These are the Black Kettle Grasslands, which the Cheyenne
would have called home.
Arriving on the Cheyenne lands, the settlers would dig into a ridge and
erect such a structure of local materials until lumber could be shipped
from the East. Grass thatch and 3" of sod would go on the roof beams,
and the floor and back wall would remain dirt. Wood is scarce on the Plains,
so buffalo manure was a popular fuel for heating and cooking.
Custer's forces hid behind the ridge to the left awaiting dawn. Elliott's forces
were behind the ridge to the right, and Thompson's forces were further to the left
out of the picture. Custer's men were to charge through the village, and Elliott's
and Thompson's men were flanking forces to minimize escapes. The village was
set in the meadow between the two lines of trees, on the Washita River.
This is the approximate position of the village. Due to the minimal impact
of Indian life on the land, archeologists have never been able to set the
exact layout of the village.
This is the mound from which Custer observed the battle. The village
would be on the light green area among the trees to the right of the mound.
This is what the Indians feared more than anything else: more than Washington,
more than the 7th Cavalry, more than disease or the other tribes. This was the
railroad bed from that period. This is what told the Indians that the white
man would never stop coming in ever greater numbers.
More than a century old, discarded ties lie alongside the
old railroad bed.