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.