I try to imagine how Reno moved to the indian camp.
Reno never "charged" the Indian village. Reno said as much, as did others. Thompson-- if he said it-- was full of kuhscheis (did I spell that right?).
Custer promised to support Reno and everyone assumed that meant Custer would follow Reno directly. When Reno found out Indians were coming up the valley to meet him rather than running away, he moved more cautiously. He galloped, but not at full speed.
The distance was about 2 1/2 miles (4 km), but the river was very curvy and the banks were loaded with timber and brush. He sent men alongside that timber to clear it of Indians, but to protect those men, he moved a little slower than a full gallop, and he moved along the general course of the river, not straight down the valley as everyone writes.
As he got closer and more and more Indians appeared, he was confronted by a large stand of timber that jutted out into the valley. Near that timber was a dry creek bed and his men saw Indians in that creek bed/ravine.
That is when he ordered his men to halt and he formed the skirmish line. He needed to do that, too, because the Indians were creating a lot of dust and the closer Reno got to the village the more difficult it was to see what was ahead of him, especially on his left side.
Was that kind of checking the enemy what was ordered by Custer to Reno?
Again, Reno could not see everything in front of him. He also did not know what was along his right flank as he moved down the valley and he expected Custer to be following up. He was moving rapidly but did not want to lose control and a full-blown charge would have been difficult to control.
Pitch into supported by the whole command - what the hell kind of order is that?
I believe firmly that Custer fully intended to support Reno by crossing the LBH slightly north of Ford A, taking his time to put some distance between the two commands. This was the intent of his original orders. Bring the Indians to battle by chasing them and Custer would form a second, knockout wave that would pierce the Indian resistance and run wild through the village.
When Custer found out the Indians were not running, but instead were coming up to meet Reno, he believed they were setting up a formidable screen to shield the rest of the village's escape. In order to prevent this, Custer needed to get below the camp and the fleeing Indians... families, warriors, children, elderly.
Kuhscheis sounds nicely but right spelled it is "Kuhscheisse". More perfect would be "Bullenscheisse" because the bull is the same in german just Bulle or the plural(Bullen) is used for the combination of Bulle and Scheisse. But both means probably the same kind of cowpat in form of an undefinable mass of mixed ejection.
I missed the solution to your quiz:
"And I'll leave you with a little quiz... when Reno moved down the valley, his line was formed with G Company on the left, "A" in the center, and "M" on the right. Yet on the skirmish line it was "G" on the right and "M" on the left. How did that happen?"
Sorry for my awful German, but back when you were only a little boy, I lived in Wuerzburg, Schweinfurt, and Heidelberg-- for more than three years-- and for a short while I could speak pretty good Deutsch... no more, unfortunately.
By the way, here is the data on the Reno Inquiry book:
Nichols, Ronald H., ed., Reno Court of Inquiry, Hardin, MT: Custer Battlefield Historical & Museum Association, Inc., 1996.
And the answer to the quiz is...
Reno now halts his battalion, primarily because he is nearing a timber field that juts out too far into the prairie and he is approaching the dust and smoke and is no longer able to make out what is in front of him—1:35 PM. Fortuitously—or ominously—he sees Indians coming from a creek bed—described by Lieutenant Wallace as a ravine a few hundred yards in front of the river’s loop—directly in his shifting line of advance, an advance now facing more northwest than north because of the way the river flowed and the course the command was following.
As Reno orders his command to halt and dismount, he tells his officers to form a skirmish line—1:35 PM. At the same time, he tells French to keep the flankers moving into the timber to clear it, as he wants to sequester his horses there. French tells First Sergeant Ryan and Ryan, in turn, instructs his sergeants—White and O’Harra—to continue on and clear the woods. Once dismounted, in order to face the threat, French swings M Company across the command’s rear, from the right of the line to the left, and as he moves into the prairie he is now facing west, toward the foothills—1:36 PM. As Reno organizes the right side of the line—Company A doing much the same as M, but moving between G and M—Benny Hodgson handles the left. Lieutenant McIntosh and Captain Moylan order their horses into the timber—or possibly Reno tells them to do so, we do not know really—but Hodgson and French do no such thing with M Company’s horses, both of them recognizing the need for the left flank to maintain its mobility. The excitement and the sense of danger cause several of the troopers’ horses to bolt, Rutten’s and Private George E. Smith’s two of them. (There may have been others, but narratives are confusing and contradictory and bodies found after the battle belie memories. Rutten was lucky; he managed to survive the scare. On the 27th, Smith’s head was found on a pole in the abandoned village making him considerably less fortunate.)
The skirmish line forms, basically facing west, and as it advances A Company swings clockwise on G’s left, while G pivots its right on the fulcrum of the timber and both units begin to move in a more northerly direction. A gap between M and A begins to open as M Company advances straight, more to the west than north.
So basically, when Reno reached the timber instead of swinging into the prairie and around the woods, he halted and pivoted his command.
Post by quincannon on May 18, 2012 16:35:59 GMT -5
Fred: I agree with you, that was Custer intention, just as it would have been mine or yours. Then we come to the two no go terrain features and the impact they had on a changed situation. This left Custer no means of supporting Reno in the prefered or intended way. He had to look for another avenue and that avenue led north, out of the immediate battle space and into a new alltogether different battlespace and battle.
There were two distinct battles of the Little Big Horn that related to but were not part of one another. One was badly lost, the other a draw. Disregard any link up for a brief moment, place it out of your mind, and I think you will see what I mean. Custer was the only player in the northern most battle. Custer was a non-factor in the southern most.
Last Edit: May 18, 2012 16:37:05 GMT -5 by quincannon
Being void of tactical knowledge, I will leave it to others who are knowledgeable, is it a wise move to put a river between yourself and your promised support for some other unit, when you dont know where or even if you can cross it. That seems to be taking one heck of a roll of the dice with someone elses lives
Post by quincannon on May 18, 2012 17:10:57 GMT -5
Dan: The short answer is no it is not. The river was not really the problem though. It was a combination of the river and the bluffs. The bluffs had defiles that led to the river in several places. The problem here was that Custer going back to and down a defile would not help Reno. It would add more combat power to his rear and perhaps have prevented his need to retreat. In that event the main battle would have been fought in the valley, more than likely inconclusively.
The next defile north was Ford(s) B, the MTCF complex. That was to far to the north to be of immediate value to Reno, and perhaps Custer realized that,changing himself from direct support to a mission mod that told him if I do X they will do Y. This is essentially Fred's point.
From the point where Custer realized that direct support was out of the question and he chose to or was forced into a mission mod these two battles became seperate. Remember the battles to break the ring and relieve Stalingrad. Von Paulis had his hands full with staying alive. The relieving force had the ultimate intention of moving to von Paulis' assistance, but they had to fight a completely different battle before that road could possibly be opened.
You might want to look at LBH as a small scale Stalingrad without the rubble.
PS: And Dan, don't BS me. If you were void of tactical knowledge you would not have asked the question in the first place.
Last Edit: May 18, 2012 17:33:19 GMT -5 by quincannon
Fred, regarding the skirmish line formation. I suspect that Reno probably didn't order the pivot but just ordered the skirmish line. The pivot way it was formed just happened to end up that way because of the position they were in when dismounting.
If Custer had spent a bit more attention to the shape of the battlefield and to what he had probably to face, many many indians, then his best choice would have been a fight with his whole regiment in Renos valley. With the hills and the river on the right flanc he would have a good control with his 600 men on a small battlefield against thousends of indians. Also a save retreat would be possible to the right like Reno did.
But in my opinion he had no realistic plan for his battle. The idea to attack the indian camp from two sides was basicly ok, but with the facts of the areas shape and the very strong enemy his plan was to simple for a general who carry responsibility for hundreds of men. The indians had easy enough warriors to fight Reno and Custer at the same time. Thats why i think he was a bad commander and probably Reno and Benteen thought the same. If Reno had reason to trust Custer he would had possibly hold his line for a longer time and take more risk. But he did not know what Custer had in his head and so he at least carry responsibility for his men like Benteen did too.
To me it is very hard to understand why later Reno and Benteen had to defend their actions in court.
I suspect that Reno probably didn't order the pivot but just ordered the skirmish line. The pivot way it was formed just happened to end up that way because of the position they were in when dismounting.
Very good point. I agree. Never thought of it that way, but I think you are 100% correct.
To me it is very hard to understand why later Reno and Benteen had to defend their actions in court.
Did you go to the German Army General Staff School? You have a very, very good understanding of this whole battle.
There are many, many American writers and historians who could not summarize the battle and what Custer should have done and what he did wrong as well as you just did in your post. I tip my hat to you!