|The American Civil
War, George Armstrong Custer (1839 - 1876)
Edited by: Robert Guisepi
Thank you to Shotgun's Home
of the American Civil War for this fine work.
Although better known for his Indian fighting, George Custer
compiled a creditable record as a cavalry leader in the latter part
of the Civil War. Graduating at the bottom of his West Point (1861)
class, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the old 2nd
Cavalry, later the 5th, on June 24, 1861.
His Civil War assignments included: first lieutenant, 5th Cavalry
July 17, 1862); captain and additional aide-de-camp, USA June 5,1862
- March 31, 1863); brigadier general, USV June 29, 1863); commanding
2nd Brigade, 3rd Division, Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac June
28 - July 15 and August 4 November 25, 1863 and December 20, 1863 -
January 7, 1864); temporarily commanding the division July 15 -
August 4 and November 25 - December 20, 1863); commanding lst
Brigade, lst Division, Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac (March 25
- August 6, 1864) and Army of the Shenandoah (August 6 -September
26, 1864); temporarily commanding 2nd Cavalry Division, Army of West
Virginia serving with the Army of the Shenandoah (September 26-30,
1864); commanding 3rd Division, Cavalry Corps, Army of the
Shenandoah (September 30, 1864 - January 5, 1865 and January 30 -
March 25, 1865) and Army of the Potomac (March 25 - May 22, 1865);
and major general, USV (April 15, 1865).
Serving during the first two war years on the staffs of Generals
McClellan and Pleasonton, Custer saw action in the Peninsular,
Antietam, and Chancellorsville campaigns. Given his own star, he was
assigned command of the Michigan cavalry brigade and, with it, took
part in the Gettysburg, Bristoe, and Mine Run campaigns.
At Gettysburg he remained with General Gregg east of town to face
jeb Stuart's threat to the Union rear, although he was previously
ordered to the south. The combined Union force defeated Stuart.
In Grant's Richmond drive in 1864, Custer participated in the fight
at Yellow Tavern where Stuart was mortally wounded.
Transferred to the Shenandoah Valley with his men, he played a major
role in the defeat of Early's army at Winchester and Cedar Creek,
commanding a division at the latter.
Returning to the Army of the Potomac in early 1865, he fought at
Five Forks; and in the Appomattox Campaign. His victories against
the rebel cavalry came at a time when that force was a ghost of its
former self Custer was brevetted in the regulars through grades to
major general for Gettysburg, Yellow Tavern, Winchester, Five Forks,
and the Appomattox Campaign. In addition he was brevetted major
general of volunteers for Winchester.
Remaining in the army after the war, in 1866 he was appointed Lt.
Col. of the newly authorized 7th Cavalry, remaining its active
commander until his death. He took part in the 1867 Sioux and
Cheyenne expedition, but was court-martialed and suspended from duty
one year for paying an unauthorized visit to his wife. His army
career ended June 25, 1876, at the battle of Little Big Horn, which
resulted in the extermination of his immediate command and a total
loss of some 266 officers and men. On June 28th, the bodies were
given a hasty burial on the field. The following year, what may have
been Custer's remains were disinterred and given a military funeral
at West Point.
(Monaghan, Jan, Custer: The Life of George Armstrong Custer)
World History Project