Custer’s Last Stand, Montana

In about 20mins flat, through rolling Wyoming hills one side and the Bighorn Mountains to the left we reached the border for Montana.

 

Not too long after and we are in Garryowen at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.

Custer National Cemetery is a site to behold as marble markers honour known and unknown soldiers from many wars, medal of honour and veterans including 20th Century Wars, women and children from the frontier, Indians and scouts alike.

 

We heard a call for a talk by one of the Park Ranger's for 10am up at the Last Stand Monument so we proceeded up the hill to take in an informative yet abbreviated talk by Michael Donahue.

He is from Texas and works here every Summer and has written books on Custer.

 

I managed to capture some of the information but for the most part was completely mesmerised by his enthusiasm and fascinating recall on one of American history's major battles.

So you will only get a very brief account from me.

The Battle of The Little Bighorn occurred on June 25, 1876. Custer and over 200 men met their death in a bloody battle against Indian warriors.

Down in the valley, along the Little Bighorn River (noted with the red circle in the pic) was where the Indian encampment of 6-8000 were. Of these around 2000 were Indian warriors.

 

Being in and around the river and low into the valley made it difficult to see the tipi's and for Custer, Reno and Benteen to know just how many were there.

Sitting Bull's camp started down towards the back lot of trees. Whilst this was a Crow reservation, Sitting Bull was pushing them off their own reservation. He was attempting to persue the Indians nomadic ways and refused to be restricted to a reservation. Now you have to remember around these times too, America was trying to get all tribes into Indian Territory aka Oklahoma.

The U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment also had a number of Irish and Germans in it. When they came to the frontier if they didn't have a job then they could always get $13/month enlisted in the U.S, Army.

It was the winter and spring of 1876 when open warfare broke out between the Lakota/Cheyenne and the U.S. Army. By the time this battle started it would be a hot 100F day.

As we stand at the Last Stand Monument the small cemetery in front has the scattered markers of those slain and down along a 5 mile path you can see other markers. The white marble markers are for army and civilians and red granite markers are the Indians who lost their lives.

 

Custer having had many victories before and escaped harm, despite having 11 horses shot from beneath him, was so confident in a victorious outcome here that he had invited his whole family! All but one brother came along and we saw markers for at least 2 of his family that died here.

Custer wearing his floppy hat, shoulder length hair, blue velveteen uniform and red tie could be seen on any battlefield. He led his men from the front, never the rear.

Major Reno's battalion attempts to take the encampment not realising just how many were down in there. From Custer's vantage point he realised they were outnumbered and sent an Italian rider with a note to Benteen saying 'come now, bring the packs!' Meaning the pack mules wih ammunition as each man was only allocated 124 rounds.

When Benteen received the note he put it in his pocket and ignored it. Apparently no love lost between these two. Reno was beside himself and said they needed to go help.

Later when Weir, Reno and Benteen come across Custer and his men, the sight would haunt them forever.

The battle with Custer and his 200 men was over in just under 2 hours.

Indians believed that in order to not fight someone in the next life they needed to take their spirit by scalping them, their eyes out so they cannot see, take their hands off so they can not fire their weapons and slash their thigh muscle so they cannot get on a horse in the next life.

A classic case of 1800's Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, both Weir and Reno drank themselves to death. Weir died the December after the battle, Reno vowed to sit with Custer's wife and tell her the truth and died later. Benteen remained bitter and still hated Custer til the very day he died.

It was a very hurried burial for Custer and his men in the heat of an 1876 Summer. They were later exhumed and placed in a mass grave around the memorial. Some were sent to other cemeteries, Custer's body now lies interred at West Point, the horses are recognised and so too the Indians have a special memorial.

The Indian Memorial “Peace Through Unity” is quite spectacular, the main feature of its horses, warriors preparing for battle and riding out, is a unique bronze sculpture.

The circular walls of rock is said to be symbolic of the journey of life. They have openings, one of which has a view to the Last Stand monument, allowing the spirits of the 7th Cavalry into the memorial.

The beautiful black granite features represent the 5 tribes who fought and has all the names of those lives lost cared in stone. A picture of the remaining 9 warriors is also displayed with all the names of warriors lost.

 

There is also a number of different artefacts, maps and other great things in the Visitor Centre,

 

Kat xo

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Bighorn_Battlefield_National_Monument

http://www.nps.gov/libi/indian-memorial-at-the-little-bighorn.htm

http://www.npr.org/2013/07/22/203595888/little-bighorn-tour-guide-brings-battle-to-life

 

 

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