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Lieutenant-Colonel And Brevet Major-General George A. Custer, U.S.A.


Lieutenant-Colonel And Brevet Major-General George A. Custer was born in Ohio. He graduated at the Military Academy June 24, 1861, and was promoted second lieutenant of the Second Cavalry the same day. He was detailed to drill volunteers at Washington, and then participated in the battle of First Bull Run July 21, 1861. He was absent, sick, from October, 1861, to February, 1862, and then participated in the Peninsular campaign of the Army of the Potomac, being engaged in the siege of Yorktown. He was promoted first lieutenant Fifth Cavalry July 17, 1862, and captain of staff (additional aide-de-camp) June 5, 1862, and served on the staff of Major-General McClellan in September and October, 1862, and was engaged in the battles of South Mountain and Antietam. He participated in Stoneman's raid towards Richmond, aide-de-camp to General Pleasanton in combat at Brandy Station, and on June 29, 1863, he was appointed brigadier-general of volunteers. As such, he commanded a cavalry brigade in the Pennsylvania campaign, and was engaged in the action at Aldie, battle of Gettysburg, various skirmishes in pursuit of the enemy, with constant fighting at Monterey, Smithsburg, Hagerstown, Williamsport, and Boonsborough; in fact, from this time to the end of the war his history is that of the Army of the Potomac, and the actions in which he was engaged are so numerous that it would require the space of this entire sketch to enumerate them. He commanded a brigade of cavalry in the Richmond campaign, cavalry corps in the Shenandoah campaign with Sheridan, and a division of cavalry in the Appomattox campaign of 1865, and was present at the capitulation of General Lee April 9, 1865. He then made a raid to Dan River, North Carolina, from April 24 to May 3, 1865, and was in command of a cavalry division in the Military Division of the Southwest from June 3 to July 17, 1865.

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General Custer was appointed major-general of volunteers April 15, 1865, and was brevetted in the regular army, major, for Gettysburg, July 3, 1863; lieutenant-colonel, for Yellow Tavern; colonel, for Winchester; brigadier-general, for Five Forks; major-general, for gallant and meritorious services during the campaign ending in the surrender of the insurgent army of Northern Virginia. He was also brevetted a major-general of United States Volunteers for "gallant and meritorious services at the battles of Winchester and Fisher's Hill, Virginia."

He served in the Military Division of the Gulf from July 17 to November 13, 1865, and was chief of cavalry of the Department of Texas to February 1, 1866, at which time he was mustered out of the volunteer service. He was then granted leave of absence, and was awaiting orders to September 24, 1866, when he was placed on frontier duty at Fort Riley, Kansas, October 16, 1866.

General Custer was promoted lieutenant-colonel of the Seventh Cavalry July 28, 1866, and served on the plains; in campaign against the Sioux and Cheyennes, on the South Platte and Republican Rivers, 1867-68; various other expeditions, scouts, and combats, and notably the Big Horn and Yellowstone expedition of 1876, where he and his gallant band were all massacred in the fight with Sitting Bull's village on the Little Big Horn River, Montana. The closing scene in Custer's history has been described by Horned Horse, an old Sioux chief, as follows: " Custer then sought to lead his men up to the bluffs by a diagonal movement, all of them having dismounted and firing, whenever they could, over the backs of their horses at the Indians, who had by that time crossed the river in thousands, mostly on foot, and had taken Custer in flank and rear, while others annoyed him by a galling fire from across the river. . Hemmed in on all sides, the troops fought steadily, but the fire of the enemy was so close and rapid that they melted like snow before it, and fell dead among their horses in heaps. The firing was continuous until the last man of Custer's command was dead. The water-course in which most of the soldiers died ran with blood."

Source: Officers of the Volunteer Army and Navy who served in the Civil War, published by L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1893, 419 pgs.


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