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The Gallant Seventh

The Gallant Seventh image
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Gen. Custer started on the 22d of June, at 12 o'elock, marohed about fifieen miles, and encamped on tlie Bosejud. On tlie 23d tlie trail discovered )y Col. Beño was found and followed. It turned off from the Bosebud and led over the divide to the Little Hom. The couts reported a village on the Little ïorn, and Clister pushed out, marching all night. On Sunday morning, June 25, the scouts reported the viUage only a 'ew miles ahead, on the north bank of he Ltttle Horn, and immense numbers of Indians swarming out of it. One of ■he scouts, a half-breed Sioux, Michael 3oyer, told Clister the village was tlie argest he had ever seen in the West. Clouds of dust were rising over the Indian town, and masses of horsemen were eon by a dense growth of timber and mshes. The bank of the river opposite he village was abrupt and overhanging he streain, with high, conical bilis in .he background. In rnany places the iluff was twelve feet liigbi and almost ierpendicular. On the side where the village stood the land was level and tretched down like a beautiful lawn to ;he timber which ran to the water's dge. As the troops raised the crest of the ïills on tlie opposite bank a singular sight lay before them. Below was the village, its white tepees stretching for niles along the stream. Biding rapidly over the plain a scout carne back and aid the Indians were running, and Cuser irnniediately told Col. Eeno to go ahead and pitch in and he would suport him. Reno was given seven com)anies, the bulk of the regiment, while luster reserved five companies for his serson. Col. Eeno went ahead with ;hree companies, Capt. Freneh, Capt. Vaylan and Lieut. Mclntosh. The egiment had been traveling along the ight bank of the stream, and down its waters , the village was on the left bank of the river, and the river bank was covred out and away for miles with lodges, nd on the plain hundreds of horsemen vore galloping about apparently in the vildest confusión. Clouds of dust rose over the different bodies of Indians, endering it impossible to number them. Only now and then, when a few ponies hot out of the cloud, could the Indians e seen, and apparently then going to tie rear. The report soon spread that the ndians were retreating, and Gen. Custer, after ordering Reno over the iver above the village, ordered Capt. Ceogh, Capt. Yates, Capt. Thomas Juster (a brofcher of the General), jieut. Smith and Lieut. Calïoun, with their companies, to keep on own the right bank of the river until hey carne to a point opposite the village nd below. it, and then cross over and harge the village on the flank. It was vidently Custer's intention to attack the village at both ends, and have the forces work toward each other. Having ordered the attack above, Custer placed our companies, to be held in reserve and o guard the pack traine, and, turning over the command of the reserve to Capt. Benton to be sent to Eeno in oase he needed them, Custer with the ive companies galloped down the ridge o cut off the Indians. As he dashed orward he raised his hat, and the solTiers cheered lustily. This was the last seen of Custer or his men until tbey were found dead and horribly mutilated. We must now recount the movements of Reno. In obedience to Custer's orders he had crossed the river above the village, and was advancing upon it. liittlo rosistanee was made to his crossng, and bnt few Indians showed in his 'ront as he deployed on the plain be,ween the river and the bluff - the valey stretched down to the village, which was about four miles distant, and Reno advanced in column of companies. The valley was a little over a müe wide, and the companies met with no serious resistance in their front for a considerable distance. The first intimation of great danger was the appearanee of masses of Indians on the bluffs on the flank of the left company. A heavy flre was opened from the bluff and at the same timo the Indians charged in front. Ofncers and men behaved with great gallantry, driv ing back the charging foe. But tho are from the bluffs was so heavy that Eeno's men were forced over toward the river. Eeno ordered the companiea into the timber, and dismountcd the battalion. They were iormed on the edge of the woods, under a little depression to fight on foot. Tho Indians charged across the plain and made every effort to dislodgo the white men from the timber, but were repulsed time after time. They charged both on ponies and on foot, but were driven back each time with heavy loss. Eeno soon discovered that the Indians were working around to his rear, and had entered the timber abovo him, and between him and the reserve. The order was given to mount and charge through the timber toward the reserve. The Indians had already become so strong that i-t was found impracticable to dislodge them, while mounted, from bohind the bushes and trees, and tho commaud again dismounted and charged on foot. The Indians were every nient gctting thiokcr luitween tlie companics on the river bottom and tlie reservo on tlie Ml!. Col. Reno ordered his men to mount and cut their way through. A wild öoramble for hfü now begau. It was every one for liimself. Indians on every sido rose up and flted at the flying horsemen, -and hnmlreds mounted on swift poniop pursned tho sèldicrs, easily enough coming iipwith the hoavy American horses. It was a hand-to-hand figlit, one trooper liaviug often as many as five Indiaiis after him. Tlie troops used their revolvers at short range, emptying an Indian saddle at every shot. At the ford about a mile distant, a strong force of Iudians wíik found holding it. But the troops dashed over them, crosscd the river, and begaü to ascend the high bank opposite. It was a mere Indian trail leading up the face of a bald hill. The Indians rallied and, taking shelter in the bushes about the ford, oponed a deadly flre on the soldiers as they iorded and ascended the opposite bank. On account of the üarrowness of the ford a great crowd soon collected ft bont the crossing and beoanie jnmuaed there ; and into tl) ia mass of men and horses the Indians fired at short rango. The loss of life here was fearful. Lieut. Hodgson feil while gallantly endeavoring to get his men across the stream. Hodgson had alrcady crOSBed the fordhimself and was ascending the opposite bank when his horso was shot and rolled down the bank wHh him. Detaching himsolf from the fallen ftnimal, he grasped the stirrupH of a passing soldier to help himself up the bank, and had nearly reached the top when a shot struck him and ho feil back, rolling down the bank and into the water. Aa soon as tho soldiers reached the hill overlooking tliis ford they dismour.tedftnd opened fire on thé Indians to cover the crossing of their comrades. The reserve, which had been left with the pack train, was now reported coming up and soon occupied tho hill above the ford. The Indians, who had crossed the river both above andbelow the ford, charged the hill, but were repulsed and began to draw off. As soou as the command was collected, Oapt. Beuton, commanding the reserve, ordered Capt. Weir to rjush his company along the crest of the hill, on the right bank of the river, and see if he could flnd Custor, who had gone in that direction with the flve companies. Capt. Weir pushed out about a mile, fighting heavily, when the Indians becamo so strong in his front and on his flauks that he sent word to Capt. Benton that if he advanced any further he feared he vould bo cut off and surrounded, and Capt. Benton at once ordered him back. He returned with difficulty, but succeeded in bringiug off his company with a loss of flve men. Col. Beno, seeing large bodies of Indians on the plain, ordered the men to put their animáis in the ravines and He down bchind the crest of the little ridge that extended in all directions. The Indians kopt up a brisk lire, but it was evident that tho massos had gone off somewhere, and Col. Eono looked for á sudden attack in soine other quartor. Two ho;irs went by and there was no news from Custer. AU. wondered where he had gone or what he could bo doing. Another honr and then Col. Reno became anxious about Custer and his command. He was about to try and advance up the ridge to look for Custer, but had so many wounded it took a whole company to carry them. While he was debating what was best to be done, and waiting to liear from Custer, he eaw large bodies of Indians coming up the valley, and soon a terrible attack began on his position. The men had dug rifle pits as weli as they could in the hard ground, and were vory imperfectly sholtered. The Indians charged on foot, and by a tremendo effort attempted to rout the soldiers. The fight for a few minutes was desperate in the extreme, and alinost hand lo hand, some of the Indians, who were evidently unarmed or out of ammunition, throwing stones by hand at the soldiers. Eeno's menstood firm, and, after a desperate struggle, the Indians feil back a little. Two or three more efforts were made to carry Kono's position, but without suceess, and the Indians drew off to hills completely covering them on every side of the command. A largo body at one time got into a ravine close by, and Col. Beno ordered Capt. Benton to charge them out of it with his company. The men sprang out of their rifle pits and with a cheer dashed forward, the Indians breaking and running at their approach. It was now discovered that .two or three small hills near by were higher than the one occupied by Beno and comnianded it. On these hills the Indians gathered and poured in a galling üre. One of tho hills overlooked the corral, and from it the savages shot down scores of fine horses and mules and killed and wounded eleven packers who were with the pack train. The fighting closed at 9 o'clock, when it becamo too dark to see to shoot. But at dusk the Indians were on all the hills in the ravines, and the command was completely surrounded. The soldiers worked all nightto strengthen their position; but the ground was very hard, and they had nothing to dig with with except their butcher kmves, hands and tin plates and cups for shovels. At daylight on the morning of the 26th the battle was renewed. The Indians opened with a tremendous flre and deafening warhoop. The hills were black with them, and their nnmber was variously estimated at from 2,000 to 4,000, while Beno's command at that time did not number over 400 men, one-third of whom had to protect the horses and pack animals,rand were in a great measure of no use in resisting an Indian assault, and the situation was desperate in the extreme. In the afternoon the sun becamo vory hot, and the men, who had been without water for thirty-six hours, were almost famished. The horses showed signs of perishing and the wounded begged piteously for water. It was full 200 yards down the hill to the water's cdge. Every inch of the ground was commanded by Indian sharpshooters, and a lino in the timber on the opposite bank of the narrow river. Col. iïeno determined to get water at all hazards, and a number of canteens were gathered. While one company took tho camp-ketties and canteens, another charged down the hillsido and engaged the attentiou of tlie Indians whilo tho kettles were fllied. The dash w;is made and tho men went bravely to the river and dipped np the water, while a heavy stream of fire was kopt up over their heads. It was a brave deed to errry a camp kettle to the river and fill it; but it was done, and sufñeient water for presen! use was obtained. Five men feil in the charge toget water. At nightfall the Indians drew off, and Col. Beno ordered the river front of the camp to bo cleared in order that water for animáis might bo had. The work was dono, and all the animáis woro watered, and a good supply for next day's use obtained. The wotinded woro suffering terribly, Dr. De Wolf liaviiig been killed early in the action, leaving only one surgeon, D. Porter, to attend to the wounded, over twenty of whom were ia bad condition, aud but few supplies of any kind on hand to relieve their sufferings. Every one won dered what had become of Custer, and mauy thought lie had been eut off and gone down to the Big Horn to join Gen. Gibbon's column, which was expected to bo at the mouth of the Little Horn, only twenty miles distant, on the 26tb. On the moming of the 26th the Iudians renewed the attack fiereely. Thcy seemed to regard it only as a question of time, but were unwilling to wait until the men ran out of suppiies or dioil for want of water. For milos back the country was f uil of Indians to cut off any who attempted to escape, and not even a courier oould be got through their lines. The fighting continued on the 26th from 6 o'clock till noon, when the Indians began to leave, and about 2 o'clock a great commotion was observed in the villages. Lodges ' wera pulled down, and Indians in crowds of lmndreds hurried out of the valley and wild bilis. Until dark the stampedo continued, but was condueted in so orderly a manner as to lead Col. Keno to believe they were only removing their villages to get grass for their immense herdsof animáis. At nightfall Col. Beno's front was entirely free from Iudians, and the command passed a quiet night. On the morning of the 27th not an Indian was to be seen. This hasty departure was, of course, due to their knowledge of Gibbon's advance with infan try. Many of tho men found dead on Custer's field wero horribly mutilated, and most had their skulls smash ed by stone mallets. This was the work of the squaws, who swarmed to the battle field, robbing and mutilating the bodies of the dead, and killing the dyingand wounded. There were in Custer's regiment, when ho went into battle, 585 men and twenty -six officers. Of these forty men were killed witli Keno, and fif ty-one wounded. With Custer wrare about 240 men in the battle, and 210 bodies were found and buried. It is believed not a single man or officer who was with Custer escaped.


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