Rock Island Auction Company

Lot 138: George Armstrong Custer Autographed Photograph

Auction Date: August 26, 2022

Rare and Desirable, Historic Major General George Armstrong Custer Autographed Photograph

Price Realized:
Estimated Price: $7,500 - $12,000

Rare and Desirable, Historic Major General George Armstrong Custer Autographed Photograph

Manufacturer: None
Model: None
Type: Other
Item Views: 1045
Item Interest: Very Active
Catalog Page: 166
Class: Other

Born in New Rumley, Ohio on 5 December 1839, George Armstrong Custer would go on to become one of the more polarizing figures in American history. Custer entered West Point as a cadet in 1857 as part of the class of 1862, however with the outbreak of the Civil War, their five year course was shortened to four years, the class graduating in 1861, with George last in his class. He was known for pushing boundaries and bending the rules during his time at West Point, amassing one of the worst conduct records in the history of the academy with a tally of 726 demerits in only four years. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 2nd U.S. Cavalry and took part in various battles early in the war including; First Battle of Bull Run, the Peninsula Campaign, Siege of Yorktown, Battle of South Mountain, and the Battle of Antietam. In the summer of 1863 he was made aide to Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Pleasonton, who was command of the cavalry corps of the Army of the Potomac at the start of the Gettysburg Campaign. Pleasonton was soon promoted to major general and began replacing politically appointed officers with "commanders who were prepared to fight, to personally lead mounted attacks". Custer was just such a commander, being promoted to brigadier general and placed in command of the Michigan "Wolverines" Cavalry Brigade. Leading this brigade at the Battle of Gettysburg was when Custer's swift rise to fame truly began. On the third day of the battle, the Confederate forces under General Lee planned a massed infantry assault on the center of the Union line anchored on Cemetery Ridge, with coordinated attacks on each flank, one being led by the Confederacy's cavalry maestro, J.E.B. Stuart. Heavily outnumbered in the "East Cavalry Field", Custer personally led multiple cavalry charges by his Michigan cavalry, halting Stuart's advance and preventing the Confederate cavalry from attacking the Union center from the rear. Custer went on to lead in a multitude of battles during the war, receiving various promotions and demotions, and was present for the Confederate surrender at Appomattox, by which time he held the rank of brevete major general. It appears to be around the time between 13 March 1865 when he was breveted major general in the Regular Army and 26 July 1866 when he was reverted to a permanent rank of Lieutenant Colonel that Custer signed this photograph. This photograph which depicts a seated Custer in uniform, with major general rank on his shoulders, bears the stamp of Mathew Brady on the back, who operated a portrait studio in New York. Another famous photograph of Custer in the same uniform, cited as Brady's work, is also listed as having been taken in 1865. In the other photograph, Custer is wearing the hat which he is holding in this example, but they were likely taken in the same session. Just above the photographer's stamp on the back of this example, George Armstrong Custer has signed "GACuster/BTMjGnl". The autograph matches other known examples of Custer's signature. Custer went on to serve in the Indian War's in various roles, eventually culminating in the most defining event of his career, as well as one of the most polarizing events in U.S. military history, the Battle of Little Bighorn. At the Battle of Little Bighorn Custer and his entire command were annihilated by Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne forces, cementing his divisive legacy forever. Provenance: Mike Medhurst, George S. Lewis Jr

Rating Definition:

Very fine, showing a distinct image with a few scattered light stains and some very light edge wear. The back of the print shows some adhesive residue around the edges and minimal fading or wear to both the signature and the photographer's stamp. A rare chance to own the signature of one of the most well known generals in American military history, George Armstrong Custer.

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