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Bil Lewis

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The Little Big Horn, 25 June, 1876

July 25, 2009


139 years ago, today, Bill Lewis (my great-grandfather) was scouting
for a better stage coach route along the Little Big Horn river.

I'll let gramps tell the story:

====

In June, 1876 while establishing this line we were building on the Big
Piney, I had a letter from Uncle John Bingham telling me to take a man
with me and go north to where the road crossed the Little Big Horn on
the bottom and find a hill route to avoid so many crossings of the
Little Big Horn, which went from one side to the other of the bottom
for several miles. 

On the morning of June 25, we left camp about 8 a.m. About 11
a.m. that morning we met, going down the trail, an old beaver trapper
with his pack horse. He informed us that they had met, meaning the
soldiers and the Indians had had a battle. He was at that time within
hearing distance of the shooting but didn't know who won. We went on
to the upper end of the valley, turned to the right, went up a ridge
to nearly the top of the ridge that Custer and his troops crossed from
the other side and then started north.

We had proceeded a short distance and notices an awful stench in the
air and the weather was extremely warm. This was on the 27th of
June. Presently we came to where Custer and his troops had been
massacred. It was impossible to go anywhere near them on account of
the dreadful stench of the dead horses and men whose bodies were
blotted and horrible shaped. While passing near the bodies saw several
revolvers on the ground but all had been broken or destroyed in some
way.

I saw a short bright metal object lying on the ground which I couldn't
distinguish. I walked over and picked it up, it proved to be a flute
made from an old Springfield rifle barrel with buckskin prongs to hold
on with, which had evidently been lost by one of the Indians during
the battle. Then we went down into the lower end of the valley,
returning to our camp on the Big Piney reporting to Uncle John that
the route we had followed was impractical as it menat [sic] from 20-25
miles farther in crossing through the valley.

====

General Terry arrived later that day to bury the dead and return with
the sole survivor of Custer's direct command, Comanche--a Morgan
mustang.

I've always held a reverence for Custer. Partly because he was the
finest calvery officer of the Union army, the youngest person ever to
be awarded the rank of general (albeit as a brevet rank); partly
because I too was known as "Goldilocks" in my youth due to my flaxen
hair; and partly because he rode Morgans--our "family" horse.

(My great-aunt breed Morgans in the mid-20th century. Very well if we
judge from comments like this "Some say Waseeka's Showtime was the
most beautiful Morgan that ever lived.")

And, odd as it may seem, he was also a staunch defender of Indian
rights.

I realize this has nothing to do with computer science, but it's
interesting.

-Bil

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