I agree that those two markers, and many others, have been disputed, but was under the impression that Hardorff's Battle Casualties, I & II where pretty definitive. Who are the "most historians" you refer to?
Post by keithpatton on Apr 30, 2019 10:20:01 GMT -5
There seems to be a lot of wishful thinking when it comes to analyzing maps of the battle field. While looking at a map and the "makers" one needs to remember to subtract the nearly 50 spurious markers misplaced on the Custer battlefield that were intended for the Reno-Benteen field.
Current count has 210 men with Custer in five companies. that means he had no more than around 42 men in each company.
The scale on the white map is wrong. The distance from Last Stand Hill to Calhoun Ridge is only around 3/4 of a mile or 3960 feet or 1320 yards. So if troopers stood at the mandated five yard intervals for a skirmish line across that distance they would have needed 264 men to reach from Calhoun Ridge through Keoghs position to Last Stand Hill.
But oh,wait. Cavalry doctrine stated that each man held his horse to shoot OR one man in four would hold horses for the other three. So take a quarter of the 210 men available to hold horses. From the skirmish line leaving only 157 men, over 100 men short to man the necessary skirmish line. This doesn't even begin to extend the line down the South Skirmish line toward Deep Ravine, or down along Calhoun Ridge. as it was to cover the 1320 yards of some imaginary skirmish line along battle ridge, troopers would have been standing eight yards apart. The death or wounding of one soldier meant a 16 yard gap in the skirmish line. Two troopers going down next to one another meant a 32 yard gap, or one third of a football field. Hardly a feasible defensive line.
If you read multiple suppositions in vogue today rather than wishful exaggerated thinking from the 100 years after the battle, you start to see some rational patterns.
First Custer divided his command at least four times in the face of the enemy. First McDougal with the Pack Train. Second when he sent Benteen with three companies off to scout the Rosebud. Third time when he ordered Reno with three companies in the Valley. Fourth when he then moved north and sent two companies under Calhoun and Keogh to try and force a crossing at Medicine Tail Coulee at the north end of the village that failed. The book Lakota Noon makes a good case for the true extent of the Indian camp based on around 1000-1200 warriors max in the village according to the Aboriginal accounts and a detailed analysis of the number of Tipis in an acre and the size of the pony herd. He shows that the white eye witness accounts could not be anywhere near true estimates and the author believes that the village and the herd were exaggerated over time in order to help assuage the embarrassment over the defeat.
If Custer had kept his command unified and not scattered over more than ten miles ( Custer to Reno battlefield distance of four miles plus where ever Benteen and McDougal were at the time of the attack) he would have had between 600-700 men. McDougals company was augmented by men attached from the other companies for additional pack train security. That would have given Custer more than enough firepower to deal with 1000-1200 hostiles, IF they had been unified rather than spread all over the countryside.
It is supposed that Custer continued North to try another crossing possibly to cut off any Aboriginals he thought might try to escape north. There were reported artifacts found at the ford below the current Cemetery and Tourist Center. This however might be confusion due to the real extent of the village which the author of Lakota Noon says was no farther north than Medicine Tail Coulee. Previous interpretations put the village much farther north, but the author demonstrates convincingly that the number of tipis per acre that the aboriginals usually placed (around 12 per acre) would have resulted in far more Aboriginals than were reported by the Aboriginals themselves. Their estimates place no more than 1200 warriors in the village. Not quite a 2-1 advantage in numbers.
Scott shows rather convincingly by firearm forensics that the Aboriginals didn't have as many repeating arms as has been supposed. Only 127 individual Aboriginal firearms have been identified, and of them only 108 were identified as repeating arms. Statistical analysis/ extrapolation from the sample population pushes the number to between 350-414 firearms in aboriginal hands and of them 198-232 were Henrys or Winchesters.
Everything taken together it is pretty clear that Custer pushed his famous luck way too far and the troops under his direct command were destroyed piecemeal as they were spread out over the battlefield. Calhoun and Keoghs company were overwhelmed from the South East and struggled to reunite with Custer's three companies who had been driven back onto Last Stand Hill by Aboriginals moving up from the river north and west of them.
The two companies wiped out along Battle Ridge were likely those victims ridden down in the "buffalo hunt" described by the Aboriginals. Those scattered along the "south skirmish line" in my opinion were likely those killed in a belated break from Last Stand Hill by nearly 40 troopers trying to reach Deep Ravine. One could understand the attempt since the exposed position on the ridge was not much of a place to stage a last stand. The Aboriginals describe a rush from the hill toward the ravine and Terry's men describe finding between 28-30 plus bodies in the "ravine" that might have included the entire drainage area and not just the steep sided head of the cut.
There is still some confusion over details in the time line but Scott et al's work and the work of Michno in Lakota Noon help in reconciling the actions postulated from the archaeological finds on the battlefield.
General of the Army (Medicine Man/Chief))
I suspect that any defensive employment by line, with ends, against superior numbers of Indians was doomed to failure. We know that Custer understood that and must therefore look to ad hoc tactics and maneuver to reveal the practice of his intention. At the time that Benteen was messaged, I assume that Custer intended the five companies to fight in the valley after crossing the river. Benteen would then be arriving to Ford A, followed by McDougall. This would have concentrated the regiment in the valley, as you say, and provided a better chance of stalemate or victory or their massacre. Unfortunately, Reno cashed in that hand by retreating as Benteen arrived late. We do not know why Custer's customary zeal was absent in the valley.
As you correctly deduce, the markers do not tell the story of the battle or where the men fell. It is Owen J. Sweet's theory of the fight, marked out with markers. He explained what he did in 1890 and why. His report and description of the battle under orders issued by Brisbin.
Click the orders document to get the report. The website is being difficult with a slow feed at the moment. Sweet did his absolute best to carry out his orders.
Last Edit: May 7, 2019 20:01:53 GMT -5 by moderator
If it walks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and looks like a duck ~ it is probably a goose.