June 25th, 1876 – Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn

Today-In-History

George Armstrong Custer (December 5, 1839 – June 25, 1876) was a United States Army officer and cavalry commander in the American Civil War and the American Indian Wars. Raised in Michigan and Ohio, Custer was admitted to West Point in 1858, where he graduated last in his class. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Custer was called to serve with the Union Army.

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Custer developed a strong reputation during the Civil War. He fought in the first major engagement, the First Battle of Bull Run. His association with several important officers helped his career, as did his success as a highly effective cavalry commander. Custer was eventually promoted to the temporary rank (brevet) of major general and promoted major general of Volunteers. (At war’s end, he reverted to his permanent rank of captain.) At the conclusion of the Appomattox Campaign, in which he and his troops played a decisive role, Custer was present at General Robert E. Lee‘s surrender.

After the Civil War, Custer was dispatched to the west to fight in the American Indian Wars and appointed lieutenant colonel of the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment where he and all his men were killed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Known to Lakota as the Battle of the Greasy Grass, and commonly referred to as Custer’s Last Stand, the battle was an armed engagement between combined forces of the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes, against the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army. The battle, which occurred June 25th–26th, 1876, near the Little Bighorn River in eastern Montana Territory, was the most prominent action of the Great Sioux War of 1876.

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It was an overwhelming victory for the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho, led by several major war leaders, including Crazy Horse and Chief Gall, inspired by the visions of Sitting Bull (Tȟatȟáŋka Íyotake). The U.S. 7th Cavalry, including the Custer’s Battalion, a force of 700 men, suffered a severe defeat. Five of the 7th Cavalry’s twelve companies were annihilated. On June 25th, 1876 Custer was killed, as were two of his brothers, a nephew, and a brother-in-law. The total U.S. casualty count, including scouts, was 268 dead and 55 injured.


 

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