Anthropology, Department of


Date of this Version



Willey P, Scott DD. Who’s Buried in Custer’s Grave? J Forensic Sci 1999;44(3):656–665.


Copyright © 1999 by ASTM International. Used by permission.


On 10 October 1877, the year after the Battle of the Little Bighorn, General George A. Custer’s coffin was transported from a temporary grave in Poughkeepsie, NY, by steamer and cortege to permanent interment in the U.S. Military Academy’s Post Cemetery. The ceremony included the appropriate military and funerary rituals. There were, nevertheless, reasons to believe that Custer’s skeleton may not have been in the coffin—thus, he may have missed his own funeral. Custer’s remains, or part of them, may have been overlooked during the exhumation and left on the battlefield, only to be recovered around 1940. These bones, as well as those of another individual, were unceremoniously buried in a grave which is now marked “Two Unknown U.S. Soldiers” in the National Cemetery adjacent to the Little Bighorn Battlefield in Montana. That cemetery, perhaps appropriately enough, is named the Custer National Cemetery. This paper presents information concerning Custer’s original interment on the Little Bighorn Battlefield, his supposed disinterment, and the osteological evidence that his remains, or at least part of them, were left on the Little Bighorn Battlefield.