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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

THIRD DAY

Chicago, Illinois Wednesday, January. 15, 1879 11 o’clock A.M.

The Court met pursuant to adjournment.

  • Present
  1. Colonel John H. King, 9th Infantry
  2. Colonel Wesley Merritt, 5th Cavalry
  3. Lieutenant-Colonel W. B. Royall, 3rd Cavalry
  • Recorder
  1. 1st Lieutenant Jesse M. Lee, Adjt. 9th Infantry
  2. Major Reno and his counsel were also present.

The proceedings of the last session were read, corrected and approved.

1st Lieutenant Geo. D. Wallace, 7th Cavalry, being called as a witness by the Recorder, and being duly sworn to testify the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, testified as follows:

  • Questions by the Recorder
Q. State your name, rank, regiment, and where serving.
A. George D. Wallace, 1st Lieutenant 7th Cavalry, now stationed at Fort Abraham Lincoln, Dakota Territory.
Q. State what duty you were on on the 25th and 26th days of June, 1876, where and with what command you were serving.
A. I was acting Engineer officer with Gen. Custer’s column. On the 25th of June I was keeping the itinerary of the trip. Of what troops or companies did the command of Gen. Custer consist at that time, the 25th of June 1876?
A. Of twelve companies of the 7th Cavalry – of the entire Regiment.
Q. Was Major M. A. Reno in that command: if so in what capacity.
A. He was there, the second in command.
Q. Against what enemy was Gen. Custer’s command operating.
A. The hostile Indians under Sitting Bull.
Q. When the twelve companies of the 7th Cavalry were together in one body on the 25th day of June, 1876, what were the indications, if any, of the proximity of hostile Indians?
A. All signs, and the reports of our Indian Scouts indicated that they were within 20 or 25 miles of us.
Q. Please state to the Court what disposition or separation, if any, Gen. Custer made of his command, preparatory to his proposed advance on the hostile Indian village: At what time of day was it done, and in the light of subsequent knowledge, how far was it from the Indian village that Gen. Custer separated his command on that day.
A. About a quarter after 12 o’clock the command was halted: three companies were given to Major Reno, three companies were given to Captain Benteen, and one company to Captain McDougall, who was placed in charge of the pack train, and General Custer took the other five companies with him.
Q. State if you know, what was the plan of attack. Who as subordinate commanders were charged with its execution, and especially what orders or instructions were given to Major Reno by Gen. Custer at the time the disposition or separation of the command was first made for advance of attack on the hostile Indian village.
A. At the time of the division I don’t know what orders were given. Captain Benteen with his battalion moved to the left, Gen. Custer moved down the right bank of a little stream with his command and Major Reno down the left bank.
Q. What was the effective force of each of those different columns, if you know? State as near as you can.
A. I can’t give it accurately. Major Reno’s was about 110 or 115 men including Indian Scouts. Captain Benteen’s was something larger, as I think the companies he had were larger. Gen. Custer’s force was something like 225.
Q. Describe as fully as you can the movements of those different columns, with reference to the Little Big Horn River, with reference to each other, whether parallel or otherwise, whether moving in the direction the hostile village was supposed to be, whether in supporting distance of each other, or any circumstance bearing on this matter which occurred prior, to your knowledge, or that of the command you were with, as to the exact location of the Indian village.
A. After Captain Benteen started to the left, Gen. Custer and Major Reno moved down this little stream, one on the right and the other on the left bank. They were moving from 100 to 300 yards apart owing to the nature of the ground. After going ten or twelve miles Major Reno was called across to the same side of the stream on which Gen. Custer was moving. The two battalions then moved a long parallel to each other for some distance further. We passed a teepee which had some dead bodies in, and soon after passing that the Adjutant came to Major Reno and said that the Indians were about two miles and a half ahead, and Major Reno was ordered forward as fast as he could go and to charge them and the others would support him.
Q. What command were you with at that time?
A. I was riding near Major Reno and with his battalion.
Q. What little stream do you speak of?
A. It is a tributary of the Little Big Horn and runs into it a mile or two above where the village was located.
Q. When did the column come within sight of the hostile village, and where.
A. The first I saw of the village was after we were dismounted and were forming the skirmish line. Others may have seen it before, but I did not: there was some timber between us and the village.
Q. Were the orders you speak of as having been received by Major Reno to charge the Indians the last order he received from Gen. Custer.
A. That was the last I heard.
Q. When that order was received was it promulgated to the command: if so, in what way.
A. I think it was promulgated through Major Reno’s Adjutant. I don’t know that. I think so.
Q. Where was Gen. Custer’s column at that time?
A. the two columns were moving parallel. Maj. Reno was riding nearly opposite Gen. Custer, with some little space between them – some 25 to 50 yards.
Q. State, if you know, the position of Captain Benteen’s command with reference to that of Major Reno, at that time.
A. I don’t know where it was. When he went to the left it was over broken ground and I lost sight of him.
Q. State whether at that time, when Major Reno received the command to charge the Indians, it was expected or believed that any command would in any way support him or cooperate with him in his movement, and state all the facts within your knowledge bearing on that matter.
A. The order was about this: “The Indians are about two miles and a half ahead, on the jump, follow them as fast as you can, and charge them wherever you find them and we will support you.” I think those were the words.
Q. Are you positive of the words?
A. The term “we” I am not positive of.
Q. State if you know when Major Reno’s command first saw the village.
A. I don’t know that they saw it before I did, for I called the attention of the picket line to it at the time.
Q. From the view you had of the hostile village as you have testified to, state what was your opinion at the time as to its size in length and width and the number of lodges it contained and its effective fighting force. And state to what extent this estimate was confirmed by subsequent events or facts brought to your knowledge.
A. The length and width of it I could not tell because the timber concealed it. I know there were lots of them there. The exact size at that time I could form no estimate of, but I saw plenty of Indians.
Q. Was there anything occurred after that upon which you can base an opinion as to the number of lodges in the village, either by going over the field or the place where the village had been.
A. The village, as passed over afterwards was over three miles long, and varying in width from a few hundred yards to half a mile where the teepees had stood.
Q. At the time Major Reno received the order to charge the Indians, state as near as you can the number of effective men under his command, and what was their condition in regard to efficiency, whether fresh, vigorous, confident of success, of otherwise.
A. There were 22 Indian scouts and three companies of cavalry, averaging from 35 to 40 men. They had been marching for three or four days, making long marches: they had been up all the night before and moved on that morning with little or no breakfast. The men were tired and the horses were worn out.
Q. You have testified that Major Reno received on the 25th of June an order to charge the Indians. Please begin at that point and describe fully, and clearly and in detail the movements of Major Reno’s command, the orders given by him or executed under his direction and every circumstance in regard to his conduct as commander of the troops under him. In this connection describe the character of the ground passed over by his command, what stream or streams, if any, were crossed, what attack, if any, was made by his command, giving a full description of that attack, including the length of its duration, and in short everything relating to Major Reno’s conduct or that of his command up to and including the 26th day of June, 1876, that was brought to your knowledge.
A. At the time the order was given we were moving along the right bank of the tributary which flows into the Little to Big Horn. We moved at a gallop. After going some distance the trail led to the left and we reached the little stream. After going a few hundred yards farther we came to afford on the Little Big Horn that had been used by the Indians. That was about belly-deep to the horses, at a good crossing. After passing the ford and going through September the command was halted and reformed as they had scattered a little in crossing the stream. Companies A and M performed in line in my company was formed in line in the rear as a reserve, and the command moved forward, first in a trot and then and a gallop. The Indians, with an order was given, were apparently running from us, there was a big dust, but as we moved on the dust cleared away, and the Indians were soon coming back. After moving some distance the third company was brought to the left of the line, and the command moved in that way until near the timber. There the command was halted, the men dismounted and prepared to fight on foot, the horse is going in the timber and the three companies then deployed as skirmishers with the right in the timber in the left extending toward the bluff. The skirmish line only took up a few hundred yards. The Indians instead of pressing our front passed around to our left and open to flank fire. When we went on the skirmish line I for the first time saw the village, and the Indians were thick in front and were passing to our left and rear. After being in line sometime was reported that the Indians were coming on the opposite side of the creek and trying to get our horses. Company “O” has been taken off the line and taken into the timber: what disposition was made and there I only know from hearsay. I remained on the picket line till the ammunition was getting exhausted, and the Indians were coming in our rear and our left, and in front, and the skirmish line had to fall back into the timber. After being there sometime the Indians commenced firing within 50 yards of us across the stream and in our rear in the timber. There was no protection offered on that side and on the other there was a bank. After waiting there sometime word was passed down that we should have to charge them. We were being surrounded, no assistance had come, and he would have to get on higher ground where we would not be surrounded, and where we could defend ourselves better than we could hear. The companies were mounted and commenced getting out. I belong to CO. “G”, had joined it there and had been sitting with it during a portion of the fight. I could not find the commanding officer, Lieutenant McIntosh, and I mounted what men I could find and started out. When I got out I saw the troops moving off, apparently in columns of four, at a gallop. I followed along, with what men I could mount of “G” company. The command moved, not back on the track we came in on, but crossed the stream lower down, and were making towards the bluff. The Indians were in the bottom and we were writing through them, and as we would write a long they would either fire or right along by the men and fire at them. At the creek they had halted and fired at the men as they crossed. They came over with the rear of the column, and one or two were killed there. I know they came over for there was a corporal of my company followed one over and shot him, and as he came up the hill he showed me his scout. After getting on top of the hill the command was halted and preparations made to give them a standoff. Soon after that it was reported that Captain Benteen was coming up and we were joined by him. What passed between him and Major Reno I don’t know. We were out of ammunition, one company had several wounded, and I could find but seven men of my company. We waited there, I don’t know exactly how long, for the pack train to come up, the dust from which we could see. After it did come up ammunition was distributed and we attempted to move on, Captain Moylan could not move his wounded, it took six men to carry one, and Indians were coming up thicker and we were compelled to fall back and took the position we occupied on the 25th and 26th. The troops were assigned positions in the horses were placed under his good covers we could get. During the night of the 25th the men worked all night. There were but 3 spades in the command, but with them and tin cups, and other things, they scratched up some little rifle pits. On the morning of the 25th the Indians opened on us by daylight in the fire kept up all the morning. After 12 o’clock the fire was not so heavy, except from prominent points, where they located sharp-shooters. Sometime near sunset we saw the Indian village moving off.
Q. How long after Major Reno received the order to charge the Indians for he effected a crossing of the Little Big Horn River?
A. Moving at a gallop, I think we made the mile and a half or 2 miles in about 15 minutes. We were moving at an ordinary gallop.
Q. State whether any Indians opposed Major Reno’s crossing.
A. No there did not. That was 2 miles from where the fight commenced.
Q. How far was the crossing from the nearest part of the Indian village?
A. It was over 2 miles.
Q. Describe the character of the ground from there to the Indian village, as you observed that at the time or afterwards.
A. It was a broad bottom. After crossing the stream there was a belt timber; after that was a broad, level Prairie that had been covered with grass, but it was all eaten off by the ponies in the ground cut up by their hoofs. It was similar to an ash-bed and a mile or 2 wide to the foothills and beyond that came the bluff.
Q. Describe with particularly at the manner of the advance of Major Reno’s command from the point of crossing toward the hostile village and its successive formations, if any, and whether scouts or skirmishers were thrown forward.
A. After crossing the command was halted for a minute or two, until they could close up and formed in line, two companies in the first and one company in the second line, with the Indians Scouts under Lieutenant’s Varnum and Hare, ahead. There Were 28 Scouts. They moved forward in line, first on the trot and then on a gallop. The third company was brought up on the left of the line and they moved on in that way until they were dismounted.
Q. Describe the course of the stream from the point of crossing to the village with reference to the line of advance of Major Reno’s command.
A. The stream was on our right and is very crooked. The general direction as to the northeast. The stream was turning on itself all the time. Our course was sometimes on the bank, and sometimes away from it, as the stream would find away from our course.
Q. How far was it from the point where Major Reno’s command crossed the stream to where he engaged the Indians? And state what impediments there were, if any, to a rapid advance over the ground.
A. It was a good mile and three quarters before the first shot was fired, and 2 miles to the timber where he dismounted. The ground over which he passed was level and there were no obstacles in the way to the Indians came there.
Q. When was the first shot fired?
A. A mile and a half or three quarters from the crossing.
Q. Had you seen any Indians up to that time?
A. Yes sir, I had seen lots of them.
Q. How near to the village was it that Major Reno’s command engaged the Indians and how far from the stream was it when the command halted and dismounted as you have stated.
A. They halted probably 150 yards from the stream, but after halting and going on the skirmish line they advance where the creek made a quick end and the right-wing was resting on top of the cut bank, with the creek below. The village has across the bend, 75 or 100 yards to the first teepee, but on the same side of the stream before.
Q. From the place he first halted the command, near the timber, how far as we advance you speak of made.
A. After dismounted from the horses, the skirmish line advanced probably 100 yards. The horses were all in the timber and the line advanced, with the right resting on the timber, and the left out towards the bluff.
Q. The distance of the advance was what.
A. Something like 100 yards.
Q. State if you know at what hour of the day the engagement began.
A. I don’t know accurately, though it was sometime after two o’clock – from 2 to 3 o’clock.
Q. How do you fix that time.
A. I remember looking at my watch when General Custer brought Major Reno’s Battalion on the same side of the little stream with him. As we crossed that little stream I took out my watch and looked at it. That was before we had the order to forward in charge, and it was then two o’clock, and estimating the distance we passed over, I would say it was after half past 2 when the fight commenced.

The timber in which we concealed the horses was in the bed of the stream, rather in a crescent shape: beyond that his open space, not as high as it was on our side of the timber. After 50 yards further on was the stream, winding along this low bottom.

Q. State whether or not Major Reno ordered his command to charge the enemy, when it was within engaging distance, or did he at any time then and there give much in order, and it so was it obeyed.
A. The command “charge!” was not given. We were moving at a gallop till we halted.
A. We had been fired upon, and were being fired upon when we halted, but had not returned the fire.
Q. State whether any charges were made for order given?
A. Other than that, there was not.
Q. Describe the ground immediately in front of Major Reno’s command where he first engaged the Indians.
A. In front of the right wing was a loup or bend of the Little Big Horn: to the left was an open prairie: in front of that some few hundred yards we can see ravine, but the nature or size of what we could not tell at that time, but coming out of that ravine we could see plenty of Indians.
Q. State as near as you can what number of Indians first engaged Major Reno’s command at that place, and state whether during the progress of the engagement at that place, there was any increase or decrease in the number of Indians engaged; and state what movement if any were made by the Indians with reference to Major Reno’s command at that place.
A. When we halted and went on the skirmish line, there were some two or 300 Indians there, and they increased from that time till we got out of the bottom.
Q. What movements, if any, did the Indians make?
A. They were fighting and regular Indian style, riding up and down: some few on foot, and some few on the hills to the left passing around and coming in our rear, filling the whole space in our rear, a mile or two, with scattered Indians writing about. Not a solid mass, writing around, yelling and hooting and those within range for shooting. Not many of them were standing still, but they seem to be writing around, and whenever they got an opportunity they would shoot.
Q. State if you can, from what you saw, when the hostile village first became aware of the approach of Major Reno’s command, and state if you can at what point Major Reno’s command was discovered by the Indians, and give the facts upon which this opinion is based.
A. My opinion is that they knew from the time we left the mouth of the Rosebud, on 22nd June, what we were doing and exactly which way we were moving. Our scouts saw their scouts that morning watching us and saw them writing back into the village. They knew of our approach and were ready to receive us. After we cross the stream and move towards the village their running was only a sham. They ran in and as we moved up they came back to meet us.
Q. Answer the question as to when, in your opinion, they first discovered Major Reno’s command: when you came down the hill before crossing the river, or after you cross the river.
A. They probably did notice that Hill after we crossed the creek, but they were fully aware the command was coming: they could see the dust for miles.
Q. What portion of Major Reno’s command was engaged with the Indians at the place he first met them as you have described.
A. Companies “A”, “G” and “M”, Seventh Cavalry.
Q. How many men were engaged in the fighting?
A. After counting the Indian scouts there were just three-fourths of the balance. One fourth were horse holders.
Q. Where was Major Reno and what was he doing, and what orders did he give during the progress of that engagement at that place?
A. After dismounting and putting the men on the skirmish line I saw Major Reno go back with Lieutenant McIntosh when he went back with “G” company to guard the horses, and I did not see him again till the line was driven into the timber. I could not see him then for the brush, but I heard his order given when we were getting ready to charge. Exactly what the orders were I don’t know, but I heard his voice and knew it was Major Reno.
Q. How long did the engagement last at that place from its commencement till the command left here.
A. I can only form an estimate of it.
Q. Give your opinion and facts upon which you base it as near as you can.
A. I would say it was something like three-quarters of an hour. The facts are the time occupied in mounting and dismounting informing the skirmish line, using up of the ammunition the men expended, and everything of that kind.
Q. State whether the ammunition used up you refer to was the ammunition the men had about their persons or all the ammunition and Major Reno’s command.
A. I refer to all they had on their persons and what they had drawn from their saddle-bags.
Q. State if any remained in the saddle-bags of any of the men in question.
A. As I did not inspect I don’t know. I guess there was some left.
Q. Up to the time Major Reno’s command left that place to go back to the position on the hill, state if you know how many men of his command had been killed or disabled.
A. I saw two and heard of one other. One of them I thought was killed or rather he appeared to be dying, and the other was shot through the bowels.
Q. Describe to the court if you know what were the direct causes that led to Major Reno’s command quitting that position.
A. The direct causes I think where we were surrounded, and in a bad position to defend ourselves, and were going to get on higher ground.
Q. You say about the time you left there something was said were in order was passed down about a charge going to be made.
A. Yes or.
Q. State what charge was made, if any, and in what direction.
A. In getting out of there we had to go through the Indians. There was but one way to get through, and that was to charge through.
Q. State if you know, how near the command came to any Indians and coming out, and in what numbers: or whether they remained at a distance and shot into the command or met the advance as they started to come out.
A. As I rode out of the woods coming back the Indians were scattered all over the country. They appeared to me as thick as trees and an apple orchard or thicker. The men were moving in column of fours, and as they would come up to the Indians the Indians would give way and let them pass through and then fire on them. After the men passed through, if they saw that a man was not using his pistol they would ride close to him and fire. I know I found one within 10 feet of me. They would write a long with the men and shoot at them.
Q. Describe the character of the charge as you term it when you left the temper. Describe the formation and shape the command was in and all the circumstances connected with the going back from that point in the timber to the crossing.
A. I did not see the first formation. First I tried to find Lieutenant McIntosh, but I could not and I took command of the company myself and started out. When I got out what I had of my company I saw the other two companies moving at a gallop. It looked like they were moving in column of fours, and a gallop. Some of the men passed my company and join the other companies.
Q. Were there any number of Indians directly between you and the two companies moving out?
A. No sir, but there were plenty on my right.
Q. I wish you to state, your opinion, from your knowledge of the facts you have testified to, whether or not that command, and moving out with the Indians as thick as you have described, it was in danger of being overwhelmed.
A. I had no such idea at the time. If they had closed and there were plenty of them there to make short work of us. I had no fear of it then.
Q. State if there was any order given at that place to go back or to get out of there, and if so state in what terms it was given and how it was communicated to the command.
A. The word was passed down that we were going to charge them: where or how I did not know.
Q. In which direction is that charge in reference to the Indian village, towards it or from.
A. From it.
Q. State if you know whether any point was designated for the command to retreat to: if so what point, when and by whom designated and whether or not the troops retreated to that.
A. I don’t know.
Q. State as near as you can how far was the point on the hill to which Major Reno’s command went on that day, from the place where his command first engaged the Indians, according to the route of the retreat passed over by the command.
A. I never measured it: I guess it was a half or 3/4 of a mile. That is merely an estimate.
Q. State if you know how long it took the troops under Major Reno’s command to reach that point after coming out of the timber.
A. I don’t know that.
Q. State your judgment or opinion from any circumstances or facts.
A. Estimating that distance it could not have been over 15 minutes.
Q. Friends Major Reno during that retreat, what was he doing, and what orders if any did he give during its progress.
A. I did not see him and don’t know. I did not see him till after we crossed the creek, and halted to form on the hill.
Q. State any circumstances within your knowledge connected with that retreat which may tend to show its true character, and throw light on the conduct of Major Reno.
A. I think I have answered about all I know about it.
Q. How far was from the point whence the retreat began to the point where Major Reno’s command crossed the river and the retreat?
A. Over half a mile.
Q. What was the character of the ground passed over?
A. So we reached the creek it was level except one washout or kind of flat ravine.
Q. Describe the stream where Major Reno’s command crossed it in his retreat as to the height of the banks, the depth of the water and practicability of crossing.
A. The stream at that point was about 25 feet wide, and about belly-deep to a horse. The bank on the side on which we approached it was four or 5 feet high; on the other side the bank was higher – probably 8 feet. There was a narrow place to get upon the opposite side, and the men coming in as they did on one side they did not get out as fast as they got in.
Q. How long did it take the command to get over from the time the head of the command crossed till the rear of the command got over? That is, how much time was consumed in cross?
A. It must have been from 3 to 5 minutes.
Q. Describe to which Major Reno’s command retreated: how far from the stream, how far from the hostile village and what was its adaptability as a defensible position. Describe the topography of the country around.
A. It was nearly a quarter of a mile from the stream, and was approached over a very broken country – what is known there as the Bad Lands. Those bad lands extended along that part of the bank. They were high, probably 100 feet above the water. On the top it was rather rolling. About 100 yards beyond was a ravine sloping off some distance of the hill beyond it. On our right there were two or three points a little higher than that we had, on the other side there was none.
Q. State whether there was any point on the left bank of the stream – the same side on which Major Reno’s command first engaged the Indians – which, in your opinion as a military man could have been occupied by Major Reno’s command for defense or attack: if so describe such point or place with reference to the position occupied by Major Reno’s command when he first engaged the Indians before the retreat began, and state fully the facts upon which your opinion is based; showing either the practicability or impracticability of Major Reno’s getting to where occupying such point or place for defense against the Indians or from whence to attack them.
A. There was no place I would have taken on the left bank for there was a wide bottom and after crossing that there is a bench in the country slopes back gradually for 20 miles to the Big Horn Mountains. It was a sloping country whereas he had taken any position the Indians could’ve taken a position above on the slope. On the other side the hills were high and broken, indicating it to be a better position to get where you could defend yourself.
Q. Describe the character of the timbered ground in the vicinity of Major Reno’s command with reference to the position of that command when it first engaged the Indians, and with reference to the stream on the right, and state whether or not that timber could have been occupied by Major Reno’s command for the purpose of defense or attack, and whether or not it would have subserved such purpose: giving in full the facts in support of your opinion.
A. That timber grew on what was once the bed of the Little Big Horn River, and the timber was young. There were no trees as large as a man’s body, and it was filled with the thick undergrowth. The body of timber was crescent shaped on a bank four or 5 feet high: on the other side it was level from the bank to what was then the bed of the stream. That piece of Woods was not over 25 yards wide, and in their there was nothing to afford protection as a part of Indians on the side on which the creek was could fired directly and it though the bank would afford a little protection. I don’t think it would have subserved the purpose, and I don’t think we could have remained there and defended ourselves.
Q. State whether there was a plateau or bottom came to the edge of the timber.
A. The bottom on which we approached came to the edge, then dropped off four or 5 feet down to where the timber was growing.
Q. State what examination you made of that timber.
A. I passed through it once or twice was all.
Q. How do you mean through it?
A. Across it and diagonally across it – not through the length of it.
Q. At how many points that you pass through it?
A. At two different points.
Q. Describe that stretch of timber with reference to the location of the village.
A. One end of that crescent shaped piece of timber run up to within probably 100 yards of the village. The other extended from it rather in the shape of a quadrant.
Q. State in your opinion as a military officer when Major Reno’s command had retreated from the village, having the stream between his command and the village, whether his command, from the position thus taken, was in a situation to threaten the village or make any diversion against the hostile Indians in support of any other attacking column, and state fully the grounds for such opinion.
A. No server. It was selected more with reference to self-defense I think.
Q. State when you last saw General Custer or his column.
A. Soon after the order was given to move forward. He was moving to our right as we moved off at a gallop. He was moving a slow trot. I did not see him again: I supposed he was following.
Q. Bearing in mind the location of the hostile village and the course General Custer’s column was taking when you last saw it, and connecting these facts with the time that had elapsed when Major Reno first engaged the Indians, state your own or the general belief as to the point General Custer’s column had reached with reference to the hostile village by the time Major Reno first engaged the hostile Indians.
A. He must’ve been to our right and rear.
Q. State whether or not you examined at any time the course or route General Custer had taken when he was in the immediate vicinity of the hostile village, and state how near his trail came to the point to which Major Reno retreated on the right bank of the stream, and describe General Custer’s route with reference to that point, the hostile village in the stream intervening, and state what developments if any came under your observation as to the fate of General Custer and his command.
A. I don’t know exactly where his trail past, but suppose it past near where we took our stand. On 26th of June when we moved out to bury the dead I was told we followed the trail General Custer took to the village, but have since been told by others that we did not. We moved down to a point on the Little Big Horn some two miles and a half probably blow where we had made our stand, then moved back up on a Hill on the bank of a large ravine. After going about two or three hundred yards we found the first man that was killed. Then on some distance farther we found others. From that on they were scattered all over the country for perhaps a square mile.
Q. Please describe the character of the stream from Major Reno’s crossing on the retreat to the hill down to near the point where you found the first dead man. Describe with reference to the banks on either side, with reference to timber and grass.
A. It had all the appearances of afford on our side – on the side we approached it. There were pony tracks by the hundred when they came into the stream, but I saw no place on the other side where they went out. The stream was not over two go to with feet deep in the bottom was apparently sandy or gravelly. On the other side there was grass growing along the stream and it had the appearance of being soft with some few tracks on the other side. Whether it was afford or not I don’t know. Had not been used a great deal but there had been some horses across it.
Q. And speaking of the bluff, which bank do you refer to?
A. To the right bank.
Q. Are there bluffs on the other side or cut bangs on that side.
A. In several places there were. Where are skirmish line rested there was a bank probably 8 feet high where the stream made a loup, running in and out again. At other places the stream is not fordable. At some places the banks were miry and steep but not cut. Then again there would be places where you could ride into the water where the stream would have a rocky bottom: then it would be deep. The stream itself was very crooked.
Q. Where were the first evidences on what you stated appeared to be General Custer’s route or trail showing that his command had been engaged with Indians or had been attacked by Indians. Describe those evidences fully?

Major Reno objected to the question and said: Yesterday the court announced its intention of going into this entire matter. And now for the purpose of making that ruling little more definite we raise the objection. It must be evident to the court that the activities of Major Reno during the entire engagement were confined within a very limited section of country. We came here to meet that issue. Major Reno feels that he can present his case to the court without reference to the action of any other section of that command, but if it is the wish of the court that the entire campaign shall be inquired into we can only say we are desirous the inquiry shall be full and ample, and it is only for the purpose of having the ruling of yesterday made more definite that this objection is made.

The Recorder replied: I have asked questions to elicit all the facts, bearing upon the conduct of Major Reno as the commander of troops there that day. And while I do not desire to go into matters occurring before June 25th still I think it is plain that the fate of General Custer is connected with Major Reno’s command in some way or other. He is charged with failing to go to the relief of General Custer. That should be inquired into. Major Reno, being the senior officer left in the command, in making his official report, all his relations to that battle should be inquired into and the facts to be elicited by this question ought to be brought out in order that Major Reno may be fully vindicated or condemned, whichever turned the matter may take.

Work was then cleared enclosed, and after mature deliberation was reopened. Major Reno and his counsel being present, and the decision of the Court was announced by the Recorder, that the inquiry shall be general in regard to the facts that transpired on the 25th and 26th days of June, 1876, in regard to the entire command, consisting of the seventh U. S. Cavalry.

A. I told you about our following his suppose it trail down to the Little Big Horn. There were near there was a gray horse: then back almost on a line perpendicular to the creek, two or three hundred yards, was a dead man on the top of the hill, his body filled with arrows. Then to the left rather down the creek from that point there were found some of the men. Further on they became thicker till we crossed over to ravines, then we found more men and horses, till we came apparently to where the last stand had been made; there were the killed in a kind of circle the bodies lying around thick.
Q. State the character of the evidences in regard to that matter, as to whether it was the appearance of a running fight or of the command retreating and fighting at intervals.
A. I think it gave evidences of both retreating and fighting at intervals and a running fight. They were evidently retreating all the time.
Q. How far was that point where you saw the first evidences of an engagement that you refer to from Major Reno’s position on the hill?
A. It must’ve been in the neighborhood of three miles.
Q. How do you estimate the distance, by the route or on a straight line?
A. By the route we followed.
Q. Then state about how far it was in a straight line.
A. About two miles and a half.
Q. Describe the character of the ground between those two points – the topography of the country, whether elevated or otherwise.
A. It was broken. Some high points sloping into ravines, and then rising into another hill, then another ravine. The country was rough and broken.
Q. What was the approximate elevation of those points in reference to the elevation of the position occupied by Major Reno’s command?
A. They were about as high when we first found evidences. The first horse was down in a sort of ravine and on a small hill a little back of that the first man was found.
Q. Between the place where you saw the first evidences and Major Reno’s position how was the elevation as compared with Major Reno’s position?
A. They were higher – several points were higher.
Q. From the place where you state it appeared that General Custer must have gone down to the river how far was it to where the last of the dead bodies were found?
A. Somewhere in the neighborhood of a mile. I do not go over it in a straight line so I have not a very good idea of the distance.
Q. Describe the topography of the ground on the line of what appeared to be General Custer’s retreat, taking it from the place where you saw the first evidences of fighting and following it all the way through, refreshing your memory from any memorandum or date you have.
A. I have no map of the field and there is nothing I could use except the map of Lieutenant Maguire. Where we found the first horse was ravine, making a little valley running into the river. On a knoll was the first man, and then another ravine running into the first ravine, then on a ridge and over to a second bridge. It was on the second ridge the last stand was made. There was one ravine running in a southeastern direction the side of it forming a ridge in one direction than striking another in front of the position there was a second ravine running into the river, back of that another ravine running in another direction, making General Custer’s last stand on a “T” shaped ridge. It was not the highest point, there was a higher point between it and the river and back of that about 200 yards was a still higher ridge.
Q. What horse was it you found?
A. It was a Government gray horse.
Q. Belonging to what Regiment?
A. The 7th Cavalry, but whether a trumpeter’s horse or belonging to the great company I don’t know.
Q. State whether or not a column of the size of General Custer’s command at the point you have described where the evidences of fighting occurred, could have been seen or the sound of firing heard at the point occupied by Major Reno’s command on the hill, and state the facts in support of your opinion in that matter.
A. The command could not be seen owing to the intervening point. Whether the firing could be heard I don’t know. I did not hear any, though others will testify they did. I heard scattering shots in the bottom on the left, no heavy firing. It was down apparently in the village. Whether the Indians were firing for their own amusement or not I don’t know. It did not sound like fighting.
Q. Considering the time that had elapsed from the final separation of General Custer’s command preparatory to the attack, up to the time Major Reno had taken possession of the hill, and taking that time and all the circumstances into consideration, state from your own view of the field of battle, either at that time or subsequently, state where General Custer’s column must have been when Major Reno first occupied that hill. In answer to the question state fully the facts upon which your opinion as a military man is based.
A. By the time we got back to the top of the hill, he must have been engaged somewhere beyond the point where we found the first dead man, or in that vicinity. He must have been fighting at the time. That is my own private opinion: I can’t give any facts in support of it.
Q. State to the Court whether any reinforcements reached Major Reno after his engagement with the Indians: when, where, and how many, and under what commanding officer or immediate commander.
A. Soon after taking position on the hill Captain Benteen with three companies came up.
Q. Any others?
A. After some time Captain McDougall with “B” Company and the pack train came up.
Q. What was the effective force of these reinforcements?
A. I don’t know exactly, but Captain Benteen must have had about 120 men. Captain McDougall’s company probably numbered 45 or 50: and with the pack train were ten men from each of the eleven other companies.
Q. Captain McDougall’s company including the pack train numbered how many?
A. Probably 140 or 145 men: I don’t know positively. It is simply an estimate.
Q. State if you saw they come in.
A. I did, but did not count them.
Q. After such troops united with Major Reno’s command, who commanded the whole?
A. Major Reno.
Q. How long was it after Major Reno’s command had taken position on the hill till Captain Benteen arrived and how long till Captain McDougall arrived?
A. I don’t think it was more than 10 minutes till Captain Benteen came up. It was well onto an hour for the pack train came in.
Q. From the time Major Reno took position on the hill describe the character of the engagement, if any, which there ensued as to number of Indians and severity of fighting on that day, the 25th day of June 1876?
A. When we first occupied the position the Indians commenced firing on us. There were coming back from what proved to be General Custer’s battlefield. They came up and occupied several of the high points that were down the river from us, others passed around and took position on our right, rather up the stream, on a little knoll. In front of our position was along Ridge, and they occupied that import and a heavy fire till dark came on: it was almost a continuous roar of firing. Sometimes there would be a little lull and then they would commence with a volley.
Q. Was there any decrease in the number of Indians that engaged Major Reno’s command on the hill that day: if so state approximately what decrease, I what time and how long after Major Reno had taken his position on the hill?
A. Soon after Captain Benteen came up, while waiting for the pack train most of the Indians left the bottom we came from, some of them occupying the point between us and where General Custer’s fight took place, the remainder went back into the village. There was a high hill which concealed the upper part of the village from us. After going into the village they crossed over and engaged in the fight with General Custer, but we could not see them crossing on account of the high ground. We could only see the upper end of the village from our position.
Q. State approximately how many Indians continued to engage Major Reno’s command after the withdrawal of a portion of them as you have testified?
A. While we were waiting for the pack train no material engagement was going on: we were waiting for the train to come with ammunition and there were only a few scattering shots fired: no heavy firing.
Q. State whether or not, if you know, Captain Benteen’s command had been engaged with Indians up to that time.
A. I don’t know that it had: I know there were no casualties in his command at the time he joined us.
Q. Where was Major Reno and what was he doing and what orders did he give, if any, from the time his command to position on the hill up to the close of that day the 25th day of June, 1876?
A. I saw Major Reno several times. I saw him go to the ford where we crossed to see Lieutenant Hodgson’s body or do something with. I saw him come back. I saw him when we attempted to move on after getting a supply of ammunition. What orders he gave I don’t know. I did not hear any.
Q. After Major Reno’s command had taken its position on the hill, state whether there was any solicitude or uneasiness on the part of that command or any portion of it as to General Custer’s column and if so state the nature of such solicitude or uneasiness.
A. There was no uneasiness whatever: I heard a great deal of swearing about General Custer running off and leaving us.
Q. Was any advance, reconnaissance or sortie made by the groups under Major Reno’s command on that day, the 25th day of June, 1876, if so in what direction and for what purpose?
A. I saw Captain Weir’s company move out in the direction which proved to be towards General Custer’s battlefield, and after the ammunition was distributed, the entire command was moved in that direction. Q. Do you know why that movement was made?
A. We were going to find out where General Custer had gone to. I went to a point where I can see where General Custer’s battle took place. Indians were all over the country but no firing was going on. There was no particular disturbance – all was quiet. Captain Moylan was unable to keep up with his wounded, and the Indians were coming back with a heavy force, and as he could not keep up with us we had to go back to him.
Q. How soon after Major Reno took position on the hill was Captain Weir sent forward?
A. I don’t know how long after: it was before the pack train came in.
Q. Can you state approximately?
A. No Sir.
Q. State whether or not Captain Weir’s command returned and when.
A. I am not sure, but I think we met his company as the other part of the command moved out. I don’t know whether he had got back before we moved out or not. I think he was very near where we started from where we moved out towards him.
Q. What time in the day was it when the command returned to its original position, as near as you can stated?
A. It was somewhere about between 5 and 6 o’clock.
Q. State as near as you can what had been the casualties among the troops under the command of Major Reno at the close of the 25th day of June 1876, and what effective force had he when night came on.
A. I can only give you those of the three companies in the bottom. I know there was one man of Captain Weir’s company wounded and left by him in his advance. Two men of “K” company were killed: the first Sergeant was killed within a few yards of me. Of Captain Benteen’s company several were wounded and one or two killed. Of the companies in the bottom one lost 5 and one lost 12 and the other 13 killed.
Q. Up to the close of that day those were the casualties as you remember them?
A. Yes sir that is as near as I remember them of the three companies in the bottom. Then the other companies lost some.
Q. Now you have stated I believe that you knew of two men at the place where Major Reno first engaged the Indians and heard of one other. Now state if you know, what were the casualties and Major Reno’s command and going from that place to the position on the hill.
A. I have the total killed in the bottom. Those I saw can be deducted. Company “A” lost 8 killed and 5 wounded: company “G” 11 killed: company “M” 8 killed and two wounded.
Q. Do those pertain to Major Reno’s command, going from the first position back to the position on the hill?
A. Yes Sir.
Q. Now state whether there was subsequently on that afternoon any perceptible increase in the number of Indians engaging Major Reno’s command.
A. There was.
Q. State their number as near as you can that engaged him that evening and the approximate increase.
A. That I can’t state accurately, for one moment you see an Indian and the next you don’t. I can only estimate them from the number of shots fired. There were a good many Indians – a good many more than we had men. There must have been one or two thousand, judging by the ground occupied and the number of shots fired.
Q. Do you refer to those one or two thousand as the increase?
A. Yes Sir, they were increased fully that for at one time there were but few Indians on the ground we had left. As we moved forward we found Indians between us and where General Custer had fallen.
Q. What time of day was the increase?
A. We got back between 5 and 6 o’clock: it must’ve commenced about 5 o’clock. They did not bother us much till we started forward, then they commenced their second attack on us, and took up every piece of ground that would give them a position to shoot from.
Q. State from what you saw at the time and what subsequently came to your knowledge, whether the same Indians that engaged Major Reno afterwards on that day also engaged General Custer’s command, or vice versa, and state in full what are the evidences that such was the case.
A. I really don’t know. They left us and probably went there and took part in that fight, but they had men enough to have fought both commands; that I have learned from the Indians cents. After the fight with General Custer was over, I have no doubt there were plenty of Indians that were engaged in it came back and engaged us. The Indians all left our front after we left the bottom, and evidently went in that direction, but whether they took part in the fight or not, I don’t know. They went up in that direction and came back with the others.
Q. From the time Major Reno’s command took position on the hill till dark of that day 25 June, 1876, state what kind of weather prevailed, whether clear or cloudy, calm or windy, and if Wendy what was its intensity or degree and in what direction with reference to Major Reno’s command, and that of General Custer as afterwards ascertained by you.
A. As to the wind I don’t know: there was not much wind if any. I think it was rather cloudy. I remember seeing the sun go down as a red ball. That is about the only fact that impressed itself on my mind; and I know the next day was cloudy and rainy.
Q. Describe fully and clearly the condition of Major Reno’s command on the night of 25 June, 1876, in regard to its efficiency and state the causes therefore, if any.
A. There were several wounded; I don’t know the exact number: otherwise the command was in good shape. The men were tired and hungry and needed water, but they work the whole night through in digging little rifle pits, and worked willingly, as I heard no grumbling.
Q. State whether any measurements were made after the battle of the Little Big Horn, with reference to the battle: if so when, for what object, by whom made and the results of such measurement.
A. Personally I don’t know. I think there were some odometer measurements made by Lieutenant Maguire. After the fight I was appointed regimental Adjutant and had nothing more to do with making the survey. I had all I could attend to as Adjutant.

Then at 2 o’clock, P.M. The court adjourned to meet at 11 o’clock A.M. Tomorrow, Thursday, January 16, 1879.



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