Custer at the Washita

Historically accurate, narrative poem

27 November 1868, on the banks of the Washita River  

Dawn’s peaceful first light streaks the eastern skies, 
belying the horror of a marauding force of horses and men,
silently stealing over new fallen snow preparing 
to deliver a fateful blow to the Cheyenne camp below.
The silence is broken when bugles sound the charge 
over frozen ground, against a sleeping village that 
having complied with every previous unjust demand 
thought themselves safe from Custer’s command, deployed 
in three columns according to plan, to charge from the west 
and the village front, while Maj. Elliot’s column blocked 
escape to the east.  With the Washita river to their back, 
there was no place for chief Black Kettle and his peaceful 
band to escape the attack.  Braves, women and children, it 
made no difference, no preference was shown or quarter
given, most were slaughtered while their lodges burned,
though soon against other creatures the killing would be turned. 
Black Kettle reached the river but lost his life while attempting
to cross over with his wife.  The lucky few that did survive the 
bloody strife and fled across the river to the ridge beyond,
below which their pony herd grazed, soon were filled with
dread and fully amazed when at Custer’s command the entire
herd was shot dead.  But by now from other encampments
further east, many Cheyenne Arapaho, and Kiowa braves, 
drawn to the sound of guns in the early dawn, were massing
on the hill beyond, milling and buzzing like angry bees, singing 
and chanting prayer songs for their dead, filling the soldiers with
a fearful dread.  So Custer broke off the engagement and began
to withdraw, but the stage had been set for another day-
June 25, 1876-
when at the Little Big Horne the debt owed for this atrocious 
act, Custer and the 7th in full would pay.  Meanwhile, as a 
prelude it might seem, Maj. Elliot and his column, trapped without 
a chance, were wiped out to a man by the Indian’s western advance. 

Copyright © | Year Posted 2017

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