in Buffalo Bill's autobiography
source: The Life and Adventures of "BUFFALO BILL", Colonel William F. Cody, His Story shows his Devotion to Duty as a Child when Supporting his Widowed Mother, his Valuable Services to the Government while riding in the Famous "Pony Express" and Vividly Portrays his Thrilling Experiences as Hunter and Scout while acting as Guide to the Army and Trains of Prairie Schooners -- His many Hair-breadth Escapes and Fights with Indians, Desperadoes and while hunting Buffalo and other Wild Animals, as well as his Later Triumphs in Conducting the Tours of his Great Wild West Exhibition in the United States and Europe, chapter XXI
"While Reno and Benteen were trying to keep open a way for their retreat, Custer charged on the village, first sending a courier, Trumpeter Martin, to Reno and Benteen with the following dispatch: " Big village; be quick; send on the packs." This order was too plain to be misconstrued. It clearly meant that he had discovered the village, which he intended attacking at once; to hurry forward to his support and bring up the packs; ambulances, etc.
But instead of obeying orders, Reno and Benteen stood aloof, fearful lest they should endanger their position, while the brave Custer and his squad of noble heroes rushed down like a terrible avalanche upon the Indian village. In a moment, fateful incident, the Indians came swarming about that heroic band until the very earth seemed to open and let loose the elements of volcanic fury, or like a riot of the fiends of Erebus, blazing with the hot sulphur of their impious dominion.
Down from the hillside, up through the valleys, that dreadful torrent of Indian cruelty and massacre poured around the little squad to swallow it up with one grand swoop of fire. But Custer was there at the head, like Spartacus fighting the legions about him, tall, graceful, brave as a lion at bay, and with thunderbolts in his hands. His brave followers formed a hollow square, and met the rush, and roar, and fury of the demons.
Bravely they breasted that battle shock, bravely stood up and faced the leaden hail.
"Brushing away the powder grimes that had settled in his face, Custer looked over the boiling sea of fury around him, peering through the smoke for some signs of Reno and Benteen, but seeing none yet thinking of the aid which must soon come, with cheering words to his comrades, he renewed the battle, fighting still like a Hercules and piling heaps of victims around his very feet.
Hour after hour passed and yet no friendly sign of Reno's coming; nothing to be seen saving the battle smoke, streaks of fire splitting through the misty clouds, blood flowing in rivulets under tramping feet, dying comrades, and Indians swarming about him, rending the air with their demoniacal "hi-yi-yip-yah;yah-hi-yah."
The fight continued with unabated fury until late in the afternoon; men had sunk down beside their gallant leader until there was but a handful left, only a dozen, bleeding from many wounds and hot carbines in their stiffening hands.
The day is almost done, when look! heaven now defend him! the charm of his life is broken, for Custer has fallen; a bullet cleaves a pathway through his side, and as he falters another strikes his noble breast.
Like a strong oak stricken by the lightning's bolt, shivering the mighty trunk and bending its withering branches down close to the earth, so fell Custer; but like the reacting branches, he rises partly up again, and striking out like a fatally wounded giant lays three more Indians dead and breaks his mighty sword on the musket of a fourth; then, with useless blade and empty pistol falls back the victim of a dozen wounds.
He is the last to succumb to death, and dies, too, with the glory of accomplished duty on his conscience and the benediction of a grateful country on his head.
The place where fell these noblest of God's heroes is sacred ground, and though it be the Golgotha of a nation's mistakes it is bathed with precious blood, rich with the germs of heroic inheritance."
Chief Sitting Bull and Medal of Honor recipient William "Buffalo Bill" Cody