Custer's Death 

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Custer killed in battle

Major General George A. Custer of the Seventh United States Cavalry

Friday, July 7, 1876 The New York Times

Major Gen. George A. Custer, who was killed with his whole Command while attacking an encampment of Sioux Indians under command of Sitting Bull, was one of the bravest and most widely known officers in the United States Army. He has for the past fifteen years been known to the country and to his comrades as a man who feared no danger, as a soldier in the truest sense of the word. He was daring to a fault, generous beyond most men. His memory will long be kept green in many friendly hearts. Born in New-Rumley, Harrison County, Ohio, on the 5th of December, 1839, he obtained a good common education, and after graduating engaged for a time in teaching school. In June, 1857, through the influence of Hon. John A. Bingham, then member of Congress from Ohio, he obtained an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, and entered that institution on the 1st of July of the year named. He graduated on the 24th of June, with what was considered the fair standing of No. 34 in one of the brightest classes that ever left the academy. Immediately upon leaving West Point he was appointed Second Lieutenant in Company G of the Second United States Cavalry, a regiment which had formerly been commanded by Robert E. Lee. He reported to Lieut. Gen. Scott on the 20th of July, the day preceding the Battle of Bull Run, and the Commander in Chief gave him the choice of accepting a position on his staff or of joining his regiment, then under command of Gen. McDowell in the field. Longing for an opportunity to see active service, and determined to win distinction Lieut. Custer chose the latter course, and after riding all night through a country filled with people who were, to say the least, not friendly, he reached McDowell’s head-quarters at daybreak on the morning of the 21st. Preparations for the battle had already begun, and after delivering his dispatches from Gen. Scott and hastily partaking of a mouthful of coffee and a piece of hard bread he joined his company. It is not necessary now to recount the disasters of the fight that followed. Suffice it to say that Lieut. Custer’s company was among the last to leave the field. It did so in good order, bringing off Gen. Heintzelman, who had been wounded in the engagement. The young officer continued to serve with his company, and was engaged in the drilling of volunteer recruits in and about the defenses of Washington, when upon the appointment of Phil Kearny to the position of Brigadier General, that lamented officer gave him a position on his staff. Custer continued in this position until an order was issued from the War Department prohibiting Generals of Volunteers from appointing officers of the regular Army to staff duty. Then he returned to his company, not, however, until he had been warmly complimented by Gen. Kearny upon the prompt and efficient manner in which he had performed the duties assigned to him. At the same time the General predicted that Custer would be one of the most successful officers in the Army. Nor were these predictions without a speedy realization. With his company Lieut. Custer marched forward with that part of the Army of the Potomac which moved upon Manassas after its evacuation by the rebels. Our cavalry was in advance, under Gen. Stoneman and encountered the rebel horsemen for the first time near Catlett’s Station. The commanding officer made a call for volunteers to charge the enemy’s advance post. Lieut. Custer was among the first to step to the front, and in command of his company he shortly afterward made his first charge. He drove the rebels across Muddy Creek, wounded a number of them, and had one of his own men injured. This was the first blood drawn in the campaign under McClellan. After this Custer went with the Army of the Potomac to the Peninsula and remained with his company until the Army settled down before Yorktown, when he was detailed as an Assistant Engineer of the left wing, under Sumner. Acting in this capacity he planned and erected the earthworks nearest the enemy’s lines. He also accompanied the advance under Gen. Hancock in pursuit of the enemy from Yorktown. Shortly afterward, he captured the first battle-flag ever secured by the Army of the Potomac. From this time on he was nearly always the first in every work of daring. When the Army reached the Chickahominy he was the first man to cross the river; he did so in the face of the fire of the enemy’s pickets, and at times was obliged to wade up to his armpits. For this brave act Gen. McClellan promoted him to a Captaincy and made him one of his personal aids. In this capacity he served during most of the Peninsula campaign, and participated in all its battles, including the bloody seven days fight. He preformed the duty of marking out the position which was occupied by the Union Army at the battle of Gaines’ Mills. He also participated in the campaign which ended in the battles of South Mountain and Antietam. Upon the retirement of Gen. McClellan from the command of the Army of the Potomac, Custer accompanied him, and for a time was out of active service.

He was next engaged in the battle of Chancellorsville, and immediately after that fight he was made a personal aid by Gen. Pleasonton, who was then commanding a division of cavalry. Serving in this capacity he took an active part in a number of hotly-contested engagements and marked himself as one of the most dashing, some said the most reckless, officers in the service. When Pleasonton was made a Major General his first pleasure was to remember the valuable services of his Aid de Camp. He requested the appointment of four Brigadiers to command under him, and upon his recommendation, indorsed by Gens. Meade and Hooker, young Custer was made a Brigadier General and assigned to the command of the First, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Michigan Cavalry. He did noble service at the battle of Gettysburg. He held the right of line, and was obliged to face Hampton’s division of cavalry, and after a hotly-contested fight, utterly routed the rebels and prevented them from reaching the trains of the Union Army, which they hoped to capture. Custer had two horses shot under him in this fight. Hardly had the battle concluded when he was sent to attack the enemy’s train, which was trying to force its way to the Potomac. He destroyed more than four hundred wagons. At Hagerstown, Md., during a severe engagement, he again had his horse shot under him. At Falling Waters, shortly after, he attacked with his small brigade the entire rebel rear guard. The Confederate commander Gen. Pettigrew was killed and his command routed, with a loss of 1,300 prisoners, two pieces of cannon, and four battle flags. For some time after this fight he was constantly engaged in skirmishing with the enemy, and during the Winter which followed in picketing the Rapidan between the two armies. He participated in the battle of the Wilderness in 1864, and on the 9th of May of the same year, under Gen. Sheridan, he set out on the famous raid toward Richmond. His brigade led the column, captured Beaver Dam, burned the station and a train of cars loaded with supplies, and released 400 Union prisoners. Rejoining Grant’s Army on the Pamunkey, he took an active part in several engagements. After the battle of Fisher’s Hill, in which he did most important service, he was placed in command of a division, and remained in that position until after Lee’s surrender. At the ever-memorable battle of Cedar Creek his division was on the right, and not engaged in the rout of the morning, so that when Sheridan arrived on the field, after the twenty-mile ride, he found at least one command ready for service. His immediate order was "Go in Custer!" The brave young General only waited for the word, he went in and never came out until the enemy was driven several miles beyond the battlefield. Nearly one thousand prisoners were captured, among them a Major General. Forty-five pieces of artillery were also taken. For this service Custer was made a Brevet Major General of Volunteers. Sheridan, as a further mark of approbation, detailed him to carry the news of the victory and the captured battle-flag to Washington. From this time on his fortune was made, and he continued steadily to advance in the esteem of his superiors and of the American people. When the rebels fell back to Appomattox, Custer had the advance of Sheridan’s command, and his share in the action is well described in the entertaining volume entitled; With Sheridan in His Last Campaign. The book in question says: "When the sun was an hour high in the west, energetic Custer in advance spied the depot and four heavy trains of freight cars; he quickly ordered his leading regiments to circle out to the left through the woods, and as they gained the railroad beyond the station he led the rest of his division pell-mell down the road and enveloped the train as quick as winking. Custer might not well conduct a siege of regular approaches; but for a sudden dash, Custer against the world." After many another dash of the same kind as that described, Custer was mustered out of the volunteer service on the 1st of February, 1866, and on July 28 of the same year he was appointed Lieutenant Colonel of the Seventh United States Cavalry, and since that time has been almost constantly engaged in duty upon the frontier. Recently he has contributed several interesting articles to the magazines. Of his personal appearance Col. Newhall, in With Sheridan in His Last Campaign, speaks as follows: "At the head of the horsemen rode Custer of the golden locks, his broad sombrero turned up from his hard, bronzed face, the ends of his crimson cravat floating over his shoulder, gold galore, spangling his jacket sleeves, a pistol in his boots, jangling spurs on his heels, and a ponderous claymore swinging at his side. A wild, dare-devil of a General and a prince of advance guards." This description will be recognized by those who knew Gen. Custer as exceedingly true to nature. He was not a great General. He was a great fighter. His place in the Army will not easily be filled.
-Copied from microfilm, The New York Times