On This Day 140 Years Ago – Custer’s Last Stand!

On 25th June 1876 the Battle of the Little Bighorn began. It was an armed engagement between the combined forces of the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho Indian tribes against the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army lead by George Armstrong Custer. The battle was the most prominent action of the Great Sioux War of 1876 and lasted for two days near the Little Bighorn River in eastern Montana Territory. The battle is best known as Custer’s Last Stand but was known to the Lakota as the Battle of the Greasy Grass.

The fight was an overwhelming victory for the Indians led by Crazy Horse and Chief Gall who were inspired by the visions of Sitting Bull. The 7th Cavalry Regiment included a force of 700 men under Custer‘s command and five of it’s twelve companies were annihilated making it major defeat for the US Army. Custer was killed together with two of his brothers, a nephew, and a brother-in-law. The total US casualty count included 268 dead and 55 severely wounded including four Crow Indian scouts and two Pawnee Indian scouts. 6 of the men died later of their wounds.

The public response to the Great Sioux War varied In the immediate aftermath of the battle but later Custer and his troops became heroic figures in American history and many films were made about Custer‘s exploits of which perhaps the most famous was They Died with their Boots On starring Errol Flynn & Olivia de Havilland

A highly fictionalized account of the life of George Armstrong Custer from his arrival at West Point in 1857 to his death at the battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876.
A highly fictionalized account of the life of George Armstrong Custer from his arrival at West Point in 1857 to his death at the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876.

There was also a TV Series: The Legend of Custer. Having said that I have just discovered this complete list of cultural depictions of Custer! (PaintingsFilmsTelevisionFictional portrayals, LiteratureAlternative historyMusicVideo games.)

In fact Custer was overconfident to the point of arrogance and failed to listen to reason. During the forced march to the Valley of the Little Big Horn, as they neared the Indian encampment, the trail widened and the poles of the travois being dragged by the Indian’s ponies had formed deep ruts which gave the appearance of a ploughed field. Not only did he ignore the evidence of his own eyes but his Crow and Arikara scouts told him of the vast numbers of Lakota and Northern Cheyenne warriors who lay ahead. An Arikara called Bloody Knife even warned him that there were more of them than bullets in the belts of the troopers! It seems reasonable to conclude therefore that Custer was an arrogant, superior, obsessive egomaniac who finally over-reached himself at the Battle of the Little Bighorn having been carried too far by his unwarranted self-belief. He was then mythologised by a nation that could not blame itself by questioning his suitability for the post and could not accept such a defeat by what they regarded as a bunch of savages. Read more[…]

He was quite a character though – read this for a good laugh: 10 Things You May Not Know About George Armstrong Custer.

And finally I have to show the famous picture of Custer’s Last Stand by Edgar Samuel Paxson which removes all thoughts of the glory of battle that was subsequently portrayed in the multifarious cultural depictions of this most undeserving of all our historic heroes!

The famous picture of Custer's Last Stand by Edgar Samuel Paxson!

 

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