(Originally Published in the Hysham Echo June 24, 1926)Thousands of people are pouring into Crow Agency, Big Horn county, the home of the Crow Indians, for the Custer battle memorial on the 50th anniversary of that sanguinary scrap with the Sioux and Cheyennes. Reports from the agency Wednesday were that fully 30,000 people and hundreds of cars had reached the place Tuesday, with the big rush to take place Wednesday and Thursday.
Tents, and temporary “shacks”, add to the frontier atmosphere as preparations rapidly go forward for the semi-centennial observance, while hot dog stands and the automobiles tend to spoil the frontier air.
Veteran of the Indian wars, Indians and tourists are arriving on every train.
A detachment of the Seventh Cavalry, Custer’s old command, representing in number of men and troop organizations, the part of the regiment which fell with General Custer, arrived Sunday. Indians of the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes are encamped in the valley of the Little Big Horn river near the site of the camp of those who annihilated Custer’s command, and constitute the largest Indian village that has been assembled in that valley since Chief Gall and his associated chieftains and their people camped there 50 years ago.
OldtimersAmong those who made Montana history in the ‘70s who have come to attend the services are: General E. S. Godfrey, retired, a lieutenant of the 7th cavalry under Major Reno; John C. Lockwood of troop M; David P. Smith of troop K; Col. J. I. Allen of Columbus, one of the defenders of Fort Pease, located at the western end of Pease Bottom in 1875; Thomas F. Newcomb of Fort Dodge, Kan., who was with General Crook June 18, 1876, when he fought the Sioux on Rosebud creek, seven days before Custer’s defeat; Henry G. Rice of Bozeman one of Gibbon’s scouts who first reached the Custer Battlefield and discovered the nude bodies of the slain soldiers.
Among the Indians who were present and took part in this memorable battle, who will be present, are: Shoots Walking, Young Hawk and Little Moon, from 68 to 70 years of age, who took part in the battle under Chief Gall. At the time of the battle with Custer, they were young bucks on their first war party. All of them were actually engaged in the fighting which ended in the complete destruction of Custer’s command. Shoots Walking is a nephew of Sitting Bull.
Afraid of HangingAmong the Indians at Standing Rock agency, survivors of the Custer battle, is One Bull, half brother of Sitting Bull. One Bull, who is around 80 years old, took a prominent part in the attack on Custer’s forces. All urgings to get him to accompany the party to Crow Agency were in vain, according to Mr. Shipman. The old Indian declared that he was afraid of being hung.
CheyennesNine Cheyennes, former warriors who fought against Custer, arrived from the Northern Cheyenne Indian reservation in Rosebud county, Monday. Lone Wolfe headed the party. Pine, a boy of 13, camped with the hostiles on the Little Big Horn when the fight occurred; Hollow Wood 66, a young participant in the battle; Limpy, 70; Sun Bear, 80; Kills Nigh, 72, Fast Walker, 72; Dog Friend, 70, and Beaver Hart, 70, all participants in the battle.
White Man Runs Him went to Crow Agency from his nearby ranch. With Curley and Hairy Moccasin in 1876, he acted as scout for the Custer expedition. Curley and Hairy Moccasin have been called to their fathers while White Man Runs Him, in his seventies, is hale, hearty, straight as an arrow and of youthful bearing.
Dovelle Warner, 81, of Sunfield, Mich., a member of Company B Eighteenth infantry, who served in campaigns on the Powder river and Yellowstone in the ‘70s.
C. Stierle, of Sidney, Montana, 62, a member of Company I, Sixth U.S. infantry. He participated in the Sitting Bull campaign in 1876-77.
W. H. White, 75, of Columbus, a member of Troop F. Second U. S, Cavalry, from 1872 to 1877. He was with Terry’s command when it came up to the Custer battlefield two days after the fight.
Fought at Fort PeaseCol. J. I. Allen of Columbus, came to Montana from St Louis in 1862, and in 1875 was with Major Pease and Paul McCormick, when Fort Pease was built on the Pease Bottom on what is now the M. I. Draper farm about 10 miles west of Hysham. They were attacked by Sioux Indians and seven out of the 22 men in the party were killed. Their possession of the “Big Horn” cannon probably saved them all from being massacred. Heavy nails, iron and twisted wire were used to give greater effect to the shells. The seven who were killed were buried near the fort but the graveyard has since washed into the river.
Newcomb AmbushedThomas F. Newcomb of Gardner, Montana, is one of the old time scouts who is attending the semi-centennial at Crow Agency.
In 1868, while carrying dispatches from Fort Dodge, Kan., to Camp Supply, Custer’s headquarters, 90 miles away, he was ambushed by Indians and received five arrows in his body, but made his escape by hard riding to the fort. He was with General Crook when 100 Indian lodges were burned on the Powder river belonging to Crazy Horse’s band, and took part in the battle with the Indians on the Rosebud, June 18, 1876. Later he was with General Nelson A. Miles when he defeated the Nez Percés in the Bear Paw mountains.
A Scout With GibbonsHenry G. Rice of Bozeman, came to Montana in 1870 and in 1872 joined Gibbons’ command as a scout, and attached to the Seventh infantry.
When they marched up the Yellowstone and then up the Big Horn from a point on the Yellowstone where the town of Big Horn now stands in conformity with General Terry’s plan to have four troops of the Second cavalry and the Seventh infantry join Custer at the junction of the Little Big Horn and the Big Horn.
The day before discovery of the fate of Custer and his men, the scouts proceeding ahead of Gibbon’s column saw a number of Indians dressed in army uniforms and carrying the flag atop the ridge near the battlefield as they approached it from the valley, according to Mr. Rice. At first they thought they were Custer’s men and started ahead at a gallop to join them but suddenly an officer discovered that they were Indians. The command was halted, for it appeared that the hostiles were in large numbers. Later it was discovered that these were stragglers covering the getaway of the big camp after the 4,000 warriors had defeated Custer.
That night the troops of Gibbon’s command, camped in the valley of the Little Big Horn but a few miles from Custer’s field.
The following morning Lieutenant Bradley and his 12 civilian scouts left camp at 3 o’clock. They made their way cautiously through the brush until they were in view of the ridge on which the Indians, dressed in army uniforms, had been seen the previous day. As they emerged from the brush as Mr. Rice tells the story, they encountered the white, naked bodies of 28 troopers strung along a coulee. As they advanced toward the hill more bodies, stripped of clothing and some of them mutilated beyond recognition, were found. As the party neared the top of the ridge, they saw behind the bodies of horses slain by the hard pressed troopers in their extremity for use as breastworks, General Custer and those who gathered with him for the last stand.
The scouts sent a courier to General Terry, who was with Gibbon’s command, and then proceeded on towards Reno hill where the men of Reno’s and Benteen’s commands had been besieged by an over-whelming force of hostiles. These scouts carried to the besieged commands of Reno and Benteen the first news of the fate of Custer’s men.
Mr. Rice said that the remainder of that day and all of the next was spent burying the dead in shallow graves. The spot where Custer fell and was buried was marked by a stake into which an exploded cartridge shell was driven. Custer’s body was not mutilated, Mr. Rice says, only the upper portion was stripped of clothing.
The command, together with the men of Reno’s and Benteen’s commands, marched back down the Rosebud, taking their wounded with them to the Yellowstone, where the wounded were placed aboard the steamboat Far West for transport to Fort Lincoln, near Bismarck, N. D. Later Mr. Rice was transferred to Fort Shaw and the following year he left the army, returning to Helena, where he had entered service. In 1883 he moved to Bozeman and has lived there since. Lieutenant Bradley was killed the year after the Custer fight in the battle with Nez Percés under Chief Joseph, at Big Hole Pass, in western Montana.