Clicky

A Guide to the Custer Battlefield Museum, Montana

Are you a history buff visiting Montana and looking for the best historical sites to explore? The Custer Battlefield Museum, located in Garryowen, features artifacts, remains, and monuments of the historic Battle of the Little Bighorn. Let’s see why a visit here is a top priority.

The Custer Battlefield Museum

about carter county museum
Image: Jasperdo
  • Location: 4185 Garryowen Rd, Garryowen, MT 59031
  • Contact Number: (406) 638-1876
  • Website: http://custermuseum.org/
  • Admission: Adults $8.00, Children 12 & under Free
  • Hours: Spring and Fall – 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Winter – 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM, Closed on all major holidays.

The Custer Battlefield Museum sits where the Battle of the Little Bighorn began on what used to be Sitting Bull’s campsite. Most Plains Indian tribes used the campsite as their summer hunting ground. Rivers such as Yellowstone, Big Horn, Rosebud, and Powder made this site a fertile hunting ground.

The site is on the famous bend of the Little Bighorn River, south of the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. It’s on a high grassland plain and offers spectacular views of the battlefield area.

In 1876, George Armstrong Custer led a battalion of 265 soldiers against the Cheyenne and Lakota Indians. The two Plains Indians tribes outnumbered Custer’s small force, killing them all in a few hours. After learning the news of Custer’s death, people back east reacted in disbelief and sorrow.

In 1995, the Custer Battlefield Museum opened in honor of Custer and the 7th Cavalry Unit soldiers. The museum serves as a preservation center of the Battle of Little Bighorn’s remains and an interpretation site. Custer Battlefield Museum is open year-round and is Montana’s third most visited historical site.

What’s There to See?

what to see there
Image: Jasperdo

The Custer Battlefield Museum houses a vast collection of artifacts and manuscripts preserving the history of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Visitors can explore the Cavalry soldiers and the plain Indians’ artifacts excavated on the site.

The museum also features large dioramas that allow one to travel back in time and learn how the two sides fought. Some war artifacts you can glimpse include:

  • Golden eagle tail war bonnet that belonged to Little Wolf
  • A shovel that dug graves of the fallen cavalry soldiers
  • Crow Dog’s rifle
  • War clubs and knives
  • Tom Custer’s Kerr revolver
  • Army pistol
  • Beaded Indian war shirts
  • A collection of moccasins
  • Lakota lance and shields
  • U.S. Army-issue revolver
  • A facsimile
  • A lock of Custer’s hair
  • A pair of cavalry boots
  • Headdress of Stinking Bear
  • Signature of Sitting Bull
  • A Sioux dugout canoe
  • Ivory cavalry dice
  • Paintings
  • Bronzes, among many other memorabilia

Besides war artifacts, you can explore a collection of over 100 historical photographs by David F. Barry, the world-famous photographer. The photographs are Barry’s most extensive collection of works, featuring recognizable images of George A. Custer, Sitting Bull, Low Dog, Benteen, Gall, and Tom Custer.

You can also visit the site where the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is situated to pay your respects. This tomb holds the remains of a soldier found in 1926 before the Custer Battle’s 50th Anniversary.

The remains of this unknown trooper might have been one of the 7th Cavalry soldiers under Major Reno. This soldier might have died in the opening phase of this historic battle near Garryowen, Montana.

Custer Battlefield Museum launched a granite ‘Peace Monument’ behind the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The monument features George A. Custer and Sitting Bull’s bronze sculptures.

A theater adjacent to the museum shows documentaries of the interpretation of the Battle of the Little Bighorn on an hourly basis. In the parking lot, a loudspeaker provides recounts of the battle and describes the ‘horrible stench.’

To get the whole picture of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, explore other sites within Garryowen associated with the battle. These locations include:

  • The hilltop defense site of Major Reno
  • Last Stand Hill
  • Weir Point
  • Wolf Mountains
  • Crow’s Nest
  • Medicine Tail Coulee

Tips for Planning a Visit to Custer Battlefield Museum

Custer Battlefield Museum sits in the town of Garryowen, located at I-90 Exit 515. It’s south of Custer National Cemetery and the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. You can take a one-hour drive from the city of Billings or Sheridan to get to the museum.

Custer is open from Monday through Sunday, from 8 AM to 5 PM. Adults pay a $7.50 admittance fee, while children under 12 can explore the museum for free. The museum requests an optional advance notice if you plan to visit as a group.

Planning at least two hours to explore everything is important when visiting Custer Battlefield Museum. You can give yourself at least three hours if you want to visit with family or friends.

Giving yourself enough time allows you to explore all artifacts and monuments in the museum thoroughly. You’ll also have plenty of time to explore the Deep Ravine Trail and visit the Reno-Benteen Battlefield. Park rangers and informational signs will help you explore all attractions within the museum.

If you prefer a guided tour, head to The Crow Nation Office of Tourism to pay for the service. You’ll enjoy a one-hour guided tour that will begin at the visitors’ center.

The museum is on a high grass plain, and the weather can be at extremes. If you’re staying in the nearby cities, learn about the museum’s weather in advance to ensure you have the right outfits. Consider your footwear if you plan to walk towards the battlefield and cemetery areas.

Attractions Near Custer Battlefield Museum

attractions
Image: Kent Kanouse

Attractions near Custer Battlefield Museum include:

Conclusion

Custer Battlefield Museum is a top historic destination for anyone interested in the history of Montana. The museum is home to hundreds of war artifacts, pictures of the 7th Cavalry soldiers, and the plain Indians excavated on the site.

It also features monuments, trails, a cemetery, and an interpretation of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Is there anything else you’d want to know about Custer Battlefield Museum, Montana? Comment below, and we’ll try our best to respond.

Related Articles