Custer Expedition

William Henry Illingworth photo “String of Pearls” taken at the Castle Creek valley.

Led by Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer on July 2, 1874

Started from modern day Bismarck, North Dakota, then called Fort Abraham Lincoln.

Reached the Belle Fourche River on July 18, 1874.

July 21 camped near present day Aladdin, Wy.

July 21 Camp Custer Expedition

Custer arrived in the Black Hills on July 22, 1874.

July 23-24 camped at “Inyan Kara” a mountain named when Lt. G.K. Warren explored the area in 1857.

Buried two soldiers on a bluff above camp east of Inyan Kara on July 23

Private Turner died of dysentery and Cunningham was shot during an argument.

The expedition was photographed by William H. Illingworth.

Custer’s expedition entailed up to 1200 men, 110 wagons and a two month food supply.

Native American scouts were led by Bloody Knife and Lean Bear.

July 25 camp was made along Cold Creek. *

July 25 Custer Camp

On July 26 William Illingworth perched his tripod and camera above Castle Creek valley for a now famous picture. *

String of Pearls

Encountered a small Lakota village near present day Deerfield Lake on July 28

The expedition reached French Creek on July 30.

William McKay, a miner accompanying the expedition mined the first gold at what is now Custer, SD.

On July 31, 1874 Custer reached Harney Peak.

A “Permanent Camp” was established at Agnes Park August 1-5.

From Agnes Park, exploring parties fanned out to the south and southeast.

A significant gold discovery was made on August 1, 1874 along French Creek.*

Custer’s First Gold

Private John McDonnel carved his name into a tree. The tree sample can be seen at the 1881 Courthouse Museum in Custer.*

The expedition started back to Fort Lincoln on August 6.

On August 7 Custer shot and killed a grizzly bear.

On August 9-10, 1874, Custer camped to locate the best direction out of the hills.

Custer Camp 1874

The only large group photograph of the officers was taken at the August 12 camp.

August 12 Camp Custer Expedition

They could not find a way out of the Hills, so he turned South to find a break in the limestone wall that is now known as “Custer Gap”.

44.13115, -103.41434 Custer Gap

Private James King was buried, August 14.

Private James King grave

Custer had traveled for 60 days and over 883 miles.

Custer spent less than 26 days in the Black Hills.

Custer’s intrusion into the Black Hills, some say was against the Treaty of Fort Laramie of 1868.

August 14, Custer exits the Black Hills.

The Expedition camped a few miles south of Bear Butte on August 15, 1874.

The Custer Expedition returned to Fort Lincoln on August 30, 1874




Paul Horsted