Monday, June 25, 2007

More on Little Bighorn

Further to the comparison of Custer's weaponry at East Cavalry Field (repeating Spencer rifles on July 3, 1863) to that at Little Bighorn (single shot Springfields on June 25, 1876), a book "The Day the World Ended at Little Bighorn" by Joseph M. Marshall III (Viking 2007) confirms that the Lakota did have repeating rifles BUT also observes:

"Some advantage in firepower, taking into consideration all of the various kinds of firearms used by warriors, may hve been possible simply because of the numerical superiority in this case. But how many repeating rifles would have tipped the balance to an overwhelming superiority cannot be known. (...)a rifle in hand did not always mean an adequate supply of ammunition. (...)The greatest advantage of a repeating rifle is the rate of fire, or shot after shot without having to pause to reload. That advantage is useful as long as there is sufficient ammunition." [page 103]

At pages 105-106, Marshall raises the issue that the Springfields jammed during the fighting.

LBE discussed aspects of Custer and of the Spencer rifle in 88 JPTOS 1068 (2006). The likely low abundance of ammunition with the Lakota would impair the advantage of the Lakotas (but not Custer's men) having repeating rifles. However, the fight of Custer's battalion at Little Bighorn is NOT like the fight of Custer's Wolverines at Gettysburg, wherein the defenders NEEDED to use the rapid fire of the Spencers to fight off a superior force. And, when they ran out of ammo, that fight was over. The Lakota had more men AND the repeating rifles AND a better position AND they were fighting for women and children.

A point in 88 JPTOS 1068 (2006) was about innovation. The Spencer rifle was PROVED a superior weapon both at East Cavalry Field and at Selma, Alabama during Wilson's raid. Yet, the U.S. Army did not adopt the superior weapon. Separately, for all the complaining about "how the Wrights impeded innovation in aircraft during World War I," there is not much discussion about how the Wrights repeatedly went to the Army and were rebuffed.

Joseph M. Marshall made another point, to the effect that certain historians may have shaded history to present some rationalization for how Custer lost. The topic of shading things (e.g., the "97% patent grant rate) comes up big time in the patent reform discussion.

See also Re-writing history, really...


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