General Custer’s mysterious ‘Little Bighorn’ Jacket could bring $300,000

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2015-06-26 10:59:22

Bloodstained elk skin jacket may be the coat Custer was shot in at the Battle of Little Bighorn

It may require a certain leap of faith, but the upcoming Rock Island Auction Company sale could offer bidders the chance to own General Custer’s Little Bighorn jacket.

The fringed elk-skin jacket, carefully embroidered with silk, features two blood-stained bullet holes – and comes complete with a fascinating back story.

It was passed down through the family of John. A. Dietzen, whose father is said to have won the coat from a Native American Indian during a shooting match in the late 19th century. Dietzen told the tale in a letter written in 1958:

"…my father brought the coat back from the West when he returned in 1880. He told my mother, and the story was repeated to me in later years, that he had won the coat in a shooting match from a friendly Indian. The Indian was one of those employed by the U.S. Army for Scout work. He was one of the group who trapped and killed Sitting Bull following the death of General Custer. He told my father that the coat had been taken by Sitting Bull from General Custer who was wearing it at the time he was killed… It is impossible to establish an authentic history of the coat. I have only the above family history and my father's army discharge papers which definitely place him in service at the time of General Custer's death."

If this story is true, the jacket could be regarded as one of the most valuable artefacts in the history of the American Old West – and worth far more than its estimated value of $300,000. As it stands, the jacket is simply a superb example of Native American craftsmanship with an incredible story attached.

The Rock Island Auction Company has openly stated that bidders should decide whether they believe the story or not. Laurence Thomson, Executive Director of Operations, states:

“While the documentation accompanying the jacket is not a slam dunk, it certainly presents a compelling case. I can’t tell you how many times in this business we are approached by individuals who claim to own Ben Franklin’s bifocals, Abraham Lincoln’s axe, or General Robert E. Lee’s sword. Rarely do the items even look the part let alone have any documentation or provenance to back up their claim. This jacket is not only of the period and style but is accompanied by enough evidence to certainly be plausible. Items from the Battle of the Little Bighorn have sold for millions at public auction. Since we cannot say for certain, we want to simply present the facts, and the let buyers make up their own mind.”

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