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    Court Martial: Remarkable Document, Edited and Emended in the Hand of Brig. Gen. George Crook. On March 1, 1876, in a preliminary action in the year's planned offensive against the Sioux and Cheyenne, Gen. George Crook (1828-1890) and Col. Joseph J. Reynolds (1822-1899) led almost 700 men of the 2nd and 3rd Regiments of Cavalry north from Fort Fetterman, Wyoming Territory. Reynolds was dispatched to follow a trail that looked as if it would lead to an Indian encampment. On the bitterly cold morning of March 17, he ordered an attack on a Cheyenne village on the Powder River. Unaccountably, Reynolds badly mismanaged the action, failing to support the attacking troops and allowing the Indians to rally and recover their pony herd. Against orders, he burned the cached food and supplies in the Cheyenne camp. In his haste to withdraw, he left behind three dead troopers and one wounded soldier who would then be brutally finished off by the Indians. Sixty-six soldiers suffered frostbite. His half-hearted and self-defeating confrontation with warriors who would gather later at the Little Bighorn is said to have emboldened their resistance.

    Department Commander Brig. Gen. George Crook (1828-1890) preferred charges against Reynolds immediately upon the return to post. This 5-page document details the charges. Where he has edited or added text, Crook's pen fairly drips with anger. In reviewing it before returning it to the printer, he emphatically calls attention to the changes with large penciled instructions such as "OVER" and "NOTE." At the end, he signs "George Crook/ Brig. Gen./ Comdg Dept of the Platte."

    The court martial convened in January, 1877, at Cheyenne, Wyoming Territory.
    Reynolds was found guilty on all charges and ordered reduced in rank and pay for one year. Reynolds had enjoyed a fairly distinguished career, and his old friend and West Point classmate President Grant offered to remit the sentence. Reynolds chose instead to retire on disability - on June 25, 1877, a year to the day after Little Bighorn.
    From the Glenwood Swanson Collection.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2018
    9th Saturday
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