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Reno, Marcus A., 1835-1889, (Marcus Albert) / The official record of a court of inquiry convened at Chicago, Illinois, January 13, 1879, by the President of the United States upon the request of Major Marcus A. Reno, 7th U.S. Cavalry, to investigate his conduct at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, June 25-26, 1876
(1951)

Twenty-fifth day,   pp. 530-542 PDF (9.3 MB)


Page 534


and throwing the third company in their rear in line, moved down the valley.
On his right was the river with its growth of trees, on his left was a line
of foot-bills that stretched and lost itself far to the southwest. There
was
a large column of dust before him and there were Indians coming out of the
dust to meet him, He skirted the timber and went a distance that, according
to the statements of witnesses, varies from a mile and a quarter to about
two
miles, lie was then satisfied that the Indians were not only not fleeing
but
that they were preparing an ambush to receive him, and therefore he ceased
hdis
charge, and ordered the men to dismount and deploy as skirmishers,
    Was he justified in doing so? He was already at a considerable distance
from the point from which he expected to receive his support.  The Indians
instead of continuing on his front had commenced to separate and were already
circling along the hills on his left in order to cut him off from the crossing,
This circumstance in itself, I submit to the court, justified an officer
who
was responsible for the lives of his command in believing that the enemy,
so
far from fleeing from him, were in such force that they invited an attack,
for
Reno was then between the village and the river, and the love of the hearth-
stone, though different in degree, is the same in principle in civilized
and
uncivilized men;  and the Indians if they had felt distrustful of their strength
would undoubtedly have presented a united resistance to any approach toward
the village, but when they gave way and invited an attack, that if successful
would have destroyed their homes, they declare to the commanding officer
that
they were not only able to protect themselves but were able to destroy his
command.> In this act of judgment Maj. Reno is confirmed by the opinions
of the
officers who accompanied him.  Lieut. Hare says, "I knew that before
we got to
the village there were lots of Indians there, If Maj. Reno had continued
to
march in the direction of the village I do not think he would have got a
man
out of there and I do not think the column would have lasted five minutes.
Lieut,, DeRudio said: "When he halted I said tGood for you' because
I was sure
we would be butchered if we had gone five hundred yards further."  
Capt0 Moylan
stated "I think there was a sufficient number of Indians at the time
   they
were within five hundred ,,ards of him  to warrant him in halting and dis-
mounting."
    The wisdom of Reno's action is still further seen in the fact that as
soon
as he did dismount, Indians to the number of four or five hundred, as testified
to by several officers, appeared in his front from out a ravine into which
his
command must certainly have plunged if he had continued charging   Not only
does the result which we now see would have followed prove that he acted
rightly
in dismounting where he did, but it was his duty as an officer who expected
not merely to be supported by another portion of the command, but to support
it by making a diversion, not to throw awsay the lives of his battalion until
the supporting column was near enough to him to receive the benefit of the
attack that he would make, If he had continued on at this point his entire
commuand would have been destroyed without any benefit being received by
any
supporting comand0   He deployed the men on skirmish line, and if we can
believe
the officers whose duty called them to that part of the field, the command
con-
tinued to advance on foot and fired as they advanced,
    What now was RenoQs position? The Indians were close to him and increasing
in number. They were on his front and were circling to his rear between him
and that point from which the expected support must come., The river was
close
to the edge of the timber. On its other side rose high bluffs which stretched
a number of miles to such a height that from them no assistance could come,
Between the hills on the opposite side and the river, there was some low
land
covered with timber and brush into which the Indians had already commenced
to
come, and from which they were sending a fire into the timber0  He had one
hundred and twelve men under his control not counting the Indian scouts and
the noncomkatants. The force was too small to occupy the timber with any
hope
of resisting the number of Indians that he saw attacking and preparing to
attack him. At this point his attention was called to a fire that was being
received on the side of the timber next to the river, and with part of his
force hle enters the timber with a view to dislodging the Indians., While
there
word is brought to him that the Indians have turned hi1s flank, and he goes
out
-534=


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