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LITTLE BIGHORN BATTLEFIELD NATIONAL MONUMENT MONTANA

October 10, 2011

LITTLE BIGHORN BATTLEFIELD NATIONAL MONUMENT MONTANA

 

 

A DEATH-SONNET FOR CUSTER.

BY WALT WHITMAN.

I.

From far Montana’s cañons,
Lands of the wild ravine, the dusky Sioux, the lone-
some stretch, the silence,
Haply, to-day, a mournful wail—haply, a trumpet
note for heroes.

II.

The battle-bulletin,
The Indian ambuscade—the slaughter and environ-
ment
The cavalry companies fighting to the last—in stern-
est, coolest, heroism.
The fall of Custer, and all his officers and men.

III.

Continues yet the old, old legend of our race!
The loftiest of life upheld by death!
The ancient banner perfectly maintained!
(O lesson opportune—O how I welcome thee!)

As, sitting in dark days,
Lone, sulky, through the time’s thick murk looking
in vain for light, for hope,
From unsuspected parts, a fierce and momentary
proof,
(The sun there at the center, though concealed,
Electric life forever at the center,)
Breaks forth, a lightning flash.

IV.
Thou of sunny, flowing hair, in battle,
I erewhile saw, with erect head, pressing ever in
front, bearing a bright sword in thy hand,
Now ending well the splendid fever of thy deeds,
(I bring no dirge for it or thee—I bring a glad, tri-
umphal sonnet;)
There in the far northwest, in struggle, charge, and
saber-smite,
Desperate and glorious—aye, in defeat most desper-
ate, most glorious,
After thy many battles, in which, never yielding up
a gun or a color,
Leaving behind thee a memory sweet to soldiers,
Thou yieldest up thyself.

Custer’s Last Stand

Battle of Little Big Horn
An artist’s interpretation of the Battle of Little Big Horn

Another Broken Treaty

Gold broke the delicate peace with the Sioux. In 1874, a scientific exploration group led by General George Armstrong Custer discovered the precious metal in the heart of the Black Hills of South Dakota.

When word of the discovery leaked, nothing could stop the masses of prospectors looking to get rich quick, despite the treaty protections that awarded that land to the Sioux. Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, the local Indian leaders, decided to take up arms to defend their dwindling land supply.

Sighting the Enemy
The Statue is entitled “Sighting the Enemy.” It depicts General Custer at Gettysburg on July 3rd, 1863. On that date Custer led the famed Michigan Brigade to victory over J.E.B. Stuart, despite Stuart’s numerical superiority

Little Big Horn

Custer was perhaps the most flamboyant and brash officer in the United States Army. He was confident that his technologically superior troops could contain the Native American fighters. Armed with new weapons of destruction such as the rapid-firing Gatling gun, Custer and his soldiers felt that it was only a matter of time before the Indians would surrender and submit to life on a smaller reservation. Custer hoped to make that happen sooner rather than later.

His orders were to locate the Sioux encampment in the Big Horn Mountains of Montana and trap them until reinforcements arrived. But the prideful Custer sought to engage the Sioux on his own.

On June 25, 1876, he discovered a small Indian village on the banks of the Little Big Horn River. Custer confidently ordered his troops to attack, not realizing that he was confronting the main Sioux and Cheyenne encampment. About three thousand Sioux warriors led by Crazy Horse descended upon Custer’s regiment, and within hours the entire Seventh Cavalry and General Custer were massacred.

The victory was brief for the warring Sioux. The rest of the United States regulars arrived and chased the Sioux for the next several months. By October, much of the resistance had ended. Crazy Horse had surrendered, but Sitting Bull and a small band of warriors escaped to Canada. Eventually they returned to the United States and surrendered because of hunger.

Crazy Horse

by Jake Herman

Is this really Crazy Horse? According to most historians, the great Sioux warrior never allowed his picture to be taken. While no images of Crazy Horse have been universally proved as the real deal, this tin-type has been claimed authentic by the Oglala Sioux Tribal Council.

Reactions Back East

Custer’s Last Stand caused massive debate in the East. War hawks demanded an immediate increase in federal military spending and swift judgment for the noncompliant Sioux.

Critics of United States policy also made their opinions known. The most vocal detractor, Helen Hunt Jackson, published A Century of Dishonor in 1881. This blistering assault on United States Indian policy chronicled injustices toward Native Americans over the past hundred years.

The American masses, however, were unsympathetic or indifferent. A systematic plan to end all native resistance was approved, and the Indians of the West would not see another victory like the Little Big Horn.

 

CUSTER BATTLEFIELD TODAY

 

 

THE MEMORIAL ( BACKGROUND) - Below this monument atop Custer Hill lay most of the remains of the fallen 7th Cavalry

 

 

MARKER WHERE CUSTER FELL

 

 

PHOTOS BY;

JANELLE BURGESS

 

 

 

Some 7th Cavalry Officers: 

General G.A. CusterCaptain T.W. CusterBrothers Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer (L) and Captain Thomas W. Custer (R), Company C commander 

Major RenoCaptain BenteenAfter Custer, the 7th’s two senior officers, Major Marcus A. Reno (L) and Captain Frederick W. Benteen (R) 

Lt. CalhounLt. GodfreyCuster’s brother-in-law, and commander of Company L, Lt. James Calhoun (L) and Company K commander, Lt. Edward S. Godfrey 

Crow Indian ScoutsCuster’s Crow Indian scouts … only Mitch Bouyer died at the battle. 

Some Indian Leaders: 

Sitting BullGallCrow KingRain In The FaceThe Hunkpapa Sioux guarded the rear of the camp. Some of their more noted chiefs & warriors, clockwise from top left: Sitting Bull, Gall, Rain-in-the-Face & Crow King 

Red HorseLow DogThe Miniconjou, Red Horse (L) and the Oglala, Low Dog (R) 

The VillageThe Indian village lay on the flats, and amidst the timber, on the west bank of the Little Bighorn River. 

Lame White Man MarkerAlthough a monument to the Indian warriors will be erected in the near future, presently only this marker can be found representing Indian participants. The view is from Battle Ridge looking northwesterly towards the river & village.

VIDEOS


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