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Marcus Reno’s Death


Following Custer’s demise at the Little Bighorn in 1876, the highest ranking officer to return to Fort Abraham Lincoln was Major Marcus Reno. Many blamed Reno for the defeat.

A military court of inquiry officially cleared Reno of any charge of cowardice, but two unrelated court martial hearings held in Dakota Territory, on charges of “conduct unbecoming an officer”, resulted in suspension without rank or pay and finally a dishonorable discharge from military service in 1880. Reno left Dakota Territory and began a persistent nine-year campaign for reinstatement.

In March of 1889, he received a diagnosis of cancer of the tongue. Two weeks later, on this day March 30, 1889 he died and was laid to rest in an unmarked grave. Seventy-eight years later Reno’s dishonorable discharge was reversed and his remains were re-buried with full military honors at the Little Bighorn National Cemetery.

Written by Christina Sunwall


Nichols, Ronald H. In Custer’s Shadow: Major Marcus Reno (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press; 2000)

PBS: New Perspectives on The West-