Custer’s Last Stand and the Northern Plains Indian Wars

An Indian Wars Field University Program

With Neil Mangum

June 20-29, 2021, from Bismarck, North Dakota

Northern Plains Indian Wars
Northern Plains Indian Wars. Courtesy Library of Congress.

George Armstrong Custer is one of America’s legendary characters. Commissioned a general in the days preceding the battle of Gettysburg, Custer rose to the brevetted rank of Major General only to return to a more modest permanent rank after the war. He became the most famous of American Indian fighters, recklessly leading the famed 7th U.S. Cavalry to a controversial and heroic end at the Little Big Horn River. Today, Lt. Col. George Custer remains a polarizing figure. Join us as we follow him to his destiny as part of a definitive “War on the Northern Plains” tour with historian Neil Mangum and the Blue and Gray Education Society.


Sunday, June 20, 2021

Arrive at the LaQuinta Inn, 2240 N 12th Street, 58501 (701-751-3313), near the Bismarck Airport, and be at leisure. Your room is reserved and paid for. Dinner is at your expense.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Meet your travel colleagues at 7:30 AM for your included breakfast and pick up your name tag, reading books, and maps. We depart at 8:30 AM for Fort Abraham Lincoln and Fort McKeen, the two staging areas for the May 17, 1876 march—here the soldiers left to the strains of “The Girl I left Behind Me.” Like the men on horseback and the infantry, we will see miles melt beneath our tires as we make several stops crossing Powder River and driving by Glendive and Powder River Depots before arriving at our hotel, the Best Western, War Bonnet, in Miles City, Montana. Lunch and dinner are on your own.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Enjoy your included breakfast or eat at a surrounding restaurant before departing at 8 AM. Our ride today passes through the remains of a garrison site, Fort Keogh, to the campsite at the mouth of Rosebud Creek, where Custer assumed command of the expedition and turned toward the Little Big Horn. A highlight of the day will be a visit to Deer Medicine Rocks, where Sitting Bull had a vision that led to the decision to confront the horse soldiers—it is on very private land, and Neil is one of the few historians allowed at it. While in this area, we will go to the graves of several important Indian warriors: Little Wolf, Dull Knife, and Two Moons. We will overnight three nights at the Big Horn Resort in Billings. Lunch and dinner are on your own.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Start with your complimentary breakfast. For the next two days we will do the Battle of the Little Big Horn, leaving at 8 AM each day. Today we focus on Custer’s approach, the valley fight of Marcus Reno, his retreat to the hilltop, and the hilltop defense. Lunch and dinner are on your own.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

After your included breakfast, we continue by following Custer into battle with a detailed treatment of his tactics and the Indians’ counter tactics—the markers on the battlefield speak loudly, and the dramatic end on Last Stand Hill will move you. You’ll get a chance to visit the gift shop and museum. Lunch and dinner are on your own.

Friday, June 25, 2021

After breakfast, today we will return to the Custer campaign and visit the battle of the Rosebud—Neil wrote the book on it! We will then travel to Wolf Mountain, the site of Crazy Horse’s last fight. We will overnight in Buffalo, Wyoming, at either the BestWestern Sure Stay Hotel or the Hampton Inn next door. Lunch and dinner are on your own.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Enjoy your breakfast before we mount up for today’s travels. This morning, we head to Fort Phil Kearny—the second of the protective installations manned by the cavalry. Then it is to the ridge and site of the December 1866 massacre of Capt. William Fetterman and 79 of his troopers. Yesterday you will have heard about the Hayfield fight, and today you will see the sister engagement known as the Wagon Box Fight. The day ends, following a stop at Devil’s Tower (made famous in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind), at Holiday Inn Express for two nights in Rapid City, South Dakota. Lunch and dinner are on your own.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Enjoy breakfast before we head out. An unforgettable day with stops at the Crazy Horse Monument, Mount Rushmore, Fort Meade, and Historic Deadwood—a Western town with every building listed on the National Historic Register. Lunch and dinner are on your own.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Enjoy your breakfast. Today, we return to Bismarck with stops at Sitting Bull’s grave, Fort Yates, and Fort Rice. Your room is reserved and paid for at the La Quinta in Bismarck before heading home on the 29th. Lunch and dinner are on your own.

What Your Registration Includes

This registration includes eight full days with Neil Mangum, an internationally famed scholar/historian with exclusive access to many sites—some on privately owned land; two tour escorts; our bus driver’s expenses and gratuity; exclusive use of Mark Owens’ deluxe 57-passenger motor coach with bathroom on board for eight days*; nine nights superior or better lodging; breakfasts**; complimentary snacks, sodas, and bottled water; a reading list and reading book with maps; all admissions; and airport transfers to and from the hotel in Bismarck.

*We reserve the right to downsize the transportation to 15 or 12 passenger vans to match the registration. A minimum of 20 registrations is required to cover the rather expensive costs of the bus and driver. If this happens, both vans will have PA systems that will allow everyone to hear Neil’s presentations en route.

**Meals on this trip are a la carte to comply with some people’s requests to hold down the total cost of the registration. Given that the bus and driver will be over $10,000, and there are two staff members plus Neil, this is our only real option. I am told many people eat only two meals a day or may get a pizza at night and would prefer to save the $200-$250 per person provided meals charge a trip of this length would normally command. The last time we did this it worked out fine.

About the Faculty

Neil Mangum is one of the nation’s foremost Indian Wars authorities and a lifelong student of George Armstrong Custer. Neil served his career in the National Park Service, where his postings included a tour as the Superintendent of the Little Big Horn National Battlefield. He was a key player in significant changes that made the site more inclusive and healing. His engaging manner has opened many doors to heritage tourists and made him one of the most respected historians in the country. He has also led tours of the Great Sioux Indian War, the Apache Wars, the Central Plains Indian War, the Buffalo Red River War, and many other Western themes. He is the author of the definitive work, The Battle of the Rosebud: Prelude to the Little Big Horn. Neil retired from the NPS in 2003 and now lives in Payson, Arizona.

Meeting Site and Hotel Information

This program starts and ends at the LaQuinta Inn and Suites, 2240 North 12th Street, Bismarck, ND 58501 (1-701-751-3313). Your registration fee includes two nights lodging here on June 20 and June 28. It also includes seven nights lodging on the road. We will make all your reservations and pay your room and tax. Incidentals at the hotel will be billed as you incur them. The hotel has a shuttle van that will pick you up from the airport and take you back.


The servicing airport is Bismarck (BIS). Delta, United, American, Frontier, and Allegiant all service or have connections that serve Bismarck. You may get the airport shuttle to and from the airport in Bismarck. If you drive to the event, we will make arrangements for you to leave your car at the hotel until we return.

Recommended Reading


Register for this program using a secure PayPal link

Registration Type

To register by mail or fax, download this printable registration form: Custer’s Last Stand and the Northern Plains Indian Wars

Questions? Need more information? Please contact us.