Canku Ota Logo
Canku Ota
Canku Ota Logo
(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
pictograph divider
Meticulous Collection From Little Bighorn Fight Goes On Display At Museum
by Lorna Thackeray of The Billings (MT) Gazette Staff

LITTLE 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.

A 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.

“In all of the belts taken from the dead men there were cartridges,” Limpy’s 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.”

Marquis, 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 detail.

In 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.

Now 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.

“This is my favorite collection,” Small said of the Marquis photographs and artifacts.

Marquis, who was meticulous in his documentation of Cheyenne history, photographed the objects in his collection with the people who gave them to him.

“Some of the text used in this exhibit is copies of original text used in Marquis’ Custer Museum in 1931 in Hardin,” Small said.

She’s not quite finished with the exhibit. It’s not as easy to view as she would like. But it is a unique piece of history.

In 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 Horse’s brother, Hollow Wood. Hollow Wood’s wife, Minnie, either gave or sold them to Marquis. The exhibit includes a picture of Minnie holding the saddle bags in 1927.

The 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 Custer’s 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 Custer’s charge until sufficient numbers of additional warriors could ride into the fight and force the soldiers to retreat to the hilltop.”

Also included behind the display glass is a bag fashioned from the leather of a 7th Cavalry boot.

“All 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 else.”

Battlefield Chief Historian John Doerner said that judging from the fine stitching still visible on the leather, the boot probably belonged to an officer.

After the Little Bighorn, fighting continued across Montana and Wyoming. On Nov. 25, 1876, Limpy and his wife were in Dull Knife’s village on the north fork of the Powder River near Kaycee, Wyo., when a force of 750 cavalry staged a dawn attack.

Limpy’s wife was shot through the chest, Marquis recorded, but she survived and was still living in 1932.

The 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.

Hollow Wood and Limpy later served as scouts for Gen. Nelson A. Miles, who had established Fort Keogh near present-day Miles City.

Bobtailed Horse, Hollow Wood and Limpy were among the contingent of Cheyenne who attended the 50th anniversary commemoration at the battlefield in 1926.

Marquis died of a heart ailment in 1935 and is buried at Custer Battlefield National Cemetery at Little Bighorn Battlefield.

pictograph divider
Home PageFront PageArchivesOur AwardsAbout Us
Kid's PageColoring BookCool LinksGuest BookEmail Us
pictograph divider
  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  
Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 of Vicki Barry and Paul Barry.
Canku Ota Logo   Canku Ota Logo
The "Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America" web site and its design is the
Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 of Paul C. Barry.
All Rights Reserved.

Site Meter
Thank You

Valid HTML 4.01!