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Without a survivor of Custer’s command to tell the story, with the possible exception of the young Crow scout Curley, it is only natural that the dramatic event would trigger more debate and conjecture than any other battle in U. Under the command of Major Marcus Reno and Captain Frederick Benteen, about 400 soldiers and scouts survived a two-day siege on a bluff about four miles from where Custer was annihilated. A coverup of the facts of the battle immediately began–a coverup endorsed by many, but orchestrated first and foremost by Major Reno and Captain Benteen.
Custer’s political difficulties during the spring of 1876 and his testimony in Washington, D.
Not only did the two officers fail to carry out those orders but they also failed to carry out the spirit of military duty as it exists historically in any military structure.
Reno and Benteen, to protect themselves, went far in confusing the issues of the battle.
Orders were disobeyed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, but not by Custer.
Even General Terry confused the issues by inventing a charge that Custer disobeyed orders–a charge still frequently repeated despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
The retreat turned into a total rout, during which Reno lost about a third of his command killed, wounded or missing.
Advancing toward the battlefield, Benteen witnessed Reno’s retreat and then joined Reno and his command on the bluffs.
Because the Indians in the camp might escape–the greatest concern to the frontier army while on campaign–Custer ordered his force forward to the attack. Dividing the regiment into four elements, Custer began the advance into the Little Bighorn Valley. Custer himself commanded two battalions–five companies–and Reno commanded a third battalion of three companies.
Custer could do so with confidence, for there was no record up to that date of Plains Indians ever having confronted an entire regiment of U. These three battalions made up the main force of the advance, while Benteen and three companies were sent on a controversial and somewhat mysterious’scout’ to the left (south) of the main advance.