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George W. Glenn's Story of the Battle #2
THE STORY OF PRIVATE GEORGE W. GLENN
H AND M Troop of the 7th US Cavalry received orders to leave Fort Rice and report at headquarters of the 7th Cavalry, Fort Lincoln, Dakota, where we went into camp with the regiment. We [had] not been in camp but a few days when the hostile scouts would come near camp [and] signified that they had declared war. Therefore the 7th Cavalry was ordered to take action against them. The regiment did not intend to leave Fort Lincoln so soon. The regiment broke camp the 17th day of May, having about twenty-five or thirty wagons with them. The steamer Far West was chartered to carry provisions and ordnance stores and to bring the wounded back if a battle should be fought.
The regiment passed through Bismarck, Dakota, at 10 A.M., accompanied by Mrs. George A. Custer and the US Paymaster. On arriving at Heart River, the Paymaster paid the regiment. This was done for fear that most of the regiment might be left back [drunk] in Bismarck. The regiment went to work building [a] pontoon bridge to cross the wagon train over the Heart River. It came upon a hard rain storm which made our movement slow in crossing the gumbo hills of Dakota, and the regiment did not reach the Little Missouri River until the last of May owing to a snow storm [blowing] through the night. The regiment was camped there until the fourth of June, then broke camp, making a dry camp between the Little Missouri and Powder River.
"Boots and Saddles" were sounded early on the morning of the 5th of June and [we] arrived at Powder River the evening of the 7th. There General Terry discovered an Indian trail. Terry sent his scouts to follow the trail, and from the direction it took, the scouts soon returned, stating that the Indians were moving in the direction of the Little Big Horn. Terry left his wagon train at Powder River and took his pack train with him, and all men [who] were not able to stand the trip were also left with the wagon train, besides a guard with the train. The number of men, including trumpeters, would amount to about one hundred men.
The column moved slowly up the Yellowstone River and on reaching Tongue River [on June 16] we found some Indian graves buried on [platforms on] stakes and in crotches of trees. The 7th Cavalry tore down these graves and threw them in Tongue River. [This was] a most unwise act to disturb these dead, for I drank water about a hundred yards below where they were. One Indian that was lodged in the crotch of a tree had not been cut down and [did not] fall in the river. We [did] not go in camp there, so the column moved slowly up the Yellowstone River, having flankers out so the Indians could not lie in ambush for us. I wish to say there was a putrefied papoose at the foot of one of these trees who had fallen from one of the graves.
After a few days we reached the Rosebud Creek. There we found the steamer Far West tied up and also Colonel Gibbon with four troops of the and Cavalry and the 7th Infantry. It was at the Rosebud where Custer received his orders. Custer was ordered to issue twelve pounds of oats and two horse shoes, one forefoot and one hind foot shoe which every man would carry on his horse with him.... Custer were to send Terry word at the mouth of the Little Big Horn by a scout when he had located the Indian village.
Custer left the mouth of the Rosebud Creek on the 24th of June. In marching along the Rosebud we passed through a good many broken-up camps where the Indians were concentrating [prior to going] over to the Little Big Horn. We marched day and night. At midnight we would rest, holding our horses by the bridle, then continued our march until the morning of the 25th. Then [they] issued more ammunition. That was when Mitch Bouyer, the halfbreed scout, returned [and] told Custer that the village contained from eight to ten thousand. Custer did not take any notice of what the scout had told him. Everyone knew what Custer would do: that Custer would go in and [that] Mitch Bouyer was willing to guide him; but Mitch Bouyer knew what would be the consequences. But Custer was a man that you could not dictate to. No one would know his plans.
Custer continued his march [to] within five miles of the Little Big Horn on the 25th of June and then made a halt. Custer gave Major Reno [Note: actually, he means Benteen here] his orders. Custer told Reno that he, Custer, would pick up his five troops and go ahead, and Reno to keep up close in [the] rear with the remainder of the troops, and keep the pack train up also at the same time. Custer had Mrs. Custer's horse Sadie on the trip with him in order to have a fresh horse [when] going into the battle. Custer started on at a dash.
Reno [sic - Benteen] got off Custer's trail and went astray in the hills. On his return out of the hills he was met by Trumpeter [John] Martin with a dispatch to ["]Come quick and bring packs; big village,["] but for some unaccountable reason Reno did not follow Custer's trail, but Reno switched off Custer's trail four miles up the Little Horn, and on the left of the village. After arriving on the bluffs facing the river, he undertook to go down the river to join Custer, but seeing so many Indians between him and Custer, he saw that he was completely cut off. Benteen advised Reno to fall back and corral his pack train in the ravine.
By this time Custer was in the fight. Custer had his charge about 2:30 [P.M.]. Reno had his charge about 3 o'clock. [Note: the order of the charges is reversed here; Reno charged first, then Custer, as the eye-witness record overwhelmingly demonstrates.] After Reno had crossed the river, he saw so many Indians coming out of the timber [that] he dismounted his men to fight on foot formations. The last time he mounted his men they all struck a panic and retreated back to the ford of the river where they had crossed. At the same time the Indians were shooting his men out of their saddles. Reno lost heavy on this charge in the valley.
After the retreat back to the hills, H Troop held one bluff and the other troops held the back of [the] other hills. It was not long after Reno was surrounded before the Indians led a charge on H Troop. Their point was to get the hill that H Troop held. If they had got that hill they would [have] massacred every man of Reno's command. They did three or four charges and none got the hill. The last charge was [such] a hard one that Benteen was compelled to call on Reno for reinforcement. M Troop was sent to Benteen's rescue and repulsed the Indians.
When we would have time we dug holes in the ground so we could get our heads out of sight. It seems we did not care for any other part of the body. We used our butcher knives as we could not find any picks nor shovels at the time of the fight. I think we did well to hold them offwith what few men [we had] against such [a] large force of Indians, for when Custer's command was massacred, every Indian came on Reno.
H Troop ran out ammunition on the hill. Every man looked upon another to see who would go in the ravine where the pack train was to get ammunition. I saw that nobody would go, so myself and a comrade [named] Jones went down after a box. After that comrade [Julien D.] Jones was killed. I could not carry a box of carbine ammunition, so I carried a box of pistol cartridges, and on my way up the hill from the ravine a bullet struck the box that I carried. There must have been [a total of] three or four bullets [that] struck it. I fell to the ground, pretending that I was dead, playing possum on the Indians. Benteen told some of the men to run down the hill and get the box I carried. I spoke in a low voice that I was only resting [and that] I would be there in a minute [or] so.
When I arrived on top of the hill the Indians led another charge. That [was] the charge that nearly drove H Troop from the hill. This charge was on the evening of the 25th. The charge on the morning of the 26th was not a bad one. I pitied the poor wounded who were lying among the pack train that were shot down for the protection of the wounded, for they were suffering for water. We broke open boxes of tomatoes and other fruits, which were officers' fruits, and gave them to the wounded to stop their thirst until such time we could get water for them. There was a water party selected to get water for them, protected by a firing party along the ridge, with orders from Captain Benteen to give no man water but only the wounded, [and to] let every man get his own water.
We held the Indians off all day on the 26th. At night things were quieter. It was on the evening of the 25th [afternoon on the 26th] when Madden of D [K] Troop lost his leg. It was cut off on top of the hill. There were not many shots fired from the Indians on the morning of the 27th. It looked to me [that] if Terry were a dashing man like Custer, he could [have] come up on the 26th instead of the 27th, for Terry had only twenty miles to come. However, when Terry came up to Reno he asked Reno where General Custer was. Reno replied that he did not know. Last [thing] he heard from Custer's men ... [was] firing down the river at sundown on the evening of the 25th. It seems that Terry came through Custer's battlefield for Terry told Reno to take all his picks and shovels and bury the dead [of] Custer's massacred command.
Terry took care of Reno's wounded while Reno was tracing up Custer's dead. It looked to me that it was a running fight as the dead looked that way from the way the men lay when they were found. There is no picture of the fight ... [that shows] the bodies the way they lay on the ridge for we had not any photographer with us, and the reporter was killed. Only a sketch can be given of the fight of Custer's men by the men that helped to bury the dead. I will give the historian the whole thing of Custer's dead.
It seems that Custer's men never crossed the river. We found [a] trail going down in the river, but it seems that Custer got repulsed before he got across the river . . . [because] we never found any trail of him on the other side of the river. The first men were found on the ridge, and on a little knoll was the Chief Trumpeter with three arrows in his head and one in his right shoulder. The next was [Mark] Kellogg, the New York reporter, [who lay] about 50 yards from the Chief Trumpeter [and] who only had arrows in his body. [Then came] first a [single] horse and then there were ten or twelve horses and their riders. Most all of these men were mutilated and nearly all had arrows put in them.
Further up the ridge we found scattering soldiers and their horses. Thomas Tweed of L Troop was a young man that I enlisted with. He was cut up the crotch and his left leg thrown over his left shoulder and he had three arrows in his face, but was not scalped. They had not time to scalp all of these men for there [were] about 280 [sic] men that were killed on the ridge. There was not any horse with Tweed, but there was a horse that had been wounded and [still] alive not far from Tweed.
Further up the ridge and at the head of the ridge, Captain Benteen rode ahead and [after] looking in the ravine, turned around and said to Major Reno, "Here is the whole Headquarters." [We found] part of C Troop and part of E Troop, besides General Custer, Captain T. Custer, Captain Keogh, Captain Calhoun, the brother-in-law of Custer, [and] Captain Yates. I am not certain of Yates. Lieutenant Sturgis's trousers were found but we did not find the body at that time. [Note: Sturgis was on of nearly two dozen Seventh Cavalry fatalities whose bodies were never found.] Custer's nephew [was killed and was] about 18 years old. The list of troops with Custer are C, E, F, I [and] L. . . . Captain Keogh [and] Sturgis belonged to M Troop but were with E Troop when they were killed. Lieutenant DeRudio, an Italian officer [who] was Italian but held a commission in the 7th Cavalry, escaped from Custer's [command]. No doubt he got across the river because he came from the timber up to Reno's command on the 26th.
After we buried Custer's men we crossed the river where the Indian village had stood. We found two heads of men that were captured from Major Reno's command when Reno led his charge the evening of the 25th. I think they were captured on the 25th because we heard the powwow in the village. One of the heads was recognized to be [that] of [John E.] Armstrong, A Troop, 7th Cavalry. The head was identified by Captain Moylan of A Troop. This Armstrong belonged to Moylan's troop that was under Reno's command.
We buried the two heads [and] then moved up the river to General Terry's camp to prepare a way to carry our wounded to the mouth of the Little Big Horn and place them on board the steamer Far West. We took the Indian lodge poles that they left [and], besides, we cut some poles from the timber and made stretchers. They issued out rations in order to get Col. Gibbon's pack mules [unloaded]. We put a mule in front and rear [of the stretcher] and then attached the poles to the mules. Then we put the wounded on the stretchers. The 7th Infantry would march on each [side] of the stretchers to keep it steady. We nearly took all night marching to the mouth of the Little Big Horn. Some died on the way after the wounded were on board the steamer.
The command pulled out for the mouth of the Bighorn River where we waited for a few days to hear from General Crook. Word reached camp that Crook [was] over on the Rosebud Creek. Terry packed up at once and moved over to where Crook was in camp and held council with him to [decide] what to do. They came to the conclusion not to follow the Indian trail, but to go over to the Powder River where the 7th Cavalry [had] left their wagon train. On arriving at Powder River we found that the wagons had been destroyed and the grain was scattered all over the ground and the escorts all killed.
[After] we buried the dead, General Terry and Crook separated. Terry went to Fort Lincoln to recruit the 7th Cavalry to replace the five troops that were lost the 25th of June, 1876. Crook went down to the lower agencies to disarm the Indians. After the 7th Cavalry was filled up they went down the river to the Standing Rock agency to disarm the Indians on that reservation. We went through their lodges, cutting up their lariats [and] breaking up their saddles, and after this was done we drove their ponies off. Then we returned to our headquarters [at] Fort Lincoln, Dakota.
General Custer has been severely criticized for the failure of this campaign, and it seems justly so as he disobeyed [orders] in not sending word to General Terry when he located their village, and [for] bringing on the battle on the 25th instead of the 26th, and [for] not taking the Gatling guns and the four troops of the 2nd Cavalry, as he was ordered. The plan of this campaign was for Custer to move up the Rosebud and [for] Terry to move up the Little Horn River, and Crook was to come in the rear of the Indians, and all be connected together. If this was done the day would [have] been ours.
This article was written by a survivor of Major Reno's command that was in the disastrous campaign, George W. Glease, H Troop, 7th US Cavalry, at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, June the 25th, 1876. My actual name is George W. Glenn, Company B, National Soldiers Home, Hampton, Virginia.
Indian Views of the Custer Fight: A Source Book by Richard G. Hardorff, The Arthur Clark Co. Spokane, WA 2004, p 191 - 201
George W. Glenn was also known as George W. Glease. Here is another account of the battle by George Glenn.