Since the Battle of the Little Bighorn, George Armstrong Custer has possessed one of the most unique places in American history. Although he was a capable cavalry officer who served honorably during the Civil War, he remains one of the most instantly identifiable and famous military men in American history due to the fact he was killed during one of the country's most well-known and ignominious defeats: the Battle of Little Bighorn. At the same time, this one relatively insignificant battle during America's Indian Wars has become one of the country's most mythologized events and continues to fascinate Americans nearly 140 years later.
On the morning of June 25, Custer's scouts discovered a Native American village about 15 miles away, in the valley of the Little Bighorn River. Choosing to disregard his superiors' orders to wait for a concerted effort, the grandstanding Custer intended to deliver his own decisive victory by dividing his command into three units - an extremely bold tactic when done in the face of a much larger force. Due to their belief in the inferiority of the Plains Indians, and mindful of previous Indian tactics that sought to avoid pitched battle, Custer and his men were most concerned with forcing the action and failed to understand the true nature of the situation they had entered. The Native American gathering, centered around the famous Sioux chief Sitting Bull, numbered roughly 8,000 individuals, and about 2,000 of them were warriors. Custer's forces amounted to a mere 31 officers, 566 troopers, and 50 scouts and civilians, and they had been split into three columns in order to stop a possible retreat.