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Battle of the Little Bighorn

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  • Officer of Engineers
    replied
    Anything is possible but a hell of a lot of unknowns. It really depends on how shrewd and discipline Custer would have been during battle. Crazy Horse was not above a feint retreat in which case 7Cav would have met the same fate. If Custer could have seen the trap, then a disciplined firing line would have forced a First Nations retreat. It could be also that both sides lost discipline and become a free for all.

    Also, does Custer keep a reserve this time or he brings the entire line forward? I really cannot answer that question because a lot depends on the actions and reactions by both sides. Also, keep in mind that this was a meeting engagement. Neither side had anything thought up that dealt with the ground realities.

    However, I will say that the odds are better that 7Cav would have survived if they had stayed together but I would not bet the house on those odds.

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  • Monash
    replied
    Noted. I can certainly see why the battalion form the 2nd would have been crucial. I can also see why 'Keeping 7Cav together would have denied Custer his OPOBJ and allow an escape route for the First Nations' as OOE commented would have had to be abandoned as a viable option. Something he would have been loath to do since it would have meant he woudn't get the credit for a decisive victory which he seems to have wanted.

    My thinking was simply that if he had listened to his scouts and formed the view that his original plan (as noted by OOE) was now impractical - being there were simply too many combatants for him to corral by dividing his forces. Could he have still proceeded to advance as a single column with a view to at least ascertaining what he was facing and gotten out again with most of his force intact?

    I can see there was no way for him to defeat the forces opposing him with what he had available. But an appreciation of the real situation would have been highly valuable to all the US forces then deployed in the field.

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  • Albany Rifles
    replied
    Originally posted by WABs_OOE View Post
    Keeping 7Cav together would have denied Custer his OPOBJ and allow an escape route for the First Nations.

    But you have not noticed a very primary Custer failing - no reserves.
    Hence why that battalion from the 2nd Cavalry could have been crucial.

    He forgot the lessons he learned in the Civil War....after Travillian Station...sometimes called his First LAst Stand...he maintained a reserve for the rest of the war. He often used them brilliantly kater to turn a victory into a rout.

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  • Officer of Engineers
    replied
    Keeping 7Cav together would have denied Custer his OPOBJ and allow an escape route for the First Nations.

    But you have not noticed a very primary Custer failing - no reserves.

    Leave a comment:


  • Monash
    replied
    Thanks for the insights Gentlemen. They sought of reinforce the opinion I had formed already which is that Custer's preconceptions/ambition clouded his judgement on the day. I would still like to know if you think he could have salvaged something from the battle if he hadn't divided his command the way he did. As I see it (based on my sources to date) Custer saw the campaign as an opportunity to steal the thunder of all the other commanders then in the field and snatch whatever glory there was to be had for himself. Which in turn lead to to ignore the intelligence provided by his scouts regarding the size of the force he was facing.

    It also meant he formulated a 'plan' that (in his mind at least) would let him achieve a decisive victory using only the forces immediately under his command. I.E. 'corral' the native tribes who had left the reservation by sweeping in from all sides and capturing the non-combatants (woman and children) thereby forcing the warriors to surrender.

    Granted he was right to strike off the use of artillery or gatling guns because given the terrain and the adversary he was facing they would have slowed him down too much but refusing the offer of cavalry reinforcements!!!

    But do either you have an opinion as to whether he could have saved something from the situation if he hadn't divided his forces at the time and pace he did and instead had chosen to keep all companies together, then advanced as a single column into the encounter? My best guess is that the 7th cavalry per se would have been able to withdraw as a cohesive unit - with Custer's reputation in tatters (assuming he survived). Or would it have meant dooming most if not all of the 7ths Calvary to death?

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  • Albany Rifles
    replied
    I see 2 major errors which doomed Custer.

    1. Poor reconnaissance

    2. Refusal of reinforcement.

    Custer did a poor job doing a thorough recon and, as a result, he grossly underestimated the force he was getting ready to attack. Additionally, this reconnaissance failure extended to his being completely unaware that the reservation Indians had been joined by the open range Indians. He never believed he was going to fight more than 800+ braves.

    Custer turned down the offer of General Terry, Department Commander, of a battalion of the 2nd Cavalry. The additional 300+ troopers could have been a game changer. He brushed off the aid saying the 7th could handle anything.

    I see zero issue with turning down the Gatling Guns...they would have slowed him down and his one hope was speed.


    FYI, in college in our dumpy old house we had the Anheuser-Busch commissioned Otto Becker a lithograph painting of Custer's Last Fight. They graced many a barroom across America. We used to break out BB guns and help General Custer out after a few beers.

    Had to replaster the wall by the end of the year.
    Last edited by Albany Rifles; 19 Oct 20,, 16:51.

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  • Officer of Engineers
    replied
    Custer was outmanned, outgunned, outmanuvered, outground, and out-thought, and out-commanded. It wasn't 2500 warriors against his one single battalion. It was 2500 warriors against one single company. His other two companies he sent to attack from the north while he attacked with one company from the south. Those two companies were driven off. Instead of running away like his other two comapnies, Custer decided to make a stand against the best light calvary in North America. That decision doomed his force.

    Leave a comment:


  • Monash
    replied
    Originally posted by tbm3fan View Post
    The use of "enemy" seems way out of place here considering that the Indians were protecting their native lands. If there was an enemy it would be the invading force which happened to be the white man. I tend to nitpick the tiny details.

    Anyway, carry on...
    I was the term strictly in a military context, as in an opponent with whom you are engaged in combat. No moral judgements implied.

    Leave a comment:


  • tbm3fan
    replied
    The use of "enemy" seems way out of place here considering that the Indians were protecting their native lands. If there was an enemy it would be the invading force which happened to be the white man. I tend to nitpick the tiny details.

    Anyway, carry on...

    Leave a comment:


  • Monash
    started a topic Battle of the Little Bighorn

    Battle of the Little Bighorn

    OK, I've been doing a little re-reading on this famous battle and I though I'd ask a question and get some feedback. This may have been asked before BTW but if so I couldn't find it. Also I'm not looking for controversy, just some basic assessments/opinions from people who are likely to be far more knowledgeable on the topic than me. Finally if there a pointers to a good modern text on the topic I'd be grateful. Now to the specific question.

    Given a starting scenario where Custer had listened to the advice of his scouts about the potential size of the force he was facing could he have retained the 7th cavalry as a force in being (is that the correct term?) at the end of the fight if they had stayed concentrated in one (heavily screened) column and then advanced into contact with the enemy? Or alternatively would it have made no real difference to the outcome - given the prevailing numbers, terrain, weapons and other relevant factors?

    Note 1: This doesn't mean he could still have successfully achieved his initial objective of securing non-combatants at the campsite and forcing the tribes to surrender. Instead the question is could he have advanced into the battle with only those forces immediately available to him at the start of the original battle (no reinforcements, no gatling guns, no artillery etc ) have been fully engaged by enemy and then have successfully withdrawn once engaged with most of his force intact?

    Note 2; The scenario also assumes the same number of native American warriors (no-more, no less) were deployed, that they were fighting under the same commanders etc AND his opponents were reasonably determined to prevent any withdrawal?
    Last edited by Monash; 10 Oct 20,, 08:43.
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