Monday, September 3, 2007

#10 - Little Big Horn and Sheridan

The first day of September promised to be another hot one but it was time to visit the site of Custer’s last stand. We got an early start and were among the first cars to arrive at the visitor’s center of the Little Big Horn battlefield. We toured the exhibits and watched a 17 min. video that explained the background and events leading up to “Custer’s Last Stand.” We also spent a little time at the Custer National Cemetery.
Custer National Cemetery

Lt. Col. George Custer took on more than he could handle on June 25, 1876. The 200+ man cavalry unit that he led into battle was totally wiped out by a much larger band of Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapahoe warriors. The hillsides are dotted with white markers where his men fell and red granite markers for about 18 of the Indians. Most Indian remains were picked up earlier by their families so only the few without families were left on the battlefield.

Markers of fallen soldiers on Last Stand Hill.

Other markers scattered over the hills.
A memorial to Custer's Seventh Cavalry was erected on Custer Hill in 1881 atop a mass grave. It records the names of the troops, Indian scouts and other attached personnel who fell on the battlefield.

For the bargain price of $5, we took a tour of the area on a small air-conditioned bus. A local Crow Indian woman narrated the tour. Her great grandfathers fought in the battle and she provided a very interesting and personal perspective of the encounter, as well as bits of information on Indian history, culture and customs. The Spirit Warriors sculpture is part of the Indian Memorial at the battlefield.

Major Reno and Captain Benteen commanded other companies of the Seventh Cavalry and were involved in a separate battle not far from Last Stand Hill. They couldn't get there in time to save Custer's company but many of them did survive. A Reno-Benteen Battlefield Memorial was placed near Reno Hill.

The next day we drove down to Sheridan, Wyoming (about 80 mi.). Nearly all businesses downtown were closed for the Labor Day weekend. So, with our walking tour map in hand, we walked up and down Main Street admiring the historic buildings, many of which were built in the 1800s.

We spent an hour or so at the Sheridan County Museum and couldn’t pass up a self-guided tour of “Trail End”, a restored 14,000 sq. ft. mansion. John Kendrick built this amazing house in 1913. It’s three stories plus basement, with a ballroom on the top floor. A unique feature was a central vacuum system, very unusual for that time. John was a successful cattle rancher. He assembled several ranches in Montana and Wyoming into a 210,000 acre spread. He eventually became Governor of Wyoming and a U.S. Senator. The mansion was eventually abandoned by the family and nearly torn down in 1968. Fortunately, the local historical society was able to dig up enough grant money to purchase the house and its several acre site for $35,000, restore it, furnish it and get it onto the National Register of Historic Places. Great job!

The Kendrick estate includes a preserve for bison, elk and other wildlife. Bonnie stopped to chat with a friendly elk. He appreciated her offer of greener grass from the other side of the fence.

1 comment:

ScienceMel said...

Little Big Horn - Very moving landscape. Does it make you wonder what it was all for?

Sheridan - Cute little town. Were the buildings really that colorful?