The Indian War: A Graphic Pen Picture of the Fall of Custer

Boston Globe/July 8, 1876

Terrible Slaughter of Troops by the Redskins

Not a Man Left to Tell the Story

General Terry’s Forced Marches Fruitless

He Arrives Too Late to Succor the Fated Band

What General Sheridan Thinks of the Outlook

Reinforcements Sent Out to Terry and Crook

Volunteers Offered By Several Border States

A Consultation Between President, Sherman and Secretary of War

A Public Meeting in Salt Lake to Guarantee Troops

Pen Pictures of Custer and His Romantic Career

Chicago, Ill., July 7. The following are the latest particulars regarding General Custer’s defeat, received from the camp at the mouth of the Big Horn River, under date July 1, via Bismarck, D.T.,

At noon on the 22 of June General Custer, at the head of his line regiment of twelve veteran companions, left the camp at the mouth of the Rosebud to follow the trail of a very large band of hostile Sioux, leading up the river and westward in the direction of the Big Horn. Signs indicated that the Indians were making for the eastern branch of the last-named river, marked on map “Little Big Horn.” At the same time General Terry, with Gibbon’s command of live companies of infantry, four of cavalry and a Gatling battery, started to ascend the Big Horn, aiming to assail the enemy in the rear. The march of the two columns was so planned as to bring Gibbon’s forces within co-operating distance of the anticipated scene of action by the evening of the 26th. In this way only could the infantry be made available, as it would not do to encumber Custer’s march with foot soldiers. On the evening of the 24th Gibbon’s command was landed on the south bank of the Yellowstone, near the mouth of the Big Horn, and on the 25th he pushed twenty-three miles over a country so rugged that the endurance of the men was tasked to the utmost. The infantry then halted for the night. But the department commander with the cavalry advanced twelve miles further to the mouth of the Little Big Horn, marching until midnight, in hopes of opening communication with Custer. General Terry had come to be very uneasy about Custer, for he had notified him that he would be at the mouth of the Little Big Horn on the 26th, and would expect couriers from him. No courier from Custer had come up to nearly noon of the 27th. There were no Indians in sight and no signs of a disaster. There were signs of an Indian village near.

The morning of the 26th brought intelligence communicated by three badly frightened Crow scouts of the battle of the previous day and its results. The story was not credited, because it was not expected that an attack would be made earlier than the 27th, and chiefly because no one believed that such a force as Custer commanded could have met with disaster. Still, the report was in no way disregarded.


and every eye bent on the cloud of smoke resting over the southern horizon. This was hailed as a sign that Custer was successful and had fired their village. It was only when night was falling that the weary troops lay down upon their arms. The infantry had marched twenty-nine miles. The march of next morning revealed at every step some evidence of the conflict which had taken place two days before. We were suddenly startled by a messenger sent by Lieutenant Bradley, who said that while marching up the left bank of the river he had come upon the dead bodies of 100 cavalrymen, and that no doubt there were many more in the hills close by. It was an awful blow. The command immediately halted and Generals Terry and Gibbon withdrew for consultation. At an early hour the head of the column entere’d a plain half a mile wide, bordering on the bank of the Little Big Horn, where there had recently been an immense Indian village, extending three miles along the stream, and where were still standing funeral lodges, with horses slaughtered around them, and containing the bodies of nine chiefs. The ground was strewn everywhere with carcasses of horses, and cavalry equipments, besides buffalo lobes, packages of dried meat, and weapons and utensils belonging to the lndians. On this part of the field was found the clothing of Lieutenants Sturgis and Porter perforated with bullets, and a blood-stained gauntlet belonging to Colonel Yates. Further on were found the bodies of men, among whom were recognized Lieutenant Mcintosh, an interpreter from Fort Rice, and Riguolds the guide.


and drawers and found on the waist-band of the latter, “Lieutenant Sturgis, Ninth Cavalry.” It was believed that this popular young officer was dead. He was a son of General Sam Sturgis of the Ninth Cavalry. Evidences continued to thicken of a great battle having been fought. There were most contradictory speculations as to the whereabouts of Custer; if defeated why had he not retreated to the mouth of the Little Horn and met Gibbon? If he had defeated the Indians why had he not sent word to Terry? Soon Lieutenant Jacobs of General Gibbon’s staff came spurring down like a madman. He had found Reno fortified on the hill three or four miles off with what remained of seven companies of the Ninth. Reno could not tell where Custer was; a fearful battle had been fought. We passed over Reno’s battle-field, among the dead men and horses. It was a dreadful place. One of the bodies was recognized as Lieutenant Mcintosh of the Ninth Cavalry; another as that of a soldier belonging to the former’s company. The command pushed rapidly, and soon came in sight of a group surrounding a cavalry guard, upon a lofty eminence on the right bank of the river. General Terry forded the stream, accompanied by a small party, and rode to the spot. All the way


The General approached, and the men swarmed out of the works and greeted him with hearty and repeated cheers. Within he found Reno with the remains of seven companies of his regiment, with the following-named officers, all of whom are unhurt: Colonels Benton and Wier; Captains Felix, Moylan and McDougall; Lieutenants Godfrey, Mataey, Gibson, Domded, Edgerly, Wallace, Varnum. In the centre of the inclosure there was a depression in the surface in which the wounded were sheltered, covered with canvas. Reno’s command had been fighting from Sunday noon, June 25, till the night of the 26th, when Terry’s arrival caused the Indians to retire. Up to this time Reno and those with him were in complete ignorance of the fate of the other five companies, which had been separated from them on the 25th to make the attack under Custer on the village at another point. While preparations were being made for the removal of the wounded, a party was sent on Custer’s trail to look for traces of his command. They found awaiting them a sight fit to appall the stoutest heart. At a point about three miles down the right bank of the stream, Custer had evidently attempted to ford and attack the villages from the ford. The force marched down the ridge to Custer’s battlefield in the morning, about five and a half miles. It was the most terrible of all the scenes yet witnessed. On a spot of less than fifty acres 115 cavalrymen lay dead. On the knoll in the centre of the plateau, and near the top,


and near him eleven dead officers; Captain Miles Keogh on the right and his brother, Captain Thomas Custer, on the left, and near by a fair boy, the General’s nephew, Reed. A little way off was the body of Boston Custer, another brother. The brothers had fallen within a few feet of each other. On the skirmish line was the body of the General’s brother-in-law. Lieutenant Calhoun. Here was also found the body of the Herald’s special correspondent, Kellogg. The bodies were horribly mutilated, though General Custer’s body was spared. It is thought not a single man of Custer’s force escaped. The remains of the following officers were recognized: General Custer, General Miles Keogh, Captain George Yates, Captain Thomas Custer, Captain William Cook. First Lieutenant and Adjutant Algernon E. Smith, First Lieutenant Donald Mcintosh, First Lieutenant James Calhoun, First Lieutenant James E. Parker, First Lieutenant Benjamin H. Hodgson, Second Lieutenant John J. Crittenden, Dr. Lord, first lieutenant, United States army, Second Lieutenant, DeWolf, acting assistant surgeon.

Description of the Slaughter by Another Correspondent.

[Special Despatch to The Boston Globe.]

CHICAGO, Ill., July 7. Another correspondent says the trail was found to run back up to the bluffs and to the northward, as if the troops had been repulsed and compelled to retreat and at the same time cut off from regaining the forces under Keno. The bluffs along the right bank come sharply down to the water, and are interspersed by numerous ravines. All along the slopes and ridges and in the ravines, lying as they had fought, were found the bodies, line beyond line, showing where the defensive positions had been successively taken up and held till none were left to fight. There huddled in a narrow compass were horses and men piled promiscuously. At the highest point of the ridge lay General Custer surrounded by his chosen band. Here were his two brothers and his nephew, Mr. Reed, Colonels Yates and Cook and Captain Smith, all lying in circles of a few yards, their horses beside them. Here behind Yates’s company the last stand had been made, and here one after another these last survivors of Custer’s five companies had met their death. The companies had successively thrown themselves across path of the advancing enemy and been annihilated. Not a man has escaped to tell the tale; but it was inscribed on the surface of the barren hills in language more eloquent than words.


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