Top five George Custer memorabilia
Top five George Custer memorabilia
Best remembered for his 'last stand', George Custer's memorabilia reveals more of the military man
General George Armstrong Custer is best remembered today for his calamitous attempts at the Battle of Little Bighorn, which took place on June 25, 1876 and led to his death at the hands of Native American warriors.
However, he established his strong military reputation during the US civil war and had already achieved great things by the time the battle took place. He also led several expeditions into Sioux territory, backed by his famous7th Cavalry.
We took a look at some of the finest memorabilia from his life, which reveals more of the details that made up this great military leader:
- Ambrotype photograph
Custer mimics Napoleon's most famous pose, a move that was likely intentional given his huge aspirations
This is perhaps the single most important photograph of George Custer ever to come to the market. An original half-plate ambrotype, it was taken in September 1863 by William Frank Browne.
In June 1863, Custer had just became a brigadier general, having graduated from West Point a year early (1861) to meet the Union Army's need for trained officers as the civil war broke out.
He stands, obviously proud of his achievements, with his hand tucked inside his jacket, reflecting Napoleon's most famous pose. From what we have learned of Custer's personality, it is likely that this move was intentional.
There are only two images from the session surviving, with the other safely housed in the Smithsonian. This example sold at Heritage Auctions in December 2007 for $83,650.
- Custer's bib shirt
The shirt can be seen in the famous photograph of Custer during his Yellowstone expedition
This bib shirt was recently sold in Heritage Auctions' June 22-23 Legends of the Wild West auction for $56,762.
It is valued by collectors not only as a personally worn item from one of America's military heroes, but also as Custer wore it during his famous Yellowstone Expedition of 1873 as well ashis expedition in the Black Hills in 1873.
It was Custer's ventures into Sioux territory that triggered the great Sioux war of 1876, as well as the gold rush in the Black Hills, after he and his men discovered huge deposits on what was thought to be undesirable, arid land.
- Custer's saddle
Always one to buck the trend, Custer had his saddle modified to meet the Western style
As commander of the7th Cavalry, Custer spent most of his time on horseback, whether it was leading the charge into battle or steadily voyaging into unknown territories.
His McClellan saddle from the Indian Wars period has been modified, reflecting its versatile usage. Originally in the style used for years by cavalry officers, it was changed to the Western style favoured by cowboys when spending long hours on a horse on rough terrain.
The saddle sold for $113,525 as part of the June 2012 Legends of the Wild West Auction at Heritage.
- Spencer carbine rifle
Custer wrote in his autobiography: 'Leaping from my bed I grabbed my trusty Spencer, which was always by my side.'
George Custer was truly dedicated to his military career, and would have rarely slept without his rifle near to hand.
So, it is no wonder that collectors propelled his personal Spencer carbine rifle to a 258.5% increase on estimate at Heritage's December 2012 auction.
The gun sold for $179,250, bearing "G.Custer - 7 Cav USA" carved into its stock. It also boasted excellent provenance, having once been part of the collection of Dr Lawrence A Frost, one of the world's most prominent collectors of Custer memorabilia.
- Custer's last flag
The tattered remains of Custer's last battle flag were found on the battlefield days after his death
Flags from any of the great battles in America's history are highly sought after, but few so much as General Custer's final guidon, which was taken into battle at Little Bighorn.
The swallow-tailed flag appeared in a Sotheby's auction in 2010, having been housed at the Detroit Institute of Arts for 115 years.
It sold for $2.2m to become the most valuable piece of Custer memorabilia ever sold.
The flag was originally discovered just days after the battle by Sgt Ferdinand Culbertson, who then gave it to Rose Fowler, the wife of a soldier.
After her husband died, Fowler sold the guidon to the Detroit museum for $54 - a sum that had to be raised with the help of the public.
Paul Fraser Collectibles is currently offering an authentic strand of hair from the Apache leader Geronimo.