I'd like to finish with just a couple of photos from the Benteen/Reno siege area, and sign off with some random thoughts about the battle.
Could it be Keogh's horse Comanche? No....just a free roving horse, looking for food from tourists on the path down to the Reno/Benteen siege site.
View from weir's point toward Last Stand Hill (look toward the horizon, above the roadway, to the right of the area of trees around the visitor center). This is a photo zoomed in about 10X or so, giving an approximate perspective that Weir and others at this point would have had of the final stages of the battle on Last Stand Hill. Personally, I think any of their observations about seeing Indians doing this or that, or waving guidons, is entirely created after the fact based on what they found out after the battle. With dust from the battle, and the distances involved, I'm highly doubtful that they really saw much of anything that they could make out.
So - some random thoughts wrapping up my fantastic visit to the LBH battlefield.
1) If you ever get a change - GO! It is a great battlefield to visit, and very haunting. This is one of those battlefields that gives immediate enlightenment about the battle once you see the ground and visit the area. Highly, highly recommended.
2) Sheridan Wyoming as a short drive of about 60 miles to the battlefield. There are plenty of places to stay - we stayed in the new Hampton Inn and were very satisfied. I can't say much for the food in Sheridan, though. I spent almost $90 for a dinner for two (steak) at the "best" place in Sheridan, and the steaks tasted like mule hooves. Our second dinner in Sheridan was at Pizza Hut. Nothing fancy, and the place smelled slightly odd like all Pizza Huts, but the food was good and dinner cost $20.
3) I've read often comments like "if only Custer had taken the Gatling guns". Really? Really? How was he going to get them there? His pace would have been glacial, and he wouldn't have had a chance of catching up to the village. Additionally, the Indian warriors weren't stupid. They didn't fight like Zulus or Mahdists. Massed charges weren't a Plains Indian warriors "cup of tea", until they were certain that they would be successful. Let's assume that the Gatlings were there - most likely they would have been with Reno. OK, so what? I don't think he would have been dropping warriors like flies as they mindlessly charged the Gatlings. Most likely the warriors would have just spread out and enveloped the Gatlings and "boom", drop them where they stood. I really don't see much of an effect from the Gatlings on a highly dispersed target they would have been facing. These weren't WW1 Maxim guns, but Gatlings with a fairly fixed cone of fire.
4) Custer and his troops were exhausted on the day of the battle. I've ready many estimates that Custer might have only had an hour or two of sleep in 36 hours. I was up for 32 hours one time for work, and I can tell you - you're mind just doesn't work right. It takes much longer to make a decision, things don't sink in, and you almost feel numb. True, adrenalin would have kicked in for the troopers, but still - a bad, bad situation to put yourself into.
5) The distances on the battlefield were VAST. In my mind, the chief failure of Custer once he pitched in was to think there was ANY chance of Benteen making an appearance and affecting the battle. I'm not thinking about any person vendettas by Benteen slowing his approach, etc, but just the large distances involved and a simple time/motion study of how long it would take him to get to where Custer wanted him. It just wasn't going to happen.
6) I wonder if the 7th had been brigaded with an infantry regiment, or few infantry companies, possibly mounted, if things would have worked out differently. Indian warriors didn't like coming up against infantry ("long rifles") because of the long range of their weapons. An interesting "what if". I think the biggest issue is that the infantry would have slowed the column (see the Gatling discussion above).
7) In my opinion, Custer wasn't incompetent, and he wasn't an idiot. He was a fighter, and he finally got the target "cornered". He wanted to enhance his reputation, but he wasn't stupid enough to throw his life away on something he considered suicidal. I think the lack of battle preparation (rest, reconnaissance) led him to make some bad assumptions about the scope of what he was getting into. From the flow of the battle it looks like he was in tactical control until towards the end of the battle, looking for opportunities to dictate the tempo and flow of the battle. He just ran out of time and resources, and the final result was inevitable.