Category Archive 'George Armstrong Custer'

29 Aug 2016

Another Survivor of Custer’s Last Stand

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George Armstrong Custer with his original staghounds, Blucher and Maida. The Indian Scout Bloody Knife is at Custer’s righthand side.

Between 1867 and 1875, George Armstrong Custer contributed fifteen letters, published under pseudonym “Nomad”, to the New York-based sportsman’s journal Turf, Field and Farm. His letter indicate that Custer spent most of time, when not fighting Indians, hunting big game on the Western plains accompanied by a couple of Scottish staghounds.

Dutch Salmon reports finding a letter in an old issue of Forest & Stream that contends that Captain Miles Keogh‘s horse Comanche may not have really been the sole four-footed survivor of five companies of the 7th Cavalry’s Last Stand, 25 June 1876.

Most accounts have it that when Custer and the Seventh Cavalry rode to their doom at the Little Bighorn, his hounds were left behind in camp. However, in a 1907 letter to the old Forest and Stream magazine, a reader wrote that he had seen one of Custer’s hounds—”one of the pair that came from Queen Victoria”—at Ft. Washakie in September, 1882. The correspondent added:

    “Three days after the fight, when a scouting party reached the battle ground where Custer and the few survivors had made their last stand, the greyhound was found lying down near his dead master. A rifle bullet had struck him near the eye which made him blind on that side, but otherwise he was uninjured. He was taken good care of by the party and finally found a master in Lieut. R.E. Thompson, of the Sixth Infantry, who was stationed at Washakie when I was there. It was the lieutenant himself who gave me the above details concerning the dog.”

Was the dog truly a greyhound? Or was it one of the staghounds, a greyhound in rough coat?

06 Dec 2012

George Armstrong Custer’s “Trusty Spencer”

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George Armstrong Custer’s Personal Army-Issue Model 1865 Spencer Carbine

A good friend from Yale, Tom Slater (JE ’72), is Director of Americana at Heritage Auctions in Dallas. An email update from that auction house reports that Tom has outdone himself in putting together a really spectacular group of offerings for Heritage’s December 11th & 12th Western Americana auction

The undoubted highlight of the sale is George Armstrong Custer’s personal Spencer repeating carbine, bearing his name scratched on the buttstock, and frequently mentioned in his accounts of hunting. The bidding starts at $50,000; but, even with recession clouds still lowering over Obamistan, it will probably go much higher.

[T]he Spencer carbine offered here pre-dates his Fort Abraham Lincoln period, it does date from the Indian Wars, and could quite possibly have been with him at the Battle of Washita.

It was part of the legendary collection of Dr. Lawrence A. Frost of Monroe, Michigan, who at one time had what may have been the most extensive private collection of Custer artifacts and relics ever assembled. A signed identification tag in Frost’s hand which accompanies the gun identifies it as a “Spencer Carbine – Saddle Ring / Cal. 50, No. 3658, Model 1865 / ‘G. Custer – 7 Cav USA’ cut into wooden stock…Used by Gen. Custer in Kansas in 1867 campaign.” …

Dr. Frost purchased the carbine in 1955 from Howard Berry. A notarized bill of sale describes the gun in detail. In a 1973 letter (a copy of which is included in this lot), Frost refers to purchasing various Custer items from Berry, whom he describes as “a former 7th Cavalryman”. Frost states that he showed them to James Calhoun Custer (a nephew of Gen. Custer and son of Nevin Custer), and that Custer assured him he remembered these items which had been shown to him by his father who stated that they were the General’s.

Custer used a wide range of military and commercially available firearms over the course of his career, but he had a special familiarity with Spencer carbines. During the Civil War his Michigan regiments were armed with Spencers (Carbines of the U.S. Cavalry, John McAulay, p. 32). As the war ended, a new Spencer model was issued to the army with a more powerful 56-50 cartridge (Spencer Repeating Firearms, Roy Marcot, pp. 80-81). When the 7th Cavalry was formed in 1866 (Bugles, Banners and War Bonnets, Ernest Reedstrom, pp. 1-2), the Spencer Carbine became standard issue (Carbines of the U.S. Cavalry, p. 88), and was in use by them until replaced by the Sharps carbine in 1870 (Carbines of the U.S. Cavalry, p. 95). In his 1980 book, Nomad, George A. Custer in Turf, Field and Farm, Brian W. Dippie reproduces an 1867 article written by Custer in which he describes in great detail a buffalo hunting expedition. He describes learning that pistol shots “only seemed to increase (the buffalo’s) speed.” Accordingly, Custer wrote, “I concluded to discard the use of my revolvers and trust my Spencer carbine” (p.117). The example offered here, serial #3658, is the 1865 model and should not be confused with the Spencer rifle gifted to Custer in 1866; that gun has never surfaced (Spencer Repeating Firearms, p. 152). The presentation gun would have been the 56-44 sporting model.

Custer’s regard for his Spencer carbine is evidenced in his own words in his autobiography, My Life on the Plains, where he writes: “Leaping from my bed I grasped my trusty Spencer which was always at my side” (p. 77).

“G. Custer — 7 CAV, USA” cut into buttstock.

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