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    George Armstrong Custer: His Signed and Inscribed Personal Bible, Which Accompanied Him on the Little Bighorn Expedition. Inscribed by Custer on the flyleaf: "G.A. Custer/ US Army/ Fort Abraham Lincoln Dacota [sic]/ Oct. 1st, 1874." The Bible, a gift from Custer's mother, must have been of great importance to him. He carried it with him on his last campaign, and it survived because it was left in his personal wagon, which remained with the pack train guarded successfully by Captain Benteen. After the remnants of Custer's forces returned to Fort Lincoln, this Bible was returned to his widow, Libbie, and remained in possession of the Custer family until the late 1980s, when it was consigned to Butterfield & Butterfield as part of a large group of artifacts released by the descendents of Nevin Custer, Armstrong's sole surviving brother.

    To appreciate the significance of this Bible one must understand the important role which religion played in Custer's life. In his younger life Custer was a bit of a raconteur, and by his own admission not terribly devout. But perhaps because of what he saw and experienced in the Civil War, his faith deepened. Custer swore off drinking, a commitment which he honored for the remainder of his life. In May of 1864, he wrote to wife Libbie during the Wilderness Campaign, "On the eve of every battle in which I have been engaged, I have never omitted to pray inwardly, devoutly. Never have I failed to commend myself to God's keeping, asking Him to forgive my past sins, and to watch over me while in danger... and to receive me if I fell, while caring for those near and dear to me. After having done so all anxiety for myself, here or hereafter, is dispelled. I feel that my destiny is in the hands of the Almighty. This belief, more than any other fact or reason, makes me brave and fearless as I am."

    This Bible was far more than simply another book owned by Custer. Given to him by his mother, inscribed at Fort Lincoln, and carried with him on his last campaign, it must be considered one of the most personal and evocative of Custer relics.

    The Bible itself measures 6.5" x 10" x 3", and was published by American Bible Society, New York, in 1872. The original embossed cloth cover had deteriorated badly over the years and was separating from the book, and so it has undergone the necessary conservation work, performed by a top specialist. The interior pages are untouched and in excellent condition, including the boldly inscribed and signed flyleaf page.

    The Bible was last sold publicly by Butterfield & Butterfield in 1995, where, along with some papers belonging to Corporal William O. Taylor (who survived the Little Bighorn battle with Major Reno's command), it sold for $46,750.

    Please note: Our original assertion that Custer had this Bible with him up to the point of the Little Bighorn Battle was based on a press release which accompanied the original sale of the Bible when it left the Custer family. Presumably, that information was anecdotal and came from the family. However, a Custer scholar has pointed out that most of the personal effects of Custer and his officers were left either at the Powder River supply depot or aboard the transport steamer Far West. From that point they proceeded in light marching order, with minimal supplies for fifteen days carried on pack mules. Some of the supply mules were killed in action, and others were so weakened that their loads had to be abandoned during the retreat. While it would not be unreasonable to suspect that any personal effects of their dead commander would have been preserved by his men during this process, there is no recorded evidence to support that conclusion. Given the well-documented importance of his Christian faith to Custer, it seems quite plausible that he would have considered his Bible an essential even when traveling light. However, in the absence of any concrete evidence, the question of whether the Bible went along on the Little Bighorn expedition must remain a subject for speculation.


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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2010
    17th Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 9
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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