Not denying that Benteen was more in command than Reno was, nor that he showed himself by walking along the lines [he was not the only one to do so]. Bell called him first-rate fighter, and I wouldn't deny him that [although one might argue, not me, mind you, because frankly my dear, I don't give a damn - that he was hoping that a lucky bullet might catch him and relieve him of his horrid feeling that he should have been quicker]. A HERO was needed, and Benteen was it.
Besides which, if I called Benteen a liar, or a drunk, or a reprobate, and point out that he was lucky to not be dismissed a few years later, dc would probably join this forum just to refute the charges against Benteen, and point out that his pallbearers were all illustrious civic leaders and tycoons [but no military types - does anyone know if any of the old Seventh attended the funeral? Does anyone care?], and state that Benteen would have adjusted his pistol and called me out, in which case, he would have lived for another 2/5 of a second.
Last Edit: Mar 2, 2009 13:28:29 GMT -5 by biggordie
Post by thehighwayman on Mar 2, 2009 14:02:29 GMT -5
First, I had hoped we could ‘rattle around’ in all their heads, and of course you can love or hate anyone you choose. When you say you never said anything about Reno, understand that my second posting today, with thoughts about him, wasn’t directed to you if that’s what you meant by that remark.
None of these guys were angels and none of them had horns. Each had much that spoke for them and calls for us to respect, and they had their miserable failings as well. How and why they came to find themselves in the spot they were in is as intriguing to me as what they did when they were hip deep in it. There’s much to learn for me or anyone who happens to be interested.
If this thread is to devolve into the same old same old of simply throwing rocks back and forth, and is open only to those who have the answers already, and not to those who would wish to learn more, then I no longer have any interest it. Or quite frankly, have a place at the table.
Me too, Michael, if you thought that was what I was doing - I merely get tired of the redoubtable Benteen waltz from time to time.
Now go on ahead forward and proceed, as they say on CNN. Maybe you can get inside Benteen's head a bit more. Aside from everyone more or less agreeing that he was a "complicated man," as opposed, I guess, to those of us who are less complicated and just, well, ordinary - I think he would be a good subject for analysis [not necessarily THAT kind], as to possible motives and etc.
I find the subject sort of fascinating, although, as you probably know by now, I am more of a nuts and bolts kind of guy, more interested in what happened, and what people did, than in ascribing motives to them.
I think that you did a great job of getting inside Custer's head, so I'll look forward to seeing what you make of the other principals - and please don't forget Terry, Gibbon and Brisbin*, the latter of whom seems to me to be another head case, if there ever was one. And speaking of liars..............
Gassy Jimbo to his pals
Last Edit: Mar 2, 2009 18:25:12 GMT -5 by biggordie
Post by thehighwayman on Mar 2, 2009 19:28:48 GMT -5
Apologies are mine to make in that my last posting came across as something of an over reaction. By throwing rocks I simply meant that the Custer people, the Reno people and the Benteen people normally attack whichever of the three they feel is at fault for what happened, and in defense of another. Little understanding ever comes of it, while I admit to being under-read on this subject to do any more then try and figure it out - with the help of all of you. I would prefer to discuss the causes of the decisions each made. Personality traits enter into the figuring to an extent, but there were bigger things at work as well.
Each of the three was interacting with a determined foe, and in this case one that came to the fight with something that those U.S. officers hadn’t encountered before, and that hadn’t been reckoned into their equation. No small cause for why each did what he did in response. Right, wrong, good or bad. Like bc said, “..every military decision can be militarily justified…” and who of us hasn’t done something we wish we could do over again. Sometimes you can, but most times you have to live with it and its results.
There are plenty of reasons to praise each or to think otherwise of them, but no fair reason (that I’ve found yet) to condemn any of them completely. I firmly believe that each did what he thought was, if not entirely correct, to right thing to do or the best option available as circumstances unfolded before them. Fred is also correct about overly complicating this thing. I can’t think of many episodes in our military history that have been so overly analyzed and, frankly, thoroughly politicized as has this one.
Clair presented a good outline of factors to assess and to explore as to how they affected our three heroes/villains and what they did. Doesn’t matter to me which of them is diminished or enhanced through an examination. Honestly speaking, they are vets too and for that I love each of them in a way.
Oh, and BTW, the ‘toughest man’ or however it was termed about Benteen wasn’t said by Benteen (I can’t remember who did make that judgment) but, as I recall, it was in the context of his physical constitution and stamina, rather than his disciplinary methods or skills at running his company.
The "ad infinitum" comment came on 3 Feb 79, in response to a question from Reno or his counsel. I doubt, considering the photo taken of Benteen and Lyman Gilbert, that Benteen was interested in indulging his talent for sarcasim at that moment.
The recorder was apparently surprised by this statement. Though he resumed questioning Benteen after the Reno examination, Lee did not refer to the "ad Infinitum remark" that day. However on the next day he went back to the remark. Lee, in effect, gave Benteen a chance to modify, soften, or correct his remark. Benteen said, "That is the way I would like to have it, that is the way I understood it. I understood it as a senseless order." The trouble was Lee had read Benteen's report. He may not have had it handy on 4 Feb, but when he made his final statement, Lee did have it and did quote it. In the last paragraph dealing with the facts of the battle, in fact in the last sentences, Lee quoted from Benteen's report. That quote contradicted the "ad infinitum" statement as well as Benteen's statement that he thought he was in disobedience of his orders when he returned to the trail.
If Custer had done that, there is no doubt the word that would have been trowelled onto name.
If we can rattle around in Custer's head, we can spend a little time in Benteen's.
I said nothing about Reno.
Whose 1st Sgt got up the Promotion Petition" (even though he and certainly his captain knew that the promotions were made by seniority)? Who thinks that the petition was circulated without Benteen knowing it. Whose 1st Sgt became Sgt Maj?
Where is the direct evidence that Elliott's fate preyed on the minds of the men of the 7th Cavalry before the night of 25 - 26 Jun.
Who said Benteen was known as the "toughest" officer in the Army? According to his own statement (I don't believe him here either) men who had been in his company for 7 months were not well trained. What kind of soldiering was that? Was he tough or just an old softy.
Ryan was not Benteen's 1st Sgt.
As for what Benteen did after making sure that Reno would take the responsibility, he did well. He led and inspired the defence. Officers and men admired him for that.
If some can admire and respect Benteen, I can hate him.
Fair enough and we're all subject to change if we like. I just don't beleive that Benteen was using the exact words of the order. It was a waste of time in hindsight for sure and depending how many different ridges you cross would seem "ad infinitum" when you realise you should be somewhere else.
Hopefully what we are trying to get at for Benteen is at what point did he make the decision to return and was it to soon, to late, or appropriate and how did his personality effect his decision.
My take is that Benteen exaggerates to emphasize a point. Such as stating he now thinks there were 9,000 Indians against Custer. I think the valley hunting comment meant he was assigned something that kept him out of the battle when it mattered most during first contact.
I am not sure where you find the original source statements of what he was thinking and his thoughts on Elliott.
If I offended anyone then I apologize. It was not my intent. The first part was only jest since rch made it clear how he felt. The middle is my opinion and subject to change. The last statement is more out of shock since I had never read that Benteen did not care about Elliott. I thought everyone liked him and that was the tragedy.
I think that a cavalry officer goes as slow as his mission allows him, in order to preserve horse flesh. That would be Benteen's main motivation, I think, as a professional.
During the scout, the flankers are going pell mel all over the place, and can be replaced as necessary as they get tired. The main column moves at a slow and steady pace, picking the easiest terrain...they are just supports. The main column of twos, with the guidon, isn't scouting anything, itself.
Benteen and his orderly, and probably a small party...maybe an officer, the 1SG, or a trumpeter, are riding slower and faster as necessary between the scouts and the main column as required to maintain SA (situational awareness) of both.
In this case, Benteen must go fast enough to stay on the left flank of, and in easy communication with, the rest of the regiment. He isn't on an independent mission, as some portray...his job is to guard the left flank of the regiment, and rejoin it as necessary. Note that from the very beginning, Custer made it clear that Benteen was eventually to rejoin the rest of the regiment. It is only a question of timing.
An officer, when he gets a mission, determines his "specified," and his "implied" tasks. Specified tasks are laid out, either by the commander, or are specified by the title of the mission he is given. A "flank guard" or a "recon" has specified tasks by doctrine, as does an "advance guard" (like never lose contact with the enemy...grrrr). The officer has to take these specified tasks and figure out how they apply to his situation.
So Benteen is to guard the flank, and find any Indians hidden to the left of the regiment, and then rejoin the regiment. He has to decide what route to take, how many ridges/valleys to recon, and what pace to set to keep up with the regiment.
An implied task is that he maintains contact with the main body...Reno's and Custer's battalions. He always has to know where they are. Does he do this?
Is the pitch into anything he finds part of the order?
He does not maintain communication but in the type of terrain is it possible. Does Custer expect it given his direction of travel. I think there was a general implication that they were there first to prevent escape and then engage. Benteen following Terry's desires through Custer.
So when is relating distances his distance traveled is greater then the linear route of the main part of the battalion and less than the scouts.
Is Benteen all ready predisposed mentally when Custer gives him the initial order?
I. "Ad infinitum" was not in his actual orders. Benteen used the term at the RCOI to describe how he supposedly interpreted his orders. I don't think he really interpreted those orders that way. For instance, if Benteen had continued his valley hunting he would have eventually reached the LBH. He would have recognized it as a significant stream and a significant valley and then turned toward Custer.
As far as the actual decisions Benteen made "valley hunting" as he described it played no part. It was the absence of Indians in the direction he was going that caused his turn back to the trail.
In his report, Benteen expressly stated that Custer gave him the option to return to the trail if he thought there were no Indians in the direction he was going.
Benteen refusal to inform the RCOI of that option, leads to a misunderstanding of his actual orders, of his own decision making, and of Custer's decision making.
2. While in a very general way Benteen was guarding Custer's left by his presence, that was not part of his orders. Benteen's mission was offensive in nature. Also Custer sent no battalion to guard his right.
3. I think Custer's sent Benteen to the left for the same reason Custer wanted Varnum to check out every Indian trail he came across on the march up the Rosebud. Custer wanted to force every Indian he could find toward the LBH or fight them.
btw, when I sometimes call Benteen's mission a "flank guard" I mean in the doctrinal sense, not in the tactical sense of "guarding" something. It is simply the flank version of the "advance guard."
In this respect, Benteen's mission was very similar to Reno's...they were to sweep ahead and dive into (i.e.'fix' or 'drive') any Natives they ran across. Benteen was on the left, where there were possible locations of villages, and Reno was driving down the main valley.
I suppose Custer had no reason to believe Native villages would be to the right, so he must have felt there was no reason to send a force that way.
Of course, once at the LBH, he sent his whole main body that way. So now you have a Mongolian Hunt: Benteen driving in the left, Reno driving up the center, and Custer driving around the right.
When the actual target is found more to the right, this leaves Benteen behind, Reno in the thick of things, and Custer not able to get around the right fast enough for Reno's willpower to hold out.
Last Edit: Mar 4, 2009 15:47:10 GMT -5 by biggordie