By Jed Vaughn | Photo © Donnie Sexton
“Hold your horses men, there’s plenty of ‘em down there for all of us!” were some of the last words ever spoken by ill-fated Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer on June 25th, 1876. The commanding officer of the 7th Cavalry was at Sharpshooter Hill, less than a mile from where he and 267 of his men would meet their demise at the Battle of Little Bighorn.
Today, visitors relive this epic battle between the United States Army and the Lakotas, Cheyennes and Arapahos, in what is famously known as Custer’s Last Stand.
On battlefield tours of Little Bighorn, you can read many other fascinating quotes and interpretations of written accounts by survivors of this historic confrontation.
At the battlefield site, now a park, visitors drive slowly through the paved 5-mile stretch that winds through the protected battleground area where the battle transpired. Close up, the white specs scattered across the rolling grass prairie are poignantly revealed as headstones of Custer’s fallen soldiers. You can also see where their horses died while serving as sacrificial barricades.
The Indian Memorial is also one of the park’s major attractions; it leaves no doubt that it was the Native American’s last stand as well. This sad event was ultimately the last major act of defiance by the indigenous natives prior to being relegated to reservations.
As the third most frequented attraction in Montana, behind Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument is toured by more than 350,000 people a year.
“Many of the visitors are Europeans, hungry for insights into this unique wild west piece of history,” says Ken Woody, battlefield interpreter at the site.
To get there, follow Interstate 94 for one hour southeast of Billings, Montana. Watch for the serene patches of white stripes and antlers as antelope herds graze peacefully amid the gently rolling big sky countryside. Alternate tours of the battlefield are provided by the Native American guides though Apsaalooke Tours; for information contact the Crow Nation at 406-679-0041 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about visiting Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, go to nps.gov/libi. Recommended lodging in Billings is the historic Northern Hotel(northernhotel.com). To learn more about visiting Billings, go to visitbillings.com; for Southeast Montana, go to southeastmontana.com.