The Battle of the Little Bighorn ... 137 years later
It has been said that more books have been written about the Battle of the Little Bighorn than any other battle in our nation’s history. Yet as we approach its 137th anniversary, the fight remains shrouded in mystery and misconceptions. The herofication of Colonel Custer has clouded understanding of a debacle that was clearly understood by the people of the time. Following is a partial transcription of an editorial that was printed in the Chicago Tribune on July 7, 1876, just 13 days after the battle:
“Custer ... was a brave, brilliant soldier, handsome and dashing, but he was reckless, hasty and impulsive, preferring to make a daredevil rush and take risks rather than to move slower and with more certainty. And it was his own mad-cap haste, rashness and love of fame that cost the service the loss of many brave officers and gallant men. No account seems to have been taken of the numbers or leadership of the Sioux ... no account was taken of the fact that General Gibbon was coming to the Little Big Horn with re-enforcements, only a day’s march behind, although General [sic] Custer was aware of it. He preferred to make a reckless dash and take the consequences, in the hope of making a personal victory and adding to the glory of another charge, rather than wait for the sufficiently-powerful force to make the fight successful and share the glory with others. He took the risk, and he lost.”
Yet for all the debate and mystery that surrounds the minute-by-minute events of the battle, there exists a clear historical record to the central figure in this seminal event in America’s Western history, George Armstrong Custer.
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