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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 546


    Both Herendeen and Girard state that the addition    "Take the Scouts
with
you" was made to the order, and as a matter of fact it appears that
the scouts
did go with Mtaj. Reno on his advance toward the Indian village.
   When we take into consideration the lapse of time - over two years   
since
these events occurred, it is reasonable to !elieve that the witnesses who
heard
this order, have stated its purport as correctly as it is possible to state
it
in the nature of human recollection; and it is undisputed that the tenor
of
the order was a clear and explicit direction to IMaJ. Reno to attack the
Indianas,
with no provision expressed in words for a retreat at the discretion of that
officerb The only allowance for discretion as stated by rlaj. Reno himself,
was with reference to the rapidity of the advance    "at as fast a gait
as you
think prudent". In all other respects the order was positive and peremptory.
   Was not Maj. Reno as a subordinate commander bound by all the obligations
imposed on an officer to obey that order?  Did he hesitate to obey that order?
DeHart says that "Hesitancy in the execution of a military order is
clearly,
under most circumstances, a serious offense, and would subject one to severe
penalties; but actual disboedience is a crime which the law stigmatizes as
of the highest degree" and Benet says substantially the same thingo
    I think it is Of'Brien, a military authority, who says:  'A subordinate
on
receiving an order must obey promptly and implicitly. No time is left him
to
reflect or deliberate. He must at once comply with the commands he has
received; and perhaps a moment's hesitation or faltering may destroy plans
of much importance and extents In presence of the enemy more particularly
is this mechanical obedience due." I might quote still further but I
think
these citations will suffice,
    We need go back no further than our late war to illustrate the vital
necessity of full and complete obedience to orders. The failure of one sub-
ordinate commander has not infrequently brought disaster and defeat to an
army. Boldness, vigor and confidence have, times without number, won victory
over an overwhelming foe, and seldom can it be shown that these essential
qualities of a soldier have brought defeat0
    But it is urged that there was no plan; that Maj. Reno was not consulted;
that he did not know the ground. Now a plan to attack an Indian village must
of necessity be quick of conception and rapid in execution. Gen. Custer's
plan seems to have been to strike his enemy wherever he found him. The plan
of attack was communicated to M4aj. Reno as soon as matured by his Commanding
Officer and the part assigned him was definitely stated in the order to "move
forward as fast as you can and charge then as soon as you find them., and
we
will support."  Did Maj. Reno obey that order as fully as he could,
taking
into consideration the means at his disposal and the resistance opposing
him?
Here also the testimony is comprehensive and the uncontradicted facts are
as
follows:
    The military witnesses are 14aJ3 Reno, Capto Moylan, Lieuts. W.allace,
Varnum, and Hare,, with Sergts. Culberteon and Davern. The other witnesses
are Dr. Porter, Girard, and Herendeen.  All agree that the advance to the
ford was made rapidly, that a short halt was made at the river, some of the
horses were watered there. After crossing, the companies were soon formed
in line, and ultimately galloped toward the village in line of battle, three
companies abreast. This advance does not seem to have met with any serious
opposition, though three witnesses, Capto Noylan, IHerendeen and Culbertson,
agree that the Indians fired a few shots at the line, but without effect0
I4aJ. Reno in his official report says - "I deployed and with the Ree
scouts
on my left charged down the valley driving the Indians with great ease for
about 2k miles0"t
    Dro Porter says that he saw some Indians driving their ponies down the
valley, but Maj. Reno says every pony he saw had an Indian on it.   After
advancing down the valley Maj. Reno halted near a point of timber and deployed
a dismounted skirmish line in the open within long range of part of the Indian
-546-


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