Why were Custer's troops not gathered into a cemetary or mass grave at Little Big Horn?

Why were they buried, individually, where the fell?


WAG. The intial burial was probably easiest to bury them where they were found.

COL Graham’s book, The Custer Myth, has a pretty extensive section on the burials and reburials at the Little Big Horn battlefield. As I recall there were at least three attempts. The first was two or three days after the fight when the Reno/Benteen and Gibson people reached the Custer field. That was pretty cursory because everybody was in a hurry to get out of there. There being a howling wilderness with no effective way to take care of the Reno/Benteen wounded.

The second, a couple years later, was an attempt to clean the place up, get every thing underground, recover the remains of LTC Custer and his brother and some other officers. The is some doubt that the bones that went to the Custer grave at the Military Academy at West Point were the right ones. This is when the first photographs of the battlefield were taken – including a rock carne grave for LT Sturgis whose body was never identified taken to help soften his mother’s grief.

The third is the one mentioned above when all the remains that could be located were deposited to a mass grave toward the hill crest where the stone monument was later placed. The exception was LT Crittenden’s grave-- he was buried where his body was found at the request of his family rather than being removed or dumped in the mass grave.

It is worth noting that remains and parcel remains are still turning up – but the same is true of many battlefields. Cleaning up the dead is an unpleasant job and requires an attention to detail that is difficult to achieve in a tactical situation when that is not really the primary mission. Given the remoteness of the Little Big Horn battlefield it is not reasonable to expect the situation to have been handled any differently than it was.

Lame White Man? Seriously? That is a shitty name for anybody let alone an Indian.

Well… depends on how you look at it. It might have a more tough-guy ambiance if you read it as “man who make white men become lame”.

Natives sometimes had some odd names. I always wondered about how Young Man Afraid of His Horses got his… It wasn’t for being afraid of horses, he was a Sioux chief and warrior so there was nothing wrong with his riding ability. Actually, his father was Old Man Afraid of His Horses, so there was probably several interesting stories behind that. Or else the white man screwed up translating the names, it’s not like that didn’t happen, too.

According to Wiki, the name is a mistranslation, and actually means something like “They fear even his horses,” which makes more sense.

From what I read, the remains were in bad shape-crows and coyotes had eaten most of the soft tissues. also, daytime temps there were in the 90s-so the bodies were decaying in short order. A nasty business.

This always makes me think of the (now un-PC) joke Grissom tells in The Right Stuff (I think). A brave asks the chief how he comes up with names. He says it depends on what he sees when the child is born. Long story short the punchline is, “But tell me, Two Dogs Fucking, why do you ask?”

I can’t find the link because the site hasn’t been active for two years, but according to rotten.com Custer was found striped from the waste down, and with an arrow shoved up ‘little George’! Apparently this wasn’t an uncommon practice in battles with native Americans…

That is a joke, or just plain wrong. Custer was found with wounds to the upper left chest and left temple, both of which would be fatal. Due to lack of bleeding from the temple wound, it is surmised that it was administered after the chest wound killed him. No arrow up the wazoo.

I always had the feeling that the mutilation of the dead and of LTC Custer in particular was down played to guard the sensibilities of Mrs. Custer (who was an active defender of her late husband for another fifty years) and in deference to late 19th Century reticence on the matter.

The spiritual practices of the plains tribes pretty well held that injuries suffered even after death would carry through to the after life. It was only smart to make sure that an enemy in this life would be less powerful in the next life.

The survivors who buried the dead (more or less) and the recent archeology on Last Stand Hill testify to the wide spread mutilation of the dead – emasculation, limbs removed, disembowelments, heads beaten in or removed. It is not likely that LTC Custer escaped a routine working over – because the people who did the work had no way of knowing who he was or which one was him.

Custer was no scalped, maybe because his hair had been cropped short for the campaign and maybe because he was balding.

The cultural translation is always awkward; Crazy Horse was named that because of how frequently his horses were shot out from under him.

Was this some kind of posthumous Sioux “You’re nothing but a zebra garbage collector” taunt?

Wasn’t Custer left unmutilated except for the awls punched through his eardrums? According Son of the Morning Starsuch deference was because he’d taken a Cheyenne woman as his mistress, but I’d want Doper Corroboration on that.

Still, better than the soldiers whose bodies were positioned ass-up so their anuses could be used as bulls-eyes. Hardee-har-har.

Dammit! I hate it when I make homonym (spell-check undetectable) spelling mistakes…

Wikipedia has this to say:

The reference for it is the November, 2010 issue of the Smithsonian Magazine.

I’ve read similar things from other sources.

I don’t know if his body was stripped, but it was otherwise mostly untouched and was in good enough condition several days later that when Captain Frederick Benteen examined it he was able to ascertain that the body had suffered two mortal wounds, one to the head and one to the chest, just above the heart (either would have been fatal alone) as well as a couple of other minor wounds. The head wound hadn’t bled much, indicating that it may have been inflicted after his death. The chest wound had bled quite a bit into his clothing, indicating that at least the upper part of his uniform was still on his body.

Most of the other bodies were stripped, scalped, and mutilated.

Nice catch! :slight_smile:

Wow-with so many violent deaths, and desecration of the remains, there oughtta be a ton of angry ghosts hanging around there-has anyone repotted on strange phenomena seen there?


One of many cites:

George MacDonald Fraser, in the novel in his “Flashman” series Flashman and the Redskins, has some fun with the oddities of Native American personal names. Such oddities often arose because the NAs were happy with longer names, in their languages, than English-speaking whites could handle: rendering the names into English could mean extreme precis-ing, sometimes with grotesque results.

The novel cites a (supposedly true) instance of a Sioux whose name meant, in full, “Brave who pursues his enemies so fast, he has no time to change his clothes” – which was rendered into English as “Stinking Drawers”. In the course of the novel, Flashman is adopted for a time (against his will) into a band of Apaches: his skilful horsemanship has the band choose for his Apache name, “White man who rides so fast, he destroys the wind with his speed”. With a bit of artistic license, the author has the Apaches themselves, shorten this name for the sake of convenience: they abbreviate it to “He who breaks the wind”, or shorter still, “Wind Breaker”. As Flashman muses, “just my luck to get one of their names which contracts into something awful.”

Consider the Comanche leader known as “Buffalo Hump”: