General Custer In Nebraska

 

General George Armstrong Custer’s most famous exploit occurred in Montana on June 25, 1876 at the battle of The Little Big Horn. General George Custer’s career took him to many other states in the Union including a little known, but important, tour of duty in Nebraska.

General Custer and A, D, E, H, K and M troops of the famed US 7th Cavalry departed from Fort McPherson, Nebraska in mid-June 1867 in a campaign against Sioux and Cheyenne Indians. General Custer and the 7th Cavalry Troopers camped near Benkelman, Nebraska between June 22 to 30, 1867.

A June 24 dawn attack, led by Pawnee Killer, struck General Custer’s camp resulting in only a wounded sentry. General Custer and Pawnee Killer met under a flag of truce for the premise of peace negotiations. Selected Officers from the 7th Cavalry along with Indian leaders Pole Cat, Fire Lightning and Walks Underground also attended the peace parley. Both sides went into the parley with the intention of obtaining the other sides plans and true intentions. The US Army later alleged that the Indians had planned to separate the Officers from the Troopers in an effort to use them as hostages and negotiating tools. During the parley forty 7th Cavalry Troopers and Officers fell for the Indian decoy ploy and pursued the Indian Braves straight into an ambush approximately seven miles northwest of the camp. Realizing their folly, the 7th Cavalry Troopers fought their way out with out any casualties and killing two Indian Braves.

Not much was accomplished by either side during the peace parley when it ended. The US Army camp was broken and the Troopers headed back to Fort McPherson. Lt. Kidder, ten Troopers, and US Army Indian Scout Red Bead were carrying orders from Fort Sedgwick, Colorado to General Custer’s camp. The Troopers missed the camp and also headed to Fort McPherson. They never made it. They were attacked by Indian Braves near Beaver Creek, Nebraska and all perished. General Custer led a command to look for the missing Troopers and found their mutilated bodies on July 12. The dead Troopers and Indian Scout were buried at the scene of their deaths. In addition the Fort McPherson supply train, consisting of sixteen wagons traveling from Fort Wallace, Kansas, fell under attack from Indian Braves near Black Butte Creek, Kansas. No Troopers were lost and several Indian attackers were slain.

Perhaps General George Custer’s most renowned Nebraska adventure dealt with Grand Duke Alexis, son of Tsar Alexander II of Russia. In October 1871, President Ulysses S. Grant announced Grand Duke Alexis of Russia would be touring the United States. Upon arrival Grand Duke Alexis quickly made it known that he desired to go on a buffalo hunt. The Grand Duke was also aware of the United States Army’s world famous soldier, General George Armstrong Custer, and desired to meet him.

The Nebraska buffalo hunting party was headed by General Phil Sheridan and took place January 13-15, 1872. In addition to the world famous General Custer, the hunting party included the soon to be world famous Buffalo Bill Cody who was employed as guide and chief hunter. Brule Sioux Chief Spotted Tail was paid 1,000 pounds of tobacco to round up a buffalo herd. The Indians also entertained the party with dances and shooting exhibition.

The Grand Duke initially used large caliber revolvers in his hunt. Buffalo Bill Cody presented the Russian Duke a .50 caliber Springfield rifle. Using this heavy caliber long gun, the Duke dropped a buffalo bull on his first shot. Accompanying Russian servants brought out a basket of champagne to celebrate the Grand Duke‘s success. The Duke shot a total of eight buffalo before the hunt concluded.

Chalkley Beeson who was in the camp had this to say about General Custer and the Grand Duke:

"General Custer was one of the most noted horsemen in the army. I have never seen a finer. He rode with the cavalry seat, but as easily and as gracefully as a born cowboy. He immediately demanded my horse, and, mounting him, proceeded to show off his horsemanship before the Grand Duke. Throwing the reins on his neck, he guided the almost unbroken horse in a circle by the pressure of his knees, and drawing both his revolvers fired with either hand at a gallop with as much accuracy as though he were standing on the ground. The Grand Duke, who had seen the Cossacks of the Ukraine, declared it was the finest exhibition of horsemanship he had ever seen and applauded every shot. Custer was then in the prime of life, a gallant figure with his flowing hair and his almost foppish military dress. Fresh from the great fight on the Washita, with no premonition of the Rosebud darkening his life, he was the ideal cavalryman and the idol of the western army. "

 

Pawnee Killer

Buffalo Bill Cody

General George Custer and Grand Duke Alexis

Site of the Pawnee Killer and 7th Cavalry fight.

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