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The Battle of the Little Bighorn, known to the Lakota and other Plains Indians as the Battle of the Greasy Grass[1] and also commonly referred to as Custer's Last Stand, was an armed engagement between combined forces of the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes and the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army. The battle, which resulted in the defeat of U.S. forces, was the most significant action of the Great Sioux War of 1876. It took place on June 25–26, 1876, along the Little Bighorn River in the Crow Indian Reservation in southeastern Montana Territory.[2]

The fight was an overwhelming victory for the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho, who were led by several major war leaders, including Crazy Horse and Chief Gall, and had been inspired by the visions of Sitting Bull (Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake). The U.S. 7th Cavalry, a force of 700 men, suffered a major defeat while under the command of Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer (formerly a brevetted major general during the American Civil War). Five of the 7th Cavalry's twelve companies were annihilated and Custer was killed, as were two of his brothers, a nephew and a brother-in-law. The total U.S. casualty count included 268 dead and 55 severely wounded (six died later from their wounds),[3] including four Crow Indian scouts and at least two Arikara Indian scouts.

Public response to the Great Sioux War varied in the immediate aftermath of the battle. Libbie Custer, Custer's widow, soon worked to burnish her husband's memory, and during the following decades Custer and his troops came to be considered iconic, even heroic, figures in American history. The battle, and Custer's actions in particular, have been studied extensively by historians.[4] Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument honors those who fought on both sides.

In 1878, the army awarded 24 Medals of Honor to participants in the conflict, most for risking their lives to carry water from the river up the hill to the wounded.[5] Few on the non-Indian side questioned the conduct of the enlisted men, but many questioned the tactics, strategy and conduct of the officers. Indian accounts spoke of soldiers' panic-driven flight and suicide by those unwilling to fall captive to the Indians. While such stories were gathered by Thomas Bailey Marquis in a book in the 1930s, it was not published until 1976 because of the unpopularity of such assertions.[6] Although soldiers may have believed captives would be tortured, Indians usually killed men outright and took as captive for adoption only young women and children.[6] Indian accounts also noted the bravery of soldiers who fought to the death.[7]

Medal of Honor[edit | edit source]

The Medal of Honor was created during the American Civil War and is the highest military decoration presented by the United States government to a member of its armed forces. The recipient must have distinguished themselves at the risk of their own life above and beyond the call of duty in action against an enemy of the United States. Due to the nature of this medal, it is commonly presented posthumously.[8]

Recipients[edit | edit source]

Image Name Service Rank Date of action Unit Notes
Bancroft, NeilNeil Bancroft Army Private Jun 25, 1876 Company A, 7th U.S. Cavalry Brought water for the wounded under a most galling fire.
Brant, Abram B.Abram B. Brant Army Private Jun 25, 1876 Company D, 7th U.S. Cavalry Brought water for the wounded under a most galling fire.
Thomas J. Callan.jpg Callan, Thomas J.Thomas J. Callan Army Private Jun 25, 1876 – Jun 26, 1876 Company B, 7th US Cavalry Displayed conspicuously good conduct in assisting to drive away the Indians
Surname misspelled "Callen" on citation
Benjamin C. Criswell.jpg Criswell, Benjamin C.Benjamin C. Criswell Army Sergeant Jun 25, 1876 Company B, 7th US Cavalry Rescued the body of Lt. Hodgson from within the enemy's lines; brought up ammunition and encouraged the men in the most exposed positions under heavy fire.
Cunningham, CharlesCharles Cunningham Army Corporal Jun 25, 1876 Company B, 7th US Cavalry Declined to leave the line when wounded in the neck during heavy fire and fought bravely all next day.
Deetline, FrederickFrederick Deetline Army Blacksmith Jun 25, 1876 Company D, 7th US Cavalry Voluntarily brought water to the wounded under fire.
Geiger, GeorgeGeorge Geiger Army Sergeant Jun 25, 1876 Company H, 7th United States Cavalry With 3 comrades during the entire engagement courageously held a position that secured water for the command.
TheodoreGoldin.jpg Goldin, Theodore W.Theodore W. Goldin Army Private Jun 26, 1876 Company G, 7th US Cavalry One of a party of volunteers who, under a heavy fire from the Indians, went for and brought water to the wounded .
Richard P. Hanley.jpg Hanley, Richard P.Richard P. Hanley Army Sergeant Jun 25, 1876 Company C, 7th U.S. Cavalry Recaptured, singlehanded, and without orders, within the enemy's lines and under a galling fire lasting some 20 minutes, a stampeded pack mule loaded with ammunition.
Harris, David W.David W. Harris Army Private Jun 25, 1876 Company A, 7th US Cavalry Brought water to the wounded, at great danger to his life, under a most galling fire from the enemy.
Harris, William M.William M. Harris Army Private Jun 25, 1876 Company D, 7th US Cavalry Voluntarily brought water to the wounded under fire of the enemy.
Holden, HenryHenry Holden Army Private June 25, 1876 Company D, 7th U.S. Cavalry Brought up ammunition under a galling fire from the enemy.
Hutchinson, Rufus D.Rufus D. Hutchinson Army Sergeant Jun 25, 1876 Company B, 7th US Cavalry Guarded and carried the wounded, brought water for the same, and posted and directed the men in his charge under galling fire from the enemy.
Mechlin, Henry W. B.Henry W. B. Mechlin Army Blacksmith Jun 25, 1876 Company H, 7th US Cavalry With 3 comrades during the entire engagement courageously held a position that secured water for the command.
Murray, ThomasThomas Murray Army Sergeant Jun 25, 1876 Company B, 7th US Cavalry Brought up the pack train, and on the second day the rations, under a heavy fire from the enemy.
Pym, JamesJames Pym Army Private Jun 25, 1876 Company B, 7th US Cavalry Voluntarily went for water and secured the same under heavy fire.
Roy, StanislausStanislaus Roy Army Sergeant Jun 25, 1876 Company A, 7th US Cavalry Brought water to the wounded at great danger to life and under a most galling fire of the enemy.
Scott, George D.George D. Scott Army Private Jun 25, 1876 – Jun 26, 1876 Company D, 7th US Cavalry Voluntarily brought water to the wounded under fire.
Stivers, Thomas W.Thomas W. Stivers Army Private Jun 25, 1876 – Jun 26, 1876 Company D, 7th US Cavalry Voluntarily brought water to the wounded under fire.
Thompson, PeterPeter Thompson Army Private Jun 25, 1876 Company C, 7th US Cavalry Brought water to the wounded, even after being shot through the head.
Tolan, FrankFrank Tolan Army Private Jun 25, 1876 Company D, 7th US Cavalry Voluntarily brought water to the wounded under fire.
Voit, OttoOtto Voit Army Saddler Jun 25, 1876 Company H, 7th US Cavalry Volunteered with George Geiger, Charles Windolph, and Henry Mechlin to hold an exposed position standing erect on the brow of the hill facing the Little Big Horn River. They fired constantly in this manner for more than 20 minutes diverting fire and attention from another group filling canteens of water that were desperately needed.
Welch, Charles H.Charles H. Welch Army Sergeant Jun 25, 1876 – Jun 26, 1876 Company D, 7th US Cavalry Voluntarily brought water to the wounded under fire.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. "The Battle of the Greasy Grass". Smithsonian. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/videos/category/history/the-battle-of-the-greasy-grass/?no-ist. Retrieved August 29, 2019. 
  2. Kappler, Charles J (1904): Indian Affairs. Laws and Treaties. Vol. 2. Washington, pp. 1008-1011.
  3. Scott, Douglas D (2013). Archaeological Perspectives on the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press. p. 244. ISBN 0806132922. Archived from the original on January 17, 2017. https://web.archive.org/web/20170117172702/https://books.google.com/books?id=iSUA23jOi1sC&pg=PA244. 
  4. Kershaw, Robert (2005). Red Sabbath: The Battle of Little Bighorn. Ian Allan Publishing. pp. vi–5. ISBN 978-0-7110-3325-2. 
  5. "Medal of Honor Recipients: Indian Wars Period". United States Army Center of Military History. Archived from the original on August 3, 2013. https://web.archive.org/web/20130803232814/http://www.history.army.mil/html/moh/indianwars.html. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 Liberty, Dr. Margot. "Cheyenne Primacy: The Tribes' Perspective As Opposed To That Of The United States Army; A Possible Alternative To "The Great Sioux War Of 1876". Friends of the Little Bighorn. Archived from the original on January 24, 2008. https://web.archive.org/web/20080124135151/http://www.friendslittlebighorn.com/cheyenneprimacy.htm. Retrieved August 29, 2019. 
  7. Running Dog (1920-08-19). "He Dog's Story of the Battle of the Little Bighorn #2". Astonisher.com. Archived from the original on January 18, 2012. https://web.archive.org/web/20120118221821/http://www.astonisher.com/archives/museum/he_dog2_little_big_horn.html. Retrieved August 29, 2019. 
  8. "A Brief History — The Medal of Honor". Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). Department of Defense. August 8, 2006. Archived from the original on June 15, 2009. https://www.webcitation.org/5hYPzrHnl?url=http://www.defenselink.mil/faq/pis/med_of_honor.html. Retrieved August 29, 2019. 
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