Battle of Little Bighorn

Background

  • Chiefs Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull refused to accept the peace of 1868
  • Gold was discovered in the Black Hills in 1874
  • The Sioux refused to sell their land in the Black Hills
  • The government ordered the Sioux onto small reservations. When the Sioux refused, they were declared hostile

1876 campaign, battle preparation

  • General Philip Sheridan was sent to defeat the Sioux
  • In June 1876 US armies, led by the generals Alfred Terry and John Gibbon, met at the Yellowstone river
  • Gibbon was set to march up the Little Bighorn River, and Lt Colonel George Custer was ordered to march round the Wolf Mountains, as part of a two-pronged attack on the Sioux camp

To the Little Bighorn

  • The Sioux had been joined by the Cheyenne and Arapaho, making an army of more than 3,000 warriors, armed with Winchester repeating rifles
  • Custer marched his men through (not round) the Wolf Mountains, to arrive at the Sioux camp first
  • Custer divided his 600 men into three groups

Custer's last stand

  • Custer sent Captain Frederick Benteen scouting, and sent Major Marcus Reno to attack the Sioux village from the south
  • Custer headed north of the village with 215 men
  • The Sioux cut off both Reno and Custer. Benteen rescued Reno, but Custer and all of his troops lost their lives
  • The Sioux withdrew when Terry and Gibbon arrived
Painting by Cassilly Adams showing Custer's Last Stand
'Custer's Last Fight'. Painting by Cassilly Adams, 1895.