LT. James 'Jimmi' Calhoun

 

James Calhoun (August 24, 1845 – June 25, 1876) was the brother-in-law of General George Custer and was killed with Custer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. He was also the brother in law of Thomas and Boston Custer who met the same fate at the hands of Indian Braves. Calhoun was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of a merchant.

James spent the first half of the Civil War traveling in Europe. Returning to the USA , he enlisted in the US Army, working his way through the promotion ranks. James had met Maggie Custer, the general’s younger sister, at Fort Hays, Kansas in the summer of 1870. By August the couple were pressing General Custer to have James transferred to the 7th Cavalry where he would be under Custer’s command. First Lt. Calhoun and Maggie Custer were married in March 7, 1872 and had no children. Custer liked Calhoun enough personally and professionally to make him his adjutant, which is an officer that handles correspondence and records. James was well suited to the task of adjutant and his writing good enough to be published in 1979 edited by Lawrence Frost titled "With Custer in ’74". He also wrote of the Indians in letters to family as "heathens" and foresaw a day when white civilization would wipe them out. Sadly, James was one of far too many people who had the same view on the Indian population.

Calhoun was known as "The Adonis of the Seventh" due to his handsome features, but was never a womanizer. He was part of the "Custer Clan," which was a close-knit clique of relatives and friends of General Custer. He was also the butt of many jokes and pranks pulled on everyone in the Custer Clan, a family of pranksters. Robert Utley wrote in ‘Cavalier In Buckskin’: "Calhoun, dour and humorless, was a favorite target." The General himself mused, " ‘How they do tease and devil Mr. Calhoun.’ " .

At the Battle of the Little Big Horn, James commanded L Company and had formed a rear skirmish line on one hill either to defend Custer as he rode north or to possibly help protect Captain Benteen who had been ordered to come aid General Custer. The reason for Calhoun’s L Company position will probably be debated for all time, just as Captain Benteen’s reason for not coming to General Custer’s aid as ordered. At the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Park there is a Calhoun Hill marker. Eyewitness reports from the Indians involved stated that the Braves encountered the most resistance and suffered the most casualties at Calhoun Hill. Over thirty Troopers and Officers were killed there. In one account I read of Calhoun’s death, he was fighting hand to hand and struck in the head and fell to the ground. When the Indian Brave got on top of him to finish him off with a knife, Calhoun bit him on the nose while choking him. If that doesn’t sound at all extraordinary, remember James was getting stabbed at the time!

James was killed on Calhoun Hill, his namesake. Like the others on the battlefield, a marble marker rests at the approximate place where his body was found. In July 1877 James was re-interred at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. Maggie Calhoun had the good fortune to obtain her husband’s watch via the efforts of her brother-in-law Lt. Fred Calhoun, who had purchased it from some agency Indians. Maggie remarried on July 30, 1903 to John H. Maugham in Onteora, Pennsylvania.

 

Jimmi Calhoun

Gravesite

LBH Marker

 

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