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  1. #1

    Mar 2003
    262
    111 times

    Battle of the Little Big Horn - Custer's Rifles

    After the battle, the soldiers possessions were taken. The rifles, sabers, pistols, and other items of war were collected. They were taken to a place known only to the Indians and buried or cached. According to some experts, none of the weapons have turned up in collections. The 500 model 1873 Springfield carbines assigned to the 7th Cavalry were of a new design. The rifles not assigned to the troups apparently were cached by Reno and Custer prior to the battle. The Springfield 45-70s were issued in 1874, so the soldiers had about two years of experience with them before the battle. Custer had complained to the armory about the new Springfield's length. With a 24" barrel, it was a little too long for a saddle carbine. The subsequent carbines manufactured after the first 500 had the barrels shortened to 20", and also had some other minor changes.

    When I visited the battlefield museum in 1997, I asked the curator if any of Custer's carbines were on display. I was informed that none had turned up.

    There is a story about a trapper that married an Apache woman. He homesteaded some land near the battlefield. He paid to have a monument erected to commemorate the battle. The monument was constructed with stone and concrete and had a bronze sign on the side. In the late 1940's the National Park Service decided to clean up the monument. The removed the sign to have it cleaned. Under the sign was a glass window. The inside of the monument was hollow, and was construced as a time capsule. The Park Service decided not to disturb the contents, some of which appeared to be small items collected off the bodies of the soldiers. They reinstalled the sign with the intention of waiting till the 100th Anniversary of the battle. The word must have leaked out because the monument was vandalized and the contents were removed by person/persons unknown. It has been suggested that the monument contained information on the location of the burial site of the weapons collected from the dead soldiers by the Indians.

    The average soldier carried from 15 to 24 rounds on his person. The troops were using a more powerful and accurate weapon, but they were grossly outnumbered by Indians with repeating Winchesters. It is most likely that the men ran out of ammunition.

    Gil Proctor, who passed away in the early 1970s, purchased and was living at the historic Pete Kitchen Ranch just North of Nogales, AZ. Gil had a building built out on the highway and started a small museum. Among the items on display was a rifle given to Pete Kitchen by a U.S. Army soldier that was in the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Gil tells this tale in his book, "The Trails of Pete Kitchen." The soldier was in bad shape when he arrived at the ranch, and Pete gave him hospitality. The soldier was greatfull and gave Pete his rifle. The soldier had deserted and was on his way to Mexico. Pete Kitchen made good use of that rifle during his battles with the Apaches. On one battle, according to the story, he clubbed an Apache over the head with the rifle, and cracked the stock. One day at the museum, a visitor told Gil that Pete Kitchen's rifle was one that was issued to Custer's men, according to serial number.

    After Gil passed away, his son came from California to handle the estate. Mrs Proctor was wheelchair bound at the time and required full time care. The museum items were put in storage and the building was leased out to a Mexican restaurant. I do not know if the family ever reopened the museum, or what happened to the items that were in the collection.

  2. #2
    us
    Your Only One Swing Away From Discovery

    Dec 2006
    Florida
    Library
    5,237
    30 times

    Re: Battle of the Little Big Horn - Custer's Rifles

    awesome legend, like to have one of those rifles


    Quote Originally Posted by lgadbois
    After the battle, the soldiers possessions were taken. The rifles, sabers, pistols, and other items of war were collected. They were taken to a place known only to the Indians and buried or cached. According to some experts, none of the weapons have turned up in collections. The 500 model 1873 Springfield carbines assigned to the 7th Cavalry were of a new design. The rifles not assigned to the troups apparently were cached by Reno and Custer prior to the battle. The Springfield 45-70s were issued in 1874, so the soldiers had about two years of experience with them before the battle. Custer had complained to the armory about the new Springfield's length. With a 24" barrel, it was a little too long for a saddle carbine. The subsequent carbines manufactured after the first 500 had the barrels shortened to 20", and also had some other minor changes.

    When I visited the battlefield museum in 1997, I asked the curator if any of Custer's carbines were on display. I was informed that none had turned up.

    There is a story about a trapper that married an Apache woman. He homesteaded some land near the battlefield. He paid to have a monument erected to commemorate the battle. The monument was constructed with stone and concrete and had a bronze sign on the side. In the late 1940's the National Park Service decided to clean up the monument. The removed the sign to have it cleaned. Under the sign was a glass window. The inside of the monument was hollow, and was construced as a time capsule. The Park Service decided not to disturb the contents, some of which appeared to be small items collected off the bodies of the soldiers. They reinstalled the sign with the intention of waiting till the 100th Anniversary of the battle. The word must have leaked out because the monument was vandalized and the contents were removed by person/persons unknown. It has been suggested that the monument contained information on the location of the burial site of the weapons collected from the dead soldiers by the Indians.

    The average soldier carried from 15 to 24 rounds on his person. The troops were using a more powerful and accurate weapon, but they were grossly outnumbered by Indians with repeating Winchesters. It is most likely that the men ran out of ammunition.

    Gil Proctor, who passed away in the early 1970s, purchased and was living at the historic Pete Kitchen Ranch just North of Nogales, AZ. Gil had a building built out on the highway and started a small museum. Among the items on display was a rifle given to Pete Kitchen by a U.S. Army soldier that was in the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Gil tells this tale in his book, "The Trails of Pete Kitchen." The soldier was in bad shape when he arrived at the ranch, and Pete gave him hospitality. The soldier was greatfull and gave Pete his rifle. The soldier had deserted and was on his way to Mexico. Pete Kitchen made good use of that rifle during his battles with the Apaches. On one battle, according to the story, he clubbed an Apache over the head with the rifle, and cracked the stock. One day at the museum, a visitor told Gil that Pete Kitchen's rifle was one that was issued to Custer's men, according to serial number.

    After Gil passed away, his son came from California to handle the estate. Mrs Proctor was wheelchair bound at the time and required full time care. The museum items were put in storage and the building was leased out to a Mexican restaurant. I do not know if the family ever reopened the museum, or what happened to the items that were in the collection.
    Your Discovery Has History Count On It
    Enjoy the dig, treasure the time

  3. #3
    au
    Jan 2006
    Canberra
    Fisher F75
    1,000
    19 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting

    Re: Battle of the Little Big Horn - Custer's Rifles

    Even though I'm an Aussie not brought up on the Custer legend this is a battle which fascinates me. There is a great book out where archeologists have done a forensic analysis of the battle tracking the locations and calibres of the weapons used with pretty amazing results. From this they could tell where groups fired from, where they fired at, the types of weapons the Indians had and even track the movement of individual weapons around the battlefield.

    Regarding the number of rounds carried by the soldiers, the accepted accounts indicate that before the Little Big Horn battle each soldier was issued with 100 rounds of Carbine ammunition (50 in his cartridge belt and 50 in the saddlebag) and after the battle the Indians still found large amounts in the saddlebags.

    The Indians weren't all armed with Winchester Repeaters - they believe only 25-30% had them with the rest having Sharps, Spencers, Henrys, muzzleloaders, revolvers, bows, arrows and lances. This does however still represent a projected 207 repeating rifles held by the Indians and this was certainly enough to shock the soldiers and contribute to their defeat..

    They were certainly grossly outnumbered. The accepted Indian minimum figure is 1500 and a maximum of 2000. One of Renos men estimated 2-3000, Benteen initially said he faced 1500-1800 then in later years changed this to 8-9000 which certainly help him appear more heroic (in his mind perhaps).

    As a result of the archeological survey it is now believed there was little chance that the soldiers ran out of ammunition, nor that their rifles malfunctioned to any great degree (they examined the collected cartridge cases and only a very small amount exhibited pry marks). Essentially the more recent studies have concluded that Custers command disintegrated in the face of nearby warriors of which there was a good number of repeaters. That the warriors fought in close magnified the shock value of them firing repeaters and exacerbated the panic of the troops.

    That none of Custers weapons have turned up in collections doesn't neccessarily mean they are still cached somewhere - but wouldn't that be a national find if one of you guys came across even a small cache (definately one for the banner ). A good number of the weapons ended up being surrendered back to the government when the tribes surrendered. From a 1879 ordnance report of arms surrendered by the Indians they received:

    160 Miscellaneous muzzle-loaders. (Indian trade muskets).
    49 Springfield Breechloaders
    23 Spencer repeaters
    13 Sharps breechloaders
    12 Winchester lever actions .44
    4 Henry Rifles

    They were all generally described to be in poor condition but there is a good chance that some of the Springfields were captured from Custers men at the battle. 125 Revolvers and single-shot pistols were also listed. All but a converted Colt and a single-shot Remington rolling-block were percussion, 72 Colts, 37 Remingtons, 5 Whitneys, 4 Starrs, a Manhattan, a Pettengill, and a Savage.

    A truely amazing battle which they are still piecing together over a hundred years later but one which they are now basing on forensics and archeology as opposed to popular accounts and Hollywood.

    Ad astra per alia porci

  4. #4
    us
    Mar 2007
    Michigan
    Whites V3i
    412
    5 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting

    Re: Battle of the Little Big Horn - Custer's Rifles

    I was told that this is one of the types of guns used in the battle, although most likely this was not one of those actual guns. The part that holds the bullet is made of brass and if fired too often would expand and the shell would not come out - it would jam. I read stories of Custer's men throwing these guns at the Indians in frustration.

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    a couple of more pictures

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  5. #5
    us
    Feb 2008
    Morgantown,WV
    Bounty Hunter Landstar
    4,580
    816 times

    Re: Battle of the Little Big Horn - Custer's Rifles

    Think you were a bit misinformed .
    Wolfpack forever

  6. #6
    us
    Aug 2008
    460
    15 times

    Re: Battle of the Little Big Horn - Custer's Rifles

    This is a topic I am pretty familiar with. My family knew Mr. Fenn, and I have talked with Mr. Kopec a few times.

    The guns belonging to the 7th Calvary were mostly 1873 Springfield 45-70 carbines and 1873 Colt .45 revolvers with the 7 1/2 inch barrels. They left their sabers and their Hotchkiss cannons behind at a previous camp in order to increase their speed.

    The 7th broke up into 3 groups: Custer attacked the main camp across the Little Big Horn. Reno attacked the flank. Benteen patroled without contact, and then returned to the fall-back site on the hill above the camp and reinforced it.

    Custer's command was wiped out, about 200 men. They lost about 50 more men from the other units in the command. Also killed were about 20 scouts who probably had whatever they wanted for weapons. Some officers carried 1876's, or 1873 Winchesters, as well as some pistols from different manufacturers. There was a group of friendly Crow indians who also traveled with them and fought, but mostly melted away when they saw how it was going.

    The Indians: the Lakotah Sioux and Cheyanne, as well as several smaller groups had an assortment of weapons, mostly bows, cut-down percussion rifles, or 1866 Wincherster repeating rifles.

    Wooden Leg, an Indian who fought against Reno and Custer's detachment picked up a 1873 Springfield, and later surrendered it to soldiers under Crooks' command when they caught up with him. He stated the rifles were more prized than the pistols, because warriors could hunt with them.

    During the battle, almost all the dropped weapons were taken away, and a few lost in the grass or the creek. Some revolvers were partially dismantled by the Indians, and after they left, other revolvers and rifles were either destroyed in the field by the soldiers who cleaned up the battle sight, or were returned to Colt and Springfield, with some parts or weapons being later reissued to other units.

    Some Indian burials were done immediately after the Battle of the Little Bighorn and the Battle of the Rosebud. This seemed to have been a very touchy area for the Indians, and they generalize their losses, and never gave any location.

    There was an immediate dispora of the Indian groups from the battle area following the battle. Several columns of infantry and calvary were all trying to make contact with them. Some Indians were caught and their weapons were surrendered. There may have been some attempts by bands to conceal their part in the battle by immediately discarding the things that they had taken.

    Some Indians kept them for a long time, and some were sold or discarded in Canada later before the Indians returned to the United States. Several were dug up in Canada from fields where they had camped, or sold and later found in stores by people who understood where they had come from. Almost all had undergone an attempt to remove the "US" property marking on the frame.

    Additional 7th Calvary weapons seem to have been retrieved at Wounded Knee in 1890, where the 7th Calvary shot their Hotchkiss guns at a camp full of Lakotah Sioux and killed about 300 of them. A number of Indian weapons were taken also, and many were destroyed at a nearby reservation post following the argument that turned into a general massacre.

    There are some well known examples of the pistols that have been found and sold, and some suspected serial range rifles that show Indian use, or were donated or sold by Indians who had gotten them from an older relative who took part in the battle. I have looked at and held a few of the pistols in the number range.




  7. #7

    Mar 2003
    262
    111 times

    Re: Battle of the Little Big Horn - Custer's Rifles

    I did a little more research on the treasure cache from the Custer massacre.

    According to William C. Slaper, the soldier's bodies at the scene of the battle were all stripped naked. The clothing and valuables had been taken. Later, and Indian named Spotted Hawk told of the looting: "After the fighting was over, the women and children went up to the battleground. There, as usual, there was mutilation of the dead. I was then seven years old. I went with a group of children a little older than me, and we began to take from the slain whatever we wished. Among other things, we tried to take off the clothing, cutting loose the waistbands of the soldiers to remove their trousers. While engaged in this process, one child happened to rip up a waistband and noticed pieces of green paper, some small and some large. And looking further found that almost every man's waistband contained some. We did not know what it was, but since it had been hidden by the men we thought it must be precious, so we took it all back to camp." What the tribal elders did with the money, Spotted Hawk did not know.

    Some years later a Billings, MT newspaper reporter found out that a stone monument had been erected on a bluff near the settlement of Busby. An inscription on the monument read: "Here lies the remains of Two Moon, Chief of the Cheyenne Indians, who led his men against Gen. Custer in the battle of the Little Big Horn, June 25, 1876. Erected by W.P. Moncure, Indian Trader.

    Who was W.P. Moncure? Land records recorded a deed transfer of the land from S.L. Busby to W.P. Moncure. In 1941, Moncure had deeded the land to the U.S. Government. It was discovered the the plaque on the monument was actually a door which could be moved aside to view a glass window. The cavity behind contained a U.S. Cavalry carbine, various Indian relics, a large photograph of Two Moon, and a large manila envelope. On the envelope could be seen the following: June 25, 1936. Why I erected the Two Moons monument. My connection with Montana pioneers Broadwater, Granville, Stewart, W.G. Conrad, and others. Busby, Montana where Gen. Custer spent his last night on earth. History and location of Starved To Death Rock, Boseman Expedition 1874 up Rosebud Creek. Two soldiers got away from Custer's battle alive. History Indian fort up Busby Creek. Hiding place and location of money and items taken from dead soldiers on Custer battlefield. To be opened June 25, 1986. Signed: W.P. Moncure, Busby, Montana. June 25, 1936.

    The reporter met Moncure personally in 1955. He was about 80 years old. Moncure talked freely about the monument, and said that all would be revealed when the vault was opened in 1986. In October of 1960, someone broke open the monument and stole the manila envelope. On February, 1961, Moncure wrote to the officials at the Bureau of Indian Affairs telling them that the envelope had indeed told of the burial site of the Custer massacre money. This information he said came from a man named Willis Rowland who was now dead. There was only one other person that knew where the money was buried, a George Osten of Billings, Montana.

    It is unknown what other items were buried with the money. It has been assumed that other personal items that were taken off the bodies may also be buried with the money.

  8. #8

    Mar 2003
    262
    111 times

    Re: Battle of the Little Big Horn - Custer's Rifles

    The Reporter for the Billings Gazette was a woman named Kathryn Wright. She is a writer of Montana history and wrote for magazines as well. There is some suspicion that she was the one that decided to remove the manila folder from the monument.

    It is unknown to the public if the cache was ever located, but the location of the cache has been given as a cairn located on the hill above Two Moon's grave.

    As far as the 1873 Springfields that were issued to Custer, history is all over the map in describing these weapons. Many firearm experts disagree on the serial numbers of these carbines. Some claim that the serial number range is in the 30,000 or 40,000 range. My research indicates that the carbines issued to the 7th Cavalry were a new sample lot of 500 that were numbered from 1 to 500. This would agree with the serial on the Springfield 45-70 that was obtained by Pete Kitchen. It has a serial number of 388. I have seen this rifle, and that is the serial number. It is possible that some of Custer's men were still using the older Springfield Allin .50 rifles, and the 32" 1873 45-70 Springfields were of a different serial number range.

    The story that Gil Proctor tells in his book relates that Pete Kitchen got the carbine from an employee. The employee picked up the U.S. Army soldier on the Tucson-Nogales road in his wagon. The wagon driver apparently felt threatened and shot the soldier to death. He took the carbine and a sack of personal belongings, and left the soldier along the side of the road. The sack contained a box with about $14,000 in money. (Was this Custer's Paymaster? The Army had just issued three months pay for the men before they left the post.) The wagon driver buried the box near Nogales at the corner of a corral. When he came back to get it he found that a family that had camped on the site had found and taken the box with the money.

  9. #9
    us
    Sep 2007
    1,797
    47 times
    All Types Of Treasure Hunting

    Re: Battle of the Little Big Horn - Custer's Rifles

    Many great stories. Best of luck to all of you.

 

 

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