ROBER UTLEY ON CUSTER'S ACTIONS
source: Historian Robert Utley, Cavalier In Buckskin, new edition 2001, pp.159-162
“Despite the consequences, the decision to attack on June 25 was sound. […]
“Benteen counted himself out, as timing factors shows. When he came back to the main trail, he was about half an hour behind Custer and Reno. When he neared the mouth of Reno Creek, he was one hour and twenty minutes behind. Had he moved at the same pace as Custer, had he RESPONDED to the messages brought by Kanipe and Martin [which were orders] with the swiftness that Custer expected, Benteen migh well have fought alongside Custer. […] that don’t excuse the laggard pace that kept one-fourth of the regiment out of the fight at the decisive moment.
Reno also failed Custer, as well as every test of leadership. […]
Could Custer have won ? […] Good arguments, however, do support a conclusion that, even against the Sioux and Cheyennes in all their numbers and power, he could have won. […]
[Benteen’s] swift march on Custer’s trail on receiving Kanipe’s report [or orders] might have brought him to Medicine Tail with the action still centered there. Had Reno held in the valley, Benteen’s timely appearance would have given Custer eight companies with which to storm into the village and perhaps carry the day.
But one conclusion seems plain : George Armstrong Custer doesn’t deserve the indictement that history has imposed on him for his actions at the Little Bighorn. Given what he knew at each decision point and what he had every reason to expect from his subordinates, one is hard pressed to say that he ought to have done differently.”