Little Big Horn Cartridges

Another thread got into a lively discussion of cartridge artifacts from the Battle of the Little Big Horn, aka, Custer’s Last Stand. Anyone interested in reading more about this fascinating subject should try and find copies of the following. Because they were intended for a limited, specialized, audience, publication numbers were very limited and they may be hard to find.

CUSTER, CASES & CARTRIDGES by Don Weibert. 328 pages. Privately published in 1989. ISBN: 0-912410-08-8. Describes and illustrates the artifacts found outside the National Monument. A must read for anyone interested in the ammunition and weapons used at the Little Big Horn.

CUSTER BATTLE GUNS by John S. Dumont. 112 pages. The Old Army Press, Ft. Collins Co. 1977. Somewhat dated, but still very interesting reading.

LITTLE TREASURES OF THE INDIAN WAR by Ray Meketa. Article in September 1992 The Gun Report. Not directly related to the Little Big Horn but of interest to relic-cartridge collectors in general.

THE MUCH MALIGNED TRAPDOOR CARBINE by Ray Meketa. Article in Frontier Times magazine, October 1985. Discusses myths relating to malfunctions of the Trapdoor Carbine and it’s ammunition at the LBH.

GUNS AT THE LITTLE BIGHORN. A Man At Arms Special Publication, 1988.

CUSTER’S CAVALRY COLTS. Arms Gazette, June 1980.

BY VALOR & ARMS. Special Issue, summer 1975.

MAN AT ARMS, Special Custer issue, August, 1995

IAA JOURNAL # 439, page 49. Artifact Description- Battle of the LBH, by Ray Meketa

Ray - thanks. It is a good bibliography and I will try to find what I don’t have, which is only the IAA articles, and the “Gun Report” article. Don’t know how successful I’ll be, but will look.

John M.

hi John !
Why are the US people so much concerned about this battle ?
It was not a big victory !

Good question.

We are interested because, win or lose (and of course, for Native Americans it was a win!), it is part of our history. It was an interesting battle in many ways that I need not go into here, and its ramifications were important, although overall a tragedy, for the American Indian. I, for one, am interested in all aspects of my country’s history, and that of other nations as well.

It is curious that Custer was afforded such high honors (burial at West Point and such). Of course, back in his day, he was a hero. Now, not so much.


It wasn’t a victory, except for the Sioux warriors, and even that can be argued because it only sped up their eventual fate. Why does it hold such fascination for history buffs? That’s a hard to answer question and, coincidently, one that I covered in depth in another of my articles. THE PRESS AND THE BATTLE OF THE LITTLE BIG HORN - IS THE CUSTER CONTROVERSY ALL A BIG MISTAKE? Published twice. First in HIDDEN TREASURES OF THE LITTLE BIGHORN. 1984 by Cheechako Press. And later in the Little Big Horn Associates Research Review, March 1984. Unfortunately those were back in the days before Al Gore invented the Internet so I don’t think you’ll find them in any sort of electronic form.

In a nutshell, the battle wasn’t a big deal, except to those who were there. But Custer was a national hero of sorts and the press, with nothing else to report during the news doldrums before the 1876 presidential election, took the story and ran with it.

Had Major Reno and his Battalion been killed, while Custer survived, the news reports would have been completely different and probably would not have lasted more than a few days.

Not any different than today and all the sensationalized news soundbites.


I understand that people are concerned about all the battles, lost or won.
In France for exemple we are always concerned by Dien Ben Phu despite the fact we have lost.
The people fighting overthere were heroes (except the arabs who surrender very quickly) and we lost the battle because of the idiot politicians, not of the army commanders.

In the case of Little Big Horn it is different.
Custer brought this desaster by himself because he was too pride, and was sure to have an easy victory. He din’t obey to the orders of the General Terry to wait after him and decided to attack the village alone.
Right or not ??


The timing of the battle made it such a big deal. The U.S. was preparing for massive celebrations of the Centennial on July 4, 1876 (much as with the Bicentennial July 4, 1976) with a huge swell of patriotism, self congratulation on the invincible and inevitable triumph of the nation, etc.

Wounds from the Civil War were beginning to heal (or at least fester less), eleven years after the end. The U.S. Army had been slashed from over a million men in 1865 to 56,000 two years later, and by 1876 was down to about half that, mainly split between reconstruction duties in the South, fighting Indians on the plains and manning traditional forts and posts along the coasts.

The sudden loss of 268 dead and 68 wounded cavalrymen at the hands of the little respected hostile Indians was a major shock as word of the battle hit the eastern newspapers on July 5th and 6th, 1876. Compare this to the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon which shook the U.S. over the death of 241 troops at a time when we had two million troops and our population was five times larger than in 1876.

The western frontier was not closed for another two decades, after the army finally crushed the Indians and herded them into the reservation lifestyle, and sheer numbers of settlers and miles of fences, roads and railroads “civilized” the land.

A bit off the subject of cartridges, but hopefully it helps explain the American fascination with this battle, and the relics from it.

Of course, lots of fake relics have been sold, such as modern blank cartridges fired at funeral services sold to suckers (or tourists) as having been “picked up on the Custer battlefield…” or so we learned in an earlier thread.


Of all the battles in all the world, I’d say that the Little Big Horn ranks among the top 10 in the amount of ink and paper devoted to every aspect of it. If you assembled every book, article, pamphlet, CD, movie, TV show into one place you’d have a library that would make many small town libraries look like a used book sale. The controversy has been going on for 132 years and I can’t imagine it stopping, ever.


Excellent recap of events. Thanks John