The Battle of Greasy Grass or Little Bighorn…. Hardin, Montana June 2-4

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We did a stopover at the Crow Agency near Hardin, Montana. Our base of operations was  Grandview Campground , $42/night with Good Sam’s and is cash only. The plan was to visit the Little Big Horn National Monument and take a tour with Apsaalooke Tours to get the Native American point of view. We were not disappointed.

The Native American’s call the Battle of Little Bighorn the Battle of Greasy Grass because the grass in the area is so tall that it rubbed the bellies of their horses and caused a shimmer on the grasses. We went on a tour with the Apsaalooke Tours, run by the Crow Indians and includes visiting the Crow Reservation. We had three Crow guides and Ray and I were the only people on this particular tour. It was an excellent two hour tour and we learned so much. I highly recommend going and engaging with the guides to learn a more complete picture of this Battle. I also recommend reading Lakota Noon by Gregory F. Michno. He used recorded Native American accounts of the battle to form a timeline and give their perspective on what really happened that day. It’s a fascinating account and well worth the read.

After the Apsaalooke Tour we went to the visitor center/museum and watched the introductory film. It was interesting that the Park Service now indicate that the Native Americans were protecting their homes and their way of life. Afterwards we went on our own self-guided tour, which was also very informative. The Monument has changed over the years and brown markers have been laid to indicate where Native Americans fell in battle. These were added well after the white markers of the US Calvary. On the knoll we saw a number of white and brown markers and the marker for General George Armstrong Custer. One thing I noticed while touring was that visitors were quiet and reverent as this was a place of loss of life and the magnitude of what actually transpired here.

The battle was on June 25-26, 1876 between the US 7th Calvary, led by General George Armstrong Custer and the Lakota-Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes who were camped together at the Little Bighorn River, while hunting. The Native Americans were led by Crazy Horse in battle and Sitting Bull at the camp. Other tribal leaders were Gall, Red Horse, American Horse, Two Kettles, and Two Eagles. The Calvary led by Reno attacked the unsuspecting encampment, which was full of women and children, and the battle began. It didn’t go exactly like the Calvary expected. The tribes fought back fiercely to protect their families and homes.

Six women and four children were killed in Reno’s original attack. During the battle thirty one Native warriors died in combat or from wounds. The 7th Calvary lost sixteen officers and 242 troops, with one officer and fifty one wounded. The 7th Calvary lost 52% and suffered a massive defeat with Reno becoming the scapegoat after the battle. I encourage you to read credible sources as to what really happened. I promise that it will be an eyeopener for you.

I do encourage you to read more about this battle and the Indian Wars. Our history books painted a much different picture than what actually happened during this time. Live, learn, grow. Thanks for reading. Next up Rapid City, South Dakota, a beautiful and historic place.

Vicksburg to Natchez, Mississippi February 13-16

We rolled in to River Town Campground (a Good Sams Campground at $24.61/night) in Vicksburg around 1:30 PM on February 13th. This campground is nicely laid out and all the sites are pull though, which helps in getting the RV set up quickly. 10 minutes tops.

After set up we headed to the visitor’s center. While traveling in the past I often bypassed the visitor’s centers. This is a big mistake if you want to take advantage of the best places to visit in a limited amount of time. Note to self: always stop by for an orientation of the area and some very helpful advice.

Leaving the visitor’s center we headed down to the historic downtown drive. This is a quaint area of eclectic shops and riverfront murals, casinos, and restaurants. Beautiful area! Pre-civil war buildings are in short supply as during the Siege of Vicksburg the town was hit by barrages of artillery from May 29 through July 4, 1863, when Lt. Major John Pemberton surrendered to the Union army of Ulysses Grant. Vicksburg was the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River. The buildings that did survive mostly did not survive the great fire of 1910.

Early on the 14th we toured the Vicksburg Military Memorial Park which is part of the US Parks Service. This park was magnificent, with 1800 acres, demarcation of the red and blue battle lines and monuments for each state and regiment that fought there. The restored ironclad gunboat, USS Cairo, is also on the grounds. It was a marvel built in 1861 for the war effort. Seven of these gunboats were built in 100 days. I was very moved by what I learned there. https://www.historynet.com/battle-of-vicksburg https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vicksburg_National_Military_Park https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Cairo.

After about 4.5 hours we were overwhelmed and left for a late lunch/early dinner of soul food. LDs at the riverfront was excellent! One meat, 3 veggies, bread, dessert and water for $8.50 each. The staff was as great as the food. We even had pink angel food cake with pink icing for Valentines Day. It tasted like pure sugar! This place is a locals’ favorite and we would eat there again!

We headed to Natchez on the 15th, down the Natchez Trace. This is an old Indian trail that is now kept up by the National Parks Service. It reminds me of a more southern version of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Natchez is the ancestral language of the Natchez people who historically inhabited Mississippi and Louisiana They now live among the Creek and Cherokee peoples in Oklahoma because they were removed from their native lands by the US Government. Natchez was discovered by French traders in 1716. They started the first European Settlement in Mississippi, named Fort Rosalie. The First American Flag was raised on the highest ridge in 1797 to claim all Spanish lands east of the Mississippi.

The French explorers left and went further south and founded New Orleans. New Orleans became known as the Big Easy and Natchez was known as the Little Easy. I found that very interesting. The architecture in both cities have a lot of similarities from the French influence.

Many of the historic homes in Natchez survived the Civil War and many are now bed and breakfast inns that allow tours of these treasures. The Historic Spanish Promenade that was built on the bluffs in 1790 is still being enjoyed today. That is where we started in the historic district of this alluring town.

Under the Hill was up next. It was the original Natchez which was a river port in 1730. At that time the area was home to gamblers, river pirates, highwaymen, and prostitutes. Around the time of the Revolutionary war the more respectable folks coming to the area built their fine homes on the bluffs above. Under the Hill is now home to eclectic shops and cafe’s. I did not see any current day prostitutes nor gamblers but I was there in the early after noon! Pictures below.

The following pictures are from the historic district, also full of eclectic shops. I really loved visiting this place.

Saint Mary’s Basilica was an excellent example of Gothic Revival architecture and was built in 1842. Wonderful!

Our last stop was the Melrose Estate, an 1800’s Greek revival-style mansion that reflects the height of Southern prosperity and “King Cotton.” It was built by the John T. McMurran family and has 21 guest rooms, original full bathroom and contains 80% of the original furnishings of the home. It is maintained by the National Parks Service and our guide Barnie was the best tour guide I’ve had. He knew his history and made it a fun and entertaining tour. I consider this place a must see. Pictures follow:

We thanked Barnie, our guide and headed back to camp. We were leaving for Beaumont, Texas at 6AM on 2/16/19. Another adventure on our trip of a lifetime. More to come.