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Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

National Park Week, Day V; Today’s Park Theme: Wayback Wednesday

Memorial Obelisk on Last Stand Hill

Not far from the confluence of the Yellowstone and Big Horn Rivers, among the rolling hills of Southeastern Montana, the Battle of Little Bighorn was fought on June 25th and 26th of 1876.

As many as 2500 Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors met the 700 soldiers of the 7th Calvary under Lt General George Armstrong Custer. The 7th Calvary lost 52% of its men, some 268 officers, soldiers and scouts were killed in total. It was an overwhelming victory for the Lakota, Cheyenne and their allies.

Grave markers of Custer’s immediate command

Custer would fall with his men on what is now known as Last Stand Hill. The soldiers were originally buried where they fell in shallow graves, but most were reinterred around the memorial obelisk that stands at the top of the hill. The grave markers on the hill’s slope, are placed approximately where the men fell. Custer’s marker is the one shaded in black. Many of the officers were reinterred out on the east coast, Custer’s remains were reinterred at West Point. Lt John Crittenden’s body was left buried where he fell until 1932, at the request of his family. Crittenden was reinterred in the nearby National Cemetery when road construction in the Monument came near his grave. Crittenden was 22 years old at the time of his death.

The Indian Memorial at Little Bighorn

Estimates for Native American casualties during the battle, vary widely. Initially, as few as 36 were named as dead in battle, but Lakota Chief Red Horse stated in 1877 that 136 Native Americans were killed and 160 wounded.

Closeup of the Indian Memorial; Camera: Rolleiflex, Film: TMax100

The Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument encompasses just over 765 acres, which includes Custer National Cemetery.

Custer National Cemetery; Camera: Rolleiflex, Film: TMax100

Custer National Cemetery was created in 1879, to protect the graves of those already killed in battle here. There are approximately 5000 persons buried at Custer National Cemetery. The cemetery closed to reservations in 1978, but reservations made prior to that date will still be honored.

Little Bighorn Battlefield NM received 332,328 visitors in 2016.