I took a little detour today to an isolated spot in northwest Kansas on my way to Texas. This part of history is not as well known, but is no less significant, and is just another example of George Custer’s egocentric, disregard for others that resulted in the pointless deaths of many of the people around him. In the late 1860’s this area was a hot zone of activity during the American Indian Wars. In 1867 a twenty-four year old Lieutenant named Lyman Kidder was asked by his superiors to deliver a message to Colonel Custer who was camped 90 Miles to the south. What Kidder didn’t know was that Custer had gotten bored at his camp and decided to move to a different location without notifying his superiors. Arriving at Custer’s camp and seeing it was empty, Kidder decided to head south to Fort Wallace thinking Custer probably headed there. Unfortunately this change in plans led Kidder and his 10 men into a group of Cheyenne dog soldiers and a mix of Lakota warriors.
Ten days later one of Custer’s scouts stumbled across a dead Calvary horse and found the arrow pierced corpses of Kidder and his men in a ravine. Kidders body was identified only by his shirt. Most of the dead men in Kidders group were between the ages of 18-21, most of which had never even seen an Indian before. Custer’s response to the tragedy was: “Each body was pierced by 20 to 50 arrows, and the arrows were found as the savage demons had left them, bristling in the bodies.
Whether Custer was remorseful for switching camps which led directly to his fellow soldiers deaths, whether he was egocentrically remorseful due to a possible reprimand that might blemish his spotty career and result in a demotion, or whether he saw this as a tool to feed his own propaganda campaign and fuel his hatred for what he referred to as “savage demons” we can only guess. But at this point the flute had been firmly placed in his hands and he had become the pied piper of death, bringing a lot of innocent people down a dark path of no return which would soon play out at the Battle of the Washita and The Battle of the Little Bighorn.