On the 25th June 1876, the Battle of Little Bighorn began when American Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer led federal troops against the combined forces of the Lakota Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho Plains Indians. Also known as ‘Custer’s Last Stand’, the battle was one of the most significant clashes of the Great Sioux War of 1876.
The Black Hills of South Dakota were sacred to the Plains Indians, and had been recognized as such in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. However, the discovery of gold there six years later led to a gold rush of white settlers in breach of the treaty. Sitting Bull inspired fellow Plains Indians to form an alliance against the invasion of their lands, and by late spring 1876 thousands of warriors had joined him at the Little Bighorn River in an area they referred to as the Greasy Grass.
Determined to drive the natives back to the reservations, the US Army dispatched cavalry to engage them. When Custer, leading the 7th Cavalry Regiment, spotted a Sioux camp on the 25th June he decided to attack it with his 600 men. However, the Indian forces outnumbered his troops and Custer was soon the victim of a pincer movement when Crazy Horse led another group of Sioux to surround him. Within an hour Custer and his men were dead, having been overwhelmed by up to 3,000 warriors. However news of the defeat prompted outrage amongst many white Americans and, over the next year, the Sioux gradually surrendered following continued US Army attacks against their property.