The youngest general in the Union army. Later he commanded the 7th Cavalry and his entire detachment of over 200 men were killed by Native Americans in the Battle of Little Bighorn.
George Armstrong, soldier, born in New Rumley, Harrison County, Ohio,
5 December 1839; died in Montana, 25 June, 1876. He was graduated at the U. S.
military academy in June, 1861, and reported for duty at Washington. General
Winfield Scott gave him dispatches to carry to General Irwin McDowell, then in
command of the Army of the Potomac, he was assigned to duty as lieutenant in the
5th cavalry, and participated, on the day of his arrival at tile front, in the
first battle of Bull Run. General Philip Kearny selected him as his first
aide-de-camp, and he afterward served on the staff of General William F. Smith.
While on this duty he was given charge of the balloon ascensions, to make
May, 1862, General George B. McClellan was so impressed with the energy and
perseverance that he showed in wading the Chickahominy alone, to ascertain what
would be a safe ford for the army to cross, and with his courage in
reconnoitering the enemy's position while on the other side, that he was
appointed aide-de-camp, with the rank of captain, to date from 15 June, 1862.
Capt. Custer applied at once for permission to attack the picket-post he had
just discovered, and at daylight the next morning surprised the enemy, drove
them back, capturing some prisoners and the first colors that were taken by the
Army of the Potomac. After General McClellan's retirement from command of the
army, Capt. Custer was discharged from his volunteer appoint-merit and returned
to his regiment as lieutenant. He had served there but a short time when General
Alfred Pleasonton, on 15 May, 1863, made him aide-de-camp on his staff. For
daring gallantry in a skirmish at Aldie and in the action at Brandy Station, as
well as in the closing operations of the Rappahannock campaign, he was appointed
brigadier-general of volunteers, dating from 29 June, 1863, and assigned to duty
as commander of the Michigan brigade.
Gettysburg his brigade, together with those of Gregg and McIntosh, defeated
General Stuart's efforts to turn the left flank.For this action was brevetted major in the U.S. army, to date from 3 July
1863.At Culpepper Court-House he
was wounded by a spent ball, which killed his horse, he took part in General
Sheridan's cavalry raid toward Richmond, in May, 1864, and was brevetted
lieutenant colonel for gallant and meritorious services in the battle of Yellow
Tavern, 11 May. In General Sheridan's second raid on Richmond the Michigan
brigade made a most gallant fight at Trevillion Station; but so great was their
peril that the colors of the brigade were only saved from capture by General
Custer's tearing them from the standard, held in the grasp of a dying
color-sergeant, and concealing the flag in his bosom.
19 September, 1864, he was made brevet-colonel, U. S. army, for gallantry at the
battle of Winchester, and on 19 Oct. he was brevetted major-general of
volunteers for gallantry and meritorious services at Winchester and Fisher's
Hill. On 30 Sept. he assumed command of the 3d division of cavalry, with which
he fought the brilliant battle of Woodstock on 9 Oct., where his former
classmate at West Point, the Confederate General Rosser, confronted him. He
drove the enemy twenty-six miles, capturing everything they had on wheels except
one gun. At Cedar Creek he confronted the enemy from the first attack in the
morning until the battle ended. The 3d division recaptured, before the day was
over, guns and colors that had been taken from the army earlier in the fight,
together with Confederate flags and cannon. After this brilliant success
General Custer was sent to Washington in charge of the captured colors, and
recommended for promotion.
the spring of 1865, when General Sheridan moved his cavalry toward Richmond
again, the 3d division fought alone the battle of Waynesboro. The enemy's works
were carried, and 11 guns, 200 wagons, 1,600 prisoners, and 17 battle-flags were
captured. On reaching Fred-Rickshall Station, General Custer found that General
Early had rallied from his retreat at Waynesboro and was preparing for another
attack. He therefore sent a regiment to meet him at once. General Early was
nearly captured, his command destroyed, and a campaign ended in which he lost
his army, every piece of artillery, and all his trains. For gallant and
meritorious services at the battles of Five Forks and Dinwiddie Court-House, Gen
Custer was brevetted brigadier-general, U. S. army, to date from 13 March,
1865. In a general order addressed to his troops, dated at Appomattox Court
House, 9 April, 1865, General Custer said:
"During the past six months, though in most instances confronted by
superior numbers, you have captured from the enemy in open battle 111 pieces of
field artillery, 65 battle-flags, and upward of 10,000 prisoners of war,
including seven general officers. Within the past ten days, and included in the
above, you have captured 46 field-pieces of artillery, and 37 battle-flags.
You have never lost a gun, never lost a color, and never been defeated; and,
notwithstanding the numerous engagements in which you have borne a prominent
part, including those memorable battles of the Shenandoah, you have captured
every piece of artillery which the enemy has dared to open upon you."
Custer received the first flag of truce from the Army of Northern Virginia, and
was present at the surrender at Appomattox Court-House. He was brevetted
major-general for his services in the last campaign, and appointed major-general
of volunteers, to date from 15 April, 1865." He participated in all but
one of the battles of the Army of the Potomac. After the grand review he was
ordered to Texas, to command a division of cavalry. In November, 1865, he was
made chief of cavalry, and remained on this duty until March, 1866, when he was
mustered out of the volunteer service, to date from February, 1866. He then applied
to the government for permission to accept from President Juarez the place of
chief of Mexican cavalry in the struggle against Maximilian. President Johnson
declined to give the necessary leave of absence, and General Custer decided to
accept the lieutenant-colonelcy of the 7th cavalry, his appointment dating
from 28 July, 1866. He joined his regiment at Fort Riley, Kansas, in November,
1866, and served on the plains until 1871. On 27 November he fought the battle
of the Washita, in Indian Territory, and inflicted such a defeat upon the Indians
that the entire tribe of Cheyennes were compelled to return to their
reservation. He was ordered, with his regiment, to Kentucky, in 1871, where he
remained until 1873. In the spring of that year he was sent, with the 7th, to
Fort Rice, Dakota, and from there accompanied an expedition to the Yellowstone.
On 4 Aug. he fought the Sioux, with his regiment, on the Yellowstone, near the
mouth of Tongue River, and on the 11th had another engagement three miles below
the mouth of the Big Horn.
July, 1874, the government ordered an expedition, commanded by General Custer,
into the Black Hills, which resulted in an unexplored region being opened to
miners and frontiersmen. On 15 May, 1876, General Custer commanded his
regiment in a campaign against the confederated Sioux tribes. The Indians were
discovered encamped on the Little Big Horn River, in a region almost unknown.
Eleven tribes, numbering nearly 9,000, had their villages on and in the
vicinity of the Little Big Horn. The government expedition consisted of 1,100
men. The strength of the enemy not being known, General Custer was ordered to
take his regiment and pursue a trail. He arrived at what was supposed to be the
only Indian village on 25 June, and an attack was made by a portion of the
regiment numbering fewer than 200 cavalry, while General Custer, with 277
troopers, charged on the village from another direction. Overwhelming numbers
met them, and General Custer, with his entire command, was slain. The officers
and men were interred upon the battle-field, and in 1879 it was made a national
cemetery. A monument recording the name and rank of all who fell was erected by
the U. S. government on the spot where General Custer made his last stand. In
1877 his remains were removed to the cemetery at West Point, N. Y.
He was nearly six feet in height,
broad-shouldered, lithe, and active, with a weight never above 170 pounds. His
eyes were blue, his hair and mustache of golden tint. He was a man of immense
strength and endurance, and, as he used neither liquors nor tobacco, his
physical condition was perfect through all the hardships of his life. Eleven
horses were shot under him in battle. At the age of twenty-three he was made a
brigadier-general, at twenty-five a major-general. The close of the war reduced
his command from thousands to hundreds; but his enthusiastic devotion to duty
was not diminished, and his form was seen at the head of his men in his Indian
service just as it had been during the civil war. He reverenced religion, he
showed deference to the aged, he honored womankind, he was fond of children, and
devoted to animals. His domestic life was characterized by a simplicity, joyous
contentment, and fondness for home that was surprising when it is remembered
that, out of the thirty-seven years of his brief life, fourteen were spent in
active warfare. One of his friends wrote his history under his name in one
sentence, "This was a man." In 1871 General Custer began to
contribute articles on frontier life to the "Galaxy," which were
published in book-form under the title "My Life on the Plains" (New
York, 1874). He was engaged on a series of "War Memoirs" for the
"Galaxy" at the time of his death. He occasionally contributed
articles on hunting to "Turf, Field, and Farm" and "Forest and
Stream." His life has been written by Frederick Whittaker (New York, 1878).
wife, Elizabeth Bacon Custer,
whom he married in February, 1864, was with him at the front during the last
year of the war, and also accompanied him in his nine years' service on the
western frontier. She has published "Boots and Saddles, or Life with
General Custer in Dakota" (New York, 1885), and is now (1887) at work upon
a volume of reminiscences of the general's service in Texas and Kansas.
brother, Thomas Ward Custer,
soldier, born in New Rumley, Harrison co., Ohio, 15 March, 1845; died in
Montana, 25 June, 1876. After repeated attempts, which failed on account of his
youth, he succeeded in enlisting as a private in an Ohio regiment, and served in
the west until he was made aide-de-camp on his brother's staff, then with the
Army of the Potomac. His appointment as second lieutenant in the 6th Michigan
cavalry dated from 8 November, 1864. His horse was often neck and neck with that
of his brother in the famous cavalry charges, and in tile fight at Namozine
Church, 2 April, 1865, he captured a Confederate flag. At Sailor's Creek, 6
April, he captured a second flag, but was shot by the standard-bearer and
severely wounded in the face. He was preparing to charge again, when stopped by
his brother and told to go to the rear and have his wound dressed. As he paid no
attention to this request, it became necessary for General Custer to order him
under arrest before he could check his ardor. He received a medal from congress
for the capture of the colors at Sailor's Creek.
letter signed, Monroe, Michigan, 18 June 1871, to Ely S. Parker,
of Indian Affairs: "My
purpose is to make my narrative as truthful as possible." Custer
was commissioned by the Galaxy to write a series of articles "descriptive
of life on the Plains embracing personal sketches, marches and campaigns."
Ely Parker, a Seneca sachem, was an engineer who became
acquainted with Ulysses S. Grant in the late 1850's, later serving as his
military secretary at Appomattox. One of Grant's first presidential acts was to
appoint Parker as commissioner of Indian affairs. In this letter Custer
asks General Parker for:
"Dept copies of the reports of Indian agents relating to the Sioux,
Cheyenne, Arapahos, Apaches (plains) or Comanches."
He especially was keen to have reports concerning General Winfield Hancock's
expedition, which had resulted in Custer being court-martialed. The very
tribes which Custer was researching and writing about in these rather
authoritative essays were those that annihilated his troops at Little Big Hor.
Custer's articles on the Plains Indians were first published in the Galaxy,
volumes 13-18, 1872-1874, then in his book My Life on the Plains, or,
Personal Experiences with Indians two years before his death in 1876.
not affiliated with the authors of these links nor responsible for its content.
Grave of George
... George Armstrong Custer. b. December 5, 1839. d. June 25, 1876. US Civil War
One of the most famous and controversial figures in United States Military ...
George Armstrong Custer
NAME: George Armstrong Custer BORN: December 5, 1839 PARENTS: Emanuel Henry
and Maria Ward Kirkpatrick Custer COMMUNITY AFFILIATIONS: born...New Rumley ...
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