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Sunday, 24 August 2014

George Armstrong Custer

George Armstrong Custer (1839-1876) was born in New Rumley, Harrison County, Ohio on December 5, 1839.

His father, Emmanuel, was a farmer and a blacksmith.

His younger brother Thomas Custer was the only soldier to win two congressional medals of honour during the American Civil War. He joined his older brother’s regiment and also died at Little Big Horn.

Custer was ranked 34th out of 34 in his West Point United States military Academy graduating class.

        Cadet George Armstrong "Autie" Custer, ca. 1859 Wikipedia Commons
During the American Civil War Custer fought in the Battle of Bull Run and the Gettysburg and Virginia campaigns.

In 1864 he was given command of General Phillip Sheridan's Third Cavalry Division as a Major General. The 23-year-old George Custer was the youngest US army officer ever to become a general. When the American Civil War ended he returned to his regular rank of captain and never rose to the rank of general again.

In 1866 Custer was appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the 7th Cavalry Regiment and assigned to Kansas to engage in wars against the native Indians.

A redhead with a big moustache. Custer was nicknamed by the Sioux "Yellow Hair the Woman Killer" and "Long Hair."

Elizabeth “Libbie” Bacon was his childhood sweetheart. They married in 1864.

A cavalier cavalry hero of huge popularity amongst the American populace, Custer would be called today a "media personality" who understood the value of good public relations. He frequently invited correspondents to accompany him on his campaigns, and their favourable reportage contributed to his high reputation that lasted well into the 20th century.

Libbie accompanied her husband in many of his frontier expeditions. She did much to advance the popular view of him 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).

General Custer himself wrote about the Indian wars in My Life on the Plains (1874).

Custer's numerous beagles, wolfhounds and foxhounds shared his food tent and bed to the annoyance of his wife. His two favorite pets were Turk, a white bulldog and Byron, a greyhound.

Custer was ordered in 1873 to Dakota territory to protect settlers and miners against the Sioux.

Custer took out a $5,000 life insurance policy shortly before the Battle of Little Big Horn.

As George Custer and his 7th Cavalry left Fort Abraham Lincoln in the Dakota Territory for the Little Big Horn, the band played "The Girl I Left Behind Me."

On June 25, 1876, Custer's regiment located a Sioux village on Little Big Horn. Underestimating its size and against orders he attacked the Indian community. Having sighted the encampment he had cried "hurrah boys, we've got them." 2,500 Sioux warriors counter attacked and defeated Custer's 655 men.

The Custer Fight by Charles Maeion Russell

Several individuals claimed personal responsibility for the killing of Custer. In 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, a Northern Cheyenne heroine of the Battle of the Rosebud, struck the final blow against Custer, which knocked him off his horse before he died.

If Custer had placed more confidence in the Gattling machine guns he possessed instead of deliberately leaving them behind at HQ, Custer's last stand might been Custer's successful stand.

The only living thing that the U.S. cavalry got back from the Battle of Little Big Horn was a horse named Comanche. The equine survivor lived until 1890 and became a celebrity. The public assumed that he had been Custer's horse (he hadn't) and that he was the Battle's only survivor (he wasn't).

Although wounded only once in his battle career, Custer had 11 horses killed under him.

The Custer Battlefield National Monument marks the size of the Battle of Little Big Horn. There are 200 markers to indicate where his cavalrymen fell after being overwhelmed by the Sioux.

In 1960 Custer's last stand was immortalized in song, with the whimsical "Mr Custer" which gave Larry Verne a #1 hit.

Sources Book of Lists 3, Wikipedia

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