Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.

Ever since I read an Eagle comic recreation of the Battle of Little Bighorn when I was a young boy, I have always wanted to visit the site of the only battle in which the Indians actually won!

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So we moved on from Livingston to Billings, which was slightly off route but got us close enough to the battlefield to make my wish come true.

Rest area in I90
Another rattlesnake warning. Didn’t see any. I suppose I should be careful what I wish for!!
Parked up in Billings.

We drove to the battlefield the next day. I hadn’t realised until we got there that it was quite a long battlefield. I always envisaged it was just the hill on which the Last Stand took place but it was in actual fact spread out over 5 miles, after a crucial decision by Custer to split his command in two. One group of men under Major Reno was sent to attack the Indian encampment and the other group under General Custer continued West to try and flank the village and capture them in a pincer movement.

7th Cavalry are the blue routes, Indian braves the red routes.

You can see here where the main 7th Cavalry force split on the right. Unfortunately for General Custer, Major Reno’s force was beaten back and forced to retreat back over the river and take up a defensive position in the hills above.

General Custer not knowing that continued west, splitting his group again to attack the village while he continued west. That force under Lt. James Calhoun was harried by Indian forces, losing many men, until they too turned back to the hills and rejoined General Custer’s main group.

General Custer then turned to attack the village, only to be met by superior Indian forces and was forced to retreat (dotted blue lines) back to where they were surrounded and lost their lives in the Last Stand.

Major Reno’s group knew nothing about this, as they were over 4 miles from that area, so they consolidated their position and beat off Indian attacks until they were saved by the advancing columns of Generals Terry and Gibbon.

The Indian village was camped amongst the trees in the Valley below. It was here that the force was split and Major Reno sent down into the valley to attack the village.
This shows you Major Reno’s force attacking the village (blue arrow) but the Indians counter attacked and …..
Forced them to retreat back across the river, losing many men on the way. They retreated back up to the top of the hill where they set up a defence.
A map of the defensive position that Major Reno’s troopers set up, and defended successfully until the arrival of the relief troops.

While moving west General Custer was harried all the way by Indian braves. Wherever a white marker is positioned it is approximately where a 7th Cavalry soldier fell. Most of them have no names on them, as all they knew at the time was a soldier was killed here.

White markers show where 7th Cavalry soldiers were killed. Inscriptions read “US Soldier 7th Cavalry fell here June 25 1876”.
This is the area where Lt. Calhoun and his men fought his way back to General Custer. As you can see a lot of soldiers lost their lives here.

They re-joined General Custer who began his attack on the village but were met by a large Indian force, so they too had to retreat back up into the hills.

This was the route of the retreat back to the hills. There is a valley at the far end with more markers in it that you cannot see, but it is painfully obvious that the 7th Cavalry lost a lot of men in this retreat.

And then General Custer tried to defend the hill top that became known as the “Last Stand” hill.

Overall view of the Last Stand site and monument.
View of the Last Stand from the monument.
Where General Custer was killed, in the previous picture it is in the middle.

The memorial lists the 268 men made up of 7th Cavalry soldiers, Indian scouts and civilian workers who died at Little Bighorn.

The memorial to the dead.
This side shows the Indian Scouts and Civilians who lost their lives.

It should not be forgotten that many Indians also died here and to this end they have started to place markers for the Indian dead as well.

Indian markers are made of sandstone.

There is also an Indian Memorial.

The memorial traces the history of the tribes that fought at the battle.
And tells some of their stories from the day.
And commemorates a way of life that was lost after this day.

And there was one other group that lost their lives at the battle, the horses, and they are remembered too.

The Horse memorial. Many were shot by their own riders so they could use their bodies as protection.

All in all a very sobering place to visit. From my point of view I always thought of General Custer, after reading that Eagle comic story, as someone to be looked up to. This battlefield memorial makes you think of all the people and animals involved and makes you stop and think whether he deserves that image, and could all this have been avoided.

From here we turned South again and headed to Cody, home of William F Cody sometimes called “Buffalo Bill”.

 

 

 

 

 

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