HIDDEN HISTORY: Little Big Horn, Sitting Bull and the Betrayal of General Custer

Source – freerepublic.com

“…Was General Custer Betrayed? – In the months preceeding his death, General Custer had been in the nation’s capitol, subpoenaed against his will to testify before a Congressional Committee on the corruption in the Indian Department, and within the Army itself. General Custer’s testimony had named Orville Grant, the brother of President Grant, as well as Secretary of War Belknap, as leading partipants in this corruption, as well as other key member’s of President Grant’s administration”:

(Was General Custer Betrayed?)

Captain Thomas B. Weir was the commander of company B, in Captain Benteen’s battalion (one of the three columns that Custer sent against the Indians at Little Bighorn). On June 25, 1876, Weir followed Benteen in his scout on the South of the valley, looking for “satellite villages” (other Indian villages around the main one). __

“WE OUGHT TO BE OVER THERE!”

When Benteen understood that the scout didn’t give any results, he came back on Custer’s trail. He had specific orders to follow Custer’s steps and to send him a note about the results of his scouts. Benteen didn’t send any note to Custer (disobedience of order) and moved on the trail with considerable slowness. He then stopped his column to water the horses at a name later called “the morass”. Shots were heard in the valley, a sign that the battle was beginning on Custer’s side. Private Jan Moeller and Sergeant Windolph heard the firing, as well as Lieutenant Godfrey.

Captain Thomas Weir became very impatient. Lieutenant Godfrey stated that many officers became “uneasy by the lengthy stay. One subaltern wondered why the “Old Man” (Benteen) was keeping them out of the battle for so long. Captain Weir’s anger grew. He said to Benteen: “We ought to be over there!” Benteen ignored him. Weir went to his company, mount up and moved towards the sound of the guns. It was a disobedience of orders, because, as Godfrey stated, “his position in the column was that of second unit.” Benteen eventually moved behind Weir. It was the first time Captain Weir was leaving his command because of Benteen’s indifference to the ongoing battle. It wouldn’t be the last.

_____________________________________________ Sources: Hammer, Custer in ’76, page 75 Hunt; I fought with Custer, page 81. Sklenar, To Hell with Honor, pages 224, 365 note 18

__

BENTEEN’S DAWDLING, WEIR’S TAKING THE ADVANCE

The battle was still on in the valley of the Little Bighorn. However, Captain Benteen’s battalion was still out of the fight. Benteen travelled at three miles an hour, when Custer’s other battalions did the same in an hour less time. Benteen was slow, and there is no explanation for this betrayal. He just acted as if no battle was going on. He just ignored his duty. He then met Daniel Kanipe, who was carrying a vocal order by Custer. Benteen learnt that Custer was asking for immediate reinforcements, but didn’t act at all. His battalion was still moving at trot. He even stopped in front of a lone tepee to examine it. He was wasting time, and didn’t care about it. Soon, another messenger appeared. Private Giovanni Martini was carrying a written order by General Custer: “Benteen, come on, be quick, bring packs.” The packs were not the entire pack train, as it is often stated, but the “extra ammunitions”. Every soldier knew it, as lieutenant McClernand clearly said in his articles and book. Benteen had to pick the extra ammunition up and then to go quickly towards Custer. Did he act as his orders urged him to? Not at all. He didn’t go at a gallop, but at a walk or a trot (Lieutenant Godfrey). Custer’s men had moved on the same ground on overall speed or fast trot. Captain Weir was outraged again. Ignoring Benteen’s orders once more, he moved quickly, left the command and reached Reno Hill the first. Again, Thomas Weir was the only one in Benteen’s troops who acted like a soldier.

_____________________________________________ Sources: Hammer, Custer in ’76, pages 75-76 Gray, Centennial Campaign, page 183 McClernand, On Time for Disaster, page 71-88

__

WEIR’S ULTIMATE MOVE

Benteen’s battalion reached Reno Hill, found Reno’s battalion, which had suffered of casualties after its commander had left it without any bugle in the woods. Benteen dismounted and stayed on the hill with Major Reno. Both never acted to support Custer at any kind. They had orders to “come quick” and knew that the main duty of any soldier is “to support the commander at any level” and to “go to the sound of the guns”. But nothing happened. They just stayed on the hills, while shots and volleys were heard in the valley, coming from Custer’s men.

Lieutenant McDougall testified: “It appeared to everyone that all should go to support of Custer”.

Lieutenant Godfrey wrote: “I thought General Custer was below us and we could join him that we gad no water and a few wounded; that we would have our casualties and burdens increased on the morrow.”

Sitting Bull :

Journalist: “Were not some warriors left in front of these entrenchments on the bluffs, near the right side of the map? (Reno Hill) Did not you think it necessary – did not the warchiefs think it necessary – to keep some of your young men there to fight the troops who had retreated to these entrenchments (Reno’s and Benteen’s men)?”

Sitting Bull: “No.”

Journalist: “Why?”

Sitting Bull: “You have forgotten.”

Journalist: “How?”

Sitting Bull: “You forget that only a few soldiers were left by the Long Hair on those buffs (Reno Hill). He took the main body of his soldiers with him (Custer’s battalion) to make the big fight down here on the left (Medicine Tail Coulee).

Journalist: “So there were no soldiers (warriors) to make a fight left in the entrenchments on the right hand bluff (Reno Hill, Reno’s and Benteen’s position)?”

Sitting Bull: “I have spoken. It is enough. The squaw could deal with them. There were none but squaws and papooses in front of (Reno’s and Benteen’s men) that afternoon.”

Lieutenant Edward McClernand, of Terry’s column, arrived on the battlefield on June 27, 1876. He drew maps of the battlefield and wrote several articles on the battle. Here’s what he wrote on Major Reno, who was the senior commander of Reno Hill: “Some of (Reno’s) officers looking from the edge of the bluffs (from Reno Hill) at the large number of mounted warriors in the bottom below (the valley of the Little Bighorn), observed that the enemy suddenly started down the valley, and that in a few minutes scarcely a(n Indian) horseman was left in sight. Reno’s front was practically cleared of the enemy. It is not sufficient to say that there was no serious doubt about Custer being able to take care of himself. (Custer) had gone downstream with five troops, heavy firing was heard in that direction, it was evident a fight was on (…) Reno with six troops (…) still ignored the well known military axiom to march to the sound of guns.”

Weir was livid. Private John Fox heard this conversation between Captain Weir and Major Reno:

Weir: “Custer must be around here somewhere (shots were heard) and we ought to go to him.” Reno: “We are surrounded by Indians (it’s false. There weren’t any Indian around Reno Hill) and we ought to remain here.” Weir: “Well, if no one else goes to Custer, I will go.” Reno: “No, you cannot.”

Weir was so angered that he left Reno, mounted up and went towards the sounds of the guns with his orderly. Lieutenant Edgerly saw his commander leaving and followed him with the whole company D. As Edgerly understood afterwards, Weir had disobeyed orders. Both Benteen and Reno didn’t want to move.

_____________________________________________ Sources: Hammer, Custer in ’76, page 71 Gray, Centennial Campaign, page 183 McClernand, On Time for Disaster, page 71-88 Captain Michael J. Koury, Diaries of Little Bighorn, page 11 “Wild Life on the Plains”, in Cyclorama of General Custer’s Last Battle, compiled by A. J. Donnelle, Promontory Press, 1889, pages 21-23

WATCHING A BATTLE ON WEIR POINT

Benteen eventually followed Weir, but only 30 minutes after him. The battle was still raging on, as Historian Gregory Michno shows in his book “Lakota Noon.” (he makes the timeline of Custer’s movements with Indian testimonies) Despite what countless books said, when Weir reached a peak named afterwards Weir Point, Custer’s battle was still raging. Little Bighorn specialist Wayne Michael Sarf admits that many officers on Weir Point “apparently saw more than they would later admit. There is little doubt that (Lieutenant) Edgerly destroyed the portion of a letter to his wife dealing with the Weir Point episode.”

Sergeant Charles Windolph remembered what he saw on Weir Point : “Way off to the north you could see what looked to be groups of mounted Indians. There was plenty of firing going on.”

Lieutenant Hare was interviewed by Walter Camp, who wrote: “While out in advance with (Captain Weir’s) Company D, the Indians were thick over on Custer ridge and were firing. (Hare) thought Custer was fighting them.”

Private Edward Pigford: “at first when looked toward Custer ridge the Indians were firing from a big circle, but it gradually closed until they seemed to converge into a large black mass on the side hill toward the river and all along the ridge.”

Captain Weir was watching his comrades battling without helping them, because Benteen and Reno were still on their hill. When Benteen eventually reached Weir Point, he put an American flag on the peak to “show my position to Custer. The bugle began to sound on Custer Hill, which means that Custer was watching the flag or the dust of the other battalions and was using the bugle as a signal. Custer’s men asked for help, after having waited for Benteen and Reno… during more than two hours!

Sitting Bull: “As (Custer’s soldiers) they stood to be killed they were seen to look far away to the hills in all directions and we knew they were looking for the hidden soldiers (Benteen’s and Reno’s soldiers) in the hollows of the hills to come and help them.”

A little band, led by warchief Low Dog, eventually attacked the men on Weir Point while the battle on Custer Hill was still raging (see Michno). Benteen decided to withdraw his troops, according to Private George Glenn and Lieutenant Francis Gibson. The troops fell back without any rear guard, just like Reno had done in the woods. Lieutenant Godfrey decided to deploy his men on his own initiative. He later said to the Reno Court of Inquiry:

Question by the court: “Was the engagement severe in and around (Weir Point)?”

Answer by Lieutenant Godfrey “No severe engagement at all (on Weir Point).”

Question by the court: “Was there much firing on the part of the Indians down at that point up to the time to command started to go back (from Weir Point to Reno Hill)?”

Answer by Lieutenant Godfrey: “No, sir.”

Question by the court: “State if the Indians drove (Weir’s and Benteen’s) command from that position (Weir Point).”

Answer by Lieutenant Edgerly: “They did not. The orders were to fall back and we fell back.”

400 men fell back without ever supporting the last stand. Custer would never have the support he had asked for during more than two hours. His heroic last stand would end at 6.20 p.m., almost at the time Reno had reached Reno Hill again. A betrayal had just happened at Little Bighorn. A betrayal that would be covered during a century, and which is still covered up by many scholars and historians.

Major General Thomas Rosser, cavalry officer during the Civil War, wrote in 1876: “As a soldier, I would sooner lie in the grave of General Custer and his gallant comrades alone in that distant wilderness, that when the last trumpet sounds, I could rise to judgment from my part of duty, than to live in the place of the survivors of the siege on the hills.”

_____________________________________________ Sources: The official recording of the Reno Court of Inquiry, 1879 Nightengale, Little Big Horn, pages 129, 184-185, 190 Unger, The ABCs of Custer’s Last Stand, pages 191-218 Sklenar, To Hell with Honor, page 302 Michno, Lakota Noon, page 233-287 General Thomas Rosser, Chicago Tribune, August 8, 1876

DYING FROM SADNESS

Captain Weir went back on Fort Lincoln with a look of a “broken man” (lieutenant Garlington). He perhaps even tried to commit suicide by jumping in a stream while the 7th was moving back to the fort. Captain Weir was so sad because he knew that his comrades, his friends, his brother in arms had been deliberately betrayed from start to finish. From Benteen’s dawdling to his refusal to leave Reno Hill, from Reno’s disastrous offensive to his cowardice in battle, everything was made to blow any chance of victory up. Captain Weir wrote to Libbie Custer: “I know if we were all of us alone in the parlour, at night, the curtains all down and everybody else asleep, one or the other of you would make me tell you everything I know.” Thomas Weir began to drink too much, and died on December 9, 1876. Cause of death: “melancholia.” The Army and Navy saluted his death:

(Brevet) Colonel Weir was in the prime of life, 38 years of age, and no preliminary announcement of illness preceded the report of his death, which occurred suddenly in New York on Saturday, December 9, of congestion of brain. Colonel Weir was buried on Governor’s Island with military honours on Wednesday, December 14.

The only loyal officer of Reno Hill, one of the greatest – yet not honoured enough – heroes of Little Bighorn, Thomas Benton Weir, was dead. He wouldn’t be at the Reno Court of Inquiry to tell his story and destroy Reno’s and Benteen’s perjuries. On March 22, 1879, Captain Benteen help a journalist to write an article in the Army and Navy Journal. He wrongly accused Weir of being drugs addicted, which should explain his anger towards Benteen and Reno.

Thomas Weir’s ghost still haunted the traitors of Little Bighorn. _____________________________________________ Sources: Army and Navy Journal, December 9, 1876 Army and Navy Journal, March 22, 1879 Son of the Morning Star, pages 284-285

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-bloggers/1970852/posts

Related…

(Expansion, Indian Treaties and Sitting Bull, 1874-81)

In 1874 the newly formed North-West Mounted Police (“Mounties”) made their “March West” with poor equipment and a lack of provisions. Their purpose was to establish a federal presence on the plains area west of Winnepeg.

In April 1875 the construction of Fort Calgary was begun. The fort was built with pine and spruce logs cut upstream and floated to the site. The Mounties would soon be containing the whiskey trade and policing agreements with indigenous (Indian) peoples – today officially called “First Nation” peoples. Commanding officers of the Mounties were to be sworn in as a justice of the peace, giving them magisterial authority.

In 1876, Canada’s conservative government introduced measures to advance the dominion’s economy and to protect it from the United States. To help fend off competition from the US protective tarriffs were created and rail lines were extended.

By now buffalo were diminishing on Canada’s prairies. In 1865 there were an estimated 60 million in the Saskatchewan area (north and south of the Saskatchewan River). By 1876 that number had dropped to 500. Buffalo herds were being slaughtered commercially in US territories and as a deliberate government policy to subdue Indian tribes, and this impacted the Canadian plains. The buffalo herds had been roaming the Dakotas and Montana into the Canadian prairies.

In Canada, people of European origin were putting pressure on the way of life of indigenous people, and a smallpox epidemic had recently swept through the area, killing many.

In 1874 a treaty with the First Nation peoples had been signed by Queen Victoria in what was designated as the Treaty Four region. Treaty Five was signed by Queen Victoria in 1875 for areas around Lake Winnepeg and north a couple hundred miles. And in 1876 came Treaty Six. Treaty Seven was to be signed by Queen Victoria in 1877.

The “First Nation” people saw it in their interest to sign a treaty with the British Crown in order to prevent starvation. Treaty Six gave 4.45 square miles of land to individual families which they could sell back to the Canadian government for compensation. Each person immediately received twelve Canadian dollars and an additional five dollars per year. Those agreeing to live on their lands – First Nation reserves – were to receive agricultural assistance in the form of animals and supplies. A medicine chest was to be kept at the home of the Indian agent for use by the First Nation people, and the people were guaranteed assistance for relief from famine or pestilence.

In the US territory of Montana in June 1876 the Battle of Little Bighorn – Custer’s Last Stand – was fought, and following that battle the chief of the Lakota people, Sitting Bull, led about 300 followers into Canada, running from the US Army. A detachment of 25 Mounties met Sitting Bull and his followers, the Mounty leader and Sitting Bull shaking hands. With the help of an interpreter the Mounty commander explained that Canada was not to be used as a departing point for raids on the United States.

Sitting Bull was asked why he and his people had come to Queen Victoria’s land. To find peace, he replied, and he showed the Mounty chief a set of medals given to his grandfather by George III for his support in the American Revolutionary War.

Sitting Bull and his followers were allowed to settle in the Wood Mountain area and they were joined by other Indians from Montana. Sitting Bull’s first year in Canada has been described as idyllic. Sitting Bull and his followers could hunt, and Sitting Bull could play with his children, but the same food shortages that plagued other Indians on the plains became a problem. Sitting Bull was told that there was a too little food for Canadian Indians let alone for him and his people.

The younger warriors with Sitting Bull were to be described as getting tired of the quiet life, as making trouble with neighboring tribes and as creating displeasure for the Mounties. Canadian and US authorities discussed the problem, and those with Sitting Bull were told by US agents that they would be rich and happy if they moved onto reservations in US territory. Many began trickling back to Montana. By early 1881, Sitting Bull was leading mostly older and sick people. And with 187 of these people, Sitting Bull returned to the United States. He had been promised a pardon. He had his son, Crow Foot, hand his rifle to the commanding officer of Fort Buford in Montana and said that with this he hoped to teach the boy that he had become a friend of the whites. Then the pardon that he had been promised was broken. Sitting Bull was sent to Fort Randall as a prisoner of war.

 

Related…

Sioux tradition has Sitting Bull buried in Manitoba

A prominent Dakota Sioux historian says the final resting place of the great Sioux chief Sitting Bull is in Manitoba.

In 1876, Sitting Bull led the victorious Sioux in the Battle of Little Big Horn that dealt the U.S. cavalry its greatest defeat and claimed the life of Gen. George Custer. Sitting Bull’s remains were secretly spirited across the border at Turtle Mountain and buried on Canadian soil near the Turtle over a century ago, according to the account of a family whose ancestors were traditional leaders among the Dakota at that time.

“That is one of the top secrets among the Dakota people,” said Sioux historian and elder Gordon Wasteste, 84, in a phone interview from his home on Sioux Valley First Nation.

Wasteste says Sitting Bull isn’t the only warrior whose remains were laid to rest near the Turtle. The warrior who actually killed Custer — his identity remains a secret known only to a few Dakota — is also buried in a secret location on Canadian soil.

The family has been among the guardians of the secret for more than a century.

“Sitting Bull is buried near Turtle Mountain,” Wasteste said. It is his third grave — he was buried and moved twice from graves in the Dakotas.

Wasteste’s ancestors included a woman who witnessed the assassination of Sitting Bull in 1890 near Standing Rock, S.D.

The family also includes chiefs who held positions of authority on Turtle Mountain.

Wasteste’s great-grandfather was Bogaa Wasteste, one of three lawkeepers in the seven-member council of the Affiliated Tribes, a confederacy of tribes who all spoke similar Sioux languages. They were known as the Buffalo People and they led a plains-based society with Turtle Mountain as a spiritual, political and commercial centre.

The council handled trade for the confederacy and kept trade routes open.

Wasteste’s great-grandfather and his co-lawkeepers would have been asked for permission, or at least been consulted, before any burial, even one for a man as important as Sitting Bull.

The mystique that surrounded the warrior and chief exists to this day.

Wasteste was willing to confirm the burial is on Canadian soil but the exact location remains a secret.

The account he supplied is fascinating to anyone interested in the history of the Great Plains and the deliberate destruction of the Sioux culture in the late 1800s.

Wasteste told of a trip Sioux warriors made after Sitting Bull was placed in his second grave in North Dakota.

The fact there were two graves before the third and final resting place is a revelation, too.

Warriors secured the precious body to a travois pulled by a horse and they accompanied it north. The trip was a mission to keep the remains safe from American grave robbers, Wasteste said.

They travelled under cover of darkness until they made it safely over the border into Canada on the north side of Turtle Mountain.

Sitting Bull, born Tatanka Iyotank around 1834, became a stoic symbol of Indian resistance to white settlers throughout the 1880s. Hunted by enemies and American cavalry alike, Sitting Bull sought refuge in Canada for a few years and oral history tells the story of Canadian aboriginal allies pleading with him not to return to the United States because they feared he would be killed.

He was shot to death while being arrested at his home on the Standing Rock reservation on Dec. 15, 1890. His assassin was a man in the escort of Dakota police led by a warrior named Bullhead.

Wasteste picked up the account there, saying his grandfather’s sister witnessed the fatal shooting.

“They had to arrest Sitting Bull. All the time, he knew they were coming. They approached from the south. They were in a camp and they had this log house built.” Sitting Bull was under guard in the log cabin.

Twenty-five feet from the door to the cabin, Bullhead and his Dakota escort stopped.

“He walk in front and he called Sitting Bull out. First time, he didn’t come out. Second time, Bullhead called and Sitting Bull came out. Sitting Bull said, “I’m finished with war, with everything. I want to live in peace.”

“Just then somebody shot him. There was one guy, only one guy that shot him… which he shouldn’t have.”

The man who shot Sitting Bull dropped seconds later himself, killed by a single shot from another man in the Bullhead’s escort. “Only two shots were fired.”

Sitting Bull was buried first at a U.S. army base, Fort Yates, N.D., and later moved. A Fort Yates grave was opened in 1953 and a body moved to South Dakota, but Wasteste says Sitting Bull had long been resting in southern Manitoba.

Wasteste recalled that about this time in American and European history, it was not unusual for wax effigies of famous people to be displayed in museums.

Mixed with these stories was another bizarre and far rarer practice involving the use of the actual bones of a dead person in the effigies.

The most famous example was British philosopher Jeremy Bentham, who left directions to preserve his body after his death.

In 1832, Bentham’s body was dissected in the presence of his friends. His skeleton was reconstructed, a wax head supplied to replace the original and he was dressed in his own clothes. The effigy was set upright in a glass-fronted case. It is preserved at University College in London.

Word of it reached the Dakota, who’d heard of the wax effigies. They were horrified the fate would claim their revered leader.

“They don’t want that to happen to him,” Wasteste said.

“To be waxed and put in a museum. They moved him three times. At night, where nobody know where they take him, they got him to Canada,” Wasteste said.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/historic/32363909.html

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