Controversies Surrounding the Battle of the Little Bighorn

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"The Custer Fight" by Charles Marion Russell. Lithograph. Shows the Battle of Little Bighorn, from the Indian side.

The Battle of the Little Big Horn itself took place during the Plain Wars that eventually witnessed the defeat of the Native American tribes that lived on the American Plains.

The Ineptness of Custer

There were certainly controversies surrounding the Battle of the Little Big Horn whilst the Plains War was actually still being fought. Not everybody had approved of General George Armstrong Custer being given the command of the detachment that he led so disastrously at the Battle of the Little Big Horn in the first place.

Some of the senior military officers within the United States Army did not trust the judgement of General George Armstrong Custer, citing his indifferent military record. The critics of General Custer argued that his poor performance and record during the American Civil War should have excluded him from holding a military commission at all after the Plains War had started in earnest during 1874.

Custer’s Critics Proved Correct

The many critics ended up being proved right about Custer’s inability to hold a command started the controversy about the appointment after his overwhelming defeat. For example Custer’s battle plan for the Little Big Horn was a straightforward one, straightforwardly suicidal in fact. Thus the only problem with General Custer’s straightforward battle plan for the Little Big Horn was that it was fatally flawed.

Custer chose to fight at the Little Big Horn because he believed that he could win the engagement despite his small force being heavily outnumbered by his Native American opponents. He underestimated the strength and the fighting quality of his enemies whilst they quickly worked out the flaws in his tactics.

Custer could have had a better battle plan for his final battle that fateful at the Little Big Horn, and let us be honest he could not have adopted a worse plan than the one he actually followed that day. The arrogant and rash Custer could certainly have decided not to have to fight his Native American opponents on that day.

Alternatively General Custer could have waited for further reinforcements before fighting at the Little Big Horn against determined enemies with superior numbers and sound strategy even if they could not match his firepower. However his overconfidence combined with his impatience meant that he decided to fight the Battle of the Little Big Horn in circumstances astutely picked and controlled by his Native American opponents.

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