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The Next Generation In The Study Of Custer's Last Stand

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Fire of 1983

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It Swept Across Last Stand Hill

Photos courtesy Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument

The summer of 1983 was a parched one in southeastern Montana. The Battlefields' grass was knee high and had not been grazed for roughly 90 years; it was a disaster waiting to happen.

On August 11, another hot dry day, someone driving Hwy 212 east of the Battlefield flicked a cigarette out the car window. The rest is history.

A great fire crossed over the entire Battlefield and consumed all the grass, yucca, and Big Sage. The visitor center and Custer Battlefield National Cemetery were saved due to the diligent work by the National Park Service staff.

Last Stand Hill before the fire-- Big Sage easily seen



The fire still burns. The visitor center and national cemetery were spared.



Looking up the mouth of Deep Ravine -- one can still see flickers of flame



The fire and smoke is gone, but the ground is very well exposed


All things happen for a reason. The fire exposed the ground along with battle related cartridges, bullets, and other artifacts. The NPS decided to take advantage of the situation and conduct archeological digs the following summer as well as 1985, 1989, 1994, 2004, and 2010. As a result, ideas about what happened during the Custer fight have changed.

Photos below courtesy of Bob Reece


Deep Ravine Trail Before Fire

Deep Ravine Trail looking toward visitor center after fire

Deep Ravine Trail looking toward the Deep Ravine after fire

Inside Deep Ravine before fire

Inside Deep Ravine after fire

Inside Deep Ravine, near bend, after the fire

Inside Deep Ravine, past bend / looking toward the river, after the fire

Last Stand Hill before fire

Last Stand Hill after fire

Cahoun Hill Before Fire--First Lt James Calhoun's Marker Foreground, 2nd Lt John Crittenden's Marker Background

Same Shot of Calhoun Hill After Fire

Looking toward the Keogh sector from Battle Ridge after the fire


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