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    Facing Court-Martial for Shooting Deserters, Col. George Custer Prepares His Defense

    George Armstrong Custer: Rare Autograph Manuscript Signed "Gen. Custer" in text, legal folio, seven pages, 8" x 12.5" each page, September 1867, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in pencil.

    Accompanied by a full color postcard with a portrait reproduction. The manuscript reads in full:
    "The court having decided that Bvt. Maj. Gen. Davidson is eligible as a member of the court as thus far objected to; the accused further objects to Bvt. Maj. Gen. Davidson as a member of this court on the ground that he has expressed an opinion prejudicial to the accused as follows.

    "That in a conversation with a witness or witnesses the said Bvt. Maj. Gen. Davidson as is witnessed used language of the effect that he did not see how Gen. Custer expected to get out of these charges - he is a young man - a new comer in the service - he only graduated in /61 [1861] never commanded a company & he must be taught that he cannot come out here & do as he pleases, in words to that effect & further language prejudicial to the accused.

    "And further that after having been detailed as a member of this court who said Bvt. Maj. Gen. Davidson did make enquiry in regard to the merits of the said accused as is believed & did ask how he the said accused stood in his Regiment in words to that effect all of which the accused feels is to his prejudice for a fair & impartial trial.

    "The accused states that the order which he here presents is the order referred to in the point conceded by the Judge advocate during the course of the Prosecution, as not having been received by the accused in time to reach Gen. Hancock as herein ordered at Fort Wallace the failure to receive being due to the capture & killing of Lieut. Kidder who bore this order.

    "All of which has been admitted by the Judge advocate for the Prosecution.

    "The accused asks that his counsel be allowed to question witnesses either upon direct, or cross examination without reducing the questions to writing) (that he be allowed to request the Judge Advocate to interrupt any statement being made by a witness or other person present when the accused objects to such statement proceeding any further on legal grounds) (& that the counsel for the accused be allowed to state directly to the court & without reducing to writing any objection made & to grounds thereof, & in such cases to address the court subject to such rules as the court may provide-) (Brief objections to be written when long)

    "And the accused makes these requests because a phonographic reporter is employed to facilitate the transaction of miscues upon this court & the accused believes that when phonographic reporters have been so employed the accused himself, or by his counsel, has been allowed to address the court, as above requested & that in such way the accused is allowed the same privileges upon the part of the Defense as are allowed to the Judge Advocate for the prosecution.

    "And the Accused represents that if these requests be denied the Prosecution will be allowed a greater benefit than the Defense in that it will be permitted to cross-examine witnesses directly & to make its own statements directly & that moreover the objections of the accused will not at times be regarded unless he can directly state such objections to the court.

    "And the Accused believes that hereby the business of the court will be expedited & that the dignity of the court will not be impaired.

    "The Accused desires the Judge Advocate in presenting this Deposition to state the circumstances under which it was taken & to make that statement a part of the record.

    "Last night, the Bvt. Maj. Gen. Cmd. the Department asked the accused, through his counsel, to permit Major Elliott to return to Fort Harker, Kas, as he was required at that post on urgent public business. The accused objected to this as he apprehended that the Court would prefer to have Maj. Elliott examined upon these points in open court but subsequently yielded to the request of the Bvt. Maj. Gen. upon further consultation with his counsel and the Judge Advocate. But he still desires it to be understood that he wished Maj. Elliott to be placed upon the stand in order that he could be subject to the fullest examination upon these points that might be thought necessary.

    "The Accused states that he would now be able to close the testimony for the Defense but for the absence of these witnesses that the Judge Advocate was notified to produce these witnesses from the beginning of the trial & especially so last Saturday, that it is believed he has used diligence in procuring their attendance that the witnesses have been here & were allowed to go away & are expected tonight or tomorrow morning."

    Following his victories in the Civil War, George Armstrong Custer eventually accepted a command as Lieutenant Colonel in the newly created U.S. 7th Cavalry, headquartered at Fort Riley, Kansas. He then received the rank of a brevet major general and join in General Winfield Scott Hancock's expedition against the Cheyenne in 1867. While he was stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas later that year, he was court-martialed for being AWOL - when he abandoned his post to visit his wife - and for having deserters shot. Found guilty on all charges, he was suspended from duty for one year, but upon the request of the newly appointed commander of Fort Leavenworth, General Philip Sheridan, Custer returned to duty before his term of suspension expired. Several editing notations, light blue ruled paper, uniform light toning, minor foxing and stains, toning along top edge, small holes inn top margins, rough top edge, small tears and chipping along some edges, slight diagonal bend in top left corner first three pages, horizontal folds each page, penciled script is bold and clean, very fine condition.

    This important Custer manuscript was previously sold by Heritage in our June 2008 Manuscript auction, where it brought $26,290.




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    Auction Dates
    June, 2012
    10th Sunday
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