Sunday, September 25, 2016

Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument, Montana



My husband and I drove from our home in Colorado to the north west area of Montana in August to visit Glacier National Park. Glacier has always been a place I wanted to see, and I was very excited to be on the road again towards another National Park adventure!  We drove north on CO 25 through eastern Colorado--as you can see from the photo above eastern Colorado is basically high plains, and beyond a farm or two, there is not that much scenery to see.  (All photos in this post will enlarge for easier viewing when clicked on.)


When we crossed over the border to the state of Wyoming, we stopped at the Welcome Center in Cheyenne to stretch our legs--we had been driving over two hours.  The Welcome Center was impressive and included a full mammoth skeleton--quite a sight to see!


Eastern Wyoming also consists of high plains and is not very populated, except for an occasional ranch or farm.


It was a long ride through Wyoming --almost five hours of driving, so any change in scenery was interesting to see.  I liked the large metal sculptures some ranchers put on their property, which looked pretty real from a distance.


This one made me laugh--it was a mythical Wyoming  "Jackolope" standing watch on a hill.


Since our drive was going to be long, we decided to stay in a hotel in Billings, Montana overnight. We also wanted to visit the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument which would be located on our way to Billings. When we entered the Crow Nation Reservation we knew we were close to the monument.


As soon as one enters the Little Bighorn National Monument you will first see a national cemetery called Custer National Cemetery.


The national cemetery is a fascinating place to begin your visit, as you will see graves of the early west, including women and children from isolated frontier posts, Indians and scouts, and unknown and known soldiers from our nations wars, including Medal of Honor Recipients.  The cemetery was closed for further burials in 1978 so as not to impede on the Little Bighorn Battlefield.


Next, we visited the Little Bighorn Visitor Center, which contains a museum and bookstore.  We watched the 25 minute orientation movie about the history of the Battle of Little Bighorn, where on June 25 and 26, 1876, 210 men of various companies of the US 7th Calvary were killed in action by Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors, who were defending their way of life. Approximately 42 men were killed in close proximity on a hillside, including Lieutenant George Armstrong Custer, in his "last stand." You can read more about the battle on the National Park Service link here.

If you click on the photo collages above and below to enlarge them, you can see some of the informational displays within the visitors center. An effort has been made to show a representation of both the US Calvary and the Native Americans who were involved in the battle.


I found it interesting to learn that 42 percent of the 7th Calvary were foreign born-a melting pot of ethnic diversity. The youngest killed at Little Big Horn was 17, the oldest 56. The average age of the Native American warriors at Little Big Horn was 22. They fought as individuals and by choice, following tribal leaders such as Crazy Horse and Lame Man.


When I looked out at the Little Big Horn Battlefield I was astounded by its sparse desolation. Even today there is not much development in the surrounding area.


As you approach the battlefield there are two direction you can take. To the right is a path called the Deep Ravine Trail that leads to the lower battlefield......


...to the left is the path leading up towards the top of the hill, where Custer perished, and is called Last Stand Hill.


Walking along the Deep Ravine Trail first, we saw many markers for the places where both soldiers and Native Americans fell in the fierce battle. The 7th Calvary markers were placed in 1890, the markers for fallen Indians were placed in 1999.


The bodies of the 7th Calvary soldiers do not lie under these markers, as their bones were recovered years after the event in 1881, and buried in a mass grave at the top of the hill where a large granite marker stands.  Many of the identified remains are buried in national cemeteries around the nation. Custer's remains are buried in West Point Cemetery. The exhibit above shows photos as to how the remains were discovered and identified at the time. Most are listed as "unknown soldier."  The bodies of Natives Americans were removed by their families after the battle and buried according to their custom.  Artifacts found on site determined where they fell.


As you walk up the path towards the top of Last Stand Hill, you pass the Native American Memorial--more about that later.


The hilltop is surrounded by a fence to protect the area. You can see the location where the last stand took place and the markers for the fallen. Custer's marker is the one in the lower right of the collage above that is marked with black.


A close up of Custer's marker. 
 His remains now lie in West Point Military Academy's cemetery.


The large granite marker, on the top of Last Stand Hill, where many bones of the fallen 7th Calvary soldiers were re-interred, was built by Lieutenant Charles F. Roe and the 2nd Calvary.


There is also a marker in the area where the Calvary's horse's remains were buried.  In the orientation film in the visitor center a descendant of a Native American Indian, who fought at the Little Bighorn Battle, told of his relative's story that was passed down through the generations, of how the soldiers, knowing they were surrounded in the fierce battle, shot their horses to use the horse's bodies as cover. The Indian said that to do that, those men knew their last moments were at hand. It was a chilling mental image.


An Indian Memorial, to honor the participation of Native Americans at the Battle of Little Bighorn was authorized in 1991 under President George H.W. Bush.  The name of the national monument was also changed from Custer Battlefield National Monument to the Battle of Little Bighorn National Monument at that time.  The monument is built into the plains in a circle.


Inside the circle are granite panels inscribed with quotes, narratives, names, artifacts and pictographs. Please click on each of the photo collages to enlarge them to see the panels in greater detail.



The theme of this beautiful memorial is "Peace Through Unity."   To read more about it click here and here.  

Sadly, although the Native Americans won the Battle of Little Bighorn, their way of nomadic life was soon to come to an end. Lakota Sioux hunting grounds were invaded by powerful Army forces and the Lakota and Cheyenne tribes were confined on reservations. One of the biggest losses for the Native American Plain Indians in this era was the destruction, by 1890, of almost all the bison from the plains, by professional hunters. Bison was the major food source of Native Americans and supplied them with many other uses, from their beard to their tail. Without them they were devastated.

My husband and I found the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument a fascinating place to visit and to learn about this pivotal era in western American history.  The exhibits were compelling and seeing the battlefield in person brought the events to life in a chilling way.


We traveled on to the nice town of Billings for a night's rest, and then a drive across Montana towards Glacier the next day -- come back soon to see my first post about our visit there!

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45 comments:

Yogi♪♪♪ said...

Great photographs. The Battlefield is on my bucket list.

Lorrie said...

What a sad battle that was. You would think we would have learned something...
We've driven through Wyoming and found the austere beauty rather compelling. Great photos.

The Joy of Home with Martha Ellen said...

Fascinating post, Pat. In the '70's my husband and I drove cross country through this area. I must say it looks so different in your beautiful photos today. What a sad commentary on the loss of life and home for the Native Americans. Thank you for sharing it in such detail. ♥

Barb said...

I was here so long ago, but the countryside remains the same. Your photos show MT's Big Sky! My sons lived in Billings for a couple years when they were younger. It's a pretty little town.

Vee said...

Stark country matching the stark facts. Finding it hard to believe that anyone was able to piece so much together so many years after the fact. There must have been forensics even back in the bad old days. Very interesting post, as always.

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

That's a lot of driving but it's worth it to see these amazing sights! I love the sculptures you see along the way! And I appreciate that you take the time to give us the info and links! Sweet hugs, Diane

Linda W. said...

I've made trips between Portland and Rapid City, SD and have stopped by this battlefield with my kids several times. I enjoyed your recap and photos.

Michelle said...

This is a great post. I was in Montana as a child, but would love to go back.

riitta k said...

Impressive vast areas and an important place for the American history. I just read a book Two Old Women by Velma Wallis and wrote a review of it in my book blog Kirja vieköön. That was an interesting Indian legend from Alaska.

Thank you for this great post - have a great week Lorrie!

eileeninmd said...

Hello, the western states look so big with views going on and on. I think all the battles are sad, in the end everyone loses. It is cool seeing Custer's Marker, the memorial and Battlefield Monument are wonderful. Thanks for sharing your visit. Happy Monday, enjoy your day!

Maggie said...

This was a very interesting tour of the Little Bighorn Battlefield site & cemeteries, thank you for being our guide and sharing with us at Mosaic Monday. I always enjoy travelling to places via blogland that I'm sure I'll never get to visit it in real life,
Love the cowboy statue on the horizon, classic!

desertsandbeyond said...

Hubby and I have not been there yet, so your blog was an interesting one for me to read this morning. That is definitely on our "to do" list! We both retired this summer.
~Cheryl Ann~

Snap said...

You are having such a good time discovering the Wild West! Very different from NYC. Lovely images.

Andrea Priebe said...

What an interesting and informatinve post. I am glad the changes were made to honor the indian perspective as well as Custer and his men. It has been years since we studied this in American History class. This sheds more light on it and reminds us that we have been fighting in wars way too long ... thank you for the work you put into this post. It is wonderful ...

Andrea @ From The Sol

abrianna said...

The jackalope made me laugh too. Beautiful artwork and quotes on the granite.

Lady Fi said...

Such sad history and such lovely landscape!

jeannettestgermain said...

Must have been interesting, as well as special to learn about the history of this national cemetery and to see the headstone of Custer!
Intriguing that you have posted this now, as this weekend the Native Americans celebrate their heritage -we stumbled in onto one of their celebrations.
Many thanks for sharing part of America's history with SEASONS!
Have a great week, Pat and thank you for your kind comment:)

Jeanna said...

That's great that ranchers put up the metal statues, it adds a lot to the scenery. Loving your winding road photos.

carol l mckenna said...

You and your 'honey' are having the best time and providing wonderful posts and photography ~ thanks ~ ^_^

Wishing you a wonderful week ~ ^_^

Jeanne said...

Hello Pat, I really enjoyed your post about this visit. We have been there twice and the second time we were there we learned even more about Custer's Last Stand. The first time we were there by ourselves and the second time with my sister and brother-in-law. Your post was very detailed and it brought back memories as well as how interesting it was to visit the battlefield etc. We also had a guide who did the orientation that did a wonderful job of relating the history of this famous battle.
I am always happy to see your posts on Blue Monday.

Hugs,
Jeanne

Pat said...

All so interesting, Pat. Looking forward to your photos of Glacier. I was there as a teenager in 1959, so will love a return visit with you!

Denise inVA said...

I seem to remember going into that visitor center with the huge mammoth skeleton inside. It was a marvelous visitor center, if it is the one I am thinking about. I never saw the battlefield and I thank you for sharing it. Hopefully I will get to see it myself one day. Loved your photos!

Tamar SB said...

What amazing views!

LCKK said...

Simply awesome!

Rajesh said...

Great tour of the place.Interesting sites to see here.

NC Sue said...

So interesting.
I was touched to see that the horses who served were buried as well.
Thanks for linking up at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2016/09/up-up-away.html

Pea bea said...

What a great sharing of your visit. Your photos make it as if I could visit along with you as I will most likely never venture that far. Thank you.

visiting from LTTL

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

Beautiful photos of the monument and big sky country. ( Even your photos of stark Wyoming are good, it is my least favorite part of the country, but you found things of interest even there! ). I was glad when they changed the name of the Monument and happy they honor both sides of the story. So sad...so important ... Thanks for sharing, you are a great tour guide!

bj said...

this is really a nice and interesting post, along with your wonderful photos...

Cheryl @ TFD said...

Hi Pat, I loved reading this interesting post and seeing your fabulous photos. Yet another place to add to my bucket list of places to visit. I've always felt sad for both sides...Custer certainly didn't know his men would be so outnumbered, the Indians were trying to hold on to their territory and way of life. Thanks for sharing this great trip with us, I'm looking forward to seeing your photos of Glacier National Park!

Ruth Rieckehoff said...

I find places like this so interesting! The story about using the horses and cover reminds me of the movie The Revenant. There is an scene where a horse is used to survived a snowy night.

Bill Nicholls said...

Thanks for showing us round the site. I have read some of the history on the battle and in truth feel Custer & his men should never have been there. We destroyed the American Indians way of life and imposed ourselves on them. It's good both sides are remembered now as they both fought for what they believed

Villrose said...

A sad history.
Especially considering what followed...

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Wyoming and Montana are so amazing, I've only been a few times on skiing trips.
~

Sally Wessely said...

We've been told that is a wonderful trip. From the looks of your photos, I am in agreement. What an interesting place to visit this would be. Your photos are very nice and your post is most informative.

Rambling Woods said...

Thank you for taking us on a visit here... I have read about some of these things, but did not know what the area looked like...Michelle

Gracie said...

I can't tell you how many movies I've seen about that battle!! Your stunning photos bring all this so much alive! Thanks for sharing, as always.

Carol @Comfort Spring Station said...

Fascinating post with excellent shots -it gives me the feeling of actually being there.

Stacey said...

Pat, you and your hubby have been going on the best little trips!! I've never been to Montana but your pictures look just like I would imagine. So far and wide! You can look out and imagine what it must have been like way back when.

handmade by amalia said...

Seeing your photos makes this sad piece of history seem so real. Thanks for taking us along.
Amalia
xo

Al said...

Interesting post. Although I've not been to Little Bighorn I have done the drive from Colorado north, through Montana and Idaho, all the way to Spokane, and there's a whole lot of nothing along those roads!

Jann Olson said...

What a great trip! Hubby and I went to Glacier a few years ago and loved it. We've also been to Cheyenne and Montana, but have not seen this battlefield. Thanks for sharing it with SYC.
hugs,
Jann

Lisa Kerner said...

We didn't stop there on our way up to GNP, but we will have to next time. I love GNP, it's my favorite place in the US.

Lisa @ LTTL

Jan Robinson said...

Interesting post. The views are expansive although the subject matter is a sad reminder.

Mary K.- The Boondocks Blog said...

Thank y ou for sharing this slice of history with us. It was very informative and I am surprised to see that historians were able to piece together so many details in regards to the location of the fallen men. A very austere location indeed.