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Libbie Custer was hotter than a two-dollar pistol. We think of the Victorian Age — which corresponded with the height of the epoch of the Frontier Partisans — as a period of sexual repression. Nothing demonstrates that more plainly than the heated correspondence between General George Armstrong Custer and his wife Elizabeth Bacon Custer. The young couple married on February 9,in the midst of the darkest days of the Civil War. She was a society girl from Michigan, he was the Boy General, whose flamboyant long hair, broad-brimmed hat and stellar combat record as a cavalry commander had enthralled a nation.
At the time, the United States recognized the hills as property of the Sioux Nation, under a treaty the two parties had ed six years before. The Grant administration tried to buy the hills, but the Sioux, considering them sacred ground, refused to sell; infederal troops were dispatched to force the Sioux onto reservations and pacify the Great Plains. The Battle of the Little Bighorn is one of the most studied actions in U.
But neither he nor the men in his immediate command survived the day, and an Indian counterattack would pin down seven companies of their fellow 7th Cavalrymen on a hilltop over four miles away. Of about soldiers on the hilltop, 53 were killed and 60 were wounded before the Indians ended their siege the next day. The experience of Custer and his men can be reconstructed only by inference.
This is not true of the Indian version of the battle. In his new book, The Killing of Crazy Horseveteran reporter Thomas Powers draws on these s to present a comprehensive narrative of the battle as the Indians experienced it.
The sun Hot wives Custer just cracking over the horizon that Sunday, June 25,as men and boys began taking the horses out to graze. The Hunkpapa woman known as Good White Buffalo Woman said later she had often been in camps when war was in the air, but this day was not like that. Those who saw the assembled encampment said they had never seen one larger. It had come together in March or April, even before the plains started to green up, according to the Oglala warrior He Dog. Indians arriving from distant reservations on the Missouri River had reported that soldiers were coming out to fight, so the various camps made a point of keeping close together.
There were at least six, perhaps seven, cheek by jowl, with the Cheyennes at the northern, or downriver, end near the broad ford where Medicine Tail Coulee and Muskrat Creek emptied into the Little Bighorn River. Among the Sioux, the Hunkpapas were at the southern end.
Some said the Oglala were the biggest group, the Hunkpapa next, with perhaps lodges between them. The other circles might have totaled to lodges. That would suggest as many as 6, to 7, people in all, a third of them men or boys of fighting age. Confusing the question of s was the constant arrival and departure of people from the reservations.
Those travelers—plus hunters from the camps, women out gathering roots and herbs and seekers of lost horses—were part of an informal early-warning system. There were many late risers this morning because dances the night had ended only at first light.
As the morning turned hot and sultry, large s of adults and children went swimming in the river. The water would have been cold; Black Elk, the future Oglala holy man, then 12, would remember that the river was high with snowmelt from the mountains. It was approaching midafternoon when a report arrived that U.
It made no sense to him or the other men in the big lodge. For one thing, whites never attacked in the middle of the day. Other reports followed. White Bull, a Minneconjou, was watching over horses near camp when scouts rode down from Ash Creek with news that soldiers had shot and Hot wives Custer an Indian boy at the Hot wives Custer of the creek two or three miles back. Fast Horn, an Oglala, came in to say he had been shot at by soldiers he saw near the high divide on the way over into the Rosebud valley.
Within moments shooting could be heard at the south end of camp. As warriors rushed out to confront the horse thieves, people at the southernmost end of the Hunkpapa camp were shouting alarm at the sight of approaching soldiers, first glimpsed in a line on horseback a mile or two away. Now came the first shots heard back at the council lodge, convincing Runs the Enemy to put his pipe aside at last. The family of chief Gall—two wives and their three children—were shot to death near their lodge at the edge of the camp. But now the Indians were rushing out and shooting back, making show enough to check the attack.
The whites dismounted. Every fourth man took the reins of three other horses and led them along with his own into the trees near the river. The other soldiers deployed in a skirmish line of perhaps men. It was all happening very quickly.
Custer's last stand
As the Indians came out to meet the skirmish line, straight ahead, the river was to their left, obscured by thick timber and undergrowth. To the right was open prairie rising away to the west, and beyond the end of the line, a force of mounted Indians rapidly accumulated. These warriors were swinging wide, swooping around the end of the line.
Some of the Indians, He Dog and Brave Heart among them, rode out still farther, circling a small hill behind the soldiers. By then the soldiers had begun to bend back around to face the Indians behind them. In effect the line had halted; firing was heavy and rapid, but the Indians racing their ponies were hard to hit.
Ever-growing s of men were rushing out to meet the soldiers while women and children fled. No more than 15 or 20 minutes into the fight the Indians were gaining control of the field; the soldiers were pulling back into the trees that lined the river. The pattern of the Hot wives Custer of the Little Bighorn was already established—moments of intense fighting, rapid movement, close engagement with men falling dead or wounded, followed by sudden relative quiet as the two sides organized, took stock and prepared for the next clash.
Those lusty custers — victorian ‘sexters’
As the soldiers disappeared into the trees, Indians by ones and twos cautiously went in after them while others gathered nearby. Shooting fell away but never halted. Crazy Horse himself, already renowned among the Oglala for his battle prowess, was approaching the scene of the fighting at about the same time. Crazy Horse had been swimming in the river with his friend Yellow Nose when they heard shots.
Moments later, horseless, he met Red Feather bridling his pony. It was probably during those minutes that Crazy Horse had prepared himself for war. In the emergency of the moment many men grabbed their weapons and ran toward the shooting, but not all. War was too dangerous to treat casually; a man wanted to be properly dressed and painted before charging the enemy.
Without his medicine and time for a prayer or song, he would be weak. He dusted himself and his companions with a fistful of dry earth gathered up from a hill left by a mole or gopher, a young Oglala named Spider would recall. Into his hair Crazy Horse wove some long stems of grass, according to Spider.
Others reported that Crazy Horse painted his face with hail spots and dusted his horse with the dry earth. Now, according to Spider and Standing Bear, he was ready to fight. By the time Crazy Horse caught up with his cousin Kicking Bear and Red Feather, it was hard to see the soldiers in the woods, but there was a lot of shooting; bullets clattered through tree limbs and sent leaves fluttering to the ground.
Several Indians had already been killed, and others were wounded. There was shouting and singing; some women who had stayed behind were calling out the high-pitched, ululating cry called the tremolo. Brothers-in-law, now your friends have come. Take courage.
How the battle of little bighorn was won
Would you see me taken captive? Do your best, and let us kill them all off today, that they may not trouble us anymore. All ready! Crazy Horse and all the rest now raced their horses directly into the soldiers. We got right among the soldiers and killed a lot with our bows and arrows and tomahawks. Crazy Horse was ahead of all, and he killed a lot of them with his war club.
Many of the Indians charged across the river after the soldiers and chased them as they raced up the bluffs toward a hill now known as Reno Hill, for the major who led the soldiers.
White Eagle, the son of Oglala chief Horned Horse, was killed in the chase. A soldier stopped just long enough to scalp him—one quick circle-cut with a sharp knife, then a yank on a fistful of hair to rip the skin loose. The whites had the worst of it. More than 30 were killed before they reached the top of the hill and dismounted to make a stand. Among the bodies of men and horses left on Hot wives Custer flat by the river below were two wounded Ree scouts. Some of the Indians chased them to the top of the hill, but many others, like Black Elk, lingered to pick up guns and ammunition, to pull the clothes off dead soldiers or to catch runaway horses.
Crazy Horse promptly turned back with his men toward the center of the great camp. The only Indian to offer an explanation of his abrupt withdrawal was Gall, who speculated that Crazy Horse and Crow King, a leading man of the Hunkpapa, Hot wives Custer a second attack on the camp from some point north. Gall said they had seen soldiers heading that way along the bluffs on the opposite bank. The fight along the river flat—from the first sighting of soldiers riding toward the Hunkpapa camp until the last of them crossed the river and made their way to the top of the hill—had lasted about an hour.
During that time, a second group of soldiers had shown itself at least three times on the eastern heights above the river. The first sighting came only a minute or two after the first group began to ride toward the Hunkpapa camp—about five minutes past 3. Ten minutes later, just before the first group formed a skirmish line, the second group was sighted across the river again, this time on the very hill where the first group would take shelter after their mad retreat across the river.
At about half-past 3, the second group was seen yet again on a high point above the river not quite halfway between Reno Hill and the Cheyenne village at the northern end of the big camp. By then the first group was retreating into the timber. It is likely that the second group of soldiers got their first clear view of the long sprawl of the Indian camp from this high bluff, later called Weir Point.