Where Was Custer’s Last Stand?
“General” Custer made his famous last stand on the banks of the Little Big Horn River, near what is now the interchange for United States Highways 87 and 212, in the State of Montana. Today the Custer Battlefield National Monument marks the scene of the battle.
George Armstrong Custer, born in 1839, was called “General” by the men of the 7th Cavalry Brigade under his command. He had shown his brilliance as a cavalry officer in the American Civil War (1861-65) reaching the rank of major-general.
In 1876 when Sioux and Cheyennes were on the warpath with Chief Sitting Bull as their leader, Custer and his 7th Cavalry Brigade were under the command of General Terry. The brigade of 700 men was ordered by Terry to advance towards the Indians, but not to attack until the rest of the army-composed of three columns under General Crook, Gibbon and Terry-had moved into position.
Custer reached the Little Big Horn to see the large Indian camp on the opposite side of the river. For a reason that will never be known, Custer decided to disobey orders and attack. Dividing his brigade into three, he sent Major Reno and Captain Benteen, each with three companies, to attack the flanks. At the same time he led 268 troopers on a frontal approach across the river.
His force stood no chance when the Indians attacked. The troopers dismounted from their horses to seek cover, but there was none. When the Indians drove off their horses, the troopers’ fate was sealed.
Believing that Reno and Benteen would soon come to their aid, they fought bravely, but the flank attacks had been foiled and the cavalry put to flight. Custer and 268 men fought to the last man.
The Battle of the Little Bighorn, known to the Lakota and other Plains Indians as the Battle of the Greasy Grass and commonly referred to as Custer’s Last Stand, was an armed engagement between combined forces of the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes and the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army. The battle, which occurred June 25–26, 1876, near the Little Bighorn River in eastern Montana Territory, was the most prominent action of the Great Sioux War of 1876.
The fight was an overwhelming victory for the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho, led by several major war leaders, including Crazy Horse and Chief Gall, inspired by the visions of Sitting Bull (Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake).
The U.S. 7th Cavalry, including the Custer Battalion, a force of 700 men led by George Armstrong Custer, suffered a major defeat. Five of the 7th Cavalry’s twelve companies were annihilated; Custer was killed, as were two of his brothers, a nephew, and a brother-in-law. The total U.S. casualty count included 268 dead and 55 severely wounded (six died from their injuries later), including four Crow Indian scouts and two Pawnee Indian scouts.
Public response to the Great Sioux War varied in the immediate aftermath of the battle, but over the next years and decades Custer and his troops became iconic, heroic figures in American history, a status that lasted into the 1960s. The battle and Custer’s actions in particular, have been studied extensively by historians.