What was the outcome of the Battle of Little Big Horn?

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Dec 14, 2017


Native American Victory and eventual defeat.


The Battle is still controversial. Native American evidence was anecdotal and so open to interpretation. The actions and evidence of Major Reno and Captain Benteen have caused much discussion as well.

Colonel Custer was in actual command of the operation regardless of the presence of General Terry. Custer's aim was to disperse and send back to reservations a large camp of Native Americans led by Sitting Bull that was making threatening actions. The Custer/Terry column were part of a co-ordinated action by 3 columns: General Crook from the South, Colonel Gibbon from the west and Custer from the East.

Crook was checked at the Battle of Rosebud. Gibbon was late arriving. Custer split his command twice before the battle and the element under his personal command was destroyed. Reno and Benteen managed to survive in a 2 day long siege of their position before being relived by Terry. It was possible that Custer underestimated the fighting capabilities of this group of Natives.

The Native Americans wanted the flood of white miners and settlers to stop. The native leaders understood the difficult position they were in and would have negotiated if it could have made an enforceable agreement.

The Native American way of life became impossible after the destruction of the Bison herds. Sitting Bull led a group to Canada where they stayed sometime before they returned. The survival situation in Canada was no better. On the Native American side the result of the battle was negligible in the long term.

The Sioux War of 1876 (that the Battle was part of) resulted in the overall defeat of the Native Americans (The Sioux and Cheyenne) through continued attacks by an invigorated US Army through the Northern plains area. Politically divided, impoverished and hungry because the destruction of the bison, the Native Americans surrendered the Black Hills area and went to reservations.

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