Custer’s Last Stand

Custer’s Last Stand

Military intelligence is the mechanism of collecting data and examining the information for policymaking by the executive arm of government and military chains of command. It helps to realize three aims: gauge the evaluation effect (opponents’ abilities and objectives); boost the performance of the nation’s arms systems and lower the performance of the adversaries’ arms (operational effect); and when an army has secret information about prevention and usurpation on their enemy (relative effect), they can use that data to their advantage (Pecht & Tishler, 2015). The Battle of the Little Bighorn, also described as Custer’s Last Stand, ensued in the hills, sharp cliffs, and ravines of the Little Bighorn River, in late June 1876 (Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, 2019). This essay will compare or contrast the use of military intelligence and describe the effect intelligence operations had or didn’t have on the outcomes of the Battle of Little Bighorn.          

Summary of Both Subjects

Jitters between the two factions had been gradually increasing since gold was found on Native American soil. When various tribes missed the opportunity, they had been given to move their territory, the U.S. Army, led by George Armstrong Custer and his 7th Calvary was sent fast to challenge them. Custer did not know how many Indians were fighting under the direction of Sitting Bull at Little Bighorn, and the former’s soldiers were the minority. They were humiliated and beaten in what is now remembered as Custer’s Last Stand. Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, rulers of the Sioux on the Great Plains, firmly opposed the mid-19TH century attempts of the U.S. officials to restrict their fellow tribesmen to Indian territories. When the gold was discovered the U.S. Army disregarded earlier treaty accords and raided the area. This dishonesty caused many Sioux and Cheyenne clans to team up with Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse in Montana. In total, the Native Americans were more than 10,000 against Custer’s 800 troops who entered the Little Bighorn Valley without waiting for more troops to arrive and provide them with back up (Karcher, 2004).  

Military Intelligence

Intelligence enables a commander to make decisions. More than two and a half millennia ago, Sun Tzu published the Art of War. He argued that when one knows their adversary, they should not be scared of the consequences of numerous wars. Intelligence has changed the outcomes of modern warfare (Bang, 2017). Custer and his soldiers were on the verge of victory, but their lack of intelligence made them lose both the battle and their lives.        

Comparison of Similarities between the Two

In Custer’s Last Stand, lack of intelligence was demonstrated when Custer’s men made an insufficient analysis of their enemy’s habits. This made it hard to ascertain how an army might respond to the enemy’s activities. President Grant had given the roamers a deadline – to give up at selected agencies by 31ST January 1876. The President’s final warning showed shallow planning because the mission was not possible in the Northern plain’s winter weather. The impatience of Generals Sherman and Sheridan to carry out a winter mission was also not planned strategically, because two of the three anticipated gathering columns couldn’t climb explorations due to the weather and poor arrangements. In both of these calculated instances, complacency resulted in little analysis and inadequate preparation (Karcher, 2004).   

Compare or Contrast the use of Military Intelligence in the Battle of the Little Bighorn

Both the Indians and the Americans had little intelligence on the whereabouts of each other. When Custer located the general area where the village was, he also received intelligence that convinced him that the enemy was aware of their location. His previous experiences with the Indians had taught him that the Indians would scatter as soon as they established a danger to their village, and the army had to plan once again on how to locate and catch up with them. In this instant, Custer met with all his officers and told them that they had already been noticed by the Indians, so they had to raid the village instantly to prevent the enemy from running away. He ordered his juniors to review their commands and be ready to go to the West (Karcher, 2004).

On Sunday, 25TH June 1876 around lunchtime, Custer stopped his troops to give them orders on how they would begin the Battle of Little Bighorn. Since he didn’t know the exact position and distribution of the Indians, he sent his men in a scattered arrangement that would enable him to locate the Indians and move his men to the village. This arrangement would also enable his 7TH Calvary to raid the village from several directions at the same time, a popular tactic that used to be a recipe for victory when invading an Indian village in those days (Karcher, 2004).

Sitting Bull was a traditional Indian medicine man. He was also a warrior and knew that the American troops would come to attack them. Sitting Bull got his position as a Chief because of his experience in war. Sitting Bull had courageous defiance on the “outrageous” demands of the American government (BBC Documentary, 2019, scene 00:06:00-00:07:00). Custer and his troopers begun tracing the Indians in preparation for the war and they found new evidence every day. A day before the famous battle, Custer’s troopers discovered something that deeply troubled Custer’s Chief Scout – Mitch Bouyer. He knew what the two buffalo skulls signified. The items signified the “Sundance”, an ancient spiritual ritual reserved exclusively for men. Sitting Bull was looking for spiritual guidance to guide his people in the battle. Sitting Bull saw a vision in which the Indians would defeat the American troops. But he warned his men not to rob the dead Americans, otherwise, great suffering would befall them. This shows that the Indians had intelligence on the battle (BBC Documentary, 2019, scene 00:18:00-00:20:00).

Due to a lack of intelligence about the Indians, Custer made a fatal mistake when he failed to tell Reno that he veered off their original path. When Custer diverted from the original plan, he went to the top of the Sharpshooter’s Ridge. From there, he looked at the size of the village below him and noticed that only the women and children were in the village. He thought that all the Indian warriors had gone to hunting for buffalos (BBC Documentary, 2019, scene 00:25:00-00:27:00). As Custer rode off to figure out how to move across the river, Reno and his 90 officers were in the valley getting ready to attack. Custer didn’t have information that the village was sleeping late and that there are hundreds of warriors waking up for the fight. When Custer and his troops took the women and children, they were attacked at the river as they tried to cross. They didn’t know that the river banks had quicksand which reduced their speed (BBC Documentary, 2019, 00:27:00-00:27:30).       

Under attack in the woods, Reno decided to run towards what is today known as Reno Hill. He lost a third of his men as they tried to climb this hill. The Indians knew exactly where to cross the river, and they used these points to take the fight to Custer. Custer’s troops retreated up the hill, away from their failed attempts to cross the river (BBC Documentary, 2019, 00:33:00-00:39:30). 

Describe the Effect Intelligence Operations Had or Didn’t Have on The Outcome of The Battle of The Little Bighorn

If Custer knew the exact numbers of the Indians, he would have created an effective strategy that would give his officers victory. Custer was surprised to see hundreds of Indians living in the valley. It was the largest society of Indians he had ever come across. He thought that it would only take them a few seconds to defeat the native Americans and they didn’t even carry their night vision. Custer’s troop’s lack of military intelligence cost them their lives since they were oblivious of how the Native Americans would react. When the enemy deviated from their predictable fashion, it became a recipe for failure on the part of Custer and his troops. Lack of intelligence backed fired on U.S. troops since they had underestimated the Indians, whom they viewed with contempt. The American troops had an exaggerated self-opinion since they won their battle with the Confederacy. Poor, late, and uncertain transmission of information hindered the soldier’s organization. Additionally, the nomadic culture of the Lakota and Cheyenne meant they could not easily be found in one place. No American official knew how long an Indian community would remain in one place, or which route they would follow in pursuit of water and grazing areas for their horses. General Custer’s arrogance, coupled with a lack of military intelligence made him have a false sense of invisibility (BBC Documentary, 2019, 00:40:00-00:46:30). 


This essay compared and contrasted the use of military intelligence in Custer’s Last Stand. It also describes the effect intelligence operations had or didn’t have on the outcome of the battle of Little Bighorn. Concerning Custer’s Last Stand, several aspects caused Custer and his officers to make poor analysis and decisions. They failed to distinguish the reality from hypothesis, knowing the confines of their technological and personal intelligence-gathering abilities, and communication amongst themselves. All these aspects were part of the secret information that they lacked. If this information had been disclosed to them, its interpretation and assessment would have produced a victory for them. In war, one of the most important strategies is to know your opponent’s plans and plan parallel actions to counter them. Custer’s 7TH Calvary had a false belief that the Indians could not stand a chance against a trained US military and this was the primary reason why they were defeated at the battle. Intelligence is vital in avoiding and winning wars.     

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