Frequently Asked Questions

LITTLE BIGHORN BATTLEFIELD NATIONAL MONUMENT


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 their 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 buffalso 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."


45. How important was the bison to American Indians?
ANSWER: The bison provided everything the Indians needed except water and tipi poles. Indians had a use for every part of the bision.

46. Did the Indians in this battle use flint arrowheads?
ANSWER: No. By 1876 Indians had forgotten how to make arroeheads from flint. Metal was an easy material to obtain by 1790 through trade.
47. Where did they get them?
ANSWER: Trading posts supplied arrowheads already made or metal was available along with chisels and files.

48. Why was Lt. Crittenden's permanent grave removed from the battlefield?
ANSWER: To accommodate the Calhoun Hill loop road.

49. Where was he moved?
ANSWER: To the national cemetery.

50. Are there any markers not on the battlefield?
ANSWER: Yes. Lt. McIntosh in the valley, Lt. Hodgson on the east bank of the Reno crossing, and Sgt. Butler on the ridge near Medicine Tail Coulee . A private memorial to civilian scout Charley Reynolds and a marker for Isaiah Dorman, African American interpreter, are also on private land in the valley.

51. Did the entire 7th Cavalry perish with Custer?
ANSWER: No. Custer split his command before the attack. Most of seven companies and the pack train survived about 350. All who rode with Custer were killed about 210.
52. What connection does Custer have with South Dakota?
ANSWER: Fort Abraham Lincoln, D.T.. Present day Bismark/Mandan North Dakota.

54. WHAT DOES THE "D.T." mean?
ANSWER: Dakota Territory.

55. How long had the 7th been on the trail before the battle? When did they start?
ANSWER: 40 days. The Dakota column left Ft. Lincoln on May 17, 1876.

56. One often hears about "survivors" of the Custer battle. Were there any?
ANSWER: Yes. 350 survived fighting 5 miles away. No soldier survived under Custer's immediate command. 210 died with Custer.

57. How about the Crow scout Curly?
ANSWER: Curly may have watched the battle from afar, but he was not a participant. Curley left the main column.

58. Was Comanche the only living thing found on the battlefield?
ANSWER: Other badly wounded cavalry horses were left on the battlefield but mercifully shot. Recognized as Capt. Myles Keogh's horse, Comanche was nursed back to full health.
59. What happened to him?
ANSWER: He became an unofficial 7th Cavalry mascot. When he died at the age of 27 in 1891, at Fort Riley, Kansas, Comanche was mounted by a local taxidermist. Today Comanche is on display at the University of Kansas.

60. Is there an Indian Reservation near Little Bighorn battlefield?
ANSWER: Little Bighorn Battlefield is completety within the Crow Indian Reservation.

61. Were the Crows in the Battle of the Little Bighorn?
ANSWER: Yes. The Crows were allied with the United States. Custer had 6 Crow Scouts.

62. How many Crows live on the reservation now?
ANSWER: There are about 14,000 enrolled Crow Tribal members. Not all live on the reservation though.

63. Why do some flags have a V cut in them?
ANSWER: These are company "gideons" cut to reduce wind resistance and wear.

64. How many stars were in the American flag in 1876?
ANSWER: Thirty-five.

65. Is Fort Laramie near here?
ANSWER: Fort Laramie is about 340 miles southwest in Wyoming. It is a site of the National Park Service today.

66. Are re-enactments of the battle ever staged?
ANSWER: Yes, The Hardin Chamber of Commerce - Hardin, Montana and the Real Bird (Crow Indian) family on there private land. Re-enactments are not held at the Little Bighorn Battlefield.

67. Is Fort Reno named after Major Reno?
Answer: No. It was named for General Jesse Lee Reno who was killed in the Civil War.

68. Where was Fort Custer?
ANSWER: On the bluffs near the confluence of the Big Horn and Little Big Horn Rivers.
It was located about near present day Hardin, Montana.


69. When was the fort built.
ANSWER: Fort Custer was built in 1877 and closed in 1879.

70. Was it named for General Custer?
ANSWER: Yes.

71. Is Fort Keogh at Miles City, Montana, named after one of Custer's officers?
ANSWER: Yes.

72. What is Garryowen?
ANSWER: An old Irish song that was adopted as the 7th Cavalry regimental marching song.

73. Did Elizabeth Custer ever visit Little Bighorn Battlefield?
ANSWER: No.

74. Was Major Reno court-martialed for his part in the Battle of the Little Bighorn?

ANSWER: No. However, Major Marcus Reno requested a court of inquiry and was found not culpable of wrong doing.

75. What happened to Reno?
ANSWER: Utimately he was dishonorably discharged on a morals charge.

76. If Reno was dishonorably discharged then how is it, he is buried here in Custer National Cemetery?
ANSWER: His family succeeded in clearing his name, and had his body reintered in the national cemetery in 1967.

77. What happened to the Indians after the battle?
ANSWER: The village dispersed in the coming weeks. Most Indians went back to the Great Sioux reservation. Sitting Bull and his followers fled to Canada, Crazy Horse went into the Wolf Mountains

78. I heard Tom Custer was awarded a Medal of Honor. Did George ever recieve one?
ANSWER: Tom, in fact, won two Medals of Honor during the Civil War. G. Custer was never awarded the Medal of Honor.

79. Wasn't there a steamboat involved?
ANSWER: The steamboat titled the "Far West" was a supply ship that supported the military on the campaign.

80. How long has the iron fence enclosed the headstones on Last Stand Hill?
ANSWER: Since 1930.

81. When were the marble markers placed on the battlefield?
ANSWER: In 1890 marble markers replaced wood stakes and rock cairns.

82. Has Little Bighorn Battlefield always been under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service?
ANSWER: No, Until July 1st 1940, the battlefield and national cemetery were administered by the War Department.

83. I have heard of the name Major Luce connected with the battlefield. Who was he?
ANSWER: Major Luce became the first National Park Service Superintendent. He served from 1941 to 1957. He had served in the military and liked to be referred to as "Major".

84. When was the present visitor center and museum built?
ANSWER: Both were dedicated in 1952

85. There is a name of the monument listed simply as "Isaiah". Who is he?
ANSWER: Isaiah Dorman was the only African American with Custer. He could speak the Lakota language and so was employed as an interpreter. was employed as an interpreter.

86. I saw a stone near the spot where Custer was last seen. The stone is for Vincent Charles. Who Is he?
ANSWER: His name was actually Vincent Charley. He was fatally wounded in the retreat from Weir Point.

87. What burials were made on June 25, 1986, during the 110th Anniversary?
ANSWER: Two complete skeletons and bone fragments from 37 of Custer's men had been recently found at the time and were dedicated in a reburial.

88. Where was the Indian village located the day of the battle?
ANSWER: In the valley below the battlefield between the Little Bighorn River and Interstate I-90 stretching north and south
about 1 1/2 miles.


89. What is the historic point at the Garryowen exit, 5 miles south of the visitor center?
ANSWER: The approximate point of the Reno skirmish line.

90. Whose markers are on the knoll near the river just inside the Reno-Benteen area?
ANSWER: Dr. DeWolf, a contract surgeon and his aide, Elijah Clear of Co.K. They were killed during the Reno retreat to the bluffs.

91. Do you have a picture of Crazy Horse?
ANSWER: No. It is believed he never allowed his picture to be taken.

92. I have heard that there is a grave of an unknown soldier at Garryowen. Who is he?
ANSWER: Probably one of Reno's men killed in the valley fight. A number of Reno's men were never recovered.

93. What is the Crow's Nest?
ANSWER: An observation point in the Wolf Mountains southeast of the battlefield. This was the location Custer's scouts pointed out the village early that morning.

94. How far is it to the battlefield?
ANSWER: 15 miles.

95. Could the Crow scouts actually see the village from the Crow's Nest.
ANSWER: They undoubtedly saw the smoke and dust generated by a large village. They also saw the slight movement of a hugh pony herd across the valley on the flat table land.

96. Did Custer have long hair at the time of the battle?
ANSWER: No.

97. Why didn't Custer have long hair ?
ANSWER: By 1876 Custer wore his hair short. His wife encouraged him to have a hair cut before the campaign of 1876 as well.

98. What is the stone building near the battlefield entrance?
ANSWER: It is called the "Superintendents Lodge". It was formerly the home of area superintendents.

99. What is it used for now?
ANSWER: Offices, archives and the "White Swan Library".

100. Does anyone live at the battlefield?
ANSWER: Yes. During the summer, seasonals live in government apartments.

101. Who owns the land between the main battlefield and the Reno-Benteen area?
ANSWER: This area is privately owned by various land owners.

102. Do any tribes that participated in the battle live near here?
ANSWER: The Nothern Cheyenne have a reservation about 25 miles to the east. The Lakota are found on numerous reservation across the nothern plains.

103. When was the road cut through Weir Point?
ANSWER: In 1939 the U.S. Army created the road cut for convenient access to the Reno-Benteen Battlefield.

104. Where was Custer killed?
ANSWER: The exact location will probably never be known with certainty.

Last updated: April 19, 2018

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Mailing Address:

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
P.O. Box 39

Crow Agency, MT 59022-0039

Phone:

(406) 638-2621

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