The Hollywood version of the battle of The Little Bighorn has General Custer and his band of gallant cavalry surrounded by yelling Indians.As the Indians circle the cavalry shooting bullets and arrows into the heroic troopers,the circle gets smaller and smaller until only the great man,himself stands against the savage hordes,and then they swiftly kill him,or if you watch "Custer of the West"starring Robert Shaw as Custer,they actually give him the chance to clear off home,but seeing as how all his men are dead or dying and he`s a thoroughly decent chap he decides to stay where he is and the Indians obligingly knock him off pretty quickly.
Now,we all know that Hollywood`s grip on the truth can be rather loose to say the least and that the famous last stand didn`t actually happen,as such.
The Little Bighorn,was actually three seperate actions,it began with Major Reno`s attack on the lower end of the Indian village the idea being to drive the Indians into Custer`s force which was trying to locate the upper end of the village.Reno lost his nerve and legged it up some hills and dug in,losing half his command in the process.Custer was blissfully unaware of this and he carried on along the Bighorn ridge trying to find the upper end of the village but came under increasing Indian pressure until his command was surrounded and wiped out,then the victorious Indians went back to besiege the remains of Reno`s force,now allied with the third cavalry force under Captain Benteen,for the rest of the day until the entire Indian village pulled out when the rest of the Dakota column arrived on the scene.
Did Reno and Benteen do enough to support Custer?Could they have pushed on through to relieve him and hold out until General Terry and the rest of the Dakota column arrived?I,personally, very much doubt it and I believe that Reno and Benteen should be given credit for salvaging part of the 7th cavalry from what could have become a complete massacre.
But let`s look at Custer`s action in more detail.There he is with five companies of cavalry moving along the ridge,Indians are sniping at his troops and there are several hostiles hovering around the rear of Custer`s column,the pressure is starting to become a real concern as more and more hostiles leave the Reno fight or get mobilised and start to make more daring attacks on the rear of the column.Custer`s force is operating in two wings the right wing consisting of three companies under the command of Captain Miles keogh is ordered to form a rearguard to see off the hostiles and then continue the advance.Keogh despatches Lieutenant James Calhoun`s "L" company to form a skirmish line at the base of some high ground whilst Keogh and his other two companies take up position on the rise.
Unfortunately by now Reno`s men are well and truly beaten and most of the 1800 or so warriors in the village are out and about and Calhoun`s men,all 57 of them,don`t last very long,as do neither of Keogh`s remaining two companies.Custer, three quarters of a mile further along the ridge(that`s how long Keogh`s chaps lasted) can only watch in dis-belief,three fifths of his men are down and where are Benteen and Reno?Well nowhere to be of any use to Custer,and now to make matters worse here comes Crazy Horse from the other side of the ridge to completely encircle the cavalry.There`s only one thing for it Custer gives the command to dis-mount and the rest is history.Or is it?What if Custer had ridden into an ambush and the head of the column had been wiped out first,Custer,his brother Tom,Captain Yates,the adjutant lieutenant Cooke,all killed early on?Command of the force then passes to the senior surviving officer in this case Captain Keogh,who,seeing the hopelessness of the situation in front attempts to get back to Reno,Benteen or even the rest of the Dakota column.
Will he make it?It`s an interesting thought and would make great game.