Saturday, November 5, 2016

On the Road Again (Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument)

After spending the afternoon at Devils Tower National Monument, my wife Mary and I spent the night in the cowboy town of  Sheridan, Wyoming, a place we'd like to return to and spend more time.

Last Stand Hill
The next morning we were back on the road again, heading about 60 miles northeast to visit Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Crow Agency, Montana. 

Most folks have heard about Little Bighorn, the site of Lt. Col. George Custer's "last stand" against Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors on June 25-26, 1876. Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse were among the Indians encamped at the Little Bighorn. When it was over, the 7th Cavalry lost 263 men, including Custer, while Indian losses were estimated at less than 100. 

Our visit began with a 45-minute informative and animated presentation by a park ranger, providing both sides of the celebrated clash between the U.S. military and Native Americans. We then viewed the artifacts in the visitor center before going outside to walk the trails to the two monuments and battle sites. 

7th Cavalry Monument

The walking tour is a somber one, passing numerous grave markers of fallen soldiers and warriors, many near "Last Stand Hill."  We also took a driving tour to the far reaches of the battlefield, seeing lone grave markers in distant fields.
Artwork at the Indian Monument
What was it like on that fateful day in 1876? Northern Cheyenne Chief Two Moon recalled: "We circled all around them--swirling like water around a stone. We shoot, we ride fast, we shoot again. Soldiers drop, and horses fall on them."

Custer's remains were reinterred at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. Also among the dead were Custer's brothers, Thomas and Boston,  nephew, Autie, and brother-in-law, 1st Lt. James Calhoun. Thomas, a captain, was twice awarded the Medal of Honor during the Civil War.

We learned from our visit that it was probably the last stand for the Indians as they dispersed after the battle and returned to their reservations. The Great Sioux War was nearly over.

It reminded me of a visit several years ago to Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania, site of the bloodiest Civil War battle in 1863, one that many historians consider the turning point in the War Between the States. 

Custer National Cemetery
Custer National Cemetery is located on the grounds of Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. In addition to some of the fallen at Little Bighorn, the hallowed ground contains the remains of veterans from the Spanish-American War to Vietnam as well as graves of Indian scouts who served in the military.

For more photos, visit my Facebook page by clicking here.

Next stop: Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.

Until the next time....

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