It is quite and somber at the battlefield now. A place of solace, mediation, and thought. But on June 25 and 26, 1876, 263 United States soldiers, including Lt. Col. George A. Custer and his armed forces, died fighting several thousand Lakota and Cheyenne warriors. This somber park honors the United States Army’s 7th Cavalry and the Lakota and Cheyenne Native Americans in one of the Indian’s last efforts to preserve their way of life.
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The cemetery contains around 5000 Veterans and their families. These Veterans represent many wars. The cemetery was closed to interment in 1978 due to being full to capacity.
Although some of the Veterans were in the fights at the Little Bighorn National Monument. They were in other details that sustained many casualties. But did not perish on Last Stand Hill with Custer.
When you hear “no one survived The Battle at Little Bighorn.” They are referring to the fight with Custer on Last Stand Hill. And only referencing the United States side of the fight; which did not sustained survivors. There were other fights going on where there were United States survivors of the 7th Cavalry. Such as the Reno battle down the road. In addition, there were Crow warriors that were scouts for Custer who survived. Because they stayed behind and did not advance with Custer. Many of these solders are buried in the Little Bighorn National Cemetery. Such as Marcus Reno, Curly the Scout, and White Man Runs Him.
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Marcus Reno attended West Point and graduated in 1857. He was a Civil War veteran. And no Reno, Nevada was not named after him. He was assigned to the 7th Cavalry in 1871. He took part in the 3 column attack at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. By the end of the battle he became the senior surviving officer, and is credited with saving what was left of the 7th Cavalry.
Following the battle, he assumed acting command and returned to Fort Lincoln. In 1879. Later there was a Court of Inquiry to cleared him of any charges of dereliction of duty. But many people believed him to be guilty of cowardice. His career suffered for it. In 1880, he was court-martialed for conduct unbecoming an officer, and dishonorably dismissed from the service. He died in 1889, after many attempts to be reinstated.
In 1967, a review board reexamined the Court Martial and reversed the dishonorable discharge to honorable. His remains, which had been interred in an unmarked grave in Washington, DC’s Glenwood Cemetery, were re-interred here. So he could be with the men of the 7th Cavalry.
Reno can be found in PLOT Section C, Grave 675
White Man Runs Him was also known as Mahr-Itah-Thee-Dah-Ka-Roosh and “White Buffalo That Turns Around.” He was a Crow scout serving with George Armstrong Custer’s. He was part of the Little Bighorn fight. But was not on Last Stand Hill with Custer.
According to White Man Runs Him’s own accounts, after sending Major Reno’s column to attack the Native American settlement first, Custer headed down Medicine Trail Creek to engage the Sioux and Cheyenne. White Man Runs Him recounts that he and the other Crow scouts intended to follow Custer down into battle, but that their chief scout, Mitch Boyer, ordered them to rejoin the pack train instead. An action that saved their lives.
The hill is up the road from the National Cemetery. This hill is where Custer and his men were surrounded and killed. They were found hiding behind a circle of horses. Custer himself was buried here in an 18-inch grave. But within a year he was taken to West Point. Where he is now buried. They think. That is a story for another time.
Several men were exhumed and buried some where else. Five years after the battle, skeletal remain were still littered all over the fields. In 1881, the bodies that remained, were buried in a mass grave. Their bodies are now under the large obelisk stone. The granite marker bears the names of the men that died in the battle.
The memorial can be found just across the street from the Last Stand Memorial. It was dedicated in 2003. And was long overdue. It represents the tribes who fought to hold onto their way of life.
Until recently, there was no memorial that had honored the Native. Their heroic sacrifice was never formally recognized. In 1991 the U. S. Congress changed the name of the battlefield and ordered the construction of an Indian Memorial. It was dedicated in 2003. And was long overdue. It represents the tribes who fought to hold onto their way of life. The memorial can be found just across the street from the Last Stand Memorial and mass grave.
"Forty Years ago I fought Custer till all were dead. I was then the enemy of the Whitemen. Now I am the friend and brother, living in peace together under the flag of our country." -Two Moons, Northern Cheyenne
Two Moons was one of the models for the Buffalo Head Nickel.
Myles Keogh was one of Custer’s captains. And has his own story to tell. But the story I am going to tell is about his horse.
Two days after the battle, the Native Americans departed, they took with them all the horses that had not been seriously wounded. The only living thing that remained at the scene was a severely injured horse named Comanche. This horse belonged to Captain Myles Keogh.
During the battle, Comanche suffered at least seven wounds. Three of which were severe. He survived five companies of soldiers under General Custer. It was determined that every effort should be made to save Comanche’s life. US soldiers and others nursed the war horse back to health.
Comanche became a powerful symbol of the battle. Colonel Samuel D. Sturgis issued a General Order declaring that no one would ever ride Comanche again. And he would never be used to do work of any kind. With the exception of an occasional parade with the 7th Cavalry, where he would be riderless.
Comanche died of colic on November 7, 1891, at 29 years of age. The officers of the 7th Cavalry decided to preserve Comanche’s remains. The naturalist Lewis Lindsay Dyche (die che), a well-known taxidermist, was asked to do the job. Dyche agreed to waive his fee of $400 if the Army would let the University of Kansas (KU) keep Comanche. That agreement was made. His preserved remains are on exhibit in the KU Natural History Museum in Dyche Hall. Comanche’s remains have been on display in Lawrence, Kansas for more than 100 years.
Isaiah Dorman was a US Army Scout and Interpreter. He was the only African American to die at Custer’s Last Stand. He was born a free man in Pennsylvania in 1832.
There are many references that refer to him as once being a salve. This is not true. His African and Delaware Indian mother, Rosetta, was freed from enslavement when she was a child. His African-Jamaican father, George Dorman, came to the United States as an indentured servant. So he was born a free man.
He married Celeste St. Pierre whose family were Dakota Indian. For the next few years he worked as the body servant of General Alfred Sully, and fought with him in Civil War.
In the Dakota Territory, Dorman and his wife and their children operated a wood chopping business and ranch on the Missouri River. Dorman also carried mail for the Army. He also joined the famous Yellowstone expedition in 1876 as an Interpreter.
He lost his life while fighting under the command of Major Marcus Reno. Two days after the battle, his body was seen by soldiers who came to bury the dead. He might have been buried in the mass grave at that time although his remains have never been identified; thus a memorial stone was placed at the approximate site of his death.
When Dorman was shot and wounded it is said that The Sioux chief Sitting Bull recognized Dorman and stopped during the fighting to give him a last drink of water. Sitting Bull later said this was a true account of his actions.
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- Montana map, Open Street Maps, © OpenStreetMap contributors, https://www.openstreetmap.org/copyright, https://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=6/45.021/-107.776, Retrieved July 11, 2020.
- Comanche in 1887, John C. H. Grabill / Public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ComancheeCuster-GrabillLR.jpg , Retrieved July 13, 2020.
- Mile Keogh, David Francis Barry / Public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Myles_Keogh_1872.jpg , Retrieved July 13, 2020.
- Comanche at KU, GorianEmpathy / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0) , Retrieved July 13, 2020.
- Crow Scouts at graves, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Crow_Scouts_1913.jpg, Retrieved July 13, 2020.
- Lt Sturgis Grave, Library of Congress, Public Domain, https://www.loc.gov/resource/cph.3a36189/, Retrieved July 13, 2020.
- Custer’s battlefield. Lettering the head-boards, Library of Congress, Public Domain, https://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/cph.3a51741/, Retrieved July 13, 2020.
- White Man Runs Him, Edward S. Curtis / Public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Whitemanrunshim.jpg, Retrieved July 13, 2020.
- Horse bones, Library of Congress, Public Domain, https://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/ppmsca.15846/, Retrieved July 13, 2020.
- The monument on Custer’s hill, containing all the bones found on the field, Library of Congress, Public Domain, https://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/ppmsca.15847/, Retrieved July 13, 2020.
- Custer’s Fight, Library of Congress, Public Domain, https://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/cph.3g07160/, Retrieved July 13, 2020.
- Three Indians on Horseback, Library of Congress, Public Domain, https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2005675925/resource/, Retrieved July 13, 2020.
- Sitting Bull, David Francis Barry / Public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sitting_Bull_-_edit2.jpg
- Custer Struggle, Library of Congress, Public Domain, https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2009633807/, Retrieved July 13, 2020.
- Officer burial, Library of Congress, Public Domain, Kansas–burial at Fort Leavenworth, August 4th, of the remains of the officers of the Seventh United States Cavalry, killed with General Custer by Sitting Bull, at the Battle of Little Big Horn, June 25th, 1876, https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/89706303/ , Retrieved July 13, 2020.
- Sitting Bull, Library of Congress, Public Domain, https://www.loc.gov/resource/ppmsca.39879/, Retrieved July 13, 2020. July 18, 2020.
- Keogh Memorial, Public Domain, Montana Historical Society, Taken 1879, Photograph taken in 1879 during U.S. Army re-burial visit to the Custer battlefield. The expedition was led by Captain George K. Sanderson, seen here in the foreground looking at the recently erected monument to Myles Keogh and the fallen members of Company I, 7th US Cavalry. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Keogh_Memorial_-_Little_Big_Horn_Battlefield.jpg, Retrieved July 13, 2020.
- Marcus Reno. All photos are Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Marcus_Reno.jpg, Retrieved July 13, 2020.
- Frank Finkel, Oshkosh Public Museum, Public Domain https://oshkosh.pastperfectonline.com/search?utf8=%E2%9C%93&search_criteria=Finkel&searchButton=Search, Retrieved July 13, 2020.
- Letter from Isaiah Dorman, NPS, https://www.nps.gov/libi/learn/historyculture/isaiah-dorman.htm, Retrieved July 13, 2020.
- Two Moon, Edward S. Curtis / Public domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Two_Moons_Cheyenne_Chief.jpg , Retrieved July 13, 2020.
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