An artifact in the National Museum of American History tells the intriguing tale of a U.S. Navy connection to, of all things, the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
When the dust settled on the evening of 25 June 1876, warriors from the Arapaho, Lakota Sioux, and Northern Cheyenne had destroyed five companies of the U.S. Army’s Seventh Cavalry on hills alongside the Little Bighorn River in the Montana Territory. Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer, regimental commander, lay dead among the bodies of 210 of his troopers.
When surviving companies of the regiment reached “Last Stand Hill” on 27 June, Custer and the other troopers’ bodies had been stripped of their clothing and personal items and ritually mutilated. One body, riddled with arrows, found alongside Custer was that of Second Lieutenant William Van Wyck Reily.