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Custer's Last Stand ... Aftermath

Custer didn’t deal with military victories and moral failures for long. In 1876, he and his 264 men died in an attack on Sioux and Cheyenne warriors during the Battle of the Little Big Horn in Black Hills, Montana.

The federal government opened Black Hills to gold mining in 1875 but Native Americans refused to leave the area because of its religious significance. As the U.S. military gathered to forcibly relocate the warriors, Custer’s troops disregarded orders and attacked a village.

George Flanders was a soldier in a group arriving in Black Hills on June 26, 1876, a day after Custer’s charge. Flanders buried his comrades that day and, years later, he heard an account of Custer’s battlefield actions. In the Federal Writers’ Project essay, George L. Flanders, he recounted the Cheyenne Indian tale that “Custer had received a wound in the hip and was unable to get up, but continued shooting until he had used all except one of his cartridges and with that last bullet shot himself.”

Custer’s death galvanized the military. In subsequent months, they tracked down Sioux and Cheyenne warriors and forced them onto reservations.

Military pursuit wasn’t the only hunt of concern to Native Americans. Buffalo was a prime resource for its meat and hide. The millions of animals roaming the plains in the 1860s virtually disappeared within two decades as hunters from across the United States and abroad drove the herds to near extinction.

The Federal Writers’ Project’s “History of a Buffalo Hunter" described an 1877 horseback excursion that continued “until they had killed enough buffaloes to fill fifty carts with the meat.”



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