General Custer: Biography, Military Training, Recognitions, Contributions

The General Custer(1839-1876) was an American military man who stood out for reaching the rank of general when he was only 23 years old. For that reason he was known as the ‘general boy’. He participated in at least a dozen battles, highlighting the Civil War and several of the Indian wars that occurred during the 19th century.

He was part of the 7th United States Cavalry Regiment, which is still active today. He was even the commander in charge of the unit in the first war he ever fought: the Battle of the Washita River, also known as the Washita Massacre.

Source: Author Elizabeth Bacon Custer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

His role in the Battle of the Little Bighorn marked his legacy forever, as he led more than 700 men in a fight against the Lakota, Arapaho, and Cheyenne Indian tribes. Custer lost the war, where more than 250 soldiers died, including the general himself at just 36 years old.

At first his image was exalted and his heroism was praised, especially for his role during the Civil War. In the mid-twentieth century his reputation was declining and he was considered a murderer for his wars against the American Indians.

Regardless, there is a statue in his honor in the cemetery of the United States Military Academy in New York.


George Armstrong Custer was the full name of the renowned American military man who was born in Ohio in 1839. He was the first child of the couple formed by Emanuel Henry Custer and Maria Ward.

Custer had four siblings who were born after him: Nevin, Thomas, Margaret, and Boston. In addition, he had eight stepbrothers due to his parents’ previous marriages.

Although he was born in Ohio, Custer lived for a long time in Michigan, north of his hometown. There were also some of her stepbrothers

Four of his family members also died during the Battle of Little Bighorn. Among the more than 200 soldiers were an 18-year-old nephew, a brother-in-law and two of his younger brothers (Boston and Thomas).


General Custer married Elizabeth Bacon in 1864, who agreed to be a military partner after an intense courtship. Custer’s widow fought for many years so that the general would enjoy a good reputation after his death.

When Custer died, he did not leave great fortunes to his partner. In the inheritance there was only evidence of a debt and some boots that were later sent to a museum in Kansas.

In addition to her marriage to Bacon, there are stories that speak of a relationship between Custer and Monaseetah, the daughter of the Cheyenne tribal chief who was in Little Rock. Some scholars claim that they lived together for two years and that they had two children.

For historians there is also another theory and it is that the Monaseetah couple was really one of Custer’s brothers, since George was sterile.

Military training

He attended Mcneely School in Ohio from which he graduated in 1856. In order to pay for his studies, he had to work loading coal. Then he went to the West Point Military Academy, located in New York. He graduated five years later, one earlier than normal, but it was the last of his class that had more than 30 cadets.

His time at the institution was not the most outstanding. In fact, he was characterized by making multiple practical jokes to his colleagues and not respecting the rules.

His behavior caused a negative record during his studies. He was punished several times and even had to serve extra guards on Saturdays as punishment for his behavior.

Shortly after graduation from cadet, the Civil War began in the United States, which lasted four years.


During his 15-year military career, he participated in at least a dozen battles. He was part of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, the 5th Regiment and led the 7th Regiment when it was created and with which it fought its last battle.

During the Civil War his first assignment was at the Battle of Bull Run. In this conflict he worked as a messenger and reached the rank of second lieutenant.

In 1862 he participated in the peninsular campaign. A year later he became a general by decision of General Alfred Pleasanton. A couple of days later the Battle of Gettysburg began. By then, Custer became one of the youngest generals in the United States Army.


Historians claim that he had an aggressive style when leading his troops and facing his rivals. Some even called it reckless.

The tactic he used to attack his enemies was called Custer’s avalanche. This methodology was characterized by surprisingly storming the fields where the opposing troops were, which allowed them to emerge victorious.

Little bighorn

The Battle of the Little Bighorn occurred between June 25 and June 26, 1876. The place of confrontation was in Montana, near the Little Bighorn River.

General Custer acknowledged in a letter to his wife that he had Indians from the Crow tribe, who were in charge of guiding him through some United States territories. The Crow warned Custer of a community of Indians in an area near the Little Bighorn River, but his advice was not to attack because there were a very large number of locals.

Custer did not follow the recommendations and devised a plan that consisted of dividing his army into three groups. Marcus Reno, with almost 150 men, and Frederick Benteen, with about a hundred soldiers, were in charge of leading two of them. Custer was left in command of 200 people.

Reno initiated the first attack from the south but failed and was discovered by the Indians. While Custer attacked by surprise from the north, unaware of the defeat of his subordinates.

A group of Indians discovered Custer and attacked him from the banks of the river. The community of Indians had more than 1500 people. The numerical advantage was noted and with each fallen soldier the Indian attack grew, which was armed with the weapons and ammunition of its enemies.

General Alfred Terry arrived in the area three days later. He was the one who found General Custer’s body dead, as he had received two shots, one in the chest and the other in the head. In addition, the area was covered by the lifeless bodies of the US Army. Many soldiers had even been mutilated.

Contributions and acknowledgments

Custer, despite the painful defeat, was buried in the Little Bighorn battle area with honors. His body was later moved to the West Point Cemetery where his remains continue today.

Elizabeth Bacon, the widow of General Custer, was responsible for publishing different books and documents to exalt the figure of her husband after his death. In total there were three works:Boots and saddlebags in 1885, Camping out on the plains in 1887 and Following the banner which was published in 1891.

In 1886 the area where the Battle of Little Bighorn occurred was declared a national cemetery and named after Custer.

Camp Custer in Michigan was created in 1917, which later became the Fort Custer National Cemetery in 1943. There, multiple soldiers were trained for the First and Second World War and more than 30 thousand soldiers who died during the wars have been buried.


  1. Custer, E. (2011). Boots and saddles, or, Life in Dakota with General Custer . Lincoln, Neb .: University of Nebraska Press.
  2. Custer, G., & Brennan, S. (2013). An autobiography of General Custer . New York: Skyhorse.
  3. Link, T. (2004). George Armstrong Custer: General of the American cavalry . New York: Rosen Pub. Group.
  4. Victor, F. (2011). Our centennial Indian War and the life of General Custer . Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
  5. Whittaker, F. (1999). A complete life of Gen. George A. Custer . Scituate, MA: Digital Scanning.

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