General Custer In Kentucky

General George Armstrong Custer, along with HQ and A Company, of the 7th US Cavalry were assigned to Elizabethtown, Kentucky on April 3, 1871. The 7th US Cavalry had been engaged in fighting Indians deemed hostile, for five years, on the plains prior to this assignment. The years of combat and strained relations between whites and the Indians had worn the Troopers down and they looked forward to their new duties. The new duties included controlling the Ku Klux Klan and Carpet Baggers and breaking up illegal distilleries.

General Custer and Libbie, his wife, initially made their home in part of the Hill House, which was operated by "Aunt Beck" Hill. Many of the other officers also boarded with Mrs. Hill. Hill House is now known as the Brown-Pusey Community House and is part of Elizabethtown’s tourist trade. General and Mrs. Custer later relocated to a residence on South Main Street next to the 7th US Cavalry headquarters. The enlisted Troopers were quartered in houses in the town and in local hotels.

With not much in the way of Ku Klux Klan activities to suppress, General Custer found several other ways to pass the time. In addition to acquiring a fine stable of Kentucky thoroughbred horses during his tour of duty, General Custer also built an impressive array of dogs. General Custer was an avid dog lover and almost always had his canine friends at his side. In addition to Russian wolfhounds and English staghounds, the General eventually had a herd of approximately eighty dogs according to Private John Burkman. Always an avid hunter, the General frequently hunted small game and deer.

General Custer wrote a series of articles for ‘Galaxy‘, a New York magazine, that were later published as the book ‘My Life on the Plains‘ in 1875. The General played chess with town’s political leaders, attended church, went to dances, and being a lifelong Democrat (certainly a detriment to his US Army career) attended political meetings in Louisville.

The Grand Duke Alexis of Russia, who was an ardent admirer of General Custer, made a stop in Louisville on his way back east from a tour of the United States west. The Grand Duke previously had hunted buffalo with the General in Nebraska (see my Custer in Nebraska page). General Custer was part of the official welcoming party at Louisville’s train station. The Custer’s also attended a ball given in the Grand Duke’s honor and were asked to accompany him and the royal party on the train from Louisville to New Orleans. The royal train made a stop in Elizabethtown that was well attended. While a speech was being given in the Grand Duke’s honor, Grand Duke Alexis saw General Custer’s horses and Russian wolfhounds and went to inspect them while the speech was going on!

General Custer and his 7th US Cavalry Troopers were dispatched to the Dakota Territory in March of 1873. Following General Custer and the 7th US Cavalry’s stunning defeat at the Battle of The Little Big Horn on June 25, 1876, Libbie Custer made one other visit to Elizabethtown in 1880. Libbie had made many friends during her previous stay and a great number of them went to her hotel to offer their condolences.

A bronze marker was placed at the site of the stable where Company A kept their horses by the Hardin County Historical Society in 1936. The Brown-Pusey House can currently be rented as a meeting room. A museum room in the house contains an original picture of General George Armstrong Custer signed and dated by Mrs. Custer. Every Thursday from the first Thursday in June to the last Thursday in September, General George Armstrong Custer is one of the featured prominent figures you’ll meet in a guided tour through downtown.

This Kentucky Historical Society marker was placed in Elizabethtown in 1963.

Brown-Pusey House

General George Custer and Grand Duke Alexis

Brown-Pusey House

Memorial

 

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