On June 1, 1867, Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer left Fort Hays Kansas with about 1,100 men of the Seventh Cavalry to quell Indian uprisings which were threatening the area.
After patrolling north to Fort McPherson on the Platte River near present-day North Platte, Nebraska , he and his men headed south to the forks of the Republican River near Benkleman, Nebraska .
During their patrol, the troops saw smoke signals during the day and flaming arrows at night, but did not engage in hostilities. In the meantime, General William T. Sherman , (YES FROM ATLANTA TO THE SEA) who was then commanding the forces at Fort Sedgwick near Julesburg, Colorado , wished to send messages to Custer and soon dispatched 25 year-old Lieutenant Lyman S. Kidder of Company M, 2nd Cavalry, to find Custer and give him the messages.Kidder headed to where Custer and his men were believed to be encamped on the forks of the Republican River , some 90 miles southeast of Fort Sedgwick, Kidder, along with a ten man patrol and a Sioux Indian Guide named Red Bead, left the fort on June 29th. Kidder reached Custer's campsite on the evening of July 1st, but found it abandoned. Unbeknownst to Fort Sedgwick, Custer had left the area.
From George Armstrong Custer's Life On The Plains
In late June 1867 - a few years before Little Big Horn, Custer was skirmishing around present-day Benkelman, Nebraska
That's where the North Fork and South Fork of the Republican meet.
Charlie Van Horn wrote about Robb - halfway between Wray and Eckley "I recall the old stockyards - north side of the track and just slightly east of the good spring where water flowed so freely from it. It flows but little water today. Custer and Calvary man who camped there the night of July 4, 1867 (en route to the Platte) spoke of it as a magnificent spring, in his day-by-day report."
If you follow current U.S. 34, west from Benkelman, that follows the North Fork, and about sixty miles would put you near Yuma and NO MORE RIVER. Custer might well have thought "where am I going to find water for the animals?"
If he headed straight north from Eckley he would have traversed sandhills and certainly would have commented on the ups and downs. So he must have been near Yuma or Hyde when he struck out for the north.
Riverside Station was a Wells Fargo telegraph station on the Platte River (therefore on the main road between the "big city' of Denver and the east. It was about 40 miles south-southwest of Fort Sedgwick, placing it very near the current town of Iliff.
Custer had been ordered to meet Lieutenant Kidder ! His commanding officer, General Phil Sheridan telegraphed Custer to find him. So Custer and his troops headed south again towards the Republican forks - back where he was supposed to be. Custer was hoping to find Kidder and continue south to Fort Wallace (Kansas) - about 80 miles due south of the Republican forks..
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