The Art of War Applied to the Battle of the Little Big Horn


Drawing by Black Horse (Cheyenne). From Black Horse Ledger, Circa 1877.

by Zig Zag, Warrior Publications, December 19, 2016


On June 25, 1876, the US Army’s 7th Calvary Regiment under the command of Lt-Colonel Custer attempted to attack a large encampment of several thousand northern plains Natives, including Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho, along a small river in present-day eastern Montana. Today it is commonly known as the Battle of the Little Big Horn. To the Native peoples who participated it was known as the Battle of the Greasy Grass.

At the time, the US was expanding westward and sought to confine Indigenous peoples to reservations in order to take their land for settlement and resources. When gold was discovered in the Black Hills the federal government began planning a campaign to bring in Natives who refused to go to the reservations established under the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty. Sitting Bull, a respected military and spiritual leader of the Hunkpapa Lakota, had refused the treaty and reservations. He and others continued to move and hunt with the buffalo herds, carrying out sporadic attacks on settlers and railway surveyors. These Natives were referred to as “hostiles.”

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