Wednesday, June 14, 2023

The Enlisted Men’s Petition in Support of Major Reno


After the battle of the Little Bighorn this petition, dated July 4, 1876, was sent by the enlisted men of the Seventh Cavalry to the President and Congress of the United States:

"To his Excellency the President
And the honorable Representatives
Of the United States.


"We the enlisted men the survivors of the battle on the heights of Little Horn River, on the 25th and 26th of June 1876, of the 7th Regiment of Cavalry who subscribe our names to this petition, most earnestly solicit the President and Representatives of our Country, that the vacancies among the Commissioned Officers of our Regiment, made by the slaughter of our brave, heroic now lamented Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer, and the other noble dead Commissioned Officers of our Regiment who fell close by him on the bloody field, daring the savage demons to the last, be filled by the officers of the Regiment only. That Major M.A. Reno, be our Lieutenant Colonel since Custer, killed; Captain F.W. Benteen our Major since Reno, promoted. The other vacancies to be filled by officers of the Regiment by seniority. Your petitioners know this to be contrary to the established rule of promotion, but prayerfully solicit a deviation from the usual rule in this case, as it will be conferring a bravely fought for and a justly merited promotion on Officers who by their bravery, coolness and decision on the 25th and 26th of June 1876, saved the lives of every man now living of the 7th Cavalry who participated in the battle, one of the most bloody on record and one that would have ended with the loss of life of every Officer and enlisted man on the field; only for the position taken by Major Reno, which we held with bitter tenacity against fearful odds to the last.

"To support this assertion-had our position been taken 100 yards back from the brink of the heights overlooking the river we would have been entirely cut off from water; and from behind those heights the Indian demons would have swarmed in hundreds picking off our men by detail, and before midday June 26th not on officer or enlisted man of our Regiment would have been left to tell of our dreadful fate as we then would have been completely surrounded.

"With the prayerful hope that our petition be granted, we have the honor to forward it through our Commanding Officer."

Custer’s Last Stand: Portraits in Time

Custer’s Last Stand Re-examined