Category Archives: Fun Facts

Was George Armstrong Custer Undone By Native Americans — Or American Politics?

The Native Americans that Americans continued to push away from their own lands were fearsome adversaries even after the majority were wiped out by disease (both accidentally and by biological warfare). But few would argue against the idea that the American political arena can be just as dangerous if you’re not up to the task. According to Pulitzer Prize-winning author T.J. Stiles, General George Armstrong Custer certainly fit into the latter category.

Stiles said that “[Custer’s wife] told him to stay out of politics. On the battlefield he knew his limits. In politics he didn’t have the same sense.” And let’s face it: Many historians would argue he didn’t have sense in either arena.

Stiles explained to a group of 100 history buffs that Custer was not without fault in nearly every venture undertaken. He was a Democrat (which were more like the Republicans of today), and that led to significant problems he didn’t foresee.

Professional debt relief resources like the Fullman Firm simply didn’t exist in the late 1800s when Custer met his match on the battlefield. Custer’s penchant for adventure and risk-taking didn’t only lead to his demise — they led to an exorbitant amount of debt to the tune of $9,000. That hefty sum of money — even larger when he died — was left unpaid. 

Part of those debts was attributed to a love of gambling. 

Stiles said, “He had a lot of intellectual interests. He was an enthusiast and was intrigued by things. He was fascinated by science.”

Some of the audience attendees were repeat visitors to Monroe, where Stiles gave his talk. One was Pittsburgh resident Theresa Zapata, who said, “I love this town. I love history and if you love history, this is the place to be.”

Others came out of an interest in the Civil War, which was also a heavy topic of discussion. Casey Granton of West Bloomfield said, “I thought [the presentation] was terrific. I’ve read a lot of books on Custer. When I found out [Stiles] was a Pulitzer Prize winner, I definitely wanted to read this one.

Stiles acknowledged the wide gap between what the public believes about Custer and what actually was real. Stiles said, “To the public, he became this romantic figure. He really became a national icon.”

Politically, Custer ventured into discussions about slavery and rebellion. Those were big mistakes according to Stiles. You might be surprised to know that in Stiles’ eyes, Custer very much respected the Native Americans with whom he was at war. At the end of the day, though, he did his duty because he knew that the United States would need the land to flourish in the future.

Stiles said, “Almost anything you say about Custer is controversial. He was a hometown hero.”

It was in Monroe where he did much of the research for his book. “I got tremendous help when I was here,” he said.

Was George Armstrong Custer Interested In Becoming President?

George Armstrong Custer was a man of many talents (or lack thereof) and it seems like there was no hole too deep to dig. He gambled away the massive sum of $9,000 before his death at Little Bighorn, jumped into politics before he was ready, and bit off more than he could chew on the battlefield. And as it turns out, he may have wanted to strive for even greater heights — like the presidency of the United States.

Is it crazy to think that the man might have achieved this ambition in some bizzaro alternate reality where he didn’t die on the battlefield?

Well, after 2016 we should have all revised our expectations of what is or is not possible, even when seemingly implausible — and this is especially true when you consider that Custer was widely considered a media personality.

Custer made many political maneuvers through the military, not the least of which was defying then-President Grant’s orders to announce that gold had been found in the Dakota Black Hills. Grant considered Custer’s insubordination merely a chance to increase his own notoriety in the public eye.

Historian H.W. Brands said, “Custer had a following on his own. Members of Congress would invite him to come speak and he would persuade them. In some ways, he had political clout that Grant and Sherman didn’t. They outranked him but Custer had a following.”

There were certain stepping stones to the presidency even back then, and Brands explains that it was military operations like the Battle of Little Bighorn that were meant to propel him to the top: “Custer was a very ambitious man. He thinks if he goes out West, defeats the Indians…Everyone sees him as a great hero…and now he can position himself as the next commander and chief.”

Custer got himself killed, perhaps in pursuit of those lofty aspirations. Whoops.

Montana Town Near Little Bighorn River Sold In 2012

You might not think that an entire town can be sold at auction, but in fact it can. Especially when the town has only two residents (who lived together), a single home, and immense historical value. Garryowen rests near the Little Bighorn River, most notable for being the final battlegrounds of General George Armstrong Custer and his men — who were all slaughtered there after picking a fight with Native Americans they could not possibly win.

Chris Kortlander bought the town near the Little Bighorn Battlefield all the way back in 1993 after a wildfire destroyed his Malibu, California property. It measured 7.7 acres. 

Kortlander said, “The only thing I had were the clothes on my back.”

(Or so the story goes — but we’ll take that with a grain of salt since you have to make some big bucks to live comfortably in Malibu, and that probably means a decent pack of insurance).

After the death of his first wife from breast cancer, Kortlander needed the money — and his own health was also failing.

At auction, the first bid stood at $250,000. Kortlander probably had a mild heart attack since he had previously placed the property on eBay for a whopping $7 million only one year earlier. The “economy” of the two-resident town was built around a combined gas station and convenience store, which were also up for auction. A historical manuscript collection written by Elizabeth Bacon Custer — George’s wife — was also at auction.

Elizabeth had written at least three books describing what it was like to be married to a man like Custer, and it’s these books that likely contribute to the fascination historians still have over the man who died over a century ago.

Assistant Museum Curator at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center (Cody, Wyoming) Lynn Houze said, “Libbie went on a mission to salvage his good name and to refurbish his reputation.”

But interestingly, Kortlander had a love letter that was written to Custer by a woman who was obviously not his wife. A translation of this letter was unavailable for publication. But according to Kortlander, it represents evidence of a historically significant affair. 

Garryowen is also a nickname for the doomed 7th Cavalry Regiment that Custer led into battle that fateful day. This name was adopted because of the Irish tune after the same name used for the march. 

The 7th Cavalry was historically important even after Little Bighorn (of course the soldiers were fresher in subsequent years). The 7th participated in World War I and II after transitioning to become part of the 1st Cavalry Division. They continued the fight in the Korean War as well. Then the Gulf War. And then the War on Terror. Oh, they are busy little bees. 

During the Indian Wars, the 7th fought took part in the Yellowstone Expedition, The Black Hills Expedition, Yellowstone, the Nez Perce War, the Crow War, the Ghost Dance War, and various skirmishes along the Mexican Border.

Belknap Impeachment Trial (UPDATE)

When we published a piece about the Belknap impeachment trial back in November, we could hardly have predicted that it might become relevant to current events only two months later (okay, so maybe we could — it is Trump who made it relevant, after all). You will recall that General George Armstrong Custer had leveled some fairly serious accusations at both Belknap, who was Secretary of War, and President Grant’s brother, before he himself was called to testify during an investigation into corruption charges made by a Democratic senator.

The very morning that impeachment was floated as a potential remedy to the alleged corruption, Belknap went to President Grant, confessed his crimes, and resigned. But no one asked whether or not that meant they couldn’t go on ahead with the investigation and impeachment — as many Republicans are now doing in response to former President Donald J. Trump’s upcoming trial.

The House of Representatives unanimously impeached Belknap, who was no longer in office. This precedent is probably one of the reasons that President Nixon resigned before he could be impeached. He would have known that the potential for his impeachment was still there, but that the chances would be significantly reduced, especially for a country that simply wanted to move on from the controversy.

Trump may have been too stubborn to resign after his second impeachment, but the Belknap precedent remains relevant today simply because Trump is no longer in office. But one detail often left out of the debate about whether or not a trial should commence is the fact that Trump was in office when he was impeached. And once a president is impeached, the Senate is legally obligated to conduct a trial. To do anything else would be to ignore their oaths of office.

Also noteworthy is the fact that the majority of the Senate voted to convict Belknap on five separate articles of impeachment. But they missed the two-thirds benchmark needed to find an impeached official guilty, and he was thus acquitted of the charges. He was not prosecuted outside of Congress.

Was Major General George Armstrong Custer A Devout Pet Lover?

When we discuss Major General George Armstrong Custer in the context of American history, it’s almost impossible to do so without mentioning the Battle of the Little Bighorn (hint hint). But the man was more than one battle. He lived his life gaining the attention of both his superior officers and those who served underneath him. More than that, he gained the attention of dozens of dogs — all of which he loved.

Documentation is scarce before Custer’s time in the Civil War, but we know a little of what came next. His first dog after the war was Byron, an English Greyhound. When he and his wife, Libby, were living in Hempstead, Texas (where he was stationed at the time), the dog came into his life. 

Not long thereafter, Custer’s friends gifted him one or two hunting dogs — Scottish Staghounds (or Deerhounds). He fell in love.

During his time in Hempstead, he could have been called a collector of the animals. By the time he and his wife picked up and moved to Austin, Texas, they had acquired a whopping 23 dogs at least. Back then they weren’t spayed or neutered, of course, and so when new dogs were born, they quickly became a part of the family.

One story describes Ginnie, a setter who gave birth while they were in Austin. A few of the puppies were struggling. Custer apparently nursed them to health, walking with them until they were as strong and as fit as the others.

Custer’s favorites were the young, strong dogs he used for hunting antelope or buffalo.

According to notes from before the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Custer tried to send his dogs back home with Libby. This was unusual as Custer usually kept a number with him even when traveling or on missions. Some historians interpreted this as an acknowledgment that the mission was both important and dangerous. But several of the dogs went along anyway.

We may never know what became of the dogs who joined him for his last adventure, but we do know that Custer had asked a soldier under his command to keep the dogs as he went into battle.

Owning a pet can come with risks, because sometimes pets lash out and attack their masters or passers-by. Have you been accused of a crime or injured because of a pet attack or someone else’s negligence? Valiente Law is a criminal attorney Miami law firm specializing in criminal law, DUI, personal injury, and family law. Call today for a consultation!

Was General George Armstrong Custer Guilty Of Sex Crimes?

The life of General George Armstrong Custer and his inevitably violent demise at the Battle of the Little Bighorn remain fascinating subjects even today, in part because historians continue to debate over the many myths and realities faced by those who fought in the battle over a century ago. Depending on whose version of history you read, Custer may have actually raped a Native American girl and fathered a child by her. Is there any truth to this rumor?

Part of the myth comes from Custer’s own words. His work on My Life on the Plains described a Cheyenne prisoner who was taken captive after the Battle of the Washita in November 1868.

“Little Rock’s daughter was an exceedingly comely squaw, possessing a bright, cheery face, a countenance beaming with intelligence, and a disposition more inclined to be merry than one usually finds among the Indians,” he wrote. 

“She was probably rather under than over 20 years of age. Added to bright, laughing eyes, a set of pearly teeth, and a rich complexion, her well-shaped head was crowned with a luxuriant growth of the most beautiful silken tresses, rivaling in color the blackness of the raven and extending, when allowed to fall loosely over her shoulders, to below her waist.”

His description only continues from there. Does Custer sound like he’s smitten? Maybe he does, but this is hardly enough to implicate Custer in a sex crime, especially when we know he wasn’t the most reliable of narrators. Perhaps he only wanted his readers to understand the potential beauties to be found in Native American society, or perhaps he only wanted them to believe he was capable of seeing that beauty. 

If he did engage in sexual relations with the girl, can we really know for a fact that they were forced? Certainly not. Under the circumstances it may have been an extramarital, but consensual, affair. Most contemporary historians seem to agree that Custer likely had no relationship with the girl — an assumption based partly on the strong currents of white supremacy during the time period.

Those who do subscribe to the notion that he fathered a “yellow-haired” interracial child with the young Native American girl believe Custer precipitously abandoned the pair as soon as his wife came calling.

Truly, we’ll never really know exactly what Custer’s thoughts were, or what his motivations for writing what he did. Sex crimes in the 19th century were surely at least as common as they are today, but it’s difficult to ascertain the extent of the culture from the resources we have available. Are you the victim of sex crimes in Houston? The Ceja Law Firm can help.

The Mutilation Of Custer And His Troops

We often discuss the tactically inept decisions made by Custer before the Battle of the Little Bighorn without scrutinizing the uglier details of the battle itself. It’s not that much of a surprise. We want to know what went wrong or what would have happened if things had gone differently that day. What do we care if an arrow shaft was forced up Custer’s penis after the battle was over? Oh, wait, we do.

Certainly, it was common for Native Americans to mutilate the bodies of their dead enemies, but probably not for the reasons you think. Most of us are probably led to believe that the tribes were made up of fearsome warriors, sadistic butchers who were far enough removed from the comforts of civilization that they could do such a thing as shove an arrow up a man’s…well, you get the picture. But that’s not the way it was.

Sure, the Native Americans were fearsome warriors. Many of the longest-lasting, most oft-remembered cultures and civilizations on earth were made up of the same. We can’t speak of the Roman Empire without exploring the military prowess of its legions–or the butchery that they routinely committed.

The Native Americans didn’t butcher their fallen foes for want of blood and glory. They did it because they too believed in an afterlife, and they believed that mutilating their enemies in this world would prevent them from becoming a threat in the next. They were violent with us because we were violent with them.

Mutilation took many forms. Everyone knows about scalping, but it often went beyond that. It didn’t always occur after death, either. Some tribes–such as the Comanche–wanted to make a point. Matilda Lockhart described her rape and torture in the months she was held captive before a deal was made for her release. These are the stories that persevere, even though the Comanche were quite different in their interactions with white settlers than most other tribes, and even helped exterminate some of those tribes.

It’s up for debate whether or not the Native Americans responsible for mutilating Custer would have even recognized the man or known who he was, but we focus on that detail when we talk about it at all. Everyone was treated similarly; not just Custer. Then again, all we have to go on are the uncorroborated stories and reports introduced decades later.

None of the stories are ever so simple when entertained without context.

Hollywood’s Depiction of The Battle of Little Bighorn

There have been over 30 movies and several television films that document the events of Custer’s Last Stand in 1876 during The Battle of Little Bighorn during The Great Sioux War. George Armstrong Custer was a cavalry commander tasked with removing a group of Native Americans from The Black Hills in South Dakota. Unfortunately, Custer was greeted by thousands of Indians. Rather than retreating, he fought on leading his troop of 210 men to death.

The first Hollywood depiction was a silent film in 1912 entitled Custer’s Last Fight, directed and starring Francis Ford as Custer. In 1936, the first “talkie” was produced about Custer’s Last Stand. The film starred Frank McGlynn Jr and was produced by Poverty Row Studio. The movie was well received despite having many historical inaccuracies. The same year, famed director Cecil B. DeMille also directed The Plainsman, a film that fictionalized famous people from the west including General Custer. Custer was played by John Miljan.

In 1940, Santa Fe Trail a movie that has nothing to do with The Battle of Little Bighorn was released. The film had a subplot revolving around Custer attempting to woo Kit Carson Holliday who is not based on a real person. The reason why this movie is significant is that Custer was played by former (but not yet) President Ronald Reagan. This movie is constantly confused with the 1941 movie They Died With Their Boots On in which Errol Flynn starred as Custer. This is because both movies had the same leading woman. However, this movie is actually about General Custer’s life from the military academy to the civil war to his last stand. But it is still considered a highly fictionalized version according to a criminal attorney Odessa.

In the 1950s, the story began to portray Native Americans in a more sympathetic light with films such as the 1954 film Sitting Bull and the 1958 Disney film Tonka. In Sitting Bull, the story follows a soldier who is outraged by the treatment of Indians. In Tonka, a native American (played by white actor Sal Mineo) trains a horse that ends up being used by the US Calvary against his own people. Custer was played by Douglas Kennedy and Britt Lomond respectively.

The mythic quality of Custer has made him a character that appeals to every generation as we will never know exactly what happened at Little Bighorn. He’s been featured in art, featured in music and the subject of many novels and video games. Whether he is an Indian sympathizer or Indian murderer will forever be debated.

Were Soldiers Scalped at The Battle of The Little Bighorn?

Scalping is a brutal form of torture and murder practiced throughout history and by no means a Native American invention. The technique by which a person was scalped depended on how the scalper was taught. Among the Native Americans it varied from tribe to tribe. Each had its own method, but other factors were in play as well. Shape of the scalp. Size and purpose. How did the victim wear his or her hair?

Individuals chosen for scalping were usually dead or dying, and some survivors have actually described the process as relatively painless, even though the methodology seems to make a lack of pain impossible. Two semicircular cuts are made on either side of the scalp, and then the skin is torn away by grasping at the hair. Ironically, Native Americans acquired more precise instruments that were eventually called “scalping knives” from the European settlers themselves.

Is it possible to survive a scalping?

Believe it or not some people did survive after receiving prompt medical attention. The treatments for such a wound are mostly obscure, but the idea behind any such surgery is obvious. In order to stand a good chance of survival, a person must be allowed to regrow their lost skin. It is thought that the slow process must have included the puncturing of the diploe, a layer of spongy bone between the inner and outer layers of the skull. This allowed blood to blow, and new spots of skin to slowly regenerate the layer of lost dermis.

Was custer scalped?

Perhaps he was, but perhaps not. The Native Americans who killed him had no idea that anyone of note was heading the army of men. They would not have recognized him even if they had known he was there, even though many stories seem to say otherwise. Custer’s body was found with two fatal wounds–bullets to the head and heart.

When the slaughtered men who fought under Custer were discovered by General Terry a full two days later, most bore mutilations. The majority were stripped and scalped. Lieutenant Edward S. Godfrey said that an arrow had been forced up the shaft of Custer’s penis. Whether or not this is true is of course up for scholarly debate!

Custer’s body and that of his brother were buried shallowly there on the battlefield. They were rediscovered a year later. Their bones had been scavenged and scattered by animals.

Fun Fact: General Custer Scented His Hair With Cinnamon Oil

Hipster General Custer

General Custer was ahead of his time when it came to his knowledge of skincare, haircare, and style. The General was once referred to as flamboyant, at the least. When Custer wasn’t in the middle of a bloody war, his sense of style was tip-top. He was known for wearing elegant coats, spurs on his boots, a scarf around his neck, that usually matched the rest of his outfit, and his flowing golden locks. He often scented his hair with cinnamon oil, which kept it spicy.

He may not have known it, but Custer was ahead of his time when it came to hair care and beauty. Cinnamon is now a common beauty applicant that has a variety of uses. One of the most applicable beauty techniques to General Custer’s habits, is the relationship between cinnamon and hair. Cinnamon is considered by many beauty experts as a homemade and natural way to make your hair spicy by either stimulate your hair growth or to lighten the color of your hair.

How is Cinnamon Oil Used as a Hair Product?

One of the most common ways cinnamon oil is used as a hair product is a hair growth stimulant. In order to stimulate hair growth with cinnamon, you must create a cinnamon masque from mixing cinnamon with honey and olive or coconut oil. The next step is to apply the masque to your scalp weekly. Over time, your hair will begin to grow at a more rapid rate.

Another way that cinnamon oil is used as a hair product is a hair dye. The mixture of honey and cinnamon contains natural agents that lighten your hair, like lemon juice, without drying it out. When applying the mixture, try not to get it on your scalp to avoid burns from the cinnamon which is a heating agent. You may need to apply this product once per week for maximum results.

Cinnamon is great for your hair. Even if you do not intend to lighten or grow your hair, it can be applied to regenerate and promote the health of your hair. The cinnamon application is known to reduce frizz, reduce dandruff, moisturize and soften, and makes your hair shine. Cinnamon has been used as a hair care agent for many years. If you have always admired General Custer’s hair, now you know his secret. Find a recipe and try it out for yourself.