SERIAL VOLUME 1742
The following is the text of the report written by Capt. Frederick W. Benteen July 4, 1876,nine days after the Battle of the Little Big Horn. The report was attached as Appendix 3Bb to the annual report of General Alfred H. Terry, Commander of the Department of Dakota for the year 1876 as contained in the Annual Report of the Secretary of War for 1876.
This report was prepared at the request of Maj. Marcus A. Reno to be attached to a report which he completed the next for General Alfred Terry.
Camp Seventh Cavalry, July 4, 1876
In obedience to verbal instructions received from you, I have the honor to report the operations of my battalion, consisting of Companies D, H, and K, on the 25th ultimo.
The directions I received from Lieutenant-Colonel Custer were, to move with my command to the left, to send well-mounted officers with about six men who should ride rapidly to a line of bluffs about five miles to our left and front, with instructions to report at once to me if anything of Indians could be seen from that point. I was to follow the movement of this detachment as rapidly as possible. Lieutenant Gibson was the officer selected, and I followeed closely with the battalion at times getting in advance of the detachment. The bluffs designated were gained, but nothing seen but other bluffs quite as large and precipitous as were before me. I kept on to those and the country was the same, there being no valley of any kind that I could see on any side, I had then gone about fully ten miles; the ground was terribly hard on horses, so I determined to carry out the other instructions, which were, that if in my judgment there was nothing to be seen of Indians, valleys, &c., in the direction I was going, to return with the battalion to the trail the command was following. I accordingly did so, reaching the trail just in advance of the pack-train. I pushed rapidly on, soon getting outof sight of the advance of the train, until reaching a morass, I halted to water the animals, whohad been without water since about 8 p.m. of the day before. This watering did not occasion the loss of fifteen minutes, and when I was moving out the advance of the train commenced watering from that morass. I went at a slow trot unitl I came to a burning lodge with the dead body of an Indian in it on a scaffold. We did not halt. About a mile farther on I met a sargeant of the regiment with orders from Lieeutenant-Colonel Custer to the officer in charge of the rear - guard and train to bring it to the front with as great rapidity as was possible. Another mile on I met Trumpeter Morton, of my own company, with a written order from First Lieut. W. W. Cook to me which read:
Big village. Be quick. Bring pacs.
W. W. Cook
P. Bring pac's."
I could then see no movement of any kind in any direction; a horse on the hill, riderless,being the only living thing I could see in my front. I inquired of the trumpeter what had been done, and he informed [me] that the Indians had "skedadded," abandoning the village. Another mile and a half brought me in sight of the stream and plain in which were some of our dismounted men fighting, and Indians charging and recharging them in great numbers. The plain seemed to be alive with them. I then noticed our men in large numbers running for the bluffs on right bank of stream. I concluded at once that those had been repulsed, and was of the opinion that if I crossed the ford with my battalion, that I should have had it treated in like manner; for from long experience with cavalry, I judge there wre 900 veteran Indians right there at that time, against which the large element of recruits in my battalion would stand no earthly chance as mounted men. I then moved up to the bluffs and reported my command to Maj. M. A. Reno. I did not return for the pack-train because I deemed it perfectly safe where it was, and we could defend it, had it been threatened, from our position on the bluff; and another thing, it savored too much of coffee-cooling to return when I was since a fight was progressing in the front, and deeming the train as safe without me.
F. W. BENTEEN,
Captain Seventh Cavalry
Lieut. Geo. D. Wallace,
Adjutant Seventh Cavalry