NO WARRIORS AROUND RENO HILL WHILE SHOTS ARE HEARD
By David Cornut
Author of “Little Bighorn, autopsie d’une bataille légendaire” (384 pages, France, 2006)
Sources quoted in text.
Sources quoted in text.
While Custer’s 210 men were fighting Indians near the river (Medicine Tail Ford), Benteen’s and Reno’s 400 men were waiting on Reno Hill. They didn’t move for more than one hour, while volleys of Custer’s men were heard by everyone in the command (including Reno and Benteen, who both admitted it in 1879).
Was there any reason of waiting on Reno Hill? Was the hill surrounded by warriors? Did the Indians leave some warriors to put pressure on Reno?
No. Scout George Herendeen and 16 soldiers, hidden in the bushes near the river, found their way to Reno Hill without any trouble. Major Reno himself went down the river and found the body of his adjutant, Lieutenant Hodgson.
Here are compiled accounts of the quietness around Reno Hill.
SITTING BULL’S ACCOUNT
Source: “Wild Life on the Plains”, in Cyclorama of General Custer’s Last Battle, compiled by A. J. Donnelle, Promontory Press, 1889, pages 21-23
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.”
Sitting Bull: “You have forgotten.”
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.”
Source: The official recording of the Reno Court of Inquiry, 1879.
Lieutenant Godfrey, of Benteen’s battalion: “(The Indians) all seemed to go down the river not more than 10 minutes after our arrival.”
Lieutenant Luther Hare, of Reno’s battalion: “As soon as the command (Reno) got to the top of the hill, all the Indians left, about 100-150, and went downstream. Those that stayed in the bottom were taking care of the dead and wounded. We were too far away to tell whether they were warriors or old men and women.”
Lieutenant Edgerly (Benteen’s battalion) and Lieutenant Varnum (Reno’s battalion) both agreed that no warrior was around Reno Hill during more than two hours. Sergeant Davern (Reno’s orderly) said that he had told Captain Weir that all the warriors were breaking off and going back to their village, to fight with Custer.
LIEUTENANT MC CLERNAND’S ANALYSIS
Sources : Robert Nightengale, Little Bighorn, FarWest Publishing, 1996, page 123
Edward McClernand, On Time for Disaster, University of Nebraska Press, 1989, pages 71-88
Lieutenant General Nelson Miles, Personal Recollections of Nelson Miles, Werner Company, 1886, page 290
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.”
Major Reno and Captain Benteen had nearly 400 men with them. There wasn’t any warrior left around Reno Hill during two hours. Both battalions didn’t suffer any casualty during all this time. Yet, both refused to move. Custer’s position was well-known: heavy firing from Custer’s troops was heard by all the command.
General Custer was fighting with Indians only fifteen minutes (at gallop) away from Reno Hill (test made by US general in chief Nelson Appleton Miles). He was gaining time for support to come. Neither Benteen nor Reno ever tried to support him.
30 minutes after the beginning of the battle, 400 men of the 7th cavalry, under Major Reno and Captain Benteen, were out of the battle. Until the end.
The mystery of the battle of the Little Bighorn? A military betrayal denied during more than a century, buried by countless authors who saw “what happened” in their imagination, and never listened to the witnesses and evidences.
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