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American History
General and Mrs Custer


This account kindly provided by Lu Hickey

General George Armstrong Custer, who was waiting for the 19th Cavalry at Ft. Supply, decided to proceed with his seven companies of 7th Cavalry against the Indians without the Kansas troops. He attacked Black Kettle's Cheyenne village on November 27. This was called "The Battle of the Washita". 103 Indians were killed, including Black Kettle and White Rock.

Custer and his command had a narrow escape in this battle. Were it not for the element of surprise in attacking the village in the middle of the night and quick departure the next day, the greatly outnumbered Federal troops could have all been killed.

Twenty soldiers were killed and fourteen were wounded. Among those killed were Major Joel H. Elliott and Captain Louis McLane Hamilton, who was the grandson of Alexander Hamilton and the youngest Captain in the army at the time of his death. Major Elliott is now buried in the Officer's Circle of Honor in the National Cemetery at Ft. Gibson, OK.

The Indians did not recover from this severe defeat and on December 24th made an complete surrender to the Federal troops.

The Nineteenth Kansas returned to Fort Hays, Kansas and were mustered out on April 18, 1869. Several members of the 19th Kansas are buried in Oklahoma and Kansas. Three of these soldiers are buried in the Union Soldier's Cemetery in Oklahoma City.

General George Armstrong Custer (1839-1876)

General Custer and his brother, Tom and his   wife, Libbie (Elizabeth Bacon Custer), were of Scottish ancestry.  General Custer is of the Wilson-Ochiltree families. General George Armstrong Custer

Custer was born on December 5, 1839 in New Rumley Ohio, graduated last in his class from West Point in 1861, served with great distiction and heroism during the Civil War, advanced to the rank of Major General in 1864 at the age of 25, and was assigned to command a cavalry division in Hempstead, Texas after the end of the Civil War.

Following orders from General Philip Sheridan in the fall of 1865, Custer moved his 4,500 cavalry troops from Hempstead to Austin in order to help support the efforts of the unpopular Reconstruction government and to protect Texas from a perceived threat from the Maximilian regime in Mexico. Despite being the head of the occupying forces, Custer and his wife were very popular with the citizens of Austin.

Custer was transferred to Kansas in 1866 and was killed at the Battle of Little Big Horn on June 25, 1876. He is buried at West Point.    Or, is he?

George Armstrong Custer has remained one of the best-known figures in American history and popular mythology long after his death at the hands of Lakota and Cheyenne warriors at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Custer was born in New Rumley, Ohio, and spent much of his childhood with a half-sister in Monroe, Michigan. Immediately after high school he enrolled in West Point, where he utterly failed to distinguish himself in any positive way. Several days after graduating last in his class, he failed in his duty as officer of the guard to stop a fight between two cadets. He was court-martialed and saved from punishment only by the huge need for officers with the outbreak of the Civil War.

Custer did unexpectedly well in the Civil War. He fought in the First Battle of Bull Run, and served with panache and distinction in the Virginia and Gettysburg campaigns. Although his units suffered enormously high casualty rates -- even by the standards of the bloody Civil War -- his fearless aggression in battle earned him the respect of his commanding generals and increasingly put him in the public eye. His cavalry units played a critical role in forcing the retreat of Confederate General Robert E. Lee's forces; in gratitude, General Philip Sheridan purchased and made a gift of the Appomatox surrender table to Custer and his wife, Elizabeth Bacon Custer.

In July of 1866 Custer was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the Seventh Cavalry. The next year he led the cavalry in a muddled campaign against the Southern Cheyenne. In late 1867 Custer was court-martialed and suspended from duty for a year for being absent from duty during the campaign. Custer maintained that he was simply being made a scapegoat for a failed campaign, and his old friend General Phil Sheridan agreed, calling Custer back to duty in 1868. In the eyes of the army, Custer redeemed himself by his November 1868 attack on Black Kettle's band on the banks of the Washita River.

Custer was sent to the Northern Plains in 1873, where he soon participated in a few small skirmishes with the Lakota in the Yellowstone area. The following year, he lead a 1,200 person expedition to the Black Hills, whose possession the United States had guaranteed the Lakota just six years before.

In 1876, Custer was scheduled to lead part of the anti-Lakota expedition, along with Generals John Gibbon and George Crook. He almost didn't make it, however, because his March testimony about Indian Service corruption so infuriated President Ulysses S. Grant that he relieved Custer of his command and replaced him with General Alfred Terry. Popular disgust, however, forced Grant to reverse his decision. Custer went West to meet his destiny.

The original United States plan for defeating the Lakota called for the three forces under the command of Crook, Gibbon, and Custer to trap the bulk of the Lakota and Cheyenne population between them and deal them a crushing defeat. Custer, however, advanced much more quickly than he had been ordered to do, and neared what he thought was a large Indian village on the morning of June 25, 1876. Custer's rapid advance had put him far ahead of Gibbon's slower-moving infantry brigades, and unbeknownst to him, General Crook's forces had been turned back by Crazy Horse and his band at Rosebud Creek.

On the verge of what seemed to him a certain and glorious victory for both the United States and himself, Custer ordered an immediate attack on the Indian village. Contemptuous of Indian military prowess, he split his forces into three parts to ensure that fewer Indians would escape. The attack was one the greatest fiascos of the United States Army, as thousands of Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors forced Custer's unit back onto a long, dusty ridge parallel to the Little Bighorn, surrounded them, and killed all 210 of them.

Custer's blunders cost him his life but gained him everlasting fame. His defeat at the Little Bighorn made the life of what would have been an obscure 19th century military figure into the subject of countless songs, books and paintings. His widow, Elizabeth Bacon Custer, did what she could to further his reputation, writing laudatory accounts of his life that portrayed him as not only a military genius but also a refined and cultivated man, a patron of the arts, and a budding statesman.

Countless paintings of "Custer's Last Stand" were made, including one mass-distributed by the Anheuser-Busch brewing company. All of these paintings -- as did the misnomer "the Custer massacre" -- depicted Custer as a gallant victim, surrounded by bloodthirsty savages intent upon his annihilation. Forgotten were the facts that he had started the battle by attacking the Indian village, and that most of Indians present were forced to surrender within a year of their greatest battlefield triumph
 
Custer was born on December 5, 1839 in New Rumley Ohio, graduated last in his class from West Point in 1861, served with great distiction and heroism during the Civil War, advanced to the rank of Major General in 1864 at the age of 25, and was assigned to command a cavalry division in Hempstead, Texas after the end of the Civil War.

Following orders from General Philip Sheridan in the fall of 1865, Custer moved his 4,500 cavalry troops from Hempstead to Austin in order to help support the efforts of the unpopular Reconstruction government and to protect Texas from a perceived threat from the Maximilian regime in Mexico. Despite being the head of the occupying forces, Custer and his wife were very popular with the citizens of Austin.

Custer was transferred to Kansas in 1866 and was killed at the Battle of Little Big Horn on June 25, 1876. He is buried at West Point.    Or, is he?

Elizabeth Bacon Custer, the only surviving child of Judge Daniel and Eleanor Sophia (Page) Bacon, was born at Monroe, Elizabeth Bacon CusterMichigan, on April 8, 1842. At twenty Libbie, as she was called, graduated as valedictorian from the Young Ladies' Seminary and Collegiate Institute in Monroe. Shortly after, she met Capt. George Armstrong Custer. His meteoric rise to brigadier general before Gettysburg, where he emerged as a national hero, overcame her father's objections to their courtship. They were married on February 9, 1864.

From the beginning, Libbie's charm and attractiveness helped advance her husband's military career. She socialized with powerful Republican congressmen and senators, thereby countering their suspicions that Custer had ties to the Democrats. Moreover, her husband's superior, Gen. Philip H. Sheridan, admired Libbie so greatly that he gave her the table on which Gen. Ulysses S. Grant had written the terms of surrender accepted by Gen. Robert E. Lee at Appomattox.

After the Civil War Sheridan, anticipating military action against Mexico, ordered Custer, now major general of volunteers, to march a cavalry division from Alexandria, Louisiana, to Hempstead, Texas. Elizabeth accompanied the troops in August 1865 and later wrote of her hardships in her second book, Tenting on the Plains, published in 1887. Her early response to Texas was mixed. She found homes, even of the well-to-do, often poorly constructed. Moreover, many Texans struck her as violent and trigger-happy men who threatened both the federal troops and their local supporters. She was appalled that, despite a Union victory, some Texans were still trading slaves late in 1865.

Many planter aristocrats, however, welcomed the Custers warmly. Leonard Groce and his family, of Liendo Plantation on Clear Creek, nursed Libbie when she fell ill with malaria. After Custer became chief of cavalry in Texas, the couple moved to Austin, where they resided at the Asylum for the Blind. They continued associating with wealthy planters, who introduced them to the pleasures of breeding hunting dogs. Overall, whatever her criticism of the state, Libbie saw great economic potential in Texas and tried unsuccessfully to interest her father in investing in Texas land. After Custer became lieutenant colonel of the Seventh Cavalry in 1866, Elizabeth's prized Texas serapes decorated their quarters at forts Riley, Leavenworth, and Lincoln.

Following her husband's death at the Little Bighorn, on June 25, 1876, Elizabeth learned that Grant, now president, had charged Custer with disobeying orders and held him responsible for the destruction of his battalion of 221 men by Sioux and Cheyenne warriors. Throughout her fifty-seven years of widowhood, Mrs. Custer worked untiringly to defend her husband's reputation and transform him into a hero for boys. She influenced a number of writers, including Frederick Whittaker, Gen. Edward S. Godfrey, Gen. Nelson Miles, and Frederick Dellenbaugh. In addition, Elizabeth published two other books, Boots and Saddles (1885) and Following the Guidon (1890). In all her works, her husband emerged as an exemplary son, brother, husband, and conscientious commanding officer.

Since army men and the public alike saw Elizabeth as a model wife and devoted widow, many Custer critics withheld their comments during her lifetime. Elizabeth survived, however, until April 4, 1933. A year later, Frederic Van de Water published The Glory-Hunter, and the reappraisal of Custer's character and career began. By then much of the historical record had been irretrievably lost.

This is a short history of two Scots....A Scots man who was both a coward and a hero.  A Scot woman who was honorable and a heroine.  Both defending what each personally thought was the truth as they knew it to be.

A partial source of this document from the University of Texas History and Education.

Click here for more info on the 7th Cavalry


 

 


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