On June 25, 1876, Custer was described by the last white people to see him alive as "prematurely bald at age 36" He wore buckskin with his trade- mark red silk cravat.

 

Major Reno was court-martialed for his actions during the battle and dismissed from the Army in 1880.

 

Sitting Bull was killed in 1890 during an attempt to arrest him by Indian Agency police. His death ignited the disturbance and subsequent massacre of Sioux at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.

 

Custer was buried on the battlefield on June 28, 1876. In July 1877, his body was exhumed and re-interred in the Post Cemetery at the Military Academy at West Point, New York.

 

The Little Bighorn battleground became a national monument in 1943.

The Battle of the Little Bighorn

June 25, 1876

Map of Montana

The Battle of the Little Bighorn epitomized the clash of the two cultures, the Native Americans and the Euro-American settlers, that was occurring all over the west in the 1870's. In the early spring of 1876, Generals John Gibbon and George Crook scheduled a campaign against the Lakotas. Custer almost didn't make it because of his visit to Washington. However, weather delayed the campaign and Custer arrived back at Fort Abraham Lincoln in time to lead part of the expedition.

Sitting Bull

Capt. Frederick BenteenThe original plan called called for three forces under command of Crook, Gibbon and Custer to trap the bulk of the Lakota and Cheyenne population between them and deal the natives a crushing defeat. Custer, however, advanced much more quickly than he had been ordered to do and neared what he thought was a large Indian village on the morning of June 25, 1876. Custer's rapid advance had put him and his troops far ahead of Gibbon's slower moving infantry brigades. Custer did not know that General Crook's forces had been turned back by Crazy Horse and his warriors at Rosebud Creek.

On the verge of what seem to him a certain and glorious victory, Custer ordered an immediate attack on the Indian village. He made a fatal mistake by underestimating the abilities of the Indians. He ordered his forces to split into three parts, one led by Major Marcus Reno, and by Captain Frederick Benteen and other led by Custer, to insure that fewer Indians would escape. The attack was one of the greatest defeats of the United States Army as thousands of Lakotas, Cheyennes and Arapaho warriors forced Custer's unit back onto a long dusty ridge parallel to the Little Bighorn. There the Indians surrounded them and killed all 210 of them, including Custer and his brother Tom.Tom Custer

After the battle, the Indians came through and stripped the bodies and mutilated all the uniformed soldiers, believing that the soul of a mutilated body would be forced to walk the earth for all eternity. For some reason they stripped Custer's body but did not scalp or mutilate it. He had been wearing buckskins instead of a blue uniform and some believe that the Indians thought he was not a soldier. Because his hair was cut short for battle, others think that he did not have enough hair for a trophy scalp.

Major Marcus RenoThe Battle of the Little Bighorn was the pinnacle of the Indians' power. But the union of Lakotas, Cheyennes and Arapahos soon fell apart in the face of the white onslaught. Outraged over the death of a popular Civil War hero on the eve of the Centennial, the nation demanded and received harsh retribution. Within a year the Sioux nation was defeated and broken. "Custer's Last Stand" was their last stand as well.

 

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