Archaeological Perspectives on the Battle of the Little Bighorn

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University of Oklahoma Press, May 1, 2013 - Social Science - 328 pages

Ever since the Custer massacres on June 25, 1876, the question has been asked: What happened - what REALLY happened - at the Battle of the Little Bighorn? We know some of the answers, because half of George Armstrong Custer’s Seventh Cavalry - the men with Major Marcus Reno and Captain Frederick Benteen - survived the fight, but what of the half that did not, the troopers, civilians, scouts, and journalist who were with Custer?

Now, because a grass fire in August 1983 cleared the terrain of brush and grass and made possible thorough archaeological examinations of the battlefield in 1984 and 1985, we have many answers to important questions.

On the basis of the archaeological evidence presented in this book, we know more about what kinds of weapons were used against the cavalry. We know exactly where many of the men fought, how they died, and what happened to their bodies at the time of or after death. We know how the troopers were deployed, what kind of clothing they wore, what kind of equipment they had, how they fought. Through the techniques of historical archaeology and forensic anthropology, the remains and grave of one of Custer’s scouts, Mitch Boyer, have been identified. And through geomorphology and the process of elimination, we know with almost 100 percent certainty where the twenty-eight missing men who supposedly were buried en masse in Deep Ravine will be found.

 

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Contents

The recording crew utilizing a transit to locate precisely and map each artifact
32
Laboratory Methods
35
Mystery in the Deep Ravine
41
Excavations under way at one of the mounds in Deep Ravine
43
Markers and Maps
49
Map of marker locations as they appear on the battlefield today
52
A late 1890s or early 1900s photograph of Last Stand Hill
54
The markers on Last Stand Hill as seen in 1984
55
The excavations at Marker 200 revealing scattered human bone around the marker
58
The plan map of the excavation at Marker 70 showing the finds uncovered
60
The bones of a human hand and part of an arm found at Marker 78
62
Plan map of the finds at Markers 6768 excavation
63
Plan map of the finds at Marker 178
66
An 1879 photograph by S J Morrow of Capt Keoghs burial site
67
Plan map of the finds at Marker 199
68
The articulated arm bones of a young soldier found at Marker 199
69
Plan map of the finds at Markers 152155
71
The scattered cobbles found in many excavations indicating that a soldier had once been buried at that location
72
Plan map of the finds at the Marker 128 excavations
76
Excavations under way at Marker 128
77
Identification of the Remains
78
A marker set forward of its base and a marker with no base
79
Mitch Boyer
81
The facial bones found at the excavations at Markers 3334
82
Mutilation
85
Springfield Model 1873 carbine parts with their relative placement on the gun
94
The backstrap and ejector rod button from a Model 1873 Colt revolver
95
The loading lever for a Model 1858 Remington revolver
96
Two 4555caliber cartridges struck by bullets
97
The final phase of the Custer battle
128
The distribution of all classes of artifacts at the RenoBenteen defense site
134
The distribution of armyrelated equipment and non firearm debris at the RenoBenteen defense site
135
The distribution of Colt and Springfield cartridge cases at the RenoBenteen defense site
136
The distribution of Indianrelated 44caliber cartridge cases at the RenoBenteen defense site
137
The distribution of 44 caliber bullets at the RenoBenteen defense site
138
The distribution of 50caliber bullets at the RenoBenteen defense site
139
The distribution of 45caliber armyrelated bullets at the RenoBenteen defense site
140
The distribution of miscellaneous bullets and other artifacts attributed to the Indians at RenoBenteen
141
Artifact Description and Analysis
153
Miscellaneous Indian cartridge cases
156
Miscellaneous Indian bullets
157
Largecaliber Indian bullets
159
Army revolver and carbine ammunition
167
Army carbine ammunition components
169
Army carbine ammunition
172
Largecaliber Indian cartridge cases
174
5070 cartridge cases
177
Pocketknives and blades recovered from the RenoBenteen defense site
187
Indian personal items and arrowheads
189
Archaeological Geology of Deep Ravine Custer Battlefield
224
Human Osteological Remains from the Battle of the Little Bighorn
243
Custerfight casualties by regimental unit and rank
244
Nonhuman Vertebrate Faunal Remains from Custer Battlefield National
283
Summary of principal findings 27475
284
References Cited
300
Index
307
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About the author (2013)

Douglas D. Scott is retired as supervisory archaeologist, Midwest Archeological Center, National Park Service. Widely known as an expert on military archaeology, he is the author or co-author of numerous publications, including They Died with Custer: Soldiers' Bones from the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Uncovering History: Archaeological Investigations at the Little Bighorn, and Custer, Cody, and Grand Duke Alexis: Historical Archaeology of the Royal Buffalo Hunt.

Melissa A. Connor, also an Archeologist with the Midwest Archeological Center, specializes in the reconstruction of diet through the use of isotopes and trace elements in bone. She holds B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Dick Harmon, Contracting Officer in the U.S. Geological Survey, is an expert on firearms of the Indian Wars, particularly those used at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

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