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Libbie Custer: ‘A Wounded Thing Must Hide’

By Paul Andrew Hutton
8/16/2017 • Wild West Magazine

Such were her sad words after the June 1876 Little Bighorn death of her husband, George Armstrong Custer, the onetime ‘Boy General’ with whom she had shared a grand and tragic romance.

The paddle-wheel steamer Far West, Captain Grant Marsh at the helm, reached Bismarck, Dakota Territory, late on the evening of July 5, 1876. Across  the Missouri River, at Fort Abraham Lincoln, the wives of the post’s absent soldiers heard a foreboding whistle blast from the steamer as it docked. A sense of gloom had shrouded the post for days, as Indians had brought rumors of a great and disastrous battle far to the west. Several of the officers’ wives gathered at the Custer home, staying past midnight before returning to their individual quarters. They had also gathered together there on Sunday afternoon, June 25, seeking comfort with each other and in the singing of hymns. They tried “Nearer, My God, to Thee,” but it so tested their composure that it ended in sobs. That afternoon, after the other women had left, a downcast Elizabeth Custer had taken pen to paper, plaintively writing:

God pity the wife who is waiting at home
with her lily cheeks and violet eyes
dreaming that old dream of love
while her lover is walking in paradise

At dawn on July 6 FarWest slipped its moorings, finally crossing downstream to the fort. Elizabeth, hearing a knock on the back door and a voice asking the cook to summon the lady of the house, slipped on her dressing gown and hurried downstairs. Captain William McCaskey of the 20th Infantry, along with the post surgeon and another officer, waited for her in the parlor. Joined by her sister-in-law Margaret Calhoun and niece Emma Reed, she listened stoically as McCaskey read the dispatch he had received from Brig. Gen. Alfred Terry—Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and every officer and man of five companies of the 7th U.S. Cavalry had been killed in battle at the Little Bighorn River on June 25, 1876. The captain recalled that hour as the most difficult of his life, but he was relieved as Elizabeth, regaining her composure, asked for her shawl so that she might accompany him to inform the post’s other new widows. As they walked down the steps of the Custer home, Margaret Calhoun followed. “Is there no message for me?” she cried. She had lost her husband, three brothers and a nephew. All McCaskey could say was, “They had all died fighting.”

The young son of Captain George Yates, who with wife Annie were special favorites of the Custers, was playing in his yard when another boy called out to him, “Hey, George, your father has had his head cut off by Indians!” The cruel child soon learned that his own father had also fallen to the Plains Indians at the Little Bighorn.

The widows and their children were anxious for any details of the battle. Elizabeth sent word to Captain Marsh that she wished to visit with him, for he was among the last to speak with her husband. Marsh, whose courage was legendary all along the Missouri, could not bring himself to go to her. Colonel Nelson Miles, who would soon inherit Custer’s reputation as an Indian fighter, did visit the widow and wrote his wife that she was “depressed and in such despair.”

Libbie, as George fondly called her over the 12 years of their seemingly idyllic marriage, no longer had a place in the Army and must promptly vacate her quarters. She would receive a widow’s pension of $30 a month. Her husband had recently taken out a $5,000 policy with the New York Life Insurance Co. That, along with her memories, was all she had. She even had to leave behind their numerous dogs.

The Northern Pacific Railroad provided Elizabeth with an eastbound special car from Bismarck. Joining her were Margaret Calhoun, Mrs. A.E. Smith and Mrs. George Yates, along with Mrs. Yates’ three small children and her brother, Richard Roberts. Annie Yates was the daughter of W. Milnor Roberts, chief engineer of the Northern Pacific, and her brother had set out with the 7th for the Little Bighorn as a correspondent only to be saved when his horse broke down. The sad little procession reached Monroe, Mich., on August 4. Elizabeth retreated to her childhood home in Monroe, shutting herself off from the world. Countless letters arrived. One was from Commanding General William T. Sherman, which spoke to the greater meaning of her sacrifice: “He was engaged in a war as necessary as any which history delights to record. A war between civilization and barbarism, a war between the peaceful agriculturalist and the savage hunter. When in years to come the Yellowstone becomes the highway of travel between the East and the West, when peaceful farmers and gardeners occupy the valley of the Rosebud and Bighorn, people will point to the spot where Custer and his brave companions fell that they and their children might live in peace.”

Lawrence Barrett, the famed American stage actor who had been her husband’s best friend outside of the Army, came to call on her. She visited with him briefly but mostly refused to see anyone else, writing a friend, “A wounded thing must hide.” In the wintry darkness of her childhood home she lost herself to memories.

Elizabeth Bacon had been formally introduced to Captain George A. Custer in late November 1862 at a party at Monroe’s Boyd Seminary. He was smitten. She was wary. He was from the wrong side of the tracks, while she was the only child of leading citizen Judge Daniel Bacon. He was handsome, charming and a member of Maj. Gen. George McClellan’s staff, but his prospects for survival, much less advancement, were slim. The judge was not amused by the young officer’s attentions to his only daughter. Both the judge and his daughter fretted over Custer’s reputation as a womanizer, gambler and drinker. (In time, he gave up drink.) “He is nothing to me,” she confided to a friend. “He never will be.” But she added, “I like him much.”

Custer rejoined the Army of the Potomac, but with McClellan’s dismissal he lost his staff position and captain’s bars. In 1863, soon after Brig. Gen. Joseph Hooker took command of the disheartened Army, recently bested by Confederate General Robert E. Lee at Fredericksburg, he appointed Alfred Pleasonton as his cavalry chief. Pleasonton selected young Custer for his staff. His new aide proved masterful at gathering intelligence, daring and fearless in combat, and utterly charming around the evening campfire. He was soon a great favorite at cavalry headquarters, and when Pleasonton decided to shake up his command with some new blood, he sent Custer’s name forward for promotion to brigadier general of volunteers. On June 28, 1863, Custer, 23, took command of the 1st, 5th, 6th and 7th regiments of the Michigan Volunteer Cavalry Brigade.

Within a week the newly minted general made his debut in the greatest and most important battle ever fought on American soil. Sporting a black velvet jacket adorned with gold braid from elbow to cuffs, velvet trousers with twin gold stripes tucked into high-topped boots, all topped off with a crimson scarf and a broad-brimmed hat with a single star, he was a sight to behold. But Custer was more than just flash, for on the critical third day of Gettysburg he led his cavalry brigade against Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart’s vaunted Rebel horsemen, who were attempting to flank the Union right as “Pickett’s Charge” thundered against Brig. Gen. George Meade’s center. “Come on, you Wolverines!” George shouted from the head of the column as he led them in the wild charge that gave Stuart’s men their first taste of defeat at the hands of Yankee steel. The press was quick to extol the virtues of this “Boy General.”

As Libbie Bacon read these accounts, each broke down her feeble defenses. “I read him in all my books,” she gushed. “When I take in the book heroes, there comes dashing in with them my life hero my dear boy general.” A minor leg wound in September 1863 won Custer a 15-day leave back to Monroe. At a masquerade ball on September 28 Libbie confessed her love to him. Yet one formidable obstacle remained in their way—Judge Bacon.

Two of Custer’s staff officers, Jacob Greene and George Yates, were sent back to Monroe to recuperate from illness, and they acted as spies for the young suitor. Custer had written the judge requesting permission to press his suit but had received no reply. “I think the leaven is at work and may leaven the old lump after awhile if it is not interfered with,” Greene assured his anxious friend. “Keep cool and steady.”

Finally, weeks later came Bacon’s letter granting Custer permission to write to his daughter. Custer was confused by the judge’s circumspect response, but Libbie was elated. “My prospects are so bright now,” she wrote in her journal. “Father is more than reconciled, and Mother getting to look more favorably. They both joke me about the dear man. And I am happy….Every other man seems so ordinary beside my own bright particular star.”

They married in Monroe’s First Presbyterian Church on February 9, 1864. It was the grand social event of the year, if not the century, in Monroe. The newlyweds traveled through Cleveland to New York and Washington, D.C., but cut their honeymoon short when Custer was recalled to the front. Libbie, refusing to leave her husband, found herself quartered in a commandeered farmhouse some five miles south of Brandy Station, Va., almost within sight of the Confederate lines. It was here she met Eliza.

Eliza Brown had made her way into the Union lines in Virginia’s Rappahannock County in August 1863. This young “contraband” girl, as the Yankee soldiers referred to escaped or liberated slaves, attached herself to the Custers as cook and housekeeper. She was a remarkable woman, of both grit and grace, and she understood fully her role in the great events that touched her life. “Well, Miss Libbie,” she later confided, “I set in to see the war, beginning and end….I didn’t set down to wait to have ’em all free me. I helped to free myself. I was all ready to step to the front whenever I was called upon, even if I didn’t shoulder the musket.”

Eliza was delighted with the general’s bride, promptly taking her under her wing. Although about the same age as Elizabeth, she nevertheless became a mother to her. “I imagine she did so much mothering in those days, when she comforted me in my loneliness and quieted me in my frights,” Libbie later recalled, “that I counted her old even then.”

In March 1864 Lincoln named Ulysses S. Grant commanding general of Union forces. Custer placed Libbie in a room at Hyatt’s 6th Street boardinghouse in Washington while he nervously awaited the shakeup to come in the Army of the Potomac. While Custer dealt with his new division commander, Grant’s pet James H. Wilson, and the new cavalry commander, Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan, Elizabeth guarded his flanks by hobnobbing with senators, congressmen, generals and other government functionaries in the capital. At various swank Washington soirées she had to gracefully parry the lecherous advances of powerful men while always smiling and advancing her husband’s fortunes. Advancement in the Army was not to be won by sword alone, and Libbie proved a powerful asset for her ambitious husband.

Michigan Congressman F.W. Kellogg escorted her to a levee at the White House where, in the Blue Room, he introduced Custer’s wife to President Abraham Lincoln. The president, utterly charmed, held onto Libbie’s hand as he exclaimed: “So this is the young woman whose husband goes into a charge with a whoop and a shout. Well, I’m told he won’t do so anymore.” The blushing Libbie assured the commander in chief that marriage would not blunt her husband’s daring. “Oh, then you want to be a widow, I see,” he remarked with a chuckle. She laughed as well, assuring the president he would have gained a vote, “if soldiers’ wives were allowed one.”

While Libbie guarded the political rear, Custer rode to glory on the front lines. He and Sheridan had taken an immediate liking to each other. In short time “Little Phil” became Custer’s mentor and chief advocate. Sheridan admired Custer’s audacity and aggressiveness and was even in awe of Custer’s style. “If there was any poetry or romance in war,” noted the hardbitten Sheridan, “he could develop it.” Sheridan’s cavalry soon swept south, pushing to the very gates of Richmond, where at Yellow Tavern one of Custer’s troopers killed the Rebel cavalry legend Stuart.

Major General Wade Hampton, the new Confederate cavalry commander, entrapped Custer’s brigade at Trevilian Station in early June, and the Boy General had to cut his way out, abandoning Eliza and his baggage train. Reaching U.S. Grant’s lines at Cold Harbor, Custer was elated when his faithful servant rejoined him, but he remained dejected over the loss of his personal baggage and all of Libbie’s letters to him. “I regret the loss of your letters more than all else,” he told his wife. “I enjoyed every word you wrote but do not relish the idea of others amusing themselves with them, particularly as some of the expressions employed….Somebody must be more careful hereafter in the use of double entendre.”

Libbie did not give ground, for her passion for him was boundless. “I suppose some Rebel is devouring my epistles,” she responded. “No Southerner could say, if they are gentlemen, that I lacked refinement. There can be nothing low between man and wife if they love each other. What I wrote was holy and sacred.” He surrendered to her, writing back, “I live for you, dear girl, and seek to establish a name among our country’s defenders that in after years we and ours may claim with pride….But now I love and am loved— That is all I ask.”

In early June the lovers briefly reunited at City Point, Va. Here Libbie met Sheridan for the first time, and the bantam Irishman was instantly captivated by her charms. His habit was to ban officers’ wives from camp, for domestic tranquility and life in the field were often in conflict, but he always made an exception for Libbie. “Custer,” he later declared, “you are the only man whom matrimony has not spoiled for a charge.”

Lee now sent Lt. Gen. Jubal Early up the Shenandoah Valley with 12,000 men to threaten Washington and pull Union troops away from the Richmond front. Early met with quick success, brushing aside Union forces and marching to the very outskirts of the capital. Grant, determined to close the Shenandoah to the Rebels once and for all, detached Sheridan with 40,000 men to crush Early and ravage the valley. In September Sheridan’s troopers swept the Rebels out of their positions at Winchester and followed up with a smashing blow at Fisher’s Hill. In both battles Custer and his Wolverines were conspicuous, taking more than 700 prisoners and capturing seven battle flags. Sheridan rewarded him with command of his 3rd Cavalry Division. Moving south through the Shenandoah, they destroyed all in their path. Sheridan bragged that “a crow would be compelled to carry his own rations” when crossing the once bountiful valley. The people of the valley labeled Custer and his men “Sheridan’s Robbers.”

At Cedar Creek on October 19, 1864, Early’s men caught the Yankees napping while Sheridan was absent. The general, returning from a conference in Washington, rode hard toward the sound of the guns in an episode soon celebrated in poem, song and art. Sheridan’s dramatic arrival turned the tide on the field, electrifying his stricken army so that it rallied and crushed the enemy. The cavalry under Custer and Merritt had held the Union line as the infantry retreated in panic, and now they smashed into the faltering Rebel lines. That evening Sheridan’s pet came galloping up to his chief’s tent to sweep his commander off his feet and dance a jig around the campfire. “By God, Phil!” Custer laughed. “We’ve cleaned them out of their guns and got ours back!”

Sheridan rewarded his protégé with a trip to visit Washington —and Libbie—along with 13 captured battle flags to present to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. With Libbie in attendance, the proud cavalryman presented the flags to the secretary, who responded by announcing Custer’s promotion to major general. Although a brevet (or honorary) promotion, it allowed Custer to wear two stars on his shoulders and hat.

Sheridan now hurried south to rejoin Grant for the final assault on Lee’s army. In the hard campaigning that followed, Custer’s division was ever on the point. At Dinwiddie Court House, Five Forks and Sailor’s Creek, Custer’s men exacted a fearful toll on the Rebels. At Sailor’s Creek Custer’s 20-year-old brother Tom, a lieutenant on his staff, seized a Rebel banner and returned it to the Union lines despite being shot in the face. For his reckless bravery Tom Custer would receive his second Medal of Honor. On April 8, 1865, George Custer’s division intercepted and destroyed supplies and guns meant for Lee’s army at Appomattox Station, effectively blocking Lee’s line of retreat. As he formed his division for yet another charge the next morning, a Confederate horseman presented himself to Custer under a flag of truce to announce that General Lee wished to meet with General Grant. It was over.

Custer accompanied Sheridan to Wilmer McLean’s house at Appomattox Court House. After the surrender, Sheridan gave McLean a $20 gold piece in exchange for the table upon which Grant had drafted the surrender terms. He presented the table to Custer as a gift for Libbie, later writing a note to her:

My Dear Madam, I respectfully present to you the small writing table on which the conditions for the surrender of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia were written by Lt. Gen. Grant —and permit me to say, Madam, that there is scarcely an individual in our service who has contributed more to bring about this desirable result than your very gallant husband.

Libbie beat the army to Richmond, joining Michigan Senator Zachariah Chandler and a congressional delegation to the Confederate capital. She spent the night of April 11 in Jefferson Davis’ bedroom, and the next night in his wife Varina’s, and that is where George found her. He had to return to his division, and she went with him. He gave her the Appomattox surrender flag (a white towel) for safekeeping, the little table and a captured Rebel horse named Custis Lee. Upon learning of the April 14 assassination of Lincoln, Libbie returned to Washington as the troops prepared for action.

Sheridan was promptly sent south by Grant to block a feared alliance of ex-Confederates and French imperialists in Mexico. There was a good chance for war on the Rio Grande. Custer received orders to join him, and right after the May 23 Grand Review in Washington, he and his staff, accompanied by Libbie and Eliza, headed by train and steamboat for New Orleans. After a difficult time in Louisiana, where Custer’s new troops proved mutinous and surly, they headed west into Texas, eventually headquartering in Austin. By November the threat of war with the French had evaporated, and they settled into occupation duties.

During this delightful time in Austin, local admirers gave Custer several large hunting hounds. One of them, Byron, became such a favorite that he joined the young couple in bed every night, much to the consternation of Eliza, who threatened to write Custer’s mother about this failure on his part as a husband. She was gratified when Byron made the mistake of growling at Libbie one night as they jockeyed for bed position. Custer intervened, kicking the dog off the bed and momentarily placating Eliza. Less-assertive hounds soon took his place, and for Libbie the bedroom war continued unabated.

Right after Appomattox Custer had won promotion to major general of volunteers, but as of February 1, 1866, that army ceased to exist, and he was mustered out, reverting to his Regular Army rank of captain, 5th Cavalry. Libbie returned to Monroe while Custer traveled to Washington to press his case for a command. He visited Stanton, securing commissions in the Regular service for George Yates and brother Tom, but his own future remained clouded. He then traveled to New York City to explore several business offers. He enjoyed the company of wealthy capitalists, attending the theater and lavish parties with them. He wrote Libbie of his longing for her, suggesting they should go for “horseback rides” in the park: “You know I am a great advocate of exercise as a promoter of good health. Well, I firmly believe that I require a ride every morning before breakfast.” But he also wrote to her about bantering with prostitutes, or “Nymphes du Pave” as he called them, and of attending a dinner where he was seated next to a beautiful baroness: “The baroness wore a very handsome satin, and oh so low. I sat beside her on a sofa, and I have not seen such sights since I was weaned, and yet it did not make my angry passions rise, nor nuthin else.” While he assured Libbie, “At no time did I forget you,” he also displayed a compulsive need to prove to her how attractive he was to other women.

In May 1866 Sheridan secured Custer a brevet promotion to major general in the Regulars, and in July an appointment as lieutenant colonel of the new 7th U.S. Cavalry. This was to be an elite regiment, formed expressly to subdue the hostile Indians on the Western frontier. Custer’s new station would be Fort Riley, Kan., where the regiment was to be organized and trained. Joining him and Libbie were a diverse group of officers, including brother Tom; old friend George Yates; Louis M. Hamilton, grandson of Alexander Hamilton; Myles Keogh, a dashing Irish soldier of fortune; Thomas Weir, a charming but hard-drinking Michigan officer who had served on Custer’s Texas staff; and Frederick Benteen, a cranky but capable former volunteer colonel who took an immediate disliking to Colonel Custer.

There was little time for training, as the 7th was ordered west in March 1867 as part of Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock’s 1,400-man army to overawe the Cheyennes and Sioux. This was fine by Custer, for he felt his regiment needed to be tested, explaining to Libbie, “It was on the battlefield, when all faced death together, where the truest affection was formed among soldiers.” It was not to be. Instead, Custer marched and countermarched his men after an elusive foe. By summer he was surly and morose and on July 15 decided to abandon his command and lead a small detachment on a dangerous (ambushing Indians killed one man and wounded another) forced march to Fort Harker, where he expected to see Libbie.

Captain Benteen rejoiced in Custer’s discomfort, for he passionately hated the man. He was also quite the gossip. Still, others’ testimony bore out his tales of Custer’s dalliances with other women, namely another officer’s wife and the Cheyenne captive Monahsetah. “It was notorious that Custer was criminally intimate with a married woman, wife of an officer of the garrison,” he asserted. Benteen, who could be incredibly vile, claimed Libbie knew all of this, which, he said, “rendered her—if she had any heart (?)—a brokenhearted woman. From knowing her as well as I do, I only remark that she was about as cold-blooded a woman as I ever knew, in which the pair were admirably mated.”

Custer admitted his failings in a plaintive letter to Libbie. “I was wrong,” he wrote. “I knew it then as plainly as I know it now….While I am absent, you may perhaps think kindly of me and remember much that is good of me, but when I return, that spark of distrust, which I alone am responsible for first placing in your mind but which others have fanned into a flame, will be rekindled.” He assured her, “My love for you is as unquenchable as my life….No woman has nor ever can share my love with you. As there is to me but one God Supreme and alone, there is also but one woman.”

At Fort Harker Custer met with Lieutenant Tom Weir who, if Benteen is to be believed, was the reason for the mad dash. Benteen claimed that Custer thrashed Weir. An anonymous letter, written by Lieutenant Charles Brewster at the urging of Eliza, that Custer should “look after his wife a little closer” was the reason for his ride to Harker. Lieutenant Edward Mathey later confirmed that Weir was “the reason why Custer left his command without permission.” Weir had indeed been Libbie’s guardian during Custer’s long absence, rescuing her and Eliza from a June flood on Big Creek near Fort Hays (where seven men drowned), escorting her on long evening strolls (in one case being mistaken by sentries for Indians and fired on) and proving utterly charming to her when not drinking. At the very least the two engaged in a serious flirtation. Confirmation for this comes from Custer’s own hand when writing Libbie early in 1869, “The more I see of him [Weir], little one, the more I am surprised that a woman of your perceptive faculties and moral training could have entertained the opinion of him you have.”

Custer left a shaken Weir at Harker, boarding a train for Fort Riley and Libbie. The result was a court-martial and a humiliating suspension from rank and pay. But for Libbie it was the grandest romantic gesture possible—for once she had proven more important to him than anything else on earth, including his military career. “There was in that summer of 1867 one long, perfect day,” she later wrote. “It was mine, and—blessed be our memory, which preserves to us the joys as well as the sadness of life!—it is still mine, for time and for eternity.”

After the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Weir was assigned to recruiting duty in New York City. His health, and perhaps his mind, had been shattered by the events of June 25, 1876. He wrote Elizabeth repeatedly, promising to come to her side in Monroe. “I know if we were all of us alone in the parlor at night,” he wrote her in November, “the curtains all down and everybody else asleep, one or the other of you would make me tell you everything I know.” He never came. On December 9, 1876, she received a telegram informing her of his death. She wrote his doctor to inquire what had happened, for Weir was only 38. The doctor responded that the captain, in the advanced stages of alcoholism, had died of “melancholia.”

What had he hoped to tell her? Probably that her husband’s subordinates had failed him in every way at the Little Bighorn. Probably that Benteen had willfully ignored Custer’s written order to reinforce him. Probably that Major Marcus Reno had been incompetent at best and cowardly at worst that day. And most certainly that he alone had responded to the sound of Custer’s guns, ignoring Reno and Benteen and leading his company out alone to offer aid before a horde of Indians forced him back to Reno Hill. Why had he risked so much? Was it for his friends, for his honor or for her?

Such words might have comforted her, for her husband’s reputation was under attack. President Grant, Brig. Gen. Terry, 7th Cavalry Colonel Samuel Sturgis, Major Reno and Captain Benteen all blamed the defeat solely on Custer. Even Sheridan was strangely silent. If her husband’s reputation was to be redeemed, Libbie would have to do it. And she did, first by cooperating with writer Frederick Whittaker in rushing a laudatory biography of Custer into print, and then by pressuring Sheridan to reinter George’s remains at West Point. The other officers, including Tom Custer, Yates and Calhoun, were buried at Fort Leavenworth. Margaret Calhoun and Annie Yates attended the Leavenworth services. Then Margaret, along with her father and Mrs. Lawrence Barrett, joined Libbie at West Point on October 10, 1877, for Custer’s reburial.

Libbie’s crusade had just begun. She worked tirelessly to have her husband memorialized, and in time statues went up at West Point, at his birthplace in New Rumley, Ohio, and in Monroe. Libbie so disliked the foppish West Point statue that she had it removed. Its pedestal formed a new monument over her husband’s grave. More important, she wrote three memoirs of her frontier adventures with the “general,” as she always called him: Boots and Saddles, published to great acclaim in 1885, was followed by Tenting on the Plains in 1887 and Following the Guidon in 1890. This trilogy, as well as lectures she gave, restored George’s reputation while also securing for her the financial security he had failed to provide.

She made New York City her home and there closed herself off to other relationships, devoting herself completely to enhancing her husband’s memory through her perfect widowhood. “The hours that one sees people and keeps up the farce of perpetual happiness are few compared with the never ending hours when one is alone with the past,” she wrote, “and all those who were nearest have gone to the country from which no traveler returns.”

Libbie Custer died in her Park Avenue apartment of a heart attack on April 4, 1933, four days short of her 91st birthday. Born during the administration of President John Tyler, she had lived into the century of airplanes, automobiles, world wars, female suffrage, motion pictures and the presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. They buried her at West Point in the shadow of her husband’s monument. On her simple headstone is carved ELIZABETH BACON, WIFE OF GEORGE A. CUSTER, MAJOR GENERAL U.S.A. She must have been content, for just as she had helped to shape her flawed husband in life, working through their marital strife to find true happiness together, she had also molded the towering image of the golden-haired cavalier the world now embraced. The great irony was that the monument towering over her was her singular creation.

 

University of New Mexico history professor Paul A. Hutton is the author of Phil Sheridan and his Army and editor of The Custer Reader, both of which are recommended for further reading.

Originally published in the June 2012 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here.

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