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    Major Marcus Reno: A Highly Important Document Reflecting on the Esteem in Which He Was Held by His Men in the Aftermath of Little Bighorn. This is a period copy of a petition sent by his men on July 4, 1876, to request the president and congress to elevate Reno to the rank of lieutenant colonel with command of the 7th Cavalry. The content is so arresting, we present it here in its entirety:

    "To his Excellency the President
    And the honorable Representatives
    Of the United States.

    Gentleman,

    "We the enlisted men the survivors of the battle on the heights of Little Horn River, on the 25th and 26th of June 1876, of the 7th Regiment of Cavalry who subscribe our names to this petition, most earnestly solicit the President and Representatives of our Country, that the vacancies among the Commissioned Officers of our Regiment, made by the slaughter of our brave, heroic now lamented Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer, and the other noble dead Commissioned Officers of our Regiment who fell close by him on the bloody field, daring the savage demons to the last, be filled by the officers of the Regiment only. That Major M.A. Reno, be our Lieutenant Colonel since Custer, killed; Captain F.W. Benteen our Major since Reno, promoted. The other vacancies to be filled by officers of the Regiment by seniority. Your petitioners know this to be contrary to the established rule of promotion, but prayerfully solicit a deviation from the usual rule in this case, as it will be conferring a bravely fought for and a justly merited promotion on Officers who by their bravery, coolness and decision on the 25th and 26th of June 1876, saved the lives of every man now living of the 7th Cavalry who participated in the battle, one of the most bloody on record and one that would have ended with the loss of life of every Officer and enlisted man on the field; only for the position taken by Major Reno, which we held with bitter tenacity against fearful odds to the last.

    "To support this assertion-had our position been taken 100 yards back from the brink of the heights overlooking the river we would have been entirely cut off from water; and from behind those heights the Indian demons would have swarmed in hundreds picking off our men by detail, and before midday June 26th not on officer or enlisted man of our Regiment would have been left to tell of our dreadful fate as we then would have been completely surrounded.

    "With the prayerful hope that our petition be granted, we have the honor to forward it through our Commanding Officer."

    This is an official 1878 copy, marked "Exhibit No. 10", signed by Adjutant General E. D. Townsend, for use as evidence in the Reno Court of Inquiry which judged his performance during the battle. The original was composed at a "Camp on Big Horn on Yellowstone River" on July 4, 1876, less than ten days after the disastrous battle. It constitutes a rousing endorsement of Major Reno, who would later come under such criticism. Perhaps its sincerity was an important factor in his eventual exoneration.

    Also included is an early white-on-black photocopy of the original signed petition and General Sherman's comments on it, together with the original 1951 cover letter from the General Services Administration to Little Bighorn historian W. A. Graham, who had ordered the copies.

    The original signed petition will, of course, never be available for private ownership. But here we have the next best thing, a handwritten official copy created in 1878 under the auspices of the adjutant general and used in Major Reno's trial. 7½ sides, each 7.75" x 12.125". Excellent condition.
    From the Glenwood Swanson Collection.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2018
    9th Saturday
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