This one is going to sell for big money.
On 13 September 1877, Captain Frederick Benteen led a company of the 7th Cavalry into the Battle of Canyon Creek armed… with a fly rod! Richard Lessner at the Museum of American Fly Fishing blog explains the key role of Salmo clarkii in George Armstrong Custer’s disastrous defeat one year previously at the Little Big Horn.
Tom Slater, in the latest Heritage email, introduces the upcoming June 9th GEORGE ARMSTRONG CUSTER AND THE PLAINS INDIAN WARS Auction at Heritage Auctions:
For Garryowen And Glory!
Those were the prophetic closing words of the regimental song of George Armstrong Custer’s 7th Cavalry. As a boy growing up in the days of black-and-white TV my favorite “old movie” was They Died with their Boots On, starring the incomparable swashbuckler Errol Flynn as G. A. C. I watched it countless times. Who could forget the catchy tune played over and over during the film, or the image of Custer, the last man standing, blazing away, six-gun in each hand, as he was ridden down by a horde of Indians? Eventually I would have to unlearn most of the contrived “history” related in the movie, but my disillusionment did little to discourage my fascination with the saga of Little Bighorn and Custer’s Last Stand.
Barely 200 men perished with Custer, a seemingly insignificant number when compared to the tens of thousands of casualties in other American battles. Why does the Little Bighorn saga still hold such fascination nearly a century and a half later? Undoubtedly, part of the allure lies in the fact that Custer was a genuine American hero long before the events of 1876. The youngest man to be made general during the Civil War, he was famous for his exploits as a cavalry commander â€” as well as for his golden locks and flamboyant dress. After finishing dead last in his West Point class, Custer certainly made his mark. During the decade before Little Bighorn he led the 7th Cavalry as they fought Indians and explored new territory with the Yellowstone and Black Hills Expeditions. By the time of the disastrous battle in 1876 he was a celebrity and a household name.
Further adding to the drama was the possibility that personality traits and conflicts played a role. Was Custer brash and irresponsible in rushing to attack the large Indian encampment, or was he simply acting on what he thought was reliable military intelligence? Was the failure of Capt. Frederick Benteen to come to Custer’s aid a sound military decision, or was he influenced by his well-known personal distaste for his commander? Was Major Reno’s retreat after initially assaulting the village an example of cowardice, or an unavoidable response in the face of unanticipated, overwhelming resistance?
Lastly, there was the epic significance of a number of Plains tribes and bands coming together for one last, great celebration of their vanishing way of life, and to make a final valiant stand against the inevitable encroachment of “civilization.” It is now known that the Indian camp was aware of the soldiers’ approach, but failed to scatter as had been their tactic in the past. Rather they waited almost passively for the great confrontation, knowing full well that, even if they managed to win the battle, they had already lost the war.
It is our great honor to bring to you on June 9th an amazing auction focused on those historic events and the personalities associated with them, titled “George Armstrong Custer and the Plains Indian Wars.” We are especially gratified to present the important artifacts and relics amassed by Glenwood J. Swanson, the highly respected Custer collector and scholar whose items make up a large portion of the auction. Glen is particularly appreciated for his ongoing support of archeological endeavors at the Custer Battlefield and for his landmark book, G. A. Custer His Life and Times, published in 2004. Lavishly illustrated, largely with items from his own collection, this book gives wonderful insights into Little Bighorn and the men who fought there.
Decades after the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn, Stephen Standing Bear, who participated in the tumultuous engagement, recalled its chaos: â€œI could see Indians charging all around me. Then I could see the soldiers and Indians all mixed up and there were so many guns going off that I couldnâ€™t hear them.â€ He also illustrated the battlefield as he saw it in large-scale muslin pictographs, with the largest surviving example currently on view in First Person: Remembering Little Bighorn at the Philbrook Museum of Artâ€™s downtown branch in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
â€œThe number one question Iâ€™m asked about this muslin is: â€˜which one is Custer?â€™ And you donâ€™t see Custer on the muslin,â€ Christina Burke, Philbrookâ€™s curator of Native American and non-Western art, told Hyperallergic. â€œIf you look closely at the figures, all of the soldiers look exactly the same, and thatâ€™s from the Lakota perspective. The details were in identifying the warriors, their shields, their headdresses, the paraphernalia, all of those are real three-dimensional people. The enemies all look the same because it didnâ€™t matter which one Custer was, they were all enemies encroaching on Lakota territory and their way of life.â€
For those who canâ€™t make it to Tulsa, an online interactive allows users to scroll through the muslin and click on points of interest, which highlight this detail of individual warriors. Two Lakota members of the StokÃ YuhÃ (Bare Lance) Society hold crooked lances in their right hands, while a member of the MiwÃ¡tani Society has his red sash staked in the earth, a sign that he was going to stay and fight to the death. A member of the Brave Heart Society is â€œcounting coupâ€ with his eagle feather lance, an act of bravery that required a person to get close enough to hit an enemy by hand.