The Culbertson Guidon is the only flag not captured by the Native Americans at the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876. It is one of only three flags that still survive from the battle. It became the most expensive flag in the world when it sold for $2.2 million in December 2010.
The Battle of Little Big Horn
The battle, also known by Native Americans as the Battle of the Greasy Grass, pitted the Native American tribes of the Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho against the US Seventh cavalry. It is famous for General Custer’s last stand.
Custer and 258 men of the Seventh Cavalry were killed in the battle, which took place in modern-day Montana.
The 33 by 27 inch silk guidon features 34 gold stars. It is extensively frayed and torn with some running of colour and evidence of bloodstains. A patch is missing, which includes the 35th star. This is in itself unusual, as at the time of the battle there were 37 states.
Of the 14 flags of the Seventh Cavalry that fought in the battle, only three survive. This flag is from General Custer’s own Company C.
The flag was found beneath the body of a soldier by Sergeant Ferdinand Culbertson, who was responsible for the burial of the dead soldiers. It was the only flag not captured by the Native Americans.
Culbertson gave the flag to Charles and Rose Fowler of Detroit in around 1880. The flag was then purchased for $54 thanks to a public contribution in 1895. It remained in storage at the Detroit Institute of Arts Museum until 2010.
The guidon was sold at a Sotheby’s auction in New York for $2.2 million in December 2010. It was bought by a US private collector.
"This immortal battle flag represents the spirit, the bravery and the tragedy of one of the most dramatic moments in American history," said David Redden, Sotheby's vice chairman.
"Battle-worn and bullet-torn, the Culbertson Guidon conjures the ferocity of that terrible battle."
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