Fights on the Little Horn: Unveiling the Myth of Custer's Last Stand

Fights on the Little Horn: Unveiling the Myth of Custer's Last Stand

by Gordon Harper


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Winner of the 2014 John Carroll Award, presented annually by The Little Big Horn Associates, as their Literary Award for the best book/monograph during the preceding year.

Winner 2014 G. Joseph Sills Jr. Book Award

This remarkable book synthesizes a lifetime of in-depth research into one of America’s most storied disasters, the defeat of Custer’s 7th Cavalry at the hands of the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians, as well as the complete annihilation of that part of the cavalry led by Custer himself.

The author, Gordon Harper, spent countless hours on the battlefield itself as well as researching every iota of evidence of the fight from both sides, white and Indian. He was thus able to recreate every step of the battle as authoritatively as anyone could, dispelling myths and falsehoods along the way. Harper himself passed away in 2009, leaving behind nearly two million words of original research and writing. In this book his work has been condensed for the general public to observe his key findings and the crux of his narrative on the exact course of the battle.

One of his first observations is that the fight took place along the Little Horn River—its junction with the Big Horn was several miles away so that the term for the battle, “Little Big Horn” has always been a misnomer. He precisely traces the mysterious activities of Benteen’s battalion on that fateful day, and why it could never come to Custer’s reinforcement. He describes Reno’s desperate fight in unprecedented depth, as well as how that unnerved officer benefited from the unexpected heroism of many of his men.

Indian accounts, ever-present throughout this book, come to the fore especially during Custer’s part of the fight, because no white soldier survived it. However, analysis of the forensic evidence—tracking cartridges, bullets, etc., discovered on the battlefield—plus the locations of bodies assist in drawing an accurate scenario of how the final scene unfolded. It may indeed be clearer now than it was to the doomed 7th Cavalrymen at the time, who through the dust and smoke and Indians seeming to rise by hundreds from the ground, only gradually realized the extent of the disaster.

Of additional interest is the narrative of the battlefield after the fight, when successive burial teams had to be dispatched for the gruesome task, because prior ones invariably did a poor job. Though author Gordon Harper is no longer with us, his daughter Tori Harper, along with author/historians Gordon Richard and Monte Akers, have done yeoman’s work in preserving his valuable research for the public.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781612002149
Publisher: Casemate Publishers
Publication date: 04/23/2014
Pages: 408
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Gordon Harper is a researcher of American military history.

Table of Contents

Foreword Tori Harper vii

Prologue 1

1 The Approach to the Little Horn: Benteen's March 5

2 The Approach to the Little Horn: Reno's and Custer's March 23

3 The Approach to the Little Horn: Custer's March to Medicine Tail Coulee 34

4 The Approach to the Little Horn: The Pack Train and Messengers 50

5 The Opening Shots: Reno's Fight in the Valley 63

6 Across the Little Horn and Up a Hill: Reno's Retreat from the Timber 93

7 Strange Interlude: Chaos on Reno Hill and the Weir Advance 100

8 Under Siege on Reno Hill 141

9 Introduction to Custer's Fight 156

10 Death of the Valiant by Gordon Richard 162


1 A Question of Disobedience 221

2 How the Indian Bands Came Together at the Little Horn 237

3 The Number of Warriors Facing the 7th Cavalry 248

4 Two Controversies: Recruits at the Little Horn and the Indian-Fighting Record of the 7th Cavalry 257

5 The Location of Bodies and the Initial Burials of the 7th Cavalry's Dead 273

6 Burials, Markers and Survivors 301

7 Reconstructing the Death Sites on Custer's Field using Marker Locations 320

8 The Enlisted Men's Petition 344

Epilogue Gordon Richard 352

Maps 354

Bibliography 364

Index 376

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