Today is the 133rd anniversary of the beginning of the two-day Indian War fight popularly known as the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
Here are three artifacts, two fired 45-55 carbine cases and one fired 405 grain bullet, found by me on a small ridge more than 1000 yards north of Major Reno’s entrenchment positions. Finding them was by pure luck and very unexpected because they were so far away from any known trooper position and on the exposed slope of the ridge - a location not normally known to yield such items.
Knowing that they probably told an interesting story I kept them seperate from my other Little Bighorn artifacts and placed them in their own little box with a written description.
Several years later, again by chance, I happened to be looking at them, reflecting on the story they could tell if only they could talk. It was then that I noticed that the rifleing marks on the bullet were not those of a U.S. issue rifle or carbine, something that I had not noticed before.
Suddenly, I recalled Sergeant John Ryan’s account of his experiences on Reno Hill where he fired at several Indians who had been shooting at the soldiers, but were beyond the range of the trooper’s carbines. Ryan was using a custom made Sharps rifle with a telescopic sight, chambered for the 45-55 cartridge, and he spoke of making the Indians scamper to safety once he had their range.
Now the puzzle of the three artifacts became clear. The empty 45-55 cases were from ammunition taken from one of General Custer’s dead troopers and turned against Majpr Reno’s entrenched soldiers. The 45 bullet was one fired by Sergeant Ryan from his Sharps rifle exactly as he recalled it nearly 50 years later. The Indian firing at the troopers from his exposed position on the ridge must have felt safe at the long distance - until that 45 caliber bullet struck alarmingly close, no doubt sending him running to safety.
Good shooting for such a long distance.