History for the Rest of Us

Battle of Little Bighorn

Battle of Little Bighorn

Jun 26, 2012

The Battle of Little Bighorn (Custer’s Last Stand, or the Battle of the Greasy Grass) took place on June 25-26, 1876. The battle was the most famous of the Great Sioux War of 1876. Over 250 U.S. soldiers died in the battle and 55 were injured. Premonition’s of Sitting Bull In 1875 Sitting Bull, a Lakota Sioux holy man, entered camp with a brilliantly painted horse given him by the Cheyenne holy man White Bull, and said, “The Great Spirit has given our enemies to us. We are to destroy them. We do not know who they are. They may be soldiers.” The following year, after emerging from a trance induced by self-torture, he would have a second vision in which he saw soldiers falling into his camp like grasshoppers from the sky. Conflicting Interests The Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne Indians had formed an alliance and defiantly left their reservations in protest of the continued intrusions of the white men into the Black Hills. Wishing to force the Indians back to their reservations, the U.S. Army devised an approach with three columns converging on June 26th or 27th somewhere near the Bighorn and Little Bighorn rivers where the Indian encampments were most likely to be. Battle Plans The plans began to unravel when Brigadier General George Crook’s column was defeated in the Battle of Rosebud and were forced to regroup. Unaware of that battle, the other two columns continued forward with their part of the plan. Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer was to begin a reconnaissance and pursuit along the Rosebud River, and he was given the prerogative to ‘depart’ from orders if there was ‘sufficient reason’. Custer’s scouts reported seeing an extensive herd of ponies and signs of a village on the morning of June 25th. Custer considered making a surprise attack the following day, but after receiving a report that hostile Indians had discovered the trail of his troops, he was fearful of losing the element of surprise. Custer determined that an attack on the village needed to be made without delay. Custer divided the 31 officers and 566 enlisted men under his command into three battalions. One was led by Major...