Seventh Cavalry Horse Cemetery - Little Bighorn National Battlefield - Crow Agency, MT
Posted by: Groundspeak Regular Member gparkes
N 45° 34.229 W 107° 25.622
13T E 310621 N 5049192
Quick Description: This is a Historical Marker located in Little Bighorn National Battlefield . A series of markers are located throughout the park to give a good understanding of battle movements and history.
Location: Montana, United States
Date Posted: 7/17/2009 9:57:38 PM
Waymark Code: WM6TD7
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member ZenPanda
Views: 7

Long Description:

Seventh Cavalry Horse Cemetery

After the battle, 39 cavalry horses that had been shot for breastworks during Custer’s Last Stand, were found among the dead on Last Stand Hill. In 1879, a temporary cordwood monument was erected by the Army on the crest of the hill. The area, strewn with cavalry horse skeletons, was policed and the remains of the horses placed inside the cordwood monument. In July 1881, Lt. Charles F. Roe and a detail from the Second Cavalry replaced the temporary monument with the present granite monument, and interred the Seventh Cavalry casualties around the base. The 2nd Cavalrymen in fond reverence for the horses, re-interred them here, after the monument was erected, and lined the horse cemetery with cordwood from the original monument.

On April 9, 1941 maintenance workers discovered a horse cemetery here while digging a trench for a water reservoir drainage pipe. Among the artifacts recovered were partial human remains, cavalry boots, bullet-pierced hardtack cracker tins, and approximately 10 Horse skeletons. Further excavations was delayed until July 1946 when Lt. Col. Elwood L. Nye, U.S. Army Veterinarian continued the excavation work. Unfortunately his report has not been located, nor what became of the horses uncovered.

In February 2002, the site was examined using ground penetrating radar, revealing soil anomalies in the area. National Park Service archeologists excavated the cemetery April 29 to May 1, 2002. Horse skeletal remains were found in two six foot square areas just northeast of the Seventh Cavalry Monument. The remains included a vertebrae, leg bones, shoulder bone, and rib bones. After thorough documentation, mapping, and photography, the horse cemetery (which was left in place for future reference) was covered with protective plastic sheeting and the site restored with backfill.

“While digging an excavation the East End of he wooden trench or “horse cemetery’ on Custer Hill was encountered. The wooden end of the trench gave way and about 10 horse skeleton fell out. Among these bones were also human bones… leg and arm bones but no skulls. There was also a pair of cavalry trooper’s boots with a few toe bones inside. Two tin cracker boxes: “C.L. Woodman & Co, Chicago,” with bullet holes through the tin were found. These at one time contained ‘hardtack’ and were used for protection as breastworks during the fight on Custer Hill, as the time when General Custer ordered all the horses shot to form protection for a defensive position… The horse trench was not thoroughly explored… The grave or trench has been closed waiting instructions from your office.”

Edward S. Luce, Superintendent, Custer Battlefield National Cemetery, April 18, 1941

“It would be a very valuable study… if we could procure enough of the bones to make detailed and exacting comparisons between those of the Army mount of that day & those of the present…”

Lt. Col Elwood L. Nye, 1946

“On top of Custer Hill was a circle of dead horses with a 30 foot diameter, which was not badly formed. Around Custer some 30 or 40 men had fallen, some of whom had evidently used their horses as breastworks…”

2nd Lt. Edward J. McClernand, Company G, 2nd Cavalry

“Custer was lying on top of a conical hill where five or six horses lay as if to suggest a barricade. Empty shells were found behind the horses which were all sorrels of C Company.”

Lt. Charles C. DeRudio, Company A, 7th Cavalry

“…I accordingly built a mound… out of cordwood filled in the center with all the horse bones I could find on the field… I had all of the horse bones gathered together and placed in the mound where they cannot be readily disturbed by curiosity seekers.”

Capt. G.K. Sanderson, 11th Infantry, Ft. Custer, M.T. April 7, 1879

Describe the area and history:
The Battle of the Little Bighorn occurred on June 25 and June 26, 1876, starting with the troops of the 7th Cavalry entering on horseback in to the region. Plans were for the Cavalry to split into three groups to surround the Indian village, and force a surrender. What took place was a series of delays and tactical errors, poor luck on the behalf of the Army, and superior numbers of warriors. The conclusion of two days of battle was 263 dead troopers. Protection of the area began almost immediately. In 1879, Congress designated the area a National Cemetery. In 1946, President Truman designated the area as Custer Battlefield National Monument. In 1991, in keeping with the modern philosophy of historical accuracy, the area was re-designated as Little Big Horn National Battlefield. Original stone markers are scattered throughout the park, indicated the location of fallen troops. Indian tribes took away and buried their own dead. Over the past couple decades, an intertwining of the Indian history has occurred, allowing a more respectful remembrance of where significant warrior deaths occurred. "The Memorial" located at Last Stand Hill, is where the soldiers were buried in a mass grave. The officers were taken east to be buried in National Cemeteries, such as Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, as Captain Thomas Custer, George Custer's younger brother. Lt. Col. George A. Custer was buried at West Point.

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