General Custer's Personal Flag
and The Culbertson Guidon
Elizabeth "Libbie" Custer, the spouse of General George Armstrong Custer, created his famous battle flag and delivered it to him on the battlefield at Dinwiddle Court House near Petersburg, Virginia on March 31, 1865. The swallow tailed handmade silk flag featured red over blue bars and two white hand cut, crossed Cavalry Sabers sewn into its center. I have read several dimensions listed for the flag ranging from 47 to 68 inches in length.
General George Custer flew this flag in every battle for the rest of his life, losing both the flag and his life at the Battle of The Little Big Horn on June 25, 1876. The flag was usually carried by a sergeant who rode directly behind General Custer. While the original was lost to Indian Warriors, two others were left at Fort Abraham Lincoln Dakota Territory while the famed US 7th Cavalry was participating in the Little Big Horn expedition. General Custer's United States of America flag, flown at the Battle of The Little Big Horn, was later recovered from the Sioux by General Anson Mills, a fellow Hoosier.
One of the surviving "Custer" flags was passed down through the Custer family. Noted Custer biographer Dr. Lawrence Frost purchased it from Lt. Colonel Charles Custer, a nephew. The flag was authenticated by flag expert and historian Howard Michael Madaus prior to being sold in the Heritage Auction Galleries' Civil War Signature Auction, held on June 24, 2007 in Gettysburg, PA.
General Custer's recovered United States of America Cavalry flag.
The Culbertson Guidon
When General George Armstrong Custers 7th Cavalry Troopers attacked a massive Indian village on June 25th 1876 they carried five guidons into the Battle of The Little Big Horn. Four of the flags are believed to have been recovered by the victorious Indian defenders. The remaining flag was found by a burial party three days after the battle had ceased, under the body of Corporal John Foley. The flag became known as the Culbertson Guidon, named after Sgt. Ferdinand Culbertson who recovered it.
The frayed silk flag has several pieces missing including one of its original 34 gold stars and some portions of its stripes. Many of the missing sections appear to have been cut away as a souvenir prior to it being stored in the Detroit Museum of Art in 1895. In addition the flag has several holes in it and the red stripes have run into the white stripes. The swallow tail tips are tattered and torn. Apparent bloodstains are also visible.
The Detroit Museum of Art is now know as the Detroit Institute of Arts. The facility now has a focus on art, instead of natural history and historical items, and decided to sell the Culbertson Guidon. The flag was sold on December 10th 2010 for $2.2 million dollars. The flag sold for $54 in the 1890s.