Supplying Custer

The Powder River Supply Depot, 1876

The Battle of the Little Bighorn is one of the best-known events in the history of the American West. Questions surrounding Custer’s fate have been discussed and researched at length, but details about the transportation and logistics of military supplies have not been thoroughly investigated. Archaeologist Gerald Clark stumbled upon the remnants of a supply depot while surveying the area near the confluence of the Yellowstone and Powder Rivers. It turned out to have been established by General Terry during the Sioux War and utilized by Custer and part of the 7th Calvary.
The book details the items recovered archaeologically, including ale and soda bottles, cartridges, packing crates, and a horseshoe and ceramic doll. It also addresses the army’s knowledge of this area and how the supply depot fit into the broader military campaign. This book connects archaeology and history to explore how the American military planned, maneuvered, and operated on the northern plains from the end of the Civil War through 1876.

Gerald R. Clark spent thirty years as an archaeologist and cultural resource specialist for the Bureau of Land Management in Montana and Wyoming. While there, he helped facilitate the investigation of several Montana prehistoric and historic sites by universities, including the Mill Iron Site and Garnet Ghost Town. He retired in 2006.

Table of Contents:
List of Figures 
List of Tables
1. Background 
2. Exploration and Military Operations in the Lower Yellowstone and Powder River Country, 1805–1875 
3. The 1876 Sioux War to the Beginning of White Settlement 
4. Events of the 1876 Sioux War at the Mouth of Powder River
5. Archaeology and History at the Powder River Depot 
6. Conclusions
Appendix 1. Excavation Details and Formation of Features D and F 
Appendix 2. Artifacts Associated with Beverages and Drinking 
Appendix 3. Artifacts and Organic Materials Related to Food 
Appendix 4. Artifacts Related to Medicines 
Appendix 5. Artifacts Related to Tobacco Use 
Appendix 6. Artifacts and Bones Related to Transportation 
Appendix 7. Artifacts Associated with Firearms 
Appendix 8. Artifacts Associated with Clothing 
Appendix 9. Miscellaneous Artifacts and Minerals 
Appendix 10. Dog Remains 
Appendix 11. The Commissary Department Provision Book 

Praise and Reviews:
“A masterful piece of micro history, building from the small piece to understand the larger implications of the use of landscape and supply systems in the nineteenth-century West. Clark’s work is a prime example of how material culture and archaeology studies done in a holistic manner can generate new understanding of how and why events occurred in the past.” —Douglas D. Scott, Professor of Anthropology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

“A great book for a beginning class on historical archaeology since it shows not only the marriage of history and archaeology but demonstrates how a small and seemingly unimportant collection of artifacts and features can blossom into interesting and informative research… This is a great piece of work and well worth the reading.”—Historical Archaeology

“A useful book about a much neglected subject.”
Montana: The Magazine of Western History