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Little Big Horn cemetery

February 25, 2012
Sue Eckhoff - Grundy County Heritage Museum , Reinbeck Courier

Taken from the Helena Montana Herald, July 15, 1876: "As Lt. Bradley rode over a rise, he spied a large number of white objects that turned out to be dead cavalrymen. He rode hurriedly over the field, and in a few minutes time counted one hundred ninety seven bodies."

On May 17, 1876, Elizabeth Custer kissed George goodbye and wished him good fortune in his efforts to fulfill the army's orders to drive in the Native Americans who would not willingly relocate to a reservation. She watched George ride off with his regiment. They made a splendid picture flags and pennons flying and men waving. George rode to the top of a promontory, turned around, stood up in his stirrups and waved his hat. After a moment he and his men started forward again, and after a few seconds disappeared from sight. That was the last time Elizabeth Custer saw her husband alive.

The Little Bighorn Cemetery was designated as a national cemetery in 1879. The cemetery pays tribute not only to the westward advance of the American Frontier, but also the last phases of the Indians struggle to hold onto their lands and way of life.

Today white marble markers stand over the various spots where 265 soldiers fell and were initially buried. Among those who died at the Little Bighorn were three of Custer's relatives; his brothers Tom and Boston, and his nephew Harry. The bodies of all three were mutilated. Out of respect for the celebrated "yellow haired General," George's remains were left intact. Other tombstones include the scout, Isiah Dorman who was the only black in the battle, and Private Frank Braun, who was the last to die from injuries sustained during the fighting.

Army surgeon Holmes O. Paulding noted in his journal the deprived condition he found the troops when he inspected the carnage. He happened onto the bloody shredded clothing of two officers whose remains were never found.

A granite monument looms over the markers of the cemetery and bears the names of all the officers and soldiers killed in the battle. A separate tombstone commemorates the cavalry horse that died on that spot.

Although the Custer Battlefield National Cemetery was originally established as a final resting place for the 7th Cavalry, it was later expanded to include deceased veterans of all wars and their dependents. Containing more than 5,000 graves it was officially closed to any further burials in 1977.

Although their tombstones remain General Custer and his brothers bodies were all moved to different locations. General Custer is buried at West Point, New York and Captain Thomas Custer is buried at Fort Leavenworth National Cemetery in Kansas.



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