Frequently Asked Questions


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1.Who is buried under the scattered markers on the battlefield?

ANSWER: As far as we know, there are no bodies at the stone markers where Custer's men were found and first buried. The officiers were removed in 1877.

2. Where are they buried now?

ANSWER: Officers in private cemeteries in various states around the country and enlisted men around the base of the large granite monument on the hill.

3. Where is Custer buried?

ANSWER: West Point, The United States Military Academy, in New York.

4. Do you know where he was found?

ANSWER: Within six feet of where the large granite monument stands today on Last Stand Hill.

5. Does he have a special headstone? Can I see it?

ANSWER: Custer's headstone is within the fenced area on Last Stand Hill. His headstone is easily identified, it is the only one with a black background shield.

6. Why is this group fenced?

ANSWER: To preserve the natural appearance of that area, and to protect the headstones from pedestrian foot traffic.

7. Who are the other Custer's named in the group?

ANSWER: One brother, Tom, commanded "C" company, and another, Boston, came along as a civilian packer.

8. Were there any other Custer family members killed at the battle?

ANSWER: Yes. Harry Armstrong Reed, an 18 year old civilian nephew and Lt. James Calhoun, a brother-in-law.

9. How did Calhoun Hill get its name?

ANSWER: The hill was named so because Lt. James Calhoun, commander of Company "L" occupied that position.

10. Why is the "Butler" marker so far from the others?

ANSWER: He may have been killed as the column passed through that area on the way to Battle Ridge, or more probable, he may have failed in a last desperate attempt to reach Captain Frederick Benteen and hurry up the ammunition pack mule train and re-enforcements.

11. I read about some recent archeological digs at Little Bighorn. When did this happen?

ANSWER: In May of 1984, 1995 & 1989.

12. Why were the digs undertaken?

ANSWER: After a fire in August of 1983, some artifacts were discovered on top of the ground after all the thick vegetation had burned off. These finds were the impetus for further investigation.

13. What did they find?

ANSWER: Approximately 9,000 artifacts, including spent cartridge cases, bullets, metal arrowheads and human bone fragments.

14. Did these findings change ideas of what happened here?

ANSWER: Yes. Expended warrior cartridges revealed that the Indians out gunned them.

15. May we use metal detectors on the battlefield?

ANSWER: No. The use of metal detectors is prohibited within the boundaries of the national monument.

16. How did Weir Point recieved its name?

ANSWER: From Capt. Thomas B. Weir whose company advanced to that point.

17. What are those rows of graves among the trees near the visitor center and parking area?

ANSWER: Custer National Cemetery.

18. Are veterans still being buried there?

ANSWER: Only those who have reservations. The cemetery was closed in 1978.

19. Can it be reopened?

ANSWER: Only by an act of Congress.

20. Why is it closed? There seems to be plenty of room.

ANSWER: Expansion would further encroach on the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument and potentally damage the historic resource.

21. Has the appearance of the terrain changed much since the battle?

ANSWER: No. Aside from obvious physical changes: roads, buildings, cultivated fields, fences, etc. the general appearance of much of this land remains as it was in 1876.

22. Does Little Bighorn close during the winter?

ANSWER: Little Bighorn Battlefield is open all year except Christmas, New Years, and Thanksgiving.

23. What is a Gatling gun?

ANSWER: The forerunner of the machine gun.

24. Why did Custer not take General Terry's offer of Gatling guns?

ANSWER: Custer determined the guns would hinder the regiments advancement over rough terrain. The Gatling guns were mounted on wheels, and inclued an ammunition carriage.

25. Is the Bozeman Trail near here?

ANSWER: About 30 miles west, near or at Big Horn Canyon National Recreation Area.

26. What was its purpose?

ANSWER: A shortcut from the Overland trail in Wyoming to the Montana gold fields.

27. Is the name connected to the city of Bozeman, Montana?

ANSWER: The trail was named for the man who pioneered the trail, John Bozeman. The city was also named for him.

28. Where and when was Custer born?

ANSWER:New Rumley, Ohio - December 5, 1839. He was 36 when he died.

29. Monroe, Michigan is often mentioned in connection with Custer. Why?

ANSWER: His family moved to Monroe when Custer was very young.

30. What was his rank? Sometimes he is called "Colonel", sometimes "General".

ANSWER: Lt. Colonel was his permanent rank when he died. General was a "brevet" and temporay rank, awarded to him during the Civil War.

31. Was he allowed to wear General's insignia?

ANSWER: No, he could not wear the insignia. Out of courtesy he could be addressed as "General", however, he was paid as a Lt. Colonel.

32. Was Custer scalped?

ANSWER: No. A nortern Cheyenne women named "Antelope Women" said southern Cheyenne women stood over Custers body, so it would not be scalped or mutilated.

33. Did the Indians have guns?

ANSWER: About one-half probably had firearms of some sort, from muzzle-loaders to the latest repeating rifles. Archeologists tell us that they had eighty different kinds of firearms in numbers.

34. Who was the overall Indian chief in this battle?

ANSWER: There were many leaders of the various bands of Indians. No single Indian directed strategy.

35. Was Sitting Bull involved in the Battle?

ANSWER: No. He stayed in the village telling the young men to be brave and helping women and children escape.

36. Was Crazy Horse in this battle?

ANSWER: Yes, he was 36 years old.

37. How many Indians were killed?

ANSWER: The exact number will probably never by known. Estimates range from 26 to 300, with a documented count of 60.

38. Why do you have only an estimate?

ANSWER: No Indian dead were left behind. All were carried away for burial elsewhere, so an accurate count is difficult to know.

39. What kind of " burials" did the Indians use for their dead?

ANSWER: The Lakota buried their dead on scaffolds, platforms in trees, and in abandoned teepees. The Cheyenne buried their dead in caves and rock overhanges.

40. What was the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie with the Lakota Sioux?

ANSWER: It was a treaty that established "The Great Sioux Reservation". Some Indians agreed to go on the reservation, and in exchange, the United States military would abandon Fort C.F. Smith, Ft. Phil Kearny, and the Powder River country.

41. When was this treaty signed?

ANSWER: The Lakota Sioux, Fort Laramie Treaty was signed in 1868.

42. You say "some" Indians agreed to live on reservations. How about the rest of them?

ANSWER: Some headmen did not sign treaties and did not feel legally bound. Men such as Crazy Horse & Sitting Bull.

43. Then why did some go on reservations?

ANSWER: There was no other choice. The increasing number of Euro-Americans coming into the west, the transcontinental railroad and the disappearance of the bison, all made reservation life necessary.

44. How did the bison "disappear"?

ANSWER: The major trading posts (1800-1869) brought goods from all over the world to trade for bison hides. The only type of hides Indians brought in for trade were bison cow hides, (female hides). This was due to there hunting practices. During this same period of time professional hunters killed bison for hides and tongues. Hunting pressures from all sides reduced the herds to a few thousands by 1890.

While never an official government policy, the destruction of the remaining herds was applauded by some in the military chain of command, including General Phil Sheridan. In 1874, General Sheridan commented: "Let them kill, skin and sell until the buffalo is exterminated." From the Indian's point of view the buffalo's disappearance was a devastating loss to their way of life and independence. Crow Chief, Plenty Coups, describes his opinion of the buffalo to interviewer Frank Linderman: "When the buffalo went away the hearts of my people fell to the ground, and they could not lift them up again. After this nothing happened." There was little singing anywhere. Sitting Bull remarked of the buffalo: "A cold wind blew across the prairie when the last buffalo fell-a-death-wind for my people."

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