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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

NINTH DAY

Chicago, Illinois Thursday, January 23, 1879 11 o’clock AM

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

THE EXAMINATION OF LIEUTENANT VARNUM BY MAJOR RENO was then entered upon as follows:

Q. Please take the Map and fix the point where the men were deployed on the skirmish line and its general direction.
A. As this map does not appear to me to be correct, I can’t fix it on the map. That square space being the opening in the timber, I should put the skirmish line about the center of that opening as shown on the map. The map may be correct and I may be wrong.

Q. Does the line you have drawn with your pencil represent, according to your judgment, the angle of the line?

A. Yes sir; it was about perpendicular to the general direction of the river.

Q. Where were you in reference to the skirmish line at the time it was being deployed?

A. Just as it was being deployed, I came right with the men as they were deploying.

Q. Was that the time you saw the gray horse company on the other side of the river?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. How long, according to your judgment, did the line remain in the position in which it had been deployed?

A. With reference to that I can only answer that when I came back from the opening in the timber to the skirmish line, the men in the immediate vicinity of where I struck the line were lying in the edge of the timber I suppose the whole line had dropped back into the timber, but at what time that happened I don’t know.

Q. What length of time do you compute it to be?

A. I can’t tell.

Q. Can you give a judgment of what length of time the men were on the skirmish line before being withdrawn into the timber?

A. I have no idea. I must have been on the skirmish line myself from 10 to 15 minutes.

Q. When you left the skirmish line were the men in the position in which they were deployed?

A. They were

Q. After they had been withdrawn to the timber how long do you suppose they stayed there?

A. That depends on when they fell back in the timber

Q. How long were they in the timber all together? Have you any estimate to give?

A. It could not have been more than 10 or 15 minutes I think.

Q. How long was it from the time the men were deployed in line till they left the timber on their way back to the river?

A. I estimate that at about half an hour.

Q. Did I understand you to say that a prolongation of the skirmish line across the river would strike the point where you saw the gray horse company?

A. Yes sir, I think it was about that point.

Q. Where do you fix that point on the map?

A. I can’t fix it on the map. Assuming that the position of Major Reno’s command on the hill is correct, it was probably a quarter of a mile below that, or something like that.

Q. Then according to your recollection of the country, a prolongation of Major Reno’s skirmish line across the river would strike the bluffs about a quarter of a mile below where the stand was made on the night of the 25th.

A. I don’t pretend to lay down a rule and say the prolongation of the skirmish line would strike that particular spot where the column was; but as I rode in the rear of the skirmish line and looked up, there about in front of me was the gray horse company.

Q. Did you not go rather on the right flank of Major Reno’s command than in the rear of the skirmish line?

A. That is what I say. As I came in from the left of the line and rode around in the rear, I looked up… There it was in my front, which would be about at the right flank of the line as it was deployed.

Q. What was the character of the country on which you saw the gray horse company?

A. It was up on the bluffs we afterwards retreated to and when we had our fight. It was rather rough, That is, the top was uneven and rolling. It was a high bluff.

Q. Much higher than the point from which you saw it?

A. Yes sir: I think the bluffs were 100 feet high.

Q. That was the last view you had of that column or any part of it?

A. That was the last view I ever had of it, and that was just a glance.

Q. Major Reno deployed his skirmish line and they remained 10 or 15 minutes in position?

A. Yes sir.

Q. These men had dismounted at the time?

A. Yes sir. I think they were just coming from their horses at the time I rode up.

Q. Was that point at which the line was deployed visible from the point where the gray horse company was visible to you at the time you saw it?

A. It must have been.

Q. Did you tell Major Reno, while in the timber or at any time during the general engagement, about seeing the gray horse company?

A. No sir C. Where was Major Reno in reference to yourself at that time?
A. I don’t know: he must have been on the line as the men were just deploying.

Q. You spoke of seeing Major Reno with a gun in his hand; did any of the officers enter that fight with sabers or swords?

A. Not that I know of. I almost know there was not a sabre in the command.

Q. What was the gait you fixed at which the gray horse company was moving down the river?

A. I think they were moving at a trot. That is an impression only; not a very fast trot.

Q. What was the general appearance of the point “B” in the river, as to its being a ford or not?

A. I should call that place a ford. I did not attempt to cross the river there, but I should call it a ford.

Q. What do you estimate the distance from the point “B” and the place where you saw the gray horse company?

A. I should put it at something less than 2 miles. All my testimony in relation to time and distance is very uncertain.

Q. How long do you suppose it would take a command going at the rate that appeared to be going to go from the point where you saw it, to “B”?

A. Taking into consideration the uneven nature of the ground, it must have taken them 25 or 30 minutes, assuming that my distance is about correct.

Q. Do you know whether the gray horse company was at the head, the middle or the rear of that column?

A. I have no idea.

Q. What was the character of the country between the point where the gray horse company was and the point “B”, with reference to access or approach to the river, on the right bank?

A. Some parts it must have been just about impossible to get down with a company of cavalry; and at other points you could go down quite well.

Q. Would it not be as easy for a column of mounted men to go down the right bank to the river, as for any number of mounted men on the left bank to rise to those heights?

A. Certainly it would be fully as easy to go down as to get up.

Q. How long after you saw the gray horse company as you have stated, till Major Reno retreated from the timber?

A. It must have been about half an hour.

Q. Then according to your estimate of time, a sufficient period had elapsed between the time you saw the gray horse company and the time Major Reno left the timber, for that column to have reached the ford “B”.

A. Yes sir, just about.

Q. In what way did the Indians leave Major Reno’s command after he made the march across the river on his return; down towards the village or not?

A. Down towards the village.

Q. That was on the left side of the river, down towards “B”?

A. Yes sir.

Q. Mien did they leave Major Reno’s command?

A. I think the main force left about the time we left the woods.

Q. Then according to your judgment, at the time Major Reno’s command left the timber, General Custer’s column had about time enough to have reached the ford “B”?

A. I think those would have been the relative positions of the two columns as near as I can judge.

Q. What was the character of the country as to elevation, between the point where you saw the gray horse company and the point “8”; whether the point where you saw the gray horse company was as high as any point between that and “B”.

A. I hardly think it was, I can’t be accurate.

Q. I wish to ask your judgment. You saw the gray horse company at the point you have stated, The men of Major Reno’s command were just being deployed or had been dismounted and deployed as a skirmish line. They remained there for 10 minutes, Do you suppose the column moving down the right bank of the stream could have seen Major Reno’s command in any other position than on the skirmish line with dismounted men?

A. I will answer that in this way: as this column of General Custer’s went down the stream, he may have been in a position to see us all the time we were going down the bottom; but at the time he passed the point I have described, we were certainly dismounting, and he must have known our position if he looked there. That was what we were doing.

Q. Any stretch of country over which he passed for the next 10 or 15 minutes would still have been in view of Major Reno’s skirmish line?

A. The last I saw of the gray horse company, General Custer was himself, if he rode at the head of the column as usual, in a position to see what we were doing.

Q. Then, as far as you have any reason to believe, the last view the column on the right bank of the river had, Major Reno’s command was doing what?

A. Dismounting to go into the fight.

Q. Was there any communication whatever to your knowledge between Maj Reno and General Custer after that time?

A. Not that I know of, I don’t believe there was.

Q. Then as far as you know, General Custer must have reached the point “B”, if he attempted to cross there at all, with the belief that Major Reno was not charging, but standing there at bay before the Indians.

A. Of course I can’t say positively; it is a mere matter of opinion. The men of the gray horse company were certainly in position to see exactly what we were doing there. What part of the column the gray horse company was in I don’t know, or how far ahead of the gray horse company General Custer was, I don’t know But assuming he was right there, he must have seen our position and known exactly what we were doing.

Q. Do you not suppose that General Custer as a careful soldier, having an opportunity to see that command in the timber below there, would advise himself of just what it was doing and the position and condition it was in?

A. I believe General Custer must have been satisfied to proceed after seeing us there.

Q. Have you any reason to think that General Custer had any other knowledge of Major Reno than that he was standing there on his defense?

A. If he saw us there, and I can’t help thinking he did see us, that must have been the last information he had concerning us.

Q. Were there any evidences of a determined effort - to cross to the village at “B”?

A. I don’t know anything about that. I did not watch the ground there at all. I came over the bluff at that point, and not on the trail.

Q. As a military man, would not your attention have been attracted if there had been any evidences of a struggle on the part of General Custer to cross to the village at the point “B”?

A. General Custer might have attempted to cross at “B” and have been driven back without leaving any particular signs except horse tracks; unless someone had been killed or wounded there, so that he would have dead bodies or dead horses there. I did not see any dead bodies or dead horses to indicate any struggle, though he may have gone in there.

Q. There were men left dead in the timber where Major Reno made his stand?

A. Yes sir.

Q. Would there not have been men and horses left dead at “B” if there had been a desperate effort to cross?

A. Yes sir, I think so.

Q. How far from that ford did you find the first dead body?

A. My opinion of that distance is the poorest opinion I give. I said 800 or 1000 yards, but it is a complete guess on my part.

Q. It was away from the ford, was it?

A. Yes sir.

Q. And still farther down the river?

A. Yes sir; it was after I left the ford.

Q. It was not between the position Major Reno took when he came on the hill and the ford “B”?

A. No sir.

Q. Then you say, for about 30 minutes Major Reno remained in the timber and created a diversion on the part of the Indians.

A. Yes sir.

Q. According to your estimate of the number of Indians engaged on the 25th and 26th days of June, 1876, were there not enough in your opinion to have overcome both commands, even if each had been separately engaged at the same time?

A. I would not like to take half the warriors and take the command we had with us and fight them.

Q. You would not like to take the other half of the command and fight the balance of the warriors?

A. No sir. I don’t know how to express an opinion on that. From the estimates of other persons and of Indians and all I can pick up, I don’t believe there were less than 4000 warriors in that fight.

Q. Were there any evidences of an attempt on the part of the column under General Custer to return from the point “B”, back in the direction from which he came?

A. I did not notice any evidences of that sort, and if there had been I would not have noticed them, as I rode away from the trail.

Q. What was the character of the country from the point “B” in the direction of “D” and “E” as to elevation, in comparison with the position of Major Reno’s command on the night of the 25th?

A. I have no idea: I never was on either of these points, except to pass by where General Custer’s body was buried, when I came in from the bluffs.

Q. Did you see the bodies before they were buried?

A. I saw a great many bodies, but not to examine them.

Q. Did the position of the bodies indicate that the command had been gathered together in a military position at any one point for resistance to the Indians?

A. It is impossible for me to give an opinion on that. I was not enough over the field to know.

Q. When the column under command of Major Reno prepared to retire from the bottom, you were with Girard and Reynolds?

A. Yes sir.

Q. They were unattached to any particular part of the command, were they not?

A. Yes sir. The interpreter, as a rule, is supposed to be with the commanding officer.

Q. Was he with him at that time?

A. No sir. I wish to say that I had no orders to go with Major Reno’s battalion at all; and I don’t know what instructions Girard had, nor do I know how he came to be there.

Q. You were with those two men, who were, as far as you know, unattached to any particular part of the command?

A. Yes sir.

Q. When the men were in the timber, were they not a small number of men to defend a position of that kind?

A. I don’t believe we had men enough to cover as large a line as it was necessary to cover in order to hold that timber. It does not seem so to me.

Q. You have been asked several questions with reference to the ability of Lieutenant Reno’s command to hold that timber, provided Captain Benteen with his command had joined, and provided Captain McDougall had come in with the pack train. Would not that in your judgment depend on the fact whether there had been any orders or directions to Major Reno and Captain Benteen to unite their commands?

A. It would depend entirely upon the fact whether they did or not; and whether they would or not would depend of course on the orders each one had, more or less. I don’t know what orders either one had.

Q. Was it reasonable for Major Reno to expect Captain Benteen’s command to unite with his on that side of the river unless he was apprised of the fact that Captain Benteen had been ordered to do so? In other words, must he not know what Captain Benteen was ordered to do before he could calculate on what he would do?

A. I do not see how he could depend on Captain Benteen’s command or Capt., McDougall’s. I don’t know whether Major Reno knew or could have known what orders the other battalion commanders had. I do not know that he knew what the plan of the fight was; I did not.

Q. If Major Reno was ignorant of the orders given to Captain Benteen with his battalion, and to Captain McDougall with the pack train, would he have been justified in holding that timber in the belief that they would come up and unite with him, provided he found or believed his own command was not sufficient to hold it?

A. If he believed he was unable to hold that timber and saw no troops coming, I suppose he would use his own judgment about leaving there and going to some place he could hold better.

Q. How long after retiring from the timber did Capt Benteen unite with him?

A. I would say 20 or 25 minutes.

Q. How long after Captain Benteen came up did the pack train come up, and did it come from the same direction that Captain Benteen did, or a different one?

A. It came from a different direction, and I estimate it three-quarters of an hour after, possibly more or less.

Q. After the pack train joined the command, how long till the entire command moved down the river?

A. After the pack train joined the command, I took the spades and started down the hill, and was gone possibly 20 or 25 minutes; and when I got back, the command was all moving except perhaps Captain Moylan’s company, which I am not certain about, as he was encumbered with wounded.

Q. Where was Co. “D” under Captain Weir at that time?

A. I can’t locate his company at that time. I know some company started forward about the time I went down the hill, but whether it was his or not I don’t know.

Q. What time do you fix it with reference to the time the pack train came up?

A. It was just about the time the pack train came up.

Q. How long did Major Reno remain on the hill before the column moved down the river?

A. I guess it was about an hour and a half before the whole thing started.

Q. Did you see the point at which Captain Weir halted after he moved down the river?

A. Yes sir, I was on that point

Q. Was it possible for the column to have got any farther in that direction, having reference to the number of Indians and their position?

A. I can only speak in reference to the time I got there. Then the whole force of Indians seemed to be turning back against us. It is possible that we could have gone farther, but I doubt whether anyone would have moved any farther at that time, because the Indians were all coming as fast as they could in our direction.

Q. Was not the engagement a general one after the time Captain Weir commenced to return with his company until dark that evening?

A. No; not from the time he commenced to return. But we had to keep firing to keep the Indians at a distance, and it got warmer and warmer till we got back; and from that time on, it was a very heavy fire as long as we could see to shoot.

Q. What do you fix as the time you reached the point where you made the stand that night?

A. About half past 5 o’clock is as near as I can fix it.

Q. When you heard the firing in the direction in which you afterwards found General Custer, did you communicate that fact to Major Reno?

A. No sir.

Q. Was not General Terry known to be advancing up the river with a considerable body of soldiers?

A. I don’t know whether it was generally known or not. I partly knew what General Terry’s intentions were, as I had heard him and General Custer talking; and I had an idea General Terry was on the Big Horn somewhere, but I don’t know exactly how I knew it either.

Q. Was it not a matter of belief throughout the command, as far as the officers were concerned, that General Terry was coming up the river with a column of men?

A. I don’t know how much information there was among the officers.

Q. Was there anything in the amount of firing you heard in the direction in which General Custer’s command was afterwards found, to indicate their destruction at that time?

A. No sir. I had no idea the command had been destroyed.

Q. Was it not the general belief that the command of General Custer was as well able to take care of itself as that of Major Reno, as far as you knew the feeling?

A. I can’t recall any one speaking about it till the afternoon of the 26th.

Q. Was it not a belief among the officers that he was as well able to take care of his command, as the command of Major Reno was to take care of itself?

A. I have no idea what the officers thought about that.

Q. Was it not the belief or opinion that he might have gone farther down the river in the direction in which General Terry was expected to advance, and so unite with him?

A. I certainly had an idea myself that he had been driven off in his attack on the other end of the village, and that he was either corralled, as we were, in the hills; or had got away towards General Terry’s command. The idea of their being all killed never struck me at all.

Q. You spoke of an attempt on the part of Major Reno to send a letter to General Terry.

A. Yes sir, on the 26th.

Q. Was that letter returned to him by the Indian Scouts?

A. Yes sir.

Q. Do you remember the substance of that letter? Major Reno stating to the court that the letter has been destroyed and he is unable now to produce it?

A. It stated in effect that he had arrived at that point at such a time, described the location on the hill, that we had attacked the Indians: that he did not know the whereabouts of General Custer; that he was holding the Indians in check, and asked for medical aid and assistance. That is about all I remember of the letter Q. Did he speak of his ability to hold the position?
A. My impression is it did say something to that effect, Yet, I don’t feel certain of it.

Q. Do you or not recollect he said something like this: We are able to hold the position but we have a number of wounded and I would like you to send me some medical stores and supplies?

A. I don’t think it was exactly like that. I think it was we require medical aid and assistance, or something like that. There was something about holding the position, but I don’t recollect how it was worded: it was to the effect that he was able to hold it.

Q. Was it not, as far as you recollect, very much in substance like a letter he wrote on the 27th?

A. I don’t know anything about the letter he wrote on the 27th. I have been shown a letter that seems to have been written on the 27th. That one is in substance about the same as the one I saw, with the addition of occurrences which had happened after he wrote the first one.

Q. There was no substantial difference as to his ability to remain where he was, and his ignorance of the whereabouts of General Custer?

A. No sir. Those things were about the same in both letters.

Q. That firing you heard was after Captain Benteen came up?

A. I think it was very soon after he came up.

Q. Was the range of the Indians rifles greater or less than that of the soldier’s carbines?

A. I believe the longest range guns the Indians had were those they took from General Custer’s command, with one or two exceptions. There were one or two parties in particular had very long range guns.

Q. Is the range of the Winchester rifle the same as the army carbine?

A. No sir, I think it is much less.

Q. What is the range of the Winchester rifle?

A. I don’t know exactly. I think the charge of powder is considerably less than that of the Springfield carbine.

Q. The Indians in going to the river and across it to the right bank, would in all probability cross at “B”?

A. I don’t know; there were other fords close there, Q. Was not “8” the first ford they could cross?
A. It is the lowest ford in the vicinity of the village.

Q. Is there any ford between that and the point you crossed in the retreat from the bottom?

A. I don’t know, I don’t believe there is because it is high bluffs, but I was never through there.

QUESTIONS BY THE RECORDER

Q. Refresh your memory, in hunting on the plains, and see if you can’t get at the range of a Winchester rifle A. The Winchester Arms Company has an arm very different from the old Winchester rifle, I don’t think the Winchester will shoot accurately over 600 yards. With regard to the 1500 yards range of the carbine, I did not mean that it would shoot accurately that distance, but that it would throw a ball that far How far will a Springfield carbine shoot with reasonable accuracy?
A. About 1000 yards.

Q. State if you had been in Indian engagements before that?

A. Yes sir.

Q. Is it the habit of the plains Indians to charge an enemy posted in the timber? Would they be likely to do it?

A. I don’t believe they would be likely to come there mounted. But any place an Indian can cover himself he will take advantage of and crawl up on the line.

Q. The troops were in the timber and had the cover as you have testified?

A. Yes sir.

Q. Did the Indians on the plain have cover?

A. Not on the plain; but they had the advantage of timber above and below us on the stream.

Q. In that particular timber they did not come that you saw?

A. I saw no Indians in that particular timber I was in.

Q. State whether the plains Indians are more likely to charge a retreating foe than one ready for the attack. What is the rule in regard to that in that country?

A. I think that applies to the Indian and to the cavalry too - they would rather strike a man when he is retreating than when he is facing you. I had.

Q. Did not the Indians strike Major Reno’s column when it left the timber, and were not the greatest number of casualties occasioned in that way?

A. I think a great number of casualties must have occurred in the timber just as we left, in the rear of the column. Certainly the greater number were killed and wounded in the retreat from the woods to the bluff, and about the ford. I don’t know exactly where they were killed or how. Some must have been killed near the timber as we left, and some must have been left there. I am not certain.

Q. State whether or not the Indians made a charge into Major Reno’s column: into the rear or tail end of it as it left the woods on the retreat.

A. They did not charge into it. They would ride some distance off on the flank - some 50 to 100 yards, with their rifles across the pommels of their saddles, and would sit there and work their rifles.

Q. Not bringing them to the shoulder?

A. No sir; let them lay across their saddles.

Q. Did they follow that command in that way as it went down the bottom?

A. A great many followed down, but as we neared the river, they commenced to draw off the other way Q. State whether or not the movement of Major Reno’s battalion from the woods to the hill was a demoralized rout.
A. I do not consider the head of the column was in that condition. The rear I think was Do you still hold the opinion that in column of fours is a good formation in which to charge an enemy in front? Would that have been a good formation there at that time?
A. In column of fours is a good formation in an attempt to pass through a column of Indians. The object of that movement was to take us outside of a body of Indians, and that was as good a formation as any. If it had been made in platoon it would have caused delay.

Q. The formation depends on the rapidity with which you wished to move?

A. Yes sir; and what the effect of the movement was to be.

Q. Take those Indians between the command and the ford, and the command starting out in a column of fours, would it or not be likely to receive an enfilading fire, or a fire from the head of the column down?

A. In fighting Indians I don’t think it would. They would try to get on the flanks where they could use their guns as I have described. That is their style of fighting. I would make the formation close, and if the object was to break through a lot of Indians, I don’t know but it would be a good way to go.

Q. Was that done?

A. The rear of the column was certainly not closed up.

Q. Where did you expect to find the commanding officer on the retreat?

A. At the head of the column.

Q. Was there any officer at the rear of the column, as it came out of the woods seeing that the men all got out?

A. There were officers back there: I donut know what they were doing. I think Lieutenant Hodgson, Lieutenant Wallace, Captain French and Lieutenant McIntosh were all behind me.

Q. Was the column in front going?

A. Yes sir.

Q. At the point where you came out of the woods, how was the column scattered or formed?

A. I could not get out as long as it was closed up solid, because that forced me into the woods, but as soon as there was a break in the column, I got out.

Q. When you got out there were still men behind you?

A. Yes sir.

Q. Were there any wounded men left in the woods?

A. I don’t know whether there were or not. There were men left there, and when we saw them they were dead Q. Is it reasonable to suppose that every man you saw was shot dead in the first instance, or wounded?
A. I don’t know about that, I think if a man was disabled so he could not get on his horse he was left where he was.

Q. Then what would be liable to become of him?

A. He would be liable to be killed at once.

Q. How many were killed or left in the woods?

A. I donut know. Some were on the plain and some in the woods.

Q. From the place where the skirmish line was formed, was any charge made towards the Indian village by Major Reno’s command, or was any such order given by him?

A. No sir, no charge out on the plain. The only charge I know anything about was the movement Major Reno stated to make with Co. “G” through the woods, which I understood was towards a part of the Indian village.

Q. Within what limits have you heard the force of Indians there placed?

A. I don’t think I have heard it placed at less than 2500, and as high as 12,000 warriors.

Q. From your knowledge of Indians state what would be the population of a village containing 4000 warriors.

A. About 15,000 if they all had their families with them, I don’t believe they all had their families, I saw a great many wickyups, which probably contained bucks only.

Q. Were any of those wickyups alongside of the lodges?

A. I did not go over the ground enough to see how they were. At the lower end of the village a great many were left standing

Q. Have you ever seen wickyups alongside of lodges, put there for a special purpose?

A. Yes sir, for bath houses, I suppose you refer to.

Q. Are they not there for other purposes - for the women to occupy occasionally?

A. I don’t know. The only use I know of their making of them is for their sweat baths.

Q. About how many ponies would it take to move a village of 15,000 Indians with all the plunder the Indians have?

A. I don’t know how to estimate that. It would take a great many, and there was an immense herd of ponies there. If there were that number of Indians, it would require about 20,000 ponies.

Q. What was the size of the moving village - if you saw it?

A. I did not see it. I wish to say in regard to the number of ponies, that when I was on the bluffs the night before, my Indian scouts said there were more ponies than they ever saw together before - that they looked like an immense buffalo herd. I could not see them at all. They told me to look for worms on the ground, but still I could not see the ponies; but they described them as the largest pony herd they had ever seen Q. What became of your Indian Scouts?
A. I think they started for Powder River, I found them there afterwards.

Q. When a fight is going on, and an officer in charge of a column has no orders to remain away or at a certain position, and he hears the sound of firing, what is it his duty to do always?

A. I suppose he would take his command and go there to find out what was going on and help, or send and find out what the matter was.

Q. Was not Captain Benteen’s column doing that, if you know, when Major Reno’s column got up on the hill?

A. A few minutes after we got on the hill I saw a column of cavalry coming down stream towards us. I don’t know where it had been before, or what it had been doing.

Q. In the event that 1000 Indians had followed Major Reno s column, and had closed up on it at the river when the men were going across and trying to get on the hill, what would have been the result as far as that command was concerned?

A. I don’t think it would ever have got on the hill. I think it would have stopped at the creek.

Q. You are a soldier; and I presume you remember the soldierly performance of General Forsythe on the Republican River in 1869?

A. Yes sir.

Q. Were the Indians charging upon the troops at that time, and after General Forsythe had been in the timber one day?

A. I was not there, but that is what I understand was the nature of the fight there, I don’t know the nature of their charge on the troops. I imagine the charge of the Indians is not the same as of the cavalry. I think I understand what is meant by a charge there.

Q. Does not the method of Indian warfare depend on the number of Indians, and the number of troops against whom they are engaged?

A. Yes sir

Q. Are not their tactics modified by circumstances?

A. Yes sir; every Indian fights for himself, and each one has his own way of doing it.

Q. And that way depends on their numbers and the number of their enemy?

A. Yes sir.

Q. Was that or not a proper formation for Major Reno’s column in going to a narrow ford in retreating from the timber to the top of the hill beyond, having in view the distance?

A. I don’t know that it would make any difference whether the ford was narrow or wide as far as the formation was concerned. In a movement of that sort, the line has to be kept well closed up all the time, and if there is any delay in crossing the ford, some disposition would have to be made to cover the delay.

Q. Was not that a proper formation of the command, to go to the point to which it was directed?

A. I think it was.

Q. Major Reno was at the head of the command?

A. Yes sir.

BY THE RECORDER

Q. Do you know whether the Indians got away with General Forsythe there?
A. No, they did not.

BY MAJOR RENO

Q. Nor with Major Reno?
A. No sir.

The witness then retired.

Dr. H. R. Porter, a citizen, a witness called 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, profession and residence.
A. My name is H. R. Porter. I am a physician and surgeon and reside in Bismarck, Dakota Territory.

Q. State whether or not you were connected with the government service on the 25th and 26th of June, 1876, in what capacity and with what command serving?

A. I was acting assistant surgeon under General Custer.

Q. With what expedition were you serving at that time?

A. I was serving with Major Reno’s battalion.

Q. State whether or not on the 25th of June, 1876 you heard any orders given by General Custer to Major Reno, either in person or through his adjutant; if so by whom, when, and where’s that day.

A. I heard his Adjutant give an order, I think about 1 o’clock. It was right near where they struck the first tepee, where the dead Indians were The Adjutant came over, and told him the Indians were just ahead, and General Custer directed him to charge them, He turned around, and asked the Adjutant if General Custer was going to support him He said Custer would support him. He asked him if the general was coming along, and he told him “yes,” the General would support him.

Q. Did you hear other orders from General Custer, or his Adjutant, to Major Reno?

A. No sir.

Q. Or which side of the river did this occur?

A. That was before we crossed the Little Big Horn River, It was about a mile, or a mile and a half, from the crossing of the Little Big Horn .

Q. State what was done by Major Reno and his command on receipt of this order.

A. He started on down to the crossing, right on a heavy trail, at a trot. Some of the horses, I guess, were galloping. We went on down to the river and crossed over and halted on the other side. Some of the horses were watered at the stream. I watered my horse there.

Q. Did the command generally halt to water, or was the watering done passing through?

A. I think it was done passing through.

Q. State whether in connection with your duties as acting surgeon you carried any weapons?

A. I did not.

Q. Now in reference to the condition of your own horse, state whether or not you had been with the command and made its marches on that expedition?

A. Yes, sir; I left the Yellowstone with the command. My horse was in good condition. I had hard work to hold him. The horses of the command I should consider in pretty good condition. They were high-spirited and wanted to run, some of them.

Q. Where did you observe them high-spirited and wanting to run?

A. After Major Reno received his order; and I observed it on the way to the woods too, going down stream.

Q. What was Major Reno’s demeanor and conduct on the advance? And any conversation you had with him?

A. Going down into the bottom, he asked me if I didn’t want his gun. He had a gun on the pommel of his saddle, or over his shoulder, I don’t remember which. He asked me if I didn’t want it, and I told him “no”.

Q. Do you know why he asked you that question?

A. I think it was in his way. His horse was pretty fiery. He had a pretty fiery horse, and I think it bothered him to manage his horse and carry his gun too.

Q. Describe the movements of the command as far as you observed them after crossing the river, down to the first place they made any halt.

A. After we crossed the river, I heard Major Reno give the order: “Forward” and they went on down to the woods, or a short distance from the woods, It was about two miles, or two and a quarter miles I should think, that we moved, and it was on a lope or a trot.

Q. Did you see any hostile Indians while on the advance from the crossing down to the woods?

A. I saw a few Indians. I saw a great many ponies. They seemed to be driving the ponies down the river. I didn’t see many Indians.

Q. Was there any opposition made to the advance by the Indians in going over that ground?

A. No, sir.

Q. Did the command go into action when it got down there? And describe that action.

A. As soon as they got to the woods they dismounted and formed skirmish lane; and went into action then. I was then right there where I could see them. I was right behind the skirmish line, a little ways from the woods. When we got down near the woods the command dismounted, and the skirmish line was formed, and the horses were led into the woods I was looking around for my orderly, who had the bandages and medicines. I thought they would be needed, and I was down there watching the fight a few minutes; and then I led my horse down into the woods. I hadn’t been there but a few minutes before the men came in on my right and on my left; and in a few minutes I heard that a man was shot, and I went and looked for him, and while I was looking for him I saw Major Reno on his horse, and I heard him tell someone that we had to get out of here; that we had got to charge the Indians. He rode out of the woods.

Q. Do you know of any other man than the one you have described being wounded?

A. No, sir; he was the only one I know of.

Q. When you saw Major Reno in the timber, where were you and what were you doing?

A. When I first saw him, I was looking for my orderly; and when I was looking for him I knew this man was shot, and then I attended to him.

Q. Describe all you can in regard to that command leaving that timber, and describe how you got out of there yourself and got to the command?

A. Just at the time I heard the major say we would have to get out of there, and we would have to charge them, he moved on out, and the men seemed to be coming from different directions. They had a good deal of trouble in finding their horses - the soldiers did - and as soon as they found their horses and mounted they went on out, I was there a few minutes with the wounded man and they were all leaving, and I led my horse - there is a straight bank up there four or five feet high - and when I got out, the men were all running and the Indians were running too, within a few yards of where I was. There were a few Indians between the command and me, and I went out expecting to find the command charging the Indians, but instead of that I found the Indians charging the command. They were all on the run. I got on my horse and let him go as fast as he could run, and I passed some Indians and I got to the edge of the river, and my horse jumped in and crossed over with the rest of them.

Q. as that wounded man you spoke of taken out of the timber?

A. No, sir.

Q. State from what you saw, whether there were any Indians opposing the progress of the command to the river; I mean in its front, as if they intended cutting off the command from the river.

A. I couldn’t see the head of the column. There was a good deal of dust, hallooing and confusion.

Q. Whom did you first notice of the officers on the bluffs to which the command retreated, exercising any command or authority and what was he doing?

A. I saw first Lieutenant Varnum. He had his hat off, and he said: “For God’s sake, men, don’t run. There are a good many officers and men killed and wounded, and we have got to go back and get them.”

Q. Where did you see Major Reno on the bluffs, and what passed between you?

A. I went up to the Major and said: “Major, the men were pretty well demoralized weren’t they?” and he replied: “No, that was a charge, sir,”

Q. State whether the command, when it got on the bluffs, was seemingly triumphant or demoralized?

A. They were demoralized

Q. Did the men and officers seem cheerful or the reverse?

A. They seemed to think they had been whipped.

Q. After seeing Major Reno there and having this conversation with him, what did you do?

A. We were talking a few minutes; and it was but a few minutes before I saw some troops coming. In the meantime, after I got up there, there were seven or eight or ten men wounded that fell off their horses, and I paid attention to those; in a few moments I saw some troops coming, and the men gave a shout: “Here comes Custer.”.

Q. Who was it?

A. Colonel Benteen and his battalion. Upon the arrival of Colonel Benteen the command felt pretty good. They thought they were going to have some help.

Q. When you were on the hill did you hear any firing? State in what direction it came from if you heard any.

A. We hadn’t been up there very long before I heard firing down the stream and a little to the left. I heard pretty sharp firing down there for a few minutes, and then scattering shots. I supposed it was Indians firing because they had driven us off the bottom.

Q. Are you or not accustomed to hearing firing?

A. I had been in several Indians fights before that. I had heard some firing, but not much. It sounded like heavy, sharp firing, and then there were scattering shots, and then it got less and less.

Q. What were you doing at this time? What position were you in with your wounded?

A. After Colonel Benteen’s command had joined Major Reno, they went further back up the river, and there was a little hollow where we had a hospital, and I remained there.

Q. Did you see an advance of any company soon after Cal. Benteen came up, and where did it go?

A. I saw Captain Weir going down stream. I don’t know whether any other officer was with him or not. I think Lieutenant Edgerly was with him.

Q. How far down did you observe he went?

A. I should think a quarter or a half a mile or something like that, or further, perhaps.

Q. When you saw him go down had the pack-train come up?

A. I think it came up about the time he was going back. That is my impression. I am pretty sure Captain Weir left before the pack-train came up. I wouldn’t swear to it, but I am pretty positive of it.

Q. From the time Captain Benteen came up, go on and describe what occurred until night.

A. After we had got very nicely into position, and the pack-train came up, the Indians came back and fired into us pretty sharp - as sharp as it could be, pretty near all the afternoon, until about dark. I was in the place where we last had the hospital. I was not out or around much. I was attending to the wounded brought in there every little while. I had plenty to attend to; and the firing kept up until after dark and then it ceased State whether or not you saw Major Reno exercising any command during the action of the 25th of June, and state whether you were in a position to have seen him. If he had been exercising command.
A. I didn’t see him after we got in position until night, and I was not in position to see him unless he came down to where I wee .

Q. Did you see him again at any time during the day?

A. I saw hint after dark.

Q. what time was that?

A. Somewhere between 9 and 10 o’clock.

Q. What was he doing then?

A. He was talking with some officer. I don’t know who it was. I was passing by and I recognized his voice.

Q. How was it on the 26th with your wounded and in regard to casualties? Was the fire as severe as on the previous day?

A. Yes, sir; about the same.

Q. How long did it last?

A. It lasted from daylight until sometime in the afternoon; about 4 o’clock I should think.

Q. State whether any wounded were brought up out of the bottom or not, when crossing the river.

A. I don’t think any were brought up. There were some hit there and they hung on to their horses, and they were the ones that dropped off after they got up on to the hill. There were seven or eight of those.

Q. You don’t know whether they were hit on the other side of the river or coming up, or where?

A. No sir, I don’t know where they were hit, I know there were some wounded left in the bottom I saw them there. I saw one.

Q. State whether you saw Major Reno exercising the functions of a commanding officer on that day.

A. I don’t remember to have seen him at all that day until after the firing ceased

Q. State what officer you saw, if any, exercising or apparently exercising acts of command on the 25th and 26th of June., If such were the case state where.

A. I saw Colonel Benteen, He came down several times to where I was. He came down and ordered several men out that were skulking among the horses, and he came down and asked something about the wounded. On the afternoon of the next day I saw him two or three times. I remember to have seen him twice and he may have been there oftener.

Q. Who did you think was in actual command, and why did you so think?

A. I knew Major Reno was the ranking officer, but a thought that Colonel Benteen was the actual commanding officer. That was my impression.

Q. Why did you think that?

A. Because I saw more of him. He came down there and gave orders to those men.

Q. Had you that impression at that time?

A. Yes, sir, I had.

Q. State where it was that you last saw General Custer’s column or any portion of his column. I mean by his column the troops that were with him after Colonel Reno pulled out and started ahead.

A. I didn4t see him after Major Reno received this order, I just looked around to my right and saw General Custer and his command, and we started right on, and I didn’t look around after that to see him at all.

Q. When this order was given by the Adjutant did you notice anything in the demeanor of Major Reno, and state just what it was and how it impressed you at the time?

MAJOR RENO OBJECTED TO THE QUESTION unless the statement of the witness refers to some word or act of Major Reno’s at the time THE RECORDER REPLIED that a Doctor often judges of a person’s condition by his appearance, and I ask the question with that view THE COURT, WITHOUT BEING CLEARED, SUSTAINED THE OBJECTION of Major Reno.

Q. State how you knew the time of day Major Reno received his order.
A. I just guess at it - I did not look at my watch.

Q. From the time the command went ahead as you have testified, how long did it take to reach the crossing?

A. I judge 10 or 15 minutes.

Q. How long were they in crossing?

A. In crossing and forming, probably 5 or ten minutes more.

Q. After the command got across the river and formed as you have stated, how long did it take to get to the place it halted?

A. I judge 15 or 20 minutes.

Q. How far were the Indians away at the time the command was halted and deployed as skirmishers?

A. I judge they were 800 or 900 yards: it was pretty hard to reach them with the guns at the time.

Q. With reference to that particular time and place, when did the firing begin - was it before then, at that time, or immediately after?

A. I don’t remember any firing until about the time the men were dismounting. A few shots were then fired; the Indians were riding back and forth and around and coming closer and closer and firing more rapidly.

Q. were the Indians, advancing, halting, or retreating, when Major Reno’s command halted, or what were they doing if you know?

A. They seemed to be riding back and forth. Probably they were coming closer but not perceptibly. They were riding back and forth in squads.

Q. State what view you had if any of the village, and give an estimate of the number of lodges and what was the effective fighting force, as estimated by you at the time or what you saw after.

A. I did not see the village at all till I went into the woods. There was a little opening there through which I saw the village, I thought there were about 1000 lodges maybe, more or less.

Q. How far away was the bulk of the village and the nearest tepee?

A. I judge the nearest tepee was a quarter of a mile, and the village extended down over a mile.

Q. About how many Indians engaged or confronted Major Reno s command when it halted and deployed, and state your means of knowing.

A. There might have been 50, and they kept coming up after he formed the skirmish line and I judge there were 75 or 100 Indians fighting him there, There were a good many down the river to all appearances, but I could not see how many.

The court then at 2 o’clock P. M, adjourned to meet at 11 o’clock A. M. tomorrow, Friday, January, 24, 1879. §



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