Custer Killed at the Little Bighorn
265 Men of the Seventh Cavalry Will Not Be Returning to Fort Abraham Lincoln
Bismarck, July 6, 1876
Word has just been received here of the death of Colonel George Armstrong Custer and 265 men of the Seventh Cavalry in their mission to force Indians to the reservations. Custer’s troops were one of a three-pronged attack on the Indians, mostly Cheyenne and Lakota who had gathered in the Little Bighorn country of Montana for the annual hunt. General Alfred Terry had devised a sensible strategy, if all went as planned. It did not.
Custer could not wait. Certain that his column of the Seventh Cavalry could handle a handful of Indians, on the morning of June 25 he ordered an advance. Unknown to him, he had stumbled upon the main encampment with about 2,500 warriors. Skirmishing began at noon. When scouts reported many of the enemy fleeing, Custer swung his command toward the encampment. The warriors swept down on him. He and his column were dead within a few hours. Only the arrival of General Terry saved the other columns of the Seventh Cavalry. The general intends to pursue the non-reservation Indians until they surrender.
The public is stunned by the news of Custer’s defeat. Those who are knowledgeable about matters in Dakota are not surprised that many of the Lakota and their allies have continued to resist the army and white encroachments onto their land. Leaders such as Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull have nothing to do with treaties and desire to have their people continue in their hunting ways. That is what they were doing in the Bighorn country.
The flow of thousands of gold seekers into the Black Hills and the frantic efforts of government officials to buy rights to those Hills from the Lakota have created considerable tensions in Dakota. The recent turn of events should not be surprising.
By Dr. D. Jerome Tweton
Originally published as The North Star Dakotan student newspaper, written by Dr. D. Jerome Tweton and supported by the North Dakota Humanities Council