This historical, special item celebrates one of the most influential cavalry men of the Civil War and Indian Wars, George Custer. This one-of-a-kind collage pairs an original Custer signature with an Ames M1860 staff officer sword, a portrait of the great general, and a print of Custer’s Last Charge.
Custer was born in Ohio, 1839. He entered West Point in 1857. Upon graduation in 1861, he was assigned to duty as an aide to Gen. George McClellan. Next he drew a cavalry assignment, and his boldness in battle brought rapid promotions. He fought in the First Battle of Bull Run, and served with panache and distinction in the Virginia and Gettysburg campaigns. His fearless aggression in battle earned him the respect of his commanding generals and increasingly put him in the public eye. At 23, he was the youngest brevet brigadier general in the Union army.
Custer was sent to the Northern Plains in 1873, where he soon participated in a few small skirmishes with the Lakota in the Yellowstone area. The following year, he lead a 1,200 person expedition to the Black Hills, whose possession the United States had guaranteed the Lakota just six years before. The original plan for defeating the Lakota called for the three forces under the command of Crook, Gibbon, and Custer to trap the bulk of the Lakota and Cheyenne population between them and deal them a crushing defeat. However Custer and his men advanced too quickly, arriving before the support of Gibbon’s infantry brigades. The attack was one the greatest fiascos of the United States Army, as thousands of Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors forced Custer's unit back onto a long, dusty ridge parallel to the Little Bighorn, surrounded them, and killed all 210 of them. The Battle of Little Bighorn became commonly known as "Custer's Last Stand”. Custer's blunders cost him his life but gained him everlasting fame. His defeat at the Little Bighorn made the life of what would have been an obscure 19th century military figure into the subject of countless songs, books and paintings.
Displayed in the middle of this collage is a fine, authentic example of Custer’s distinct signature. The toned leaf is signed "G.A. Custer Brig. Genl. Cmdg" in black fountain pen ink. To the right of the signature is a Civil War era Ames1860 staff officer sword. The sword’s hilt has an incredibly decorative pommel and rain guard, ornamented with spreading eagles, union shields, and filigree. The sword’s scabbard has two upper rings, a chape cast with a star, and draped flags. Upon the secession of the South, the Union lost access to their southern arsenals. Therefore, independent arms manufacturers were crucial to the success of the Union army. Ames, a foundry based in Springfield, Massachusetts, was one of the Union’s most important manufacturers of side arms, swords, and light artillery, and the third largest producer of heavy ordnance.
Above the signature is black and white reprint of a Civil War photographic portrait of Custer, dated May 23, 1865. Below the signature is a 1940s reproduction of the 1876 print Custer's Last Charge. The print shows General Custer on horseback with his U. S. Army troops in battle with Native American Lakota Sioux, Crow, Northern, and Cheyenne. Depicting the intensity of the Little Bighorn Battlefield on June 26, 1875, the print was published only a year after the battle by Seifert Gugler & Co, and was geared toward the public hungry for images and retellings of this epic battle.