George Armstrong Custer
1839 - 1876
George Armstrong Custer, the legendary U.S. cavalry officer defeated by the Sioux Indians at the Little Big Horn, died in that battle on June 25, 1876. He was 36.
Custer was born in New Rumley, Ohio on December 5, 1839. He graduated from West Point in 1861. When the Civil War began, Custer was ordered to duty at Washington under the command of General Winfield Scott.
Custer participated in the first battle of Bull Run as aide-de-camp to General Philip Kearny. In May 1862, his daring and energy as a reconnaissance officer prompted General George McClellan to promote him to captain.
In May 1863, his gallantry and excellence as a cavalry officer gave rise to his promotion to brigadier general of volunteers under General Alfred Pleasonton. By war’s end, Custer was a brevet major general of volunteers.
He was the first officer to receive a flag of truce from Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia prior to Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court-House.
Custer was mustered out of the volunteer service in 1866, but re-entered the Army later that year as a lieutenant colonel in command of the 7th Cavalry at Fort Riley, Kansas.
For the next ten years, Custer’s 7th Cavalry fought Indian battles with the Cheyenne and the Sioux, each time increasing his legend among the Indians as a great warrior. To defeat Custer in battle would be the highest honor for an Indian.
In July of 1874 Custer was ordered into the Black Hills of South Dakota to protect miners and frontiersmen who were entering the territory. In May of 1876, Custer took his 7th Cavalry into the Little Big Horn area to engage the confederated Sioux tribes who were on the warpath.
Custer had underestimated the strength of the Indian forces, which outnumbered his forces by 9 to 1. Custer had divided his forces to attack an Indian village in the Little Big Horn area. On June 25, he met the enemy, but his badly outnumbered 7th Cavalry soldiers were killed to the last man, including Custer.
In 1877, Custer’s remains were removed from the Little Big Horn and reburied at West Point, New York.