On November 1, 1883, Sheridan succeeded William T. Sherman as Commanding General, U.S. Army, and held that position until shortly before his death. He was promoted on June 1, 1888, shortly before his death, to the rank of general in the regular army (the rank was titled "General of the Army of the United States", by Act of Congress June 1, 1888, the same rank achieved earlier by Grant and Sherman, which is equivalent to a four-star general, O-10, in the modern U.S. Army. (Eicher - Civil War High Commands)
GENERAL SHERIDAN'S opinion as to why and how the attack was made is abridged as follows, with my annotations in brackets:
“I believe the Indians were not aware of the proximity of Custer until he had arrived within nine miles of their village. Custer, seeing the Indians preparing to move away, feared they would escape if he waited. Only about seventy-five or one hundred lodges or tepees could be seen from the summit of the divide, and this probably deceived him as to the extent of the village. Had the Seventh Cavalry kept together, it is my belief it would have been able to handle the Indians, and under any circumstances it would have, at least, defended itself; but, separated as it was into three distinct detachments, they [ie. the Indians] had largely the advantage, in addition to their overwhelming numbers. If Custer had not come upon the village so suddenly, the warriors would have gone out to meet him, in order to give time for the escape of the women and children, and there would have been a rear-guard fight."
"The more I see of movement here (Little Big Horn Battlefield), the more I have admiration for Custer, and I am satisfied his like will not be found very soon again.”
~ Gen. Nelson Miles, Commanding General of the Army ------
"With our cherished ones deliverance within our grasp we waited breathless two hours, for the order that never came."
Captain Thomas B. Weir, Oct. 22, 1876.
General of the Army (Medicine Man/Chief))
Lt. Gen. Sheridan, in his report for 1876, expressed his views of the Little Big Horn battle, with the moderator's annotations in brackets:
As much has been said in regard to the misfortune that occurred to General Custer and the portion of his regiment under his immediate command in this action, I wish to express the conviction I have arrived at concerning it. From all the information that has reached me, I am led to believe that the Indians were not aware of the proximity of Custer until he had arrived within about eight or nine miles of their village, and that then their scouts who carried the intelligence back to the valley were so closely followed up by Custer, that he arrived on the summit of the divide overlooking the upper portion of the village, almost as soon as the scouts reached it. As soon as the news was given, the Indians began to strike their lodges and get their women and children out of the way - a movement they always make under such circumstances. Custer, seeing this, believed the village would escape him if he awaited the arrival of the four companies of his regiment still some miles in his rear. Only about 75 or 100 lodges or tepees could be seen from the summit or divide, and this, probably, deceived him as to the extent of the village. He therefore directed Major Reno, with three companies, to cross the river and charge the village, while he, with the remaining five companies, would gallop down the east bank of the river behind the bluff and cut off the retreat of the Indians. Reno crossed and attacked gallantly with his three companies - about 110 men [ed. Reno actually had closer to 150 men under his command] - but the warriors, leaving the women to strike the lodges, fell on Reno's handful of men and drove them back to and over the river with severe loss.
About this time Custer reached a point about three and a half or four miles down the river, but instead of finding, a village of 75 or 100 lodges, he found one of perhaps from 1500 to 2000, and swarming with warriors, who brought him to a halt. This, I think, was the first intimation the Indians had of Custer's approach to cut them off, for they at once left Reno and concentrated to meet the new danger. The point where Custer reached the river, on the opposite side of which was the village, was broken into choppy ravines, and the Indians, crossing from Reno, got between the two commands, and as Custer could not return, he fell back over the broken ground with his tired men and tired horses (they had ridden about 70 miles with but few halts) and became, I am afraid an easy prey to the enemy. [Note: Custer's advance averaged only about 25 miles a day with plenty of halts to allow the scouts to examine the trail along the way.] Their wild, savage yells, overwhelming numbers, and frightening war paraphernalia, made it as much as each trooper could do to take care of his horse, thus endangering his own safety and efficiency. If Custer could have reached any position susceptible of defence, he could have defended himself; but none offered itself in the choppy and broken ravines over which he had to pass, and he and his command were lost without leaving any one to tell the tale. [Note: Here Gen. Sheridan identifies what he believes to be the primary cause of the defeat of Custer's wing that day -- the poor nature of the ground his battle was fought on.]
As soon as Custer and his gallant officers and men were exterminated and the scenes of mutilation by the squaws commenced, the warriors returned to renew the attack upon Reno; but he had been joined by Captain Benteen and the four companies of the regiment that were behind when the original attack took place, and the best use had been made of the respite given by the attack on Custer, to entrench their position.
Had the 7th Cavalry been kept together, it is my belief it would have been able to handle the Indians on the Little Big Horn, and under any circumstances it could have at least defended itself; but separated as it was into three distinct detachments, the Indians had largely the advantage in addition to their overwhelming numbers. If Custer had not come upon the village so suddenly, the warriors would have gone to meet him, in order to give time to the women and children to get out of the way, as they did with Crook only a few days before, and there would have been, as with Crook, what might be designated a rearguard fight - a fight to get their valuables out of the way, or in other words, to cover the escape of their women, children and lodges.
A Biographical Sketch of General Philip Henry Sheridan from 1871 till his death in 1888 by his brother Brig.-Gen. M. V. Sherican, U.S.A., with my annotations in brackets:
After the separation of Custer and Reno, the former proceeded with his five troops at a sharp trot down the right back of the river. His trail, passing behind the bluff, came to the river bank at a point [ie. Ford B] about two and a half miles below Reno's position on the hill, when he turned [away from the river and] off into the bluffs again, as though not [going] far enough down to place him in the desired position. From the point where he first struck the river [at Ford B] the trail was marked by the remains of officers and men and the bodies of their horses -- some dropped along the path, others heaped where halts appeared to have been made, till within half a mile of a ford [ie. apparently Ford C at the mouth of Deep Ravine] opposite the main village. After Reno's reverse it was out of the question that Custer could get into the village. [Note: Here Gen. Sheridan notes the futility of consummating a flank attack across the river once Reno's fixing force had fled the valley.] Held back by the unexpected strength of the Indians, he appears to have deployed two of his troops to enable him to take position; and though he could probably have held his own with the enemy in his front, yet when the crash of the triumphant Sioux, fresh from their easy rout of Reno, took him by surprise in the rear, his little force did not last many minutes. The command was [then] annihilated.
*Observations made on the Custer battle-field two days after the fight indicate that stubborn resistance was made. By the sides of many men were piles of cartridge-shells, in some instances amounting to thirty or more. Horses appear to have been retained in hand up to a late moment, and occasionally to have been used as breastworks. That the Indians suffered heavily is evinced by the haste with which they withdrew before Gibbon's small command, leaving behind the bulk of their camp material, that they might carry off their dead and wounded. Contrary to usual custom, but few of the dead were mutilated. All bodies were stripped of clothing save two or three. One of these bodies (Keogh's) retained the undershirt, the Indians having discovered under it a slender gold chain supporting an Agnus Dei. Fearing to violate the "medicine," they had left the chain and charm about his neck. During the lull on Reno's hill, while the Indians were away fighting Custer, the pack-train came up. The combined force at this point was now seven troops, and a movement was made in Custer's direction, but the Indians, having speedily finished their bloody work below, came back at Reno again with such dash and assurance that he prudently retired to his original position, and here maintained himself against every effort of the Sioux to destroy him, till the evening of the next day, when, on learning of the approach of Gibbon, the Indians hastily abandoned the field and village.
Last Edit: Jun 12, 2020 3:07:21 GMT -5 by moderator