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Custer was not the kind of guy to kill the horses and use them for breastworks.


When I was growing up, the ending of the battle at the Little Bighorn was always told the same way. Custer’s force was surrounded by a much larger number of Indians, and those that were not killed right away took refuge as a group on a low hill. Just a little rise, actually, but it did give them a small advantage due to holding the high ground. They killed their horses and used the bodies as a sort of protective wall.

That never sounded right to me. Colonel (not General; that was a Civil War rank that was reduced after the war was over; a much smaller army did not need many generals) George Armstrong Custer was not the sort of cavalry commander who would ever give the order to kill the horses. His idea of defensive battle was to charge the enemy at full gallop with guns blazing. Killing the horses and using them as breastworks was definitely not his style.

There is a story going around that Custer’s body was actually found a mile away from the hill where the last of the troops made their final stand. That sounds like it fits with how the battle went. If Custer were killed early on, the troops would be more disorganized and more likely to make poor decisions than if he had still been in command. The reports from the first soldiers to appear on the scene after the fighting was over, however, say that Custer’s body was at or near the top of the hill.

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