Everyday history is being made, certain things more significant than others. In today’s day and age we are able to capture proof through photo, video, and etc. What about history made in times before all that? Word of mouth, all proof was based on a person’s story that was continually passed down until it was time to be inputted into a text book. Of course with this method, a lot can be left out or even added to the original story. Sometimes so much that it begins to turn into something completely different.
Essentially, history was passed down like the childhood game “telephone. The flaws become evident when talking about the Battle of Big Horn, one of the largest military defeats in U. S. history. Much controversy surrounds the subject because of the lack of evidence to what really happened and different sides of the story being told. The confusion begins with the decisions of General George Armstrong Custer. His mission was to lead his unit known as the Seventh Cavalry into western lands where they would protect american settlers from native affairs. Of course, the native americans only took so much oppression before they began to rebel.
In turn, this led to the uprising of the Indian Wars that lasted from the 1850s to the 1880s. Conflict began to arise heavily when word of mining success had came from the Dakota territory. This region was densely populated with Indians, meaning they would not let outsiders intrude on them. In this region, the Cheyenne and Sioux joined together to resist against American forces. On the other side of the battle was General Custer and his Seventh Cavalry ready to make their next move. The strategy was to raid their camps with a strong offensive, basically pushing the Indians so far back that they had nowhere to go.
The plan seemed like a simple win, but due to the conjoinment of Indians, the Seventh Cavalry was greatly out numbered. The result was a bloodbath, complete slaughter, one of the greatest U. S. military defeats of all time. The outcome has caused much controversy among historians regarding General Custer’s ability as to lead his cavalry. Among the primary sources of Lieutenant Frederick Benteen, Iron Hawk, alongside the secondary sources from Stephen Ambrose and Robert Utley, readers are able to acknowledge what ultimately lead to the failure of Custer’s leadership.
Custer’s overly confident approach to battle and stubbornness backfired and lead to his death along the lives of many others, making opinions of him as a general very controversial. Physical documents are the best recollection of history before the era of image capturing. One of the most accurate sources about the Battle of Little Big Horn came from a letter written by Lieutenant Frederick Benteen known as Lieutenant Frederick Benteen Depicts the Battle of Little Bighorn,1876, soon after the battle occurred.
Benteen in this case is a primary source, he was a live action witness that documented the outcome of the battle through a letter to his wife. His explanation was direct and was written days after the battle, making it impossible for opinions of the battle to be formulated. He begins the letter by explaining the various treks they are making in hopes of discovering Indian lands. They endure hardship for days at a time until they come close to one of the other divided regiments. At this point Benteen receives a message from a leader of another one of the regiments named Cooke, he said, “Benteen.
Come on. Big village. Be quick, bring packs. ” Here in this instance Benteen is displaying the hostility of the situation, he even hints it even more by saying that Cooke ended the last sentence with “pacs” instead of “packs”. Meaning he was killed before he could not even finish writing the last word of his message. After receiving word of this conflict, each regiment of the cavalry continue movement among the hills in hopes of finding the valley. The Trek continued until the valley was found and Custer and his 5 o’s crossed the ford with intentions of attacking the village from the rear, there he was able to see the immense population of Indians they were up against. At this point there was still another 4 miles left until they reached the ford. Upon arriving, the Indians were waiting on the other side. It is unknown whether all of the Co’s were able to enter the village, or if they were ran out immediately. As some regiments were able to make it out alive, Custer forcefully entered with his regiment again the next day. His over confidence and desire to be a hero is what got him and many other men killed.
He saw how many of them there were, he saw how many of his men died, yet he still proceeded with his march to death. Knowing the viewpoint of one from the losing side, the winning side remains with their story needing to be told. Among those of the Indians is Iron Hawk, he tells what he experienced in battle throughout Iron Hawk, a Hunkpapa Sioux/Lahota Warrior, Recalls the Battle of Little Bighorn(1876), 1932. His recollection of memory comes long after the actual battle, 56 years to be exact. Iron hawk begins his writing very descriptively, making the chain of events seem so sudden.
As he enters battle he realizes that the battle has moved downstream instead of upstream. All stood back except the Shyela, he was brave enough to start the attack before anybody else. He ran circles around the opponents on his horse, all while taking gunfire, he returned to his fellow Indians and began undoing his belt. As he did so, bullets began pouring out, Iron Hawk claims this is because, “He was very sacred and the soldiers could not hurt him. ” By him saying this, it becomes evident to the reader that the Indians obviously have the upper hand here.
One man by himself was able to fire gunfire from many, soon that one man turns into an army that is much larger than Custer’s forces. At this point the Americans had begun their counter attack, all stampeding on foot. Iron Hawk explains that the American forces looked so scared because it seemed they forgot how to walk. They were moving their arms very fast but walking at a normal pace. The underlying reason for this is that they knew it was not going to end well solely based on the Indians advantage in numbers.
Iron hawk recollects just how violent the fighting was by telling how he continued killing one soldier even when he was well past dead. He explains his reasoning for such anger by saying, “I was mad, because I was thinking of the women and little children running down there, all scared and out of breath. ” Just this explanation itself could validate the Indians reason for victory. They were angry, it lit a fire inside of them. They were not going to let just anybody run them out of their home, essentially giving them reason to fight harder.
In his writing he made it obvious that it was a cakewalk for his people and more or so quite humorous at times when he mentions the fat women stripping the American soldier. Throughout all of this, Iron Hawk was able to see the flaw of the Americans. They themselves knew that they were not ready for this battle, but still proceeded walking into their own death. Inconsistency, it is the basis for modern day news and even certain parts of history. Inconsistency in stories is extremely relevant when looking at separate secondary sources about the Battle of Bighorn.
A lot of controversy is created in such way because these sources are not direct. In the writings of George Armstrong Custer: A Reckless Commander Brought Down by His Own Mistakes and George Armstrong Custer: A Great Commander Overwhelmed by a Larger Force it is easy to see just how this inconsistency creates different versions of the story ultimately leading to controversy regarding Custer’s leadership skills. Within the first writing of Stephen E. Ambrose, the argument is that Custer’s poor leadership skills is what lead the slaughter they faced in battle.
It begins by Custer’s master plan to have his columns flank from the rear side of the village, basically a surprise attack that the hostiles would never expect. Instead, the exact opposite was true; some Sioux Scouts had spotted the column and knew exactly what they were planning to do. Soon after his forces rushed into village ready to attack, but soon after they were surprised by the sheer numbers of hostiles that remained in front of them. The only option was to find high ground and hide. Time was of the essence here and Custer did not waste any of it, so he continued with his plan to flank the rear right quarters of the village.
His men didn’t stand a chance, the numbers were 10 to 1. If he was to just accept more troops into Reno’s cavalry they may have had a successful advantage in the counter attack. The number of Indians was surprising, but here Custer faced failure as a leader; he underestimated the opponent. Even after seeing the size of their forces and taking high ground, he rushed his attack. He assumed his men were just like him, but reality was that they were starving, tired, and dehydrated. What if all of this wasn’t the reason for loss? Robert M.
Utley believes otherwise, his viewpoint was that American forces had never faced opponents this powerful. He explains how powerful the hostiles were by saying, “The Sioux and Cheyennes were strong, confident, united, well led, well armed, outraged by the government’s war aims, and ready to fight if pressed. ” The decisions made by Custer were all very sensible, but it seemed as if his luck ran out. The numbers themselves were outrageous enough, Custer had entered a battle he could not leave and had no option but to stay and fight with all of the power he had.
He underestimated the power of the hostiles, essentially getting beat at his own game. Within both of these stories it is easy to tell just from the titles that Ambrose and Utley have different viewpoint of the reason for loss at Bighorn. Ambrose portrayed General Custer as having potential within his strategy but he was weak in his execution making him a quote unquote “bad” leader. Utley saw Custer as an intelligent leader with much promise, he had good strategy but was just unlucky with the conditions that appeared.
Even with the two authors differing opinions on General Custer as a leader, both concluded in their writings that he was unlucky because of the sheer size of the hostile forces compared to his. Generations upon generations stories are passed down, details changing and opinions differing. History itself is an imperfect art that inevitably creates controversy among many. Of course over time through the word of mouth, stories are bound to become distorted. This issue creates controversy when pointing attention to General Custer in the Battle of Little Bighorn.
He took his forces into battle too confident, resulting in extreme loss. The outcome has made historians question General Custer’s ability as to lead his cavalry. Among the primary sources of Lieutenant Frederick Benteen, Iron Hawk, alongside the secondary sources from Stephen Ambrose and Robert Utley, readers are able to acknowledge what ultimately lead to the failure of Custer’s leadership. Custer’s overly confident approach to battle and desire to become a war hero backfired and lead to his death along the lives of many others, making opinions of him as a general very controversial.