On this day, 150 years ago, George Armstrong Custer was promoted to the rank of Second Lieutenant, when he graduated from the U. S. Military Academy. He served in the Second Cavalry and was assigned duty in the Army of the Potomac. The Second Cavalry was engaged in most cavalry actions during the course of the Civil War.
His services to the Union Army earned him six brevets. He advanced from Major to Major-General and by the time he’d turned 26, he was a Major-General of Volunteers. This proved to be a rare distinction for a man of his age.
According to his friend, Captain Shaff, who served with Custer as a cadet at the Academy, “From the day he joined the army at Bull Run until he made his final Charge, he brought to the execution of his duties an enthusiasm with which an officer cannot fail to be distinguished, and without which no cause has ever succeeded. It is not eulogy to declare he had genius, —it is plain, forcible fact; nor is it eulogy to pay his greatness the honor that it never gave room to jealousy; nor is it yielding overmuch to enthusiasm to say, as a leader of a charge he was matchless.”
After the war, he fought on the western border against the Native American tribes, his marches and battles graphically sketched in newspaper articles of the day, displaying him as an admired and dashing cavalryman.
According to his wife, “…His eyes were blue, his hair and mustache of a golden tint. He was a man of immense strength and endurance, and, as he used neither liquor nor tobacco, his physical condition was perfect through all the hardships of his life….”
George Armstong Custer died June 25, 1876, killed in battle, on the Little Big Horn River, Montana Territory, at the age of 37.
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