FT Custer,Ft. Keogh

THIS ALSO INCLUDES AT THE BOTTOM OF PAGE, internments from all forts to the Nation Battlefield Cemetery. check it out.

Fort Custer and Fort Keogh , built in 1877, would seem, in restrospect, to have been examples of military garrisons that were built too late. Had they been established before the Indian outbreaks of 1876, perhaps, the Custer disaster and other battles of those years might have been prevented.

Fort Custer, twin of Fort Keogh, was authorized and funded by Congress at the same time and for the same purpose: to hold the Indians in check and protect the white men who were rapidly occupying the land.

Fort Custer, built on a high bluff with sheer sides, was situated at the junction of the Little Big Horn with the Big Horn. Originally known as the Big Horn Post, the name was changed because of its location near the battleground where Custer met his defeat.

This was a million dollar cavalry post where 500 to 700 men were stationed. It came to be known as the finest cavalry post in the world and was visited by both French and German military officers.

The location of the fort was presumably the result of the experiences of the troops in the campaign of 1876; and the fact that Grant Marsh had been able to manuever the Far West up to that point after the Custer battle showing that it was accessible by river during the season of high water. Its site on the high bench above the river where the plains were unobscured for miles made it practically impregnable to attack.

Building operations were under the direc­tion of Lieutenant Colonel George P. Buell of the Eleventh Infantry who, with 100 mechanics, arrived early in 1877. They were assisted by three companies of infantry.

It was not generally considered feasible to attempt direct delivery of building supplies by boat though Grant Marsh in the Bat-chellor, which was especially designed for upper river traffic, did make a number of trips directly to the river flat below the fort. In the year 1877 when both Forts Keogh and Custer were under construction, 1^ boats actually reached the mouth of the Big Horn and 10 of them succeeded in ascending the river near to the site of the fort, a feat seemingly impossible when the river is viewed today.

A supply dump was established on the south side of the Yellowstone at its junction with the Big Horn. Here at what was called Terry's Landing, materials were stored until they could be hauled by bull teams and wagons to the site of the fort some 30 miles up the Big Horn. A contract for the hauling was granted Paul McCormick of Billings who was associated with Matt Carroll, a partner in the Diamond R Freighting com­pany. This outfit, it is estimated, moved 6,000,000 pounds of lumber and building supplies in the summer and fall of 1877. A sawmill for the production of the rougher lumber was set up on the Little Big Horn near the Custer Battlefield.

The original buildings were of cotton-wood logs. Ironically, included in the more than 2,000 cottonwood logs used in con­struction, were the lodge poles abandoned by the Sioux in their hasty flight after the Custer battle. Later, pine was obtained from the Pine Hills south of Pompey's Pillar and used for the framework of the buildings.

The general design of Fort Custer was much the same as that of Fort Keogh. The plan of construction called for some 80 buildings, but not all were completed. Officer's quarters, 15 or 20 ''duplexes", each having a large fireplace and chimney, were built on the edge of the bluff above the river, fronting the parade ground. Substantially built quarters for the enlisted men were constructed on the other sie of the quadrangle. A conspicuous building tower­ing above its neighbors, was the square water tank built of lumber. Water pumped from the river was supplied to every building. There was no sewage system, but there was abundant man power to see that the sanitation was adequate.

On one side of the parade ground stood a splendid large grandstand. There was a fine officers' club and an opera house, both of frame construction. An immense brick warehouse, a guard house, a frame hospital, wagon sheds, stables and blacksmith shops. were among the other structures erected. Dominating the settlement and set in the middle of the parade ground, was a 105 foot flags taff with a crow's nest for observation 85 feet from the ground.

This appears to have been an elaborately equipped post with luxuries much more opulent than in most frontier posts, as evidenced by the hundreds of candleholders and the large candelabra with places for five and six candles.

As there were no Indian uprisings in this area after the completion of the Fort, the many men stationed there had plenty of time for relaxation and amusement. On this high plateau stretching far to the west and south, there was plenty of room for drilling and marksmanship practice.

Each fall contests were held to determine the best shot from each company. The target range was beyond the quadrangle with the targets set up not far from the edge of the bluffs. In the valley below grazed the cattle of the Crow Indians who constantly complained that their animals were being killed until finally banks were thrown up behind the targets to stop the bullets. (See Revolt of Swordbearer-Crow Indian; 978 638 Fort Custer On The Big Horn 1877-1899 by Upton).

The fort band and orchestra was ever popular, and frequently furnished music for important occasions in Billings, some 60 miles distant, as well as for entertainment at the post.

One of the most famous producers of opera and plays on the frontier was John Maquire, once a strolling Irish minstrel, who had come to Montana by way of Australia, San Francisco and Salt Lake City. In Butte he managed a theatre and presented companies performing the popular operas and plays of the time. In 1880, his company journeyed to Fort Custer where they presented ''Captain John Smith," using Crow Indians in the cast. Dur­ing the performance, an unplanned realistic western touch was added when a Crow Indian dashed angrily in, shouting that the Crow ponies tethered outside had been stolen by thieving Sioux. The play ended abruptly as the Indians and cavalry forces united in the pursuit of the Sioux culprits.

heads of various coulees about a mile south. Today the debris is covered over with wind­blown soil and grass and weeds, but even yet a few relics can be found: button, bits of glass, crockery and square nails.

About a half mile to the south of the fort was the cemetery where a number of soldiers and members of their families were buried. Later the bodies were removed to the Custer Battlefield cemetery, and now no trace of the old burying ground remains.

In 1898 it became apparent that this impressive fort was now useless and the government decided it should be abandoned In 1903, an appropriation of $10,000 was provided for the demolition and the salvaging of its material. The Crow Indians, who were undoubtedly pleased to see it discontinued, were given the joy of dismantling and for three years some 250 Indians worked at the task. The materials were put to a variety of uses in the construc­tion of buildings needed at Crow Agency.

The military reservation which had com­prised an entire township now reverted to the Crow Indians and some individual allotments wer made from it. In 1906 part of the land was opened to white settlement and the town site of Hardin was laid out on what had been reservation land.

Nothing remains of the old fort itself. The sites of a few of the old buildings are still visible, identified by piles of earth and shallow excavations, broken bricks and square nails. The pattern of the old fort, with its immense parade ground is no longer visible on the flat plain above the river. Marking its location is a lone monument set in the midst of a modern golf course. The thudding hoofs of galloping cavalry horses and the sound of the bugles are heard no more. Just the sighing of the wind stirring the tall dry grasses of the plain.

*Fort Myles Keogh, west of Miles City, Montana, at the junction of the Tongue and Yellowstone Rivers.

Brown: Plainsmen of the Yellowstone Brown and Felton: Frontier Years Burlingame: Montana Frontier Burlingame and Toole: History of Montana Billings Gazette: September 21, 1930 Guide BookBy Gary W, Zowada, Director Big Horn County Historical Museum




Fort Abercrombie. Dakota Territory Section A


Remains from the Post Cemetery were originally, transferred to Ft. Abraham Lincoln in 1885, then
to Custer National Cemetery in 1896. Intermittent graves: A-430 to 656.


Fort Abraham Lincoln. Dakota Territory Section A & B Transferred: 1892.
Intermittent graves: A-427 to 813, B-567



Fort Assinniboine. Montana Territory l Section B

Transferred: 1913. Intermittent graves: Section B, Graves 2 to 1247.



Fort Bennett. Dakota Territory Section A Transferred: 1892. Intermittent graves: 1-676 to 729



Fort Buford. Dakota Territory Section A Transferred: 1896. Intermittent graves: A-130 to 398.


Fort Custer. Montana Territory Section A Transferred: 1895. Intermittent graves: A-450 to 1054


Camp Sam Fordyce. Montana Territory Section Not Listed Transferred: 1892


Fort Phil Kearnv. Dakota

Territory fSection A & B Transferred: 1889. Intermittent graves: A-967; B-13 to 967.


 Fort Keogh. Montana Territory Section A Transferred: 1924. Intermittent graves: A-462 to 1144.


Fort Logan. Montana Section A Transferred: 1932. Intermittent graves: A-943 to 1076.


Fort McKinnev.Wyoming Section A Transferred: 1895. Intermittent graves: A-877 to 189


Fort Maginnis. Montana Section A Transferred: 1892. Intermittent graves: A-168 to 189.


 Fort Pembina. Dakota Territory Section A Transferred: 1892. Intermittent graves: A-113 to 167.


 Camp Poplar River Montana Section A Transferred: 1893. Intermittent graves: A-100 to 112.


Fort Reno. Wyoming Section A Transferred: 1911.


Fort Rice. Dakota Territory Section A Transferred: 1892. Intermittent graves: A-190 to 423.


Fort Shaw. Montana Territory Section A

Transferred: 1892. Intermittent graves: A-101 to 834.


Fort Sisseton. Dakota Territory Section A

Transferred: 1890. Intermittent graves: A-l to 42.


Fort C.F. Smith. Montana Territory Section B

Transferred: 1892. Intermittent graves: B-307 to 322


Fort Stevenson. Dakota Territory Section A

Transferred: 1891. Intermittent graves: A-597 to 673


Fort Totten. Dakota Territory Section A

Transferred: 1892. Intermittent graves: A-43 to 99.


Fort Yellowstone. Montana Territory MTl Section A

Transferred: Approximately 1918-1919. Intermittent graves: A-985 to 1004.


Fort William Henry Harrison. Montana Territory fMTl Section B & H

Transferred: 1948.


















































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