DescriptionGeorge Armstrong Custer Autograph Letter Signed "G. A. Custer" as a brevet major general. Two pages, 7.75" x 9.75", Fort Lincoln, Dakota Territory, December 12, 1873. One of the most controversial figures in American history, George Armstrong Custer had a tremendous military career, despite its inauspicious beginnings, graduating last in his class at the United States Military Academy in 1861. Saved from a career ending court-martial because of a need for field officers in the Civil War, Custer would distinguish himself on the battlefield due to his bravery and seeming lack of fear, making him something of a celebrity.
Following the war, he was sent west to the frontier and would become a leading figure in the Indian Wars against the Cheyenne and Lakota. Following his victory at the Battle of the Washita, Custer was posted at Fort Abraham Lincoln in the Dakota Territory in early 1873, charged with protecting a survey party for the North Pacific Railroad against the hostility of the local Lakota. Known as the Yellowstone Expedition, his Seventh Cavalry would twice clash with, and defeat, Sitting Bull's warriors. During the expedition, Custer would hunt to pass the time, as this letter illustrates. Here he writes to Professor Joseph Henry, in full:
"With the yellowstone expedition last summer was a photographer who among other negatives took one of an elk killed by me. I also being in the picture, he informed me that I could obtain copies of this and other pictures taken by him by applying to you. I therefore request a few copies of the photograph of the elk and of any other views taken during the expedition which you may send me [illegible] I would be particularly glad to obtain a photograph of the elk as soon as convenient as I desire to include it in a work which I [illegible] issuing soon. If I have addressed my letter to the wrong party and you can make the proper reference please do so and greatly oblige."
It is possible that Custer is requesting the photograph for inclusion in his book, "My Life on the Plains." Originally published serially beginning in 1872, it was published in book form a few months later in 1874. Docketed on the verso, the letter was directed to Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs. Smoothed folds; moderate toning along the edges, the text is bright and very bold.
Custer met his end three years later leading the Seventh Cavalry against a combined force of Lakota, Arapaho, and Northern Cheyenne at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
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