One of the things that seems to bother me about this debacle is the inacuracies that are constant. That implies time line , strength of commands, weapons, you name it. No one has an accurate count of anything. So many numbers are bandied about it becomes cofusing. Bradley finds 197 bodies, is that just what was found? I'm sure in the time allowed him, that would be accurate, but not total, and only the ones he saw. Some say Custer's command was 225, others 216. Is there a nuber we can agree on? I know this has been discussed before on this, or another thread, but I can't seem to find it.
Last Edit: Feb 4, 2009 10:50:15 GMT -5 by runaheap
There were many estimates of the number of bodies actually buried, and if you include the numbers of missing, the numbers range widely. Throw in the markers, and the tales of the many troopers supposedly killed miles away, and you have a dog's breakfast.
The real number for Custer's command, accounting for the additions and deletions along the way in the persons of messengers, detachments, stragglers etc. is 210, including civilians. All 210 were killed. There were no survivors. Not all of them were killed within the fenced area of the battlefield.
Feel free to question this number, if you are so disposed, but it is correct.
Thanks Gordie. I think 210 is real close, but maybe 211. Who knows? You really get into the enigma of this fight with all the research, the inacuracies of markers, the outright lies of some, exageration of others. Benteen tells his wife "they buried 303" Had to be counting parts to get that total. Bodies located (4-5) on the south ridge of nye-cartwright, no-markers. Fox states that not much resistance on LSH because of the lack of shell casings. (I'm thinking, if any location was ravaged for souvenier casings, LSH would have been number 1). How many could have been salted? Some no doubt, but not many that couldn't have been sorted out. You can spend a career trying to sort this out. Was "F" company's foray towards the northern ford a recon or escape attempt? Probably a recon, but maybe?
I thought 210, with three "extra" civilians, for a total of 213. As far as counting the bodies goes, I know it takes two of us to count the money in the Library donation box--and we do it over and over until we both get the same total!
Actually, that is one of the few things about this battle that is virtually unimpeachable. There has been enough "roster work" done by people so that we can reach that conclusion. It's really a simple matter of deducting one set of regimental returns from the previous set. Those missing were killed. Simple. We know for sure who died with Reno and Benteen. The rest... ?
A couple of years ago, Bill Boyes, the editor of the LBHA's Research Review was kind enough to publish an article I wrote. In that article I included two strength charts, a complete breakdown of unit strength, the first chart dealing with the regiment before and as it left FAL, including the PRD drop-offs and the casualties at the fight.
The second chart was for unit strength on June 25, 1876. It included all sorts of things, like attachments, detachments, stragglers, scouts, etc. No one has been able to refute a single number so far, though I must admit I re-do the charts every year or so, just to make sure the numbers still work, that someone or some thing has not fallen through the cracks.
Anyone who would like a copy of either or both, only needs to e-mail me: email@example.com
If you can receive an Excel spreadsheet, they are yours.
Yes, it does. (I'm sorry; I should have made that clear, above.)
I know I seem to be picking on John Gray here, but his book, Custer's Last Campaign, is somewhat lacking in its casualty study as well as-- I believe-- his timing work, at least on the specifics. Gray compromised his work with the ambivalence inherent in both his casualties work-- almost an afterthought with appendices at the end-- and the sloppy work on the scouts. It is a shame, really, because the technical side of his timing work is sheer brilliance.
The work I have done on the June 25 rosters is rather simplistic (what I need to do is figure out what kind of graphics program I can dump into my aging Mac PowerBook so I can replicate some of what Gray did). I use an Excel spreadsheet to record the various movements of personnel, commensurate with the timing, to finally reach the "strength" conclusions at various points in the battle. To make matters worse, I have attempted to keep it all on a single printed page. It works, though, obviously, it is not quite as detailed as I would like.
Anyway, Melani, a typical, long-winded "fred" answer to your question. 210, total, civilians, soldiers, and Mitch Boyer. 58 dead with Reno-Benteen, including 5 troopers classified as DOW, dying anywhere from 24 hours after "wound infliction" to weeks later. 268, total. I really don't bother with WIA, because it ranges anywhere from Madden's amputation to Benteen's scratch. Do you "Purple Heart" a scratch? We didn't; it rather cheapens the whole thing.
The Purple Heart was established by George Washington some time in the 1780s, I believe. I seem to remember it being issued for valor, though I cannot be sure about that. It seems it was only a Revolutionary War medal, for you never hear of it again and you never see anyone from the Civil War or Indian War eras wearing it. I do not believe it was used in WWI either, for again, you never see any pictures with someone wearing it, and even if it was issued it had to have been retroactively awarded, because either the army or Congress re-authorized it some time in the 1930s. I believe it was then when they made it for combat wounds only.
Access is another Microsoft program that does databases. I use it for mailing lists, because I can generate labels or letters with printed addresses with it. I have, between this post and the last one, sent out a mailing to local bookstores, libraries, and history departments. The database also contains music stores, but they were not relevant for this mailing, so I left them out. I have the different kinds of places tagged B, L, H, and M, and can use Access to sort for just libraries, or bookstores, or any combination of those categories to generate mailing labels. I don't know if that would be helpful for what you're doing or not.
Only three Purple Hearts were awarded during our Revolution, and they were cloth.
The modern Purple Heart was revived in 1932. As I recall, at that time, it was an Army decoration, and it was not exclusively given for wounds. I think it was issued to men wounded in the World War and I think men wounded in prior wars could apply for it.
In 1942 Pres Roosevelt authorized the Purple Heart for all Armed Forces by Executive Order.
On my rosters under the "Research" Topic, I list 212 for Custer's immediate command.
The reason I list 2 additional men is that, I was impressed by Hardorff's reasoning in "The Custer Battle Casualties," p. 123 - 4. According to Hardorff, Reno prepared a casualty list on the evening of 26 Jun. Five of the men finally listed as killed from Reno's companies were not listed. Since Reno did not know at that time that Custer's command was dead and since three of those five men were known to be with Custer (Sgt Hughes, Cpl Callahan, and Trumpt Dose), Hardorff thought that the other two, Pvts Housen of Co D and Mask of Co B, were probably assigned to Custer's Column in some capacity. They could have been orderlies for Cooke and Lord. Considering that Reno had an orderly, a striker, and a cook, a couple of more men with Custer's HQ is not out of line.
I've had some time to digest the roster work that Fred and Billy have done and agree on the 210 number as a total. Unimpeachable is as good an adjective as you can deliver! The army of that era also travelled on paperwork and a little effort and research nails it. What I have also concluded, and agree with Fred is: The regiment was obviously culled at Powder River Depot of the sick, lame, lazy and untrained (the bulk being soldiers of 1yr to less service) and those without good enough mounts to make the trek. So conclusion is: Custer took the best available with him. How well trained were they? They were best mounted regiment of their era, and familiar enough with their weapons to nail you at 100 yards. Did they put up a good fight? Probably better than many give them credit.