Mandan, North Dakota
Custer’s Last Stand is familiar to the majority of United States history buffs. General George Armstrong Custer, the brash officer, without waiting for the other divisions from the south and west, attacked what he thought was a small Indian village. Within hours, three thousand Sioux warriors led by Chief Crazy Horse destroyed the Seventh Cavalry down to the last man. What many don’t know is that Custer and the Seventh Cavalry were stationed at Fort Abraham Lincoln near Bismarck, North Dakota. It was from the fort that the men of the ill-fated unit were led to their demise.
Today, the fort is a North Dakota State Park. Several of the buildings have been reconstructed, including the Commander’s Residence, Custer’s last home. Park visitors can purchase a pass that takes them back to 1875 on the day of a scheduled party to be held in the Custer House that evening. Though the party never really happens, visitors are given a tour of the house by a volunteer soldier.
Prior to starting the interpretive tour, we awaited other guests on the large porch of the reconstructed residence and listened to the volunteer speak about the life and times of the cavalry soldier of the era. Tours are offered throughout the day. Park admission in 2015 was $5 US and the fee for the two interpretive tours in the park are $6 US per person.
All of the furnishings in the house are of the correct period. Many items were the personal property of the General and his wife. The desk shown above was used on a daily basis when General Custer was on duty at the fort. His portrait hangs above the desk and the small pencil sketch is a portrait of his wife on their wedding day. After his death, Elizabeth Bacon Custer became a champion of George Armstrong Custer’s legacy through books and lectures. She passed away in 1933 at the age of 90. Our tour guide painted a verbal picture of the daily life of the Custers who, strangely enough, aren’t around “right now”, but will certainly be there for the party this evening when the residents of Bismarck-Mandan arrive in their 1875 finest dress.
The pencil sketch of Mrs. Custer reflects the art of the day. The gallery of images included here features some of the rooms and furnishings in the Custer House. Click on an image to enlarge it and to scroll through the gallery.
More about Fort Abraham Lincoln’s On-A-Slant Village can be found here.