THUNDER ROLLING ON THE HIGH PLAINS
Charley Reynolds and George Custer’s Journey to the Little Big Horn
I was introduced to western stories almost from birth. When I was ten years old I read my first book on Custer’s Last Stand inspiring my interest. For years I read most everything western I could get my hands on. I thoroughly enjoy both the Red Man and the White Man’s side of the story. From David Crockett and Daniel Boone, to Geronimo and Cochise, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, Charley Reynolds and George Custer, and on to the many fascinating characters of the Little Big Horn my passion grew. I co-authored with my wife a duo music album, called Big Horn River. The album contains 20 songs about people, places and events, surrounding Custer, the 7th Cavalry and the Little Big Horn.
My first visit to the battlefield was 33 years ago. From the very start something seemed amiss. The story I was hearing did not seem to fit. I wondered what really happened. I began to see that the real story was yet to be told.
Almost every summer my wife and I made one or two trips to the Little Big Horn. There were times when I was at the field for several months. I attended many events of the historical associations, the Custer Battlefield and Museum Association and the Little Big Horn Association. I personally met descendents George Custer the III and IV, along with Charley Custer, whom to many, was a close image of George Custer had he grown old. Over the years I acquired many books and firsthand accounts. While on the set of Son of the Morning Star, I rode horse back over parts of the field. I have spent many, many years researching the fascinating characters of the Little Big Horn. In 1990 I discovered two linchpin landmarks that verify my conclusions.
Over the years my interest changed from one character to another. Although there are many interesting characters, both Indian and white, my special interest settled on Charley Reynolds. I have met Charley’s grand-nephew and namesake, Charley Reynolds. I have also talked with Claude Reynolds, who was quite old at the time. Claude was the son of William, Charley’s older brother.
Among many brave men who have ridden the western plains, a number of them are well-known in the country’s history. Some are legends. Others are regarded as heroes. Men like Jim Bridger, Wild Bill Hickok, John (liver eatin’) Johnston, William (Billy the Kid) Bonney, Jedediah Smith, Lewis and Clark among others. And there are those who remain in the background. Even though they are every bit as efficient and courageous, perhaps more of a brave man than most, they remain obscured from history. Yet, they are ordinary and unassuming, not seeking out the notoriety as others have.
Charley Reynolds was such a man. Amongst those daring men who rode the western plains, men who knew Charley Reynolds, men such as George Crook, William (Buffalo Bill) Cody, George Custer and Luther (Yellowstone) Kelly all had stated that Charley Reynolds was one of the greatest plainsmen of them all. One writer judged him as the most excellent rifle shot in the entire west.
Well-educated for the times and raised in a good home, the adventurous Charley Reynolds favored exploring the plains instead of the so-called good life. From Buffalo hunting, to trapping wolves, to Army courier, to scouting and guiding Reynolds rode the Great Plains. He spent three years of his life in close association with George Armstrong Custer. When the 7th Horse Cavalry rode out of Fort Lincoln, Dakota Territory, Charley Reynolds was there with Custer as a guide and scout. Their friendship shaped a remarkable story between a flamboyant, energetic, controversial commander and a brave, unassuming scout. This is the story that I tell.
Let it be said that there were several hundred survivors of the Little Big Horn. Then why did George Custer and Charley Reynolds die? When all is said and done the answer that stands out is: They were abandoned, deserted.
Had Reno and Benteen carried out their orders, there would have been a battle at the Little Big Horn with many more survivors. Daniel Knipe, a sergeant who survived the Little Big Horn fight, had stated: “…if Reno and Benteen had carried out their orders Custer and the five troops would not have met their sad fate.”
Not only that, just two years after the fight, after a full examination of the battlefield, General Nelson Miles conclusions verify the author’s findings. This never-been-told story ends with a factual portrayal of Custer’s actions.