(Chuck) As a young boy growing up in rural Iowa, we lived near a very small town of Botna. When you entered the door of the general store on the wall there was a picture which always caught my attention. It was the lithographed version of the Cassilly Adams painting titled “Custer’s Last Fight”. These copies were distributed by the Anheuser-Busch Company of St. Louis in 1896 and were found in every tavern, store and hotel in the country. I found an appropriate quote that stated “It is probably safe to say that in the years elapsing since 1896 it has been viewed by a greater number of the lower-browed members of society-and by fewer art critics-than any other picture in American history.” There were no survivors of this particular fight and the images in the painting are subject to interpretation, however to this young lad perception was reality.
This painting was probably what caused us to want to stop in Crow Agency, Montana in 1969, forty two years ago, on our first and only prior visit to the Custer Battlefield. The battlefield now is a more detailed and expanded experience showing the movements of the soldiers, the location of the Indian village and battle lines. Today it is known as the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. It records one of the many conflicts of our Westward expansion.
Marble monuments have been erected to mark where soldiers fell and were first buried. A person can see how the battle developed. Many markers record where soldiers fell in small groups as they struggled to the high ground. Several markers have also been erected to mark where known Indians fell during the battle.
Soldiers stones marked with ‘US Soldier - 7th Cav – killed June 25, 1876’ to the left and an Cheyenne warrior’s stone above.
The area just below the Memorial stone shows where Custer and his immediate command made their last stand. It is a somber place. A person can feel the fear, anguish and the wonder.
Included in the grounds of the monument is the National Cemetery which holds approximately 4,900 interments. The peaceful, sloping grounds are on the west end of the ridge overlooking the Little Bighorn River Valley.