Photographing Custer's Battlefield
The Images of Kenneth F. Roahen
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
Barnard opens by introducing readers to Roahen, who spent the last phase of his career and his retirement years in Montana, where he made it his personal mission from the 1930s to the 1970s to photograph what was then called Custer Battlefield. Among Roahen’s most useful images are his photographs of the Crow’s Nest, the Morass, and Girard’s Knoll—places whose precise locations have long been debated. He also made a series of pioneering aerial photographs of the Little Big Horn and its surrounding landscape.
When paired with Barnard’s modern-day photographs, maps, and thorough analysis, Roahen’s images provide valuable information for visitors to the monument as well as for historians, biologists, engineers, and other government employees who interpret, preserve, and protect the battlefield and its surrounding terrain. In addition to showing sites associated with the fighting, Roahen’s photographs depict mid-twentieth-century roadwork, archaeological surveys and restorations, and construction of the visitor center, park housing, and maintenance facilities. Barnard’s matching photographs, taken in 2012 and 2013, help to identify additional subtle but significant landscape modifications.
The numerous debates surrounding the Battle of the Little Big Horn have made on-the-ground evidence especially important. Roahen’s photographic legacy, explored here in more than 300 historic and contemporary images, offers fresh insight into the battlefield’s ever-changing landscape, helping visitors old and new to better understand the history beneath their feet.
“Kenneth Roahen’s photography is a significant record, and Sandy Barnard’s presentation and assessment of it make Photographing Custer’s Battlefield rich, enlightening, and thoroughly rewarding.”—Jerome A. Greene, author of Stricken Field: The Little Bighorn since 1876
“From extensive coverage of the back county to Custer Hill and beyond, with many stops in between, including the renewed controversy over the location of the Crow’s Nest, Sandy Barnard’s skillful work in Photographing Custer’s Battlefield shows how much can be learned from Kenneth Roahen’s images of the Little Bighorn.”—James S. Brust, coauthor of Where Custer Fell: Photographs of the Little Bighorn Battlefield Then and Now