Early American History-Penn State
The Battle of Little Bighorn is an event in American history that has been poured over much like many of our prominent military events, such as Gettysburg, Breeds Hill, or The Battle of New Orleans. The most apparent mystique surrounding the battle is how a successful military veteran such as George Custer led himself and 268 of his men into complete annihilation. How could undisciplined, wild savages defeat the US military's elite at the time? These men of the 7th cavalry were not only the elite of their day but led by one of America's most beloved Generals and public figureheads, General George Armstrong Custer. Many historians have attempted to explain the event and what Custer and the Soldiers involved in the day's events did wrong. They have brought forth the evidence that Custer's men were exhausted, underfed, or the victim of Custers' endless greed for glory.
There have been endless explanations of what Custer did wrong that day, but there has been far less focus on what the Natives did right that day. Native Americans use simple but effective flanking maneuvers combined with numerical superiority, and skillful use of the terrain is a simple but often overlooked fact. The Natives were also proficient in psychological warfare, wearing down the enemy's will and courage to fight. Ever since the press releases began flowing eastward with the bones still bare on the battlefield, an apparent bias lends little credit to the skill of Native warriors and their leadership but only to the cruel hand of fate dealt under bullet, arrow, and tomahawk to the US cavalrymen.
The Battle of the Little Bighorn was part of a more significant conflict known as the Great Sioux War of 1876. The Great Sioux war was a series of battles interrupted by a series of futile attempts at peace that occurred in 1876 and 1877 between the Lakota Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, Arapaho, and the United States along with its native allies, particularly the Crow Indians. The United States and the Northern Plains Tribes had been at an uneasy peace since the Powder River War of 1868 in the same territory. The Powder River War of 1868 had been a victory for the Northern plains tribes, and the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 essentially barred any white settlements in the area and set up what was then known as the Great Sioux reservation. Since then, gold has been discovered in the Black Hills in western South Dakota. This discovery had brought forth a slow but steady trickle of settlers and roused the US government's interest in possible large gold lodes within the Black Hills. Their hunch proved correct after an expedition led by none other than George Custer confirmed this to be true. The US government under President Grant wanted to buy the Black Hills, remove the Native Americans from the territory, and send them to a reservation in Oklahoma. In 1875, the Grant administration attempted to buy the Black Hills region and confine the Native...