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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

FIFTH DAY

Chicago, Illinois, Saturday, January 18, 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 as far as written were read, and during the reading Lieutenant Wallace corrected his testament as found on page 107 as follows: - “I wish to say that Captain Moylan did not say he could go no farther, but that he could not keep up at the rate we were going: that he needed more men to assist him in caring for his wounded.” With this correction the proceedings as read were approved.

The examination of F. F. Girard by the Recorder was continued as follows:

Q. About how man shots were fired before Major Reno’s command halted and deployed as skirmishers at that place?
A. I don’t know.
Q. Describe the character of the firing before his command had deployed as skirmishers before the line was formed.
A. I think the line was formed about the same time that the Indians commenced firing upon us.
Q. Describe the position of the skirmish line, where its right rested, and in what direction the line extended, and about how far if you know?
A. The right was resting on the edge of the timber. I cannot state what distance it extended out into the prairie or the bottom. It was at an opposite angle from the bend of the timber.
Q. Describe the character of the ground in the immediate front of the skirmish line.
A. It was perfectly flat, level prairie, with the foot-hills probably ten or twelve hundred yards off.
Q. When the command halted and deployed as skirmishes, what was the position of the Indians in reference to the line, - in front, to the right or left or rear, and in what numbers and about how far were they from the line?
A. The Indians were to the front and to the left, going up the valley. First I saw one, then three and four, and beyond that probably forty or fifty coming up the valley.
Q. How far do you estimate that was away?
A. The first Indians next us was about eight to ten hundred yards distant. The others I cannot tell – probably twelve to fifteen hundred yards.
Q. Now state, if you know, what advance was made of that line or command after it deployed as skirmishers?
A. I did not see that any advance was made. A movement was made while I was going into the timber with Charley Reynolds. During that time the skirmish line acted as though it had swung around on a pivot, the left flank becoming the right. I don’t know whether the move was made exactly in that way, but it seemed to me as though it had swung right around on a pivot.
Q. State how near the Indians came to that line of skirmishers, from what direction, and in what number?
A. I saw Indians within 200 or 250 yards of the skirmish line after I got onto the brow of the hill. They were coming up the valley, riding round to our left.
Q. In about what numbers, as near as you can state?
A. All that I saw during the short time I was on the hill was about from fifty to seventy0five Indians at the furthest, in front of the skirmish line, riding by it.
Q. State now what village, if any, was in front of that skirmish line, and describe the location of that village as discovered by you at the time or subsequently brought to your personal knowledge?
A. The Indian village from that line, I should say, was a mile and a half or two miles down the left bank of the Little Big Horn. The country was lev3el between the two points, and I think there were one or two small dry streams.
Q. How long did Major Reno’s command remain on the skirmish line before it swung round as you have described?
A. Not over ten minutes.
Q. Describe fully and clearly the character of the timber to which Major Reno’s command was moved from where you saw it, and go on in this connection and give a full description of that timber with reference the plain and the village, and also with reference to the river.
A. That timber, I should say, was seventy-five yards long starting from the river north of the skirmish line, running down to the point marked on the map as “C”.
Q. Describe the timber from that point, representing where the right of the skirmish line rested.
A. To the rear of where the skirmish line was drawn up is what I call south – from that point down to the river bank I should say it was seventy-five yards long.
Q. Now, from the point representing where the right of the skirmish line rested describe the timber from that point.
A. To the rear of where the skirmish line was drawn up is what I call south; from that point down to the river bank I should say was about seventy-five yards long. That was the widest portion of it. Then from the skirmish line on the brow of the hill to the edge of the timber on the outside, or in our rear, I should say was between thirty and forty yards, and at this end of it, where I was cut off –
Q. Which end do you mean?
A. That would be the southeast.
Q. How about the surface of the country there?
A. There the underbrush was very thick. I led my horse through that on the north side of this timber. The stream passes right underneath and runs right out onto the prairie, going west about two hundred yards from the brow of the hill where this skirmish line was, and there is a perpendicular bank there about twenty-five feet, and it runs out about two hundred yards, making a bend.
Q. What was down stream – following the stream down – the description you have given of the bank?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Now state how long the command remained in the woods or timber after leaving that skirmish line.
A. I don’t think they stayed there either, over ten minutes.
Q. Where did the command then go?
A. I didn’t see which way they went. I could only judge from the firing, the direction in which they went. From where I went into the timber, as I started to go out with Charley Reynolds, they turned to the left; and I hear the firing in that direction, and I couldn’t see anything in front of me when I came up there. The prairie was all open, and I thought it was in an easterly direction.
Q. Was that direction toward the Indian village or away from it?
A. It was not toward it. It was not directly opposite away from it, either. It was diagonally across from the village.
Q. State the formation that you noticed that you noticed of the troops in the timber, after the skirmish line had swung around the river, as you have described.
A. The troops I saw in the timber were in a great hurry to get out. There seemed to be no order at all. Every man was for himself.
Q. When they were in the timber, after the skirmish line had swung around, as you have described, state whether there was any general engagement with the Indians in the timber.
A. Not that I could see. There was skirmishing.
Q. Do you mean with Indians in the timber?
A. No, sir, there were not Indians in the timber.
Q. State whether there was any engagement with Indians that were not in the timber.
A. There was firing all around at the troops.
Q. State as fully as you can the circumstances under which Major Reno’s command left the woods, describing clearly the manner of leaving, and all that occurred in regard to that that came under your knowledge.
A. After I heard the order given, “Men, to your horses, the Indians are in our rear,” the skirmish line was withdrawn from the hill, and every man went for his horse. I took my time my horse was tied fifteen or twenty feet away, and I got him, and was leading him out, and the soldiers were going by me on a lope. There appears to be no command or order about it. Some officer was with them, and I hallooed out to him: “What are you going to do?” And he said “Charge the Indians!” and I was not in any hurry to get out, and Charley Reynolds came up and I told him I didn’t understand the call, and we would probably be in the way of the movement of the troops. They would undoubtedly come back, and there was no use of us hurrying out, and we would stay there until they came back.
Q. Now state, if you know, who gave the orders for the command to leave the timber – how you knew that the command was going to leave?
A. Nothing more than this officer’s order, that I have already stated.
Q. State whether all the command was taken out of the woods at the time Major Reno left; if not state, if you know, who were left in the woods?
A. All that I saw in the woods were Lieutenant DeRudio and Private O’Neill and the command had then been gone for some little time, and I pulled out my watch and it was ten minutes past 1 o’clock.
Q. State whether you are sure that your watch showed the correct time, and what evidence, if any you have, of the correctness of your watch as a time-keeper.
A. I endeavored to keep the time the command was moving by, and before we started I had my watch to the jeweler’s for ten or fifteen days, cleaning and repairing, and I thought I had a very good time-keeper.
Q. State whether you looked at your watch at any other time during that day after this.
A. Yes, sir; I suppose I looked at it a hundred times that evening, and the last time I looked at it, it was about 9 o’clock, just before leaving the woods, about dusk; getting dark enough so that we could move out with safety to ourselves.
Q. You watch then showed it was about what hour?
A. Nine o’clock, when we left the timber. It was then dark.
Q. How long had it been dark?
A. Well, a few seconds. It was twilight. You could see a short distance but not very far.
Q. Describe the character of the ground along the left or the outer edge of the timber, as to elevation or depression. I refer to the edge of the timber next to the plain, not next to the river.
A. The bottom was about twelve feet lower than the plain where the skirmish line was, and it rested on the Little Big Horn.
Q. Then I understand by that, that at the outer edge of the timber the plain was higher or lower than the bottom?
A. It was higher than the bottom.
Q. How much?
A. Twelve or thirteen feet.
Q. When you were in the timber and before Major Reno’s command had left it, state whether you saw any hostile Indians on the right bank of the river; if so, how near to Major Reno’s command in the timber, and in what numbers, and what were those Indians doing?
A. Those that were in our rear, I couldn’t say whether they were on the opposite side of the river or not. I saw ten or fifteen firing from the timber at us, and I supposed it was some of the Indians that ridden around from the front of us and got into our rear.
Q. When Major Reno’s command was in the timber, state whether it was in a sheltered or exposed position and describe it in that respect.
A. I should say it was in a sheltered position.
Q. Describe it, and state why you said it was sheltered.
A. We had this brush behind us where we could lie down behind the brow of the hill and load and fire; and at the book of us we had the timber. The timber was wise enough so that the Indians could not get sight at us to fire in our rear. The underbrush was very thick.
Q. Now state in your own words all that transpired after Major Reno’s command left the timber, as to the movements of the hostile Indians, the sound firing, if any, from what direction, and pertaining to what troops. Give all the facts and circumstances respecting these matters on the 25th of June.
A. Ten of fifteen minutes after Major Reno left the bottom, I heard the firing on these hills.
Q. What hills do you refer to?
A. To the left of where Major Reno was. It was to my right.
Q. One what side of the stream?
A. On the right-hand side, and I could see Indians going up these ravings on the right-hand side of the stream. I saw Indians going up there, and I could hear the firing as though they were firing at troops going up there. I knew there was some troops going by, because I had seen them back of that.
Q. Go on and state any other sounds of firing from that time, and follow it on down, in narrative form in your own way.
A. I heard continuous firing clear on down, as if there was a general engagement.
Q. Down to where?
A. Down to where I afterward went, and saw General Custer’s battlefield; and I heard firing to the left of the village, three of four volleys, as if there were fifty or one hundred guns at a volley. Lieutenant DeRudio was in the woods with me, and when we heard this firing, he said: By G-d, there’s Custer coming, let’s go and join him.” I told him to wait; that we had plenty of time, that when the firing to opposite to us we could go out and join him, that he was now too far away.
Q. This firing that yo heard to the left as if by volleys, sate in regard to that, whether it was before or after you heard the firing on down the stream where you afterward found General Custer?
A. It was during the firing down there; after the heaving firing down there, indicating a general engagement at that point, where Custer was afterward found.
Q. You stated that this firing on the right bank of the river in the bluffs that you heard, which began about fifteen minutes after Major Reno’s command had left the timber – I wish you to commence there, and go on and describe how long it was that you heard firing that direction, following down the stream until it had based.
A. There was a continuous firing all the time the troops were marching down there; not regular volleys, but scattering shots, sometimes three or four, and sometimes only one, and then it was kept up irregularly; and when it got down below there, where Custer’s battlefield was, it became heavy. There was a skirmish fire all the way down from where I first heard it.
Q. What kind of firing?
A. Scattering shots. I am speaking now of the space above where the first dead man of Custer’s command was found. Subsequently, when we went to bury the troops there, there was a horse wounded standing in the stream where we crossed.
Q. On which side of the stream was the horse standing?
A. On the left-hand side.
Q. What kind of horse?
A. I have an impression that it was a gray horse.
Q. Where was that place you found the gray horse in reference to the point “B” on the map?
A. I would say about where the letter “L” is in “Little Big Horn.”
Q. State how long this firing lasted which you have described as though it came on a command moving down in that way. How long was it from the time you first heard it until it ceased – an hour, two hours, or three, or how long?
A. The whole firing, from the time I heard it on the bluffs to my right, on the right bank of the river – they were firing there until dark.
Q. Where?
A. One the Custer battlefield. Then there were single shots, or one or two at a time. Shall I explain that?
Q. Yes.
A. It is customary with Indians, even if they find an enemy that has been killed two or three days, in riding by they will be pretty apt to put a shot onto him as he lies there.
Q. Now state from the position where you were, and heard this firing commencing on the right, how long it was until that firing had ceased, if you could follow its sound?
A. It was but a short time.
Q. State approximately how long you think it was, whether half or three-quarters of an hour.
A. Twenty or twenty-five minutes.
Q. How long after that firing had ceased was it until you heard these volleys over toward the left in the direction of the village?
A. I was speaking of the firing down on the line of march (at Custer’s battlefield) was a general engagement, and while that engagement was going on this firing here happened.
Q. After that the firing, you say, was general?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Where?
A. On what is known as the Custer battlefield.
Q. In what direction, in regard to where you found Custer’s body?
A. In the same direction.
Q. How long did that general firing last?
A. I should judge it to be about two hours.
Q. This particular firing as of a general engagement lasted how long?
A. This heavy firing lasted about two hours.
Q. State what command you joined if any, on the 26th of June, 1876, after leaving this timber where you were left on the 25th?
A. I rejoined Major Reno’s command on the night of the 26th about half-past 11 o’clock.
Q. State whether you had seen the hostile village moving away; if so from where and in what direction was it going and what was its length and width?
A. The night of the 25th we left this timber, endeavoring to reach Reno’s command and got lost, and run into different parties of Indians and lost our arms, and decided it would be safer for us to move up the Little Big Horn and stay there for the night; and came past where Major Reno had crossed on the day of the 25th, and from where we were, we could see that command on the hill and heard the firing, and in the evening about 3 o’clock I could hear voices north of where I was in the timber. The voices were outside on the prairie. I crawled out to the edge of the timber and I could see a little valley that the Indians were going up. That was on the north side from where I was.
Q. State as near as you can what numbers, what was the length, size, and width of the village.
A. That I couldn’t see. I only stayed there ten or fifteen minutes to watch.
Q. From all you saw of the hostile Indians on the 25th and 26th of June, 1876; state your estimate of the effective fighting force of the village.
A. I should put it down to between 2500 and 3000.
Q. State what you mean by a warrior or fighting man.
A. Among the Indians a boy of 12 or 14 is considered a warrior is he is able (capable) of handling a gun.
Q. State what you know about the river from the point where Major Reno crossed it on his advance to the point he reached, with respect to fords, the trails, the depth of the water, the width of the stream, and the banks or bluffs on either side, as far as those matters came within your knowledge at that time or afterward; begin at the ford where Major Reno crossed the river on his advance.
A. During the night of the 25th I crossed the river in two places somewhere between the ford where Major Reno crossed it going up onto the hill when he was leaving the valley. After that I rode over the country and I saw there were five or six others fords, and when we moved from on top of the hill down to where General Terry’s command was encamped in the bottom, I went ahead and helped to take the wounded down, and I found several crossing a little south.
Q. Above on the stream from where Major Reno crossed it on the 25th?
A. Yes, sir, going up onto the hill. This part of the stream below, and between where Major Reno’s command was drawn up in skirmish line and General Custer’s battlefield I know very little about.
Q. Now in regard to the point “B” as represented on the map, state what you know about the stream at that point.
A. That was a watering place. The trail led in to it and I supposed it was a crossing, but when we went down on the 27th I rode in there and examined the opposite bank and found it was miry. I know it was a watering place. The right shore was gravelly and the Indians used it as a watering place.
Q. Begin at “B”and tell what you know in regard to the river below that, as to ford, trails and banks.
A. I know of only ford – the one where we found the horse and where we crossed.
Q. How far was that form the point “E” and “H” on the map?
A. I should say from “E” to the ford was between a half and three quarters of a mile, and almost in a due west line.
Q. Now in regard to any trails there, state what you know or saw.
A. I noticed only one lodge trail that led down to the stream and crossed the ford where the horse was standing.
Q. State where that ford is, with reference to the Indian village, as found out by you at the time or afterward.
A. I think the first sign of lodges I saw after I got across was on the left bank, probably about two hundred yards from the ford. On this bottom at the crossing was a growth of underbrush. On the right bank was some timber.
Q. From the place where you saw these lodges, state in what direction the village extended, or whether the village was continuous from that point; or whether these lodges were simply detached from the main village.
A. I could only see where the lodges had been from the lodge-poles and some baggage they had abandoned there. As a general thing the Indians encamp in circles in bands or families, and it was nearly all over the bottom and extended out to the foot-hills and down below this ford. A large portion of this village was below this ford.
Q. State whether these lodges where you first saw them, near the ford, were at the upper or lower end of the village.
A. They were not quite to the center of the village.
Q. You have testified in effect that it was about 1 o’clock by your watch when Major Reno’s command left the timber, where he engaged the Indians. How state how long it was before that, that you last saw General Custer’s command or any part of it.
A. Between ten and fifteen minutes, I should think before; prior to Major Reno leaving the timber. I saw General Custer’s command, or a portion of it, just as I was going down into the timber.
Q. Where did you see it?
A. In a southeasterly direction from where I was, about opposite the letter “D” in the word “command in “Reno’s command” as shown on the map.
Q. It was about at that place you saw his column.
A. I supposed it to be General Custer’s column, as I know nothing about the division of the command into three battalions. I did not know of Captain Benteen leaving the command.
Q. State what confirmed your supposition in regard to that, if anything.
A. After my conversation with Lieutenant Cook at the point “A”, General Custer’s column had about had about time to reach the point I saw them.
Q. At about what gait did the column you saw seem to be moving?
A. It appeared to be moving very fast.
Q. In what direc5tion was it moving in relation to the stream – up or down?
A. Down st4ream.
Q. State any other fact or circumstance within your knowledge that led you to believe, either at the time or as found out by afterwards, that it was General Custer’s column you saw.
A. I found after than Captain Benteen joined Major Reno on the hill, and the firing had taken place about the time I said it had; and I was satisfied it was General Custer’s command, as no other command passed beyond that point about half way between Major Reno’s position on the hill and the “B”.
Q. State whether you wish to state that accurately, or as indicating about the distance.
A. About half way I would say. I can’t fix it accurately.
Q. In regard to that firing on the line of march, as describe by you, and which you believe to be that of General Custer’s column, state what movements of Indians were made with reference to the firing or with reference to that line of march.
A. I will have to go back to where we crossed the ford first. When we came to this ford and turned to the knoll, I had a full view down the valley and I could see Indians coming up. The bottom seemed to be just alive with Indians. As to the number, there seemed to be at least fifteen hund4red coming up. After we got into the woods and on the skirmish line, I was astonished not to see any more Indians around there; and having seen General Custer down there and no more Indians attacking us, I think at that time they had discovered him and went there to intercept General Custer, or whoever the command was, and cut him off and go down to the protection of their families.
Q. State whether you saw any considerable number of Indians passing to the left and rear of Major Reno’s position before he left the words – passing around to his left and rear?
A. No, sir; I think not. It would have taken them a longer time to pass around the timber than it too k me to go forty or fifty yards in the timber.
Q. How near did the Indians or any of them come to Major Reno’s command before the skirmish line was moved into the timber?
A. I don’t think they had got with two or three hundred yards.
Q. In what number did they come to that distance?
A. That I could not say; I could not estimate it because I was firing at the firing at the Indians myself.
Q. State whether these Indians you were firing at were the entire body of Indians you had previously seen in the bottom.
A. A portion of them, but they were a very small party.
Q. What do you mean by a very small party? Do you mean as compared with the large number?
A. Twenty or thirty.
Q. State what became of the large force of Indians you saw advancing when Major Reno’s command halter and formed a skirmish line; whether they continued to advance or won’t elsewhere.
A. I should say that they were the same Indians. As I said before, as soon as they discovered General Command’s command marching down, they abandoned Major Reno and understood to the intercept and cut General Custer’s command off before it reached the village.
Q. State whether or not you are familiar with the style of Indian warfare, and their movements in battle, and what opportunities you have had in regard to that.
A. I have had a good many opportunities of seeing Indian fighting. I have been in several Indians fights, and I have had a good deal of experience in regard to it.
Q. What period of time has your experience with Indians covered? How many years?
A. Thirty-one.
Q. Where would the hostile Indians of the plains be most likely to attack their foe – in the timber, or in the open ground?
A. In the open ground.
Q. Where would they be most likely to charge or close in on their foe?
A. In the open ground.
Q. State whether or not a command of one hundred men with six or seven thousand rounds of ammunition, judiciously used in the timber, where Major Reno’s command engaged the Indians, could have protected themselves for any considerable length of time against that particular hostile village, and if so, how long?
A. Yes, sir, I think they could have held out against the whole number of Indians as long as their ammunition and provisions would have lasted – that is resolute, determined men.
Q. State, if you know, how much ammunition was in Major Reno’s command in the woods at that lace.
A. I don’t know that.
Q. State, if you know, from the sound of firing by Major Reno’s command, about how much ammunition had been fired away fore he left the woods. Take it on a general view. You have got to consider the time the command was in there.
A. I should say between thirty and forty rounds to a man – I mean to a man engaged. I fired during the interval thirteen shots. I lost considerable time in going from the outer edge of the timber down to the right of the skirmish line.
Q. State about how much time you lost.
A. I don’t think over five minutes.
Q. State whether you examined or went over the battlefield of the Little Big Horn; if so when, and what discoveries did you make, if any, with reference to dead bodies of men and horses, and what other evidences did you find showing the fate that befell General Custer’s command, or any part of it, and state where you found those evidences.
A. I went down with Major Reno’s command from this hill to General Custer’s battle field, and was there during the whole of the time they were burying the soldiers. I made no discoveries, except this ford. When I came to it I saw from the marks that, as I supposed, General Custer had attempted to cross there, that he had been delayed some little time, and left it. I only judge from the signs I saw at that ford. After that the troops came over, and crossed at this other ford. Then we came up into camp, and I went back to get some articles that I had left in this timber where we were cut off.
Q. State whether you found any dead bodies of mean, or hoses on the left side of the Little Big Horn River.
A. I saw two on the north side of one of those ravines. There are two that jut out above the village. It was below the first ravine.
Q. How far from Major Reno’s skirmish line was that, or his position in the woods?
A. A mile and a half.
Q. How near were those dead bodies to this for that you speak of at the river?
A. It might have been half a mile and it might have been three-quarters – between one-half and three-quarters.
Q. Do you state that as a fact, or an estimate?
A. I state it as an estimate. I saw several dead horses in the village that I suppose belonged to the 7th Cavalry. I saw “U. S.” and “7th Cavalry” branded on the shoulders. They were in the village, on the right of some lodges.
A. Those two bodies you saw there - to what command, if any, did they appear to have belonged?
Q. One man had a pair of blue pants very greasy and dirty, and with holes in the knees, and I suppose he belonged to the 7th Cavalry. I had no means of identifying what command he belonged to.
Q. The other men- was he a white man?
A. Yes, sir; he was stark naked.
Q. Were there any other evidences that you on that side of the river in regard to these matters on the left bank?
A. No, sir, I don’t think of anything else just now.
Q. How far was the point where you saw General Custer’s body from the ford you have described?
A. Between a half and three-quarter of a mile, from my recollection of the distance now.
Q. Do you remember whether there were any dead bodies scattered between the place where you saw General Custer’s body, and that ford?
A. Yes, sir, there were a few bodies between those two points; perhaps one-third of the way from General Custer’s body, coming to the ford, I saw two or three lying there.
Q. You saw Lieutenant Cook on the right bank of the river, at a little knoll, near where Major Reno’s command crossed, and when you returned to the command of Major Reno the command had all crossed over and were moving down the bottom?
A. I think I said there was an Indian scout at the ford waiting for me.
Q. Now state whether, in returning to Major Reno’s command, you met anyone going back toward General Custer’s column.
A. No, sir, I have no recollection of meeting any one.
Q. State whether your route was such as to enable you to see anyone back communicating between the two commands?
A. I don’t think anyone could have been by me without my seeing him.

Then at 1 o’clock P. M. the Court adjourned to meet at 11 o’clock A. M. Monday January 20, 1879.



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