Today is the Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time; with no Saint to honor today, we note that today is the anniversary of the first day of the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876, and the date upon which my father died in 1998.
Our Gospel reading for this Twelfth Sunday of Ordinary Time comes from Matthew 10:26-33: Jesus said to the Twelve: “Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.” The Battle of the Little Bighorn (also known as Custer’s Last Stand and, by the Native Americans involved, the Battle of Greasy Grass Creek) was an armed engagement between combined forces of Lakota and Northern Cheyenne against the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army. The battle was the most famous action of the Great Sioux War of 1876 – 1877 (also known as the Black Hills War). During the 1876 U.S. Military Campaign against the Native Americans, on June 22nd, 1876, Brig. Gen. Alfred Terry ordered the 7th Cavalry, composed of 31 officers and 566 enlisted men under Custer (fourteen officers (including the regimental commander, Col. Samuel D. Sturgis) and 152 troopers did not accompany the 7th during the campaign, remaining at Fort Abraham Lincoln south of present-day Mandan, North Dakota) to begin a reconnaissance in force and pursuit along the Rosebud, with the prerogative to “depart” from orders if Custer saw “sufficient reason.” Custer had been offered the use of Gatling guns but declined, believing they would slow his command. While the column of the main army was marching toward the mouth of the Little Bighorn, on the evening of June 24th Custer’s scouts arrived at an overlook known as the Crow’s Nest, 14 miles east of the Little Bighorn River. At sunrise on June 25th, Custer’s scouts reported they could see a massive pony herd and signs of the Native American village roughly fifteen miles in the distance. After a night’s march, the tired officer who was sent with the scouts could see neither, and when Custer joined them, he was also unable to make the sighting. Custer’s scouts also spotted the regimental cooking fires that could be seen from ten miles away, disclosing the regiment’s position. Custer contemplated a surprise attack against the encampment the following morning of June 26th, but he then received a report informing him several hostiles had discovered the trail left by his troops. Assuming his presence had been exposed, Custer decided to attack the village without further delay (unknown to Custer, the group was actually leaving the encampment on the Big Horn and did not alert the village). Custer accepted the Army intelligence estimate that there were some 800 warriors in the village in the valley; however, the number of warriors in the village had increased to something between 900 and 2,500 fighting men. Custer had 647 men in twelve companies; he placed three companies under the command of Major Marcus Reno, three companies with Captain Frederick Benteen, one company with Captain Thomas McDougall and the slower pack train, and kept five companies under his own command. Reno’s companies were ordered to attack the village, while Benteen was to cover the left flank to the south, and Custer and his men would hold the hill to the north to capture fleeing non-combatants from the Indian camp, on a total front about three or four miles. Custer’s overriding concern was that the Native American group would break up and scatter, and he wanted to capture sufficient non-combatant hostages to compel the Native Americans to surrender. The command began its approach to the village at noon and prepared to attack in full daylight. Reno’s companies were nearly destroyed when they attacked the village, and retreated back up the ridge, a few miles south of Custer’s position. Benteen’s column then arrived from the south. This force had been on a lateral scouting mission when it had been summoned by Custer’s messenger, Italian bugler John Martin (Giovanni Martini) with the hand-written message “Benteen. Come on, Big Village, Be quick, Bring packs. P.S. Bring Packs.” Benteen’s coincidental arrival on the bluffs was just in time to save Reno’s men from possible annihilation. Their detachments were reinforced by McDougall’s Company B and the pack train. The 14 officers and 340 troopers on the bluffs organized an all-around defense and dug rifle pits using whatever implements they had among them, including knives. Despite the message from Custer, and despite hearing heavy gunfire from the north, including distinct volleys at 4:20 pm (rifle volleys were a standard way of telling supporting units to come to another unit’s aid), Benteen concentrated on reinforcing Reno’s badly wounded and hard-pressed detachment, rather than continuing on toward Custer. Benteen’s apparent reluctance to reach Custer prompted later criticism that he had failed to follow orders. Meanwhile, on what later was called Last Stand Hill, the five companies with Custer (along with two of his brothers, a brother-in-law, and a nephew) were totally annihilated, with no survivors; by almost all accounts, the Lakota annihilated Custer’s force within an hour of engagement. Around 5:00 pm, Benteen ordered Capt. Thomas Weir and Company D to move out to make contact with Custer. They advanced a mile, to what is today Weir Ridge or Weir Point, and could see in the distance native warriors on horseback shooting at objects on the ground. By this time, roughly 5:25 pm, Custer’s battle may have concluded. The conventional historical understanding is that what Weir witnessed was most likely warriors killing the wounded soldiers and shooting at dead bodies on the “Last Stand Hill” at the northern end of the Custer battlefield. Benteen and other troops also headed towards Weir’s position but when the warriors, having destroyed Custer’s command, returned to confront them, all the cavalry retreated back to Reno’s original position on the bluffs, still not knowing what happened to Custer. Reno and the companies with Benteen and McDougall remained under fire until the next day, June 26th, and were only relieved by the main army column’s arrival on June 27th; they were horrified to hear about the annihilation of the companies with Custer. It was an overwhelming victory for the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne, led by Sitting Bull (Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake). The total U.S. casualty count included 268 dead and 55 severely wounded (6 died from their injuries later), including 4 Crow Indian scouts and 2 Pawnee Indian scouts. Americans were deeply shocked by Custer’s defeat and by the death toll, although it was not the highest inflicted by Native Americans on the United States Army. Sympathy for the widowed Elizabeth Bacon Custer suppressed active research of the battle (and potential criticism of her husband). Numerous participants decided to wait for her death before writing and publishing their accounts of the battle. However, Custer’s widow outlived almost all of those with personal knowledge of the battle, and she wrote three popular books that upheld her husband’s reputation; no serious fact finding about the battle started until after she died in 1933, some fifty-seven years after the battle. Thus, perception of the fight at the Little Bighorn was recreated along tragic Victorian lines in numerous books, films and other media until the middle of the 20th century. The site was first preserved as a United States national cemetery in 1879, to protect the graves of the 7th Cavalry troopers. In 1946 it was redesignated as the Custer Battlefield National Monument, reflecting its association with the general. In 1967 Major Marcus Reno (died 1889) was reinterred in the cemetery with honors, including an eleven-gun salute. Beginning in the early 1970s there was concern within the National Park Service over the name Custer Battlefield National Monument, recognizing the larger history of the battle between two cultures; hearings on the name change were held in Billings on June 10th and during the following months in 1991 Congress renamed the site the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument near Crow Agency, Montana, is unique in that, when the dead were taken from the field of battle, it was noted where each man had fallen, so now the battlefield is dotted with some 268 white marble markers showing where each individual soldier (and scout) fell, and some 10 red granite markers showing where Lakota and Northern Cheyenne warriors fell. My father would have found it most ironic that he died (in 1998) on the same day as Custer’s Last Stand.
I stayed up late last night watching the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska; since Florida beat TCU, LSU will play the Florida Gators in an all-SEC Championship series.
Richard went to work at the casino for the last day of the two-week pay period. In Eastern Kentucky we did not go to Mass because I simply could not get out of bed that early. I did wake up at 8:00 am, read the Sunday paper, and did my Book Devotional Reading.
We left the house at 9:30 am and headed east, entering West Virginia at 10:00 am, and taking West Virginia Route 2 north from Huntington. We went up to the cemetery where our parents are buried and replaced the flowers. We then drove down to Charleston via I-77 South and ate a late lunch at the Tidewater Grille. We returned to Kentucky, and checked out the hiking trail in process at Armco Park. Liz Ellen and I arrived back at the house at 4:00 pm, and relaxed for the rest of the evening, part of which was spent sitting out on her front porch.
With no Saints to honor tomorrow, we note that tomorrow is the anniversary of the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court decision of 2015 that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marriage under the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. Richard will be going to the casino for the first day of the current two-week pay period, and after his shift ends he will attend the Mandatory (unless you are on previously approved PTO) Meeting with Max (our Table Games Director. In the afternoon I hope Richard can find out what caused our Air Conditioning to become inoperable. Meanwhile, Liz Ellen and I will be heading to Lexington for our last day together. At the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska our #3 LSU Tigers (52-18) will be playing the #4 Florida Gators (50-19) in the first game of the Championship Series.
Our Parting Quote this Saturday evening comes to us from Dame Margaret Tyzack, British actress. Born in 1931 in Essex, she grew up in West Ham (now Greater London), attended an all-girls Ursuline school, and was a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. She joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1962, and played Winifred Dartie in the TV mini series of The Forsyte Saga in 1967. She appeared in two films directed by Stanley Kubrick: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and A Clockwork Orange (1971); between the two films she was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1970. In 1976 she played the character of Antonia in the TV mini-series I, Claudius, and in the late 1970s she spent three years on stage at Stratford, Ontario, where she played Mrs. Alving in Ibsen’s Ghosts, Queen Margaret in Richard III, and the Countess of Roussillon in All’s Well That Ends Well. Tyzack received an Olivier Award in 1982 for a revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in which she played Martha, replacing Joan Plowright who was ill, and a Tony award in 1991 for the play Lettice and Lovage, in which she appeared in both the London and Broadway productions opposite Dame Maggie Smith. The American Actors’ Equity initially refused permission for Tyzack to join the New York production, but Smith refused to appear without Tyzack because of the “onstage chemistry” she believed the two women had created in their roles. In the 1990s she played a major role in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles television series as the young Indiana Jones’ strict Oxford-educated tutor, Miss Helen Seymour. Tyzack also appeared in Woody Allen’s 2005 film Match Point. In 2008 she was acclaimed for her portrayal of Mrs. St. Maugham in a revival of Enid Bagnold’s The Chalk Garden at the Donmar Warehouse, London, for which she won the Best Actress award in the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards and the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actress in 2009. In 2009 she appeared alongside Helen Mirren in Phedre at the Royal National Theatre. In the 2010 New Year Honours she was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE). In 2011 she joined the cast of soap opera EastEnders, playing Lydia Simmonds, but had to withdraw from the series due to ill health (died 2011): “If you watch TV or listen to the radio for a week, you would get the impression that everyone over the age of 60 has no control over their faculties. I don’t want us to be treated with kid gloves, but a fraction of respect would come in handy.”