Did the 7th Cavalry Carry Sabers at the Battle of the Little Big Horn?

Marshall Trimble

Did the 7th Cavalry carry sabers at the Battle of the Little Big Horn?

Jerry Bellini                                                                                                                            Sterling, Illinois

“The 7th Cavalry left its sabers at the Powder River depot before its march up the Rosebud to destiny at Little Big Horn,” says Lee Noyes, a former editor of the Custer Battlefield Historical Museum Association’s Battlefield Dispatch.

“Although Capt. Edward S. Godfrey asserted to artist Edgar S. Paxson, in 1896, that ‘No one carried the saber,’ one of Custer’s officers, Charles C. DeRudio, told battle researcher Walter M. Camp that ‘he was the only man in the regiment who carried a saber on the Little Big Horn expedition,’” Noyes says. “To my knowledge, there is no archaeological evidence, Indian testimony or other historical record documenting the presence, use or loss of these swords at the battle.”

So why didn’t the troops carry sabers? In part, sabers had fallen out of favor by 1876, especially in frontier combat. But the military was also concerned that the clanking of the swords and scabbards would hurt the element of surprise.

Marshall Trimble is Arizona’s official historian, board president of the Arizona Historical Society and vice president of the Wild West History Association. His latest book isArizona’s Outlaws and Lawmen; History Press, 2015.

If you have a question, write: Ask the Marshall, P.O. Box 8008, Cave Creek, AZ 85327 or e-mail him at marshall.trimble@scottsdalecc.edu

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