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December 1, 1983     The Ponchatoula Times
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December 1, 1983
 

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"As told by his wife Elizabeth Bacon Custer" THE PONCHATOULA TIMES DECEMBER 1, 1983 FINAL EPISODE Already General Alfred Terry had been appointed to lead the new Indian campaign, At a meeting with General Terry in St. Paul Minnesota, Custer begged for his help and Terry agreed. He sent a telegram that Custer would be very valuable with his regiment and there was no doubt about that, for Terry's practical knowledge of Indian fighting was nil. He also begged Grant, as one soldier to another to let him accompany his regiment. And Sheridan endorsed it and Grant gave in. He needed pub- licity and he invited Mark Kellog, a New York Herald correspondent to accompany him. Sherman wired: "Do not take any newspaper re- porters along." Sheridan's plan for the campaign against the Sioux was for a three pronged attack by three columns, any one of which was thought capa- ble of crushing any concentration of hostile Indians. General Crook was to head one column from Fort Fetter- man to cut off escape of Indians to the south. General Gibbon was to bring a column from Fort Ellis in the west to cut retreat from the north  west, while Terry's column from Dakota would come in from the east, There was no room in the fort for women and I went upstream to Bismark, writing at the time: "When we finally reached the termination of the road at Bismark. another train was starting back to St. Paul. The street was full of people, wildly expostulating and talking loudly and fiercely. It appeared that this was the last train of the season.,. The pass- engers were mostly Bismark citizens, whose lawless lives as gamblers and murderers had outraged the senti- ments of the few law-abiding resb dents. They had forced them to depart. We could see those outlaws. crowding at the door. hanging out of the windows, swearing and men- acinq and finally firing on the retreating crowd as the cars passed out of town. I was inclined to remain a fixture in our car; to step down into such a melee was too much for my courage. The general made allow- ance for my fears, and we were quietly slipped out on 'he other side of the depot, hurried into the ambulance, and driven to the river "! have had no trouble with Custer and will try to avoid having any, but ! have seen enough of him to convince me that he is a coldblooded, untruthful, and unprincipled man. He is universally despised by all the officers of his regi- ment, excepting his relatives and one or two sycophants. He brought a trader in the field without permission, carries an old negro woman with a cast iron cooking stove, and delays the march often by his extensive packing up in the morning. As i said ! will try but am not sure I can avoid trouble with him." (In a letter to his wife General D.S. Stanley : Personal Memoirs, Cambridge 1917) On June 17, 1876 Crazy Horse drove General Crook into retreat unbeknown to Autie. What was left was Gibbon. moving very slowly, and General Terry, who had sent Custer on ahead. On June 25. 2876 Custer divided his command into three columns. Benteen was allotted D. H, and K troops and sent to the left. Major Marcus A Reno was given command of troops A. G. and M and ordered to the right. Autie took the center with troops C, E. F. I and L, Reno, who had no experience fight- ing Indians, was attacked by the Sioux and driven back across the river, where he enirenched. The regiment that Autie believed invincible was, alas, far from the peak of its fighting strength. Its ranks contained from 30 to 40 percent recruits. It was grievously under- officered. The commissioned men on detached duty included the colonel, two majors, four captains and seven lieutenants. Several troops had only one officer. So great was the lack that Lieute.ant John J. Crottenden, 20th Infantry, was detailed at his own request to duty with the seventh cavalry. And died with its leader. Elizabeth Custer wanted to ride with the column but he: husband refused. He allowed his wife and his sister, Mrs. Calhoun, to accompany the regiment and share its first night in camp. She was to sail on the "Far West" up to the Yellowstone when it First Publishing Rights - The Pon:hatoula Times, 1983 "".. south, it would be all the more necessary for us to guard the line of the river and prevent any escape to the northward." A second steamer arrived with fresh supplies, "The Josephine." As soon as the gangplank went down Aulie rushed on board yelling "Libbie!, Libbie!" I was not on board. He gave his magazine articles and his letters to a Sergeant Fox. Another ill omen. Fox fell overboard and drowned. The mail was fished out of the water and in this condition I received it and with it a terrible feeling of forboding. On June 19 Reno returned after scouting to the mouth of the Rosebud and not the Tongue River as he had been ordered. He did encounter would march into it from the north, and what was caught between the advancing columns would be crushed. The two commands would meet in the valley on Monday, June 26." Terry suggested Autie ride to the headwaters of the Tongue, killing time and allowing Gib- bon's slow moving infantry to meet them in the valley of the Little Big Horn on time. This agreed-upon campaign, written and signed by the three gen- erals, has been preserved. By BERNARD VINCENT McM Custer returned, Charles (Lonesome Charley) Reynolds had told General Terry and Custer the Sioux were not going to run but fight, They ignored the Indian scout, Mark Kellog, a Bismark resident, a law student, was the local editor of the Bismark Tribune. He was also correspondent for the New York Tribune and The Herald, he wrote: "General George A. Custer dressed in a dashing suit of buckskin, is prominent everywhere... The general is full of perfect readiness for the fray with the hostile red devils and woe to the body of scalp hunters that comes within reach of himself and brave companions in arms." Bismark Weekly Tribune, May 17, 1876) The paymaster had arrived bearing two months cash due each man of the regiment. To keep his men from squandering their pay Custer ordered the paymaster to ride out with the regiment, pay the men, and ride back with the women. After the massacre the Sioux scattered the green backs over the battle field. The column moved out with Custer and me at its head. The band played "The Girl I Left Behind Me." Before that terrible event we women saw the general wave his broad rimmed hat in a sweeping farewell, a picture that has remained with me all these long years. Reaching the Beaver River on June I. they were buried under a blizzard for two days. None of the Indian scouts had ever heard of a blizzard in June. Was this an ill omen? It. J.H. Bradley. Gibbon's chief of scout had reported his Indian guides refused to advance and warned him there were many Sioux ready for the war path. Generals Gibbon and Terry held a council of war on the steamer "'Far West". Gibbon wrote: "He (Terry) informed me that he had heard nothing from General Crook and intended to return to the Powder River to send a cavalry command on a scout up the river and across it west to the Tongue and Rosebud (rivers). If no Indians should be discovered then the only remaining chance would be further up the Yellowstone where from observation there must be some Indians, and if General Crook should strike them from the Dr. William G. Ivy D.D.S. General Dentistry Beth Iv]: Morman, R.D.H., B.S. His wife Cleaning, Disease Control Therapy Oral Health Instruction Announces the opening of an office in Springfield Nov. 28,1983.. 294-2844 294 2845 called him Autie... ...His enemies called him Custer THISWEEK: The Little Big Horn Gibbon's men and exchanged army flag signals with him and sent a letter to Gibbon by an Indian scout who swam the river. He reported he saw no Indians but a very wide Indian trail into the valley of the Little Big Horn. On June 20 Custer and Reno united their commands on General Terry's orders between the Rosebud and the Tongue rivers. Autie was furious at Major Reno. He wrote me: "The scouts reported that they could have overtaken the village in one day and a half. I am now going to take up the trail where the scouting party (Reno) turned back. I fear their failure to follow up the Indians has imperilled our plans by giving the village an intimation of our presence. Think of the valuable time lost! But I feel hopeful of accomplishing great results." On June 21 General Terry on the "Far West" anchored at Gibbon's camp on the north bank and Custer came over from the south bank for a pow wow. Among expert historians there is complete agreement to the plan developed by the three officers. "Custer on morrow, June 22 would ride up the Rosebud with entire Seventh Cavalry. Gib- bon's command and Terry With his infantry and gatlings would march for the mouth of the Big Horn where the Far West would ferry it across. Custer would come down the Little Big Horn Valley from the south. Gibbon Custer was so gloomy as he outlined the campaign to his staff that he unnerved them, Some of the officers made their wills, others gave verbal instruc- tions as to the disposition of personal property and distribu- tion of mementoes. They seemed to have a vision of their fate. About the Seventh Regiment's campfires and in the cabin of the Far West, men discussed the plan of campaign, and some like Major Brisbin of the Second Cavalry who deemed Custer "an insufferable ass" and a "wild man," predicted disaster. Now the predicted lunacy occurred. Major Brisbin offered to join his Second Cavalry with the Seventh if General Terry would take joint command. It. Low offered his gatling battery to the combined forces. Autie was approached. "No," he yelled, "the Seventh can handle any- thing it meets." As the Seventh moved out Boston Custer and Armstrong Reed, his cousin, and Mark Kellog begged to come along. They were supposed to stay on the Far West. Autie agreed to their accompanying the troops. Now the most controversial orders from General Terry to Custer. The important para- graph reads: "It is, of course, impossible to give you any defi- nite instructions in regard to this movement; and were it not impossible to do so, the depart- ment commander places too much confidence in your zeal. energy and ability to wish to Located next to 1st National Bank i Hwy. 22 Springfield, La. Office hours by appointment impose upon you precise orders which might hamper your action when nearly in contact with the enemy. He will, how- ever, indicate to you his own views of what your action should lz-, and he desires that you should conform to them unless you shall see sufficient reason for department from them." Custer wrote a final letter to me, citing Terry's tribute to his "zeal. energy and ability." An orderly rode next to Custer holding the swallow tail banner, red and blue with crossed silver sabers, Autie's personal emblem since he lead the Michigan Brigade in the Civil War. -_:_ _:_ _ ,,,, Libbie Massed trumpeters lead the march past the reviewing Gen- erals Gibbons and Terry. Shak- mg hands with the two generals Autie heard Gibbons say, "Now Custer, don't be greedy. Wait for us! .... No I won't," he answered. Camping out, Autie's gloom returned. He revealed to his staff the offer of the Second Cavalry and the gatling guns and oLhis refusal. Lieutenant Wallace strode beside Godfrey, "God- ffey," said Wallace, "! believe The General Custer is going to be killed. I have never heard him talk in that way before." Now they picked up the tra Reno had discovered. The winu blew over Autie's headc flag. It fell to the rear. blew over--again to the Godrey picked it up and pie it against a sage brush. they thought was an augury defeat. The last white man to see dear Autie alive was an Italian imm grant G ovanni Martini. former trumpeter in Garibaldi.'! army. Renamed John Martin li was now a bugler with th| Seventh. He has since g yen thi. account: "We reached the toP, the ridge and below us was tied largest Indian encampment. had ever seen. Custer up to tll.i moment would not believe h. scouts that there were Indians ahead. He said to me. ,Orderly take this message to Captain Benteen.' (my English was very poor so his adjutant cook wrote it out). Then he pulled off his hat and gave a cheer and said, 'courage boys. we will get th  and as soon as we get them, then we will go back to 0 station.' As I turned to take the message back to Captain B, teen, General Custer yel-" 'charge!' and lead his five corn" panies toward the Indian vi llage and that is the last l saw of him and his men. His message: Benteen, C me _ on--big village--be quick--bri ing packs. W.W. Cook Adjutant. Martin on his way to Bentee encountered Boston Custer anu pointed the way to the Seventh Boston galloped off. Capt. Be, n teen marched his men to tn beleaguered Reno and to", command from the jitte major. They managed to fig off a horde of Indians. On J.a 26 Terry and Gibbons move' into the valley. Three CROWS (Indian scouts) told the t. generals that Autie and I command were dead. Genera Terry felt dread but his officers SEE PAGE THRII Ponchatoula Times Established October I, 1981 ........................................................ Bryan T. McMahon, Editor & Publisher ........................................................ Second Class Postage Permit No. 666730 at Ponchatoula, Louisiana 70454 Terry Ann McMahon, Office Mmlager ........................................................ 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