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Where Custer Died

August 21, 2010

Lt. Col. George A. Custer died on this hill on June 26, 1876.  It’s called Last Stand Hill and it’s covered with small headstones marking where each person died. At the top of this photo is a line of trees which mark the Little Big Horn River.  The second photo I took, with the black on it, shows where Custer fell. (You can click on the picture to enlarge it.)

One of the most interesting things I learned while touring the site with an Indian tour guide was that when the dead were discovered after the battle, each person was identified and buried in shallow graves.  Later the dead were given a more permanent burial with many, including Custer, exhumed and moved according to the wishes of family members.  The identification markers remained, however, and in 1890 the small headstones you see were placed in those positions.  The benefit of this is that as you walk and drive through the battlefield you can actually see how it flowed and where the various skirmishes occurred leading up to the final battle on Last Stand Hill.

There are endless books and articles written about this famous battle so I’ll leave the detailed analysis to you.  The one thing I will share is what appears to be Custer’s big mistake.  He had divided his force for tactical reasons and due to terrain, which is marked by small hills and coulees, he couldn’t see the Indian encampment.  He sent two of his Indian scouts to a high point to observe.  When they returned they told him, according to our guide, “There are more Indians than you have bullets”.  Custer didn’t believe them and continued.  Had he listened and waited for more forces or turned back, the outcome could have been much different.

The temperature was 94 degrees when we were there and it was reported that the day of the battle was very hot as well.  Looking at uniforms on display in the museum I can’t imagine what it must have been like for the men who fought here.

There is an obelisk-style monument at the top of Last Stand Hill which you can see here.

The last photo is of me standing at the top of the hill.  One great thing about Montana is I can wear one of my favorite hats and no one even notices or pays attention to it.

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