Cast & Crew
Harry Carey Jr.
Newly arrived in town, John Vickers confronts Herb Woodson on the street and challenges him to draw his gun. When Woodson asks John why he has been following him for eight years, John reminds him that he and two other men killed his fiancée Helen. Woodson fires and misses, but John's bullet finds its target, and as Woodson dies, he reveals that the other two killers, Morrison and Bly, have joined the U.S. Cavalry. Shortly afterward, John, enroute to Bismarck, North Dakota, to enlist in General George Custer's Seventh Regiment, defends Molly Quade, an attractive young woman who is being harassed by a drunken sergeant. The sergeant, O'Hara, is furious at the intrusion, and after the train arrives in Bismarck, he is pleased to learn that John has been assigned to his company at Fort Lincoln. John befriends some of the other Company M men, but O'Hara torments him, ordering him to perform stable duty and other loathsome tasks. Meanwhile, Molly, who has come to Fort Lincoln to help her father run the general store, tells the elder Quade that she has met an interesting man, but Quade, upon meeting John, is inexplicably rude to the recruit. O'Hara overhears John asking a soldier if Bly and Morrison are in the Seventh Regiment. Several days later, Company M is ordered to subdue a band of Sioux that has attacked a wagon train. At Nelson's Island, miles from the fort, the company finds itself outnumbered and under attack by the Indians. Following a furious battle, John volunteers to return to the fort for help, but as he disappears into the trees, someone takes a shot at him. John arrives at the fort just as General Custer rides up. Custer remarks that he remembers John's years as an outstanding Union officer. Then the general and his men, to the great relief of the besieged troopers, accompany John to Nelson's Island. Having helped to save the surviving soldiers of Company M from slaughter, John is promoted to the rank of first sergeant. That day, John accuses O'Hara of having shot at him on the island and reveals his suspicions that O'Hara is one of his fiancée's murderers. Worried, O'Hara visits Quade and advises him that John has discovered his identity, whereupon Quade persuades him to flee for his life. New information convinces John that O'Hara is, in fact, Bly, but after strapping on his gun, John learns that the sergeant has deserted. After advising John to pursue the killers through legal channels, Captain Gregson orders him and his men to escort a wagon train through Sioux country. Quade and Molly, having sold their store, join the wagon train and are captured along with John and several others when the party is attacked. At the Sioux village, where O'Hara is also being held captive, the prisoners learn that Custer unknowingly is leading his men into an impossible battle with ten thousand Sioux and Cheyenne at Little Big Horn. To help the others escape, O'Hara disrupts the tribe's spirited powwow with gunfire, sacrificing his life in the process. John, Quade and Molly seize the opportunity to steal away from the village, and that night, John tells Molly that although he knows that her father is also one of the killers, he is no longer obsessed with a desire for revenge. While the sweethearts talk, Quade rides off to warn Custer about the Indian forces at Little Big Horn. The next day, John and Molly rejoin Captain Gregson's detachment, which succeeds in winning a battle against the Sioux. Realizing that Custer and most of the Seventh Regiment have probably been wiped out, Gregson persuades John to become an officer so that he and his future wife Molly can live in the officer's quarters.
Harry Carey Jr.
Louis Jean Heydt
Col. Brice C. Custer
A condensed version of Frank Gruber's novel was published in July 1948 in Mammoth Western magazine. Onscreen credits include the following dedication: "This picture is dedicated as a living memorial to the Seventh U.S. Cavalry, whose immortal fame has added so richly to the heritage of our country." An acknowledgment at the end of the film expresses appreciation to the Dept. of the Interior, Office of Indian Affairs; to Robert Yellowtail and the Crow Indian tribe; to the Yellowstone County Fair Board; and to the city of Billings, Montana. According to contemporary sources, some scenes were filmed at the County Inland Empire Fair building in Billings, MT, and at other Billings locations.
The film depicts some of the events that led to the famous 1876 Battle of Little Big Horn, in which George Armstrong Custer and all of his men were killed. Gold had been discovered in the Black Hills of the Dakotas in 1874, and white prospectors flooded the region earlier granted to the Dakota (Sioux) Indians. Both the Sioux and the Cheyenne were opposed to these incursions, and in 1876, the U.S. Seventh Cavalry was ordered to launch a large-scale campaign to end the resistance. Custer located Chief Sitting Bull's camp on the Little Big Horn River, but he greatly underestimated the size of the combined Sioux and Cheyenne forces. Col. Brice C. Custer, who served as technical adviser on the picture, was Custer's grandnephew, according to a September 1950 Par News item. For information on other pictures featuring General Custer and the Battle of the Little Big Horn, see the entry above for They Died With Their Boots On. Hollywood Reporter news items add Sidney Cantro, Leo McMahon, Donald Deer Nose, Harold Carpenter and Myron Geiger to the cast, but their appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.