|Lt. Colonel (Brevet Major-General) George Armstrong Custer was born December 5, 1839, and served for four years as a front-line officer in during the Civil War. But his spectacular death at the Battle of the Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876, has overshadowed who this man really was.
When the Civil War broke out, Custer had strong feelings for the South only because, like the majority of southerners, he was a Democrat. Yet unlike southern hero, Robert E. Lee, Custer felt an obligation to honor the pledge he made when he entered West Point and so he chose to fight for the preservation of the Union and for the abolishment of slavery.
For four years he risked his life to achieve these ends. From the first Battle of Bull Run to the surrender at Appomattox, the "Boy General" enjoyed an amazing career.
Rising from captain to Brigadier General in less then two years, his pivotal role at the Battle of Gettysburg has been all but forgotten, but a case could be made that his nerve and daring single-handedly saved the Federal forces and, to a certain extent, won the War.
"We swear by him (Custer.) His name is our battle cry. He can get twice the fight out of his brigade than any man can possibly do."
- Major James Kidd
Indeed, when the War ended at Appomattox, General Phil Sheridan bought the table on which Grant had written the terms of surrender and gave it to Custer as a gift for Mrs. Custer. Attached to the table was this note:
"My Dear Madam, Appomattox Court House
April 10th, 1865
I respectfully present to you the small writing table on which the conditions for the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia were written by Lt. General Grant - and permit me to say, Madam, that there is scarcely an individual in our service who has contributed more to bring about this desirable result than your gallant husband.
Phil H. Sheridan
Younger brother, Tom Custer, also fought for the Union in the war and achieved the unique distinction of being the first man to win two Congressional Medals of Honor and was the only man to do so in that War.
Both men, along with a third brother, Boston, were killed at the Little Bighorn 11 years after the end of the Civil War. And as myth replaces history, Custer's most important historical role is forgotten and all that is passed down as history comes from slanted movies and bumper stickers which focus solely on his last fight. The truth is something else.