Benteen's betrayal

Publié le par custerwest

Benteen. Be quick. Bring packs.
source :
CBHMA; Robert Utley, Cavalier In Buckskin, new edition 2001, pp.159-162 .

Historian Charles Kulhman

"Custer meant, in that order, that he wanted the ammunition taken from the [pack] train and rushed ahead as fast as possible. I am sure myself that that is what he wanted done because otherwise the order made no sense.

Here is a short analysis of the situation as I see it. Custer had already sent [Sgt. Daniel] Kanipe to hurry along the packtrain—and note that Kanipe’s order said “If any packs come loose, cut them.” That means that Custer was prepared to sacrifice property in the interest of speed. This suggests something in regard to the second order carried by Martin.

Note that if Benteen was hogtied to the packtrain he was out of the fight. In thinking about the speed of the packtrain[,] it covered the distance from the divide to Reno hill, less than 15 miles in a little less than 5 hours. They therefore travelled [sic] at the rate of about 3 miles an hour. It is absurd to imagine that Custer did not know in a general way what time the train could make. To order Benteen to escort the packtrain was sheer opera bouffe in view of the fact that when he went down stream after seeing Reno go into action Custer staked everything on the effectiveness of his demonstration at the lower end of the village. My point is that as far as the packs are concerned, Custer saw that they could not be defended while on the march if attacked by any considerable number of warriors. He must do something to prevent the Indians in large numbers from going to attack the train—give them something to worry about elsewhere. But he wanted to make absolutely sure about the reserve ammunition, in case his guess did not work out with complete success.

Note that if Benteen [had] escorted the packtrain only about half of the regiment could get into the fight until hours after it began.

Benteen tacitly admits [at the Reno Court of Inquiry] that the order required him to bring the packtrain and in part gives the same reason for not going after it that Edgerly gives, namely that McDougall was there and would bring it. Edgerly says: “Custer could not possibly want us to go for the packs as Captain McDougall was there and would bring them up.” Was the fact that McDougall “was there” the real reason for their not going after the packs? This kind of answer was made because it was the only one that would sound plausible to the court, but that the real reason was that when the order was received it did not make sense. They did not know what Custer wanted, but they saw that if Benteen escorted the packtrain nearly half the regiment would be there and the other half fighting. The order sounded as if things were extremely hot down the trail, and no one would imagine that the packs were wanted just then. If the packs were wanted as badly as the order seemed to say it must be for the ammunition. That was an easy deduction, though the order did not specifically say “bring ammunition packs.”

  And there they were. It did not make sense to tie Benteen to the packtrain though that is what the order seemed to command. And now it did not seem to make sense to think Custer wanted or needed the ammunition for his own immediate use or he would have thought of Reno also which he clearly had not in this order."

Historian Robert Utley

"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."

Publié dans LBH: Benteen's scout

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