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Custer's Last Stand


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#1 John Dudek

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Posted 08 May 2008 - 08:33 PM

Just when you think that you've read all there is about the subject, it turns out that there was one actual, known human survivor from the five Companies of the Seventh Cavalry who rode with Custer to their deaths at the Little Big Horn.

HistoryNet » Survivor Frank Finkel’s Lasting Stand

#2 John Dudek

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 04:30 AM

Doesn't anyone here ever talk about Custer's Last Stand?

#3 Tomcat

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 06:43 AM

Who lol.
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#4 Za Rodinu

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 06:44 AM

I dunno, what other stands did he do?

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#5 Skipper

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 07:33 AM

Interesting, I always though the only survivor was a horse.

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#6 JeffinMNUSA

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 08:26 AM

Skip;
You're right-a horse. Custer fired his apprehensive Crow guides just before attacking and they survived-but you can't call these lucky firees as "survivors of the battle". I was looking down that draw when we went and it's wide open shooting gallery of a hill towards the Little Bighorn River that just goes on and on and on... "I wouldn't want to attack those woods on horse if I was reasonably certain that there was an old lady's knitting circle down there with firearms" I joked to the wife (The wife was in no joking mood as she later said the Custer battlefield was one of the spookiest places she has ever been). But Custer attacked down that draw against the advice of his guides, at a massively numerically superior foe, after splitting his forces, and possibly even after watching Reno being routed-and it's possible he knew about those Winchester rifles the Lakota had been buying. What was he thinking? The Little Bighorn is a great place to visit and wrestle with the mystery. DSC00068 pictures from west photos on webshots
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#7 Skipper

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 09:13 AM

great pictures! I remember reading that the horse was venerated almost as a saint and got a luxiourious stable and lived the rest of his life as a "King"

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#8 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 01:33 PM

Doesn't anyone here ever talk about Custer's Last Stand?


Not exactly a popular subject in the scheme of things.
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#9 C.Evans

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Posted 18 June 2008 - 06:10 PM

It's been talked about from time-to-time here. I remember starting a thread which talked about this about 2-4 years or so ago. This had to do with that Documentary series that first the History Channel had and then the Learninig Channel aired. I can't remember its exact title but this series took you through famous battles whose facts were either wrong from the get go-and or through the years-were somehow changed. Anyway, this documentary series did several subjects that I watch--all using modern Archeology (SP?) techniques in order to ""see"' what ""really"" happened.

One show I remember watching, was about who shot down the Red Baron. Another had to do with the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor etc. Well, the particular program im talking about was to do with Custers Last Stand. It was amazing at what was discovered on the battlefield sites. The scientific teams logged into a computer-which fed to a satalite, and they were able to mark down where the fighting took place.

They did this by types of ammo casings found and were able to determine the movements of a number of Soldiers and Indians. Anyway, I know that topic was discussed on this site sometime ago.

Also, WELCOME BACK JOHN!!!
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#10 T. A. Gardner

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 03:07 AM

It is neat to know that there actually was a survivor. But, Custer's part of the battle was little more than a rout followed by a massacre that can hardly be described as a military action.

#11 JCFalkenbergIII

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 03:22 AM

I remember a joke about Custer. What were his famous last words? "Damn that a lot of Indians!".
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#12 JeffinMNUSA

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 12:20 PM

A military action allright-and if Custer was anything but the most towering of egomaniacs his last words would have to have been "S&*^&! I &%^$ed UP!!" So was it an ambush set up by Crazy Horse? Or did the situation just happen that way? My thoughts after fresh back from the site; The one surprise was the firing lines the Lakota/Cheyenne threw up on ridges around Custer's postitions so as to pepper him at range leaving one to wonder if Crazy Horse had heard about "fixing the enemy.". This was basically a modern firefight and if there were any "arrows and tomahawks" employed it was probably in Gall's final flanking attack-if at all. From start to finish the Battle lasted on half hour and ended with a lopsided Lakota/Cheyenne victory. So what was Custer thinking when he ordered the charge across an open field against a foe who as it turned out possessed superior firepower? It was certainly a massive mistake on his part and the old "hey diddle diddle right up the middle!" plan was NOT the way to go! If he had brought the 2 Gatling guns could Custer have prevailed? Looking over the field and thinking on things I guessed not-the Indians made good use of cover, had some well placed firing lines, were mostly armed with firearms themselves some of which were superior to the troopers' ; and the best the Gatlings could have done is possibly staved off annihilation. Possibly.
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#13 Falcon Jun

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 02:50 PM

Custer divided his unit when he was facing a force superior in number. In the book he wrote (My Life in the Plains) he used this tactic of dividing his forces when he attacked an Indian camp. He succeeded. However, at Big Horn, he underestimated the force he was facing. He thought he could do it again. That was a recipe for disaster.

#14 JeffinMNUSA

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Posted 19 June 2008 - 04:28 PM

Falcon Jun;
Custer also underestimated Crazy Horse. The Lakota Chief had lured US Calvalry into vulnerable positions and ambushed them before-when he was a minor Chief during the Red Cloud War with the Fetterman party. By Little Bighorn Crazy Horse's warriors were all armed with firearms, he was in perfect ambush position, and he had an overconfident opponant, and he had learned much. I think that even if Custer had come with all his forces they too would have died-or at least been bloodily repulsed- on that "perfect shooting gallery" of a hillside rolling downwards towards the Little Bighorn River.
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#15 Hufflepuff

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Posted 22 June 2008 - 12:10 AM

It is neat to know that there actually was a survivor. But, Custer's part of the battle was little more than a rout followed by a massacre that can hardly be described as a military action.


True. there was no 'last stand,' in the strictest term. Custer and his men were simply shot down while trying to run away. Recent archeological evidence relvealed that the last soldiers to die in the battle were killed at deep ravine, away from 'last stand hill.'

I would like to visit the battlefield; my history teacher has been there and says it was really interesting.

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#16 Falcon Jun

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Posted 26 June 2008 - 09:12 AM

Falcon Jun;
Custer also underestimated Crazy Horse. The Lakota Chief had lured US Calvalry into vulnerable positions and ambushed them before-when he was a minor Chief during the Red Cloud War with the Fetterman party. By Little Bighorn Crazy Horse's warriors were all armed with firearms, he was in perfect ambush position, and he had an overconfident opponant, and he had learned much. I think that even if Custer had come with all his forces they too would have died-or at least been bloodily repulsed- on that "perfect shooting gallery" of a hillside rolling downwards towards the Little Bighorn River.
JeffinMNUSA


I agree with you. If Custer had not divided his unit, he and his unit might have survived. Custer's casualties would've been terrible, though.
If I recall correctly what I've read, Custer was also running out of ammo. His last message to his supply train was "Bring packs," I think. Essentially, Custer's plan was send a small unit out for a hit and run, use this as a bait while his larger unit moved to a vantage point to attack the force that his bait lured. Once his trap is set, the unit that was bait would turn and complete the trap. Custer had a good idea, however, as you've said, Crazy Horse was a veteran and was ready for Custer.

Edited by Falcon Jun, 26 June 2008 - 09:13 AM.
corrected grammatical error


#17 John Dudek

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Posted 28 June 2008 - 12:58 AM

Thankyou for all of your imput and also for the "welcome back!" I've spent some time on this Little Bighorn Site: Little Big Horn Associates Message Board - Home

and have found out from a number of the historians there that Custer's battle plan was not all that flawed afterall. Such cavalry tactics used against overwhelming odds had worked remarkably well on a number of other occasions against the Plains Indians in years past. Had all of Custer's Officers followed his orders to the letter, Custer and the 7th Cavalry could very well have won the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Some facinating stuff!

#18 skunk works

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Posted 29 June 2008 - 06:24 PM

I've been there twice, and I saw no place to hide.
The guy who gave the tour (when I was little) said after the troopers dismounted the Indian Nations just lobbed (umpteen) thousands of arrows over the small hills to eradicate the remainder of the troops.
The second time I went was with two Native American friends. Neither had any Love for George, and I bought a T-Shirt that had five Indians in a circle looking down and read "Custer's last vision" at the Pow Wow.
I can see how someone could get away during this (non-visual) barrage.
I did always think only one wounded horse survived.

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#19 John Dudek

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Posted 30 June 2008 - 12:06 AM

Given that Finkel's handwriting on his Army Induction papers in 1872 matched with the handwriting samples taken much later in life, was one of the biggest bits of confirming evidence for me. His knowledge of how the battle had exactly proceded was another. Not many people in late 19th century America would be privy to that information, or would have cared to know about it, had they been so. His bullet wounds are another determiner. I wonder if the Henry Rifle slug that was removed from his side, is still in the hands of some historian or museum. It could be compared with rifling of a number of other rifle bullets taken from the LBH battle site.

#20 Falcon Jun

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Posted 08 July 2008 - 06:43 AM

Thankyou for all of your imput and also for the "welcome back!" I've spent some time on this Little Bighorn Site: Little Big Horn Associates Message Board - Home

and have found out from a number of the historians there that Custer's battle plan was not all that flawed afterall. Such cavalry tactics used against overwhelming odds had worked remarkably well on a number of other occasions against the Plains Indians in years past. Had all of Custer's Officers followed his orders to the letter, Custer and the 7th Cavalry could very well have won the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Some facinating stuff!


Well, one thing I can say. What worked before might not work again, especially against a foe that has dealt with such tactics before.

#21 brndirt1

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Posted 10 July 2008 - 01:20 AM

the LBH is a common subject around here (Billings MT), and until the USDA changed the rules on pit roasted Bison (can't do it that way anymore), I used to go out ever year. Anyhoo, check this stuff out.

Here is an article, about the Montana Column, I will add it here.

Pretty interesting and has a reasonable map included:

http://www.billingsgazette.net/articles/2008/06/22/news/state/18-cavalarygroup.txt

This column departed from Ft. Shaw (named in honor of Robert Gould Shaw of the Mass. black troops), but at that time I don't believe any of their group were "Buffalo Soldiers". They apparently didn't transfer to the territories until Post LBH.


The three Native American tribes, the Sioux, Arapaho and Cheyenne most likely had atotal number of on the LBH of about 6,000 persons of whom 75% would be women, kids and the elderly. Which probably made the odds in favor of the tribes (at best) 2.5 to 1. So while the troopers were outnumbered in the total, it was a combination of mis-management and tactics (which had been successful in the past), and perhaps a lack of time with the new "Trapdoor" Springfield.

The Ordnance Board testing which took place between 1871 and '73 was quite extensive and revealing. The way they tested the 89 rifles and carbines offered up would have the PETA people in a conniption fit today. They would tether animals like cows, horses, elk, bison, sheep, and mules at the firing range and count the number of shots it took to down each animal from different ranges with body shots using different weapons.

There were four primary contenders in the end; Ward-Burton's bolt action, Springfield's "Trapdoor", the Remington "rolling block", and the Sharps with its vertically sliding breech block. There were also entries from Peabody, Spencer, Freeman, Winchester, Elliot and even the Mauser brothers. Unfortunately the Spencer company had gone out of business shortly beforehand, which made their competition rather silly. But, since the Cavalry was already armed with Spencers (that is what the 7th traded in just before the LBH battle), they were included in the tests.

The failure of the repeating rifles and carbines to be adopted was actually a combination of things (ironically Major Reno sat on the board which adopted the Springfield). The Spencer with its seven shot gravity feed buttstock magazine could only equal the rapidity of fire of the "Trapdoor" in a minute of sustained fire, fourteen. And its projectile was far weaker in killing ability over 75 yards. The Winchester and Henry models tested, while firing up to 16 rounds rapidly, were firing extremely weak rounds, and the Henry was even slower to reload than the Spencer. The Winchester's 200 grain .44 was propelled by only 28 grains of blackpowder, and the Henry's 216 grain .44 bullet was "pooped" out with only 25 grains of powder. Totally worthless over 100 yards unless you were a fine shot, or got "lucky" and hit the enemy in the eye.

Archaeological evidence on the battlefield shows an interesting thing about the so called "extractor" problems with the Springfields, only about 2 percent of the recovered cases show that problem of head separation. Remember also that these were all RIM FIRE weapons, and the brass was weakest around the rim to facilitate "ignition". This could be slightly wrong due to the Sioux and Cheyenne warriors having taken the booty off the site to clear the weapon later, but the number would not be significantly higher. Also rather interestingly there were over 40,000 rounds of government ammunition expended or "lost" during the battle. One must assume that a great deal of it was simply lost or captured later, or otherwise that would mean that the troopers firedover 800 rounds for every dead opponent. Even they weren't that inept and untrained. Only about 8 percent of those involved were "raw" recruits, the rest were vets with differing degrees of combat experience.

Here is what I think did in the 7th (just my opinion of course): At the time it was SOP to issue each trooper between 10 and 20 spare rounds for his weapon, per year, for training and practice, and unfortunately most of the "training" ammo was used taking pot-shots at passing game animals to supplement the notoriously poor garrison fare. The 7th had just been issued its "Trapdoor" .45-55's to replace its old Spencers, and had NOT had even time to practice skirmish line nor weapons discipline to any great extent. A well schooled trooper could get off 12 to 15 rounds per minute with the Springfield, but only with practice.

So "in theory", they could have been firing a weapon with better range, accuracy, and "stopping power", at an equal rate of fire. The Spencer (post Civil War) used a .50 caliber, 300+ bullet pushed by about 45 grains of black powder, that short range, coupled with it being slow to reload the second seven made it the "less" desirable weapon. Custer himself had complained about the Spencers carried by his troopers after the Battle of the Washita, and may have had some impact on the distribution of the new "Trapdoor".

There were many other weapons carried by the 7th on the battlefield besides the standard issue "Trapdoors" and Colt .45's. Any trooper, officer or enlisted, could carry his own weapon and ammo if he could afford it. One sergeant (D company if believe) had a .45-110 Sharps with a telescopic sight for instance. (this is the same weapon made famous in the "Quigley Downunder" movie with Tom Sellack. But this one at LBH had "optics".

Custer himself had an octagon barreled Remington "rolling block" in .50 caliber, and two non-standard pistols. Those who claim he carried British Webley "Bulldogs" with ivory handles are incorrect since that model didn't appear until after '76. He most likely carried a Navy Colt, and one French revolver which had been presented to him as a gift by the French government.

The "thriftiness" of the Ordnance Department can only be blamed in its stinginess concerning ammunition for training allowed. But, hey we were still working with a huge debt after the Civil War, so "belt-tighening" was to be expected. However, shortly after the Custer debacle that SOP of not training with live rounds was dropped, and training was intensified.

Another thing to keep in mind was that as originally produced the cartridge case was non-re-loadable and made of folded copper (rather than extruded brass) and used the Benet cup rimfire primer (no replaceable primer). This doesn’t mean that the Native Americans "couldn’t" use the cartridge cases, in fact I have read that they would patiently "tap out" the rimfire dentition mark, fill the base with carefully ground up heads of "strike anywhere" matches, and put the powder and lead on top and repack. Don’t know how well that worked, or if it was done to any extent.

That said, I believe it wasn’t until August of 1882 concurrent with the adoption of the 500 gr bullet the case was changed to a solid head design with a standard primer of the Berdan center-fire type. Then again, it wasn’t until the time of the Spanish American War that the case was made of tinned extruded brass which was much stronger than the copper previously used and more resistant to corrosion when the Quartermaster Corps started to utilized a modern Boxer type primer.

The ball ammunition for the Allin modified "Trapdoor" Springfields of the "Custer era" was issued in two variations. A .45-70-405 loading which utilized a charge of 70 gr of Field Grade (FG) black powder with a 405 gr round nose lead bullet for use with the rifle, and a lighter carbine load known as the .45-55-405. The Carbine/cavalry version utilized the 405 gr bullet and a 55 gr charge of FG powder along with pasteboard wadding to make up for the empty space of the standard sized cartridge case, and was designed to make recoil more manageable in the lighter carbines, and the ammo was designated by either an "R" or a "C" stamped on the headcase.

In August of 1882 the 500 gr bullet load with improved long range accuracy and ballistics (due to the more efficient burning of the powder charge with the heavier bullet) was adopted as the M1881 ball, and replaced the 405 gr rifle load. Government ordnance records indicate that after July, 1882 no 405 gr bullets were produced. It appears that the "carbine" load was officially phased out during that period although there were probably large stocks on hand. All three of these loadings were useable in any .45-70 .45-50 caliber "trapdoor" weapon. The ammo still in stock was probably recycled through the "national guard", "reserves", and training camps as well as being issued as "reserve stocks" in the Spanish-American war period.

BTW the "sole survivor" horse was named Comanche, and while many other horses survived the battle only he was on "Last Stand Hill". He was a Morgan owned by Lt. Col. Myles Keough, Comanche remained with his owner on Custer Hill. While all around him the other soldiers slaughtered their horses to hide behind and shoot, evidence and oral tradition shows that Keough crouched between Comanche’s legs, holding onto his reins, while he was fighting.

Keough himself was killed, but his hands still clutched Comanche’s reins. Warriors left the horse alone; it would have been bad medicine to take a horse so closely tied to his owner that the man held the reins even in death. Comanche was cherished and revered by the Seventh Cavalry and the entire US as a symbol of survival in the face of defeat. He lived 17 years after the Battle of the Little Bighorn as a pampered pet, traveling from Seventh Cavalry post to post and loved by all. After his death, he was stuffed and kept on display at the University of Kansas, where he remains to this day.
Happy Trails,
Clint.

#22 John Dudek

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Posted 11 July 2008 - 12:19 AM

Thanks for the information, Clint! I also read that Commanche continued playing with the US Cavalry right up to his death. He loved "payday" because he would stand in line with the troopers at the suttler's store to gulp down a bucket of beer along with the men and lived to a ripe, old age.

#23 Falcon Jun

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Posted 11 July 2008 - 06:27 AM

I second John's motion. Good post, Clint.

#24 brndirt1

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Posted 11 July 2008 - 03:07 PM

I just read a while back that the "powers that be" at the University of Kansas had to put a plexiglas barrier between Comanche and the public. The reason? People were constantly patting his butt and the hair was falling off!
Happy Trails,
Clint.




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