylvania volunteer cavalry regiment and wanton use of excellency since 1865 when he took over the unit and fought Moseby's irregular's who attempted to destroy railway's and trains used to carry Lincoln and his representatives to secret meetings with disaffected Confederates trying to negotiate surrender. Interesting guy was Reno. He dipped his quill in red ink.
Do read up the part of Ottie's well researched book which tells of Marcus at Trevillian Station. I have read Reno's report and fully understand what a truly complicated gentleman he was. Enjoy.
The Country was shocked on Thursday by the news of a terrible disaster which had overtaken a portion of the forces engaged in punishing the wild Sioux. In an attack, on the 25th of June, made by General Custer on a vast Indian village along the left bank of the Little Big Horn River, Montana Territory, he himself and his entire command, consisting of ﬁve companies of cavalry, were overwhelmed and destroyed. Major Reno. who, acting under his instructions, had crossed the stream some three miles higher up with three companies, barely escaped sharing the same fate.
Recrossing with difficulty, and entrenching himself as well as he was able on a height commanded by the savages, he, together with four other companies which had joined him, barely succeeded in maintaining himself against incessant attacks, lasting from two o’clock on the 25th to six o‘clock of the' following day. The Indians withdrew on the approach of Colonel Gibbon’s command. General Terry, who accompanied the latter, estimates the number of killed at 250, the number of wounded at 51 ; the losses of the Indians must, as General Sheridan has remarked, have been at least as great. Besides General Custer, his brother and nephew and a large number of gallant ofﬁcers, whose places will not readily be ﬁlled, were slain at one or other of the two points of attack.
The question of the responsibility for the great calamity has been freely discussed since the ﬁrst news of it arrived. Custer's operations were part of a combined movement under Gen. Terry, and it does not appear that the total force was inadequate to the object in view, so that it seems unnecessary to allege as even the remote cause of the defeat the pennywise policy of Congress in reducing the regular army below the point of efﬁciency. On the other hand, it appears certain that if Custer’s advance had been delayed till it was possible to act in concert with Col. Gibbon, who was ascending the Little Big Born to fall upon Sitting Brill and his warriors in the rear, the Sioux would have been either beaten or broken up.
That Custer was too hot in following up the trail may be granted, as well as too precipitate in ordering an attack against odds which the trail enabled him to estimate closely, in a country not favoring a simple, powerful dash of cavalry, but broken and cut up by difﬁcult ravines, in which the Sioux had concealed themselves, and from which they poured a merciless ﬁre upon the devoted band. Gen. Custer made an ineffectual attempt to cross the river and attack the lodges, and on returning to the right bank found himself surrounded. Though he had had much experience of Indian ﬁghting ever since the close of the war, it will hardly be thought disgraceful that he allowed himself to be entrapped. His personal bravery was very exceptional, and his successes, especially in the last year of the war, when he was our model executive cavalry officer, were so great and so uniform, that to dare and to do naturally came to seem to him all one. For ﬁfteen years he had freely exposed his life in the service of his country against her foes, both white and red, while protesting in season and out of season against the nondescript policy of the Government towards the Indians.
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General of the Army (Medicine Man/Chief))
In 1966, Reno's great-nephew, Charles Reno, a New York bartender, petitioned the US. Army Board for the correction of military records through the American Legion for a review of Major Reno's final Court-martial. The board determined that Reno had been wrongfully treated and corrected his military records to show that he had been honorably discharged at Fort Meade in 1880. Secretary of the Army Stanley Resor, in commenting on the review, stated, "Life on the isolated frontier posts was not conducive to producing plaster saints"(Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 2 June 1967). Ironically, Resor had a family relationship to the Reno case with his wife being Ella Sturgis's granddaughter. Reno's remains were removed from Glenwood Cemetery and re-interred with honors at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Cemetery on 9 September, 1967 (Billings Gazette of that date). Lee,1991,p257
JOINT REPORT of the U.S. COURT OF MILITARY APPEALS and the JUDGE ADVOCATES GENERAL OF THE ARMED FORCES and the GENERAL COUNSEL OF THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION - January 1, 1967, to December 31, 1967
An unpublished account from Lt. Frank Baldwin's field diary, dated Aug. 7, 1876, detailing a conversation he had with Major Reno regarding the Little Big Horn Battle, from the J. Sills Collection at the Huntington Library, CA, with my grammatical corrections and annotations in brackets:
... had a long talk with Maj. Reno about the Custer fight which has thrown a great deal of light on the affair. To whit,
it appears that early in the morning on the day of the attack [note: at the first halt shortly after crossing the divide] that Major Reno was detached to move to the left, that soon after leaving, as he was on the left side of the fork of Little Rosebud [sic. Ash/Reno] creek he was ordered to take the advance, that he moved to the west bank of the fork [note: likely near the intersection of Ash/Reno Creek and the North Fork of Ash/Reno Creek] and went across the Rosebud [sic. Little Big Horn]. Genl. Custer had sent him word that he should sail into the village and that Custer would support him. Custer road [sic. rode] down across the foard [sic. ford] at No. 2 [ie. Ford A -- likely a reference to his adjutant, Lt. Cooke, rather than Custer himself] but none of his immediate command crossed the foard [sic. ford].
Reno moved down the creek [ie. the Little Big Horn] after crossing [the river] at [point] 2 [ie. Ford A], and charged into a grow[th] of timber at [point] 3.3 [note: a reference to the valley timber position on Baldwin's map], here he dismounted and fought the Indians for an hour and a half. [Note: The Participant Timeline does not support this length of engagement for the Reno Valley fight. Most participants were consistent in describing the Reno valley fight as lasting about half the time estimated above.] When finding that the Indians were so numerous that he, finding that no support was coming up, decided to get out to a point where he could act in the defensive. [Note: Reno had been acting in the defensive since the very start of his engagement in the valley.] he gave the order to retire by the right flank, which was done with more rapidity than discipline or the good of the service would admit of. This move took him across the creek [ie. Little Big Horn] from the timber [at point] 3.3 [on Baldwin's map] to a point 4 [on the bluffs] where he found a good front for the disposition of his command for defense. When Reno charged first [down the valley] he had 112 [ie. enlisted] men [note: Reno's battalion actually entered the valley that day with a total of about 150 men], after arriving on the [Reno] hill he had only 85 men in line. [Note: Reno indicates here that he had actually lost about 43% of his battalion when he reached the bluffs.]
Soon after arriving at No 4 [on the bluffs] he was joined by Col Benteen with 4 cos. [note: Benteen had 3 companies] & Capt. McDougal with 1 co. and the pack train. This gave him, in all, 7 cos. of his own regiment, after being joined by these cos. Col. Reno attempted to follow Custer's trail [at point] 5.5 [on Baldwin's map], which he did for about 3 miles [note: Reno is apparently adding the distance to the Weir Peaks and back again to Reno Hill taken by 4 of his 7 troops several hours after he first arrived on the bluffs], when Col. Weir, who had the advance, sent word back to him that the Indians were so thick that it was impossible to move forward, whereupon he decided to return to his first position [at] No 4 [ie. at Reno Hill], which was accomplished without loss. [Note: Other participant accounts indicate that the orders given to the advance companies to fall back to Reno Hill came from Reno's orderly Lt. Hare, apparently acting on the orders of Reno himself.]
Here he remained until the next day when Genl Terry came up with about 400 men. The Indians retreated from the field upon the approach of Terry, leaving their dead and very large quantities of stores of all kinds, and it is the general opinion that if Genl. Terry had at once put his fresh forces in pursuit, he could have used the Indians up at one stroke, and it certainly appears to me that he should have done so, and that by not doing it, he lost his chances for success. He could have gone out after putting the wounded on board the steamers at the mouth or forks of the Rosebud [sic. Little Big Horn], as there were ample supplies at that point to have refitted his command.
I cannot but think that Reno did the best he could and that his movement was a good one throughout. Finding that Custer had failed to support him, he had no other alternative but move to a place where he could defend himself. [Note: Keep in mind that Lt. Baldwin was under the mistaken impression that Reno had engaged the hostiles in the valley for an hour and a half without support.] The reason for Custer's failure to support Reno (as given by the latter) is that, having ridden down across the foard [sic. ford A] himself [note: apparently vicariously through his adjutant Lt. Cooke], and seeing the large village [still standing], he, Custer, thought that Reno could go through [the village] all right and that he could go lower down and strike the village, thus cutting off their retreat [ie. enveloping the hostile force], and from the signs along his trail, Reno thinks that Custer made several efforts to get down to the village but failed, until he had gone down six miles [ed. actually closer to four miles] and then met his fait [sic. fate] with his gallant men. No 6 [on Baldwin's map] is the point where Custer fell [at Last Stand Hill].
An excerpt from a letter from Goldin to Albert W. Johnson, from The Benteen-Goldin Letters, p. 35-36, with my annotations in brackets:
Jan. 19, 1932:
Brig. General Nicholson ... you may have heard the story that while he was stationed at Ft. Abercrombie ... where Reno was in command, he had an altercation with Reno in the club-room, and presumably under the influence of nose-paint, made a slighting remark about the wife of an officer of the garrison. Nicholson ... resented it and told Reno so in no uncertain terms, with the result that Reno threw a billiard ball at Nicholson who retaliated by breaking a cue [stick] over Reno's head. Result, a court-martial with Reno dismissed from the service and Nicholson reprimanded. I am not clear if he lost a file or two or not. This story came to me many years later through an officer [ie. Benteen] now deceased, who was present at the incident." [Fred Dustin note: I think Goldin has the cue-and-ball incident reversed: it seems to me that the record shows that the cue was used by Reno.] Speaking of Nicholson, reminds me that this man Ghent has come to the front with a new story about the Reno-Benteen incident (abandon the wounded yarn).... My answer to his first letter seemed to displease him and he now comes back with the story that Nicholson, at a meeting of Veterans of Indian Wars, repeated the statement regarding Reno's suggestion to Benteen, saying that Benteen told it to him in the winter of '77 while we were at Ft. Buford ... but asked him never to repeat it as long as he -- Benteen -- lived.
An excerpt from a letter from Goldin to Albert W. Johnson, from The Benteen-Goldin Letters, p. 39 - 40, with my annotations in brackets:
Dec. 27, 1932:
I had a very interesting letter from [Fred] Dustin [author of The Custer Tragedy] in which ... he commented ... on that story of Godfrey's that Reno proposed to Benteen the abandonment of the wounded.... Dustin does not believe the story, neither do I. The fact that it never gained circulation until after both Reno and Benteen were dead stamps it as fishy.... If such a proposition had been made, it would certainly have come to the surface long before it did. I cannot believe Godfrey's story that Benteen told him of the proposition while we were burying the dead on the 28th, but that he did not get the full details until a considerable later date. Knowing from letters and personal talks with Benteen many years later, I feel very certain that regarding Godfrey as Benteen regarded Godfrey, he (Godfrey) was the last officer in the regiment to whom Benteen would have told such a story. In both the letters I had from Benteen, and my visit with him at his home, such a thing was never mentioned, although we talked over very intimately practically all the details of the fight, and several times remarks were made that were not very complimentary to Godfrey. I have felt that in his intense partisanship for Custer that Godfrey stopped at nothing his imagination could suggest to belittle Reno and other officers who were not in accord with his views.
[Note: Goldin's claims to the contrary, Godfrey, in his writings, casts no aspersions or criticisms against any other officer of the 7th aside from Major Reno. Godfrey's claims regarding Benteen's accusations of Reno's proposal to abandon the wounded on the evening of June 25th are substantiated by similar recollections from General Nicholson and Capt. Moylan, both of whom related similar stories regarding Reno's proposal to abandon the wounded. In Goldin's zeal to defend Reno, he unjustly attacks the integrity and honesty of Godfrey. Whether one chooses to believe the accusations against Reno or not, there is no question that such accusations were made against him by Capt. Benteen.]
General of the Army (Medicine Man/Chief))