BIGHORN BATTLEFIELD NATIONAL MONUMENT - In the heat of battle with
an enemy dead at his feet, 19-year-old Northern Cheyenne warrior
Limpy took the cartridge belt from a trooper who had dared threaten
the village his people shared with the Lakota on the banks of the
Little Bighorn River.
cartridge belt was a valuable prize in a season rife with war. U.S.
troops were moving in from east, west and south to force the Cheyenne
and their allies onto reservations.
all of the belts taken from the dead men there were cartridges,
Limpys contemporary, Wooden Leg, told his biographer Thomas
Marquis several decades after the June 25, 1876, battle. I
did not see nor hear of any belt entirely emptied of its cartridges.
a lawyer, physician, photographer and writer, befriended many survivors
of the battle as a government doctor at Lame Deer. In 1922, he began
to probe their memories to chronicle their version of the Little
Bighorn Battle. He learned sign language and consulted his elderly
sources including Limpy, Wooden Leg and Bobtailed Horse on every
1927, more than 50 years after the battle, Limpy bequeathed his
captured cartridge belt to Marquis. Marquis snapped a photograph
of the old warrior holding the ragged souvenir and displayed it
along with the belt in his private museum in Hardin.
it is part of a new display that Sharon Small, curator at Little
Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, is putting together at the
visitor center museum near Crow Agency. Other items taken from the
battlefield by the victors and later given to Marquis are also featured
in a new display case.
is my favorite collection, Small said of the Marquis photographs
who was meticulous in his documentation of Cheyenne history, photographed
the objects in his collection with the people who gave them to him.
of the text used in this exhibit is copies of original text used
in Marquis Custer Museum in 1931 in Hardin, Small said.
not quite finished with the exhibit. Its not as easy to view
as she would like. But it is a unique piece of history.
addition to Limpy and the cartridge belt, the exhibit includes a
pair of Civil War-era saddle bags that Bobtailed Horse captured
at the battle. The saddle bags were apparently given to Bobtailed
Horses brother, Hollow Wood. Hollow Woods wife, Minnie,
either gave or sold them to Marquis. The exhibit includes a picture
of Minnie holding the saddle bags in 1927.
caption that Marquis included with the picture said: Bobtailed
Horse was one of the four Cheyenne warriors who rode out into the
river to stop the entry of Custers battalion (gray horse troop)
into their camp at the lower end of the big village on the Little
Bighorn River on June 25, 1876. The others were Roan Bear, Mad Wolf,
Calf and White Shield. This delayed Custers charge until sufficient
numbers of additional warriors could ride into the fight and force
the soldiers to retreat to the hilltop.
included behind the display glass is a bag fashioned from the leather
of a 7th Cavalry boot.
of the soldier boots were taken from them, Wooden Legs told
Marquis. But they were not worn by the Indians. The bottoms
were cut off and discarded. Only the tops were used. These made
good leather pouches, or the leather was cut up to make something
Chief Historian John Doerner said that judging from the fine stitching
still visible on the leather, the boot probably belonged to an officer.
the Little Bighorn, fighting continued across Montana and Wyoming.
On Nov. 25, 1876, Limpy and his wife were in Dull Knifes village
on the north fork of the Powder River near Kaycee, Wyo., when a
force of 750 cavalry staged a dawn attack.
wife was shot through the chest, Marquis recorded, but she survived
and was still living in 1932.
battle was disastrous for the Cheyenne. The cavalry destroyed all
of the approximately 175 lodges in the village and captured 500
ponies. The Cheyenne faced the coming winter with no shelter, food
or clothing. They soon realized they had no choice but to surrender.
Wood and Limpy later served as scouts for Gen. Nelson A. Miles,
who had established Fort Keogh near present-day Miles City.
Horse, Hollow Wood and Limpy were among the contingent of Cheyenne
who attended the 50th anniversary commemoration at the battlefield
Marquis died of a heart ailment in 1935 and is buried at Custer
Battlefield National Cemetery at Little Bighorn Battlefield.