Tales of rampant suicide among Custer’s soldiers may be overblown | Science News

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Tales of rampant suicide among Custer’s soldiers may be overblown

Few men killed themselves during the Battle of the Little Bighorn, skeletal data suggest

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4:31pm, April 13, 2018
Battle of Little Big Horn painting

KILLING FIELD  Contrary to historical accounts, few of Custer’s men at the Battle of the Little Bighorn committed suicide in the face of overwhelming Native American numbers, a preliminary skeletal analysis finds.

WASHINGTON — Historical accounts of the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn report that many of Gen. George Custer’s 7th Cavalry soldiers shot themselves to avoid being killed by Native American warriors after the crushing defeat. But a preliminary skeletal analysis, presented April 12 at the Society for American Archaeology annual meeting, suggests suicides were relatively rare among Custer’s overwhelmed forces.

“No doubt suicides happened among Custer’s men, but perhaps not on the grand scale previously suggested,” said bioarchaeologist Genevieve Mielke of the University of Montana in Missoula.

Just over 1 percent of the U.S. Army at that time, 268 soldiers, died in the battle in Montana.

Mielke reviewed 30 written battle accounts taken from Native American fighters and army soldiers in nearby

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