Page 91 of the Reno inquiry is Girard's reference to 2 bodies on the west bank of the LBH.
Gerard describes finding them between 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile from the ford -- apparently from Ford B -- and 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile from where Custer was found on Last Stand Hill. This suggests that these bodies were found on the village side of the river in some location opposite Deep Ravine, which fits close to the location where Pvt. William Brown of F Co. was found.
"The more I see of movement here (Little Big Horn Battlefield), the more I have admiration for Custer, and I am satisfied his like will not be found very soon again.”
~ Gen. Nelson Miles, Commanding General of the Army ------
"With our cherished ones deliverance within our grasp we waited breathless two hours, for the order that never came."
Thanks for that interpretation. I don't have the detailed maps to try and interpret Girard's location. At one point he said 1 to 1 1/2 mile south of Reno's Skirmish line which I believe is closer to the Isiah Dorman marker than to Garry Owen. Do you have the scoop on this Custer's Ferrier's wild ride through the bottoms his horse spurred by 5 rifle slugs?
2 northwest of Last Stand Hill 10 top of Last Stand Hill 32 slope of Last Stand Hill 44 in the Basin below Last Stand Hill 9 string between Basin and Finley Ridge 11 Finley Ridge 5 string between Finley Ridge and Calhoun Hill 9 Calhoun Hill 12 string between Calhoun Hill and Keogh Group 19 Keogh Group 29 Mid Keogh Swale Group 8 north Keogh Swale 9 river side of battle ridge
The following was posted up at a different Custer forum online:
A description of the area of the Custer fight penned by Granville Stuart May 7 1880 in his diary and subsequently published in "Forty Years on the Frontier." (p. 120-121), with my annotations in brackets
"In the morning we went up to the battle-field and walked all over it. Saw just where the men and horses fell. The bodies were placed in shallow graves and covered with loose earth. I made some sketches of the battle and picked up some shells. Cut some ash canes at the place where Custer tried to cross the river [note: likely at Ford B-1] and was driven back and from there we returned to camp and packed up, came back, and followed the route taken by them [ie. the 7th Cavalry] which was marked by bones of horses and graves of men marked by a stake at their head. The first stand was made by a few in a little sag near the top of the [Finley] ridge where were the bones of several horses and the graves of several men. This was about a quarter of a mile from the river and from there they curved to the left along the crest of the [Battle] ridge for about five hundred yards further where Custer and the last of his men fell. Keogh and his men were killed in a sag on the north [note: actually the east, corrected] side of this [Battle] ridge. Custer and others at the west [note: actually north, corrected] end of the ridge. Bones of men and horses are scattered all along between. On the point where Custer fell is built up a sort of pyramid of cord wood with a ditch around it and inside filled with bones of horses. I found two battered bullets and many empty shells. This [Battle] ridge is not steep and is covered with short grass and low stunted sage and a person can gallop a horse over nearly any part of it. The ground [at Last Stand Hill] rises steep about thirty feet in a sort of bench and then slopes back gradually to the fatal [Battle] ridge. There are some small sags and ravines running back to it also. The field is a ghastly sight."
General of the Army (Medicine Man/Chief))
It seems valid that Cpl. Teeman's body was spared through the influence of Rain in te Face. Rain in the Face was there, no doubt about it and therefore all the officers were known to the Sioux from first hand experience and likewise the Cheyennes knew Custer. One of the finer traditions observed by mothers and daughters of the fighting men, was relieving themselves onto prostrated remains. We have little record of the number of soldiers found headless but this helps explain why some officers were not identified.
In 2008, as G.W. Bush flew over my home on his way to Buck Palace, an odd thing happened to my PC, and I lost data and browsing history. That morning I had found Terry's Chief MO's diary details on line. The record links were lost to me and I could not find them again. It had been an amazing morning of hunting online which also uncovered detail and photos of the horse's head carved out of a lump of rock on the side of the White Buttes in Reno Creek; by Crazy Horse before the battles. That was lost to me as well. Google changed the way they did their saerch stuff that year as well and an entire 'history' of non commercial search was destroyed along with my databases.
Point of this, according to the diary, Custer was shot twice in the chest with the bullet wounds close enough to appear as one until examined by the doctor. It's problematic data because it's difficult to prove Williams was at the battlefield. Since I can no longer locate the online diary record... I just don't care anymore but simply know Custer was shot twice in the chest. It's likely he was urinated on and maybe more. An arrow was lodged into his penis, and an awl pushed through the ears which definately scrambles brains in the skull. The pistol shot to the head did not enter the skull.
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I think there’s little doubt that, when first found by the scouts, Custer was lying on top of two men, most likely Voss and Vickory. But Gerard’s and Martin’s recollections are not mutually exclusive. The three bodies could have been lying between two horses. The burial detail in LSH came from Corporal Hammon’s company G, and he told in his 1898 account (reproduced in Gordie’s Companion Book) that “Custer’s body was found […with] his right heel lying upon a dead horse […] There was a dead soldier lying under the calf of his right leg alongside of the dead horse”.
Col. Gibbon gives some support to Martin’s recollection: “Close under the brow of the knoll several horses are lying nearer together than the rest, and by the side of one of these we are told the body of Custer was found” (Gibbon on the Sioux Campaign of 1876, p. 40). Since Lt. Carland saw next to Custer’s body “17 cartridge shells by his side, where he had kept them off until the last moment” (The Daily Patriot, July 15, 1876), it’s easy to imagine Custer & staff lying behind those horses, firing and reloading from the pile of cartridges close at hand.
We should bear in mind, however, this reflexion from another member of the burial detail, Sgt. O’Neill (in Hardorff’s Custer Battle Casualties vol. 2): “I do not suppose that Custer was in exactly the position where he fell when we found him […] It appeared to me that the General had been placed by the warriors [or scouts?] in a comfortable position, his head higher than his feet [leaning on a horse?], lying on his back”. I think very plausible that some of the men who discovered the General’s remains (the Ree scouts) somehow accommodated him, out of respect.
But even if Martin’s recollection was accurate and those two horses were gray, we shouldn’t consider this as solid proof of the deployment of Co. E at Custer Hill, since they could have belonged to the Chief Trumpeter or to the buglers of companies F or C.
“A SCENE OF SICKENING GHASTLY HORROR” by Frances Taunton
June 28th 1876 Burying the dead.
Morning broke early on Wednesday, June 28th, 1876. A shell shocked Major Reno thought it fitting and proper that the remnants of the vaunted 7th Cavalry, now battered and beleaguered, should lead the burial detail to inter their now deceased comrades in arms.
A trumpet call of attention blared across the sullen hilltop and the men assembled to hear Reno’s instructions. Addressing the remaining seven companies of the 7th, Reno ordered the command to number off in fours. Like in battle, one man would hold the four horses while the other three would attend to the fallen. Now however, spades, cups, broken canteen halves and spoons for digging, would take the place of carbines in the trooper’s hands, as the command moved slowly forward toward the carnage four miles away. The companies operated at one hundred yard intervals as they began their grisly work. As the detail moved down from Weir Point and into Medicine Tail Coulee, the bodies of dead troopers began to appear and were often revealed first by the pungent stench of rotting flesh before the corpse was discovered. One of the first bodies found was that of Sgt. James Butler. Lt. Godfrey remembered: “The first dead body we came upon was within my sector, it was the body of Sergeant Butler. He was not entirely stripped; it had several wounds, and he was scalped and otherwise mutilated. In fact, I thought he was nearly in the same position as when he died. When we lifted his body to place it in the shallow grave, we found underneath, a large number of empty cartridge shells. This fact and his several wounds, gave evidence that he had sold his life dearly”.
As the command ascended the steepening terrain, more bodies came into view. Godfrey who had not been to the battlefield on the previous day when the slaughtered command was discovered, now scanned the hills and saw what appeared to be white stones. Others agreed, until one officer peered through his field glasses and exclaimed “those are the bodies of the dead”. With the morning sun rising behind them in the eastern sky, the radiant light spread across the stricken field and illuminated the death scene. Captain Weir exclaimed “oh how white they look” as the stripped and mutilated soldiers seemed to gleam in the accelerating light. The horror increased as more and more bodies were found. Nearly all victims were stripped and heavily mutilated, a practice rooted in tribal belief that when one leaves this world, he enters the afterlife with his physical body, as it existed in earthly form. Therefore, chop a man’s hands off and he cannot hold a weapon. Slash his thigh and he cannot mount a horse. Gouge his eyes out and he cannot hunt.
Consequently, limbs were hacked off, feet severed, eyes torn from the socket, and brains left on rocks. Decapitations were frequent. Private parts were removed and stuffed into victim’s mouths. Many of the dead were shot full of arrows throughout their anatomy. Identification was sometimes impossible. Captain Tom Custer’s body was discovered face down with his head smashed to a pancake, an arrow driven into the back of his head, and arrows bristling from his body. He was disemboweled, his guts spilling out of his torso. His eyes were gone and his genitals had been removed. His tongue had been ripped out and he was totally unrecognizable. He eventually was identified by a tattoo on his left arm, the goddess of liberty, an American flag and the initials TWC, Thomas Ward Custer. These were angry times for Lakota and Cheyenne warriors. Lt. James Calhoun and Lt. JJ Crittenden along with dozens of troops fell atop the southeast end of what would later be named Battle Ridge and Calhoun Hill. Crittenden was found with an arrow shot into his glass eye. Calhoun could only be identified by the gold fillings in his teeth. The sparse group of markers today atop Calhoun Hill don’t begin to establish the killing field that existed on that scorching day one hundred and forty four years ago. Warriors led by Gall, Crazy Horse, Crow King and others mauled Calhoun’s command and stormed to the north.
In the mounting apocalypse, the next to fall was most likely Captain Myles Keogh and company I. Some evidence suggests that Keogh’s demise may have begun in Medicine Tail Coulee where he led the assault on the Cheyenne camp. A shoe and bloody canvas legging with Keogh’s name on it, found at the MTC crossing after the battle, suggests he may have been wounded there. Keogh and company I, sequestered in reserve from the initial firestorm on Calhoun Hill protected the horses. When found, Keogh had been hit by a bullet in the knee that probably severed his femoral artery. Surrounded by scores of loyal protectorates who died in a bunch, Keogh’s body was found unmolested, possibly as a result of a Catholic medallion suspended around his neck, which warriors might have viewed as powerful medicine. Keogh’s horse Comanche, was found after the battle, riddled with bullets down by the river. He was spared from execution and followed the battered command back to the Bighorn River where he staggered aboard the Far West and was ferried back to Ft. Lincoln along with what General Terry deemed, the most precious cargo on earth, fifty-two wounded survivors from the catastrophic battle. Comanche would become a mythical symbol as the only survivor of the battle. He now rests in a glass case in Lawrence, Kansas.
Culminating the horrific work of the day, would be the burial of George Armstrong Custer. He was found lying on his back across the bodies of several others. He was described as appearing like he was taking a nap. While he was certainly eternally asleep, nothing in reality was tranquil in his final moments. He was stripped to his socks and an arrow was thrust up his private parts. He thigh was slashed to the bone. He had a gunshot wound to the left temple and a gunshot wound in the chest, the head wound being the death knell. Blood had run down his face and into his mouth. The chest wound was dry, indicating a post mortem injury. Custer was buried in an eighteen-inch grave, the deepest anyone received. He was wrapped in blankets and tent canvas, a soldier stitching the burial shroud together with needle and thread. His mangled brother Tom was laid next to his iconic brother and covered up with blood- drenched soil. A travois basket was obtained in the vacant village and placed over the top of the grave and staked to the ground. Rocks were placed atop the basket, in an attempt to dissuade wolves.
Other officers and enlisted men were buried around Custer. Yates, Smith, Reily, and Cooke. In the end over forty bodies were interred below the ridgetop. Seven hundred yards below the hill, twenty-eight dead men were buried in a crack in the earth where they had frantically perished. With a few spades, picks and their boots, the burial detail sloughed the walls off the ravine onto the bodies along with piling uprooted sage brush on the lifeless figures. The deceased may have sought refuge from the carnage along the ridge in the final moments of the battle, as the warrior Big Beaver would reveal years later in his testimony. A number of dead gray horses lay putrefying in the 100 degree heat. Their bloated bodies and stiffened appendages, presented a ghastly scene. E company was the gray horse troop as Custer had determined by assigning color delineation for each of the twelve companies, just as Napoleon had done. Today, one hundred and forty-four years later, little evidence has been uncovered to verify their internment. Two hundred and sixty-three soldiers and civilians left their earthly bounds. Nearly all were interred that day. The Custer family was ravaged by the fight as five members died that day, three brothers, a nephew and a brother in law. The Warrior-Chief Gall also was agonized by the death of his two wives and three daughters, probably killed by the Arikara scouts early in the attack.
Civilian scout Lonesome Charley Reynolds died Reno’s valley fight along with the interpreter Isiah Dorman who was married to a Lakota woman and personally known by Sitting Bull. Dorman was found with his legs riddled with buckshot and disemboweled, a tin cup filled with blood resting on his chest.
White marble markers now stand today as a reminder of the death toll. Actually there are more markers than dead men, but that is a whole other story. Sixty warriors are confirmed to have departed and probably more on that victorious day for the Lakota and Cheyenne. Their names are scribed today in the Indian Memorial established in 2003. The dead warriors were entombed in caves, trees and scaffolding.
Several reburials were conducted following the debacle and in 1881, all the soldiers that could be found across the battlefield were scraped up and deposited in a mass grave around the granite memorial, that now stands atop the stoic perch.