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DescriptionFrederic Remington: An Important Original Oil Painting of Custer Leading the 7th Cavalry at the Battle of Washita. Remington painted this work some twenty years after the battle to illustrate Edward Eggelston's book The Household History of the United States and its People (p. 363), when it was still regarded as a historically important conflict.
The battle took place on November 27, 1868 when Custer and his men made a surprise attack on the village of the Southern Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle. Although Indian reports on the number of casualties were sharply at odds with Custer's, the village was overrun and Black Kettle was killed. In any case, it was a victory, the first for the army in the Southern Plains Indian Wars, and it gave the army a much-needed morale and public-relations boost.
One ominous development in connection with the Battle of Washita may have affected events eight years later at Little Bighorn. A contingent of twenty cavalrymen led by Major Joel Eliott separated from the main force, apparently without Custer's okay, to pursue a group of fleeing Cheyenne. They were cut off by a large mixed party of Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Arapaho warriors and killed. By this point Custer had become aware that there were large contingents of hostile Indians in the area and had begun a hasty but orderly withdrawal. Eliott and his men were left to their fate, a decision which caused widespread resentment among the 7th Cavalry. One of the most bitter critics was Eliott's friend Capt. Frederick Benteen. Eight years later, when Benteen failed to rush to Custer's aid at Little Bighorn, critics attributed his foot-dragging to resentment over the events in the aftermath of Washita.
Frederic Remington of course painted a great number of Western paintings, many of which, like this one, were intended as illustrations for publications. A large number of these are of a more "generic" character, depicting classic Western subjects. The work offered here depicts a major historical event involving one of the towering giants of Western lore, George Armstrong Custer. As such, it has special importance and appeal.
The painting is in excellent condition, showing only the tiniest bit of restoration at the very corners, probably necessitated by abrasion from earlier framings. A complete condition report is available on request. The formal description and provenance of the painting are as follows:
Frederic Sackrider Remington (American, 1861-1909)
Battle of the Washita, 1888
Oil en grisaille on board
18.5 x 24.5 inches
Signed lower left: Remington
Private collection, Cincinnati, Ohio;
Kodner Gallery, St. Louis, Missouri (label verso);
E. Eggleston, The Household History of the United States, New York: D. Appleton & Co.,1888, p. 363, wood engraving;
P. Hassrick and M. Webster, Frederic Remington: A Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings, Watercolors, and Drawings, Cody, Wyoming: Buffalo Bill Historical Center, 1996, p. 114 illus, checklist 216.
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