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Custer

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CUSTER, George Armstrong, American general: b. New Rumley, Ohio, 5 Dec. 1839; d. 25 June 1876. He was graduated at West Point, 1861, was made second lieutenant and his first day at the front was at Bull Run, on Kearny's staff. He then went on W. F. Smith's, in charge of balloon reconnaissances; then, for daring courage and endurance, was appointed on McClellan's, and captured the first colors taken by the Army of the Potomac. In 1863 he went on Pleasonton's staff ; shortly after, for dashing gallantry, was appointed brigadier-gen eral of volunteers, commanding a Michigan cavalry brigade. He made it famous, and foiled Stuart at Gettysburg, for which he was bre vetted major in the regular army. In 1864 his brigade was assigned to Sheridan's corps, and he was noted as one of the most brilliant offi cers in the Virginia campaigns, winning steady promotions; brevet lieutenant-colonel for Yel low Tavern, brevet colonel for Winchester. On 9 October, in command of the Third Division, he won the splendid victory of Woodstock; on the 19th, at Cedar Creek, he contributed largely to the Confederate defeat made permanently fa miliar by "Sheridan's Ride," and was brevetted major-general of volunteers. In the spring of 1865 his division by itself. won the battle of Waynesboro, capturing 1.600 prisoners and 11 guns; and followed it up by annihilating Early's command, and capturing all the rest of his ar tillery and his baggage. He fought. at Five, Forks and Dinwiddie Court-House, and was brevetted brigadier-general United States army. After the surrender at Appomattox he was bre vetted major-general United States Army, and appointed major-general of volunteers. As signed to duty in Texas, then appointed chief of cavalry till mustered out of the volunteer service, he asked permission to accept Juarez's offer of the chief command of Mexican cavalry against Maximilian; refused leave of absence, he took the lieutenancy of the Seventh cav alry, and joined it at Fort Riley, Kan., Novem ber 1866, under Hancock, who was succeeded by Sheridan in the summer of 1867. Custer shortly after saw his first Indian service; and closed a campaign against the Cheyennes in 1868 by the crushing victory of the Washita (q.v.), where 103 Indian warriors were killed, and the tribe forced to return to their reserva tion. He was stationed in Kentucky 1871-73. In the spring of 1873 he was sent to Dakota to make head against an Indian insurrection of the first order, organized by Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, and comprising not only the Sioux but a mass of other tribes in Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, etc. He fought a number of battles, and opened up the Black Hills country. In the

spring of 1876 Sheridan made ready for a de cisive blow, sending three divisions under Crook, Terry and Gibbon to unite and crush Sitting Bull on the Yellowstone. Terry and Gibbon united without discovering the Indian army; Crook beat up Crazy Horse's band, and after a sharp skirmish the whole Indian force of 5,000 or 6,000 moved to the Little Big Horn. They were discovered by Terry's scouts, and Terry sent Custer in advance, with his cavalry regi ment of .600 men in 11 companies, to bar their escape east; he was to wait for the main body at the junction of the Big Horn and Little Big Horn 26 June. Custer arrived there the night of the 24th; his scouts discovered the Indian village the next morning; from imperfect infor mation he supposed that they were only the 1,200 or 1,500 Pawnees he had known were marching to join Sitting Bull, and he resolved to sur round and capture them all. The Indians were on a ridge west of the Little Big Horn; Custer kept five companies, 260 men in all, for a direct attack on the centre, gave four to Major Reno to assail their left (south), and two to Captain Benteen to make a southern detour of two miles and come on their right rear, cutting off their retreat. The Indians had broken up their tents and were about to retreat, when they discovered how weak was the assailing force. The three divisions forded the river, and Custer rode for the heart of the Indian line. A rise across the stream masked the enemy, many hundreds of whom lay in a ravine between it and the higher ridge beyond; and as Custer swept down, the savages rode against him and swarmed around to his rear. Outnumbered 20 to 1, the heroic band still fought their way up to the ridge, and a small number with their general reached it; then a fresh band of 1,000 Cheyennes rose up, under Rain-in-the-Face, and not a soul was left alive. Meantime Reno had been repulsed and had taken refuge across the creek; and Ren teen never reached the neighborhood of the fight ; but rejoined Reno at a bluff on the east, where they held the Indians at bay till Terry arrived next morning. The bodies of the slain division were left as they lay, all horribly muti lated, except Custer's. Forty-two Indians were killed. The battlefield has been marked with a small marble monument where each man fell. Custer wrote 'My Life on the Plains' (1874). His life has been written by Whit taker (1876). The general's wife, Elizabeth B. Custer, who accompanied him on his campaigns on the frontier published, 'Boots and Saddles, or Life with General Custer in Dakota' (11385) ; 'Tenting on the Plains' (1887) ; 'Following the Guidon' (1891).