Post by benteeneast on May 28, 2018 12:46:38 GMT -5
Either Maguire is right or wrong for the skirmish line. So if there is doubt then using him as a source for measurements seems to add back in any errors that were clearly pointed out by witnesses. Anyone that testifies 1.6 miles during a battle should also give the + or - of that estimate.
Post by benteeneast on May 28, 2018 12:58:47 GMT -5
How do you know the exact location of the Pitsch timber area? According to Pitsch and Scott? Pitsch did not record exact locations of his finds which Scott clearly points out.
Do we have GPS location markings for Vaughn? When you start looking at these amateur archeologist their techniques leave some to be desired. If nothing else they could have surveyed distance and angle from known fixed sites or establish fixed points. Did Vaughn or Pitsch do this? Pitsch gave a general location of where he found artifacts. So did Vaughn unless he had data points he didn't share in his book.
Benteen testified what he would do. Other's opinions do not matter.
It would have assisted everyone at RCoI if Maguire's original map (sketch) had been used rather than the one which he had little to do with. He did not indicate a shod trail along BHE and this has since brought about immenses. Also, the sketch offered by Graham is but a poor representation of the actual altered reproduction of Maguire's original sketch.
The 'actual' RCoI map is reproduced among the Exhibits pdf offered by the Library of Congress. A copy of te document that passed into the hands of those giving testimony and marked by them.
Maguire's report contained an itinery of 7th Cavalry's march from the mouth of the Rosebud which was deferred to by Wallace, it detailed information provided to Maguire by Benteen, and showed his (Benteen's) route of march to Reno Hill on the July 2nd, 1876 sketch which accompanied the report.
It was unfortunate that the sketch map dated 3oth June, made by then Lt. Patterson Hughes, was not included amongst exhibits for examination. linked. 1 indicates Custer & Reno's line of march to Ford A and 8 is Benteen to ford A and Reno Hill. 4 is Custer's advance along the bluffs to 5 or Maguire's B.
Patterson Hughes indicated the route of march of the hundreds of hostile fighters who swarmed up the bluffs to attack Custer after Reno retreated.
According to Patterson Hughes there were thirty five dead horses and thirty four men buried on the bluff upon which he (Custer) was found.
For those without the requisite data to hand and handy in contemplating the narrow debate under way with whether or not the well named 'Garryowen' loop of the river actually was a scene of fighting on 25th June 1876, linked below (hopefully) is the stuff (data, interpretation and considerations) which are the basis of argument underlying argument about where Reno hid his horses and then himself. As soon as gunfire erupted into his place of concealment then he was...... outta there!
How do you know the exact location of the Pitsch timber area? According to Pitsch and Scott?
According to Pitsch, not Scott.
BE: Pitsch did not record exact locations of his finds which Scott clearly points out.
Right. He pointed out the area to us on a CBHMA field trip in the mid to late 1990's. It was during that trip that he also pointed out two of his imaginary skirmish lines that contradicted the views of Doug Scott (based on his earlier discoveries that were, fortunately, documented).
BE: Do we have GPS location markings for Vaughn?
Had GPS been invented then?
BE: When you start looking at these amateur archeologist their techniques leave some to be desired.
Its always nice when a professional archaeologist confirms the findings and general locations of the amateurs.
BE: If nothing else they could have surveyed distance and angle from known fixed sites or establish fixed points. Did Vaughn or Pitsch do this? Pitsch gave a general location of where he found artifacts. So did Vaughn unless he had data points he didn't share in his book.
Yes, the locations are general. Vaughn placed them on his published map. Jerome Greene may have located them on his map of the area. The NPS may have more information on locations. You would have to check with them.
BE: Benteen testified what he would do. Other's opinions do not matter.
I think that's the difference between an historian and a court officer's approach to finding the truth. If only we could believe that everyone testifies to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, but we know in reality that that is not always the case. Benteen, in fact, bragged to Goldin that he did nothing of the sort. I think the opinions of those who know Benteen best would be a much better barometer to what he would have done, especially when Benteen refused to contradict those opinions when he had every opportunity to do so.
I think that Jesse Vaughn’s location of “the point of timber” and the valley skirmish line near the old Garryowen store is pretty accurate, as borne out by contemporary descriptions and by participants present during the anniversaries; but I’m not in agreement with everything he proposes in his otherwise splendid “Seven Encounters”.
His scenario is indeed attractive, if only because of its simplicity: The battalion reaches the point of timber, deploys in line resting its right on it, and then fights in skirmishers until the line is driven back into the same clump of timber, where the troops remount and retreat to the bluffs. Like many other reasonable LBH scenarios, this one does rely on some recollections by participants… but the way their stories must be interpreted to make everything fit contradicts the consensus of witnesses about several key facts, which implies that things were not as simple as Vaughn assumed. In my opinion, the point of timber where the skirmish line rested its right after advancing to attack the village on foot, and the timber where Reno concealed his horses and where the troops finally retreated into, were not the same place. Both were, of course, in the first bench of the river bottom south of the Garryowen bend; but the latter –the Pitsch site– was about 300 yards to the right and rear of the literal “point” of timber, the Vaughn site, which was the westernmost tip of the wooded, low area generally referred to as “the point of timber”.
Lt. DeRudio offered in his various narratives a lengthy description of the terrain the battalion occupied during the valley fight, and prominent in his story is the U-shaped bend made by a wide dry creek, the bend being thickly timbered and filled with tangled underbrush. He recalled that the open side of this steep-banked U was about 150 yards wide and orientated to the north, and that the creek straightened eastwards 50 yards or more until running into a ford in the river channel of the Garryowen loop, its banks gradually flattening so that the creek could be easily crossed by horses near its mouth. He recalled that, when the battalion halted to dismount, the extreme right flank was touching the south end of the band of timber fringing the base of the U, while the extreme left was about 300 yards south of the upper portion of the creek, which ran from the western bluffs in acute angle to the line. He also said that down this creek many warriors would later come to outflank the line and drive it into the timber, the creek being less than an obstacle at the foot of the western bluffs than near the river (it must be the same ravine mentioned by Reno, Hare and Wallace). Then the dismounted line advanced and approached the creek in front, partially lining the bank and resting its right on the timbered left arm of the U, which had in its northern tip (about Caplett House) a piece of ground more elevated than the plain, where DeRudio says he stood for a time because it afforded an excellent view of the valley. This is borne out by Wallace, who testified seeing the village for the first time “soon after the line had advanced to where it halted on the creek” (Utley’s RCOI p. 71). Pvt. O’Neill also recalled having seen the village at about this time; since he was with Co. G in the flank resting on the timbered creek, it’s clear that this timber could not be Pitsch’s, otherwise the thickly wooded, U-shaped creek north of it would have blocked his line of sight to the village, just like Gerard pointed out in his testimony (ibid. p. 97). Finally, DeRudio also pinpointed the location of the clearing with some tepee poles mentioned by other participants. This opening somehow marked the separation between both timber sites –Vaughn and Pitsch– and was just east of the right end of the U, close to the mouth of the creek.
From the above description it can deduced that DeRudio was connecting –as if they were one and the same– the old, dry river channel in the Garryowen bend with that of the small tributary (partially disappeared) which crossed the valley as depicted by several participants in their sketches, viz. Hardy Horse or Respects Nothing, who called it Box Elder Creek. Both warriors recalled, like DeRudio or Wallace, that the soldier line nearly touched this creek:
“Reno crossed and came down the bottom of the river to the mouth of the Box Elder, and began firing from a clump of woods at that point […] Some warriors from all the camps went up to the head of Box Elder Creek and from there attacked Reno’s line and drove it down into the timber” (Respects Nothing’s interview in Donahue’s Battlelines p. 175).
A little known contemporary sketch of the route taken by Sheridan’s expedition to the battlefield in 1877 shows this creek running into the westernmost loop of the river just above the Indian village site. It had to be conspicuous since –in spite of the large scale of the map– it is one of the four creeks depicted in the battle area along with Sundance Creek, Medicine Tail and either Squaw or Onion Creek.
Now, it’s pretty evident that this dry, curved bed with its characteristic shape does correspond to the Reno timber site proposed by Vaughn. DeRudio, however, further recalled in his reminiscences that the troops in the valley, in order to escape the increasing enfilade fire from the west, withdrew by the right into the bottom of this creek and then around the western side of the curve (I suspect he was one of the first in doing so!); but his narrative points to the fact that the led horses of the battalion were farther to the east of the creek bend, to the right rear of the troops and near the banks of the river, i.e. about the place proposed as Reno’s Timber by Pitsch and, according to Robert Doran, by W. M. Camp himself. As Varnum wrote to his parents regarding the start of the action, “we dismounted, put our horses in the timber near the stream, and fought on foot”. Herendeen was more specific: “The horses were now led into the timber on our right and rear”. And Sgt. Ryan, a couple of years after the battle, distinctly recalled that the horses were sheltered into the same timber he had previously struck with a detachment of ten skirmishers thrown out by Captain French “so as to extend the line from the right of my company to the river bank”. Ryan said he got this order about 1,5 miles from Ford A (probably when approaching the Bird in Ground loop), rode half a mile skirting the bank of the river and halted when the battalion did so, just after his own detachment hit the timber right after going down an embankment, probably the crescent-shaped one in the Pitsch site. These descriptions are far from fitting the timber location pointed out by Vaughn as Reno’s last position in the bottom.
It seems, according to several witnesses, that many men began bunching on the right flank shortly after the dismounted line halted its advance, the troopers taking cover along the western, timbered side of the creek bend where their spent cartridge cases would be found by Vaughn. The line finally crumbled, and either Major Reno or the soldiers themselves decided it was time to get closer to the horses, most of the troops doing so by running down the left side of the U –as described by DeRudio– and going out of the dry bed to reach the embankment around the Pitsch timber where the horses stood. Moylan probably referred to this in his 1876 letter to Fred Calhoun: “The order was then given to withdraw to another line, mount up and charge…” Since most of his men had already been driven into Vaughn’s timbered U (as per DeRudio and other witnesses) and the horses were not inside that timber, the “withdrawal to another line” must have been to the brow of Gerard’s “hill” 300 yards farther east –i.e. to the rise of ground on top of the Pitsch embankment. That’s also the impression conveyed by Pvt. O’Neill when interviewed in 1897 and 1907:
“Major Reno, realizing the danger of his position, ordered the men to fall back to the bank of the river […] placing our backs to the river. Discovering a ditch in our rear where the river once had run, we were ordered to lie on the edge of its bank […] Fearing a charge on our left flank […] the order was given to mount”.
Twelve years later he told the same story to Camp: “The men then ran to their horses, and from behind the little rise of ground between timber and open plain they lay and fired at Indians for some time” (Hammer’s Custer in 76, p. 107). After a brief resistence along the top of the bank covering the timber they were ordered to mount their horses, which Pvt. Roy recalled were now standing inside the woods a mere 50 yards behind (ibid p. 112).
The following statement by another trooper in the rightmost company not only coincides with O’Neill’s recollection, but it closely resembles the description given by Lt. Colonel Sheridan in his brother’s Memoirs: “The skirmish line was drawn into the timber […] here we renewed the fight […] We were protected in our front by a bank of considerable height and some small timber, while in our rear was the heavy timber and the river” (Goldin’s account in Army Magazine, 1893). Had Goldin and Sheridan been describing the Vaughn timber line, they would have said that the high bank protected not one but three sides of the position… which is precisely what other Reno survivors talking about the beginning of the fight pointed out to Oliver P. Hanna (veteran of the 1874 Yellowstone Expedition) during the Semi-Centennial in 1926:
“Reno dismounted and some of his men went down into the timber, into an old, dry creek bed. There was a sloping embankment about ten feet high that encircled the creek bed on three sides. This made natural breastworks […] Had he taken advantage of those natural breastworks and fought as they should have, there would have been a different ending […] I maintain that Indians will not make a charge on men behind breastworks […] I have had experience and know what I am talking about” (in Carroll’s A Very Real Salmagundi, p. 60).
It’s obvious that Hanna had been shown the U-shaped creek bed where men in the right of the skirmish line went down without orders to fire behind cover, and which was abandoned when the battalion was ordered “to withdraw to another line” closer to the horses. In Pvt. Sivertsen’s words, “Major Reno got alarmed about the horses and ordered a retreat” (Coffeen’s 1916 interview). Had Reno been commanding infantry instead of being burdened with the safety of his horses and horseholders after the disgraceful decision of leaving them behind to attack the village on foot, maybe he would have tried to turn the heavily wooded horseshoe position –hardly accessible to his 140 horses, then about 400 yards to his right and rear– into a stronghold of sorts, just like Hanna told he should have done. In any case, I suspect that Reno would never have been able to shelter his horses inside the timbered curve: The trees and specially the underbrush within must have been so thick and entangled there, that when DeRudio decided to move from his lookout at the left side of the U to the pony crossing right ahead on the opposite side, he had to walk all the way around the curve, following the bottom of the dry creek –where a few narrow paths through the bush existed–until emerging at the right tip of the U next to the clearing.
We may conclude, therefore, that Vaughn’s thickly timbered, steep banked area was actually held –without it being ordered– by Reno’s flinching troopers during the middle of the action, but not at the end of it. They anchored their right there until the line gave way, when the creek turned into a sort of covered way down which the troops made a safe retreat to the horses in the Pitsch timber.
The exception to this gradual desintegration and bunching up of the valley line was on its extreme left, where about one half of Company M, keeping the intervals and facing the enemy, stepped back slowly across an area Pvt. Morris described as “the open space toward the river and the brush". This probably was the regular skirmish line parallel to the river which Benteen & orderly saw retiring towards the timbered banks of the river fully 2 miles below Ford A, amidst hordes of mounted warriors harassing the retrograde (Nichols’ RCOI pp. 427-428).
DeRudio’s pony crossing seems to mark the far right of Reno’s last position in the timber, resting on the Garryowen loop. It was from this point and farther upstream along the river bank that Reno deployed a portion of Co. G, accompanied by Varnum and preceded by DeRudio and a few ‘volunteers’ seeking the shelter of the woods. As Reno testified, “…word came to me out of the timber that the Indians were turning our right […] and I went with Company G to the banks of the river”. This was corroborated by Moylan: “…the biggest part of one company was in the timber and deployed between where our horses were and the river”; and also by O’Neill, who recalled that he went with a detachment of 20 men under Lt. MacIntosh all the way to the river bank in order –he later guessed– to secure the rear of the area where Reno tried to redeploy the battalion in defence (1897 interview).
The above suggests that the horses were several hundred yards to the right and rear of the battalion, the wide separation making it necessary to send a strong detachment to counter the threat of warriors who were enveloping the right of the timber in an attempt –so DeRudio and Varnum believed– to cut off the battalion from its horses. And let’s note that no enemy could have exerted such a threat had the horses being kept inside DeRudio’s timbered curve and close to the right flank of the valley line, as Vaughn believed. In that case the warriors could have attacked the dangerously exposed horses, but interposing themselves between the skirmish line and its led horses would have been physically impossible.
Let’s note also that the route taken by Reno with McIntosh’s men passed through an opening between the timbers of Vaughn and Pitsch where Varnum, while repassing it on his return trip to the valley line, met and talked with Hodgson, who was looking for Reno and claiming that his horse was wounded. Varnum’s opening must be the same clearing with some vestiges of tepees DeRudio saw close to the pony crossing, since minutes earlier he too had met Lt. Hodgson leading his allegedly wounded horse across the clearing right on the heels of Reno and Co. G; and it also seems to be the same clearing Gibbon recalled in the downstream side of the timber with “evidences of there having been an old Indian camp”. A clearing Gibbon set apart from “another open glade looking toward the prairie to the left and rear of the position” –i.e. farther upstream (Nichols p. 557)– which possibly was the one Herendeen placed very close to the upper edge of the timber position, where he saw Reno and 50 mounted men in close order formation panicking and fleeing when fired upon pointblank by a few intrepid warriors (ibid p. 287).
Captain Moylan, shortly before his bunched up command retreated from the Vaughn timber, had asked Varnum to go and bring closer the led horses lest they were cut off by the encircling hostiles. The Lieutenant –taking a longer but safer route– started out at once down the narrow paths in the creek bed, then passed for the third time across the lower clearing near DeRudio’s position, then up Gerard’s brow of the hill which ran southeast from the clearing, and finally down the bank of the old river bed and beyond Gibbon’s glade to the concealment place of the horses in the southern edge of the Pitsch timber, leading them back to the troops (Nichols p. 142). Let’s recall here Herendeen’s surprise when he reentered the upper end of the timber and found that “the horses were gone, none but mine was left” (ibid p. 253).
Now, it’s known that sometime after things went awry Moylan disappeared from the firing line, and the Captain himself admitted to this, testifying that he left the troops to look for Reno and ask him what to do. Moylan probably took the same route than Reno, McIntosh, DeRudio, Varnum and Hodgson had taken earlier, down the timbered curve of the creek and across the lower clearing; then “I went to the edge of the hill” and met Major Reno, who then ordered to withdraw the line to this new “hill” position, closer to the horses and with its right and rear secured by the recent deployment of Co. G (Nichols p. 217)… though I suspect that many men made their retreat with no orders whatsoever. Fulfilling Moylan’s request, Varnum then brought the horseholders’ detachment so close behind the new position (about 50 yards) that some of the men could replenish their ammo from the saddlebags. Very soon, however, came the order to mount and retreat to the bluffs, and Trumpeter McVeigh with a couple of No. Fours rode across the lower clearing to the nearby pony crossing so that DeRudio’s detachment could mount up; but it’s worth noting that the Lieutenant, not yet aware of Reno’s decision to retreat, reprimanded McVeigh when he came to report leading his horse: “Get him down here out of range as quickly as you can!” The newcoming horses were then standing in the bottom of the dry creek under its north bank, in spite of which DeRudio was angered at seeing them so close to the front line. This reaction would be senseless if the horses had been all the time next to the firing line at DeRudio’s timbered U as Vaughn believed, instead of at a safe distance as it was the case.
DeRudio’s pony crossing was near the beginning of a river bend about 250 yards wide whose banks were likely guarded by troopers of Co. G, as told by participants and borne out by the finding of widely separated clusters of Army cases which are depicted in the Bonafede map. I guess this is why Gerard and other participants believed that both flanks of the last line were resting –or were liable to be rested– on the river channel, making it a “No.1 defensive position”. DeRudio for one did consider his detachment the right flank of Reno’s last line, boasting that at the end of the timber fight he was firmly standing his ground while “the left was going out” (Nichols’ RCOI p. 315). Gerard hinted at this during the Reno Inquiry, at the same time remarking the importance of Respects Nothing/DeRudio’s creek connected to the old bed of the Garryowen loop: When questioned about the character of the ground on the outer edge of Reno’s timber, Gerard replied that it was 12 feet lower than the plain where the valley line had stood, and that “it rested on the creek that runs into the Little Big Horn”. This is another of the little gems lost to the official stenographer of the Reno Inquiry, but preserved in the records of the Chicago Times (Utley’s RCOI, p. 104).
It’s said that many of the artifacts found in the Pitsch site could come from a dump filled with battle debris, that heavy machinery has much disturbed the ground, or that Pitsch himself could have ‘planted’ some of these relics to make profit. If true, this only means that unfortunately we cannot ascertain the exact limits of the area covered by the troops; but, thanks to the recollection of witnesses like DeRudio, Gerard, O’Neill, Ryan or Morris, we may conclude that it was from this general area in the Pitsch property that Reno mounted and started out for the bluffs.
Lt. Maguire’s measurements from Point C in the RCOI map (Exhibit #2) are likewise very helpful in determining this. They were made “with the odometer cart and the instruments” by an engineer sergeant. His Point C is the place where the troops dismounted and deployed before advancing to the attack, and it marked the right of the line. And Gerard, at Gilbert’s question “Where was the right of the line at that time?” (the time of dismounting), was categorical in his reply: “Resting on the brow of the hill in the timber at C” (Nichols’ RCOI p. 118). In the Chicago Times version he was more insistent, stating twice that the right of Reno at the time of dismounting was “on the brow of the hill”. Then he entered the timber and lost sight of the troops; but when sometime later he went out to the edge, he was surprised to see at about the same point on the brow of the hill not the right of the line but the left, as if the line had swung around on a stationary pivot to face west instead of north. As Gerard himself admitted, he had entirely missed the advance of the line up to DeRudio’s creek and its short fight at Vaughn’s point of timber; what he saw was the final stand of the command on “the brow of the hill”, or rather the top of the bank covering the Pitsch timber where the horses had been held during the action.
Having so established that the right of the skirmish line at the time of dismounting roughly fits the place where the left of the timber line was at its close, we can accurately fix in our modern maps where Lt. Maguire placed Point C in his own: 0,9 miles due west of Reno’s Retreat Crossing, on the southern half of the divide or ridgeline separating DeRudio’s U-shaped dry creek from O’Neill’s dry river bed, the divide which the latter described as “a little rise of ground” in front of a ditch and Gerard named “the brow of the hill”.
The dry river bed with its long embankment still exists in the Pitsch site, and a number of Army cases seems to have been found along its length as shown in the Bonafede map, bearing out what O’Neill and other participants related. And it’s worth noting that O’Neill said that this dry bed on his rear was “discovered” after the line had retreated, making it hardly possible that he mistook this for the DeRudio/Vaughn dry creek. After all, his company had rested its flank on the latter when deployed in the valley, and O’Neill himself –shortly before the battalion retreated to the Pitsch timber– had entered and exited it with a detachment despatched up river against infiltrating warriors. The dry river bed ‘discovered’ some time later must have been the one shielding the Pitsch timber.
I think Gerard’s keen eye for the layout of the terrain should definitely settle the debate (Nichols p. 95):
–Gerard: “I led my horse through that [thick underbrush] on the north side of this timber. The stream passes right underneath and runs right out onto the prairie, going west about two hundred yards from the brow of the hill where this skirmish line was, and there is a perpendicular bank there of about twenty-five feet, and it runs out about two hundred yards, making a bend. –Lt. Lee: “Was that downstream, following the stream down, the description you have given of the bank?” –Gerard: “Yes, sir.”
Judging by GoogleEarth, and bearing in mind that Gerard’s definition of ‘North’ was actually ‘Northwest’ as stated by himself in Court, his description of the river channel just underneath the northern side of Reno’s timber, running west or downstream of the ridgeline for 200 yards until meeting a cutbank from where the river bends for another 200 yards, fits nicely the actual course and length of the Garryowen loop skirting the northern side of the Pitsch area. It’s utterly impossible, however, to make it fit the very short channel downstream of Vaughn’s timber line, which effectively rules out the possibility of Gerard’s brow of the hill being at about DeRudio's lookout, west of the U-shaped dry bend of Vaughn.
This said, it’s my impression –as hinted at by Culbertson, Taylor and others– that little fighting was shown by the troops at the Pitsch site, since the only purpose of the move was to get closer to the horses and the order to mount came very soon. Some witnesses even stated that a good many men did not deploy on the brow of the hill, but went without stopping into the timber to secure their horses. So that in a sense Vaughn was right –the decisive action was fought at and to the left of “his” timber. It was at the Vaughn site that the troops considered themselves beaten, and it was there that their retreat began: First to the horses, then to the bluffs.
I’m attaching a sketch for a better understanding of the above based upon a GoogleEarth image. The highway and railway have been erased, and a thin clear line added marking the rise of ground which probably made up Gerard’s ridgeline or “brow of the hill”. My conjectural course of the river includes a shortened Garryowen loop, albeit many believe that it was inactive or non-existent in June 1876 –notwithstanding the recollections of some participants– because it’s absent from Lt. Maguire’s contemporary maps. Years later, however, Maguire did include the loop in new and more detailed versions of his work. Futhermore, he was not the only staff officer in making a sketch of the terrain a few days after the battle, and in one of these the Garryowen loop is prominently depicted.
General of the Army (Medicine Man/Chief))
Over the past several months I have been posting up a series of articles regarding the main locations of the Reno Valley Fight based on our primary source evidence. For purposes of preserving them for easy access for students of the battle, I am reposting those articles here. Here is the first one: (PART I)
Regarding the tangible evidence establishing the location of Reno's first valley skirmish line:
On page 57 of LBH Battle Archaeologist Doug Scott's book Uncovering History, my annotations in brackets:
Mr. Pitsch found 11 .45-55 cartridge cases in the fields west of the Garryowen Post Office [located by the Garryowen Loop]. These cases are in a roughly linear alignment from northwest to southeast. Presumably, these cases identify Reno's first skirmish line [at the Garryowen Bend].... The skirmish line cases were found in a field that is subject to cultivation, thus some cases may be out of context. The fact that such a linear alignment as present strongly suggests pattern disruption by agricultural practices is minimal. Supporting the supposition that the linear case alignment represents Reno's skirmish line are the presence of .44 Henry, .50 Spencer, and .50-70 cases on a bench to the west of the line. These cases, about 25 in number, indicate firing positions occupied by the opposing forces. The location is consistent with the fact that Reno's line was outflanked and forced to fall back. 9 additional cases were also recovered at the west edge of the fields several hundred meters to the south, essentially below an old gravel quarry.
Conclusion: Archaeologist Doug Scott is telling us in the above passage that the artifactual evidence supports the location of Reno's 1st skirmish line in the valley in the vicinity of the Garryowen Bend of the river. This agrees with the earlier findings of Jesse Vaughn and Fred Dustin, and is based on artifactual casings -- ie. tangible evidence -- found there by none other than Jason Pitsch, who naturally, would later attempt to relocate his findings to a different location much closer to his own property. Apparently, Doug Scott, unlike Fox, was not convinced by Jason's later revisions.
PRIMARY SOURCE DESCRIPTION OF THE SKIRMISH LINE ADVANCED POSITION
a) In front of the right wing was a loop or bend in the Little Big Horn; to the left was an open prairie; in front, some few hundred yards we could see a ravine, but the nature or size of it we could not tell at the time, but coming out of that ravine we could see plenty of Indians.... Where our skirmish line rested there was a bank probably 8 feet high where the stream made a loop, running in and out again.
(Lt. Wallace - RCOI)
Lt. Wallace tells us that in front of the right wing of the valley skirmish line was a loop or bend (today called the Garryowen Loop) of the Little Big Horn River. On the left side of the skirmish line was open prairie. A few hundred yards in front of their position was a ravine (today called Shoulder Blade Creek) wherein he could see coming out plenty of Indians. He further states that the skirmish line here rested on a bank 8 feet high over the LBH river, at a point where the river made a loop (ie. the Garryowen Loop, whose banks are still about 8 ft. high). Needless to say, this description given us by Lt. Wallace is an exact fit with the Vaughn skirmish line at the Garryowen Loop. It does not fit the Pitsch skirmish lines at all as the Pitsch skirmish line does not rest on the bank of the river.
b) The ground immediately in front of the skirmish line in the direction of the village was open prairie, with some ravines. The village was situated along the left bank of the Little Big Horn river.
(Lt. Varnum - Troopers With Custer)
Lt. Varnum tells us that there were several ravines between the valley skirmish line and the Indian village. One of these ravines would be Shoulder Blade Creek.
c) While the horses were being led to shelter in the wood, the Indians opened a galling fire upon us.... (Lt. DeRudio, in a private letter he wrote to a friend 10 days after the battle) [He] says there was a coulee full of Indians 300 or 400 yards ahead of the [valley] skirmish line. This must be where [the Garryowen] bend of [the] river is now. (Lt DeRudio's interview with Walter Camp in 1910, published in Hammer's Custer in 76, my annotations in brackets)
The Indians were 500 to 600 yards from the [valley skirmish] line.... The troopers’ carbines were not able to reach the Indians, but some of the Indians’ fire reached the troops.... Indians filtered out of the dust in groups of three to five. DeRudio saw probably 100 to 150 Indians, total, but in small groups. Some came to within 200 to 300 yards to the skirmish line’s front....
(Lt. DeRudio, RCOI, my annotations in brackets)
Lt. DeRudio indicates that the Indians opened up a heavy fire on their position here at a time when their horses were being brought into the timber for better protection.
Lt. DeRudio describes the ravine containing hundreds of Indians to be 300 to 400 yards in front of the valley skirmish line. This location describes Shoulder Blade Creek, which forms a ravine that runs from the upper western bluffs down to the LBH river just before the Hunkpapa camp.
Lt. DeRudio estimates the Indians to be about 500 or 600 yards away from the skirmish line. He estimates seeing about 100 to 150 Indians in groups of 3 to 5, some coming within 200 to 300 yards of the skirmish line.
VAUGHN SKIRMISH LINE at the end of the Garryowen Bend.
We begin our analysis today examining the differences between the Vaughn Timber site vis a vis the Pitsch Timber site as per the primary sources we have available. What follows here is a summation of the main descriptive points describing the Reno Timber site and skirmish lines given us by the participants and witnesses who were there. Each descriptive point will be followed by the name of the source in parentheses. This list will be updated daily in an effort to determine the actual location of these valley positions from all the statements made by those who were in a position to know. (PART II)
DISTANCE FROM TIMBER POSITION TO WESTERN BLUFFS:
a) LT. McCLERNAND: a 1/4 or 1/2 a mile of smooth, open ground, between the extreme western sweep [ie. edge] of the timber ... and the bluffs to the west, and we were told that it was through this opening that Reno's men first saw the village.... (Lt. McClernand - On Time For Disaster)
The distance from the Garryowen Loop of the river to the western bluffs is a bit over 1/2 a mile. The distance from the western edge of the Vaughn timber site to the western bluffs is approx. 1/2 a mile. The distance from the western edge of the Pitsch timber site to the western bluffs is approx. 3/4 of a mile to a mile depending on where its measured. Lt. McClernand's estimation of the distance from the extreme western edge of the timber to the western bluffs fits the Vaughn site very well. It does not fit well with the Pitsch site.
b) GEN. GIBBON: The [western] bluffs are some distance back from there [ie. the Reno timber position]. There was a wide, flat [plain] there through which this stream [ie. the LBH River] passes in a very crooked way, and the bluffs directly opposite that position were considerably back from the river. I don't know how far.... Question: Were those [western] bluffs within range, or did they command the position [of Major Reno's battalion] in the timber at the lower point? Gibbon: No, I think not. Probably they were within very long rifle range. I would not say they commanded it [ie. the timber position] for any practical purpose. (Gen. Gibbon - RCOI)
Gen. Gibbon's description of the western bluffs across from the Reno timber position supports the distances given by Lt. McClernand. They do not support the distance to the Pitsch timber site, which would not be within range of any rifle fire from the western bluffs.
c) FRED GERARD: Question: Describe the position of the skirmish line, where its right [end] rested [note: this would describe point C on Maguire's map], and in what direction the line extended, and about how far if you know? Gerard: The right [end of the skirmish line] was resting on the edge of the timber. I cannot state what distance it extended out into the prairie or the bottom. It [ie. the direction of the skirmish line] was at an opposite angle [ie. extending out opposite] from the [Garryowen] bend of the timber. Question: Describe the character of the ground in the immediate front of the skirmish line. Gerard: It was perfectly flat, level prairie, with the [western] foothills [where many of the Sioux ponies were grazing] 10 or 12 hundred yards [at or just under 2/3 of a mile] off. (Fred Gerard's RCOI testimony)
Fred Gerard's testimony at the Reno Court supports the general location of the western bluffs from the skirmish line position. Gerard's distance to the western bluffs is a bit longer than that given by Lt. McClernand, but still well short of the distance to these bluffs from the Pitsch location. The distance Gerard gives would be a more accurate fit from the western edge of the Vaughn Timber site to the western bluffs, which makes sense as that is where Gerard himself was located. Gerard was never on the valley skirmish line at the Garryowen Bend.
You will also note that the Vaughn timber site is located between the Pitsch site and the western bluffs spoken of above. Neither McClernand nor Gibbon nor Gerard makes reference to any such timber or loop of the river laying between Reno's timber location and the western bluffs.
Today we will continue our explorations into the true location for Reno's skirmish line in the valley. To do so we will examine the words of the noted LBH scholar and author Jesse Vaughn from his book "Indian Fights: New Facts on Seven Encounters" (with my annotations in brackets). Jesse was one of the first historians to make use of a metal detector and relic finds to determine his locations. He made his examination in the mid-1960's: (PART III)
Vaughn: "In attempting to locate the first skirmish line [of Major Reno's in the valley], Dr. Charles Kuhlman followed the Maguire map which was used at the Reno Court of Inquiry. The line had been drawn on the basis of information furnished [by an unnamed source], by Lieutenant Edward Maguire from the south end of the second bend of the river from the east, and extended in a south southwesterly direction towards the [western] bluffs. The Indians came out of a ravine several hundred yards to the west, attacking the troops from the west and south. The [skirmish] line, in retreat [back to the timber position], went northward to the bank west of the river bend where it turned east along the bank and faced the Indians approaching from the south. The area described by Dr. Kuhlman, and as indicated on the Maguire map, has for many years been covered by the ranch house, farmyard and out buildings of the Pitsch ranch. A lane now runs southward from the buildings about 100 yards to the access road which extends eastward from Highway 87 [now Interstate 90] to the river. The area not covered by the [Pitsch] farmyard has been under cultivation for many years. No one has ever found relics of any nature indicating that a battle was fought here, and none of the returning soldiers in later years claimed [to Fred Dustin at a LBH anniversary reunion] that this was the place. The writer [ie. Jesse Vaughn] covered the area [with a metal detector] along the bank westward from the ranch house [ie. the Pitsch slough] but found nothing. It is safe to say that neither skirmish line was in this vicinity."
(to be continued)
P.S. The map here is the Norris map of the Battlefield made one year after the battle (in 1877) and is a much more accurate depiction of the LBH than the more famous Maguire map used at the RCOI. In the Norris map, one can clearly see the location of the Reno skirmish line at the very end of the Garryowen Loop of the river -- not at the inaccurate location it was placed on the Maguire map. And you will also note the correct location of the Charley Reynolds' death site (# 7 on the map), which is not at all where Jason Pitsch would later move it to. Norris was the first person to find and mark the correct spot where Charley fell that day. They were close personal friends.
We continue today with the results of Jesse Vaughn's investigations into the locations of Reno's valley skirmish line location from his book 'Indian Fights,' with my annotations in brackets. In this excerpt, Vaughn examines the physical description of the locale surrounding the Garryowen Loop of the river: (Part IV)
"The theory [of Reno's valley fight] advanced by [noted LBH scholar] Fred Dustin is closer to the truth, and is based mainly upon evidence given at the Reno Court of Inquiry and upon statements of [7th Cavalry] soldiers who had returned to the scene of the action on the fiftieth anniversary of the battle in 1926 [see Fred Dustin's book, 'Echoes From the Little Big Horn: Reno's Positions in the Valley.']. While there was some confusion among the returning soldiers caused by changes in the terrain, they generally agreed that the right [end] of the skirmish line, after it had advanced about one hundred yards, extended from near the point of woods southwest of the most westerly end of the river bottom, now known as [the] Garryowen Bend, westerly and a little south across the prairie towards the bluffs for two hundred or two hundred fifty yards.
However, they found so many changes that it was impossible to locate definitely the [original] point of woods; these woods may have been removed to make way for the modern highway, which runs immediately west of the [Garryowen] bend, and the railroad tracks, right-of-way, and siding adjacent to the highway. A plowed field extended westward from the railroad to the bluffs. Since the early days, a small grocery store, known as the old Garryowen Store, stood near the southwest side of the bend along the highway, while five hundred feet south [of the Garryowen Bend] a monument [to the unknown soldier] had been erected where the remains of a soldier were buried. [see Vaughn map of area posted below.]
Mr. Dustin was of the opinion that the river had eroded four hundred feet westward so that there was little, if any, bend at all in 1876, but one observing [today] the large trees and level area at the bottom of the bend [on its east side] can see where the riverbed has shifted [westward] and cut into the bank, and the distance is not over 100 feet [or about 33 yards] towards the west. [Note: The Bonafede map has incorporated the same error as Fred Dustin in assuming the Garryowen Bend has shifted westward a distance about 4 times greater than it actually did.]
In 1923, the ... Railroad Company, to prevent encroachment upon its right-of-way, built a dike in the river so that it was diverted northward along the bluffs, although flood waters continued to fill the old channels. Joe Blummer, an old-timer who operated the old Garryowen store for many years, told the writer that [the] Garryowen Bend is about as it was when he first saw it in 1904. The western portion of the bend appears the same now as it was in the United States Geological Survey of 1891, shown in the edition of 1908, although the course of the river to the east was much different than it is today and was in 1876. While the Maguire map does not show [the] Garryowen Bend, it does show the loop [of the river there] extending southward from the southeast portion of the present location of the [Garryowen] bend, which was the actual riverbed in 1891, but was the old [dry] riverbed in 1876.
It is apparent that the western portion of [the] Garryowen Bend in 1876 was the same as it is today except that the old course was one hundred feet further east, after allowing for the erosion. Since the fiftieth anniversary in 1926, the highway has been widened, and the old [Garryowen] store and monument has been torn down, while the western portion of the point of timber was undoubtedly removed when the railroad and highway were built.
We continue with the investigations made by Jesse Vaughn into the correct locations for the Reno Valley Fight from his book 'Indian Fights,' with my annotations in brackets: (PART V)
The testimony at the Reno Court of Inquiry was to the effect that the east end of the skirmish line was from 75 yards to 200 yards from the river; some said it rested near the point of timber; while Sergeant O'Neill said the right rested near the brush. Others said the right of the [skirmish] line was near the [old] monument [for the unknown soldier at the Garryowen Bend]. Joe Blummer told the writer that shells, relics, and other indications of the battle had never been found around his [old Garryowen] store, but that a few expended .45-70 Springfield cartridges of the type used by the soldiers had been picked up time to time from the railroad right-of-way west of his store and out into the field where some had turned up during farming operations. [Note: This is the same general location confirmed by LBH Archaeologist Doug Scott in his book Uncovering History.]
The western edge of Garryowen Bend is now 350 feet from the railroad tracks or 450 feet [ie. about 150 yards] from the site of the bend in 1876, so the right [end] of the line rested on the west side of the highway extending over the railroad right-of-way and out into the field. Sam Denny, a rancher who lives on the bluff west of the bend, told the writer that during the 26 years that he had operated the ranch, he had found in the plowed ground 5 or 6 expended .45-70 military cartridges from about the middle of his field to the railroad right-of-way, and on a line with the old [Garryowen] store. Mr. Denny also said that military cartridges had been found along the railroad right-of-way from the passenger station, which is opposite the middle of the bend, northward for 100 yards to the freight depot.
In letters to the writer dated October 8, 1965, and Nov. 14, 1965, Roy Nagashima, who lived for many years in the house north of Garryowen Bend where the new store is now situated [ie. at the present home and Battlefield Museum of Chris Kortlander], said, "Yes, we did live at Garryowen and found a great many cartridges of that [army] description. We also found a pair of army spurs, an army rifle, and many shells."... The cartridges found on the [railroad] right-of-way and the relics north of the loop were probably used by the Arickara scouts who charged ahead of the line and, after firing into the tepees from the [upper] bench, beat a hasty retreat before being cut off.... Several years ago ... at the foot of the bluff just north of his house, Mr. Denny found two more military cartridge cases close together. As the skirmish line did not extend this far west, it might be speculated that they might be fired by Sgt. Bob-Tailed Bull, the Arickara scout....
It is certain that many shots were fired by the soldiers on the first skirmish line ... but few were used on the second skirmish line. Cartridges which had been fired on the first line probably rest now in the graded-up highway and railroad embankment, or deep in the plowed field to the west. The only conclusion one can reach concerning the location of the first [skirmish] line is that it covered an area from east to west of about 250 yards from the highway opposite the old Garryowen store westward out into the plowed field of Mr. Denny on a line with his ranch house, and southward 500 feet to the old monument site [of the unknown soldier]. The depth in the line of 500 feet would allow for normal movement while advancing and retreating and during the rearguard action in the retreat [to the timber position].
Here is a map made by LBH scholar Thomas B. Marquis in 1927 based on information given him by Indian participants. You will note on this map the location of Reno's skirmish line at the end of the Garryowen Bend of the river. This map supports the map made in 1877 by J.P. Norris, as well as the relics finds confirmed by LBH archaeologist Doug Scott and Jason Pitsch and the research and relic finds reported by Jesse Vaughn.
We continue today with an analysis of the distance from the right end of Reno's valley skirmish line in relation to the timber position and the river. In this analysis, our primary sources are not very clear as to which site is correct, as their descriptions can fit both. However, we give a slight edge here to the Vaugh site due to Varnum's distance estimates to the river which better match with the Vaughn site. (PART VI)
DISTANCE FROM THE RIGHT END OF THE VALLEY SKIRMISH LINE TO THE TIMBER POSITION:
a) Lt. Maguire was asked, "What is the distance between 'C' and the square depression in the timber?" and his reply was, "One sixth of a mile", and he further stated that the width of the timber was measured along its edge to the river.
a) Important Note: Maguire claims that the distance from the right end of Reno's valley skirmish line to the square depression in the timber--- the center of his defensive perimeter in the timber---was 1/6 of a mile. Thus, the center of Reno's timber position was no more than 300 yards or so from the right end of his skirmish line. Assuming Maguire was referencing the point where Reno first dismounted his command, this point could fit either the Vaughn or the Pitsch site.
DISTANCE FROM THE RIGHT END POINT OF RENO'S SKIRMISH LINE TO THE RIVER OR TIMBER ON RENO'S DISMOUNT:
a) The distance to the river from where the right of Major Reno's skirmish line rested when first deployed to the river was [between] 150 yards ... [to] 200 yards (Capt. Moylan - RCOI)
b) I believe the right of the skirmish line rested near the woods.... (Sgt. Culbertson - RCOI)
c) The width of the timber on Major Reno's right was 150 yards. (Lt. Maguire - RCOI)
d) They halted probably 150 yards from the stream. (Lt. Wallace - RCOI)
e) It might have been 100 yards from the right of the skirmish line down to the river. (Varnum - Troopers With Custer)
a) Capt. Moylan tells us that upon first dismounting to form a skirmish line, the right end of Reno's command was between 150 to 200 yards from the edge of the LBH river. Note: this would be the distance upon first dismounting, as Moylan indicates above ("first deployed"), not after it advanced to the Garryowen Loop of the river, which brought the right end of the line a bit closer to the river's edge, as described by other participants. Moylan's statement could fit both the Vaughn or Pitsch sites thus no definite conclusion can be reached at the moment from this evidence.
b) Sgt. Culbertson adds that the skirmish line rested near the woods. We can assume he meant the 1st skirmish line when it first dismounted, as it would have been very close to the woods at the timber site, or he might possibly be referring to the line after it fell back to the timber position. Culbertson's statement could fit both the Vaughn or Pitsch sites thus no definite conclusion can be reached at the moment from this evidence.
c) Maguire's testimony indicated that the width of the timber position from Point 'C' -- marked at the right flank of Reno's skirmish line -- is 150 yards. This measurement would be close enough to fit both the Pitsch and Vaughn sites and suggests the distance measurement was made at a point where Maguire thought Reno had first dismounted, as opposed to his later advanced position in the valley.
d) Lt. Wallace agrees with Moylan and Maguire that the skirmish line was about 150 yards from the LBH river. This could reference either the Pitsch or Vaughn site.
e) Lt. Varnum's estimate of 100 yards from the right flank of the skirmish line to the river favors the Vaughn site over that of the Pitsch site.
CONCLUSION: unclear, but leaning toward the Vaughn site due to Varnum's estimate. That said, the all of the primary sources fail to support Jason Pitsch's latest claims for the location of Reno's valley skirmish line, as his locations for such lines are far in excess by all given accounts of the right end of the line from the timber and river.
In the map below, The Reno skirmish line is located right across Interstate 90, with its right flank resting near the Garryowen Loop or Bend of the Little Big Horn River. The Vaughn Timber site is just behind it about 200 miles away. The Pitsch Timber site can be seen at the next loop upstream along the river over 1/2 mile away from the valley skirmish line.
Today we continue our analysis of Reno's Valley Skirmish line based on our primary source accounts: (PART VII)
LENGTH OF RENO'S VALLEY SKIRMISH LINE:
a) "I judge we were deployed about 200 or 250 yards; perhaps more."
(Sgt. Culbertson - RCOI)
This is exactly what Vaughn found when he researched the area in 1964. Pitsch confirmed it with his own research reported in the 2007 issue of the Research Review, but ironically, does not support the distance claimed by Jason Pitsch for his own valley skirmish lines that he developed later, which was about 100 yards longer, or the even greater distances given it by other battle researchers. As the road, highway and railroad construction obliterated about 210 yards of this line, only about 40 or so yards of it remain to establish its exact position.
Considering Reno had 3 companies to deploy along this valley skirmish line at approx. 5 yard intervals, the length of the line should have been longer (perhaps over 400 yards or so), however, we must factor in the withdrawal of G Troop into the timber position, which forced A Troop to shift over to cover that inteval, thus shortening the line considerably, as well as M Co. -- or a platoon of M Co. -- swinging back to the left to face the western bluffs in reaction to the flanking attempt made by the mounted warriors.
As a result of these two maneuvers, the length of the valley skirmish line facing the village was dropped to between 200 to 250 yards, as testified to by Sgt. Culbertson. The far left of the line, occupied by M Co., after having swung back (or refused the line) was likely between 75 to 100 yards long facing the western bluffs, thus giving Reno's valley skirmish line an L-shape in appearance.
b) "The skirmish line took up only a few hundred yards...."
(Lt. Wallace - RCOI)
Lt. Wallace agrees with Sgt. Culbertson statements that describe the skirmish line as extending only a few hundred yards---Pitsch has 330 yds, Vaughn has 250 yds.
c) "Our right rested near the brush, the left extending about 200 yards across the plain, the men being 3 yards apart on the line."
(Pvt. O'Neill - Troopers With Custer, p. 130)
c) Pvt. O'Neill supports Culbertson's claim that the valley skirmish line about 200 yards long at an interval of 3 yards per man.
RENO'S VALLEY SKIRMISH LINE WAS 200 - 250 YARDS LONG FACING NORTH AND 75 - 100 YARDS LONG FACING WEST. Edge to Vaughn site. Jason Pitsch's proposed skirmish lines are all in excess of 325 yards and are not supported by our primary source participant accounts.
This U.S. Geological Survey Map below shows the proposed location of Jason Pitsch's skirmish lines at lines 1 and 2. Line 4 indicates Vaughn's proposed skirmish line at the end of the Garryowen Loop. Line 3 indicates the location of the Pitsch slough that some students believe was the location of the Reno Timber site. Notice the distance between the Pitsch skirmish lines and his proposed Timber position over a quarter of a mile away.
Last Edit: Jun 23, 2018 12:21:58 GMT -5 by moderator
The following accounts have contributed much to the confusion over the years to the location of the Reno valley skirmish lines. They are worth looking at to better understand the nature of their misleading statements. They support neither the proposed Vaughn skirmish line position nor the proposed Pitsch skirmish line position. (PART VIII)
DISTANCE FROM RENO HILL TO RIGHT END OF RENO'S SKIRMISH LINE AT POINT OF DISMOUNT
a) 1.2 miles (Lt. Maguire - RCOI)
This measurement fits neither the Pitsch nor the Vaughn location for the skirmish lines or point of dismount. It is likely that Lt. Maguire was incorrectly shown the location of Reno's initial point of dismount, which he took to be the location of the valley skirmish line. The evidence suggests it was neither. When asked if he could fix the correct position Reno's command occupied in the timber, Maguire replied, "No sir, I cannot. I simply put it down from information given me, and I can't say whether it is correct or not." In all likelihood, and based on its conflict with participant accounts, it was not.
DISTANCE FROM RIGHT END OF SKIRMISH LINE AT DISMOUNT TO RENO'S RETREAT CROSSING
a) 0.9 miles. (Lt. Maguire - RCOI))
This measurement fits neither the Pitsch nor the Vaughn locations for the valley skirmish lines or point of dismount. It is likely that Lt. Maguire was incorrectly shown the location of Reno's initial point of dismount, which he took to be the location of the valley skirmish line. The evidence suggests it was neither. When asked if he could fix the correct position Reno's command occupied in the timber, Maguire replied, "No sir, I cannot. I simply put it down from information given me, and I can't say whether it is correct or not." In all likelihood, and based on its conflict with participant accounts, it was not.
b) 0.75 miles. (Varnum also gives the same estimated distance from the skirmish line point of dismount to the bluffs where he saw the Gray Horse troop crossing. (Lt. Varnum - Troopers With Custer)
Varnum's estimates are likely based on his interpretation of the flawed Maguire map rather than an actual recollection of the distance traveled during the retreat to the bluffs.
"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."