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Battle of the Little Bighorn
Battle of the Little Bighorn, also known as Custer's Last Stand, American military engagement fought on June 25, 1876, in what is now Montana, between a regiment of the Seventh United States Cavalry led by Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and a force of Sioux and Northern Cheyenne warriors. The discovery of gold in the nearby Black Hills in 1874 had led to an influx of prospectors into Native American territory, and the U.S. government ordered all Sioux onto reservations to clear the way for white settlement. Led by Chiefs Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and Gall, large numbers of Sioux and Cheyenne continued to practice their traditional nomadic way of life and clashes with the white settlers increased.
In 1876 the army planned a campaign against the Native American tribes resisting removal, then centered in southeastern MontanaTerritory. Custer's regiment of 655 men formed the advance guard of a force under General Alfred Howe Terry. On June 25 Custer's scouts located the Sioux on the Little Bighorn River. Unaware of the Native American strength, between 2,500 and 4,000 men, Custer disregarded arrangements to join Terry at the junction of the Bighorn and Little Bighorn rivers and prepared to attack at once. In the hope of surrounding the Native Americans, he formed his troops into a frontal-assault force of about 260 men under his personal command and two flanking columns. The center column encountered the numerically superior Sioux and Cheyenne. Cut off from the flanking columns and completely surrounded, Custer and his men fought desperately but all were killed. Later Terry's troops relieved the remainder of the regiment.
George Armstrong Custer
George Armstrong Custer (1839-76), American soldier, whose “Last Stand” against Sioux and Cheyenne warriors at Little Bighorn, Dakota Territory, has become an enduring legend in American history.
Custer was born on December 5, 1839, in New Rumley, Ohio, and educated at the United StatesMilitaryAcademy. When he graduated, the American Civil War was under way; he was assigned to the Union army as a second lieutenant and arrived at the front during the First Battle of Bull Run. By June 1863, he was in command of a cavalry brigade, with the rank of brigadier general of volunteers. His brigade fought at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and under General Philip Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley. As major general of volunteers, Custer participated in most of the actions of the last campaign (1864-65) of General Ulysses S. Grant.
In 1866, after the war, Custer applied for a leave of absence to accept command of the Mexican cavalry under the Mexican president Benito Juárez, who opposed the rule of Emperor Maximilian. Custer's application was denied; he became lieutenant colonel of the 7th Cavalry Regiment and was assigned to Kansas to engage in the wars against the Native Americans. He campaigned (1867-68) against the Cheyenne. In 1873 he was ordered to Dakota Territory to protect railway surveyors and gold miners who were crossing land owned by the Sioux. After three years of intermittent clashes with the Sioux, the U.S. Army determined to crush the Native Americans by a three-way envelopment. Custer's regiment formed part of the forces of General Alfred Howe Terry, one of three groups participating in the movement. Ordered by Terry to scout in advance of the main force, Custer's regiment, on June 24, 1876, located an encampment of Sioux, the size of which Custer underestimated. He attacked the morning after but his regiment was hopelessly outnumbered, and the entire center column, including Custer and 264 of his men, was destroyed.
Sitting Bull, Native American name Tatanka Yotanka (1831?-1890), Native American leader of the Sioux, born in the region of the Grand River in present-day South Dakota. Led by Sitting Bull, the Sioux resisted efforts of the United States government to annex their lands and force them to settle on reservations. Between June 25 and June 26, 1876, the Sioux, with the aid of other tribes, annihilated a punitive expedition commanded by Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer in the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Sitting Bull and his followers then fled to Canada. Receiving a promise of amnesty in 1881 and suffering hardship and famine, he returned to U.S. territory. Sitting Bull was put in prison for two years and then settled on a reservation. He continued to be hostile to the settlers.
In 1885 Sitting Bull was allowed to leave the reservation to tour with the Wild West show of Buffalo Bill. There is speculation that permission was given because the Native American police wanted Sitting Bull off the reservation to prevent him from creating problems. The tense situation among the Sioux was aggravated by followers of the Native American messiah Wovoka, who promised the defeat of the whites. Wovoka introduced the ghost dance, which was supposed to help the Native Americans regain their lands and live in peace. The ghost dance gave the Sioux hope and added to their restlessness. The army feared an uprising and believed that Sitting Bull was the leading instigator. They had him arrested on December 15, 1890. As he was being led away over the objections of his supporters, a gunfight erupted during which Sitting Bull and 12 others were killed.
Crazy Horse (1849?-1877), chief of the Oglala Sioux, known for his part in the Native American resistance to white expansion in the western United States. As a young man, Crazy Horse fought against United States troops in Wyoming under the Oglala chief Red Cloud. Upon his marriage to a Cheyenne woman, he became the leader of a band of Oglala and Cheyenne who refused confinement to reservations.
When gold was discovered in the Black Hills region in 1874 and prospectors swarmed the area, Crazy Horse joined forces with Sitting Bull, a chief of the Hunkpapa Sioux, to keep their land free of occupation by white settlers. On June 17, 1876, he repelled a detachment of troops under General George Crook at the Battle of Rosebud Creek in what is now Montana. After the battle, Crazy Horse and his people joined Sitting Bull's encampment on the Little Bighorn River. On June 25 the camp was attacked by Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and the 7th Cavalry. In the ensuing Battle of the Little Bighorn, Crazy Horse and his warriors killed Custer and most of his cavalry. The United States Army then began a relentless pursuit of Crazy Horse; he finally surrendered in Nebraska on May 6, 1877. A few months later, while reportedly resisting confinement, he was killed by a soldier.