By an 1868 Treaty, the Sioux were permitted to hunt in the territories to the west of their reservation in Dakota. However, when gold was discovered there in 1874, the government unilaterally rescinded this entitlement. Becoming aware the Sioux were defying their eviction, a three-pronged offensive was organized in spring 1876 to force them back to the reservation. Colonel Gibbon’s ten companies set out from Fort Shaw, General Terry’s 20 companies (twelve under Colonel Custer’s command) from Fort Abraham Lincoln. General Crook’s southern column made first contact, when an advance detachment was repulsed on 17 March; his main force was ambushed on June 17 and driven back. Custer’s 7th Cavalry reconnoitred for the eastern column. Coming upon the Sioux encampment, and unaware he was vastly outnumbered, Custer’s split his forces into three to encircle the Sioux. The other detachments were beaten back by the Sioux; Custer’s own was annihilated in his ‘Last Stand’.
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