Today in History: Custer’s Last Stand

June 25th, 2013

On this day in 1876, Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer was defeated by Native American Sioux chiefs Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull at the Battle of Little Bighorn. After finding gold in South Dakota’s beautiful Black Hills in the 1870s, the US Army entered the region—despite previous treaties reserving the area for Native Americans. Sioux and Cheyenne tribesman gathered along the Little Bighorn River in an effort to prevent the US Army from entering the Little Bighorn Valley.

The US sent 1,600 troops to the area, divided into three groups: one led by Colonel Custer. Custer believed his 600 troops could overtake the Native American force alone so he led his soldiers into the Little Bighorn Valley, opting to march on rather than wait for reinforcements. Custer’s small battalion was vastly outnumbered and quickly overwhelmed by the 3,000 Native Americans waiting in the valley.

While this event marked a decisive Native American victory against the US Army, within five years, the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes were almost completely confined to reservations. For an in-depth review of the impact of the Battle of Little Bighorn, watch PBS’s feature-length documentary “Custer’s Last Stand.”


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