Grant by Ron Chernow:
The Sioux had acquired the reputation, Sherman said, of being “the most brave and warlike Savages of this Continent.” By late May, Phil Sheridan confessed that his two department commanders, Generals Crook and Terry, hadn’t the foggiest idea where Sitting Bull and his Sioux warriors had fled. Sheridan took refuge in the illusion that a large body of hostile Indians couldn’t remain cohesive for long and even imagined that the approach of three columns would herd them back onto the reservation. Shattering such naïve expectations on June 17, Crazy Horse led a band of warriors against the thousand-man column under General Crook, dealing them a bloody setback and driving them rearward to their base camp. As Custer drifted westward toward his doom, he knew nothing of this stunning defeat.
As the nation got ready to solemnize its centennial on July 4, reports filtered back that Custer and 263 of his men in the Seventh Cavalry had been annihilated by Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne warriors along the Little Bighorn River in southern Montana, their mutilated bodies strewn among the hills. Custer was found naked, a bullet hole in his head, a gash in his thigh, an arrow piercing his penis. Supposed to be marching toward a rendezvous with Generals Terry and John Gibbon, he had arrived too soon, failed to wait for other troops, and confronted alone an enormous Indian force favored with overpowering numbers. “I deeply deplore the loss of Custer and his men,” Sheridan wrote. “I feel it was an unnecessary sacrifice, due to a misapprehension and a superabundance of courage—the latter extraordinarily developed in Custer.”