The Battle of the Little Big Horn is known to some Plains tribes as the Battle of the Greasy Grass.  But no matter the name, it is the iconic American conflict between the Plains Indians and the U.S. Cavalry.  The battle took place June 25, 1876 between U.S. forces led by George A. Custer and Indians forces (Sioux , Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho) led by Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and Gall of the Sioux, Two Moon of the Northern Cheyenne, and  Little Powder of the Arapaho.  I cannot remember when “Custer’s Last Stand,” the 7th Cavalry, and Sitting Bull were not part of my vocabulary.  Like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln they are just part of America.  Likewise, I can’t imagine my putting together a collection of military miniatures that did not include this iconic American conflict.   

The gallery is intended to reflect the opening and closing phases of the battle.  Prior to the battle, Custer divided his forces sending Major Marcus Reno (Reno was a decorated Civil War veteran, but had no experience fighting Indians.) forward with 175 men to initiate the attack with the following instructions, “The Indians are about two miles and half ahead.  They are on the jump.  Go forward as fast as you think proper, and charge them wherever you find them, and I will support you.” (quote taken from Osprey Campaign Series #39)  Custer retained 221 men under his direct command.  Ironically, the great fear of the U.S. forces was that the Indians would escape rather than fight.  My gallery opens with the Indians learning of Reno’s advance and riding out of the village to attack him.   After this initial confrontation and Reno’s surprise at the huge size of the Indian forces advancing on him, Reno panicked and ordered a retreat to a location that today is known as Reno Hill.   Reno and his troops held this position until the arrival of General Terry’s forces on June 27.  The gallery closes with the classic/stylized portrayal of the defeat of the forces under Custer’s direct command, “Custer Last Stand.”  

I painted this collection about 15 years ago.  It is made up of about 600 figures drawn from a variety of manufactures.  The Indians are by Stone Mountain, Yellow Ribbon, and Minifig.  The mounted Minifig Indians are some of the nicest 15 mm figures I have ever seen.  I modified four of the mounted Minifig Indians by cutting off the lower portion of the horses’ legs, reattaching them to their bases and adding Green Putty to give the look of splashing water for the river crossing.   In order to get the number of warriors I needed, all of the Minifig, Yellow Ribbon and Stone Mountain Indians have been repeated many times in this collection.   My favorite Yellow Ribbon figures are actually from their Apache line and show Indians hanging off the side of their horses firing their guns beneath the horses’ necks.  I modified several of those to give them the appearance of being Plains Indians.  The U.S. Cavalry is composed of Old Glory and Essex figures from their Civil War lines.  It is unlikely that the 7th Cavalry was carrying sabers during this battle.  I think they had been collected prior to the campaign, but I needed to put that historic reality aside in order to get the numbers and variety of troopers I needed to provide an interesting look to my collection.  I believe that all these figures are still available today.  If I remember correctly, the dead horses are Stone Mountain.  The figures involved in hand-to-hand combat are modifications of Old Glory Civil War figures from their melee pack.  I have done similar modification with these figures in my Rorke’s Drift and Samurai collections as well.  The arrows stuck in men and horses are thin wire.

The Indian village is composed of tepees made by Galia, a company that is no longer in business, but Peter Pig makes 15 mm tepees that I am sure are just as nice as the Galia were.  I did one modification of a tepee and that was to cut the bottom off, raise it on wires like tent poles and use Milliput to give the appearance that the sides of the tepee had been rolled up to provide air on a hot summer day.  It was then put on a Milliput base.  The skins/hides that are being stretched on triangular poles are manufacturer made, but I can’t remember who the manufacturer is.  The skins/hides that are stretched and dried on the ground were created by me from Milliput and wire.  I have a lot of campfires that are supposed to be used with this gallery, but I couldn’t find them on the day we took the pictures.  The river was purchased by me more than 20 years ago and even then I think the company had gone out of business.  Today you can purchase a similar river from Pegasus Hobbies. (I own it as well; it comes pre-painted and is very reasonable in price.)  The Pegasus river is plastic and straight whereas the one I used in this gallery is a hard foam with lots of twists and turns.  I used the foam river here because the Little Big Horn has lots of twists and turns.   The trees are the same I have used in my previous galleries as is the indoor-outdoor carpet I used for the ground cover.  The background mural is in five sections and was painted by my daughter.  I have used it with many of my previous galleries as well.

This gallery took about three hours to set up, photograph, and take down.  It was photographed by my daughter.  I’m extremely pleased with the way this gallery came out.  I think it’s our best use of the space (the table top is 7’ x 5’) and figures so far.  I hope you enjoy it as well.

Little Big Horn Gallery