Godfrey's Lightning Jul 14, 2010 16:23:32 GMT -5
Post by keogh on Jul 14, 2010 16:23:32 GMT -5
Jul 13, 2010 11:49:05 GMT -5 @fred said:
As for Cedar Coulee... this route wasn't a choice and the difficulty in negotiating it was certainly not anticipated. The terrain dictated the command's route.
If you were a commander and you were climbing the hillsides as was Custer, you would seek a route that would bring you the most intel from the position he was in. You would seek to get as clear a picture of the village and a route that would give you the best view of your troops in the valley, along with their progress. That route would be close rather than high. At 3411, Custer could get an extremely good view of the valley below and he could see Reno's men.
I agree with your line of thought here Fred. I think 3411 was a tempting observation point for Custer and certainly close enough for him to reach after his initial view from atop Sharpshooters Ridge. From SSR, Custer could have reached 3411 in less than a minute. The important thing to remember is that (at least according to my model) Custers command would have been halted at the southern base of SSR with part of his command just west of SSR and part of the command just east of SSR (keeping in mind that his command was in column formation and riding with all 5 companies abreast of each other.)
Where do you go from there? The terrain dictates Cedar Coulee... it almost grabs you by the hand and guides you down there. The fact that it turned out to be a less than ideal route was only discovered after the men had already entered its course. In all likelihood, Custer had to change his formation from a column - of - fours to one of twos, and I have no objection to theories that say he would have to climb its sides and run along the top of it.
If my model is correct, and Custer's 5 companies were halted at the southern base of SSR with 5 companies abreast of each other, then the terrain would dictate the fastest and easiest route to MTC on the easy and open route just east of SSR (Godfrey's/Gordie's Gulch). Custer would have seen this once he rode to the top of SSR (which I believe he would do before going to 3411). From the top of SSR, Custer would have had his first view into the valley. From this position, he would have also been in an excellent position to view Benteen & the pack train's dust back on Ash Creek, as well as the best route to MTC (you can see right down into Cedar Coulee with all of its obstructions from atop SSR---it is from this position that Custer would have realized the faster route to MTC would be just east of SSR.) Finally, from atop SSR, Custer would have noticed 3411 and rode over to the bluffs for a closer view of the valley. This would have entailed no more than a minute of his time to traverse the 300 yards or so to get a better view.
Now, if Custer's entire command had already been brought into the narrow space of land between 3411 and SSR, then Cedar Coulee would be the closest avenue to ride down to MTC. However, if Custer's 5 companies had stopped just south of SSR and were still standing 5 companies abreast of each other, then Custer would have recognized (as any experienced horseman would) that the fastest way to MTC would be up and over SSR on its eastern slope. By doing this he would have no need to waste time changing formation into column of two's to negotiate a narrow defile.
I think the whole key to the issue is where you have Custer halting. If his command halted at the base of SSR, then half of his command was already on the east side of SSR. He needed only to bring Yate's battalion up and over the hill (witnessed by Varnum in the valley when he spotted the Grey Horse troop traversing the summit of SSR). If you have Custer surmounting SSR first (before going to 3411) then he would have clearly seen the futility of choosing Cedar Coulee over Gordie's Gulch. Custer was a master of reading the land nearly as well as his own scouts.
In any event, it is not really such an important issue, as it does not really affect any part of the battle or seriously account for any great delay of time either way. It is just one of those issues that we get so easily bogged down on....part of the minutiae of this fascinating battle.
However the route took them, it had to have been a huge decrease in speed and I think Britt's idea of a possible brief halt to re-cinch has some merit.
But again... thanks for the compliments.
But again... thanks for the compliments.
If Gordie's Gulch was the route, there would have been no real delay in speed, nor any change in formation. About 3/4 of the way down you can easily cut over and into the mouth of Cedar Coulee as it opens into MTC., thus it might even be safe to say that they started down east of SSR and ended up in Cedar Coulee before reaching MTC. Now, how's that for minutiae? lol.
BTW, I also agree with bc that they stopped to cinch up and load their weapons upon reaching MTC.