History

Study Notes

The Battle of the Little Bighorn

Level:
GCSE
Board:
Edexcel

In 1874, the construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad was approaching Sioux Indian hunting grounds in Dakota. George Custer, a US army commander, was ordered to protect the construction workers from Plains Indian attacks. However, Custer began to mine for gold in the Black Hills. This led of thousands of gold prospectors travelling to the Black Hills and settling on Dakota Sioux Land. This directly broke the terms of the Fort Laramie Treaty and was especially insulting as the Black Hills were sacred to the Sioux. 

In 1874, the construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad was approaching Sioux Indian hunting grounds in Dakota. George Custer, a US army commander, was ordered to protect the construction workers from Plains Indian attacks. However, Custer began to mine for gold in the Black Hills. This led of thousands of gold prospectors travelling to the Black Hills and settling on Dakota Sioux Land. This directly broke the terms of the Fort Laramie Treaty and was especially insulting as the Black Hills were sacred to the Sioux.

 

The US government then offered to buy the Black Hills from the Sioux for $6 million. The Sioux rejected this offer and continued to attack prospectors trespassing their land. The US government then used this as an excuse to accuse the Sioux tribe of breaching the Fort Laramie Treaty. Relations between the US government and the Sioux broke down.

 

Thousands of Sioux left their reservation to join the militant Sioux leaders Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. The US government ordered them to return to their reservations and, in December 1875, were given 60 days to do so or they would be attacked. However, deep snow made it impossible for the Sioux to return to their reservations. By the spring of 1876, over 7,000 Sioux were settled outside of their reservation near the valley of Little Bighorn.  

 

The US army planned to force the Sioux back into their reservations by launching an attack on them. However, Custer ignored orders to wait for reinforcements and recklessly led 200 men into the Little Bighorn Valley where the Sioux were gathered. Crazy Horse attacked Custer’s men, killing all 200 of them. It was a momentous victory of the Sioux Indians and an embarrassing defeat for Custer and the US government. 

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