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George Armstrong Custer

George Armstrong Custer

Overview
George Armstrong Custer (December 5, 1839 – June 25, 1876) was a United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 officer and cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

 commander in the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 and the Indian Wars
Indian Wars
American Indian Wars is the name used in the United States to describe a series of conflicts between American settlers or the federal government and the native peoples of North America before and after the American Revolutionary War. The wars resulted from the arrival of European colonizers who...

. Raised in Michigan
Michigan
Michigan is a U.S. state located in the Great Lakes Region of the United States of America. The name Michigan is the French form of the Ojibwa word mishigamaa, meaning "large water" or "large lake"....

 and Ohio
Ohio
Ohio is a Midwestern state in the United States. The 34th largest state by area in the U.S.,it is the 7th‑most populous with over 11.5 million residents, containing several major American cities and seven metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.The state's capital is Columbus...

, Custer was admitted to West Point
United States Military Academy
The United States Military Academy at West Point is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located at West Point, New York. The academy sits on scenic high ground overlooking the Hudson River, north of New York City...

 in 1858, where he graduated last in his class. However, with the outbreak of the Civil War, all potential officers were needed, and Custer was called to serve with the Union Army.

Custer developed a strong reputation during the Civil War.
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Encyclopedia
George Armstrong Custer (December 5, 1839 – June 25, 1876) was a United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 officer and cavalry
Cavalry
Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

 commander in the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 and the Indian Wars
Indian Wars
American Indian Wars is the name used in the United States to describe a series of conflicts between American settlers or the federal government and the native peoples of North America before and after the American Revolutionary War. The wars resulted from the arrival of European colonizers who...

. Raised in Michigan
Michigan
Michigan is a U.S. state located in the Great Lakes Region of the United States of America. The name Michigan is the French form of the Ojibwa word mishigamaa, meaning "large water" or "large lake"....

 and Ohio
Ohio
Ohio is a Midwestern state in the United States. The 34th largest state by area in the U.S.,it is the 7th‑most populous with over 11.5 million residents, containing several major American cities and seven metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.The state's capital is Columbus...

, Custer was admitted to West Point
United States Military Academy
The United States Military Academy at West Point is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located at West Point, New York. The academy sits on scenic high ground overlooking the Hudson River, north of New York City...

 in 1858, where he graduated last in his class. However, with the outbreak of the Civil War, all potential officers were needed, and Custer was called to serve with the Union Army.

Custer developed a strong reputation during the Civil War. He fought in the first major engagement, the First Battle of Bull Run
First Battle of Bull Run
First Battle of Bull Run, also known as First Manassas , was fought on July 21, 1861, in Prince William County, Virginia, near the City of Manassas...

. His association with several important officers helped his career, as did his success as a highly effective Cavalry commander. Before war's end, Custer was promoted to the temporary rank of major general
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

. (At war's end, this was reduced to his permanent rank of captain.) At the conclusion of the Appomattox Campaign
Appomattox Campaign
The Appomattox Campaign was a series of battles fought March 29 – April 9, 1865, in Virginia that culminated in the surrender of Confederate General Robert E...

, in which he and his troops played a decisive role, Custer was on hand at General Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee
Robert Edward Lee was a career military officer who is best known for having commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War....

's surrender
Surrender (military)
Surrender is when soldiers, nations or other combatants stop fighting and eventually become prisoners of war, either as individuals or when ordered to by their officers. A white flag is a common symbol of surrender, as is the gesture of raising one's hands empty and open above one's head.When the...

.

After the Civil War, Custer was dispatched to the West to fight in the Indian Wars
Indian Wars
American Indian Wars is the name used in the United States to describe a series of conflicts between American settlers or the federal government and the native peoples of North America before and after the American Revolutionary War. The wars resulted from the arrival of European colonizers who...

. The overwhelming defeat in his final battle overshadowed his achievements in the Civil War. Custer was defeated and killed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876, fighting against a coalition of Native American
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 tribes in a battle that has come to be popularly known in American history as "Custer's Last Stand".

Family and ancestry


According to late 20th century research, Custer's ancestors, Paulus and Gertrude Küster, who followed the first thirteen immigrant German
German American
German Americans are citizens of the United States of German ancestry and comprise about 51 million people, or 17% of the U.S. population, the country's largest self-reported ancestral group...

 families from Krefeld
Krefeld
Krefeld , also known as Crefeld until 1929, is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is located northwest of Düsseldorf, its centre lying just a few kilometres to the west of the River Rhine; the borough of Uerdingen is situated directly on the Rhine...

 and surroundings, had emigrated to North America around 1693 from the Rhineland
Rhineland
Historically, the Rhinelands refers to a loosely-defined region embracing the land on either bank of the River Rhine in central Europe....

 in Germany, probably among thousands of Palatine
German Palatines
The German Palatines were natives of the Electoral Palatinate region of Germany, although a few had come to Germany from Switzerland, the Alsace, and probably other parts of Europe. Towards the end of the 17th century and into the 18th, the wealthy region was repeatedly invaded by French troops,...

 refugees whose passage was arranged by the English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 government of Queen Anne
Anne of Great Britain
Anne ascended the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland on 8 March 1702. On 1 May 1707, under the Act of Union, two of her realms, England and Scotland, were united as a single sovereign state, the Kingdom of Great Britain.Anne's Catholic father, James II and VII, was deposed during the...

 to gain settlers. George Armstrong Custer was a 4xgreat-grandson of Paulus Küster from Kaldenkirchen, Duchy of Jülich
Duchy of Jülich
The Duchy of Jülich comprised a state within the Holy Roman Empire from the 11th to the 18th centuries. The duchy lay left of the Rhine river between the Electorate of Cologne in the east and the Duchy of Limburg in the west. It had territories on both sides of the river Rur, around its capital...

 (today North Rhine-Westphalia
North Rhine-Westphalia
North Rhine-Westphalia is the most populous state of Germany, with four of the country's ten largest cities. The state was formed in 1946 as a merger of the northern Rhineland and Westphalia, both formerly part of Prussia. Its capital is Düsseldorf. The state is currently run by a coalition of the...

 state), who settled in Germantown, Pennsylvania
Germantown, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Germantown is a neighborhood in the northwest section of the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States, about 7–8 miles northwest from the center of the city...

.

A 1909 history of Germans in the US stated that Custer's immigrant ancestor was a Hessian soldier fighting for the British, who was paroled in 1778 after Burgoyne
John Burgoyne
General John Burgoyne was a British army officer, politician and dramatist. He first saw action during the Seven Years' War when he participated in several battles, mostly notably during the Portugal Campaign of 1762....

's surrender. The soldier was said to have changed his name to Custer because it was easier for his English neighbors to pronounce and perhaps also to remove the stigma attaching to a Hessian, so offensive then to American sensibilities.

Custer's mother was Marie Ward, who – at the age of 16 – had married Israel Kirkpatrick. When he died in 1835, she married Emanuel Henry Custer in 1836. Marie's grandparents – George Ward (1724–1811) and Mary Ward (née Grier) (1733–1811) – were from County Durham
County Durham
County Durham is a ceremonial county and unitary district in north east England. The county town is Durham. The largest settlement in the ceremonial county is the town of Darlington...

, England. Their son James Grier Ward (1765–1824) was born in Dauphin, Pennsylvania, and married Catherine Rogers (1776–1829). Their daughter Marie Ward became Custer's mother. Catherine Rogers was a daughter of Thomas Rogers and Sarah Armstrong. According to family letters, Custer was named after George Armstrong, a minister, in his devout father's hopes that his son might become part of the clergy.

Birth, nicknames and siblings


Custer was born in New Rumley, Ohio
New Rumley, Ohio
New Rumley is an unincorporated community in central Rumley Township, Harrison County, Ohio, United States. It is famous for being the birthplace of George Armstrong Custer....

, to Emanuel Henry Custer (1806–1892), a farmer and blacksmith, and Marie Ward Kirkpatrick (1807–1882). Throughout his life Custer was known by a variety of nicknames. He was called "Autie" (his early attempt to pronounce his middle name) and Armstrong.

During the Civil War, Custer was frequently termed "The Boy General" in the press, reflecting his attainment of brigadier status at the age of 23; during his years on the Plains in the Indian Wars, his troopers often referred to him with grudging admiration as "Iron Butt" and "Hard Ass" for his physical stamina in the saddle and his strict discipline, as well as with the more derisive "Ringlets" for his vanity about his appearance in general and his long, curling blond hair in particular.

He had two younger brothers, Thomas Custer
Thomas Custer
Thomas Ward Custer was a United States Army officer and two-time recipient of the Medal of Honor for bravery during the American Civil War...

 and Boston Custer
Boston Custer
Boston Custer was the youngest brother of U.S. Army General George Armstrong Custer and two-time Medal of Honor recipient Captain Thomas Custer...

. His other full siblings were the family's youngest child, Margaret Custer, and the weak and unhealthy Nevin Custer. Custer also had several older half-siblings.

Early life



Custer spent much of his boyhood living with his half-sister and brother-in-law in Monroe, Michigan
Monroe, Michigan
Monroe is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 20,733 at the 2010 census. It is the largest city and county seat of Monroe County. The city is bordered on the south by Monroe Charter Township, but both are politically independent. The city is located approximately 14 miles ...

, where he attended school. Before entering the United States Military Academy
United States Military Academy
The United States Military Academy at West Point is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located at West Point, New York. The academy sits on scenic high ground overlooking the Hudson River, north of New York City...

, Custer attended the McNeely Normal School, later known as Hopedale Normal College, in Hopedale, Ohio
Hopedale, Ohio
Hopedale is a village in Harrison County, Ohio, United States. The population was 984 at the 2000 census.-Geography:Hopedale is located at ....

. While attending Hopedale, Custer, together with classmate William Enos Emery, was known to have carried coal to help pay for their room and board. After graduating from McNeely Normal School in 1856, Custer taught school in Cadiz, Ohio
Cadiz, Ohio
Cadiz is a village in Harrison County, Ohio, United States. The population was 3,308 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Harrison County.-Geography:Cadiz is located at ....

.

Custer graduated as the last of 34 cadets in the Class of June 1861 from the United States Military Academy
United States Military Academy
The United States Military Academy at West Point is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located at West Point, New York. The academy sits on scenic high ground overlooking the Hudson River, north of New York City...

, just after the start of the Civil War. Custer's West Point class (originally the Class of 1862) was graduated a year early to meet the Army's pressing need for trained officers. Ordinarily, Custer's low class rank would be a ticket to an obscure posting, but Custer had the fortune to graduate just as the Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 broke out. Custer's tenure at the Academy had been rocky, as he came close to expulsion in each of his four years due to excessive demerits, many from pulling pranks on fellow cadets.

McClellan and Pleasonton


Custer was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 2nd U.S. Cavalry and immediately joined his regiment at the First Battle of Bull Run
First Battle of Bull Run
First Battle of Bull Run, also known as First Manassas , was fought on July 21, 1861, in Prince William County, Virginia, near the City of Manassas...

, where Army commander Winfield Scott
Winfield Scott
Winfield Scott was a United States Army general, and unsuccessful presidential candidate of the Whig Party in 1852....

 detailed him to carry messages to Maj. Gen. Irvin McDowell
Irvin McDowell
Irvin McDowell was a career American army officer. He is best known for his defeat in the First Battle of Bull Run, the first large-scale battle of the American Civil War.-Early life:...

. After the battle he was assigned to the 5th U.S. Cavalry, with which he served through the early days of the Peninsula Campaign
Peninsula Campaign
The Peninsula Campaign of the American Civil War was a major Union operation launched in southeastern Virginia from March through July 1862, the first large-scale offensive in the Eastern Theater. The operation, commanded by Maj. Gen. George B...

 in 1862.

It was as a staff officer for Major General
Major general (United States)
In the United States Army, United States Marine Corps, and United States Air Force, major general is a two-star general-officer rank, with the pay grade of O-8. Major general ranks above brigadier general and below lieutenant general...

 George B. McClellan
George B. McClellan
George Brinton McClellan was a major general during the American Civil War. He organized the famous Army of the Potomac and served briefly as the general-in-chief of the Union Army. Early in the war, McClellan played an important role in raising a well-trained and organized army for the Union...

, Custer was promoted to the rank of captain. On May 24, 1862, during the pursuit of Confederate
Confederate States Army
The Confederate States Army was the army of the Confederate States of America while the Confederacy existed during the American Civil War. On February 8, 1861, delegates from the seven Deep South states which had already declared their secession from the United States of America adopted the...

 General Joseph E. Johnston
Joseph E. Johnston
Joseph Eggleston Johnston was a career U.S. Army officer, serving with distinction in the Mexican-American War and Seminole Wars, and was also one of the most senior general officers in the Confederate States Army during the American Civil War...

 up the Peninsula, when Gen. Barnard and his staff were reconnoitering a potential crossing point on the Chickahominy River
Chickahominy River
The Chickahominy is an river in the eastern portion of the U.S. state of Virginia. The river rises about northwest of Richmond and flows southeast and south to the James River...

, they stopped and Custer overheard his commander mutter to himself, "I wish I knew how deep it is." Custer dashed forward on his horse out to the middle of the river and turned to the astonished officers of the staff and shouted triumphantly, "That's how deep it is, Mr General!" Custer then was allowed to lead an attack with four companies of the 4th Michigan Infantry across the Chickahominy River
Chickahominy River
The Chickahominy is an river in the eastern portion of the U.S. state of Virginia. The river rises about northwest of Richmond and flows southeast and south to the James River...

 above New Bridge. The attack was successful, resulting in the capture of 50 Confederates seizing the first Confederate battle flag of the war. Maj. Gen. George B. McClellan, commander of the Army of the Potomac
Army of the Potomac
The Army of the Potomac was the major Union Army in the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War.-History:The Army of the Potomac was created in 1861, but was then only the size of a corps . Its nucleus was called the Army of Northeastern Virginia, under Brig. Gen...

, termed it a "very gallant affair", congratulated Custer personally, and brought him onto his staff as an aide-de-camp with the temporary rank of captain. In this role, Custer began his life-long pursuit of publicity.


When McClellan was relieved of command in November 1862, Custer reverted to the rank of first lieutenant. Custer fell into the orbit of Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton
Alfred Pleasonton
Alfred Pleasonton was a United States Army officer and General of Union cavalry during the American Civil War. He commanded the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac during the Gettysburg Campaign, including the largest predominantly cavalry battle of the war, Brandy Station...

, who was commanding a cavalry division. The general was Custer's introduction to the world of extravagant uniforms and political maneuvering, and the young lieutenant became his protégé, serving on Pleasonton's staff while continuing his assignment with his regiment. Custer was quoted as saying that "no father could love his son more than General Pleasonton loves me." After the Battle of Chancellorsville
Battle of Chancellorsville
The Battle of Chancellorsville was a major battle of the American Civil War, and the principal engagement of the Chancellorsville Campaign. It was fought from April 30 to May 6, 1863, in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, near the village of Chancellorsville. Two related battles were fought nearby on...

, Pleasonton became the commander of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac and his first assignment was to locate the army of Robert E. Lee
Robert E. Lee
Robert Edward Lee was a career military officer who is best known for having commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War....

, moving north through the Shenandoah Valley
Shenandoah Valley
The Shenandoah Valley is both a geographic valley and cultural region of western Virginia and West Virginia in the United States. The valley is bounded to the east by the Blue Ridge Mountains, to the west by the eastern front of the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians , to the north by the Potomac River...

 in the beginning of the Gettysburg Campaign
Gettysburg Campaign
The Gettysburg Campaign was a series of battles fought in June and July 1863, during the American Civil War. After his victory in the Battle of Chancellorsville, Confederate General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia moved north for offensive operations in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The...

. In his first command, Custer affected a showy, personalized uniform style that alienated his men, but he won them over with his readiness to lead attacks (a contrast to the many officers who would hang back, hoping to avoid being hit); his men began to adopt elements of his uniform, especially the red neckerchief. Custer distinguished himself by fearless, aggressive actions in some of the numerous cavalry engagements that started off the campaign, including Brandy Station
Battle of Brandy Station
The Battle of Brandy Station, also called the Battle of Fleetwood Hill, was the largest predominantly cavalry engagement of the American Civil War, as well as the largest to take place ever on American soil. It was fought at the beginning of the Gettysburg Campaign by the Union cavalry under Maj....

 and Aldie
Battle of Aldie
The Battle of Aldie took place on June 17, 1863, in Loudoun County, Virginia, as part of the Gettysburg Campaign of the American Civil War.Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry screened Gen. Robert E. Lee's Confederate infantry as it marched north in the Shenandoah Valley behind the sheltering Blue...

.

Brigade command and Gettysburg


On June 28, 1863, three days prior to the Battle of Gettysburg
Battle of Gettysburg
The Battle of Gettysburg , was fought July 1–3, 1863, in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The battle with the largest number of casualties in the American Civil War, it is often described as the war's turning point. Union Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade's Army of the Potomac...

, General Pleasonton promoted Custer from captain to brigadier general of volunteers. Despite having no direct command experience, he became one of the youngest generals in the Union Army
Union Army
The Union Army was the land force that fought for the Union during the American Civil War. It was also known as the Federal Army, the U.S. Army, the Northern Army and the National Army...

 at age 23. Two other captains—Wesley Merritt
Wesley Merritt
Wesley Merritt was a general in the United States Army during the American Civil War and the Spanish-American War. He is noted for distinguished service in the cavalry.-Early life:...

 and Elon J. Farnsworth
Elon J. Farnsworth
Elon John Farnsworth was a Union Army cavalry general in the American Civil War, killed at the Battle of Gettysburg.-Early life and career:...

—were promoted along with Custer, although they did have command experience. Custer lost no time in implanting his aggressive character on his brigade, part of the division of Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick. He fought against the Confederate cavalry of Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart
J.E.B. Stuart
James Ewell Brown "Jeb" Stuart was a U.S. Army officer from Virginia and a Confederate States Army general during the American Civil War. He was known to his friends as "Jeb", from the initials of his given names. Stuart was a cavalry commander known for his mastery of reconnaissance and the use...

 at Hanover
Battle of Hanover
The Battle of Hanover took place on June 30, 1863, in Hanover in southwestern York County, Pennsylvania, as part of the Gettysburg Campaign of the American Civil War....

 and Hunterstown
Battle of Hunterstown
The Battle of Hunterstown was a minor cavalry engagement in Adams County, Pennsylvania, on July 2, 1863, during the Gettysburg Campaign of the American Civil War...

, on the way to the main event at Gettysburg.

Custer's style of battle was often claimed to be reckless or foolhardy, but military planning was always the basis of every Custer "dash". As Marguerite Merrington explains in The Custer Story in Letters, "George Custer meticulously scouted every battlefield, gauged the enemies[sic] weak points and strengths, ascertained the best line of attack and only after he was satisfied was the 'Custer Dash' with a Michigan yell focused with complete surprise on the enemy in routing them every time." One of his greatest attributes during the Civil War was what Custer wrote of as "luck" and he needed it to survive some of these charges.

Custer established a reputation as an aggressive cavalry brigade commander willing to take personal risks by leading his Michigan Brigade
Michigan Brigade
The Michigan Brigade, sometimes called the Wolverines, the Michigan Cavalry Brigade or Custer's Brigade, was a brigade of cavalry in the volunteer Union Army during the latter half of the American Civil War...

 into battle, such as the mounted charges at Hunterstown
Battle of Hunterstown
The Battle of Hunterstown was a minor cavalry engagement in Adams County, Pennsylvania, on July 2, 1863, during the Gettysburg Campaign of the American Civil War...

 and East Cavalry Field at the Battle of Gettysburg
Battle of Gettysburg
The Battle of Gettysburg , was fought July 1–3, 1863, in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The battle with the largest number of casualties in the American Civil War, it is often described as the war's turning point. Union Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade's Army of the Potomac...

. At Hunterstown, in an ill-considered charge ordered by Kilpatrick against the brigade of Wade Hampton
Wade Hampton III
Wade Hampton III was a Confederate cavalry leader during the American Civil War and afterward a politician from South Carolina, serving as its 77th Governor and as a U.S...

, Custer fell from his wounded horse directly before the enemy and became the target of numerous enemy rifles. He was rescued by Norville Churchill of the 1st Michigan Cavalry, who galloped up, shot Custer's nearest assailant, and allowed Custer to mount behind him for a dash to safety.

One of Custer's finest hours in the Civil War occurred just east of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. In conjunction with Pickett's Charge
Pickett's Charge
Pickett's Charge was an infantry assault ordered by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee against Maj. Gen. George G. Meade's Union positions on Cemetery Ridge on July 3, 1863, the last day of the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Its futility was predicted by the charge's commander,...

 to the west, Robert E. Lee dispatched Stuart's cavalry on a mission into the rear of the Union Army. Custer encountered the Union cavalry division of Brig. Gen. David McMurtrie Gregg
David McMurtrie Gregg
David McMurtrie Gregg was a farmer, diplomat, and a Union cavalry general in the American Civil War.-Early life and career:...

 directly in the path of Stuart's horsemen. He convinced Gregg to allow him to stay and fight, while his own division was stationed to the south out of the action. At East Cavalry Field
Battle of Gettysburg, Third Day cavalry battles
The history of the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg has focused on the disastrous infantry assault nicknamed Pickett's Charge...

, hours of charges and hand-to-hand combat ensued. Custer led a mounted charge of the 1st Michigan Cavalry, breaking the back of the Confederate assault. Custer's brigade lost 257 men at Gettysburg, the highest loss of any Union cavalry brigade. "I challenge the annals of warfare to produce a more brilliant or successful charge of cavalry", Custer wrote in his report.

Marriage



Custer married Elizabeth Clift Bacon
Elizabeth Bacon Custer
Elizabeth Bacon Custer was the wife of General George Armstrong Custer. After his death, she became an outspoken advocate for her husband's legacy through her popular books and lectures...

 (1842–1933) (whom he first saw when he was ten years old) on February 9, 1864. He had been socially introduced to her in November 1862, when home in Monroe on leave. She was not initially impressed with him, and her father, Judge Daniel Bacon, disapproved of Custer as a match because he was the son of a blacksmith. It was not until well after Custer had been promoted to the rank of brevet brigadier general that he gained the approval of Judge Bacon. He married Elizabeth Bacon fourteen months after they formally met.

Following the Battle of Washita River
Battle of Washita River
The Battle of Washita River occurred on November 27, 1868 when Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer’s 7th U.S...

 in November 1868, Custer was alleged (by Captain Frederick Benteen
Frederick Benteen
Frederick William Benteen was a military officer during the American Civil War and then during the Black Hills War against the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne. He is notable for being in command of a battalion of the 7th U. S...

, chief of scouts Ben Clark, and Cheyenne oral tradition) to have unofficially "married" Mo-nah-se-tah
Mo-nah-se-tah
Mo-nah-se-tah or Mo-nah-see-tah , aka Me-o-tzi, was the daughter of the Cheyenne chief Little Rock, who was killed on November 28, 1868 in the Battle of Washita River when the camp of Chief Black Kettle, of which Little Rock was a member, was attacked by the 7th U.S. Cavalry under the command of...

, daughter of the Cheyenne chief Little Rock in the winter or early spring of 1868–1869. (Little Rock was killed in the Washita battle.) Mo-nah-se-tah gave birth to a child in January 1869, two months after the Washita battle. Cheyenne oral history tells that she also bore a second child, fathered by Custer in late 1869. Some historians, however, believe that Custer had become sterile after contracting gonorrhea while at West Point and that the father was, in actuality, his brother Thomas.

The Valley and Appomattox


In 1864, with the Cavalry Corps under the command of Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan
Philip Sheridan
Philip Henry Sheridan was a career United States Army officer and a Union general in the American Civil War. His career was noted for his rapid rise to major general and his close association with Lt. Gen. Ulysses S...

, Custer led his "Wolverines" through the Overland Campaign
Overland Campaign
The Overland Campaign, also known as Grant's Overland Campaign and the Wilderness Campaign, was a series of battles fought in Virginia during May and June 1864, in the American Civil War. Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, general-in-chief of all Union armies, directed the actions of the Army of the...

, including the Battle of Trevilian Station
Battle of Trevilian Station
The Battle of Trevilian Station was fought on June 11–12, 1864, in Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's Overland Campaign against Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Union cavalry under Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan fought against Confederate cavalry under Maj. Gens...

. Custer, now commanding the 3rd Division, followed Sheridan to the Shenandoah Valley where they defeated the Confederate army of Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early in the Valley Campaigns of 1864
Valley Campaigns of 1864
The Valley Campaigns of 1864 were American Civil War operations and battles that took place in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia from May to October 1864. Military historians divide this period into three separate campaigns, but it is useful to consider the three together and how they...

. When the cavalry corps of the Army of the Potomac was reorganized under Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan
Philip Sheridan
Philip Henry Sheridan was a career United States Army officer and a Union general in the American Civil War. His career was noted for his rapid rise to major general and his close association with Lt. Gen. Ulysses S...

 in 1864, Custer took part in the various actions of the cavalry in the Overland Campaign
Overland Campaign
The Overland Campaign, also known as Grant's Overland Campaign and the Wilderness Campaign, was a series of battles fought in Virginia during May and June 1864, in the American Civil War. Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, general-in-chief of all Union armies, directed the actions of the Army of the...

, including the Battle of the Wilderness
Battle of the Wilderness
The Battle of the Wilderness, fought May 5–7, 1864, was the first battle of Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's 1864 Virginia Overland Campaign against Gen. Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Both armies suffered heavy casualties, a harbinger of a bloody war of attrition by...

 (after which he ascended to division
Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...

 command), the Battle of Yellow Tavern
Battle of Yellow Tavern
The Battle of Yellow Tavern was fought on May 11, 1864, as part of the Overland Campaign of the American Civil War. Union cavalry under Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan was detached from the Army of the Potomac to conduct a raid on Richmond, Virginia, and challenge legendary Confederate cavalry...

, where J.E.B. Stuart
J.E.B. Stuart
James Ewell Brown "Jeb" Stuart was a U.S. Army officer from Virginia and a Confederate States Army general during the American Civil War. He was known to his friends as "Jeb", from the initials of his given names. Stuart was a cavalry commander known for his mastery of reconnaissance and the use...

 was mortally wounded, and the Battle of Trevilian Station
Battle of Trevilian Station
The Battle of Trevilian Station was fought on June 11–12, 1864, in Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's Overland Campaign against Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Union cavalry under Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan fought against Confederate cavalry under Maj. Gens...

, where Custer was humiliated by having his division trains overrun and his personal baggage captured by the enemy. When Confederate Lieutenant General Jubal A. Early moved down the Shenandoah Valley and threatened Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, Custer's division was dispatched along with Sheridan to the Valley Campaigns of 1864
Valley Campaigns of 1864
The Valley Campaigns of 1864 were American Civil War operations and battles that took place in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia from May to October 1864. Military historians divide this period into three separate campaigns, but it is useful to consider the three together and how they...

. They pursued the Confederates at the Third Battle of Winchester
Battle of Opequon
The Battle of Opequon, more commonly known as the Third Battle of Winchester, was fought in Winchester, Virginia, on September 19, 1864, during the Valley Campaigns of 1864 in the American Civil War....

 and effectively destroyed Early's army during Sheridan's counterattack at Cedar Creek
Battle of Cedar Creek
The Battle of Cedar Creek, or Battle of Belle Grove, October 19, 1864, was one of the final, and most decisive, battles in the Valley Campaigns of 1864 during the American Civil War. The final Confederate invasion of the North, led by Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early, was effectively ended...

.

Sheridan and Custer, having defeated Early, returned to the main Union Army lines at the Siege of Petersburg
Siege of Petersburg
The Richmond–Petersburg Campaign was a series of battles around Petersburg, Virginia, fought from June 9, 1864, to March 25, 1865, during the American Civil War...

, where they spent the winter. In April 1865 the Confederate lines were finally broken and Robert E. Lee began his retreat
Appomattox Campaign
The Appomattox Campaign was a series of battles fought March 29 – April 9, 1865, in Virginia that culminated in the surrender of Confederate General Robert E...

 to Appomattox Court House
Appomattox Court House
The Appomattox Courthouse is the current courthouse in Appomattox, Virginia built in 1892. It is located in the middle of the state about three miles northwest of the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, once known as Clover Hill - home of the original Old Appomattox Court House...

, pursued by the Union cavalry. Custer distinguished himself by his actions at Waynesboro
Battle of Waynesboro
The Battle of Waynesboro was fought on March 2, 1865, in Augusta County, Virginia, during the American Civil War. It was the final battle for Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal Early, whose force was destroyed.-Background:...

, Dinwiddie Court House
Battle of Dinwiddie Court House
The Battle of Dinwiddie Court House was a minor engagement in the Appomattox Campaign of the American Civil War that was the immediate prelude to the decisive Battle of Five Forks. On March 29, 1865, with the Cavalry Corps and the II and V Corps of the Army of the Potomac, Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan...

, and Five Forks
Battle of Five Forks
The Battle of Five Forks was fought on April 1, 1865, southwest of Petersburg, Virginia, in Dinwiddie County, during the Appomattox Campaign of the American Civil War. The battle, sometimes referred to as the "Waterloo of the Confederacy," pitted Union Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan against...

. His division blocked Lee's retreat on its final day and received the first flag of truce from the Confederate force. Custer was present at the surrender at Appomattox Court House and the table upon which the surrender was signed was presented to him as a gift for his wife by General Sheridan, who included a note to her praising Custer's gallantry. She treasured the gift of the historical table, which is now in the Smithsonian Institution
Smithsonian Institution
The Smithsonian Institution is an educational and research institute and associated museum complex, administered and funded by the government of the United States and by funds from its endowment, contributions, and profits from its retail operations, concessions, licensing activities, and magazines...

.

Before the close of the war Custer received brevet
Brevet (military)
In many of the world's military establishments, brevet referred to a warrant authorizing a commissioned officer to hold a higher rank temporarily, but usually without receiving the pay of that higher rank except when actually serving in that role. An officer so promoted may be referred to as being...

 promotions to brigadier general and major general in the regular army (March 13, 1865) and major general of volunteers (April 15, 1865). As with most wartime promotions, even when issued under the regular army, these senior ranks were only temporary.

Reconstruction duties in Texas


In June 1865, at Sheridan's behest, Custer accepted command of the 2nd Division of Cavalry, Military Division of the Southwest, to march from Alexandria, Louisiana
Alexandria, Louisiana
Alexandria is a city in and the parish seat of Rapides Parish, Louisiana, United States. It lies on the south bank of the Red River in almost the exact geographic center of the state. It is the principal city of the Alexandria metropolitan area which encompasses all of Rapides and Grant parishes....

, to Hempstead, Texas
Hempstead, Texas
Hempstead is a city in Waller County, Texas, United States. The community, located at the junctions of U.S. Highway 290, Texas State Highway 6, and Texas State Highway 159, is around fifty miles northwest of Downtown Houston. The population was 4,691 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of...

, as part of the Union occupation forces. Custer arrived at Alexandria on June 27 and began assembling his units, which took more than a month to gather and remount. Accompanied by his wife, he led the division (five regiments of veteran Western Theater cavalrymen) to Texas on an arduous 18-day march in August. In October he moved the division to Austin
Austin, Texas
Austin is the capital city of the U.S. state of :Texas and the seat of Travis County. Located in Central Texas on the eastern edge of the American Southwest, it is the fourth-largest city in Texas and the 14th most populous city in the United States. It was the third-fastest-growing large city in...

, when he became Chief of Cavalry for the Department of Texas, succeeding Maj-Gen. Wesley Merritt
Wesley Merritt
Wesley Merritt was a general in the United States Army during the American Civil War and the Spanish-American War. He is noted for distinguished service in the cavalry.-Early life:...

.

During his entire period of command of the division, Custer encountered considerable friction and near mutiny from the volunteer cavalry regiments who had campaigned along the Gulf coast. They desired to be mustered out of Federal service rather than continue campaigning, resented imposition of discipline (particularly from an Eastern Theater general), and considered Custer nothing more than a vain dandy.

Custer's division was mustered out beginning in November 1865, replaced by the regulars of the U.S. 6th Cavalry Regiment. Although their occupation of Austin had apparently been pleasant, many veterans harbored deep resentments against Custer, particularly in the 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry
2nd Regiment Wisconsin Volunteer Cavalry
The 2nd Regiment Wisconsin Volunteer Cavalry was a cavalry regiment that served in the Union Army during the American Civil War.-Service:The 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry was organized at Milwaukee, Wisconsinbetween December 30, 1861 and March 10, 1862....

, because of his attempts to maintain discipline. Upon its mustering out, several members planned to ambush Custer, but he was warned the night before and the attempt thwarted.

Indian Wars



On February 1, 1866, Custer was mustered out of the volunteer service and returned to his permanent rank of captain in the 5th Cavalry. Custer took an extended leave, exploring options in New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, where he considered careers in railroads and mining. Offered a position (and $10,000 in gold) as adjutant general of the army of Benito Juárez
Benito Juárez
Benito Juárez born Benito Pablo Juárez García, was a Mexican lawyer and politician of Zapotec origin from Oaxaca who served five terms as president of Mexico: 1858–1861 as interim, 1861–1865, 1865–1867, 1867–1871 and 1871–1872...

 of Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

, who was then in a struggle with the self-proclaimed Maximilian I
Maximilian I of Mexico
Maximilian I was the only monarch of the Second Mexican Empire.After a distinguished career in the Austrian Navy, he was proclaimed Emperor of Mexico on April 10, 1864, with the backing of Napoleon III of France and a group of Mexican monarchists who sought to revive the Mexican monarchy...

 (a foil of French Emperor Napoleon III), Custer applied for a one-year leave of absence from the U.S. Army, which was endorsed by Grant and Secretary of War Stanton. Sheridan and Mrs. Custer disapproved, however, and when his request for leave was opposed by U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward
William H. Seward
William Henry Seward, Sr. was the 12th Governor of New York, United States Senator and the United States Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson...

, who was against having an American officer commanding foreign troops, Custer refused the alternative of resignation from the Army to take the lucrative post.

Following the death of his father-in-law in May 1866, Custer returned to Monroe, Michigan, where he considered running for Congress. He took part in public discussion over the treatment of the American South in the aftermath of the Civil War, advocating a policy of moderation. He was named head of the Soldiers and Sailors Union, regarded as a response to the hyper-partisan Grand Army of the Republic
Grand Army of the Republic
The Grand Army of the Republic was a fraternal organization composed of veterans of the Union Army, US Navy, US Marines and US Revenue Cutter Service who served in the American Civil War. Founded in 1866 in Decatur, Illinois, it was dissolved in 1956 when its last member died...

 (GAR). Also formed in 1866, it was led by Republican activist John Alexander Logan
John A. Logan
John Alexander Logan was an American soldier and political leader. He served in the Mexican-American War and was a general in the Union Army in the American Civil War. He served the state of Illinois as a state senator, congressman and senator and was an unsuccessful candidate for Vice President...

. In September 1866 Custer accompanied President Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson
Andrew Johnson was the 17th President of the United States . As Vice-President of the United States in 1865, he succeeded Abraham Lincoln following the latter's assassination. Johnson then presided over the initial and contentious Reconstruction era of the United States following the American...

 on a journey by train known as the "Swing Around the Circle" to build up public support for Johnson's policies towards the South. Custer denied a charge by the newspapers that Johnson had promised him a colonel's commission in return for his support, but Custer had written to Johnson some weeks before seeking such a commission. Custer and his wife stayed with the president during most of the trip. At one point Custer confronted a small group of Ohio men who repeatedly jeered Johnson, saying to them: "I was born two miles and a half from here, but I am ashamed of you."

Custer was appointed lieutenant colonel of the newly created U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment
U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment
The 7th Cavalry Regiment is a United States Army Cavalry Regiment, whose lineage traces back to the mid-19th century. Its official nickname is "Garryowen," in honor of the Irish air Garryowen that was adopted as its march tune....

, headquartered at Fort Riley
Fort Riley
Fort Riley is a United States Army installation located in Northeast Kansas, on the Kansas River, between Junction City and Manhattan. The Fort Riley Military Reservation covers 100,656 acres in Geary and Riley counties and includes two census-designated places: Fort Riley North and Fort...

, Kansas
Kansas
Kansas is a US state located in the Midwestern United States. It is named after the Kansas River which flows through it, which in turn was named after the Kansa Native American tribe, which inhabited the area. The tribe's name is often said to mean "people of the wind" or "people of the south...

. As a result of a plea by his patron General Philip Sheridan
Philip Sheridan
Philip Henry Sheridan was a career United States Army officer and a Union general in the American Civil War. His career was noted for his rapid rise to major general and his close association with Lt. Gen. Ulysses S...

, Custer was also appointed brevet
Brevet (military)
In many of the world's military establishments, brevet referred to a warrant authorizing a commissioned officer to hold a higher rank temporarily, but usually without receiving the pay of that higher rank except when actually serving in that role. An officer so promoted may be referred to as being...

 major general. He took part in Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock
Winfield Scott Hancock
Winfield Scott Hancock was a career U.S. Army officer and the Democratic nominee for President of the United States in 1880. He served with distinction in the Army for four decades, including service in the Mexican-American War and as a Union general in the American Civil War...

's expedition against the Cheyenne
Cheyenne
Cheyenne are a Native American people of the Great Plains, who are of the Algonquian language family. The Cheyenne Nation is composed of two united tribes, the Só'taeo'o and the Tsétsêhéstâhese .The Cheyenne are thought to have branched off other tribes of Algonquian stock inhabiting lands...

 in 1867. On June 26, 1867 Lt. Lyman Kidder's party, made up of ten troopers and one scout, were massacred while in route to Fort Wallace
Fort Wallace
Fort Wallace was a US Cavalry fort built in Wallace County, Kansas to help defend settlers against Cheyenne and Sioux raids. All that remains today is the cemetery, but for a period of over a decade Fort Wallace was one of the most important military outposts on the frontier.-External links:* * *...

. Lt. Kidder was to deliver dispatches to Custer from Gen. William Sherman, but his party was attacked by Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne (see Kidder massacre
Kidder Massacre
The Kidder Massacre of 29 June 1867 refers to a Sioux and Northern Cheyenne war party's killing of United States Second Lieutenant Lyman Kidder, along with an Indian scout and ten enlisted men in Sherman County, Kansas, near Goodland, Kansas.-Background:...

). Days later, Custer and a search party found the bodies of Kidder's patrol.

Following the Hancock campaign, Custer was court-martial
Court-martial
A court-martial is a military court. A court-martial is empowered to determine the guilt of members of the armed forces subject to military law, and, if the defendant is found guilty, to decide upon punishment.Most militaries maintain a court-martial system to try cases in which a breach of...

ed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas for being AWOL, after having abandoned his post to see his wife. He was suspended from duty for one year. At the request of Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan
Philip Sheridan
Philip Henry Sheridan was a career United States Army officer and a Union general in the American Civil War. His career was noted for his rapid rise to major general and his close association with Lt. Gen. Ulysses S...

, who wanted Custer for his planned winter campaign against the Cheyenne, Custer was allowed to return to duty in 1868, before his term of suspension had expired.

Under Sheridan's orders, Custer took part in establishing Camp Supply
Fort Supply
Fort Supply was a United States Army post established on November 18, 1868, in Indian Territory to protect the Southern Plains...

 in Indian Territory in early November 1868 as a supply base for the winter campaign. Custer led the 7th U.S. Cavalry in an attack on the Cheyenne encampment of Black Kettle
Black Kettle
Chief Black Kettle was a leader of the Southern Cheyenne after 1854, who led efforts to resist American settlement from Kansas and Colorado territories. He was a peacemaker who accepted treaties to protect his people. He survived the Third Colorado Cavalry's Sand Creek Massacre on the Cheyenne...

—the Battle of Washita River
Battle of Washita River
The Battle of Washita River occurred on November 27, 1868 when Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer’s 7th U.S...

 on November 27, 1868. Custer reported killing 103 warriors; estimates by the Cheyenne of their casualties were substantially lower (11 warriors plus 19 women and children); some women and children were also killed, and US troops took 53 women and children prisoner. Custer had his men shoot most of the 875 Indian ponies they had captured. The Battle of Washita River was regarded as the first substantial U.S. victory in the Southern Plains War, and it helped force a significant portion of the Southern Cheyennes onto a U.S.-assigned reservation.

In 1873, Custer was sent to the Dakota Territory
Dakota Territory
The Territory of Dakota was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from March 2, 1861, until November 2, 1889, when the final extent of the reduced territory was split and admitted to the Union as the states of North and South Dakota.The Dakota Territory consisted of...

 to protect a railroad survey party against the Lakota. On August 4, 1873, near the Tongue River
Tongue River (Montana)
The Tongue River is a tributary of the Yellowstone River, approximately 265 mi long, in the U.S. states of Wyoming and Montana. The Tongue rises in Wyoming in the Big Horn Mountains, flows through northern Wyoming and southeastern Montana and empties into the Yellowstone River at Miles City,...

, Custer and the 7th U.S. Cavalry clashed for the first time with the Lakota. Only one man on each side was killed. In 1874, Custer led an expedition
Custer's 1874 Black Hills Expedition
The Black Hills Expedition was a United States Army expedition in 1874 led by Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer that set out on July 2, 1874 from modern day Bismarck, North Dakota, which was then Fort Abraham Lincoln in the Dakota Territory, with orders to travel to the previously...

 into the Black Hills
Black Hills
The Black Hills are a small, isolated mountain range rising from the Great Plains of North America in western South Dakota and extending into Wyoming, USA. Set off from the main body of the Rocky Mountains, the region is something of a geological anomaly—accurately described as an "island of...

 and announced the discovery of gold on French Creek
French Creek (South Dakota)
French Creek is an intermittent stream located in the Black Hills region of western South Dakota, USA. It is a tributary of the Cheyenne River....

 near present-day Custer, South Dakota
Custer, South Dakota
Custer is a city in Custer County, South Dakota, United States. The population was 2,067 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Custer County.-History:...

. Custer's announcement triggered the Black Hills Gold Rush
Black Hills Gold Rush
The Black Hills Gold Rush took place in Dakota Territory in the United States. It began in 1874 following the Custer Expedition and reached a peak in 1876-77.Rumors and poorly documented reports of gold in the Black Hills go back to the early 19th century...

. Among the towns that immediately grew up was Deadwood, South Dakota
Deadwood, South Dakota
Deadwood is a city in South Dakota, United States, and the county seat of Lawrence County. It is named for the dead trees found in its gulch. The population was 1,270 according to a 2010 census...

, notorious for lawlessness.

Grant, Belknap and Politics



The expedition against the Sioux was originally scheduled to leave Fort Abraham Lincoln
Fort Abraham Lincoln
Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park is located seven miles south of Mandan, North Dakota. The park is home to On-A-Slant Indian Village, the blockhouses and the Custer house...

 on April 6, 1876, but on March 15, Custer was summoned to Washington to testify at Congressional hearings regarding the scandal involving U.S. Secretary of War William W. Belknap
William W. Belknap
William Worth Belknap was a United States Army general, government administrator, and United States Secretary of War. He was the only Cabinet secretary ever to have been impeached by the United States House of Representatives.-Birth and early years:Born in Newburgh, New York to career soldier...

 and President Grant's brother Orville. After testifying on March 29 and April 4, Custer testified before the Banning Committee. After Belknap was indicted, Custer secured release and left Washington on April 20. Instead of immediately returning to Fort Lincoln, he visited the Centennial Exposition
Centennial Exposition
The Centennial International Exhibition of 1876, the first official World's Fair in the United States, was held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from May 10 to November 10, 1876, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia. It was officially...

 in Philadelphia and traveled to New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

 to meet with his publishers. While there, he was summoned to the U.S. Senate, possibly a move instigated by President Grant.

Returning to Washington on April 21, Custer found he was the center of a campaign of vilification in the media. He was accused of perjury
Perjury
Perjury, also known as forswearing, is the willful act of swearing a false oath or affirmation to tell the truth, whether spoken or in writing, concerning matters material to a judicial proceeding. That is, the witness falsely promises to tell the truth about matters which affect the outcome of the...

 and disparagement of brother officers. General Sherman asked the new Secretary of War, Alphonso Taft
Alphonso Taft
Alphonso Taft was the Attorney General and Secretary of War under President Ulysses S. Grant and the founder of an American political dynasty. He was the father of U.S...

, to write a letter requesting Custer's release so Custer could take command of the Fort Lincoln expedition against the Lakota. President Grant prohibited sending the letter and ordered Taft to appoint another officer to take command. When Brig. Gen. Alfred Terry
Alfred Terry
Alfred Howe Terry was a Union general in the American Civil War and the military commander of the Dakota Territory from 1866 to 1869 and again from 1872 to 1886.-Early life and career:...

 determined there were no available officers of rank to take command, Sherman ordered him to make an appointment. Stunned that he would not be in command, Custer approached the impeachment managers and secured his release. General Sherman advised Custer not to leave Washington before meeting personally with President Grant. Custer arranged for Colonel Rufus Ingalls
Rufus Ingalls
Rufus Ingalls was an American military general who served as the 16th Quartermaster General of the United States Army.-Early life and career:...

 to request a meeting, which Grant refused. On the evening of May 3, Custer took a train to Chicago
Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

.

The following morning General Sherman sent a telegram to General Sheridan ordering him to intercept Custer and hold him until further orders. Sheridan was also ordered to arrange for the expedition against the Lakota to depart with Major Reno's replacing Custer. Sherman, Sheridan, and Terry all wanted Custer in command but had to support Grant. Sherman wrote Terry: "Custer's political activity has compromised his best friends here, and almost deprived us of the ability to serve him".

Brig. Gen. Terry met Custer in Fort Snelling, Minnesota
Fort Snelling, Minnesota
Fort Snelling, originally known as Fort Saint Anthony, was a military fortification located at the confluence of the Minnesota River and Mississippi River in Hennepin County, Minnesota...

 on May 6. He later recalled, "(Custer) with tears in his eyes, begged for my aid. How could I resist it?". Terry wrote to Grant attesting to the advantages of Custer's leading the expedition. Sheridan endorsed his effort, accepting Custer's "guilt" and suggesting his restraint in future. Grant was already under pressure for his treatment of Custer and his administration worried about failure of the "Sioux campaign" without him. Grant would be blamed if perceived as ignoring the recommendations of senior Army officers. On May 8 Custer was informed at Fort Snelling that he was to lead the 7th Cavalry, but under Terry's direct supervision.

Before leaving Fort Snelling, Custer spoke to General Terry's chief engineer, Captain Ludlow, saying he would "cut loose" from Terry the first chance he got. Critics have used this statement to conclude that Custer was to blame for the resulting disaster by seeking to claim independent victory.

Battle of the Little Bighorn


By the time of Custer's expedition to the Black Hills in 1874, the level of conflict and tension between the U.S. and many of the Plains Indians
Plains Indians
The Plains Indians are the Indigenous peoples who live on the plains and rolling hills of the Great Plains of North America. Their colorful equestrian culture and resistance to White domination have made the Plains Indians an archetype in literature and art for American Indians everywhere.Plains...

 tribes (including the Lakota Sioux and the Cheyenne
Cheyenne
Cheyenne are a Native American people of the Great Plains, who are of the Algonquian language family. The Cheyenne Nation is composed of two united tribes, the Só'taeo'o and the Tsétsêhéstâhese .The Cheyenne are thought to have branched off other tribes of Algonquian stock inhabiting lands...

) had become exceedingly high. Americans continually broke treaty agreements and advanced further westward, resulting in violence and acts of depredation by both sides. To take possession of the Black Hills (and thus the gold deposits), and to stop Indian attacks, the U.S. decided to corral all remaining free Plains Indians. The Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States as well as military commander during the Civil War and post-war Reconstruction periods. Under Grant's command, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military and ended the Confederate States of America...

 government set a deadline of January 31, 1876 for all Lakota and Arapaho wintering in the "unceded territory" to report to their designated agencies (reservations) or be considered "hostile".

The 7th Cavalry departed from Fort Lincoln on May 17, 1876, part of a larger army force planning to round up remaining free Indians. Meanwhile, in the spring and summer of 1876, the Hunkpapa Lakota holy man Sitting Bull
Sitting Bull
Sitting Bull Sitting Bull Sitting Bull (Lakota: Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake (in Standard Lakota Orthography), also nicknamed Slon-he or "Slow"; (c. 1831 – December 15, 1890) was a Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux holy man who led his people as a tribal chief during years of resistance to United States government policies...

 had called together the largest ever gathering of Plains Indians at Ash Creek, Montana (later moved to the Little Bighorn River) to discuss what to do about the whites. It was this united encampment of Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho Indians that the 7th met at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

On June 25, some of Custer's Crow Indian scouts identified what they claimed was a large Indian encampment along the Little Bighorn River
Little Bighorn River
The Little Bighorn River is a tributary of the Bighorn River in the United States in the states of Wyoming and Montana. The Battle of the Little Bighorn was fought on its banks in 1876, as well as the Battle of Crow Agency in 1887....

. Custer divided his forces into three battalions: one led by Major Marcus Reno
Marcus Reno
Marcus Albert Reno was a career military officer in the American Civil War and in the Black Hills War against the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne...

, one by Captain Frederick Benteen
Frederick Benteen
Frederick William Benteen was a military officer during the American Civil War and then during the Black Hills War against the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne. He is notable for being in command of a battalion of the 7th U. S...

, and one by himself. Captain Thomas M. McDougall and Company B were with the pack train. Benteen was sent south and west, to cut off any attempted escape by the Indians, Reno was sent north to charge the southern end of the encampment, and Custer rode north, hidden to the east of the encampment by bluffs, and planning to circle around and attack from the north.

Reno began a charge on the southern end of the village, but halted some 500–600 yards short of the camp, and had his men dismount and form a skirmish line. They were soon overcome by mounted Lakota and Cheyenne warriors who counterattacked en masse against Reno's exposed left flank, forcing Reno and his men to take cover in the trees along the river. Eventually, however, this position became untenable and the troopers were forced into a bloody retreat up onto the bluffs above the river, where they made their own stand. This, the opening action of the battle, cost Reno a quarter of his command.

Custer may have seen Reno stop and form a skirmish line as Custer led his command to the northern end of the main encampment, where he apparently planned to sandwich the Indians between his attacking troopers and Reno's command in a "hammer and anvil
Hammer and anvil
The Hammer and Anvil tactic is a military tactic used since the beginning of organized warfare. It was used mostly in the ancient world, including by Alexander the Great.- The procedure :...

" maneuver. According to Grinnell's account, based on the testimony of the Cheyenne warriors who survived the fight, at least part of Custer's command attempted to ford the river at the north end of the camp but were driven off by stiff resistance from Indian sharpshooters firing from the brush along the west bank of the river. From that point the soldiers were pursued by hundreds of warriors onto a ridge north of the encampment. Custer and his command were prevented from digging in by Crazy Horse, however, whose warriors had outflanked him and were now to his north, at the crest of the ridge. Traditional white accounts attribute to Gall the attack that drove Custer up onto the ridge, but Indian witnesses have disputed that account.

For a time, Custer's men appear to have been deployed by company, in standard cavalry fighting formation—the skirmish line, with every fourth man holding the horses, though this arrangement would have robbed Custer of a quarter of his firepower. Worse, as the fight intensified, many soldiers could have taken to holding their own horses or hobbling them, further reducing the 7th's effective fire. When Crazy Horse and White Bull mounted the charge that broke through the center of Custer's lines, pandemonium may have broken out among the soldiers of Calhoun's command, though Myles Keogh
Myles Keogh
Myles Walter Keogh was an Irishman who fought in Italy during the 1860 Papal War before volunteering for the Union side in the American Civil War . During the war years, he was promoted from the rank of Captain to that of Major, finally being awarded the brevet rank of Lieutenant Colonel...

's men seem to have fought and died where they stood. According to some Lakota accounts, many of the panicking soldiers threw down their weapons and either rode or ran towards the knoll where Custer, the other officers, and about 40 men were making a stand. Along the way, the warriors rode them down, counting coup
Counting coup
Counting coup refers to the winning of prestige in battle, rather than having to prove a win by injuring one's opponent. Its earliest known reference is from Shakespeare's "Hamlet" where Laertes and Hamlet conduct a mock swordfight before King Claudius and Queen Gertrude...

 by striking the fleeing troopers with their quirt
Quirt
A quirt is a forked type of stock whip which usually has two falls at the end . Sometimes called a riding quirt, horse quirt, or a dog quirt.The falls on a quirt are made of leather, buffalo, or cow hide...

s or lance
Lance
A Lance is a pole weapon or spear designed to be used by a mounted warrior. The lance is longer, stout and heavier than an infantry spear, and unsuited for throwing, or for rapid thrusting. Lances did not have tips designed to intentionally break off or bend, unlike many throwing weapons of the...

s.

Initially, Custer had 208 officers and men under his command, with an additional 142 under Reno, just over a hundred under Benteen, 50 soldiers with Captain McDougall's rearguard, and 84 soldiers under 1st Lieutenant Edward Gustave Mathey with the pack train. The Lakota-Cheyenne coalition may have fielded over 1800 warriors. Historian Gregory Michno settles on a low number around 1000 based on contemporary Lakota testimony, but other sources place the number at 1800 or 2000, especially in the works by Utley and Fox. The 1800–2000 figure is substantially lower than the higher numbers of 3000 or more postulated by Ambrose, Gray, Scott, and others. Some of the other participants in the battle gave these estimates:
  • Spotted Horn Bull – 5,000 braves and chiefs
  • Maj. Reno – 2,500 to 5,000 warriors
  • Capt. Moylan – 3,500 to 4,000
  • Lt. Hare – not under 4,000
  • Lt. Godfrey – minimum between 2,500 and 3,000
  • Lt. Edgerly – 4,000
  • Lt. Varnum – not less than 4,000
  • Sgt. Kanipe – fully 4,000
  • George Herendeen – fully 3,000
  • Fred Gerard – 2,500 to 3,000


An average of the above is 3,500 warriors and chiefs.

As the troopers were cut down, the native warriors stripped the dead of their firearms and ammunition, with the result that the return fire from the cavalry steadily decreased, while the fire from the Indians constantly increased.
The surviving troopers apparently shot their remaining horses to use as breastworks for a final stand on the knoll at the north end of the ridge. The warriors closed in for the final attack and killed every man in Custer's command. As a result, the Battle of the Little Bighorn has come to be popularly known as "Custer's Last Stand".

Death


Some eyewitness reports state that Custer was not identified until after his death by the Indians who killed him. Several individuals claimed personal responsibility for the killing, including White Bull
White Bull
White Bull was the nephew of Sitting Bull, and a famous warrior in his own right. White Bull participated in the Battle of the Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876. For years it was said White Bull boasted of killing Lt. George Armstrong Custer at the famous battle...

 of the Miniconjou
Miniconjou
The Miniconjou are a Native American people constituting a subdivision of the Lakota Sioux, who formerly inhabited an area from the Black Hills in South Dakota to the Platte River. The contemporary population lives mostly in west-central South Dakota...

s, Rain-in-the-Face
Rain-in-the-Face
Rain-in-the-Face was a warchief of the Lakota tribe of Native Americans. His mother was a Dakota related to the band of famous Chief Inkpaduta. He was among the Indian leaders who defeated George Armstrong Custer and the U.S...

, Flat Lip and Brave Bear. In June 2005 at a public meeting, the Northern Cheyenne broke more than 100 years of silence about the battle. Storytellers said that according to their oral tradition, Buffalo Calf Road Woman
Buffalo Calf Road Woman
Buffalo Calf Road Woman, or Brave Woman , was a Northern Cheyenne woman who saved her wounded warrior brother Chief Comes in Sight, in the Battle of Rosebud . Her rescue helped rally the Cheyenne warriors to win the battle. She fought next to her husband in the Battle of the Little Bighorn that...

, a Northern Cheyenne heroine of the Battle of the Rosebud
Battle of the Rosebud
The Battle of the Rosebud occurred June 17, 1876, in the Montana Territory between the United States Army and a force of Lakota Native Americans during the Black Hills War...

, struck the final blow against Custer, which knocked him off his horse before he died.

A contrasting version of Custer's death is suggested by the testimony of an Oglala named Joseph White Cow Bull, according to novelist and Custer biographer Evan Connell, who relates that Joseph White Bull stated he had shot a rider at the riverside wearing a buckskin jacket and big hat when the soldiers first approached the village from the east. The initial force facing the soldiers, according to this version, was quite small (possibly as few as four warriors) yet challenged Custer's command. The rider who was hit, mounted next to a rider who bore a flag, had shouted orders that prompted the soldiers to attack, but when the buckskin-clad rider fell off his horse after being shot, many of the attackers reined up. The allegation that the buckskin-clad officer was Custer, if accurate, might explain the supposed rapid disintegration of Custer's forces. However, several other officers of the Seventh, including William Cooke and Tom Custer, were also dressed in buckskin on the day of the battle, and the fact that each of the non-mutilation wounds to Custer's body (a bullet wound below the heart and a shot to the left temple) would have been instantly fatal casts doubt on his being wounded or killed at the ford, more than a mile from where his body was found.

In 1920s, two elderly Cheyenne women spoke briefly with oral historians about their having recognized Custer's body on the battlefield, and had stopped a Sioux warrior from desecrating the body. The women were relatives of Mo-nah-se-tah
Mo-nah-se-tah
Mo-nah-se-tah or Mo-nah-see-tah , aka Me-o-tzi, was the daughter of the Cheyenne chief Little Rock, who was killed on November 28, 1868 in the Battle of Washita River when the camp of Chief Black Kettle, of which Little Rock was a member, was attacked by the 7th U.S. Cavalry under the command of...

, who was alleged to have been Custer's one-time lover. In the Cheyenne culture of the time, such a relationship was considered a marriage. The women allegedly told the warrior to "Stop, he is a relative of ours," and then shooed him away. The two women then shoved their sewing awls into his ears, to permit Custer's corpse to 'hear better in the afterlife' because he had broken his promise to Chief Stone Forehead never to fight against Native Americans again.

When the main column under General Terry arrived two days later, the army found most of the soldiers' corpses stripped, scalped, and mutilated. Custer's body had two bullet holes, one in the left temple and one just above the heart. Capt. Benteen, who inspected the body, stated that in his opinion the fatal injuries had not been the result of .45 caliber ammunition, which implies the bullet holes had been caused by ranged rifle fire.

Following the recovery of Custer's body and those of his brother Tom, the remains were buried on the battlefield side by side in a shallow grave, after being covered by pieces of tent canvas and blankets. One year later, Custer's remains and those of many of his officers were recovered and sent back east for reinterment in more formal burials. Custer was buried again with full military honors at West Point Cemetery
West Point Cemetery
West Point Cemetery is a historic cemetery on the grounds of the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. It overlooks the Hudson River, and served as a burial ground for American Revolutionary War soldiers and early West Point inhabitants long before 1817 when it was officially...

 on October 10, 1877. The battle site was designated a National Cemetery in 1876.

Controversial legacy



After his death, Custer achieved the lasting fame that he had sought on the battlefield. The public saw him as a tragic military hero and exemplary gentleman who sacrificed his life for his country. Custer's wife, Elizabeth
Elizabeth Bacon Custer
Elizabeth Bacon Custer was the wife of General George Armstrong Custer. After his death, she became an outspoken advocate for her husband's legacy through her popular books and lectures...

, who had accompanied him in many of his frontier expeditions, did much to advance this view with the publication of several books about her late husband: Boots and Saddles, Life with General Custer in Dakota (1885), Tenting on the Plains (1887), and Following the Guidon (1891). Lt. Col. Custer wrote about the Indian wars in My Life on the Plains (1874).

The deaths of Custer and his troops became the best-known episode in the history of western Indian wars, due in part to a painting commissioned by the brewery Anheuser-Busch
Anheuser-Busch
Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc. , is an American brewing company. The company operates 12 breweries in the United States and 18 in other countries. It was, until December 2009, also one of America's largest theme park operators; operating ten theme parks across the United States through the...

 as part of an advertising
Advertising
Advertising is a form of communication used to persuade an audience to take some action with respect to products, ideas, or services. Most commonly, the desired result is to drive consumer behavior with respect to a commercial offering, although political and ideological advertising is also common...

 campaign. The enterprising company ordered reprints of a dramatic work that depicted “Custer's Last Stand” and had them framed and hung in many United States saloons. This created lasting impressions of the battle and the brewery’s products in the minds of many bar patrons.
Unfortunately, the scene was totally fictious and included indians dressed in the fashion of many different tribes, including eastern tribes. One warrior is even shown brandishing a zulu war shield. Custer himself is depicted as strong and heroic, fighting to the last, surrounded by his dead and dying command.

Custer has been called a "media personality", and he did value good public relations
Public relations
Public relations is the actions of a corporation, store, government, individual, etc., in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers, etc....

 in addition to leveraging the print media of his era effectively. He frequently invited correspondent
Correspondent
A correspondent or on-the-scene reporter is a journalist or commentator, or more general speaking, an agent who contributes reports to a newspaper, or radio or television news, or another type of company, from a remote, often distant, location. A foreign correspondent is stationed in a foreign...

s to accompany his campaigns (one, Associated Press
Associated Press
The Associated Press is an American news agency. The AP is a cooperative owned by its contributing newspapers, radio and television stations in the United States, which both contribute stories to the AP and use material written by its staff journalists...

 reporter Mark Kellogg
Mark Kellogg (reporter)
Mark Kellogg was a newspaper reporter killed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Kellogg rode with George Armstrong Custer during the battle and was evidently one of the first men killed by the Sioux and Cheyenne. His dispatches were the only press coverage of Custer and his men in the days...

, died at the Little Bighorn), and their favorable reporting contributed to his high reputation, which lasted well into the 20th century. He paid attention to his image; after being promoted to brigadier general in the Civil War, Custer sported a uniform that included shiny cavalry boots, tight olive-colored corduroy trousers, a wide-brimmed slouch hat, tight hussar
Hussar
Hussar refers to a number of types of light cavalry which originated in Hungary in the 14th century, tracing its roots from Serbian medieval cavalry tradition, brought to Hungary in the course of the Serb migrations, which began in the late 14th century....

 jacket of black velveteen with silver piping on the sleeves, a sailor shirt with silver stars on his collar, and a red cravat
Cravat
The cravat is a neckband, the forerunner of the modern tailored necktie and bow tie, originating from 17th-century Croatia.From the end of the 16th century, the term band applied to any long-strip neckcloth that was not a ruff...

. He wore his hair in long ringlets liberally sprinkled with cinnamon-scented hair oil. Later, in his campaigns against the Indians, Custer wore a buckskins
Buckskins
Buckskins are clothing, usually consisting of a jacket and leggings, made from buckskin, a soft sueded leather from the hide of deer or elk. Buckskins are often trimmed with a fringe — originally a functional detail, to allow the garment to dry faster when it was soaking wet because the fringe...

 outfit, along with his familiar red tie.

The assessment of Custer's actions during the Indian Wars has undergone substantial reconsideration in modern times. Documenting the arc of popular perception in his 1984 biography Son of the Morning Star
Son of the Morning Star
Son of the Morning Star is a 1984 non-fiction book on the subject of George Armstrong Custer, with the subtitle 'Custer and the Little Bighorn'. A 1991 television film was based on the book. Both the book and the film chronicle the Battle of the Little Bighorn, the personalities involved, and the...

, author Evan Connell notes the reverential tone of Custer's first biographer Frederick Whittaker (whose book was rushed out the year of Custer's death.) Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American poet and educator whose works include "Paul Revere's Ride", The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline...

 wrote an adoring (and often erroneous) poem. President Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States . He is noted for his exuberant personality, range of interests and achievements, and his leadership of the Progressive Movement, as well as his "cowboy" persona and robust masculinity...

's lavish praise pleased Custer's widow. Connell concludes:
"These days it is stylish to denigrate the general, whose stock sells for nothing. Nineteenth-century Americans thought differently. At that time he was a cavalier without fear and beyond reproach."


President Grant, a highly successful general, bluntly criticized Custer's actions in the battle of the Little Bighorn. Quoted in the New York Herald on September 2, 1876, Grant said, "I regard Custer's Massacre as a sacrifice of troops, brought on by Custer himself, that was wholly unnecessary – wholly unnecessary." General Phillip Sheridan likewise took a harsh view of Custer's final military actions. General Nelson Miles (who inherited Custer's mantle of famed Indian fighter) and others praised him as a fallen hero betrayed by the incompetence of subordinate officers. Miles noted the difficulty of winning a fight "with seven-twelfths of the command remaining out of the engagement when within sound of his rifle shots." The controversy over blame for the disaster at Little Bighorn continues to this day. Major Marcus Reno
Marcus Reno
Marcus Albert Reno was a career military officer in the American Civil War and in the Black Hills War against the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne...

's failure to press his attack on the south end of the Lakota/Cheyenne village and his flight to the timber along the river after a single casualty have been cited as a causal factor in the destruction of Custer's battalion, as has Captain Frederick Benteen
Frederick Benteen
Frederick William Benteen was a military officer during the American Civil War and then during the Black Hills War against the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne. He is notable for being in command of a battalion of the 7th U. S...

's allegedly tardy arrival on the field and the failure of the two officers' combined forces to move toward the relief of Custer.
In contrast, some of Custer's critics, including Gen. Sheridan, have asserted at least three clear tactical errors.

First, while camped at Powder River, Custer refused the support offered by General Terry on June 21, of an additional four companies of the Second Cavalry. Custer stated that he "could whip any Indian village on the Plains" with his own regiment, and that extra troops would simply be a burden.

At the same time, he left behind at the steamer Far West on the Yellowstone a battery of Gatling guns, knowing he was facing superior numbers. Before leaving the camp all the troops, including the officers, also boxed their sabers and sent them back with the wagons.
On the day of the battle, Custer divided his 600-man command, despite being faced with vastly superior numbers of Sioux and Cheyenne.

The refusal of an extra battalion reduced the size of his force by at least a sixth, and rejecting the firepower offered by the Gatling guns played into the events of June 25 to the disadvantage of his regiment.

Custer's defenders, however, including historian Charles K. Hofling, have asserted that Gatling guns would have been slow and cumbersome as the troops crossed the rough country between the Yellowstone and the Little Bighorn. Custer rated speed in gaining the battlefield as essential and more important. The additional firepower had the potential of turning the tide of the fight, given the Indians' propensity for withdrawing in the face of new military technology. Other Custer supporters have claimed that splitting the forces was a standard tactic, so as to demoralize the enemy with the appearance of the cavalry in different places all at once, especially when a contingent threatened the line of retreat.

Monuments and memorials



  • Counties are named in Custer's honor in six states: Colorado
    Custer County, Colorado
    Custer County is the tenth least populous of the 64 counties of the State of Colorado of the United States. The county population was 3,503 at U.S. Census 2000. The county seat is Westcliffe.- History :...

    , Idaho
    Custer County, Idaho
    Custer County is a rural mountain county located in the center of the U.S. state of Idaho. Established in 1881, it was named for the General Custer Mine, where gold was discovered five years earlier . The population was 4,342 at the 2000 census; it is estimated to have fallen to 4,166 by 2007...

    , Montana
    Custer County, Montana
    -Economy:The main source of income for Custer County has largely come from cattle ranching and dryland farming. Miles City serves as the center of commerce in an area extending for 100 miles in every direction...

    , Nebraska
    Custer County, Nebraska
    -History:Custer County was formed in 1877. It was named after General George Armstrong Custer, who was killed at the Battle of Little Bighorn.-Demographics:...

    , Oklahoma
    Custer County, Oklahoma
    Custer County is a county located in the U.S. state of Oklahoma. It was named in honor of General George Armstrong Custer. As of 2000, the population was 26,142. Its county seat is Arapaho.-Geography:...

    , and South Dakota
    Custer County, South Dakota
    As of the census of 2000, there were 7,275 people, 2,970 households, and 2,067 families residing in the county. The population density was 5 people per square mile . There were 3,624 housing units at an average density of 2 per square mile...

    . Custer County, Idaho
    Custer County, Idaho
    Custer County is a rural mountain county located in the center of the U.S. state of Idaho. Established in 1881, it was named for the General Custer Mine, where gold was discovered five years earlier . The population was 4,342 at the 2000 census; it is estimated to have fallen to 4,166 by 2007...

    , is named for the General Custer Mine, which was named for Custer. Townships in Michigan and Minnesota were named for Custer. There are also the villages
    Village (United States)
    In the United States, the meaning of "village" varies by geographic area and legal jurisdiction. In many areas, "village" is a term, sometimes informal, for a type of administrative division at the local government level...

     of Custer, Michigan
    Custer, Michigan
    Custer is a village in Mason County of the U.S. state of Michigan. As of the 2000 census, the village population was 318. The village is located within Custer Township.-Geography:...

     and Custer, Ohio, the city of Custer, South Dakota
    Custer, South Dakota
    Custer is a city in Custer County, South Dakota, United States. The population was 2,067 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Custer County.-History:...

    , and the unincorporated town of Custer, Wisconsin
    Custer, Wisconsin
    Custer is an unincorporated community in Portage County, Wisconsin, United States.-History:The origin of the communities name is not confirmed but a genereal consensus is it was named after Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, who was defeated during the battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876...

    . A portion of Monroe County, Michigan
    Monroe County, Michigan
    Monroe County is a county in the U.S. state of Michigan. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the 2010 population is 152,021. The largest city and county seat is Monroe. The U.S. Census Bureau defines all of Monroe County as conterminous with the Monroe Metropolitan Area...

    , is informally referred to as "Custerville".
  • Custer National Cemetery is within Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
    Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
    Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument preserves the site of the June 25, 1876, Battle of the Little Bighorn, near Crow Agency, Montana, in the United States. It also serves as a memorial to those who fought in the battle: George Armstrong Custer's 7th Cavalry and a combined Lakota-Northern...

    , the site of Custer's death.
  • An equestrian statue of Custer
    George Armstrong Custer Equestrian Monument
    The George Armstrong Custer Equestrian Monument, also known as Sighting the Enemy, is an equestrian statue of George Armstrong Custer by Edward Clark Potter, located in Monroe, Michigan. The statue was unveiled on June 4, 1910...

     by Edward Clark Potter
    Edward Clark Potter
    Edward Clark Potter was an American sculptor best known for his equestrian and animal statues. His works include the "Fortitude" lion in front of the New York Public Library.-Early years:...

     was erected in Monroe, Michigan
    Monroe, Michigan
    Monroe is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 20,733 at the 2010 census. It is the largest city and county seat of Monroe County. The city is bordered on the south by Monroe Charter Township, but both are politically independent. The city is located approximately 14 miles ...

    , his boyhood home, in 1910.
  • Fort Custer National Military Reservation
    Fort Custer Training Center
    Fort Custer Training Center, often known simply as Fort Custer, is a federally-owned and state-operated Michigan Army National Guard training facility, but is also used by other branches of the armed forces and armed forces from Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio...

    , near Augusta, Michigan
    Augusta, Michigan
    Augusta is a village in Kalamazoo County in the U.S. state of Michigan. The population was 899 at the 2000 census. The village is mostly within Ross Township, though a small portion extends south into Charleston Township....

    , was built in 1917 on 130 parcels of land, as part of the military mobilization for World War I
    World War I
    World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

    . During the war, some 90,000 troops passed through Camp Custer.
  • The establishment of Fort Custer National Cemetery
    Fort Custer National Cemetery
    Fort Custer National Cemetery is a United States National Cemetery located just outside of the Village of Augusta in Kalamazoo County, Michigan. It encompasses , and as of the end of 2005, had 20,656 interments.- History :...

     (originally Fort Custer Post Cemetery) took place on September 18, 1943, with the first interment. On Memorial Day 1982, more than 33 years after the first resolution had been introduced in Congress, impressive ceremonies marked the official opening of the cemetery.
  • Custer Hill is the main troop billeting area at Fort Riley
    Fort Riley
    Fort Riley is a United States Army installation located in Northeast Kansas, on the Kansas River, between Junction City and Manhattan. The Fort Riley Military Reservation covers 100,656 acres in Geary and Riley counties and includes two census-designated places: Fort Riley North and Fort...

    , Kansas
    Kansas
    Kansas is a US state located in the Midwestern United States. It is named after the Kansas River which flows through it, which in turn was named after the Kansa Native American tribe, which inhabited the area. The tribe's name is often said to mean "people of the wind" or "people of the south...

    .
  • The US 85th Infantry Division was nicknamed The Custer Division.
  • The Black Hills of South Dakota is full of evidence of Custer, with a county, town, and the Custer State Park
    Custer State Park
    Custer State Park is a state park and wildlife reserve in the Black Hills of southwestern South Dakota, USA. The park is South Dakota's largest and first state park, named after Lt...

     all located in the area.
  • The Custer house at Fort Lincoln, near present-day Mandan, North Dakota
    Mandan, North Dakota
    As of the census of 2000, there were 16,718 people, 6,647 households, and 4,553 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,642.8 per square mile . There were 6,958 housing units at an average density of 683.7 per square mile...

     has been reconstructed as it was in Custer's day, along with the soldiers' barracks, block houses, etc. Annual re-enactments are held of Custer's 7th Cavalry's leaving for the Little Bighorn.
  • On July 2, 2008, a marble monument to Brigadier General Custer was dedicated at the site of the 1863 Civil War Battle of Hunterstown
    Battle of Hunterstown
    The Battle of Hunterstown was a minor cavalry engagement in Adams County, Pennsylvania, on July 2, 1863, during the Gettysburg Campaign of the American Civil War...

     in Adams County, Pennsylvania
    Adams County, Pennsylvania
    Adams County is a county in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. As of the 2010 census, the population was 101,407. It was created on January 22, 1800, from part of York County and named in honor of the second President of the United States, John Adams...

    .
  • Custer Monument
    Custer Monument (West Point)
    Custer Monument is a monument at the United States Military Academy Cemetery, in honor of Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer who was killed along with his entire command at the Battle of the Little Bighorn on 26 June 1876. The monument was originally located near the academy's headquarters...

     at the United States Military Academy
    United States Military Academy
    The United States Military Academy at West Point is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located at West Point, New York. The academy sits on scenic high ground overlooking the Hudson River, north of New York City...

     was first unveiled in 1879. It now stands next to his grave in the West Point Cemetery
    West Point Cemetery
    West Point Cemetery is a historic cemetery on the grounds of the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. It overlooks the Hudson River, and served as a burial ground for American Revolutionary War soldiers and early West Point inhabitants long before 1817 when it was officially...

    .

See also


  • Cultural depictions of George Armstrong Custer
    Cultural depictions of George Armstrong Custer
    George Armstrong Custer was a United States Army cavalry commander in the American Civil War and the Indian Wars. He was defeated and killed by the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.-Paintings:...

  • Fort Abraham Lincoln
    Fort Abraham Lincoln
    Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park is located seven miles south of Mandan, North Dakota. The park is home to On-A-Slant Indian Village, the blockhouses and the Custer house...

  • List of American Civil War generals
  • List of German Americans
  • German-Americans in the Civil War
    German-Americans in the Civil War
    German-Americans in the American Civil War were the largest ethnic contingent to fight for the Union. More than 200,000 native Germans served in the Union Army, with New York and Ohio each providing ten divisions dominated by German-born men....


External links



Further reading