Friday, June 12, 2009

Battle of the Little Bighorn

"The year was 1874, and Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer led an expedition into the heart of Indian lands and discovered gold in the Black Hills.

Soon thousands of fortune seekers and settlers invaded the region. To protect their land and lifestyle, Native Americans began to resist the intruders. Under Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and Gall, Sioux and Cheyenne tribes united for mutual support in 1875.

In December of 1875, the tribes were ordered back to their reservations, and in May of 1876, Custer left Fort Lincoln, Dakota Territory, to enforce the order" (G. Skoch, Guide to the Battle of Little Bighorn).

As we toured the Battlefield, it was hard to imagine the battles and loss of life that occurred here 123 years ago.

Fortunately, we had visited the Tecumseh Frontier Trading Post in Cody (WY) and viewed a diorama of the battle created with with buildings and 2-1/2" figures, so we had a mental picture of the battle. This display looks to the north from the Little Bighorn River.

When his position was discovered by Crow scouts, Custer decided to attack rather than wait for the full complement of forces to arrive.

On the far right of the photo above, is Calhoun Hill. Looking south from the top of Calhoun Hill today shows the route that Gall, Crow King, Lame White Man, Two Moons, and other Lakota and Cheyenne warriors took as they attacked Company L, under the command of Lt. James Calhoun.

West of Calhoun Hill, is the location of the Keogh-Crazy Horse fight. The markers represent soldiers killed during the retreat toward Capt. Myles Keogh's Company I. A charge led by Oglala Lakota Crazy Horse and White Bull cut down retreating soldiers who were attempting to join Custer's forces to the west.

Finally, further west (far left in photo 1) is Last Stand Hill. This is the view today, looking to the southwest,

and this is the view to the south. Approximately 10 men, including Custer, his brother Tom, and Lt. Wiliam Cooke, are found in the vicinity of the present 7th Cavalry memorial. The black headstone with the flag (left center in the photo, right) indicates where Custer fell in the battle.

On June 28, 1876, the bodies of Custer and his command were hastily buried in shallow graves. In 1877, the bodies of 11 officers and 2 civilians were transferred to eastern cemeteries, and Custer's remains were reinterred at West Point, NY.

In 1881, the remains of the rest of the command were buried in a mass grave around the base of the memorial on Last Stand Hill.

To show where Custer's men had fallen, the Army erected 249 headstone markers across the battlefield.

Since 1999, the National Park Service has erected markers indicating where warriors fell.

From Custer's Battalion, 210 men were killed, and 53 were killed in Reno's Battalion. The Indians lost no more than 100 warriors.

On our way back from the battlefield near Hardin, MT, we traveled north on I-90, photographing scenes like these.

Because of the melting snow and recent rainfall, the land is very green. This, combined with the puffy, cumulus clouds makes for beauty with minimal contributions from the landscape.

There is great beauty in the wide open spaces.

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