Ten Things That You Did Not Know About General George Custer

George Custer was born on December 5th, 1839, in, Ohio. He joined the US cavalry and was to become one of the best-known men in America. He was widely seen as a national hero by some and also a national disgrace.  George Armstrong Custer rose to fame in the American Civil War, however, he won everlasting fame some ten years later because of his catastrophic defeat at the battle of Little Big Horn. Ironically, it was his defeat that made him secure the everlasting fame that this most ambitious of men sought all through his colorful life and career.

Many believe that the General was personally responsible for the defeat at the Battle in which he died. He was a daring man and a brilliant leader of men and had proved himself to be one of the finest cavalry officers of the American Civil War. Indeed, he was an almost mythical figure in the Union army. However, he was also a poor strategist and his need for glory and recognition clouded his judgment.

custer 1
Custer on the left with Lincoln and other Union generals

These qualities meant that he was responsible for the defeat at the Battle of the Little Big Horn and his own death.

The Battle of the Big Horn was the best-known defeat inflicted by the Native American tribes upon the American army for almost a century. A  force of 200 experienced cavalrymen was killed by the Native Americans.  Custer unit was annihilated by the Lakota Sioux and their allies the Cheyenne. Among the unit of some 200 men that were killed by the Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne on a hot day on June 25, 1876, were some members of Custer’s family. In total four members of the extended Custer family, was to die in the battle. These included his eighteen-year-old nephew Henry Reed, the son of his sister. His brother-in-law was also killed. During the battle, his two younger brothers were also killed. One of whom,  Thomas had won the medal of honor twice in the American Civil War.

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  • Merrill Henderson

    My correction about Pg 8 should read “Custer’s carrer that he” needs the word “what” between career and that.

    • admin

      Why Dont you come and work with us?

  • Robert Hagar

    Not one mention of Custer’s hometown.
    Monroe, Michigan where he grew up and we live among his descendants today.
    We have the Custer farm.
    The Cemetery where his family are buried.

    • Ed

      Hi

      Thanks for the interesting facts- I hope to add this to the article.

      Ed

  • Patricia

    “These included his eighteen-year-old nephew’s the son of his sister, Henry Reed.”

    Pretty sure the sister wasn’t Henry. The name should precede “his eighteen-year-old…” and should be followed by a comma.

    Sorry..it’s a pet peeve, left over from 8th-grade English.

    • Ed

      thanks- good point

    • roda11

      Funny, I read the article and not for one second did I think the sister was named Henry.

  • Dave Smith

    The caption under the photo of Lincoln with McClellan and staff ID’s Custer as the officer on the far left. That officer in fact is Col. Delos B. Sackett, not Custer. Custer is on far right. If you notice the blurred image to Custer’s right, next to the tent, and the blurred multiple images of Custer’s legs and boots in the image it would appear that Custer was not intended to be in the photo, but walked into the shot as it was being exposed (exposure times for photos back then were very long), in effect, photobombing the image.

    • Ed

      Hi

      Thanks, Dave- for the interesting information.

      Ed

    • The image may have been reversed at printing. As the swords of the officers all appear on their left. A closer examination might reveal more. I noted no side arms on the right. Just a thought.

      • Ed

        Thanks Robert- a good point!

  • Dave Smith

    Interesting article. There are two photographs in the article of Custer with general, one on horseback and the other seated in chairs. The other general in both photos is General Alfred Pleasonton, Custer’s commanding officer at the time.

    • Ed

      Hi

      thanks again- we are glad that you like our article. I hope to use your information in the future.

  • Gary Ashley

    Here is a real interesting fact about Custer he fathered a child with a Cheyenne women. His grandson were in the Wounded Knee occupation in 73 supporting the American Indian Movement.

    • Ed

      Thanks- that is very interesting. Really appreciate your comment

      Thanks Ed

  • Janie Young

    I thought this was a great piece, but the comments I find even more fascinating. Custer and that time have always been of great interest to me. I found Will Hutchison’s book Artifacts of the the Battle of Little Bighorn. Just a piece of Custer’s life, but an important one obviously. But to see the items of the day in great photos really puts the events of that time into perspective. A great coffee table type photo essay book!

    • Ed

      Thanks for reading our article. Glad you like it!

  • jack kegg

    enjoyed the article. A Book of interest is Blaine Burkey’s Custer Come At Once.

    • Ed

      Thanks- I hope to check out that work some time

  • Lee Unterborn

    In fact Custer’s body was mutilated. The Indians cut off his penis and testicles and stuffed them down his throat. It was not made public by the Army out of respect for his wife and family. His brother Tom was unrecognizable, his face and skull had been pounded flat, the only way he could be recognized was by several tattoos he had.

    • Ed

      thanks for your fascinating facts

    • usc440

      would it be fair to call them savages ?

      • Bill Ridenour

        Actually, they were particularly pissed over a winter raid conducted by Custer on a peaceful village where his men had killed women and children. At the Washita , if I remember correctly.

        Custer, oddly, thought that he eould only need to find them, round them up and escort them back to the reservation…not to fight a full battle with them. But the memory of that earlier massacre of one if their peaceful villages made them determined defenders.

        Custer was wrong on so many levels it was incredible. He refused and offer by General Terry to take roughly 200 5th cavalry troopers with him because he vain gloriously wanted it to be a 7th cavalry show. He also refused two Gatling Guns because he felt them would slow him down. With these reinforcements he might have saved his command or st least part of it.

        The other huge blunder was splitting his forces into three groups in thd face of an enemy superior in size. He also left his pack train behind with roughly 120 troopers because it was slowing his advance. But even if Benteen had followed Cutters order to come quickly, bring packs, his 100 plus men would only have been slaughtered along with Custers troops.

        If any if you can visit the battleground itself, I heartily recommend it. The colliers were buried where they died so you can follow the three overwhelmed units right to the Last Stand site where Custer is buried.

        • Dave Smith

          “The other huge blunder was splitting his forces into three groups in the face of an enemy superior in size.”…Custer was reckless and vain. Robert E. Lee could pull this off successfully but Custer was no Lee, and he certainly was no Stonewall Jackson.

        • usc440

          very interesting…. thank u

    • Daniel Ponton

      actually the sioux indians had great respect for custer as a warrior. custer did not get his penis cut off my the sioux, he was shot in the groin with an arrow. also custer was not scalped by the indians and his body was not multilated. besides being shot in the groin, custer had two bullets holes in him, one in the head and the other in his chest.

      • Jack Higens

        You are absolutely correct. Custer’s body was not mutilated. Read any credible history book by credible authors, such as Shelby foote, will confirm this fact.

  • Dennis Reust of Stillwater, OK

    Here’s something the author probably does not know. Custer kept a squaw who was called “Morning” or “Morning Glory” by her neighbors. After Custer’s death, Morning lived on a farm outside Kingfisher, OK with a man called “Ike”. She did not marry Ike so she could continue receiving an allotment for being Custer’s Widow. My mom’s family lived near “Ike’s place” and Grandpa Ernest Toepfer drove Morning in his car every month to receive this allotment. Upon her death, Grandpa and others helped bury Morning in a secret, unmarked grave with all her worldly possessions. Her possessions included a chest covering (bib? apron?) of silver coins fastened together. I have more of this history which was written after interviewing my uncle who was older than my Mother, and had more memories of her. you are welcome to contact me if you are interested. My uncle made statements to her tribal office, and I’ve passed this information to one Custer historian, but I’ve not yet seen it published.

    • Ed

      Hi

      Thanks so much for that information- really interesting!

    • ezrvs1

      She was a ‘comely Cheyenne lass’ and apparently bore him a child…or so it’s rumored.

    • usc440

      wow…. very interesting….

    • Gary Ashley

      I have been researching Monahsetah. I work up at Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota and we had a speaker years ago that spoke about this.

  • ezrvs1

    Six weeks prior to June 25, 1876 Lt Col Custer had been in DC testifying before Congress for better treatment for the plains Indians. He was concerned they were being cheated and mistreated by Indian agents. Also, he was a school teacher before he joined the army. During the campaigns against the southern plains tribes he was contract correspondent for an eastern magazine, Harpers.

    • Garrett

      The elders say that he
      was also in charge of the B.I.A. and just before he left for the Battle of Greasy Grass, he sent a message to Wash D.C. “Don’t do nothing ’til I get back.”

  • Greg Howard

    I just watched “little big man” with Dustin Hoffman a great movie (1970), I know it’s fiction but I wonder how many indians were killed for just being in the way of the white man. All the treaties that were broken! The best part of the movie was when Custer asked Dustin if he should go down and fight the the indians at Little big Horn. He told him if you go down there they will kill you, they are not innocent women and children, in the movie they show him killing innocent tribes… they called themselves the “the human beings”. They saw the white man and the white black man as crazy ppl..

    • Garrett

      …and the “Black Whiteman”.

    • Bill Ridenour

      I would area with you on this one. But remember….it always depends on which prism you are looking through.

    • usc440

      indians killed women and childen too……to the settlers and other indian tribes…. they were even worse to each other …..

  • Bill Ridenour

    I had the opportunity to visit the battlefield when I lived in nearby Wyoming last year.from a military perspective, Custer’s plan was a vomplete disaster, mainly because he split up his forces, allowing them to be destroyed or stopped dead in their tracks. Also, he did not believe his scouts.

    But the biggest issue was that roughly 700 Indians had gotten Henry 17 shot repeating rifles. He used single shot Sharps carbines that jammed frequently. There is a hill on the battlefield called Henry Hill where hundreds of rounds of Henry ammunition was found following a brushfire that exposed the site. The rate of fire for a lever action Henry was at least 30 rounds per minute, while a Sharps could return fire at 10-12 rounds per minute. Calculate the collective rates of fire of 700 Indians using Henry’s versus 200 Custer soldiers using Sharps carbine and you get the picture.

    Ironically, Captain Benteen, who hated Custer, was on the post war commission to pick the primary firearm of the cavalry. It selected the Sharps over the Spencer carbine because it felt that the Calvary man would fire off his rounds too quickly…ie. Would use Poole fire discipline…with. The 7 shot Spencer.

    Incidentally, the Indians received their firearms from suttlers, if I remember correctly.

    • Dave Smith

      Weren’t single shot breech loading Trapdoor Springfield carbines standard issue for the cavalry then? I have one and most documentaries I’ve seen on the battle indicate the 7th Cav. troopers were armed with them.

      • Bill Ridenour

        They may have indeed been Springfield. But I saw a ton of Sharps carbine around the battlefield in various shops.

      • Bill Ridenour

        You are correct. I rechecked and in fact the Springfield was used.

    • usc440

      wow…..very interesting,,,,, do u think Benteen purposely gave inferior rifles on purpose?

      who sold those indians those rifles ?

      • Bill Ridenour

        Benteen paradoxically was on an army committee to decide which weapon the cavalry would use post civil war. The Spencer seven shot carbine had been very successful because of its rapid rate of fire against Jeb Stuart if I recall correctly. But the committee was concerned that the Spencer’s higher rate of fire would cause the cavalry man to burn through his ammunition supply too quickly. Today, we round call it concern over a lack of fire discipline. So they chose the Sharps singleb shot carbine instead. Those 700 Indians had roughly 2.5x the rate of give of the Army carbine. So there firepower was 1750 to roughly 200. It is easy to see that they literally smothered Custer with firepower. Custer was actually given the coup DE Grace with superior weapons technology that his men were not allowed to use. He complained to Washington about thd sale of yhe Henry to thd Indiana before the battle.

    • Troop Emonds

      Those were Springfield trapdoor rifles that the long knives were using not Sharps. They were single shot rifles, but Custer was not respectful of the enemy.

      The other great boy General of the Civil War, and Grants favorite General was Randall Mackenzie. He went on to become the Greatest of all Indian fighters in History. Started destroying The Comachrv Empire moved North to defeat all Northern Plains Tribes.

    • Mackie

      For me the story of Major Reno and his role remains the saddest chapter in this saga. Reno was made to be the fall guy on what went wrong on Custers tactical decision that did work in the past with other Indian battles. This was a gathering with 4 to 5 tribes that was estimated to be somewhere between 8 to 10 thousand Indians lead primarily by Sitting Bull. Major Reno engaged warriors who outnumbered his command almost 10 to 1. Major Reno retreated up the hill nearly losing half of his 150 force of soldiers before they reached the top.

      Custers command was nearly 4 miles to the Northwest on the hills above the Bighorn River. Evidence shows that warriors saw him coming and were waiting on both sides of the hills. Custer’s wife Libby Custer was an activist to protect her husband and she made Major Reno out to be a coward.

      90 years after the battle an investigation was renewed about Major Reno’s roll in the battle. Reno was fully vindicated and his body was interred, and taken to the
      Little Big Horn Battlefield cemetery where he was buried with full military honors. Thus he remains the only officer buried from that battle in the cemetery.

  • David Hudson

    When he was at Fort Leavenworth being Court martial education for his actions Libby lived on the fort. Many years later another military family was moving out. One of the Packers was on the top floor and he got more than he was paid for. The ghost of Libby appeared to him.

    • Thomas P. Evers

      Which Packer? Aaron Rodgers? Seems unlikely.

      • Dave Smith

        Bwahahahaha! Good one!

  • Bob Juch

    This article looks to have been written by someone still in high school. That wouldn’t be a problem if it had had a copy editor.

    • Mark Sullivan

      My thoughts almost exactly..

  • Dave Smith

    Who wrote this? More to the point, who edited it and allowed it to be posted? My eighth grade English Composition teacher is probably spinning in her grave.

  • Steve Kendley

    Custer was actually shot in the butt, by a Sioux squaw while cooking flapjacks on the prairie. This is a little known fact.

    • Ed

      Thanks for that fact

      Yours Ed

    • usc440

      thats not nice

  • Peter Agriostathes

    His Rifles did not get them killed , Custer’s EGO did! And He deserved it!

  • Donnie MacAdams

    My Great Uncle James Smith died with Custer at Little Big Horn. His name is on the monument. He was my grandfather’s oldest brother on my mom’s side.

  • Mackie

    Not a well written article, reflects no specifics at all. I’ve seen this photo with Lincoln several times, first time someone said Custer was in this photo, the General on far right looks more like Custer, not one on the left.