Eyewitness Reports in History Custer's Last Stand Part 2

An eyewitness account of the Custer's last stand at the Battle of Little Bighorn an important event in United States history.

Custer's Last Stand

The Indian village was known as Sitting Bull's camp. However, the Hunkpapa medicine man was not a fighting chief, and in the battle that followed, the Indians were led by warrior chiefs such as Gall, Crow King, and Crazy Horse. Custer's Indian scouts, Mitch Bouyer and Bloody Knife, warned him that the Indian camp was too large for him to take on with his small troop. But Custer thought that the 7th Cavalry could whip any Indian war party, and dismissed their fears.

Custer divided his troops into three separate commands, placing about 125 men under Capt. F.W. Benteen and a second battalion under Maj. Marcus A. Reno. He instructed Benteen to ride off to the left at about a 45 deg. angle and to fight any Indians he found. After Benteen moved out, Custer sent two supplementary commands to him by messenger. The first command was to ride as far as the second line of bluffs if he had found no Indians by the time he reached the first bluffs; the second order was to continue on into the valley beyond if he found no Indians at the second line of bluffs.

Together, Custer and Reno rode into the valley until they were just across the river from the Indian camp. Custer then directed Reno, "Take your battalion and try to bring them to battle and I will support you."

Shortly after Reno went into battle, Custer received confirmation that the Indian village was large indeed. Apparently he assumed that, large or not, the Indians were fleeing, and he took his own troops and rode to the far end of the Indian camp to head off escape. Custer rode hard, and the horses began to fall from under his men. When he came in sight of the huge encampment, he sent his orderly, the regimental trumpeter, to Captain Benteen with a message which the adjutant wrote out for him in brief. It read, "Benteen--come on--big village--be quick--bring packs," and was signed by the adjutant, "W.W. Cooke, P.S. Bring packs." The trumpeter was the last survivor to see Custer alive.

Major Reno galloped into the Indian village, unsure of how many warriors he would find, but still expecting Custer's support at his rear. The Indians, for their part, didn't know the size of the attacking forces and prepared to strike camp in case a retreat was necessary. It is reported that Sitting Bull, who had recently had a vision of many bluecoats falling into the hands of his people, advised, "Warriors, we have everything to fight for, and if we are defeated we shall have nothing to live for. Therefore, let us fight like brave men."

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