I've long been interested in the Plains Indian Wars (PIW). I suspect that most of that can be traced to growing up near a "battlefield" - the Beecher Island battlefield. To a greater extent, it has been my lifelong fascination with Custer and the Little Bighorn battle.
I just finished a novel of the LBH, titled "A Road We Do Not Know" by Frederick Chiaventone. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and found that it gave me a few more potential insights into the battle and personalities involved. Chiaventone (in a Pritzker Military Library broadcast) mentions that he's been part of army staff rides at the LBH, and at every turn, the officers made decisions that matched what Custer did.
I think Custer did the "best" that he could with an impossible situation. I don't believe any of the odd and weird stories or conspiracy theories about the battle (ie Custer was a glory hound and a moron). I think he had no real clue until too late about what he was up against, did the best he could, and was overwhelmed. Combat isn't a wargame, and it isn't fair. No matter the reputation, the personalities....sometimes it is just impossible to win, and the inevitable happens.
At any rate, I heartily recommend reading the novel mentioned above. I'm also waiting for Chiaventone's treatment of the Fetterman fight to arrive.
As a result of all this, I'm now spinning thoughts in my mind about gaming the period. I'm thinking the Indians are the tricky thing, as they don't really have units. More of amorphous blobs that grow, shift, slacken through an engagement. Also - no consistent mounted or dismounted tactical dispositions - it was every man for himself, with a mix of whatever worked for the individual on the ground. I'm thinking my Indian units will be a mix of mounted and foot figures,to visually show this. Mounting and dismounting shouldn't really be a tactical decision of the leaders, as they wouldn't have that degree of control over the individuals anyway. Lots of things to noodle on!
A couple of photos for inspiration. Old Glory figures painted by Brad Thorton.
Looks like we'll be going up to the LBH battlefield this summer for a long weekend tour. I can't wait! We'll be driving instead of riding the motorcycles. That avoids the scheduling issues that can arise with the unpredictable and sometimes dangerous weather (rain, thunderstorms, hail).