Custer, George Armstrong

Life Span
    Full name
    George Armstrong Custer
    Place of Birth
    Birth Date Certainty
    Death Date Certainty
    Sectional choice
    Free State
    No. of Spouses
    No. of Children
    Emanuel Custer (father), Maria Ward (mother), Elizabeth Clift Bacon (wife, 1863)
    West Point (US Military Academy)
    Relation to Slavery
    White non-slaveholder
    Union Army
    US military (Post-Civil War)

    George Armstrong Custer, Civil War (American National Biography)

    Custer found his calling in the Civil War. Two years of staff duty, including a tour as aide to General George B. McClellan (1826-1885), established his military skill, both as a staff officer and in combat. So impressed was General Alfred Pleasonton, commander of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac, that he recommended Custer for promotion. In June 1863 Captain Custer was appointed brigadier general of volunteers and given command of the Michigan Cavalry Brigade. At twenty-three, he was the youngest general in the Union army. Almost instantly General Custer made a dazzling name for himself. On the third day of Gettysburg the Michigan Brigade played a key role in turning back General J. E. B. Stuart's Confederate cavalry, which threatened the Union rear at the very moment of George Edward Pickett's charge on the Union center. Thereafter Custer's successes accumulated one after another. He became known throughout the army for smashing cavalry charges, for heedless bravery, for tactical brilliance more instinctive than cerebral, for heavy casualties, and, with long yellow hair and gold-bedecked black uniform, for personal flamboyance. Newspapers made him a household name.
    Robert M. Utley, "Custer, George Armstrong," American National Biography Online, February 2000,

    George Armstrong Custer, Custer's Last Stand (American National Biography)

    By 1875 Custer was widely admired as the nation's foremost Indian fighter. He boasted a solid record, but the fame came as much from newspaper attention and from his own writings. He published a series of magazine articles and then consolidated them into an autobiography, which reached a large audience. Custer's final campaign, ending in the battle of the Little Bighorn on 25 June 1876, earned him immortality and a place in the national folklore. The disaster, low point for the army in the Great Sioux War of 1876, occurred when the Seventh Cavalry attacked a large Sioux and Cheyenne encampment on Montana's Little Bighorn River. Five companies under Custer's immediate command, more than two hundred officers and troopers, were wiped out by nearly two thousand warriors defending their families. The remaining seven companies of the regiment, under Major Marcus A. Reno and Captain Frederick W. Benteen, successfully defended an entrenched hilltop for two days until reinforcements arrived.

    At once the subject of bitter controversy, "Custer's Last Stand" has been vigorously debated ever since. Custer has been charged with recklessness, Reno with cowardice, and their superiors with faulty strategy. Defenders ensure that the arguments will endure forever, as will the image of the doomed but heroic figure of Custer facing death on a hilltop. In large part, however, the soldiers lost because the Indians won--although in victory lay the seeds of their ultimate defeat.
    Robert M. Utley, "Custer, George Armstrong," American National Biography Online, February 2000,
    Date Event
    Three young Union cavalrymen are promoted as brigade commanders, including one named Custer
    Heavy fighting with Union cavalry at Hanover, Pennsylvania again delays Stuart's Confederate cavalry
    William Miller of Cumberland County disobeys orders and wins the Medal of Honor at Gettysburg
    Federal cavalry defeat the rearguard of Lee's army at Falling Waters but the main force escapes
    Union cavalry capture Culpeper, Virginia after a sharp mounted action through the town
    In Monroe, Michigan, General George A. Custer marries Elizabeth Bacon
    Famed Confederate cavalry leader J.E.B. Stuart is mortally wounded in the stomach at Yellow Tavern
    At a private house in Richmond, Confederate cavalry commander General J.E.B. Stuart dies of his wounds
    In the Shenandoah Valley, Union forces triumph at the hard-fought Third Battle of Winchester
    In the Shenandoah Valley, Union troops under Sheridan turn defeat into crushing victory at the Battle of Cedar Creek
    Union cavalry General George Custer leads a delegation to present captured battle-flags to the War Department
    In Virginia, CSA corps commander General Richard S. Ewell is taken prisoner, along with four of his generals
    At Sailor's Creek, the Army of Northern Virginia loses almost a quarter of its remaining strength
    In Virginia, Custer's cavalry captures vital supplies and blocks the Confederate retreat at Appomattox Station
    More than a hundred general officers of volunteers are mustered out of the Union Army
    Union war hero George Armstrong Custer becomes the head of the Soldiers and Sailors Union.
    - In Cleveland, Ohio, the Democratic-aligned Soldiers and Sailors Union, holds its first annual convention.
    In Kansas, a new U.S. cavalry regiment, the Seventh, begins its formation at Fort Riley.
    General W.S. Hancock arrives in force at Fort Larned to negotiate with Kansas native American tribes.
    General W.S. Hancock negotiates with Cheyenne and Sioux leaders near Fort Larned, Kansas
    General W.S. Hancock burns the large abandoned Cheyenne and Sioux village near Fort Larned, Kansas
    On campaign in western Kansas, the Seventh Cavalry's second in command commits suicide.
    George Armstrong Custer has his first encounter with Plains Indians in eastern Nebraska.
    In Kansas, Cheyenne and Lakota warriors wipe out a U.S. Army detail of twelve men.
    On campaign in western Kansas, Custer's Seventh Cavalry suffers a rash of desertions.
    In Kansas, Seventh Cavalry scouts find the bodies of Lieutenant Kidder's patrol killed two weeks before.
    At Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, George Custer is suspended from the Army for absence without leave.
    Chicago Style Entry Link
    Barnett, Louise K. Touched by Fire: The Life, Death, and Mythic Afterlife of George Armstrong Custer. New York: Henry Holt, 1996. view record
    Gray, John S. Custer's Last Campaign: Mitch Boyer and the Little Bighorn Reconstructed. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991. view record
    Kirshner, Ralph. The Class of 1861: Custer, Ames, and Their Classmates after West Point. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1999. view record
    How to Cite This Page: "Custer, George Armstrong," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,