Post Apocalyptic Skirmishing: Lessons from Little Bighorn

Read it all, including the embedded links.

The more things change….

16 responses to “Post Apocalyptic Skirmishing: Lessons from Little Bighorn

  1. Trying to fight against an enemy whose tactics haven’t been in practice for over a hundred years is kind of senseless. Wanna learn tactical lessons – history provides much better examples (any of the partisan groups in Europe during WWII, or the actions of the Communist Guerrillas during the cold war. Give Custer CAS, BFT or FBCB2, Ravens, M249s and M240s, and grenadiers armed with 40mm HEDP and the battle’s outcome would have been vastly different – even if the Indians were armed with WASRs, ARs, and hell even M1As.

  2. Don’t be so literal, amigo.

    Lessons I gleaned from a fast read w/o much thought:

    1) Carry as much ammo at all times as you can w/o falling over dead.

    2) Aimed fire rules big time.

    3) Flank your enemy always if on offense; guard against flanking at all times if on defense.

    4) Once you are attacked, no quarter whatsoever.

    If you don’t think you will be fighting outnumbered, you don’t understand.

  3. Jimmy the Saint

    The article omits two key facts regarding the battle:

    (1) Custer (and the rest of the Army forces in the campaign) had terrible intelligence. Indian Agencies had estimated the total number of hostiles at about 800 total (including women, children, and the aged). In fact, the number *warriors* in the hostile group was somewhere around 2,000 (estimated variously between 1,500 – 3,000), or about 3x the *total* number estimated.
    — Custer might have learned the true numbers if he’d had the ability to communicate with Gen. Crook’s column after its fight at the Battle of the Rosebud; however, since they didn’t have radios then, he had no way of doing so.
    — Custer also largely ignored his own scouts, who reported a village of hostiles bigger than they had ever seen before, and clearly more than 800 total.

    (2) The cavalry was at a tremendous disadvantage fighting dismounted. The tactics of the day required every fourth trooper to be a “horse holder,” securing his own mount and that of three other troopers. So, as soon as the cavalry dismounted, it immediately lost 1/4 of its available firepower.

  4. Again, there’s the historical stuff (interesting) and the extended ground melee stuff (more interesting, IMHO).

  5. Can’t say that I was real impressed with the linked article. That place is about in my back yard, an infiltrating visit some night is on my bucket list.

    I’d recommend a book, “To Hell with Honor.” Not real new (10 yo), but puts out a convincing argument that Custer did have a plan from the very get-go. Underlings executed the plan poorly, or so says the book. Read it and decide yourself, you will probably gain a better view of Custer than what you came in with.

    One thing that struck me, was the transition of mules pulling wagons up to about the present location of Terry, MT, to using those same mules, un-fucking-trained as pack animals, to carry ammo and provisions for Custer. The un-trained mules were a distraction on the march, and took many good hands out of the fight. Jimmy the Saint talks about horseholders as a detriment to fighting efficiency, but I’d say that the transition of the mules from wagon pullers to pack animals, put many more (and experienced) soldiers out of the fight that was to happen, than the horseholder concept did.

    Then there is another, not often discussed deal, of about close to a hundred troopers left behind at Terry, due to there not being enough horses for all to ride. Would it have made a difference in the fight? Don’t know, I’m not a Custer scholar.

    The mule thing, though, was a factor in Custer’s defeat, and one not generally talked about. And Benteen had a real mule-ish attitude, he was also a factor. As was the coward Reno.

  6. Since I said that I didn’t take out much positive from the linked article on the Custer fight, what’s a person to do? I don’t want to be seen as a negative or pessimistic sort of person.

    It might be time to flog the book “Neither Predator nor Prey” once again. The tactics of that book, are hard to fault. I can see them working. And I see a renewed use for the old M1, if for nothing else, its capability to shoot good bullets to good effect. Most other platforms in partisan hands these days, cannot do the damage that the M1 can. Naysayers: If you have K-loads of Isreali dual-cannular 150g blunt-nose FMJs for your more modern battle rifles, then we can argue.

  7. Dam CA,
    I took the same things from the piece as you and then some. The point wasn’t lost on me……


  8. S.M. Stirling scenarios aside, I’m pretty sure the Klingons aren’t going to beam up all the belt-feds, grenade launchers, and ATGMs. I’m just sayin’…

  9. I really am not expecting Sioux on horseback and Winnie lever rifles in my AO.

    What I am expecting is the potential of a disproportionate attacking force with at least some elements of disciplined fighters.

    I and my team will not have anything other than light semiauto rifles, sidearms, and whatever fighting load has been carried by each person.

    Ergo, I saw some utility in the piece.

    Clearly, others’ mileage has varied.


  10. I guess as the saying goes, “He who has ears, let him hear”…

  11. Where’s your nearest Guard armory? Who has the keys? Whose side is he on? How many people in your AO have recent (<5 years ago) combat tours in the sandbox? Who are they loyal to?

    If you’re envisioning a total colander-on-the-face Somali scenario, I think these are important data points, no?

    • Tam:

      You bet your dupa they are important data points.

      Not much joy in the ATL for the answers, though….

      • Oh, I agree.

        I just think that a lot of attention gets paid to long-term “post-collapse” scenarios at the expense of shorter-term “collapse” scenarios. The “New Brotherhood Army” from Lucifer’s Hammer is a pack of cupcakes compared to a National Guard company 6 months back from A-Stan…

  12. Thank you for linking. It is the second most commonly visited post on my site, and of course got bumped closer to number one after the link.

    As CA noted, you have to take it as an analogy, not duplication.

    Jimmy Saint made some very good points. The communications gear is going to be very limited if the grid goes down. It will be what you have on hand and can maintain. Actually both the U.S. Cavalry and the Indians generally dismounted at the start of a fire fight. The horses were used for operational mobility and by the Indians (not all of whom had repeating carbines) as a quick strike if they could catch the cavalry in reload.

    TAM’s point is well taken. At the battle of this size it would not be stunning to see some heavier firepower. But not everyone is going to be able to get reloads, or if communications are spotty reloads may be very slow in coming. It should be noted that the Germans did drag around some fairly heavy 75mm direct support howitzers, and mortars using horses, so you can’t say that it cannot be done without fuel for the motor vehicles.

    if you really want accounts of small scale skirmishes that are not western bar room shoot ups, but pitched battle between small groups you can go to Google Books and look up search “Indian fighting”, “Indian massacre” and the like. Go to the advance search and hit full view. You will pull up a number of books that are full of more full scale skirmishes then you could imagine. You have homesteaders being surprised, ranchers traveling days to track down Indian horse-thieves, etc. All of it very non-PC.

    What is odd is that only occasionally the weaponry a big issue. If you are caught by surprise, you are caught by surprise. if you are outnumbered you are outnumbered. Bow and Arrows are roughly equivalent to a long pistol in range and damage.

    I posted a few of them at my site, and also converted a few of them to “post apocalypse” settings because I knew there would be doubters. But I would really encourage people to take advantage of the free resources at Google books and see for themselves. The depth of material is stunning.

    Again, thank you for the link. Have a great 4th!