Little big horn
Photo by Matthew Brady, 1865.
True West Archives
“Io e il mio 7° Cavalleria possiamo annientare tutti gli indiani del continente” (George Armstrong Custer)

Il sole splendeva su Little Big Horn; la vallata era costellata di tende. C’erano quelle dei Cheyenne, dei Lakota, degli Orlala, degli Hunkpapa e di tante altre tribù che rappresentavano quanto restava della grande e potente nazione Sioux.

Gli esploratori Crow del 7° Cavalleria guardavano, sdraiati nell’erba la vallata biancheggiante.

Quando le guide riferirono a Custer quanto avevano visto, consigliandogli di non intraprendere alcuna azione prima dell’arrivo dei rinforzi, questi incredulo, volle verificare di persona la situazione.

Salì sulla vetta di Crow’s Nest, ma una densa foschia gli impedì di valutare esattamente le dimensioni del campo.

Little Big Horn

Decise di attaccare immediatamente il campo, raccomandò ai suoi ufficiali di accertarsi che ogni soldato avesse una dotazione di almeno cento colpi e suddivise le sue forze in modo da poter attaccare da più parti il nemico.

Affidò tre squadroni al capitano Benteen, tre al maggiore Reno e si tenne i cinque restanti per sé.

Ordinò a Benteen di dirigersi verso sud e a Reno di attaccare frontalmente il campo, mentre riservò ai suoi squadroni il compito di aggirare il nemico a nord impedendogli di scappare.

I tre squadroni di Reno irruppero nelle tende Hunkpapa, ma si accorsero subito di avere di fronte migliaia di guerrieri ben armati. Resosi conto di aver sottovalutato il nemico,

Reno ordinò la ritirata verso un bosco per organizzare la difesa.

Agli Hunkpapa si erano riuniti i Lakota e i Cheyenne, Reno ordinò ai suoi di attraversare il fiume e ritirarsi sulle colline.

Fu un tragico errore.

I cavalleggeri si trovarono allo scoperto sotto il tiro dei nativi. Solo un piccolo gruppo di soldati riuscì a raggiungere le colline, trincerandosi pronti ad affrontare l’ultimo attacco.

I nativi si disinteressarono di quel gruppetto di uomini.

Custer aveva visto solo l’inizio della battaglia, si mosse quindi verso nord per tagliare la strada agli indiani che “certamente stavano fuggendo da quella parte …”.

Quando i cavalleggeri raggiunsero la sponda orientale del fiume, Custer scese nella gola intenzionato a guadare il fiume per attaccare i nativi alle spalle.

All’improvviso si trovò davanti non meno di millecinquecento guerrieri Hunkpapa.

Custer si rese conto di aver sbagliato i propri conti, anche se era ancora convinto di uscire vincitore dalla battaglia. Decise così di ritirarsi verso le colline e di attendere rinforzi.

I soldati indietreggiarono sviluppando un’impressionate volume di fuoco contro gli indiani che li incalzavano.

Le perdite del 7° erano pesanti, ma Custer poteva contare ancora su duecento uomini.

I nativi raggiunsero la cime della collina, proprio mentre i cavalleggeri stavano per arrivare all’agognata sommità. Non ci fu più tempo per pensare o agire, una massa urlante piombò sui soldati travolgendoli.

Nel giro di venti minuti, forse meno, tutto era finito.

La più grande battaglia tra uomini bianchi e nativi era finita

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