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PROCEEDINGS OF A COURT OF INQUIRY IN THE CASE OF MAJOR MARCUS A. RENO

CONCERNING HIS CONDUCT AT THE BATTLE OF THE LITTLE BIG HORN RIVER, JUNE 25-26, 1876, Q.Q. 979

TWELFTH DAY

Chicago, Illinois

Saturday January, 25, 1879

11 o’clock A.M.

The court met pursuant to adjournment.

Present

All members of the Court, the Recorder, and Major Reno and his Counsel.

The proceedings of the last session were read and approved.

DURING THE READING OF DR. PORTER’S TESTIMONY HE SAID:

“The idea I wish to convey as to the number of Indians is that there were two or three thousand warriors and three or four times as many people; perhaps 5 times as many.”

THE EXAMINATION OF CAPTAIN MOYLAN BY THE RECORDER WAS THE CONTINUED as follows:

Q. State if you know, if anything was done to ascertain how many Indians got in that timber.
A. Major Reno was down there in person, but what he did I do not know,
Q. Do you know what number of Indians were there?
A. I do not know the exact number. I testified that I saw forty or fifty, but there might have been a great many more. I do not limit the number, at all. There might have been twice or three times that number.
Q. Might there not have been two hundred Indians in there?
A. There was sufficient room for two hundred.
Q. But might there not have been two hundred in there?
A. Yes, although I did not see two hundred.
Q. State whether a line could have been formed by Major Reno’s command with one flank resting on or near the river, and thence extending across to near the open, and then along the edge of that open and across the timber to the river bank below.
A. If you point out that position on the map I could answer.
Q. Could there have been any formation made so that both of the flanks could have rested on the river?
A. There could have been a formation of that kind made, but how long it could have stood there I do not know.
Q. I was not asking that, but whether it could be made.
A. It could be made.
Q. State whether or not such a formation could have been made so that an effective and well-directed fire would have covered almost every possible approach to that position; if not please state why.
A. With a formation of that kind with the number of men at Major Reno’s disposal, the line would be necessarily so short that it would not extend to the bank at the outer edge of the timber. In my opinion had such a formation as that been made, the Indians could have possessed themselves of this bank at the edge of the timber, and been on much higher ground than Major Reno’s men could have been in the bottom. Therefore it would have made the position there perfectly indefensible.
Q. How far was that edge or bank from the river?
A. About two hundred yards.
Q. Then what would have been the length of a line to have come out from the river to that point in the timber and going in the manner I have described? Was the timber two hundred yards wide at every point, or was it that width immediately below or further down?
A. It was not so wide, it bent in almost at an angle to the river. When I say below I mean above - higher up on the stream toward this ford.
Q. I am speaking of down the stream.
A. I do not know anything about that.
Q. But the bench you said was about two hundred yards from the river?
A. Yes; where the right of the skirmish line rested.
Q. Did that bench run parallel, or what was its divergence?
A. One hundred and fifty to two hundred yards it made a bend in toward the river, but how close it ran to the river I do not know. I could see where it made a bend and across it the Indian tepees were visible.
Q. Then a line formed to the river across that bench would have been two hundred yards long at that point?
A. Yes.
Q. A little below that it would not have necessarily been so long?
A. No sir.
Q. State whether or not a command of one hundred men could have been deployed at sufficient intervals to have covered that line and protected themselves?
A. Protected themselves from what - from the number of Indians in front? I do not think such a line could have been established with the number of men there - that is with the proper number of yards between each man. A line such as could have been formed would not have been strong enough to protect itself from the number of Indians that were there.
Q. How compact in your opinion would the line had to have been to have protested itself?
A. I think it would have been necessary to have a regular skirmish line with five yards intervals between the men.
Q. Then how many men should Major Reno have had there to form an effective line such as you have described? Double the number of men?
A. I think about double the number. You understand, of course, that all the men he had there were not available, for the reason that one-fourth of the command were engaged holding the horses.
Q. State whether on the hill one-fourth of the men were holding the horses during the engagement.
A. No; they were not.
Q. State as near as you can, the number of Indians that were confronting or in the immediate vicinity of Major Reno’s position at the time the order was given to retire from that position in the timber - within effective range, I mean.
A. In my opinion there were four or five hundred Indians within effective range; that is, those in the timber and those in the valley.
Q. What further number would you estimate there was back of this as far as could be seen - as many more?
A. No; I do not think as many more I think I saw probably six or seven hundred Indians while in the valley. I do not think I saw over that number.
Q. Up to the time the order was first given by Major Reno that the command should leave the woods, how many men had been disabled?
A. I can only answer that question as far as my own company is concerned, I had one man killed and two wounded.
Q. Where did these casualties occur?
A. One was killed in the opening in the valley; and the other was wounded in the woods. One of my men who was left in the woods subsequently came out - an hour or so after the command reached the hill. He must have been wounded in the woods.
Q. I am speaking of the number of men wounded before the order was given.
A. Before Major Reno gave the order I had one man killed and one wounded.
Q. Was that before the men had mounted to leave?
A. Yes; I had another man wounded in the woods as the command was going out.
Q. How much ammunition did the command have?
A. My men had fifty rounds on their persons and fifty more in their saddlebags, making one hundred rounds per man.
Q. Had there been an order to the effect that the men should have that amount of ammunition?
A. Yes; that was the order of General Custer.
Q. Up to the time that the command left the woods, how many rounds of ammunition had been fired away, in your judgment?
A. I think many men had fired nearly all of their fifty rounds before leaving the skirmish line; and in consequence, I sent several men from my line to get ammunition from the saddle-bags while the others were still on the line.
Q. From the nature of the firing what is your opinion as to the average number of shots fired?
A. I think about fifty rounds per man had been fired - between forty and fifty on an average all through.
Q. In what length of time would those fifty rounds be fired?
A. In about forty minutes.
Q. Was the command engaged in. firing during the whole forty minutes?
A. I think it was. I think they were on foot forty minutes, and they were engaged in firing all the time they were on foot.
Q. In your opinion, what proportion of the ammunition was judiciously expended?
A. About two-thirds, I should imagine. That may be rather a large estimate, but I will let it go.
Q. Please state anything in addition to what you have already stated, what the object was in leaving the timber?
A. I rather think the object in leaving the timber was if possible to save that command.
Q. How many men were lost in getting out of the timber and going to the river?
A. I lost four men killed, and I think there were four or five wounded.
Q. What percentage of your command would that be?
A. I took thirty-eight men into the fight, and that would make eleven men killed or wounded, altogether.
Q. As a matter of general notoriety, what was the loss of the command in going across from the timber?
A. There were several men killed and wounded in the other companies, but the exact number I do not know. I think, however, their loss would be about the same as mine - probably not no large, as I was on the outside, on the right flank, and may have suffered a little more than the others.
Q. Please state, with the great number of Indians around, if Major Reno was not in greater danger of losing the entire command in leaving the timber than if he had remained there.
A. Well; with that particular command with us in the bottom at that time, unless it had been supported, I think the most judicious course was to leave the timber if possible. Had the command stayed there thirty minutes longer, I doubt if it would have gotten out with as many men as it did.
Q. Did the command leaving there expect to get any assistance, find any aid, or anything of that kind?
A. Not knowing anything in reference to the orders or plans made in reference to the fight and that sort of thing, I am unable to answer that question. I have only my own opinion.
Q. Well, give your opinion.
A. Well, my own opinion was that there was an opportunity, if we reached those hills on the opposite side of the river Big Horn, of having aid come up.
Q. In the event of no aid reaching you, and those five or six hundred Indians had followed the command to the river - closed up and followed it - what would have been the result? Do you think it could have successfully resisted them?
A. No; because their ammunition would not have lasted.
Q. State whether the command was actually driven out of the timber by the Indians?
A. The command was not actually driven out of the timber.
Q. Was it actually driven from that position?
A. The command was virtually driven but not exactly driven. It would have been driven into (out of) the timber in a very short time; but when we left the timber the command did not leave because it was driven out.
Q. Was there any volley fired from the rear, or from near the river, by those Indians you speak of as being in the edge of the timber next to the river before Major Reno told you that the command must leave that timber?
A. Yes; several shots - not volleys, but scattering shots.
Q. Was there or was there not, a volley fired from that place before the command left - I mean firing pretty much together?
A. I suppose there must have been forty or fifty shots. There might have been a great many more, but they were not together.
Q. Was that before or after the command was mounted to leave?
A. About the time the command was mounted.
Q. State whether at that time you had a trumpeter in the company, or was there one in the command?
A. I had a trumpeter.
Q. In advancing from the crossing to this position in the timber, was any bugle or trumpet call sounded?
A. I do not remember of having heard any
Q. Was there any general signal given by which the command in the timber would know it was going to leave, or whet movement was to be executed?
A. The order was to mount the companies up and move off on the plateau; and when I got there I received an order to move out.
Q. Was there any trumpet signal sounded at that time?
A. I do not remember any.
Q. If there had been would you have heard it?
A. I think so.
Q. State if you know whether the entire command had been formed before starting from that place.
A. The whole of my company was formed before starting. That is all I can answer to your question. I do not know about the others.
Q. State whether or not any of the men belonging to the other companies were left in the timber?
A. In saying that the whole of my company was formed, I meant with the exception of one man who was left in the timber; but how I do not know. Lieut. DeRudio was also left.
Q. State from what you learned at the time or afterward, whether any other enlisted men were left in the timber?
A. Yes, I believe there were twelve enlisted men left who afterward came out,
Q. Do you remember when they afterward joined the command?
A. When we had been on the hill about an hour, to the best of my recollection.
Q. State whether or not any officers or men were killed or wounded at the crossing, while on the retreat or going up the hill?
A. I know there were some killed, but how many I do not know. A corporal of my company was killed there; and Mr. Hodgson was also killed about there.
Q. Was that crossing covered by any organized body of troops to protect the river in crossing?
A. I do not think the crossing was covered.
Q. State whether or not the men were triumphant or exultant with success, or demoralized or despondent, when they had reached the top of the hill? And describe the condition of the command when it reached the top of the hill.
A. Well; it was not demoralized, neither was it very exultant.
Q. When the command got on the hill, was it in any condition to meet and oppose any considerable number of Indians?
A. Within a few moments after we got on the top of the hill, the command was in a tolerably good condition. A skirmish line had been thrown out
Q. By whose order was that line thrown out?
A. I do not know that anyone would have the authority to do anything of the kind but Major Reno, and I presume it was done by his orders.
Q. State what orders Major Reno gave, either when the command was going up the hill or immediately after reaching the top.
A. I do not remember him giving any orders at all,
Q. Did you hear him giving any instructions?
A. No, for the reason I was separated from the other portion of the command; and probably two-thirds of it had reached the top before I got there.
Q. Who led the retreat or charge to the rear across that timber?
A. I do not know, sir.
Q. Where was Major Reno during that retreat?
A. I do not know.
Q. Was he alongside of you, or before you?
A. I saw him as the command moved out. I dropped from the head of my company to the center of it on the outer flank; and of course I lost sight of him then, and I do not remember seeing him until I was at the river.
Q. At what position was he then?
A. He was riding at the head of the column. I think he was in the interval between the two companies at the head of the column.
Q. State whether any halt or check was made while crossing that bottom to permit the men in the rear to close up?
A. There was no halt or check made, but the command was not moving at a run.
Q. At what gait was it moving?
A. It was moving at a very fast gallop. I will illustrate my meaning more clearly. The horse of one of my men was killed under him after my company started, and he succeeded in getting another horse and mounting him and coming up with the company.
Q. Were there any loose horses around there?
A. He caught a sorrel horse belonging to G Company. One of the men of that company had been killed.
Q. Where do you consider the proper position of an officer with reference to his command on a retreat or movement of the character you have just described?
A. I should imagine his position should be where he could observe his whole command.
Q. With reference to the front, center, or rear, where would the position be best to have observed his whole command?
A. Under the circumstances, close to the rear would have been the best place to observe what was going on.
Q. I believe you said you yourself dropped back?
A. Yes; I dropped back to the center of my company.
Q. State if you know when Major Reno crossed the river with reference to the command?
A. I do not know. When I saw Major Reno, he was on the opposite bank; but in front of him going up was quite a number of men, and it was my impression that a number crossed before he did, but I do not know as a matter of fact.
Q. On that retreat across the bottom, state what officer, if any, was charged with looking after the rear?
A. I do not know anything about it.
Q. When the command was in the timber, how near was it to the hostile village, and describe in answer to this question the location of this village, stating its size, etc.
A. The lodges I saw were supposed to be a part of the village, although they were scattered, and I do not think they were over five hundred yards from where we were in the timber.
Q. Describe the location of the village from what you saw after.
A. Along at the upper end the village was scattering. The bulk of the village was lower down and more compact, as I judged in riding over it afterwards.
Q. State whether or not Major Reno’s position in the timber threatened that village?
A. That position of course threatened it but from the timber Major Reno could not have done any damage to the village or anyone in it. The ground was so much lower than that on which the village stood, that he would over-shoot the village.
Q. Describe how far the village extended in your judgment?
A. I think it was certainly three miles, if not more, from end to end, as I saw it afterward. Its average width would be two or three hundred yards. It was a very large village, the Indians estimating it at eighteen hundred lodges. I have no reason to doubt that the statements of the Indians were correct. There were also four hundred wickiups.

State whether these wickiups were next to or adjacent to these lodges?

A. No; they were scattered in the timber promiscuously.
Q. Did there appear to be a separated and distinct camp of wickiups?
A. Yes, sir; scattering here and there.
Q. Were there any indication of lodges in the immediate vicinity of the wickyups?
A. No; the lodges were more in the open ground.
Q. State whether the position Major Reno took on the hill threatened the village or not?
A. It could not threaten the village; it was entirely out of range.
Q. When the command was in the timber, was it expected or believed, either by yourself or the command generally, that it would in any way be aided or supported in its attack on the village?
A. I have no means of knowing anything, about it, except what Mr. Hodgson told more with reference to Major Reno’s orders. He said they were to charge the Indians, as it was supposed they were retreating, and Major Reno would be supported by General Custer’s command.
Q. State what the general belief was as to where the remainder of the commend of the 7th cavalry was, at any time from the period Major Reno’s column was engaged in the timber, up to the time it reached the top of the hill?
A. The first that I heard in reference to General Custer’s command was after I got on the hill, where it was rumored among the men that it had passed down on that side of the stream.
Q. But at the time you were moving down this bottom and engaged in the timber, and in going back to the top of the hill. Was there any belief as to. Where the balance of the command was? What was your opinion?
A. My opinion was that it was on the rear of our trail and was coming to our assistance.
Q. And Captain Benteen’s command?
A. That I do not know so much about. It passed away to the left and I thought might come in through the foot-hills.
Q. And Captain McDougall’s command?
A. I think he was on our trail, and he had the pack-train.
Q. Can you state how many men Captain McDougall had in his command?
A. I think about forty men of his company, and a non-commissioned officer and six privates from each of the other companies.
Q. State whether or not you expected that the other column would join in the fight or make an attack in support of Major Reno.
A. I have no reason to doubt that if they saw him hard pressed they would come to his assistance
Q. State whether any attack on that village in flank by another column, or an attack lower down than from where Major Reno was, would or would not have been supporting Major Reno’s attack.
A. I think it would have been supporting his attack - that is, to the extent of drawing off the number of Indians necessary to resist it.
Q. I understand that by a support you do not necessarily mean that a command must be immediately in rear of another command to support it in an attack?
A. I think it would be supporting an attack if Reno attacks this end and General Custer attacks that end. It draws a number of Indians from his front and consequently is supporting Major Reno.
Q. Did you hear any firing in the direction of General Custer9s battle-field after you reached the top of the hill?
A. Yes.
Q. How long afterward?
A. About an hour. Captain McDougall had come up with the pack-train.
Q. Did you hear any before?
A. No.
Q. What remarks did you make at that time?
A. I simply called McDougall’s attention to it and asked him what he thought it was. He said he supposed it was General Custer firing at the other end of the village.
Q. Describe the sound of the firing.
A. It was evidently volley firing, but very faint.
Q. State what interval of time intervened from the time that Major Reno command pulled out at the head of General Custer’s column, until Major Reno and Captain Benteen united their forces on the hill.
A. It might have been an hour. It might have been more or less, I do not know.
Q. State whether or not Captain Benteen’s command could have joined Reno in the timber.
A. It would depend entirely upon the force brought against him; but the country was such that it was practicable to do this.
Q. Could he go there even if he were opposed?
A. It would depend altogether on the number oppose to him.
Q. If one command could charge to the rear, could not another command of the same strength charge in the opposite direction?
A. I expect they could.
Q. State what developments or evidences of fighting you found on General Custer’s trail.
A. I did not examine the trail at all. I do not know that I ever saw it until I got to this watering-place. It was probably half a mile from there I saw the first bodies. The evidences of fighting were a great many dead men lying about there. I saw Lieut. Calhoun’s company were killed in regular position of skirmishers. I counted twenty-eight cartridge shells around one man, and between the intervals there were shells scattered. In deploying the men to hunt for the bodies, my company was on the left next the river, and there but few evidences of fighting there. But when Lieutenant Calhoun’s body was reached, I had permission to go and identify it, as he was a brother-in-law of mine. As soon as his body was found I was sent for, and that is the way I happened to see those bodies.
Q. Did you go to the point where General Custer’s body was found?
A. After leaving this place I rode up to this point I think in company with Major Reno. In the ravine marked as H on the map, we found twenty odd bodies of E company. They were undoubtedly fighting and retreating. I could see where they had passed down the edge and attempted to scramble up on the other side, which was almost perpendicular. The marks were plain where they had used their hands to get up, but the marks only extended half way up the bank.
Q. How far was that from the river, following the ravines down?
A. That must have been half or three-quarters of a mile.
Q. Did you go up to the point where General Custer’s body was found?
A. Yes. That was not so far I think.
Q. State, if you know, how many bodies of officers or men of General Custer’s command were never found.
A. There were three officers that I knew that never were found, and I think some fifteen or eighteen men. I do not know the exact number.
Q. ‘.hat was the general belief as to what had become of those bodies?
A. I do not know of any general belief. My belief was that those men were buried with the others, but were disfigured to that extent that they could not be identified. There were men I had known ten or twelve years whose bodies could not have been recognized, had it not been for certain marks.
Q. Would not the regimental roster show the actual number of men in the column?
A. Yes.
Q. The bodies were all counted?
A. Yes; it was generally understood they were counted.
Q. Do you know whether there was a deficiency?
A. I do not know much about the particulars of that. I know that there were some men missing that could not be accounted for. I have always been under the impression that the officers were buried with the men.
Q. Have you any impression as to what became of the bodies of those men who are still unaccounted for?
A. I understood a number of bodies had been found a considerable distance from the field, which I. think would make up the number.
Q. Please state, from all you saw during the engagement there at the battle of the Little Big Horn, and from the developments afterward in regard to the village, what did you estimate the effective fighting force of that village to be?
A. Well, from the estimate that has been made of the number of lodges, the lodges alone would represent nearly thirty-six hundred men, as they estimate about two men to a lodge. There were about eighteen hundred lodges, so it must be between thirty-five hundred and four thousand fighting force.
Q. Did you see the village moving away?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. When was that?
A. About dusk of the 26th.
Q. What did its size appear to be, say, in length and width, taking into consideration the time of your seeing it, and all the circumstances?
A. It was nearly dark at the time. The sun had gone down, and it looked to me more like an immense buffalo herd than anything else. You could not distinguish mounted men from ponies. It was certainly two and a half or three miles long, and it extended on the plain in front of our position across the river, covering nearly half of this plain, which was some six miles across. The moving village was probably several hundred yards wide. There was unquestionably a very large herd of ponies being driven. I think from one-quarter to one-half a mile would cover the width of the moving village.
Q. State your opinion as to the conduct of Major Reno on the 25th and 26th of June with reference to coolness, efficiency, energy, and courage as commanding officer of the troops. Was his conduct such as to inspire his command with confidence and courage, or the reverse? And give the facts upon which this opinion is based.
A. Major Reno, during the advance in the bottom, rode at the head of the column. After it was formed into line, he was in front of the line invariably in front; sometimes opposite the right, sometimes the center, and sometimes the left, according to the circumstances. All his orders which I received, or all the orders he gave to me in the bottom, either at that time or afterward, were given as coolly as a man under such circumstances usually can give them, and I saw nothing that indicated cowardice about him.
Q. Very well. Take the hill.
A. During the afternoon of the 25th he seemed perfectly cool to me. I saw but very little of him on the 26th. I think I saw him once or twice in passing from the left of the line to the right. I received no orders from him at all on the 26th, as orders were unnecessary. We were in position there, and had nothing to do but to hold it.
Q. Did you see hint frequently on the 25th, after getting on to the hill?
A. Yes, sir; I saw him frequently on the 25th. After dark on the 25th I lay down by his side for a time behind my company; that is, he was lying on his blanket there, and I was lying on the ground close to him talking.
  • QUESTIONS BY MAJOR RENO
Q. State in what order the column moved down to the ford where Reno crossed on his advance; I mean in respect to the companies; where you were placed in regard to the column, and where Major Reno rode?
A. The companies moved for a distance in columns of fours, the heads of the companies on a line, with an interval of fifteen, twenty or twenty-five yards. After moving a short time the companies formed in line.
Q. What company was in front, and what companies followed in order?
A. I think most of that movement was in the same order. We resumed that order after crossing the river; that is, the head of the company nearly on a line - not in line, but in column. My company, I think, was in the center.
Q. Where were you?
A. I rode at the head of my company.
Q. And Major Reno was riding there with you?
A. For the most part he rode there with me, or for quite a time.
Q. Were you in such a position as to observe the conduct of Major Reno and any communication that might have been had with him up to the time that the column reached the ford where Major Reno crossed the river on his advance?
A. Yes, sir, I was. I don’t know that I was in position to hear everything that was said by him all that time. I was at the head of my company, and whether he stayed alongside of me all that time, I don’t remember; but I know he was there the greater portion of the time.
Q. Did he halt on the right-hand side of the ford where he crossed on his advance, before crossing the river?
A. I don’t remember.
Q. Did you see anyone speak to him just before the crossing of the stream?
A. I don’t see Mr. Girard speak to him at that point?
A. No, sir; in fact I have no recollection of seeing Girard at all.
Q. After you crossed the stream you formed in what order?
A. We formed in column of fours again.
Q. Where was Major Reno?
A. Major Reno was at the head of the column. I don’t know at the head of what particular company, but I know he was there. We moved down about one-third of a mile or more in column of fours, and then formed in line.
Q. By whose order?
A. Major Reno’s. He gave the command: “Companies form left front into line,” and after the formation, we moved on at the same gait. Major Reno was in front of the line.
Q. State whether you heard him give any direction to any of the cavalrymen with regard to not over-riding, and that he would give them plenty of work to do in a very short time.
A. Yes, sir; a man in my company whose horse was very restive, and rather inclined to go ahead of him; Major Reno turned around and spoke to him. He told him to hold his horse in, and keep him under control; that he would give him all the fighting, or all he wanted of it, before the thing was over. I don’t know that these were his exact words, but that was the meaning of what he said; that was the purport of it.
Q. By whose order was the skirmish line deployed?
A. The skirmish line was deployed by Major Reno’s order.
Q. Where was he when the order was being carried into effect?
A. I think he was there on the line where the deployment was being made. I cannot locate him exactly before or behind the line. I was busy deploying my company, but I know he was there, as I could occasionally hear his voice.
Q. State whether you received an order to form your men before the column left the timber?
A. I received an order to move my men onto the plateau and form them there.
Q. From whom did that order come?
A. Major Reno.
Q. State whether you know a gentleman by the name of Dr. Porter?
A. Yes, sir, I do.
Q. State whether he ever had any conversation with you since these occurrences, in regard to being frightened or otherwise, and, if so, what that was?
A. Yes, sir. I have heard him say once or twice that he was pretty badly scared.
Q. Did he repeat it in any other form?
A. Well, yes; if I remember aright I heard him say on one occasion he never “eras so scared in his life.”
Q. State whether you saw Dr. Porter just before the column moved out of the timber, and if so at what point, and at what point of time?
A. About half of my company had mounted and moved up on to the plateau before I left the timber. When I did ride up on the plateau, Dr. Porter rode up by my side. Some of the column had left the timber at that time, and were on the plateau mounted, but they were not yet in motion. He rode by my side out of the timber, up onto the plain where my company was being formed.
Q. Then he was not by the side of the wounded man then?
A. I don’t know anything about that. I know he was at my side, and I was not wounded.
Q. Do you know anything in regard to Major Reno taking a portion of company G and going to the outer edge of the timber, in the direction of the firing from the Indians in that quarter, in the direction of the river?
A. I know a portion of G Company was taken in there, and I suppose by Major Reno, as I think he went there with them.
Q. State whether you had any consultations with Major Reno in regard to retiring from the timber before the movement was made.
A. I don’t remember anything that occurred there, only the order was given to mount up and move the companies up onto the plain.
Q. State whether you had any conversation with Major Reno before the movement was made from the timber, with regard to the wisdom of changing the place where the force was in the timber
A. I don’t remember. I may have had some, but I don’t remember it.
Q. Did you have some immediately before?
A. Immediately before the companies were withdrawn, after I had called to him to come up on the hill, we had a conservation with regard to the disposition of the men - that is, the skirmishers dismounted.
Q. State whether during any period of the time that you saw Major Reno in that timber, he betrayed any evidences of cowardice?
A. No, sir; there was a certain amount of excitement, I suppose, visible on his face, as well as that of anybody else; but any trace of cowardice I failed to discover.
Q. State what, in your judgment, would have been the result to the command under Major Reno if he had continued to charge down that valley?
A. I think if he had continued to do it, and gone far enough, he would have been there yet.
Q. State whether the purpose of leaving the timber was not to save the command?
A. I think that was the purpose, sir.
Q. With regard to the diversion of the command, you have been asked the question, “That would have been the effect upon the command if a considerable number of Indians had followed the command on its retreat to the high land on the opposite side of the river?” If that large body of Indians had followed the command, don’t you suppose the command would have fed the Indians’ rifles as long as if the command had been advancing down the valley?
A. Yes, sir, I think in their position it would be only a matter of time for the command without assistance.
Q. What in your judgment would have been the result, under the circumstances in which you were placed, if the command had remained in the timber?
A. In my judgment the command without assistance would have been annihilated in the timber.
Q. Was not Major Reno unable to form any estimate of what the effect would be upon himself of the union of Captain Benteen’s command and the pack-train with his own, unless he had known that they had been ordered to join him?
A. I think so.
Q. Where did you first obtain your view of the Indians on the plains - on the left side of the river?
A. The Indians became visible about the time the companies were formed in line. Probably some few were visible before that; but then they became visible in force. That was about one-third to one-half a mile from the crossing. There may have been Indians visible before. I may have seen Indians before reaching that point.
Q. State whether there was a cloud of dust or not.
A. There was a very large cloud of dust.
Q. Was it dense?
A. Quite so; yes, sir.
Q. Was it so dense that a person could see a thousand ponies through it? [The word “not” probably got omitted transcription. W.A.G.]
A. I think not; not at that time.
Q. State what are the Indian tactics with regard to creating a cloud of dust in order to conceal their movements from an enemy. Do you know whether that is their tactics?
A. I presume that is one of their ways of doing it.
Q. Do you know whether it is one way they have followed?
A. I think it is.
Q. After the command had reached the point where the skirmish line deployed, state whether in your judgment any person, either in the timber or outside, could have seen through that cloud of dust, a thousand lodges of the Indians?
A. No sir; he could not have seen a thousand standing lodges from there had there been no dust at all.
Q. In regard to the character of the movement on the retreat from the timber to the river, state whether the organization was not, in your judgment, a proper one for the purpose Major Reno had in view.
A. The organization was a very good one.
Q. State whether an officer having about one hundred men in his command, and attempting to go over an unknown piece of country to a ford, and then from the ford up a hillside to the top beyond - whether he would not be justified in riding at or near the head of the column, in order to select a crossing and to direct the movement.
A. Well, that would depend a good deal on circumstances.
Q. Then I ask you to apply the circumstances as they existed at the time the movement was made from the river.
A. I suppose it would be a very proper thing for a commanding officer to know the country ahead; but under the circumstances there, I think it would be equally so to know what was going on in the rear.
Q. Would it be wrong for him to reach the ford at the head of the column and there remain until he saw that the balance of the column had crossed the stream?
A. No, sir; I think not.
Q. In regard to the character of the men taken into this fight, were they all trained soldiers or otherwise?
A. Some of them were very well drilled and knew their duty very well. Others were not so well drilled, as they had not had an opportunity. They had not been in the service long.
Q. State whether, under, the circumstances, the firing of cavalrymen against Indians that are moving in all directions is not a matter largely of discretion with the individual soldier.
A. It is.
Q. Was there any pretense on the part of anyone that this movement out of the timber was a triumphant march?
A. I have not heard of it.
Q. Was it so understood by anybody?
A. A triumphant march across to this ford?
Q. Yes; back from the timber. Was it so understood by anybody?
A. I don’t know. I haven’t heard of anyone considering it in that light.
Q. It was not understood to be that by anybody, was it?
A. No, sir; I think not. In regard to the command on the top of the hill, wouldn’t you sooner have been dejected on the top of the hill than dead in the timber?
A. Well, I would rather be dejected on the top of the hill than dead anywhere.
Q. After you reached the hilltop, how long a time elapsed before the command was put in a position to resist attack?
A. There was a skirmish line thrown out within a few minutes from the time the command reached the top of the hill.
Q. By whose order, if you know, did Captain Weir move down the river?
A. I don’t know.
Q. has it at any time your duty to go in that direction, and if so, state how far you went, and whether you found Major Reno, and if you found him, where?
A. It became my duty to go down in that direction in order to overtake the command to inform Major Reno of the disposition of a portion of the rear guard. I found Major Reno at the head of his command, less what was in Captain Weir’s front. Saw him frequently after we returned to where we made the final stand on the afternoon of the 25th.
Q. State whether during that night or on the succeeding day you saw any evidences of cowardice on his part?
A. No, sir; I saw no evidences of cowardice.
Q. State whether you saw him giving orders and exercising command?
A. I did during the 25th; but I received no orders from him on the 26th at all, as it was not necessary that I should. I was in a position there that required no orders on that day.
Q. After the men had been placed in position, wasn’t their duty so plain as not to require much direction on the part of the commanding officer?
A. The duty was very plain at certain portions of the line. At my portion it was very plain, but at that occupied by Captain Benteen, it was a very serious one and required the presence of the commanding officer pretty much all the time, as the Indians tried very hard to dislodge him. I also understood some of the other companies were heavily attacked by the Indians and of course the commanding officer should be there and attending to affairs.
Q. Is it the fact in military science that a commanding officer is personally responsible for the personal bravery of each member of the command?
A. I am not aware of it.
Q. State what was the behavior of the men of these companies and of the officers, after this stand had been made on the top of the hill, with respect to bravery?
A. Well, everything went on a good deal like clock-work, on the hill. They were pretty well entrenched there, and they felt that they could hold their position there for some time. So far as the officers were concerned, they all did their duty, and r have no doubt they did it well. I had no opportunity to see very much of anyone excepting Captain Benteen. His conduct for coolness and gallantry was perfectly superb. No other word would express it.
Q. And Major Reno made mention of it, didn’t he?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And deservedly?
A. I think so.
Q. State as a soldier, what in your judgment was the length of time that the column under Cal. Custer lasted, judging from the manner in which you found the dead? Can you give any opinion on that?
A. I don’t know that I can express a positive opinion. It might have lasted an hour and it might not have lasted that length of time.
Q. State whether, as you say, with the exception of the company under Captain Calhoun, there was any evidence of organized and sustained resistance to the Indians, save that that was found in the circle where General Custer lay?
A. I saw none. Those other men that I before mentioned as having been killed there had evidently been fighting, but there were no evidences of organized resistance. There were evidences that they had retreated or were falling back without regular intervals; but such evidences as existed about Captain Calhoun’s company existed nowhere else that I saw.
Q. Were Calhoun’s men in that position in which men ought to have been, or would naturally have been - I will not say ought to have been, because there can be no question about Custer’s soldierly qualities - if there had been resistance according to the rules of military science?
A. Yes, sir.
  • QUESTIONS BY THE RECORDER
Q. During the fight on the hill and in the timber, how did Dr. Porter do his duty?
A. He did it in the most superb manner. He had a great deal to do - I will say that for Dr. Porter - and he did it well. He had no steward. The doctor that he was the assistant of, was killed; and he had it to do all himself and under a heavy fire.
Q. You have stated that the doctor said he never was so scared in his life, and that he was pretty well excited.
A. Yes, sir.
Q. State whether or not that excitement was general at that place in the timber.
A. I think so. It was pretty general as a rule, and when Dr. Porter did make this remark to me he made it in a laughing, joking way, and may not have meant what he said. It was made probably a year afterward, so that he may not have realized what he said.
Q. Do you mean to say that a man being frightened - because he should happen to be frightened at a time of great danger - implies that he is necessarily a coward?
A. No, sir; not at all.
Q. Didn’t Major Reno and everyone else in that command present the appearance of being frightened under the circumstances?
A. I rather think they were all a little bit shaken up.
Q. Did Major Reno on that retreat remain at the ford till the whole command all got across: if so on which bank?
A. I don’t know.
Q. state whether or not on going to the top of the hill on the retreat, it was expected, either by yourself or by the command generally, that Major Reno would be likely to receive aid or assistance or reinforcements when he reached the top of the hill; and state the grounds of such belief if you had it.
A. I had no such belief. I knew nothing about it.
Q. Look on the map at the point marked “2” in pencil, and state if from that point Major Reno’s command had been seen in the act of deploying as skirmishers, it would have indicated that he was in any great or particular danger?
A. The command passing that point and seeing another command deploying as skirmishers in the bottom, a half or three quarters of a mile away, certainly that command would not imagine for a moment that the other was in any particular danger.
Q. If General Custer in passing there and seeing such deployment, would he expect that command would retreat in 30 or 40 minutes?
A. No sir, he would expect it would hold its position.
Q. Was everything going like clockwork on the hill before or after Captain Benteen arrived?
A. After: it was not so regular before.
Q. You did not refer to clock work in going across the bottom or up the hill?
A. That was a little faster than clock work.
Q. Would it not have been better, as a soldier, to have been dead in the timber than dishonored on the hill?
A. I don’t know that that is a proper question to put to me. Very few men but would prefer to die in the timber than to be on the hill degraded.
Q. Did you make any careful examination of the Custer battle field, with a view to determining where certain fights or certain halts had been made?
A. No sir.
Q. What was the nature of that country?
A. Quite rough.
Q. Has the country such, that with a command fighting a powerful enemy as these Indians must have been there, the command could have made those regular formations that could be made on a plain or plateau?
A. In that portion of the field my company passed over, the command could not, because it was intersected by ravines, many of them very deep. The command might have been fighting with all the courage and bravery possible, and still the position of the bodies might not indicate it.
Q. You say there were pony tracks at that watering place that has been spoken of, and indications of there having been a great many ponies there?
A. A great many animals there. The ground there was very sandy, and there were a great many pony or horse tracks.
Q. State whether or not a treat many men might not have been dragged or thrown into the river if they were killed there.
A. Yes, sir; it is not improbable at all, but I doubt if anything of the kind did occur, as there were no evidences of it.
  • QUESTIONS BY MAJOR RENO
Q. Did you feel degraded when you reached the top of the hill?
A. Not particularly so.
Q. If Major Reno, with the command deployed in skirmish line, was seen by a column passing down on the right side of the river, would it not indicate two things: First that the enemy was not fleeing; and second, that the cavalrymen were not charging?
A. It would indicate both to my mind. The enemy were not fleeing, or else there would be no necessity for the skirmish line.
  • QUESTIONS BY RECORDER
Q. State if advancer to ascertain the position of an enemy is not often made by throwing out a skirmish line.
A. Yes sir, it becomes necessary at times, because if they are fleeing they may be fleeing for a purpose.
  • QUESTIONS BY MAJOR RENO
Q. That is not the way cavalrymen charge?
A. No sir.

The witness then retired. Then at 1:30 P.M. the court adjourned to meet at 11 o’clock A. M. Monday, January. 27, 1879.



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