The Elliott Affair

Publié le par custerwest

The story of a controversy that never existed

 During the battle of the Washita, when Custer's 7th cavalry crushed the terror base of Cheyenne chief Black Kettle (see VIDEO: Washita), a party of 18 men, led by Major Joel Elliott, pursued a party of warriors and women and children far away from the Cheyenne village.

The purpose was to capture these civilians and to kill the warriors. The mission was accomplished: two warriors were killed, and a woman and a young man were held prisoner by Sergeant-Major Kennedy. Kennedy gave his protection to the prisoners and started to go back to the village, while Elliott continued his rush.

But other warriors, coming from villages around Black Kettle's, eventually attacked Elliott and slaughtered them with their usual cruelty (heads cut off, hands and legs smashed, throat cut open etc.)
These warriors, quickly numbering 2'000, attacked Custer near the village. After intense firing, Custer withdrew without knowing where Elliott was.

In 1869, Captain Frederick Benteen wrote in a personal letter, published in a St Louis Newspaper, that Custer had abandoned Elliott. Benteen wasn't Elliott's friend: he was Custer's worst ennemy.

Did Custer really abandon Elliott without trying to locate and save him ? The story has been told so many times, without any look at the facts. Benteen heavily talked about it, to cover his own and real betrayal, eight years later near the Little Bighorn.

What's the reality of the case?

Elliott moved too far away from the village, a movement that hadn't been ordered. He left his own command (a whole column of many companies) to chase Indians without concern about his men or the ongoing action.
When Custer got the information that Elliott was reported missing, he immediately acted. According to Sergeant John Ryan, Custer immediately sent Captain Myers and a party in the direction Elliott had been seen. Myers' men looked for Elliott in vain, and reported their action to Custer. The lieutenant-colonel then destroyed the village, took his 53 prisoners and withdrew.

He had done anything he could for Elliott. The "Elliott Affair", spread by his enemy Frederick Benteen, wasn't one.

There hasn't been any Elliott affair. Charles Windolph, of the 7th cavalry, remembered that no one in the 7th was blaming Elliott's loss on Custer. Private David Spotts, of the 19th Kansas, who camped with the 7th cavalry after the Battle of the Washita and visited the battlefield, wrote in his diary that the men of the 7th cavalry were praising Custer for the entire battle.

Major Joel Elliott

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