Like many things we have done while traveling, sometimes something really surprises you or hits you differently. One such place is Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument near Crow Agency, Montana. First off, I thought it was in Wyoming, my bad
I had heard of this place for many years from my stepdad and learned a little bit about Custer and Sitting Bull, and the battle that happened there, but never thought about seeing it. My view on history has changed A LOT through the years, and when we were in Montana September of 2018, we made sure to visit.
We had been in Billings visiting my niece and wanted to “stop in” on our way home to check out what we could see for a few minutes. Here is the second thing that surprised me. While talking to the workers at the gates, we learned how HUGE the area was, and that it wouldn’t be a half hour or so visit. We decided it was worth the time and paid the entrance fee to explore the area, learn more about the battle, and see the graves and monuments.
The people at the gates gave us a map of the area and suggested that we stop into the visitor center before heading out onto the battlefield. What? We were going to be able to go onto the battlefield? I was surprised again, lol. After a quick look at a bunch of graves and flags right inside the gates of Little Bighorn Battlefield, we made our way into the Visitors Center. It was very interesting and gave a great timeline of the events that led up to the battle on June 25-26, 1876. They also showed a 20-25 minute orientation video which was quite interesting and informative. It showed how proud the Crow Indians are of their heritage.
We left the Visitors Center and made our way to Custer’s Last Stand, also called Last Stand Hill, monument and the Indian Memorial. I think this might be a good spot to stop and share a little bit about the Battle of Little Bighorn for those that might not be familiar (like me mostly). There is A LOT of history, so I am just going to go over the basics. You can check out their website for more in-depth history.
The battle of the Little Bighorn was an armed engagement between combined forces of the Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes, and the US 7th Calvary Regiment led by Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer. This battle was a slaughter for Custer and his troops. Five of the 7th Cavalry's twelve companies were annihilated and Custer was killed, as were two of his brothers, a nephew and a brother-in-law. There were also four Crow Indian scouts and at least two Arikara Indians scouts that were killed during the battle.
One thing I learned that I thought was very interesting was what they called the Sun Dance ceremony, which is an important religious event. Early June of 1876 the Lakota and Cheyenne Indians held a Sun Dance that was attended by a number of “Agency Indians” who had snuck away from their reservations. One such person was Crazy Horse, and you can read more about him on my Crazy Horse National Monument post. What was the most interesting part was that during this Sun Dance Sitting Bull had a vision of soldiers falling into this camp like grasshoppers from the sky. He prophesied there soon would be a great victory for his people. Sort of sounds like a premonition to me.
Anyway, we checked out the memorial, took some pictures, and decided to do what they call the Cell Phone Audio Tour. This cell phone vehicle tour takes you on a 4.5-mile road to the Reno-Benteen Battlefield which is a second site of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. As you drive, there are a lot of markers where you stop and call a number on your cell phone. FYI, the reception was good in most places, but there were a few where it broke up. Once you dial the number it will ask you for the stop number. You punch in the number and you can listen to a narrative of soldier movements and warrior accounts. It is quite interesting and quite informative. If you take the time, you can actually envision what it must have been like for those soldiers and Indians.
I also understood what thy workers at the gates said when they said it was huge. The whole area is actually 765.34 acres. While driving around the trail you can't help but see tons of white markers or graves where many soldiers fell during the battle. Most of the stones just say U.S. Soldier 7th Calvary Fell Here and the date. There are a few exceptions, but that was mostly what Gene and I saw while driving around the battlefield.
You don’t have to be there to be able to listen to these stories, of course it is much better if you are there. If you want to listen to some, you can listen to them from the comfort of your living room, or anywhere. Just dial (406) 214-3148 pause, then press 15, then any sequence number shown below.
- 1. Two Moon-Cheyenne warrior
- 2. George Custer's rank
- 3. Headstones of U.S. 7th soldiers
- 4. Warriors at Last Stand Hill
- 5. Indian Village
- 6. Burials on Last Stand Hill
- 7. Mark Kelloge-Reporter
- 8. Wooden Leg Hill
- 9. Horses at Little Bighorn
- 10. Closed Hand & Limber Bones-Cheyenne warrior markers
- 11. Crazy Horse charge
- 12. Capt. Miles Keogh
- 13. Custer National Cemetery
- 14. Curley-Crow Scout
- 15. Major Marcus Reno's grave site
- 16. Ft. Keogh memorial
- 17. Bear With Horns-warrior marker
- 18. Sitting Bull & Indian village
- 19. Reno valley and retreat
- 20. Reno retreat crossing
- 21. Blood Knife-Arikara Guide
- 22. Sharp Shooter Hill
- 23. Hill top fight
- 24. Weir Point - Capt. Thomas Weir/Lt. Edward Godfrey's observation point
- 25. Giovanni Martini-trumpeter/messenger
- 26. Sgt. James Butler/Medicine Tail coulee
- 27. Pretty White Buffalo at Deep Coulee
- 28. Greasy Grass Ridge
- 29. Finley & Finckel Ridge
- 30. Calhoun Hill (named after Lt. James Calhoun) and The Custer family
We spent probably about 3-4 hours on our "stop by" and ended up staying the night in Casper. I felt touched and sad during our visit, but so glad we took the time to visit this historic site. It was definitely worth it. I know I skimmed over a lot of history, but it was a lot to try to share on this post. But I hope I have piqued your interest a little and that you decide to check it our yourself someday. Here is a link to their website if you are interested in learning more, or want to plan your own visit. If you have been, please share your experience. I would love to hear from you.
Little Bighorn Battlefield Visitor Information
I-90 Frontage Rd, Crow Agency, MT 59022 406-638-2621
Hours and Fees: https://www.nps.gov/libi/planyourvisit/basicinfo
Things to Note:
- Pets, besides service animals, are prohibited out of vehicles.
- Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument has handicap parking next to the Visitor Center as well as a ramp leading to the Visitor Center door. Handicap parking is available on the top of Last Stand Hill.
- Wheelchairs are available for checkout inside the Visitor Center
- The area is noted for its extreme weather patterns. Make sure to be prepared before visiting.