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Where the Battle of the Little Bighorn began  -  Sitting Bull's Camp in 1876

The town of Garryowen was named after the old Irish tune "Garry Owen" which was one of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer's favorite marching songs. "Garry Owen" is an old Irish quick-step that can be traced back to the 1800s. it is known to have been used by Irish regiments as a drinking song. So the story goes, one of the Irish "melting pot" members of the 7th Cavalry was singing the song under the influence of spirits, and Custer happened by, liked the rhythm, and soon began to hum the tune. Garryowen is derived from Gaelic meaning Owen's garden, which is a suburb of Limerick, Ireland. The tune has a fast paced and lively beat. The song was adopted as the regimental song soon after Custer arrived to take over the 7th Cavalry. It was the last song played by the band for Custer's men as they left the Terry column at the Rosebud River and rode into history.

50th Anniversary of the Battle of the Little Bighorn

Burying of the Hatchet, White Bull a Sioux Indian Chief, and General Edward Godfrey bury the hatchet in the grave of the Unknown Soldier at Garryowen, Montana. It was near this sight that Custer divided his forces and began his attack against Sioux, Arapahoe and Cheyenne that were camped within the valley of the Little Bighorn.

A registered historic site, Garryowen, the only town within the Battlefield is located at I-90 Exit 514 just south of the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument and Custer National Cemetery.  The site is just one hour's drive from Billings, Montana or from Sheridan, Wyoming.  The Battle of the Little Bighorn began on this quiet riverbank when 7th Cavalry troops attacked Sitting Bull's camp in the first military action of the West's most famous battle.  This grassy riverbank is where Major Marcus Reno's troops attacked Sitting Bull's camp on the afternoon of June 25th, 1876 under Lt. Col. George A. Custer's command.  For a century the battle was known as "Custer's Last Stand" or the "Custer Massacre."

From Garryowen, visitors can view all of the famous locations associated with the Battle of the Little Bighorn, including the site where Custer was last seen alive, Major Reno's hilltop defense site, Weir Point, Last Stand Hill, Medicine Tail Coulee, the Crow's Nest, and Wolf Mountains.  

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is the burial site of one of the first casualties of the Battle of the Little Bighorn.  The granite tomb was dedicated during the Burial of the Hatchet Ceremony in 1926 at Garryowen, during the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of the Little Bighorn after the discovery of the Unknown Soldiers body when building the interstate.  White Bull Sioux Indian, and General Godfrey performed the ceremony in front of 50,000 observers.  The Granite "Peace Memorial" behind the Tomb was dedicated on the 125th Anniversary of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. 

The town is now privately owned and operated by Christopher Kortlander.  It is the site of the Custer Battlefield Museum, a Federal Post Office, Conoco Gas Station, convenience store, Subway sandwich shop, Historical Rarities and rest area.  

The Custer Battlefield Museum houses extensive new exhibits including hundreds of Custer Battlefield artifacts from the Battle of the Little Bighorn and the Plains Indian War period.  

Documentaries are shown hourly in the theatre adjacent to the museum and give logistical battle bearings to visitors before they begin the historical voyage through the Museum, then move on to the Little Bighorn Battlefield.  Important Indian War period artifacts and manuscripts related to Custer, Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, and the 7th Cavalry, as well as an acclaimed collection of highly historic photographs by D.F. Barry, are part of the exhibit.  Preserved, for example, is the contract for Sitting Bull's appearance in the famous Buffalo Bill Wild West Show. This is the only contract signed by Sitting Bull known to exist.

The exhibit area houses a lock of Custer's Hair, Captain Tom W. Custer's Kerr revolver, Little Wolf's battle-worn eagle feather war bonnet, war clubs and trade knives, cavalry spurs and a U.S. Cavalry pistol dropped on the Reno retreat route - still fully loaded.  

Significant collection of battle vintage beaded clothing on exhibit adds to bronzes, paintings, and other memorabilia to create an educational tour through the vanished American frontier. 

For tourist and lodging information about Garryowen please feel free to call 406-638-1876.


  Lyrics to "Garryowen"

1.Let Bacchus' sons be not dismayed
But join me each jovial blade
Come, drink and sing, and lend your aid,
To help me with the chorus.

sInstead of Spa we'll drink down ale,
And pay the reckn'ning on the nail
No man for debt shall go to jail
From GarryOwen in glory.

2. We are the boys who take delight in
Smashing the Limerick lights when lightning;
Through the streets like spotters fighting
And clearing all before us.

3.We'll break windows, we'll break down doors
The watch knock down by three and fours;
Then let the doctors work their cures,
And tinker up our bruises

4. We'll beat the bailiffs out of fun
We'll make the mayors and the sheriffs run;
We are the boys no man dares dun,
If he regards a whole skin.

5. Our hearts so stout have got us fame
For soon 'tis from whence we came;
Where'er we go they dread the name,
Of GarryOwen in Glory.

Listen to "Garryowen"


Custer Battlefield Museum  1-90 Exit 514  Town Hall, P. O. Box 200, Garryowen, MT  59031  (406) 638-1876

Artworks and photographs within this website may not be copied or reproduced without written permission of the Custer Battlefield Museum. 
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