Post by markh on Feb 1, 2021 5:41:38 GMT -5
These are the issues I have, with George Custer's performance at the LBH Battle.
1) George put too much confidence, in smaller forces of men. Maybe Custer didn't expect the force that was there. I think HR is right, when youread General Miles outline of this, he basically states - that none of the officers (and now we are talking conferences where the planning is done), appreciated the size of the enemy force - or how well they were armed.
2) George feels, he must attack or loose his initiative against the warriors. Certainly as a cavalry officer (and I started as a tank officer), being on the offensive is preferable - you want your enemy reacting to you. When you react to them, then you are in peril. My personal belief is when he looked across the Ford (at whatever height), and saw what was there - he stopped the attack, to the Lakota the subsequent movements look like he is retreating (even if to Custer he is trying to remain offensive - who knows).
3) George feels, he can handle this without Terry and doesn't take into consideration the perils, he's now put his men into. Custer's force was the striking force. It was the first time a force of that size was all mounted, with no wheeled vehicles at all (hence no Gatling guns) and a reliance on a pack train (in this theater) - which even with all the detractors on the mules -- the pack train seemed to make it to the battlefield. Terry's smaller force containing 6 companies of infantry, and 4 companies of cavalry was by no means considered capable of striking the village, at best it was a blocking force. Terry offered the 4 companies of cavalry to Custer, because he knew he was the blocking force. His orders are designed to ensure Custer is south of the Village when he strikes it - to drive it up toward the blocking force (best case, but I think no one expected the Lakota to really get hit with both columns). The details of the hours long meeting with Terry and Custer is mostly relayed by Terry and thus maybe just a tad biased. No competent military officer would believe two columns taking vastly different routes, with no to very limited means to coordinate with messengers would hit simultaneously a village at an unknown location.
4) George miscalculates the strength of Sioux, Lakota, Cheyenne, Crow, Hunkpapa, etc. combined. Every single high ranking officer to include Terry, Crook, Gibbons, and Sheridan had miscalculated the strength because the BIA had fed them false numbers. The BIA categorized and numbered the Lakota (the Lakota were a Class I). You should read their reports (not sure if there is a link somewhere here). If the General Staff had appreciate the foe, then maybe they wouldn't have split their force into 3 major columns before it was split by Custer.
Remember the earlier planning conference with Crook, and Crook tries to mobilize his infantry by mounting them on mules. Obviously a topic of the earlier conference was how the columns needed to be quick and fast to catch the village. Crook's decision was to mount infantry on mules, and then of course we see how well that works, when the Lakota keep away from the Infantry at the Rosebud.
As for Tribes/Bands - a little confusion in your statement here - so to clarify only
The Sioux are the Lakota (there are Nakota and Dakota but only a dozen here). Lakota means non-enemy or friend-to-us to them. This should tell you the Lakota mindset - if you ain't Lakota - you ain't.
The Cheyenne or Tsisistas or Tsis tsis'tas meaning beautiful people. The Cheyenne name is a little tricky for me, and the Northern Cheyenne will call themselves differently by band within the tribe. Many tribes called the Cheyenne - Shay-ela. However, in general the Cheyenne are called Tsisistas which means beautiful people.
The Crow are Custer's allies, called Absaroka (children of the large beaked bird), which is why eventually the Europeans call them the Crow (some bad translations). The LBH battle takes place on the Crow Indian reservation of 1876, and is one reason why the Crows were scouting, and the BIA had directed the Lakota to be moved off -- they were invading Absaroka land. The Crow (Absaroka) Reservation 145 years later is still around the LBH Battlefield and there are guides who are Absaroka. They were on the US Cavalry side, they hated the Lakota, and the Black Hills was actually theirs 100 years prior to this fight.
The Seven Lakota bands (members of the Lakota or Sioux Tribe) are the Hunkpapa (end village), Oglala (They scatter their own), Sichangu (Brule or Burned Thighs), Itazipcho (Sans Arc or without Bows), Oohenunpa (Two Kettles) Mnikhowozu (Miniconjou or Plant near water), Sihasapa (Blackfeet). Note I don't have all the special lettering to spell that out correct, and I couldn't pronounce it correctly - heck I have problems with English.
5) General Terry put too much trust, in George's ability to lead and should have restricted his movements, before his arrival. I don't believe this, it was an overall under appreciation of the enemy. Terry had zero "Indian fighting experience" (reference General Miles) although Terry was felt to be a very capable officer (by his leadership), Custer was there to actually mentor him on the operational campaign, as Custer did. This is often lost - and you would have to spend time on a General Staff to know the flow of this (I spent 7 years on them), but Custer probably set the plan in the conference, and then Terry issued the order (Custer explained to Terry what it would take to get them, how he would do the approach, why he needed to be mounted to get the village...etc., Terry offers the Gatling guns - Custer turns it down - reminding Terry why they brought the specialized pack train with the wagons (again non-wheeled column) that didn't come from Terry's brain. Custer wanted mobility for his striking force, in my opinion (note) based on my experience, an order like Terry's order was drafted to fit Custer's plan. So it wasn't about trust, it was about experience. Custer had led divisions in the Civil War, and had conducted at least two prior large independent marches successfully against villages. Terry picked the man for the job who had done it before - twice, and who actually had the experience. Remember that Custer surprised his 3rd Village twice - once with Reno, and then with his force.
However, if Terry wanted to restrict Custer's movements, he should not have given him the leeway that was in Terry's order - General Miles (the most successful commander against the Lakota after LBH) expands on this, and he doesn't blame Custer). As a retired Army officer - who spent time on the USCENTCOM staff for four years (think Iraq/Afghanistan) -- I would tell you that Custer lived to the intent of his orders, his column was the striking column (Terry took the 180 or so wagons with him), and in a general way those orders that were issued were given in the way to establish overall guidelines (without being directive). No one tells an independent commander what to do after they start closing with the enemy - its mission orders (the intent is to get the village, and bring it to the reservation - and preferably without massacring it) -- to validate this look at Custer's actions in the Civil War, where he alters "guidance" in the face of the enemy doing something unexpected.
If Custer had waited to the 26th, he could have been discovered - like Crook was at the Rosebud. If Custer had done this delay and was discovered, you can tell from Terry's follow on actions - that Custer would have been censored. Did Custer want to wait, and rest the force - yes; because it was practical. Would Terry had been there on the 26th - No - he actually ran late. However, even though Terry was late a day, no one said he violated his own plan. The fact is those dates are estimates and GUIDELINES, because rivers floods, villages move, and stuff happens - the enemy, weather, and terrain have votes.
This was not designed to be a one General show...................... Actually, I think the hope was for both columns to be involved, but they all knew the probability that it would only be one -- the village was also mobile, and for it to sit to be hit perfectly on the 26th when no one knew the exact location was maybe a desire, but certainly was not the expectation. If the village was missed the dates were established more for Custer to get resupplied from Terry's column and know where it was, so he wouldn't pull a George Crook and nearly starve his men to death. Logistics is vital to.