Major General George
Commander, 3rd Cavalry Division
The annihilation of George Armstrong Custer and his command at the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876 overshadowed his outstanding victories during the Civil War. The abandonment with which he and his 266 men attacked 5,000 Sioux led by Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse was the same aggressiveness that was so amply rewarded by his superiors during the Civil War. George Armstrong Custer graduated last in the Class of 1861 of the United States Military Academy at West Point. He had not adjusted well to the rigid discipline and was almost expelled for too many demerits. He soon found his place in war at the First Battle of Bull Run. He served on the staff of General McClellan during the Peninsula Campaign and the Battle of Antietam and on the staff of General Pleasonton during the Chancellorsville Campaign. George Armstrong Custer was made a brevet brigadier general over a Michigan volunteer cavalry brigade. They helped stop the Confederate cavalry from turning General Meade's right flank at the Battle of Gettysburg. During General Grant's drive to Richmond, General Custer's cavalry encountered the Confederate cavalry at the Battle of Yellow Tavern, and Confederate General J. E. B. Stuart was killed. Next General Custer commanded the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Shenandoah. They played a major part in defeating Confederate General Early at the Battles of Winchester and Cedar Creek. George Armstrong Custer was promoted to brevet major general of volunteers for these victories. With the threat in the Shenandoah Valley neutralized, he returned to the Army of the Potomac. Victories at the Battle of Five Forks and during the Appomattox Campaign allowed General Custer to be among the few Union generals present when General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse.
George Armstrong Custer remained in the Union Army after the Civil War. He was lowered to his permanent rank of captain. He was assigned command of the new 7th Cavalry Regiment in Kansas in 1866 and given the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He was court martialed in 1867. Lieutenant Colonel Custer was found guilty of being absent without leave from an expedition against the Sioux and Cheyenne to make a 275 mile trip to visit his wife. He was also found guilty of having deserters shot without trials. He was sentenced to one year suspension from duty without pay. At the end of the suspension, he was returned to command of the 7th Cavalry Regiment. George Armstrong Custer lead many more campaigns against the Indians in the West until his death.
CLICK TO RETURN TO OTHER SOLDIERS' STORIES