By the Numbers: Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

Top: This NPS photo shows a James Kenneth "J.K" Ralston painting depicting Custer's Last Stand in a romanticized fashion. Bottom: Little Bighorn Battlefield photo by Rob Mutch, October 2004.

The battle popularly known as "Custer's Last Stand," and now also recognized as the last stand of the Plains Indians (who called it the Battle of the Greasy Grass), was fought in southeastern Montana on June 25-26, 1876. Here are some highlight statistics for Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument and the battle it commemorates.

320,959

Recreational visits in 2010. This tally reflects a slight increase over the previous year, but is far short of the 425,995 recorded in the peak year of 2002. Visitation is strongly seasonal, with two-thirds occurring in June-July-August.

149,000

Objects in the park's museum and archival collections, which have been temporarily relocated to the National Park Service’s Western Archeological and Conservation Center in Tucson, Arizona, for preservation and conservation.

900-2,000?

Estimated number of warriors, including the renowned war chiefs Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, among the roughly 7,000 Lakota (Sioux), Northern Cheyenne, and Arapahos (small contingent) encamped along the Little Bighorn River in June 1876. This immense encampment, possibly the largest-ever gathering of Plains Indians, stretched for several miles along the river valley and had a pony herd of some 15,000 animals.

765

The park's acreage, all federal. Actually, the park's two widely separated units -- the Custer Battlefield and the Reno-Benteen Battlefield -- preserve only a small fraction of the sprawling area encompassing the 1876 Indian encampment and the ground on which fighting, movements of the combatants, and other battle-related activities occurred. The great majority of this land is located on the Crow Indian Reservation. The several miles-long stretch of Battlefield Road connecting the park's two units is on an Indian-granted right of way easement.

About 647

Total size of the U.S. Army Seventh Cavalry, including attached personnel, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel (brevet Major General) George Armstrong Custer as of June 22, 1876. This count included 31 officers, 566 enlisted personnel (+/- a few), a dozen or so mule packers and quartermaster employees, and 35 Indian scouts (six Crows, the rest mostly Arikaras). Custer's command was organized into twelve companies, one of which was assigned to guard the pack train.

268

Soldiers and attached personnel of the Seventh Cavalry killed in the Battle of the Little Bighorn. The Seventh Cavalry lost 16 officers, 242 troopers, and 10 scouts. Included among the dead were Custer, all of the personnel in the five-company battalion under his immediate command, and 18 men who fought in the southern part of the battlefield (valley and hilltop engagements in the Reno-Benteen Battlefield).

The body counts made on and near Last Stand Hill are unreliable and conflicting. The first was 197, the second was 214, and neither is considered indisputable.

About 100?

Indians killed in the Little Bighorn fight. Historical accounts are ambiguous and conflicting, with estimates ranging from as few as 36 to more than 130. Since Plains Indians customarily minimized their battle losses, usually scattering when hard pressed, it was unusual to have such a large number of warriors killed in a single battle.

Less than 60 minutes

Duration of the engagement at Last Stand Hill in which Custer and the remainder of his battalion were wiped out. Some Indian witnesses insisted that this final stage of the fighting in Custer's area of the battlefield lasted no more than half an hour.

55

Seventh Cavalry troops wounded at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. These were men in the battalions commanded by Major Reno and Captain Benteen. Engaged in fierce fighting about three miles to the south of Last Stand Hill, an area now lying mostly within the park's Reno-Benteen Battlefield unit, these troops were immobilized in a defensive perimeter and rendered no help to Custer's doomed detachment.

After burial details finished their grim work, wounded soldiers were transported to the Yellowstone River, placed aboard the riverboat Far West, and evacuated some 700 miles to the post hospital at Fort Abraham Lincoln on the Missouri River near Mandan, North Dakota. When the Far West arrived in Bismarck during the night of July 5, the news of Custer's defeat was quickly telegraphed to the public at large, stunning a nation engaged in its Centennial celebration.

24

Medals of Honor awarded for bravery above and beyond the call of duty during the Little Bighorn fight. Fifteen were awarded to troopers of the Reno-Benteen force who volunteered to fetch river water for the thirsty defenders of Reno Hill. Four sharpshooters who provided covering fire also received medals. (Ironically, a 16th water carrier, the only trooper wounded during the successful foray, was not awarded a medal even though his leg was amputated.)

20

Years since "Custer" was deleted from the park's official name. Much to the disgust of Plains Indians who fought to save their families and way of life, "Custer's Last Stand" became a cultural icon portraying the 7th Cavalry troopers as heroes and the Indians as bloodthirsty savages. The battlefield property, which was transferred from the War Department to the National Park Service in 1940, was redesignated Custer Battlefield National Monument in 1946. It wasn't until December 10, 1991, that the park was finally renamed Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument via legislation that also called for an Indian Memorial to be built near Last Stand Hill.

17 minutes

Duration of the orientation video show at the park's visitor center, which is located in the Custer Battlefield unit not far from Last Stand Hill.

17 stops

Organization of the Park Tour, a self-guided driving tour on the park's Battlefield Road. Understandably, Last Stand Hill is the Park Tour's star attraction.

1 hour

Duration of an Apsaalooke tour (aka native guide tour). Scheduled five times daily from June through Labor Day, these Native American-guided bus tours of the battlefield are offered with the support of Little Bighorn College and the Apsaalooke (Crow Indian) Nation.

Comments

It's a great place to visit. Crowded the day I was there.

The highlight of my visit was a talk in the shaded V.C. porch given by seasonal ranger Francis Takes Enemy. Her presentation was super.

Dear Fellow Americans:

I've been there and the rolling hills conjurs a stillness that brings one back
to the sudden attack many years ago.

Folks, many soldiers and Indians died in America's push West. We decimated the Indians over the years. No amount of gambling revenue can make up for the destruction of this great warrior nation.

We disgraced ourselves then. Our failures to "really" compensate the
Indians for their property loss, treatment and leasehold entitlements continues to demonstrate the worst that America can do.

Oh, Great Spirit, whose voice I hear in the wind,
Whose breath gives life to all the world.
Hear me; I need your strength and wisdom.
Let me walk in beauty,
and make my eyes ever behold the red and purple sunset.
Make my hands respect the things you have made
and my ears sharp to hear your voice
Make me wise so that I may understand
the things you have taught my people.
Help me to remain calm and strong
in the face of all that comes towards me.
Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock.
Help me seek pure thoughts and act with the intention of helping others.
Help me find compassion without empathy overwhelming me.
I seek strength, not to be greater than my brother,
but to fight my greatest enemy
- Myself (My fears and my doubts).
Make me always ready to come to you with clean hands and straight eyes.
So when life fades, as the fading sunset,
my spirit may come to you without shame.


~ (translated by Lakota Sioux Chief Yellow Lark in 1887)
published in Native American Prayers - by the Episcopal Church. ~