A Chronology of the Battle of the Little Bighorn



January 31st : U.S. Government deadline to non-reservation Indians to return to the reservation is ignored by Sitting Bull and his followers.

February 1st : Secretary of the Interior Zachariah Chandler informs Secretary of War, William Belknap, that problems with the Lakota Sioux are "now turned over to the War Department, for such action of the Army as you may deem proper..."

February 8th : General Phil Sheridan sends confidential telegraphs to General Terry and General Crook, notifying them that the "War Department has ordered operations against hostile Indians."

March 3 rd : Former U.S. Indian Scout Bloody Knife is hired as a Civilian Scout by the U.S. Quartermaster, Fort Abraham Lincoln, for the approaching Great Sioux Campaign against Sitting Bull.

April 3rd:
Montana Column under Colonel John Gibbon departs Ft. Ellis in pursuit of Sitting Bull.

April 9th : Lt. James Bradley arrives at Crow Agency (near Livingston, MT) to recruit Crows as U.S. Indian Scouts in the campaign against their traditional enemy, the Lakota, under Sitting Bull.

April 10th : Twenty-five Crows are enlisted as U.S. Indian Scouts to assist Col. John Gibbon's command in locating Sitting Bull's allied Lakota and Cheyenne.

April 26th-May 9th: Thirty new Arikaras are enlisted as U.S. Indian Scouts for the campaign against Sitting Bull. The scouts will be used to provide reconnaissance information on the Lakota and Cheyenne, carry important dispatches and mail, and locate suitable locations for campsites.

May 17th
: Colonel Gibbon attempts to cross to the south side of the Yellowstone River to attack a village but decides to remain north of the Yellowstone after several horses drown in the attempt.

May 17th : The Dakota column under command of General Alfred Terry departs Fort Abraham Lincoln in pursuit of Sitting Bull who is believed to be located along the Little Missouri River. Custer commands the 7th Cavalry.

May 29th : The Wyoming column under General George Crook departs Fort Fetterman in pursuit of Sitting Bull.


June 2 nd : General Crook orders his civilian scouts to make contact with his "Crow allies".

June 4th -7th: A Sundance ceremony is held at Deer Medicine Rocks. Sitting Bull receives a vision of soldiers falling into his camp. A great victory over the "blue coats" is prophesized.

June 9th : At 6:00 PM, Lakota and Cheyenne warriors fire on General Crook's camp from a high bluff on the north side of the Tongue River. Crook orders a counterattack and drives the warriors away after a nearly one hour battle.

June 10th : Major Marcus A. Reno and six companies of the Seventh Cavalry, with one Gatling gun and crew, are ordered on a ten-day reconnaissance of the area west of the Powder River to the Tongue River to help determine the location of Sitting Bull's encampment.

June 16th : Lakota under Crazy Horse and Cheyenne under Two Moons leave their village on Reno Creek, and ride out to attack General Crook's command proceeding down Rosebud Creek.

June 17th :
Crook's column is attacked at mid-morning by Lakota and Cheyenne, resulting in a six-hour heated battle. Nine soldiers are killed in action, 13 warriors are reported slain. The army is saved from further losses due to the heroism of the Crow and Shoshone scouts that Crook has with his force. Crook retains the field but withdraws to his base camp located on Goose Creek (present day Sheridan, WY). Major Reno returns from his reconnaissance scout of the Powder River and Rosebud Creek and reports to General Terry that he has located signs of abandoned Lakota villages in the upper Rosebud Valley.

June 18th: Sioux and Cheyenne enter Little Bighorn Valley and set-up their village.

June 21st : Supplied with news of Sitting Bull's recent encampment along the Rosebud Valley, General Terry holds a battle conference aboard the steamer Far West, anchored at the mouth of Rosebud Creek and Yellowstone River.

June 22nd : Lieutenant Colonel Custer and 12 companies of the 7th Cavalry are ordered to march up Rosebud Creek in pursuit of Sitting Bull. Mark Kellogg, a Bismarck Tribune reporter sends his final dispatch with a prophetic epitaph, "I go with Custer and will be at the death."

June 22nd : General Terry joins Colonel Gibbon's column and marches west up the Yellowstone River before crossing over to the Bighorn River Valley.

June 24th: General Terry and his staff along with Colonel Gibbon's column are ferried to the south side of the Yellowstone River near the mouth of the Bighorn River by Captain Grant Marsh and the riverboat Far West. The Montana column proceeds up the Bighorn River Valley in a pincer movement toward Sitting Bull, and hopes to reach the mouth of the Little Bighorn River on or about June 26.

June 24th : Dying dancing ceremony held in Indian encampment. Approximately 20 young Lakota and Cheyenne teenagers take a suicide vow to give their lives to save the village.

June 24th: Custer and his 12 companies of the 7th Cavalry halts at present day Busby, Montana. U.S. Indian scouts are sent ahead to the Crow's Nest to view the Little Bighorn Valley. Custer's column marches 15 miles through the night towards the Wolf Mountains.

June 25th (dawn): After being informed by his scouts that a large village is within sight, Custer marches forward to the Little Bighorn Valley.

June 25th (afternoon/evening): Battle of the Little Bighorn. 268 7th cavalry soldiers, civilians, and Indian scouts will be killed along with an estimated 60-100 Lakota and Cheyenne. Major Reno and Captain Benteen's forces, along with the pack train, will remain under siege through that evening into the following day.

June 26th : Battle of the Little Bighorn ends in the afternoon. Sitting Bull's village withdraws in late-afternoon up the Little Bighorn Valley after Lakota scouts report General Terry's column advancing up the Bighorn Valley.


JUNE 27th: General Terry and the Montana column under Colonel Gibbon arrive and discover Custer's dead battalion.

JUNE 28th: Major Reno's companies bury Custer's command.

JUNE 29th-30th: Seventh Cavalry wounded are evacuated to the steamer Far West, anchored at the mouth of the Little Bighorn River near present day Hardin, Montana. 52 soldiers are transported to Fort Abraham Lincoln hospital for medical treatment.

JULY 5th : Far West arrives at Bismarck with news of Custer's defeat.

JULY 6th : Bismarck Tribune publishes news of Custer's defeat. News reaches General Sherman and General Sheridan, who are attending the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Elizabeth Bacon Custer receives word of her husband's death at 7:00 am by Lieutenant C.L. Gurley, 6th U.S. Infantry, at her residence at Fort Abraham Lincoln. She agrees to console the other widows and their families at the post.

AUGUST 15th :
Lakota and Cheyenne who remained on the Great Sioux Reservation are disarmed, and dismounted. Congress votes to seize the Black Hills, and the "unceded territory" west of the 103rd meridian. The forced right of way for three roads to the Black Hills also results.

SEPTEMBER 9th: Battle of Slim Buttes. Captain Anson Mills attacks 37 lodges under Oglala Lakota Sioux Chief American Horse. Three soldiers and about a dozen Lakota are killed, including American Horse.

OCTOBER 15th: Sitting Bull leads 400-600 warriors and attacks an army escort wagon train on its way to the cantonment on the Tongue River (present day Miles City, Montana).

OCTOBER 16th: Under a flag of truce, Sitting Bull meets in council with the commander of the U.S. army escort wagon train, and requests that the army remove itself from Lakota land. The army refuses.

OCTOBER 18th : Colonel Nelson A. Miles with the entire 5th infantry departs the Tongue River cantonment to force Sitting Bull onto the reservation.

OCTOBER 21st: Battle of Cedar Creek- Colonel Nelson A. Miles pursues Lakota and Cheyenne in a two day running battle north of present day Miles City. Earlier, Colonel Miles had conferred with Sitting Bull in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade him to surrender.


Jan. 1st-3rd: Colonel Miles with seven companies of infantry, move up the Tongue River in pursuit of Cheyenne and Lakota Sioux under Crazy Horse. A skirmish results and the Cheyenne and Lakota are forced to abandon their winter camps and flee up the Tongue River.

January 8th: Battle of Wolf Mountain. Colonel Miles and approximately 300 Infantrymen clash in sub-zero blizzard conditions with Crazy Horse and his followers. Crazy Horse and his followers withdraw after a heated battle.

April 22nd: 300 Cheyenne under Two Moons, and Hump of the Minniconjou Lakota surrender to Colonel Miles near present day Miles City, Montana.

May 6th: Crazy Horse and more than 1,100 followers, tired of fighting and near starvation, surrender to military authorities at Fort Robinson, Nebraska. Sitting Bull flees to Canada with followers.

May 7th: Colonel Miles with four troops of cavalry defeat a band of Minniconjou Lakota under Lame Deer and Iron Star, near present day Lame Deer, Montana.

September 5th: Crazy Horse is killed while resisting arrest at Fort Robinson.

October 17th: General Terry and U.S. Commissioners meet with Sitting Bull at Fort Walsh, Saskatchewan, Canada. Lakota Chiefs rebuke the commissioners and refuse to return to the United States. Sitting Bull responds to General Terry saying, "This part of the country does not belong to your people. You belong on the other side; this side is ours."


July: Facing starvation in Canada, 200-300 lodges of Lakota Sioux leave Sitting Bull and return to the United States.


July 19th: Sitting Bull arrives at Ft. Buford, Dakota Territory with 43 families, and surrenders the following day to Maj. Brotherton, the fort's commander.


April 10th: U.S. Government prohibits all Lakota traditional customs and religious practices.


January 1st: Ghost Dance movement begins in Nevada when a Northern Paiute, Wovoka, has a vision telling him that Indians should give up white ways and return to their traditional ways and the ghosts of the Indian's ancestors would return if all Indians danced the dance. The message quickly spreads throughout Indian tribes.


October 31st: Short Bull delivers the first sermon of the Ghost Dance on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

November 20th: In response to South Dakota residents, President Benjamin Harrison directs the Secretary of War to take action against the Ghost Dance movement.


December 15th: Assumed to be a part of the Ghost Dance Movement, Sitting Bull is placed under arrest and killed by Standing Rock Reservation Indian police.

December 29th: Wounded Knee Massacre: at least 84 Lakota men, 62 women, and 16 children are killed by U.S. troops on Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota.


December 5th: Gall, a Hunkpapa Lakota warrior who fought at the Battle of the Little Bighorn dies at Owl Creek, South Dakota.


September 1 st: Oglala Lakota Chief Red Cloud dies.


June 25th-26th The semi-centennial observance of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. A "Bury the Hatchet" ceremony between white and Indian battle veterans is held at present day Garryowen, Montana.


Dewey Beard, Oglala Lakota warrior and last warrior survivor of the Battle of the Little Bighorn dies.

Last updated: March 10, 2023

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