Year
1876
Month Day
June 30

Wounded soldiers evacuated from the Little Big Horn by steamboat

After a slow two-day march, the wounded soldiers from the Battle of the Little Big Horn reach the steamboat Far West.

The Far West had been leased by the U.S. Army for the duration of the 1876 campaign against the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes of the Northern Plains. Under the command of the skilled civilian Captain Grant Marsh, the 190-foot vessel was ideal for navigating the shallow waters of the Upper Missouri River system. The boat drew only 30 inches of water when fully laden and Marsh managed to steam up the shallow Big Horn River in southern Montana in June 1876. There, the boat became a headquarters for the army’s planned attack on a village of Sioux and Cheyenne they believed were camping on the nearby Little Big Horn River.

On June 28, Captain Grant and several other men were fishing about a mile from the boat when a young Indian on horseback approached. “He wore an exceedingly dejected countenance,” one man later wrote. By signing and drawing on the ground, the tribesman managed to convey that there had been a battle but the men did not understand its outcome. In fact, the Native American was Curley, one of Lieutenant Colonel George Custer’s Crow scouts. Three days earlier, he had been the last man to see Custer and his 7th Cavalry battalion before they were wiped out during the Battle of the Little Big Horn.

The following day, Grant received a dispatch from General Terry, who had found Custer’s destroyed battalion and the surviving soldiers of the 7th Cavalry. Terry ordered Grant to prepare to evacuate the wounded soldiers. Slowed by the burden of carrying the wounded men, Terry’s force did not arrive until June 30. Grant immediately received the 54 wounded soldiers and sped downstream as quickly as possible. With the Far West draped in black and flying her flag at half-mast, Grant delivered the wounded to Fort Abraham Lincoln near Bismarck, North Dakota, at 11:00 p.m. on July 5.

The fast and relatively comfortable transport of the wounded by steam power undoubtedly saved numerous lives. Yet, Grant was also the bearer of bad news. From Fort Abraham Lincoln, General Terry’s report of the disaster was telegraphed all over the country. Soon the entire nation learned that General Custer and more than 200 men had been killed along the Little Big Horn River.

READ MORE: What Really Happened at the Battle of the Little Bighorn?

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Soviet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov defects from U.S.S.R.

Considered one of the world’s greatest ballet dancers of all time, Soviet virtuoso Mikhail Baryshnikov choreographs his own Cold War-era defection from the U.S.S.R. after four years of planning. Known as “Misha” to his admirers, Baryshnikov, then 26, finished a performance with ...read more

Daredevil crosses Niagara Falls on tightrope

Jean Francois Gravelet, a Frenchman known professionally as Charles Blondin, becomes the first daredevil to walk across Niagara Falls on a tightrope. The feat, which was performed 160 feet above the Niagara gorge just down river from the Falls, was witnessed by some 5,000 ...read more

Spanish retreat from Aztec capital

Faced with an Aztec revolt against their rule, forces under the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés fight their way out of Tenochtitlan at heavy cost. Known to the Spanish as La Noche Triste, or “the Night of Sadness,” many soldiers drowned in Lake Texcoco when the vessel carrying ...read more

Soviet cosmonauts perish in reentry disaster

The three Soviet cosmonauts who served as the first crew of the world’s first space station die when their spacecraft depressurizes during reentry. On June 6, the cosmonauts Georgi Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov, and Viktor Patsayev were launched into space aboard Soyuz 11 on a ...read more

Hitler purges members of his own Nazi party in Night of the Long Knives

In Germany, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler orders a bloody purge of his own political party, assassinating hundreds of Nazis whom he believed had the potential to become political enemies in the future. The leadership of the Nazi Storm Troopers (SA), whose four million members had ...read more

“Gone with the Wind” published

Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, one of the best-selling novels of all time and the basis for a blockbuster 1939 movie, is published on June 30, 1936. In 1926, Mitchell was forced to quit her job as a reporter at the Atlanta Journal to recover from a series of physical ...read more

“Do the Right Thing” released in theaters

On June 30, 1989, the writer-director Spike Lee’s celebrated third feature film, Do the Right Thing—a provocative, racially charged drama that takes place on one block in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, on the hottest day of the year—is released in U.S. theaters. The ...read more

A first-time offender ends up on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List

Glen Godwin, a young business owner, is convicted of murder in Riverside County, California, and sentenced to 26-years-to-life in prison. According to his roommate’s testimony, Godwin stomped on, choked, and then stabbed Kim LeValley, an acquaintance and local drug dealer, 28 ...read more