George Armstrong Custer was born December 5, 1839 and died June 25, 1876 battling Indian Braves at the Battle of The Little Big Horn. Custer was born in New Rumley, Ohio, to Emanuel Henry Custer (18061892), a farmer and blacksmith, and Marie Ward Kirkpatrick (18071882). He was called Autie, after his early attempt to pronounce his middle name, and Armstrong. The names Curley and Jack (a phonetic name for his initials GAC) were used by his troops. When he went west, the Plains Indians called him Yellow Hair and Son of the Morning Star.
George Custer spent much of his boyhood living with his half-sister and his brother-in-law in Monroe, Michigan, where he attended school and is now honored by a statue in the center of town. Before entering the United States Military Academy, Custer attended the McNeely Normal School, later known as Hopedale Normal College, in Hopedale, Ohio and known as the first coeducational college for teachers in eastern Ohio. Custer graduated from McNeely Normal School in 1856 and taught school in Ohio.
General Custer served in the United States Army and was a cavalry commander in the American Civil War and the Indian Wars. When the United States Civil War began, Custer was a cadet at the United States Military Academy, and his class's graduation was accelerated by a year so that they could enter the war. Custer graduated last in his class primarily due to his being the class clown and incredible amount of demerits. George Custer excelled at the practical exercises and was the best horseman in his class.
General Custer established a reputation as an aggressive cavalry brigade commander willing to take personal risks leading his beloved Michigan Wolverines into battle. Always at the front, Custer adopted a gaudy, personalized uniform that initially alienated his men, but he won them over with his readiness to lead attacks in contrast to many officers who would hang back to avoid being hit. His men eventually began to adopt elements of his uniform customization.
In 1865, General Custer played a key role at Appomattox, with his division blocking General Robert E. Lee's retreat on its final day of battle. General Custer was present at the surrender at Appomattox Court House and the table upon which the surrender was signed was presented to him as a gift for his gallantry.
There will always be debate on General George Custer's life and deeds, as he took part in an extremely controversial part of US history. Only the fringe of Custer haters can question his courage however. When one's enemy praises you, surely it must be taken as truth. Some examples are:
Low Dog stated the wise men and chiefs of our nation gave out to our people not to mutilate the dead white chief, for he was a brave warrior and died a brave man, and his remains should be respected. The Indians did not know it was General Custer, just that the white chief had led and fought bravely, implying the General survived well into the attack.
According to Sitting Bull, Custer fought bravely to the end. He gave his second-hand account, that he said was from a friend, in an 1877 interview:
Sitting Bull: "Well, I have understood that there were a great many brave men in that fight, and that from time to time, while it was going on, they were shot down like pigs. They could not help themselves. One by one the officers fell..... Any way it was said that up there where the last fight took place, where the last stand was made, the Long Hair stood like a sheaf of corn with all the ears fallen around him."
Interviewer: "How many stood by him?"
Sitting Bull: "A few."
Interviewer: "When did he fall?"
Sitting Bull: "He killed a man when he fell. He laughed."
Interviewer: "You mean he cried out."
Sitting Bull: "No, he laughed; he had fired his last shot."
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