Custer Capsules

Newspaper items about George Armstrong Custer and his family, friends, and admirers and people whose lives he impacted.

custerwithdog
Custer with dog. The Peninsula, Virginia, during the Civil War. Library of Congress.

 

General Custer’s Father at Detroit

(Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Friday, August 7, 1891)

He Views the Pictures of the Battle Where His Son Was Killed

Detroit, Michigan -August 7

A tall, venerable looking man stood on the platform of the cyclorama of the Battle of the Big Horn yesterday afternoon and gazed long and earnestly upon the canvass.  The old man was feeble, and as he leaned upon the ropes for support, the hot tears coursed each other down his furrowed cheeks. The other spectators in his vicinity eyed him with mixed looks of sympathy and curiosity.  Presently a crowd of survivors of the Sixth Cavalry which was commanded by George A. Custer during the War, came up the stairs.  Just as the cyclorama lecturer began to tell in his monotone how Custer, his brothers Tom and Boston, and his brother-in-law Lieutenant Calhoun had been slaughtered at the Big Horn by the Sioux, the old man turned to go as though the narrative had no special interest for him, when one of the veterans seizing his hand exclaimed, “Why, old man God bless you!”

Turning to his comrades, he ejaculated, “Boys, this is George A. Custer’s father!”

Instantly the white-haired patriarch was surrounded by boys in blue, who fairly struggled for the privilege of grasping his hand.

“I was with your son,” said one, “when he made the raid out of Winchester and broke through Early’s line.”

“I was with him in the First Cavalry,” said another, “when Tom his brother was shot in the mouth.”

“I remember that engagement very well, “ replied the old man. “Tom brought the red necktie home that he wore that day, and I’ve got it still.  The blood is on it yet.”

There were tears in the eyes of many of the crowd that saw General Custer’s cavalry introducing themselves to the General’s venerable father.  The latter is now 84 years old.

 libraryofcongresslibbiecusterLife on the Western Frontier Described with Vividness by General Custer’s Widow

(Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 20, 1892)

Mrs. Elizabeth B. Custer, the widow of the late General Custer, the dashing cavalry officer who lost his life on the western frontier in 1876, lectured to a fashionable audience of women in the parlors of the Home for Destitute Children, near Sterling Place, near Flatbush Avenue yesterday afternoon.

Her subject was Garrison Life, and she treated it with all the breeziness of one who has been there, not as a sightseer, but as a member of the camp who has shared its hardships and shared its homely, but nonetheless genuine pleasures.

A neat floral decoration in the shape of ferns and calla lilies rested on a table to the side of the speaker, and a bunch of exotics grew in a vase that was placed on the piano a short distance away.

Previous to the lecture, Mrs. Alexander S. Bacon, sang a delightful solo, “Springtide”, by Becker, and was generously applauded.

Mrs. Custer was then presented and warmly greeted. She is a pleasant-faced woman with a thoughtful, intellectual expression and speaks in a high pitched, clear cut, voice that possesses considerable charm for the ear. She is of medium height and wore a tight fitting black cloth dress with plain collar and cuffs.

After picturing with vividness, the habitations of the garrison, Mrs. Custer took up the charms of camp life and discussed them.  Chief among them were letters and newspapers written weeks and months before. Post offices are not as convenient to garrisons as they are to the residential sections of a city, and the journey is often attended with grave dangers.

The manly sergeant who after a ride of hundreds of miles would reach camp with letters from home and friends, was lionized, smiled on, and prayed for. The horse, no less than its rider, was made the subject of many compliments, and the recipient of sugar and sweets. Then again, the excitement over the news of the papers, at least a few weeks old, was very pronounced.  The simplest items were read with as much care and attention as the most important happenings in city life would be in a city of our splendid proportions.

After the mail, a piano which had reached camp was the next best entertainer. The waltz which Mrs. Custer played and which the soldiers dubbed the $5,000 waltz because $5,000 had been spent on her musical education down to the one-fingered playing of a veteran, there was thrown into a mass of melodies, not fruitless by any means, but good enough to help beguile away the ennui that many hours brought forth.

When particularly frosty weather set in, and the cold was so great that one could scarcely keep his own voice loud enough to hear it, the soldiers swathed the legs and body of the piano in old coats and mufflers in order to keep in its melody and direct it to the tympanum of their ears.

Soldiers can furnish a variety of songs in camp. The Yankee will sing and ditty and a Southerner a plantation song, while the Englishman will turn a neat ballad and the Irishman warble some of the less entrancing notes of a fair day strain. Church services in camp were quite as much, if not more entertaining and attractive than any diversion.

She concluded her very entertaining lecture with a few hints on the feminine haberdashery of the camp, which was simple in the extreme.

 Custer House Torn Down

(The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, February 11, 1902)

The House erected by General George A. Custer I Topeka, Kansas in 1868  is being torn down to make room for a modern residence. The walls of one of the rooms are decorated with notes and figures made by Custer while planning his campaigns against the Indians.

Custer Servant Dies

(The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 27, 1912)

Cincinnati, Ohio – April, 27. Mrs. Eliza Davison, a Negro slave, who accompanied General George A. Custer through the Civil War and his Indian campaigns, until just before he was killed in the massacre of the Little Big Horn, died here yesterday.

Custer’s Cook is Dead

(Toledo News-Bee, June 2, 1921)

George Gee, a Chinese, who was a cook in the Seventh Cavalry at the time of the Custer Massacre, was buried recently by a post of the American Legion at Sitka, Alaska.  When Custer went to his death on the Little Big Horn, the Chinese cook was detailed to remain with the regiment’s baggage and thus escaped death at the hands of the Sioux.

 

Texas Soldiers Leave for Montana

(Havre (Montana) Daily News Promoter-June 15, 1926)

(El Paso, Texas, June 15, A.P.)   The Seventh Cavalry will entrain at Fort Bliss tomorrow for the Crow Agency in Montana to take part in the semi-centennial anniversary of Custer’s last stand, June 24, 25, and 26.

Fifty years ago the Seventh Cavalry was wiped out when attacked by an overwhelming horde of Indian warriors.  The new Seventh Cavalry will meet tribesmen on the hill which was the scene of this now famous battle and ride with them side by side down the slopes to the Indian War Veteran’s National Cemetery.

A monument to the dead soldier’s will be dedicated and a symbolic hatchet buried at its base. This will be followed by the passing of the peace pipe between the chiefs and cavalry officers. Colonel Fitzhugh Lee will be in command of the Seventh Cavalry which will include 16 officers and 235 enlisted men. They are routed by Dalhart, Texas to Denver.

Mrs. E.B. Custer, Widow of Indian Fighter is Dead

(Brooklyn Daily Eagle, April 5, 1933)

Heart Attack Fatal at 90

Mrs. Elizabeth Bacon Custer, 90, widow of General George A. Custer, famous Indian fighter, who with his immediate command was annihilated at the Little Big Horn, died yesterday in her apartment at 71 Park Avenue, Manhattan, of a heart attack.

At her bedside were two nieces, Mrs. Charles Elmer, of 14 Clark Street, and Mrs. Lula Custer of Monroe, Michigan, and Mr. Elmer. For many years, almost to the end of her long, eventful life, Mrs. Custer kept vividly alive the memories of the early days in the West and defended the memories of her husband in the three books she wrote on his experiences, Boots and Saddles or Life with General Custer in Dakota, Tenting on the Plains, Following the Guidon.

A controversy over the famous battle in which Custer and more than 200 men were killed raged for years afterwards. Pioneers who were in contact with Custer have maintained that the “full truth” of the battle would never be told while his widow lived. It is doubted now that any additional revelations at this late date will be of value.

Mrs. Custer was born in Monroe, Michigan, the daughter of Judge Daniel S. Bacon. She was married to General Custer in 1864. After their marriage, she trod the unfrequented path for women, that of open campaigning, She personally attended her husband on some of his most daring expeditions against the Indians. Finally at Ft. Abraham Lincoln, Bismarck, North Dakota, she waited while her husband joined a huge expeditionary force. Three wouthseeks after the massacre, a slow moving steamer brought the tragic news to the fort.

Chief Sitting Bull’s Granddaughter

(Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 19, 1937)

chiefsittingbull
Chief Sitting Bull

Waste Agidiwihn

Waste Agidiwihn is sorry that she ever mentioned that she is the granddaughter of Chief Sitting Bull, who led the Sioux Indian massacre of General George A. Custer’s Cavalry in Montana in 1876.

A few days ago she confided in a fellow student at Williamette University who immediately wrote the story for the school newspaper. “It irks me she said, to have people look at me as though I were not normal.  Everyone wants to meet me now. I have even received proposals of marriage from people whom I have never seen.  I never knew people could be so crazy. Some people believed I lived in a teepee and that I learned to speak English at college. I am just as much normal American as they are.

“I am taking archery here, but I never shot a bow and arrow before. I sure could use a six shooter back home, though.”

Waste, known to fellow students as Evelyn Walsh, is a senior studying social service work.  Her home is on Fort Peck Reservation.  She is the eldest daughter of the eldest son of Sitting Bull.

She is proud of her race and regards Indians as “real Americans who are really intelligent.”

Sitting Bull was described by many historians as a renegade, but to his granddaughter he was the greatest general of the North American continent.

The Granddaughter of Sitting Bull

(Southside Virginia Sentinel, November 9, 1939)

Salem, Oregon. Although her grandfather was Sitting Bull and her ancestors were lords of the great plains and brought down a mighty buffalo with every arrow, Evelyn Welsh had to enroll in college to learn to shoot a bow and arrow. She is Waste Agidiwihn, known to her classmates at Willamette University as Evelyn Welsh. Her Indian name translated means “Bring Pretty” and indicates that she must do something to bring honor and distinction to her tribe. Miss Welsh, an Indian princess in her own right, came to the university from Culbertson, Montana, where she spent her childhood on a large ranch and learned to ride in shoot. The attractive little miss is prominent in school activities and has held a number of campus offices.

Apache Linked to Custer Trap

(Traverse City-Record Eagle, December 11, 1940)

Memphis, Tennessee (Dec. 11. U.P.) Sitting Bull was a glory-grabbing Indian politician and it was Geronimo who plotted the downfall of General George Armstrong Custer, according to Jack Perry, veteran student of Indian lore.

History may credit Sitting Bull with the massacre, Perry said, but Geronimo, an Apache chief, was the creator of the trap in which Custer made his last stand.

My information came from Geronimo himself, Perry said. Sitting Bull was a politician and like a politician he got credit for the crushing defeat of Custer while somebody else did all of the work. Geronimo wouldn’t talk about it much, but from what he told me I could tell he was one of the leaders in the plot. They said they had planned the trap for a year before springing it.

Perry, who is one-fourth Cherokee Indian lives in Long Beach, California. His colorful career in the Old West included services as an outrider for the U.S. Cavalry at the age of 13, and later as a Texas Ranger.  While he was a peace officer in Arizona, Perry became acquainted with Geronimo.

“I had been sent to arrest him and about 21 braves because they had deserted a show,” Perry said. “Geronimo took a liking to me and gave me a riding blanket. I’ve still got this and a leather lunch basket he gave me.”

Perry’s adventures have included cow punching, but the job he liked best was that of an outrider. His duties then were to establish contact between cavalry headquarters and companies of cavalrymen who were out in the wilderness policing the Indians. One day he stumbled onto a band of Comanche Indians who captured him. “They fed me well,” he said, “and treated me alright. After nine days they let me go.”

They Died With Their Boots On

(Benton Harbor News-Palladium, December 29, 1941.)

Monroe- The premier of the motion picture “They Died With Their Boots On” depicting the career of General George Armstrong Custer, was shown here Sunday. Seven members of the Custer family residing here attended the performance. Brigadier-General Custer, slain in the Battle of the Little Big Horn, attended school and married here.

Errol Flynn Plays General Custer

(Benton Harbor News-Palladium, January 10, 1942)

errol flynn

Custer’s last stand is an epic of the old west, but the rest of Custer’s life is a Michigan story. As shown in They Died With Their Boots On, the new Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland film opening Sunday at the Liberty, George Armstrong Custer’s adventures were intimately concerned with his native state.

He made a name for himself in the Civil War at the Battle of Gettysburg depicted in the film by leading a series of charges by gallant Michigan regiments. Thrown back time and time again, they kept up the fight under his inspirational leadership and finally turned the tide of battle.

After the Civil War ended, Custer like so many brilliant young officers of the Union Army, was retired. A peacetime Army had no use for the vast number of officers developed by the war. Young General Custer settled down with his wife in their native Monroe, Michigan, to live a life of peace.

It was from the same Monroe that Custer had gone before the Civil War to become the most discipline-proof cadet that West Point had seen in years.

According to the film, the most famous song of Custer’s Seventh Regiment, the Gary Owen, was taught to the General in Monroe by an English soldier who was a Union veteran. When the regiment rode forth in battle on the Little Big Horn, the song Custer learned in Monroe, sped them on their way.

George Custer was only 37 when he died.  Life in Monroe had bored him. In order to get back into active Army service, he accepted colonel’s rank. He was sent to the most dangerous territory in America, Sioux Country. The Indians called him “Long Hair.” The tribute they paid him in his last stand shows the esteem in which he was held, even by his enemies. Every man killed in the battle was scalped – except Custer.

General Custer after 45 Years

custer1873
Lt. Colonel Custer, 1873

(Detroit Free Press, June 27, 1921)

It has been remarked that George Armstrong Custer’s chief contribution to the history of his country was his personality. Such a statement looks like a truism, but in his case it was more peculiarly true than in most. An operose, impetuous spirit, his tepidity, his dash, his verve, has passed into legend while there are still people living in these states who thrill to the memory of the day when Custer fell, who remember the clash of opinion that arose before his gallant blood had cooled.

The forty-five years that have passed since June 25, 1876, have not settled the argument.  Was Custer’s death with his three brothers, his nephew, and all of the old fighting Seventh Michigan Cavalry , due to mis-wisdom, an untutored impetuosity, or were the trap and the barbarous slaying inevitable?  How much of the mistake can be placed on the two commanders under him, Benteen and Reno, and was the natural indignation of the country justified?  The exact facts are obscure, for we are unwilling to accept the only evidence which came from an Indian.

The significant thing now is that Custer’s story is not allowed to die – it is too romantic, too fraught with the perilous spirit of the frontier days which have rapidly dimmed and receded. The story has been woven into pageants, it has been vividly acted before the camera in its own historic setting. Today, out in Hardin, Montana, it is being commemorated again, re-enacted with Indians, some of whom are from the fierce tribe of Sitting Bull. Tamed now and submissive, forgetting the hot rage of the warrior, they are acting for the pleasure of the conqueror and perhaps for the lost glory of their tribe, scenes which were part of the destructive tide that swept them from their last entrenchments in the badlands of the prairie.

What history will do with Custer a hundred years, hence it is impossible to judge; it is probably that no matter what the historian of the future makes of his case he will be handed along in the legends which gave the thrill to cold facts as the perfect cavalry type, the temerarious General of Horse. The nation will remember him as Edward Clark Potter has pictured him when in that significant moment during a lull in the Battle of the Little Big Horn, he spurred forward from the line, and hat in hand, his golden curls flowing from a head thrown back, he stood for a moment surveying enemy lines. His striking uniform, his youth, his daring, combined to make him a glorious, a charmed figure.

The nation will remember him too, however much they may doubt his judgment, as the general who immensely brave, immensely daring, overpowered twenty to one, stayed with his men and died fighting in place. They will honor him as the Sioux honored him, Sitting Bull’s warriors who killed him but held his body inviolate because he was a warrior of whose prowess they stood in awe.