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    A First-hand Account of the Battle of the Little Big Horn by 2nd Lieut. Winfield S. Edgerly

    Battle of the Little Big Horn Historic Typed Manuscript Signed "W. S. Edgerly ", 13 pages, 8.5" x 11", each page, [n.p., n.d.]. [Can be dated after 1909, considering Edgerly signed document as a retired officer]. Titled, "Some Facts in Regard to the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Custer's Last Fight, June 25, 1876." In small part: "During the winter and spring of 1876 many Indian agents in the northwest reported that their Indians were uneasy, and that some of them were leaving their agencies without permission, and going to the hostile camp. This camp was made up of Indians who had never been agency Indians, of whom Sitting Bull was the recognized chief, and of many renegades and criminals who had fled to it to escape punishment. General Sheridan was instructed to take steps to have the Indians brought to the agencies. To carry out these instructions he organized two expeditions, one under Brig. Gen'l Terry and the other under Brig. Gen'l Crook. General Terry's command consisted of the 7th Cavalry commanded by Lt. Col. Custer, two companies of the 17th Infty., [sic] one company of the 6th Infty., one Platoon of Gatling Guns, forty Ree Scouts from Fort Abraham Lincoln, Gen'l Gibbon's column of four troops of the 2nd Cavalry, six companies of the 7th Infty., and one hundred and fifty Crow Scouts. On the tenth of June, Major Reno with six troops of the 7th Cavalry and the Gatling Guns, was ordered to scout up the Powder River; then to cross to Mispah Creek, follow it down to near its junction with the Powder River; then cross over to Pumpkin Creek, follow it down to Tongue River, scout up that river and rejoin the Regiment at the mouth of the Tongue. By that time his twelve day's supplies would be exhausted...On the evening of the twenty-first we learned that Reno had found a large trail that led up the Rosebud river. When we arrived at the mouth of the Rosebud on June twenty-first, Gen'ls Terry, Gibbon, and Custer had a conference on board the steamer 'Far West', and it was decided that Gen'l Custer with the 7th Cavalry should follow the trail discovered by Reno... During the twenty-first Major Brisbin, 2nd Cavalry told me that Lt. Bradley with Gibbon's scouts had discovered an Indian village, had counted the tepees, and estimated their strength at from six hundred to eight hundred bucks. This was the village we hoped to strike. At noon on the twenty-second of June the 7th Cavalry with Ree scouts started up the Rosebud River under the following order: - 'Camp at the Mouth of Rosebud River, Montana Territory, June 22nd, 1876. Lieut.-Col. Custer, 7th Cavalry. Colonel: 'The Brigadier-General Commanding directs that as soon as your regiment can be made ready for the march, you will proceed up the Rosebud in pursuit of the Indians whose trail was discovered by Major Reno a few days since.... The column of Colonel Gibbon is now in motion for the mouth of the Big Horn. As soon as it reaches that point it will cross the Yellowstone and move up at least as far as the forks of the Big and Little Horns. Of course, its future movements must be controlled by circumstances as they arise, but it is hoped that the Indians, if upon the Little Horn, may be so nearly inclosed [sic] by the two columns that their escape will be impossible. The Department Commander desires that on your way up the Rosebud you should thoroughly examine the upper part of Tulloch's Creek, and that you should endeavor to send a scout through to Colonel Gibbon's column, with information of the result of your examination. The lower part of this creek will be examined by a detachment from Colonel Gibbon's command. The supply steamer will be pushed up the Big Horn as far as the forks, if the river is found to be navigable for that distance, and the Department Commander, who will accompany the column of Colonel Gibbon, desires you to report to him there not later than the expiration of the time for which your troops are rationed; unless in the meantime you receive further orders. Very respectfully, Your obedient servant, E. W. Smith, 18th Infantry, Actg. Asst. Adjt.-Gen'l.'... We struck the first Indian camp on the 23rd, and several of them on the 24th. The location of these camps showed that the march led directly toward the Little Big Horn... Gen'l. Terry was a very superior man, a brave and able soldier, and I believe if he had been in Gen'l. Custer's place on the morning of the 24th, with the same orders, he would have followed the Indians as Custer did, and would not have wandered over the prairie in some other direction with twelve day's rations, hunting Indians whom he knew were on the trail in front of him... We had halted, and Gen'l. Custer with some scouts had gone up a hill from which the village could be seen. While he was up there, Capt. Tom Custer reported to him that an Indian had been seen on our trail, opening a box of hard bread, and when discovered had fled toward the village... the officers gathered together to talk and smoke, and as far as I could judge, all seemed cheerful, and eager to advance... all hopes of a surprise were gone, and the only way to catch the Indians was by marching at once. The Regiment was then divided into squadrons. Major Reno's squadron composed of troops [Company] M. Capt. French; [Co.] A. Capt'. Moylan and Lt. DeRudio; and [Co.] G. Lts. McIntosh and Wallace. Lt. Hodgson was Reno's Adjt.; Drs. Porter and DeWolf his medical officers. Lts. Varnum and Hare with the scouts, and Mr. Girard the interpreter [for the Arikara and Sioux Indian scouts] also went with Reno. Capt. Benteen's squadron consisted of Troops [Company] H. Capt. Benteen and Lt. Gibson; [Co.] D. Capt. Weir and Lt. Edgerly; and [Co.] K., Lt. Godfrey. Gen'l. Custer's immediate command consisted of troops [Co.] I, Capt. Keough and Lt. Porter; [Co.] F. Capt. Yates and Lt. Reily; [Co.] C. Capt. Custer and Lt. Harrington; [Co.] E, Lts. Smith and Sturges; [Co.] L. Lts. Calhoon [Calhoun] and Crittenden. Lt. Cook was Adjt., and Capt. Lord, Medical Officer. Lt. Mathey was in charge of the pack train which was escorted by troop [Co.] B., Capt. MacDougal. Major Reno was ordered to 'march straight to the village, attack any Indians you may meet, and you will be supported. Capt. Benteen was ordered to move to the left at an angle of about forty-five degrees from Reno's direction, attack any Indians he might meet, and he would be supported. The start was made at once, Gen'l Custer's five troops moving to the right of Reno's trail. This division was made in the belief that the Indians would run away, and Gen'l. Custer wanted to catch them in whatever direction they might flee. This was a good plan under ordinary conditions, and would undoubtedly have been successful if we had had only the Indians in front of us whose trail we had followed, but on the 17th of June some of these Indians had stopped Gen'l Crook on the Rosebud, and Sitting Bull had been joined by thousands. Probably no Indian in the camp had ever seen as many people together before. They could not count them. As one Indian said in describing the battle, 'The Indians were like the leaves in the forest'..." Much more excellent content describing the ensuing battle and pursuit of the Indians after the massacre. As news of the defeat and deaths of General Custer and General Cooke made its way back to the U. S., a controversy quickly developed between those who were in support of Custer and those who were out to discredit him. Edgerly, a survivor of the battle and the author of this first-hand account, seeks not to lay blame on any one officer in particular, but instead states that the overwhelming number of Indians overpowered Custer's forces, bringing about his inevitable defeat. Typed, loose pages bound in portfolio with half maroon leather over marbled paper boards, spine ruled and lettered in gilt, slight worn edges, small chip top right corner, dark red fold-over covers, black and white reproduction of Custer's battle matted on verso of front cover. Pages are uniformly toned, front and verso, darker toning top edge, rough edges, minor folding line upper left corner each page, paper clip stains upper left corner first and last page, horizontal fold line last page, small light stains several pages, some penciled editing in margins, slight show-through from typewriter; text and signature are strong and clear, very fine condition.



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    June, 2008
    4th-5th Wednesday-Thursday
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