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Folklore: The Little Bighorn as told by the winner

JohnInKansas 28 Dec 11 - 05:36 PM
John MacKenzie 28 Dec 11 - 07:28 PM
Little Hawk 29 Dec 11 - 12:09 AM
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Subject: Folklore: The Little Bighorn as told by the winner
From: JohnInKansas
Date: 28 Dec 11 - 05:36 PM

It's not always true that "history is told by the winners." The Battle of the Little Bighorn is a notable exception to the rule, with few records of how the Indians told it. There were no survivors on the losing side, so "history" frequently just made up what those on that team wanted to believe.

How the Little Bighorn Was Won in Smithsonian Magazine, November 2010 issue, has an extract from a new (then?) book that includes accounts by the 50 or so Indians who related how the battle actually went.

The article is quite long, but the Editor's Note at the beginning tells what it's about pretty well, although it's no substitute for reading the whole article, and maybe even the book.


Editor's note: In 1874, an Army expedition led by Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer found gold in the Black Hills, in present-day South Dakota. At the time, the United States recognized the hills as property of the Sioux Nation, under a treaty the two parties had signed six years before. The Grant administration tried to buy the hills, but the Sioux, considering them sacred ground, refused to sell; in 1876, federal troops were dispatched to force the Sioux onto reservations and pacify the Great Plains. That June, Custer attacked an encampment of Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho on the Little Bighorn River, in what is now Montana.

The Battle of the Little Bighorn is one of the most studied actions in U.S. military history, and the immense literature on the subject is devoted primarily to answering questions about Custer's generalship during the fighting. But neither he nor the 209 men in his immediate command survived the day, and an Indian counterattack would pin down seven companies of their fellow 7th Cavalrymen on a hilltop over four miles away. (Of about 400 soldiers on the hilltop, 53 were killed and 60 were wounded before the Indians ended their siege the next day.) The experience of Custer and his men can be reconstructed only by inference.

This is not true of the Indian version of the battle. Long-neglected accounts given by more than 50 Indian participants or witnesses provide a means of tracking the fight from the first warning to the killing of the last of Custer's troopers—a period of about two hours and 15 minutes. In his new book, The Killing of Crazy Horse, veteran reporter Thomas Powers draws on these accounts to present a comprehensive narrative account of the battle as the Indians experienced it. Crazy Horse's stunning victory over Custer, which both angered and frightened the Army, led to the killing of the chief a year later. "My purpose in telling the story as I did," Powers says, "was to let the Indians describe what happened, and to identify the moment when Custer's men disintegrated as a fighting unit and their defeat became inevitable."

[end quote]

A separate note at the end of the Ed Note gives a different link than the one where I found the article, so just in case the other doesn't work, the alternate is:

How the Battle Alternate Link

This, for those elsewhere, is true "US Folklore" of a kind seldom seen or heard.


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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Little Bighorn as told by the winner
From: John MacKenzie
Date: 28 Dec 11 - 07:28 PM

I still sing a Paxton song, which I think is called 'General Custer Told Me' That's the first line anyway, and it certainly isn't pro Custer.

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Subject: RE: Folklore: The Little Bighorn as told by the winner
From: Little Hawk
Date: 29 Dec 11 - 12:09 AM

Good account. I've heard many of these individual stories before. It's good to see that someone has put them all together in a single volume.

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