Skip to main content


    George Armstrong Custer: Signed 7th Cavalry Promotion Document of Ferdinand Culbertson, Who Recovered the Famed "Culbertson Guidon" in the Aftermath of Little Big Horn. Culbertson did not participate in the battle, but he was assigned to the burial detail tasked with interring the over 200 soldier's bodies scattered across the battlefield. The corpses were mainly stripped by the victorious Indians, seeking souvenirs as well as useful articles. However, one body had been left untouched, that of Corporal John Foley of Tom Custer's Company C. inside his shirt Culbertson found a folded flag, which then became known as the "Culbertson Guidon". The flag found its way in to the collection of the Detroit Institute of Art, which sold it through a New York auction house in 2010 for $2.2 million.

    When one Indian participant in the battle was later interviewed he gave interesting testimony regarding Foley. As the situation on the battlefield deteriorated, he witnessed Foley galloping away. According to this report, the trooper seemed to have gotten clear when he stopped, drew out his revolver, and committed suicide. The Plains Indians were very superstitious regarding suicide and would not approach the body, explaining why it was still clothed.

    To a cavalry trooper like Foley, his company's guidon was a very precious symbol, to be protected and preserved with one's life if necessary. Perhaps in the heat of the moment he was seeking to save the flag, only to be overcome with guilt over leaving his comrades to their fate.

    Offered here is a most poignant relic of that tragic episode, Ferdinand Culbertson's March 26, 1875 appointment signed by Custer as commander of the 7th Cavalry. It is also signed as adjutant by 1st lieutenant W.W. Cooke, who died at Little Big Horn. Custer's signature is faded, as is often the case on documents of this nature, but clear.

    Accompanying the appointment is Culbertson's 1882 discharge from the 7th Cavalry. Culbertson was appointed a corporal by Custer, but held the rank of Sergeant when he left the service.

    Also included in the lot is a copy of Elizabeth Custer's history of the Indian Wars and the 7th Cavalry, Follow the Guidon.

    Fees, Shipping, and Handling Description: Archive - Letter/Photo (view shipping information)

    Sales Tax information  |  Terms and Conditions

    Bidding Guidelines and Bid Increments

    Glossary of Terms

    ‡ The owner placed a late bid on this unreserved lot and repurchased it, subject to applicable commission.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    December, 2017
    2nd Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 403

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $250,000 (minimum $19), plus 20% of any amount between $250,000 and $2,500,000, plus 12% of any amount over $2,500,000 per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Only 7 days left to consign to the 2018 June 10 - 11 Luxury Accessories Signature Auction - Chicago!

    Learn about consigning with us

    The resulting auction of my property overwhelmed me. I want to thank Tom Slater and the Heritage team for a very satisfactory experience and profitable result with my historical consignment.
    Henry L.,
    Lexington, KY
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    2018 March 17 Western Americana & Texana Grand Format Auction - Dallas
    2018 March 17 Western Americana & Texana Grand Format Auction - Dallas
    REALIZED SO FAR $326,146