The 141st anniversary of CUSTER’S LAST STAND is next Sunday. It turns out there’s more to the story of that epic battle, as Mo Rocca now tells us:
Every summer, along the banks of Montana’s Little Big Horn River, the strains of the 7th Cavalry’s fight song are heard, as Col. George Armstrong Custer leads a bold charge on an Indian encampment, re-enacting the battle that took place here June 25, 1876.
Ranger Steve Adelson describes a terrifying cauldron of fear and violence: “The sky is raining arrows. Gunfire, smoke, yelling, screaming, cursing,” he said. “Two Moons, the Cheyenne chief, [said], ‘We swirled around the soldiers like water around a stone.’ How long did the battle last? He said, ‘About as long as it takes for a hungry man to eat his dinner.'”
In little more than an hour, Custer and more than 200 of his men were dead. The battle itself was short and decisive … its legacy anything but.
And the man at its center, says historian Nathaniel Philbrick, is as fiercely debated as ever.
“Custer is a lightning rod,” he said. “He is one of those guys at the time he was living, people either loved him, worshipped him, or despised him, thought he was a fool.”
“I think he was always reckless,” said reenactor Jeff Reno. “But I think he was lucky, and his luck ran out right here.
Custer rushed into the camp, expecting the Indians would quickly leave, said reenactor Ty Birdinground. “But literally, he was entering the biggest encampment in Indian Country.”
Reenactor Steve Alexander said, “Even though he captured more battle flags, more Confederate flags than any other…