The story of the Indian feather bonnet - war bonnet
War bonnet is the name given to the bonnet worn by the North American Indians on the head. It is an award for special achievements and bravery in war and is mainly common among the Indians of the "Great Plains".

The Indian feather bonnet of a successful or famous warrior could tell the viewer the life of the wearer. The war bonnet was only put on on special occasions and was a highly valued symbol.

The value of the Indian feather bonnet lay less in its beauty as a decorative item than in the special protection it gave to the wearer. The number of feathers indicates the number of victorious fights.

A war bonnet was not easy to obtain and many warriors were only given two or three feathers in their lifetime.

A war bonnet was awarded to a warrior when he was the first to touch an enemy in battle. That was considered evidence that he had fought on the front lines. The feathers were notched and decorated to tell of the warrior's deeds.

From the feathers and decorations one could also see whether the warrior had fought on foot or on horseback. And whether he had touched, killed, scalped or captured an enemy. The most valuable Indian feather bonnets are made from the feathers of the eagle, which is revered as the most powerful of all birds.

Eagle feather ownership in the United States is strictly regulated. However, Indians of Recognized Races can obtain feathers and whole eagle bodies for religious and cultural purposes through the National Eagle Repository in Denver, Colorado.


Battle of the Little Big Horn
In the Battle of Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876, the 7th US Cavalry Regiment under George Armstrong Custer was destroyed by Indians of the Lakota Sioux, Arapaho and Cheyenne under their leaders Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and Gall on the Little Bighorn River in what is now Montana beaten.

It was one of the few major Indian victories against the U.S. Army. According to today's analyzes, the defeat is largely due to the overconfidence of Custer, who did not expect to encounter a huge Indian war camp and was in a losing position with his distributed troops.

The American armed forces were ultimately killed on the basis of a report by the Indian inspector E.C. Watkins posted on November 9, 1875, alleging that several hundred Lakota and Cheyennes, led by Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and Big Foot, were hostile to the United States.

This was preceded by attempts to persuade the Sioux to sell the Black Hills. The Black Hills were sacred to the Sioux as well as the Cheyenne and were considered to be the center of the world. An illegal military expedition in 1874 under General George Armstrong Custer had reported gold discoveries at French Creek in the Black Hills, which led to an onslaught of thousands of prospectors. The Black Hills were just across the western border of the Great Sioux Reservation of 1868, but belonged to a huge area in which the Sioux had been granted exclusive hunting rights "as long as the buffalo populations justify the hunt". After the US Army made some half-hearted attempts to drive the prospectors out of the Black Hills and individual Sioux troops hunted down the invaders, the US government began purchase negotiations with the Oglala-Lakota of the reservation. However, the reservation Indians under Red Cloud declined to sell. Certain groups under Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and Gall had never recognized the contract of 1868 anyway and stayed outside the Sioux reservation in the non-ceded hunting areas. In December 1875 the government decided to wrest the Black Hills from the Indians by force. She gave the Indians an ultimatum to “return” to the reservation in the middle of winter and thus to clear the Black Hills for the whites. Aside from the fact that many Sioux and Northern Cheyenne did not come from reservations to return to, they would have been unable to meet the ultimatum in the dead of winter.

When winter was over, thousands of Indians secretly left the reservation to join their freelance tribesmen in the Black Hills and Powder River areas.

At the same time, the United States Army was preparing to use a tripartite forceps operation to beat the Indians on the Powder River and force them into the reservation.


Course of the battle

Battle of the Little Bighorn River

On the morning of June 25, 1876, Custer's scouts located the village in the Little Bighorn River valley. They reported to Custer and informed him of a tremendous superiority. Custer ignored their warnings and decided to attack. His fear that his armed forces had already been discovered and that the element of surprise was about to be lost played an important role. Shortly before, some soldiers had tried to collect food rations that were lost on the way when they came across two Indian boys who were already fumbling over the biscuits that were scattered on the ground. They shot one, the other escaped in the direction of the Indian village.

Towards the afternoon Custer split his troops in order to advance from different directions: Captain Frederick W. Benteen was assigned three companies (H, D and K) and assigned to roam the badlands on the left; Major Marcus A. Reno was also given three companies (A, G and M) and orders to march downstream through the valley and attack the Indians from across the river at the south end of the camp. Custer himself would attack with five companies at the north end of the camp if Reno's attack began. Captain McDougall stayed behind with B Company to protect the supply train.


Reno's attack on the Indian village
At 3:05 p.m., Reno's three companies attacked the southern end of the Indian camp. Although the surprise initially succeeded, around ten women and children were shot and many villagers fled in a panic, the Hunkpapa Sioux, led by Gall, quickly managed to repel Reno's attack. First they opened fire on Reno's men head-on, then they began to bypass his left flank, M Company under Captain Thomas H. French. Reno retired to a wood by the river. When his men were attacked there too, the retreat turned into a panic escape, only M Company fought in retreat. Some of the soldiers were killed while fleeing through the river, but most of them reached the saving right bank of the river and retreated to the hills beyond where they gathered. Benteen had watched some of the events; he went with his three companies to Reno's position, the Reno-Benteen Battlefield. Shortly before, Benteen had received an order from Custer through a courier to come to him as quickly as possible to assist him and bring him ammunition. He did not carry out the order, however, as he received the order from the senior Reno to support him with his three companies against the attacks of the Indians. Reno was entitled according to the current rules of command to override Custer's order to Benteen due to the precarious situation on site by his own order to support his troops. Immediately after Benteen's arrival at Reno's position, volleys of heavy rifle fire were heard from the north, where Custer was suspected. The opposing Sioux also heard this gunfire. Except for a few who continued to monitor Reno's defenses, hundreds of them rode away northward.


Custer's final battle
Another contemporary depiction of the battle: Custers Last Stand

Custer's troops - Companies C, E, F, I, and L - attacked down the hill from their position east of the river, but the difficult terrain and river made a typical cavalry attack impossible to develop. Custer's plan to bypass the village in order to grapple with it also failed because of the unknown size of the village. Instead of reaching the end of the village, he reached it in the middle. The village was protected from him by the river. Custer's troops found no passage through the swampy terrain, and the plan to seize the women and children failed. It is unclear whether some cavalrymen were able to penetrate the village to the west of the river. More and more Indians stormed out of the village and repulsed the attack. In contrast to Custer, the Indians knew the crossings and were able to cross the river so quickly. When the superiority seemed too great, an orderly retreat followed. Custer sent Company F under Captain George W. Yates and Company I under Miles W. Keogh to cover retreat. This defensive formation fought dismounted, but was overrun by Indians coming from the south after short and hard fighting. It is unclear whether these were Sioux under Gall returning from the battle against Reno. Warriors of the Sioux under Crazy Horse and the Cheyenne under Two Moon bypassed Custer's position in the north, thus surrounding Custer's troops, and any breakout from the battlefield later called Custer Battlefield was impossible. The Indians were now vastly outnumbered and technically superior in terms of weapons. They overran company after company. In addition, women with large kerchiefs intervened in the battle. They waved these wildly and thus scared the horses away with the cavalrymen's reserve ammunition.

At first, Custer's soldiers fought in formation, soon this disintegrated, and the troops fought in increasingly smaller, disorderly groups. The higher rate of fire of the rifles and bows of the Indians, but also the constantly rushing Indian riders with battle axes decimated the dismounted cavalrymen very quickly. Custer and about 60 of his men were the last to be killed on a small rise now called Custer's Last Stand Hill. Custer's five companies were completely destroyed. Except for himself, all corpses were mutilated and scalped, Custer's brother Tom had his heart cut out, Custer's adjutant, Captain W. W. Cook, had his imposing whiskers cut from his face. Custer had a gunshot wound in the left side and left temple. His eardrums were pierced and a limb of his left little finger was cut off, but it was not scalped. At 5:30 p.m. the actual battle was over. The only survivor was Comanche, Capt. Miles W. Keogh's horse; this was saddled as a mascot at Defilees for years after the battle.


The battle for the Reno-Benteen position
After McDougall with his B Company and the supply column had joined Reno and Benteen, Thomas B. Weir and Edward S. Godfrey and their companies tried to get to the scene of the incident due to the gunfire that had been heard. Although only tolerated by Reno and Benteen, these parts of their troops also branched off in support of this advance. When they reached Weir Point, they were pushed back into their original position by the Indians charging from the north. During the state of siege, which was now continuing, more and more Indians attacked the open and difficult to defend position. They killed or wounded some defenders with aimed shots from a distance. Reno and Benteen organized a wounded nest in the center of their position, which was protected with various materials and with horse carcasses. Individual volunteers from Companies H and M, which are located near the river (about 300 meters), supplied the wounded, but also others, with water from the river on the night of June 25th to 26th. This was possible for them because they were somewhat protected from enemy fire by a cut in the terrain, the Water Carrier Ravine. In the late afternoon of June 26th, more and more Indians moved south and dispersed into smaller groups. On the night of June 27, Reno and Benteen extended their position closer to the river. The next morning, the Terrys and Gibbons units arrived from the north, for whom Custer should have been waiting.


Reflection as a historical event

A first monument was created as
General Custer Monument
before 1890 on the battlefield.


The Battle of Little Bighorn is of particular importance because it is a beacon in the otherwise rather insidious annihilation of the North American indigenous population. For the self-confidence of the North American prairie Indians, the victory has a lasting impact on generations.

This article is based on the article Battle of Little Bighorn from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. A list of the authors is available on Wikipedia.