posted on Mar, 16 2005 @ 04:57 PM
Now this is a topic on which I can speak.
As much of a conspiracy theorist as I may be, and as much as I loathe being the voice of "party-line doctrine," I have to come to the defense of the
historical record in the matter of Custer (not Custard) and the battle of the Little Big Horn.
To take the allegations point by point:
1.) Grant was not by nature a vindictive man, but he did have a beef with Custer and disliked being challenged by subordinates. His solution was not
to send Custer on a suicide mission, but rather to suspend the man from active duty with the 7th Cavalry in any capacity. It was only due to the
efforts of Generals Sheridan and Terry (to whom Custer personally pleaded for the chance to participate in the campaign) that Custer was reinstated at
all. Terry felt that the 7th would be better served with Custer in command than Major Reno, whose record was not as distinguished.
2.) Custer himself turned down the offer of Gatling guns and other artillery pieces. It was his experience that Indian battles depended primarily
upon speed - speed of march, and speed of deployment once the camp was found. Having the guns would have slowed the column down, and that was
something Custer did not want. He also turned down the loan of several companies from the 2nd Cavalry. Why? Because he wanted to win a great
victory with the 7th and the 7th alone, thus winning his way out of Grant's doghouse.
3.) Major Reno and Captain Benteen (neither of whom were generals, even during the Civil War) were the commanders of the other two columns. Benteen
was ordered to explore to the left of the advance, so that he would be in position to herd the Indians back into Custer if they should scatter (which
they ALWAYS had before). Reno was to attack at one end of the camp, while Custer would attack at the other end of the camp, and they would meet in
the middle. Reno's attack stalled, mainly because they lost momentum. They came under fire and halted, forming skirmish lines and fighting as
dismounted infantry, which is not the way that cavalry is designed to fight in the first place. They got turned back and pinned on what is now called
Reno Hill. Benteen, on receiving the order to come up and aid Custer, hit Reno's position first. Perhaps he saw that Reno's men were in trouble
and decided to stay, or perhaps he felt that there were too many Indians to warrant going further, but in all events, he stayed on the hill with Reno.
3.) Reno's comment to the effect that he was sure Custer would be able to handle the situation has always sounded like a rationalization to me. The
truth was that Reno's confidence was shattered and he was not coming off that hill until he was rescued. In fact, he was hoping that Custer would
return to rescue HIM.
4.) Custer's men were outgunned, and largely through the efforts of the Indian Agency Custer himself had challenged before the battle. Conspiracy?
Probably not - just criminal stupidity on the part of government, with one bureau providing arms to hostiles that are better than the arms provided to
the government's own troops.
5.) Reno and Benteen were not promoted after the Little Big Horn affair. In fact, the careers of both men were forever marred, and Libby Custer
publically charged them both with cowardice. The Army found them innocent, but hardly worthy of commendations for their actions.
6.) Custer's original orders were to wait for two other columns of troops to arrive, and the three mini-armies would converge on the camp. Being
brave to the point of foolhardiness, Custer outrode the rest of Terry's column, and General Crook's column, coming from the south, was turned back
in a minor fracas with the Indians. So Custer was alone because he had outrun his support. When it was discovered that Indians had found a couple of
boxes of food the column had dropped while marching all night, Custer decided that the Indians knew they were there, and that he had to attack
immediately without waiting for help.
Reno lost his nerve, Benteen decided to shore up Reno's defenses instead of actively looking for Custer, and everybody truly believed that brave, mad
Custer was out winning another battle and heaping the glory on himself. Was there incompetence and perhaps some cowardice at work, yes. But I doubt
a conspiracy to kill Old Yellow Hair.