Douglas D. Scott is retired as supervisory archaeologist, Midwest Archeological Center, National Park Service. Widely known as an expert on military archaeology, he is the author or co-author of numerous publications, including They Died with Custer: Soldiers' Bones from the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Uncovering History: Archaeological Investigations at the Little Bighorn, and Custer, Cody, and Grand Duke Alexis: Historical Archaeology of the Royal Buffalo Hunt.
P. Willey is Professor of Anthropology at Chico State, and co-author with Douglas D. Scott of They Died with Custer: Soldiers’ Bones from the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
Melissa A. Connor, also an Archeologist with the Midwest Archeological Center, specializes in the reconstruction of diet through the use of isotopes and trace elements in bone. She holds B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
As member of the regular army, these men formed an important segment of our usually slighted national military continuum and, through their labors, combats, and endurance, created the framework of law and order within which settlement and development become possible. We should know more about the common soldier in our military past, and here he is.
The rank and file regular, then as now, was psychologically as well as physically isolated from most of his fellow Americans. The people were tired of the military and its connotations after four years of civil war. They arrayed their army between themselves and the Indians, paid its soldiers their pittance, and went about the business of mushrooming the nation’s economy.
Because few enlisted men were literarily inclined, many barely able to scribble their names, most previous writings about them have been what officers and others had to say. To find out what the average soldier of the post-Civil War frontier thought, Don Rickey, Jr., asked over three hundred living veterans to supply information about their army experiences by answering questionnaires and writing personal accounts. Many of them who had survived to the mid-1950’s contributed much more through additional correspondence and personal interviews.
Whether the soldier is speaking for himself or through the author in his role as commentator-historian, this is the first documented account of the mass personality of the rank and file during the Indian Wars, and is only incidentally a history of those campaigns.
Employing military records, archival sources, and contemporary interviews with current Pawnee tribal members—some of them descendants of the scouts—Van de Logt presents the Pawnee scouts as central players in some of the army's most notable campaigns. He argues that military service allowed the Pawnees to fight their tribal enemies with weapons furnished by the United States as well as to resist pressures from the federal government to assimilate them into white society.
According to the author, it was the tribe's martial traditions, deeply embedded in their culture, that made them successful and allowed them to retain these time-honored traditions. The Pawnee style of warfare, based on stealth and surprise, was so effective that the scouts' commanding officers did little to discourage their methods. Although the scouts proudly wore the blue uniform of the U.S. Cavalry, they never ceased to be Pawnees. The Pawnee Battalion was truly a war party in blue.
So goes the myth of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, a myth perpetuated and reinforced for over 100 years. In truth, however, "Custer’s Last Stand" was neither the last of the fighting nor a stand.
Using innovative and standard archaeological techniques, combined with historical documents and Indian eyewitness accounts, Richard Allan Fox, Jr. vividly replays this battle in astonishing detail. Through bullets, spent cartridges, and other material data, Fox identifies combat positions and tracks soldiers and Indians across the Battlefield. Guided by the history beneath our feet, and listening to the previously ignored Indian testimonies, Fox reveals scenes of panic and collapse and, ultimately, a story of the Custer battle quite different from the fatalistic versions of history. According to the author, the five companies of the Seventh Cavalry entered the fray in good order, following planned strategies and displaying tactical stability. It was the sudden disintegration of this cohesion that caused the troopers’ defeat. The end came quickly, unexpectedly, and largely amid terror and disarray. Archaeological evidences show that there was no determined fighting and little firearm resistance. The last soldiers to be killed had rushed from Custer Hill.
Now, because a grass fire in August 1983 cleared the terrain of brush and grass and made possible thorough archaeological examinations of the battlefield in 1984 and 1985, we have many answers to important questions.
On the basis of the archaeological evidence presented in this book, we know more about what kinds of weapons were used against the cavalry. We know exactly where many of the men fought, how they died, and what happened to their bodies at the time of or after death. We know how the troopers were deployed, what kind of clothing they wore, what kind of equipment they had, how they fought. Through the techniques of historical archaeology and forensic anthropology, the remains and grave of one of Custer’s scouts, Mitch Boyer, have been identified. And through geomorphology and the process of elimination, we know with almost 100 percent certainty where the twenty-eight missing men who supposedly were buried en masse in Deep Ravine will be found.
In 1998 the National Park Service, under congressional direction, began a research program to verify the location of the Sand Creek site. The team consisted of tribal members, Park Service staff and volunteers, and local landowners. In Finding Sand Creek, the project’s leading historian, Jerome A. Greene, and its leading archeologist, Douglas D. Scott, tell the story of how this dedicated group of people used a variety of methods to pinpoint the site. Drawing on oral histories, written records, and archeological fieldwork, Greene and Scott present a wealth of evidence to verify their conclusions.
Greene and Scott’s team study led to legislation in the year 2000 that established the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site.