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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-sixth day,   pp. 542-553 PDF (7.9 MB)


Page 544


Representatives'  Major Reno in his application refers to that letter, and
asks an investigation thereon; thus making it the very basis of his applica-t
tion. That letter charges Maj. Reno with various military offences, all of
which are within the scope of this inquiry as ordered by the %Xar Department,
and that letter has been taken as the basis in part of this investigation,
which however, under the order constituting the court extends to the whole
of
Major Reno's conduct as an officer on the days mentioned.
    Before going into the merits of this case it becomes necessary to notice
briefly the attack made by Maij Reno on the credibility of certain witnesses
who are not officers of the Army, and especially that directed against GirardQ
I conceive it to be my duty to respectfully invite the attention of the court
to the fact that the testimony of no witness can be impeached under the law,
save for certain specified causes. Not one of the witnesses who has appeared
before this court has been so impeached, and even in the case of Girard,
no
evidence whatever has been introduced showing that he is not to be believed0
The only imputation against him is one made by HIaj. Reno himself, who states
that he discharged Girard because he, Maj. Reno, "believed he was stealing
from the government", and nothing is sutiitted in evidence substantiating
that belief. It is in evidence, however, that Gen. Custer restored Girard
to the place from which hie had been dismissed by Maj. Reno. The well-known
incorruptibility of Gen. Custergs character forbids the supposition that
he
would have restored Girard to duty without satisfactory proof of his honesty,
and the fact that Girard now occupies a position of trust and confidence
under the government, exhibits the weakness of Maj. Renols imputation against
his character0
    I have no attacks to make on any witness before this court, and ray honest
conviction is, that every witness examined has told the truth as to the facts
within his knowledge as he saw them, and his opinions are more or less correct
in proportion to his means of information, and perhaps his prejudices too,
and
I do not think the opinions in any case will weigh with the court beyond
their
actual value.
    I believe it to be ray duty, however, to represent to the Court, and
counsel for Major Reno as well, that prejudice either for or against a witness
on account of his relations to the Army, whether officer, enlisted man or
citizen, cannot for an instant be allowed to influence this enquiry in any
manner whatever. To believe or disbelieve a man on account of his position
solely would pervert the ends of justice and render a trial or an inquiry
a farce0 I imagine that this Court will divest its mind of all such distinct
tion and will decide this case on its merits as disclosed by the testimony.
    The bias, interest, or prejudice of witnesses as fair as they appear
in
the testimony are proper subjects of consideration in weighing the evidence,
but I believe that no extraneous matters can sway this Court in giving its
opinion as to Major Renoes conduct. The evidence of even mule-packers as
to
matters of fact, such as words, blows, threats to kill, and the presence
of
whiskey, is as good as that of anyone, however exalted, until it is contra-
dictedo There is no material contradiction in this case, even by the testimony
of Maj. Reno who gives evidence in his own behalf.
    The opinions of the packers as to sobriety have nothing to do with this
case, except as they are founded on facts0
    W'ith these prefatory remarks I now proceed to the subject matter of
this inquiry0
    The question before the Court reduced to the simplest form is as follows,
                Was the conduct of Major Reno at the battle
          of the Little Big Horn, that of a brave, efficient,
          prudent, and obedient officer?
     This question involves:
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