Post by custerwest on Feb 20, 2008 11:33:47 GMT -5
"obviously" cannot be used in court as evidence...
Fred Gerard said that no more than 20 Indians were in their flank and they even didn't attack them. The "flank attack" was Reno's hoax to explain his cut-and-run movement.
Indians were not excellent in attacking strong, defensive position. In the contrary, it was their worst nightmare. They were a poor offensive force, with lack of organization, very poor leadership (not personal, but overall leadership, with warriors leaving the ranks on their own initiative, without any orders) and therefore suffered high casualties and often defeat in this kind of battles. But when Reno left the timber, he offered a retreating, moving column to the Indians. It was what Indians loved, the kind of warfare they were excellent in: hand-to-hand battles, fleeing enemy on horseback etc.
Custer said that Indians were better than Russian horsemen. Fleeing away without rearguard was suicidal.
French said that he should have shot Reno that day (for cowardice). Gerard said that it was the worst mistake possible to run away in front of Indians.
More interesting, a lot of Indians said that the position was excellent. Red Feather heard warchiefs screaming that the troops were too strong to be defeated. George Bird Grinnell even learnt from Cheyenne chiefs that the Indians wanted to leave the fight because Reno's position was too strong.
Last Edit: Feb 20, 2008 11:34:01 GMT -5 by custerwest
Post by warhorse67 on Mar 14, 2008 23:00:59 GMT -5
Vol. 18, May 2002 Greasy Grass Magazine, published by Custer Battlefield Historical & Museum Association, included a quote from the March 7, 1879 issue of the Wilmington, N.C. Weekly Star (the quote was included in the magazine article written by Ronald Nichols, entitled Reno & Benteen, Perceptions 126 years after the battle). It was a very blunt statement concerning the Reno Court of Inquiry held in Chicago from Jan. 13-Feb. 11, 1879:
"Gen. Reno will probably be regarded hereafter as the man who from either a want of proper manhood, or from an improper jealousy of his superior officer, allowed the latter with his command to be sacrificed without striking one vigorous blow on his behalf. We have not been swift to condemn this soldier, although we knew his moral qualities were low, and that he had been convicted of a gross and wanton insult to the wife of another officer. We have not accused him in advance of an investigation of behaving badly at the battle of the Little Bighorn. It is now clear enough, from the trial, that he did not do his duty on that disastrous occasion when the gallant Custer and his little band rode into the very jaws of death. Gen. Reno was second in command, but he did not second his superior as was expected, but left him to his fate. The testimony elicited by the court of inquiry is not only seriously damaging to Reno, but it places Captain Benteen in a rather ugly light also."
The magazine article also had a quote from Frederick Whittaker, who wrote A Complete Life of General George A. Custer, who stated that the reasons for Custer's defeat were simple:
"Reno's incapacity and Benteen's disobedience."
"This trial has established facts which prove Custer to have been, not rash, but prudent; not defeated by the enemy, but abandoned by the treachery or timidity of his subordinates."
He also ridiculed Benteen as "a hero and a martyr" and that "he gave his evidence like a little man."
I found this article extremely interesting and just wanted to share it & get some of your thoughts concerning it. I have 12 of these wonderful magazines, dating from 1992 to 2004. I will share interesting tidbits from them at times if anyone is interested.
Whittacker got it right from the beginning. His work was later confirmed by Reno Court of Inquiry chairman Jesse Lee and US General-in-chief Nelson A. Miles.
Captain during the Civil War, Whittaker perfectly understood what had happened and if he thanked Benteen for saving the regiment on JUNE 26, he didn't support his non-actions on June 25. He said that Benteen had clearly disobeyed orders and Reno had failed to all his duties.
Thanks for the post, Jeff, it's a very nice catch. Even the "New York Herald" said on July 1876: "seven companies out of the fight when Custer was fighting" The Christian Advocate also condemned Reno because he was drunk (which was true)
bangagong still tries to attack the messenger because he cannot challenge the message.
Last Edit: Mar 17, 2008 8:20:52 GMT -5 by custerwest
My view is that it takes two to create a victory...one side's mistakes and the other side's taking advantage of them. If this does not occur, you usually have a draw or "minor victory" of little consequence.
This "critical mass" of one side's egregious mistake(s) and the other's ability to take advantage of it is difficult to achieve in military history. Usually you get draws or watered down victories.
For a result like LBH, you need one side to make fatal mistakes, and the other to take incredible advantage of them.
So the Sioux nation, by itself, could not defeat Custer, but it had to be good enough to take advantage of any mistakes Custer's command made, and that is saying a lot.
But without Custer's command making such mistakes, the Natives could not "win big" against the 7th Cavalry that day.
I gave Marcus Reno the benefit of the doubt and decided that he was not especially cowardly (nor especially brave), and was not especially incompetent (nor particularly extra-competent compared to his peers).
I think the ONLY reason he acted as he did was because he was excessively drunk...much more inebriated than any other officer on the field that day.
I don't think he had a couple sips, which was normal for that day. I think he chugged an entire quart, above what he had for breakfast. I believe in his dehydrated condition and under stress that the alcohol completely took over his decision-making processes and caused him to react emotionally rather than rationally once he crossed the LBH ford ("A").
I think that while his horse "watered" at Ford A, MAJ Reno was drinking excessively of something else...
Had it not been for the excessive alcohol, I believe Reno would have 1) not charged as early as he did 2) not changed formation during his charge 3) not dismounted when he did 4) not left his skirmish line out as long as he did 5) not allowed his skirmish line to fall into the timber without orders 6) not allowed the companies to occupy any position they wanted in the timber (ie, he would have organized the defense there) 7) not have withdrawn from the timber as early as he did 8) when he finally did withdraw, if necessary, it would not have been as disorganized as it was 9) not have left his command on the bluff to go down to find his LT 10) would not have allowed Benteen to effectively take command of the unit atop the bluffs
I submit that the ONLY reason any of these things happened was due to whiskey, and without it none of this would have occurred. I just hope it wasn't my favorite Kentucky bourbon...but I suspect that it could have been!
Last Edit: Apr 25, 2008 14:00:39 GMT -5 by custerwest
I voted "shell shocked and traumatized". Reno was definitely drunk, but he was an "experienced drunk" , who makes drinking a prominent role in his everyday life.
His poor and hasty decision was made right upon the moment that BloodyKnife's head exploded in his face. I would say that he was shell shocked AND cowardly. I think he was not happy about how the Indians could fire the head off someone who was standing so near to him. It was good position for mostly everyone in the timber, but the Indians found a way to nearly access Reno.
It was clearly the prominent event because he was witnessed as freaking out over the shot and yanking people out to a retreat immediately. He was arguably effective before BloodyKnife's head blew up. He formed some fine lines of fire and made a good position out of where he was chased to in the timber. Before Little Bighorn, he was the man who made the critical find that the Indians had moved off the Rosebud and onto the Bighorn, and I'm not quite so happy with how Custer and Terry treated Reno's accomplishment here. So I think the awkward Reno had some finer traits which were blown away with BloodyKnife's head. After that, he and Benteen became utter unredeemables because they started lying,conspiring, cowering, and slandering.
Benteen and Reno should feel sorry for themselves. Custer's victory would have rocketed them to triumph and fame, given them alot of worth and purpose. It seems that the officers who survived Little Bighorn went on to live very purposeless existences thereafter.
Last Edit: Apr 25, 2008 20:45:19 GMT -5 by strange
He seemed entirely sober when Custer gave him his orders. If Reno was "drunk" then Custer would never have stood for it or ordered him on an important mission. He seemed entirely sober as he led the charge, ordered a halt, and formed skirimsh lines. He was even seen walking the skirmish lines & firing.
At what point does someone become "cowardly"? Reno served in the Civil War and in some engagements with Indians prior to the LBH. Did he suddenly become a coward only at the LBH?
If Custer survived and won HE would have gotten all the credit. The other officers would have been footnotes in history.
Post by bandboxtroop on Apr 28, 2008 12:23:56 GMT -5
Please get Donovans new book " A Terrible Glory" there are to many references to state that Reno was drunk, 11 pages are dedicated to statements on Renos's drinking at LBH. When Reno returned to the Yellowstone Camp starting on August 1st for a 22 day period He bought 11 gallons of Whiskey. As for being cowardly, abandoning over 15 men in the timber when he retrteated, not making sure all troopers received the retreat order, not having a troop assigned to cover the retreat, throwing his revolver away , asking Benteen to abandon the wounded and ride out. Letting a captain take over the command as he was unfit, that is a major coward. His post LBH record of many drunken episodes finally ending with his Court Martial was a fit end for Reno.
As a post-script to the above post, those who wish to examine all of our known primary and secondary accounts of Reno's drinking -- or drunkenness -- at the Little Big Horn, here are the sources:
At least 15 men -- civilians, enlisted men, and officers -- related in later years that they had seen Reno drinking or drunk during the battle, from the time he first crossed the Little Bighorn through the morning of June 26. 9 of those 15 men indicated that Reno was either drinking or drunk during his fight in the valley.
1) Trooper John Fox told Walter Camp that "Reno appeared to be intoxicated, or partially so," at the time Reno was arguing with Weir on the bluffs. (Liddic & Harbough, Camp on Custer, p. 95)
2) Lieutenant Edgerly wrote, "I have to say thaht Col. Reno had the only whiskey that I had any evidence of during the fight. He (Reno) had a bottle of whiskey which he carried quite openly and from which he took an occasional sip." (Graham, The Custer Myth, p. 322).
3) Lt. Carlo De Rudio told Camp, "After passing [the] lone tepee De Rudio stopped somewhere ... and did not catch up with the command until it reached the river. Here he found Reno and Gerard sitting on horses in the river, [with] Reno drinking from a bottle of whisky," (Hammer, Custer in 76, p. 84).
4) Fred Gerard told Walter Camp, "As Major Reno left the [skirmish] line and passed into the timber, I saw him put a bottle of whisky to his mouth and drink the whole contents," (Hammer, Custer in 76, p. 84). Camp also wrote: "De Rudio saw him drinking at Ford A, and 20 minutes later Gerard says he saw him finish the bottle at the skirmish line fight, and at that time Reno was intoxicated, etc." (Camp IU Notes, 775).
5) Camp also wrote: "A commissioned officer of the 7th cavalry told me that Davern, Reno's orderly, admitted to him that Reno was intoxicated in [the] timber." (Camp BYU Notes, Reel 5).
6) Pvt. William Taylor related that: "about 1 pm on the 25th, or a little later, we were nearing the Indian skirmishers on our ride toward their village, ... and we had been ordered to charge when some of the men began to cheer when Major Reno shouted out 'Stop that noise!' and once again came the command, 'Charge.' Charrrage, was the way it sounded to me, and it came in such a tone that I turned my head and glanced backward. The Major and Lieut. Hodgson were riding side by side in the rear of my company (A), perhaps 30 or 40 feet away, possibly more, but a very short distance. As I looked back Major Reno was just taking a bottle from his lips and passing it to Lieut. Hodgson. In appearance I should say it was a quart flask, about 1/2 or 2/3rds full" (Wm Camp Collection, BYU Library, box 6, folder 2).
7) After interviewing Lt. Mathey, Camp wrote: "Reno then held up a bottle of whiskey and showed it to Mathey and said: 'Look here, I have got half a bottle yet!' Mathey was then under the impression that Reno was under the influence, but does not wish to be quoted. [He] says also that Reno was much excited." (Hardorff, Camp, Custer and the Little Bighorn, p. 42-43).
Lt. Mathey also testified at the Reno Court of Inquiry that "on the 26th I saw Major Reno had a bottle with a little [whiskey] in it. Someone spoke of being thirsty and he said he had some whiskey to wet his mouth with and to keep from getting dry, to quench his thirst. It was a flask, I don't know whether [it was] a quart or a pint. There was very little left in it then ... on the morning of the 26th." (Nichols, Reno Court of Inquiry, 521).
8) Camp also wrote that "a commissioned officer [ie. this was likely Capt. McDougall] of the 7th Cavalry who was present at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, and who was not unfriendly to Reno, has told me that about the time of the arrival of the pack train, Major Reno saluted him by holding up a flask of whiskey and that his remarks and manner were silly. Said officer stated that the incident remained distinct in his memory for one reason because the bottle was then half full and Reno did not invite him to take a drink of it" (Camp IU Notes, 103).
9) Trooper John Burkman remembered that during the retreat from the timber to the river, "Reno was excited, he was skeered out o' his wits and he was half drunk." (Wagner, Old Neutriment, 160). [Note: This would have been 2nd hand information acquired by Burkman from his colleagues as he was not present during Reno's retreat from the timber.]
10) Packer John Frett and B.F. Churchill both claimed that Reno was staggering drunk on the evening of the 25th, a statement that was not disputed by Reno or his counsel. They testified that he was carrying a bottle of whiskey and struck Frett in the face with the other fist. Reno admitted this: "I had some whiskey which I obtained at the mouth of the Rosebud...it was carried in a flask...in the inner breast pocket of my coat. I think [it contained] between a pint and quart. Probably nearer a pint than a quart, I don't know" (Nichols, Reno Court of Inquiry, 525).
11) Pvt. John Corcoran told Walter Camp that "he saw Reno have a quart bottle of whiskey and saw him take a big drink out of it in [the] hospital on [the] morning of [the] 26th (Hammer, Custer in 76, 150), and it was probably Corcoran of whom Camp wrote: "A man who lay wounded on the hill on [the] morning of 6/26 told me that Reno spoke to him regarding his wound, and then drew a quart bottle of whiskey, nearly full, and drank a much larger quantity than was necessary merely to 'wet his lips.' He took special note of the occurrence at the time because he craved a drink himself, but Reno offered him none" (Camp BYU Notes, Reel 4).
12) Trooper Charles White (M Co.) said, of Reno's initial clearing of the timber position: "The first sergeant of Co. M (Ryan) directed me to go one way and one of the drunken officers another. I am writing this not without proper proof. With my own eyes I saw these officers open a bottle of whiskey and drink enough to make any ordinary man drunk. With my own eyes I saw these officers open a bottle of whiskey and drink enough to make any ordinary man drunk. I then witnessed the greatest excitment among the intoxicated officers that I ever saw." [Note: The only officers identified by other participants as seen drinking at this time were Major Reno and his adjutant, Lt. Hodgson.] Sgt. White continued: "The only officer who maintained self control and acted like an officer should do was Capt. T.H. French" (Hardoff, Indian Views of the Custer Fight, 17).
13) Trooper Henry Lange told Walter Camp flatly that "Reno was drunk all the time on Reno Hill" (Camp BYU Notes, Reel 3).
14) Captain Thomas French told a NY Times reporter that Reno had been drunk during the hilltop fight and had hidden himself from the command from the evening of the 25th until noon on the 26th (New York Times, January 19, 1879).
15) Lt. Varnum claimed Reno brought along a gallon keg of whiskey (Varnum quoted in T.M. Coughlan to Fredrick Van de Water, 02/22/1935, Van de Water papers).
16) Godfrey claimed that Reno was the only officer on the expedition who brought along a keg of whiskey.
17) Bismarck resident W.A. Falconer wrote: "Dr. Porter told me....that Reno was drunk and acted cowardly all through the fight" (Falconer to E.A. Brininstool, July 27, 1923, Brininstool Collection).
18) And a good friend of Reno's, the Reverand Dr. Arthur Edwards, was quoted as saying, "His strange actions at the Little Bighorn, were due to the fact that he was drunk" (Editorial, Northwestern Christian Advocate, Sept. 7, 1904). Edwards received this information on an admission from Reno himself shortly before the latter's death.
Last Edit: Nov 25, 2018 2:50:36 GMT -5 by moderator
Post by bandboxtroop on Apr 28, 2008 13:31:45 GMT -5
Your case is weak in that as you admit you did not read the book you are going on other opinions. If you get the book read the footnote references as stated there is to much info out there by others in the 7th stating Reno was drunk. I gave you reasons for his being a coward, cold hard facts of his abandoning over 15 men in the timber, not covering his units retreat, throwing away his sidearm, letting Benteen take over command, suggesting they abandon the wounded etc etc. As for the Cooke note and Benteens order to come to Custer. That is not debatable. Benteen failed to follow instruction. Not only did he have written orders he had verbal order from the first messenger Sgt Kanipe. Kanipe stated to Benteen " They want you up there as quick as you can get there, they have struck a big indian camp". I know its useless to change Reno, Benteen supporters. All I can say both of their post LBH record of court martials speak for themself.
Post by bandboxtroop on Apr 28, 2008 14:19:24 GMT -5
PS As for the size of the alcohol container Reno had with him June 25 26 27, Lt Varnum stated it was a gallon Keg, Godfrey stated it was a half gallon keg. As Mel had stated in a earlier post, a personal friend of Reno's and the Chaplin of his Civil War regiment Reverend Dr Arthur Edwards stated that Reno had confided in him that he was drunk at Little Big Horn. At the Reno Court Of Inquiry Reno stated that he had not drunk a drop from his bottle until long after the firing quit past midnight.
(crzhs wrote:) I never stated Reno acted in the best interest of the command. We are discussing his drinking during the LBH.
There are just as many members of the 7th who stated Reno was not drunk as there are there said he was.
This is true, crzhrs, however, those who covered for Reno's drinking that day (as well as Reno's actions) were doing so to cover the reputation of the 7th Regiment---at least according to Wesley Merritt and others who were in a position to know. Too many independent sources claimed that he had been heavily drinking that day, and as Conz here put it so succinctly, it would be far more generous of us to blame an overconsumption of alcohol for Reno's conduct that day, rather than condemn him as an inept coward, which is the conclusion of most people once you remove the flask from his mouth.
The questions: how many actually saw him drinking?
How many heard it from someone else?
How many gave their statements years and/or decades after the fact?
Depends when they were first asked. Most of the statements come from the RCOI.
What were their motives?
Perhaps to tell the truth that day. Some, like many of the officers, would lie to cover up Reno's drinking in an attempt to salvage the tarnished image of the regiment under his command, of course. But others who claimed Reno was drunk were his friends.
If Reno was so drunk how could Custer give him such an important mission?
Apparently, Reno started drinking heavily after he got his orders to move in for the attack. I believe the first witnesses that mention anything at all about his drinking did so while he was crossing the river at Ford A. There are no accounts of his drinking anywhere in the vicinity of Custer while on the trail.
There are many reasons why someone fails under pressure from combat.
The reference that stood out to me was Rev. Dr. Arthur Edwards, described as "a good friend of Reno's," who said his strange actions were explained by the fact that he was drunk--and this from a good friend, no less. It sounded to me like he was making excuses for Reno, rather than condemning him, but the effect is pretty much the same.
And I would say that it would be no problem for the senior Major of the regiment to stow away as much whiskey as he wanted to for the campaign...he could have had an entire pack mule with nothing but crates of bottles of whiskey if he had wished, and some officers about did.
In saddlebags, an officer would be expected to carry at least a pint flask, and some carried quart flasks.
Reno could have carried several quart flasks in his saddlebags if he wanted to. So I don't think quantity is a problem here...
This from Pvt. William Slaper: "I must say that I had to admire Major Reno during the entire fighting on the hill. I also saw him twice in the river bottom, and he did not seem to be at all ruffled.
I observed Reno several times during the fighting on the bluffs, and can well remember his walking about among the men through the night. He would tap a man with his boot and remark, "Don't go to sleep, boys." I cannot understand why he was not shot down while walking about, as none of the troopers were able to make a move without drawing the fire of the Indians. I know it encouraged his fellow-officers as well as the troopers. I have read articles pertaining to this part of the battle of the Little Big Horn in which it was stated that Reno was drunk. This I brand as a lie. At no time did I observe the least indication of drunkenness on the man, nor see him use any liquor."
As we see there are those who say Reno was drunk & those who say he wasn't. Even an enlisted man who had nothing to gain, hide, or to protect the honor of the 7th supported Reno.
[Note:Moderator's Note: Researcher William J. Ghent claimed Pvt. William Slaper did not write “his” account published in E.A. Brininstool’s 1925 tome A Trooper with Custer, below. “It was written by Mr. Brininstool, as Mr. Slaper himself told me…. [It is] about 75 percent Brininstool and only about 25 percent Slaper.”][/b]
Last Edit: May 6, 2021 12:07:14 GMT -5 by moderator
I can't find the reference, Horse. I can find the Freeman diary in the bibliography, but not the footnote and I dont' want to get it wrong. I'll keep looking.
Meanwhile these are people Donovan lists as seeing the Major drunk...
Trooper John Fox - 'intoxicated' Fred Gerard - saw him down a bottle, so I'd have to call that 'drunk' Davern - 'intoxicated in the timber' Willam Taylor - 'drinking and slurred speech' Mathey - 'under the influence' Trooper John Burkeman - 'half drunk' Fret and Churchill - we know their story Trooper Charles Wright - 'intoxicated' Trooper Henry Lange - 'drunk' Capt Thomas French - (who ought to know) 'drunk' Dr. Porter - 'drunk' Dr. Arthur Evans (Reno's friend - not pastor) - 'drunk'
That doesn't include people who saw him drinking, only those who said 'drunk'. I realized I've overly condensed this. There are 3 pages of endnotes about it and I'm lazy. Many of these observations were given to Camp.
Honestly, I've come to strongly suspect ol' Marcus was seriously impaired.