LittleBighorn140

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“…it is my painfull duty to report that day before yesterday the twenty fifth inst a great disaster overtook Gen Custer + The troops under his Command…”

First Report of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, From Gen. Alfred H. Terry, Montana, to Assistant Adjutant General R.C. Drum, Chicago, 6/27/1876

Series: “Special File” of Letters Received, 1863 - 1885Record Group 393: Records of U.S. Army Continental Commands, 1817 - 1947.

Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer and nearly half the soldiers under his command in the 7th Cavalry were wiped out by combined Cheyenne, Lakota and Arapaho forces during the Battle of Little Bighorn, also known as the Battle of the Greasy Grass, and Custer’s Last Stand, on June 25-26, 1876.

Two days after the battle, General Terry, Custer’s commanding officer, confirmed the death of Custer and more than 250 of his men. Gathered from the reports of officers who were entrenched in a defensive position on the bluffs overlooking the valley and from the trail of bodies Terry himself encountered on June 27, he sketched the movements of Custer and his men from June 22 through June 25. A civilian scout carried Terry’s report to Fort Ellis, the nearest telegraph office, where it was relayed first to Chicago, then to Army headquarters in Washington, DC. There was a break in the telegraph line between Fort Ellis and Chicago causing a delay in service, and so, the highest officials in the U.S. Army in Philadelphia attending the grand Centennial Exposition, learned about Custer’s fate – not from this report – but from a July 6 newspaper story.

“Papers report disaster to Custer.  Secretary and General absent. Telegraph here as well as to Genl. Sheridan, any report you may receive.”

Telegram from Adjutant General of the U.S. Army, Washington, DC, to Assistant Adjutant General in Chicago, Asking for Reports on Custer’s Fate, 7/6/1876

Series: Letters Received, 1805 - 1889Record Group 94: Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, 1762 - 1984

Before Army headquarters in Washington, DC, had received any official report on the battle, newspapers reported on July 6 that Custer had suffered some “disaster.” Adjutant General E.D. Townsend sent this telegram to Chicago to obtain official information on the action.

Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer and nearly half the soldiers under his command in the 7th Cavalry were wiped out by combined Cheyenne, Lakota and Arapaho forces during the Battle of Little Bighorn, also known as the Battle of the Greasy Grass, and Custer’s Last Stand, on June 25-26, 1876.

Two days after the battle, General Terry, Custer’s commanding officer, confirmed Custer’s fate and had it sent to Fort Ellis, the nearest telegraph office, where it was relayed first to Chicago, then to Army headquarters in Washington, DC. There was a break in the telegraph line between Fort Ellis and Chicago causing a delay in service, and so, the highest officials in the U.S. Army in Philadelphia attending the grand Centennial Exposition, learned about Custer’s fate – not from Terry’s report – but from a July 6 newspaper story.