Mrs. Custer Dead In Her 91st Year
(New York Times, April 5, 1933)
Mrs. Elizabeth Bacon Custer, widow of General George A. Custer, famous Indian fighter of post Civil War days, died at 5:30 yesterday afternoon in her apartment at 71 Park Avenue after a heart attack that occurred Sunday evening. She would have been 91 years old on Saturday. She had been in her usual health and good spirit lately and had indulged in occasional drives and short walks.
At Mrs. Custer's bedside yesterday were two nieces, Mrs. Charles W. Elmer of 14 Clark street, Brooklyn, and Miss Lula Custer, who had been summoned from her home on the old Custer farm at Monroe Mich., and Mr. Elmer.
It is expected that the funeral service will be held at West Point. Announcement of the arrangements will be made later.
For many years, almost up to the end of her long, eventful life, Mrs. Elizabeth Bacon Custer kept vividly alive the memories of the gallant cavalry commander, whose death in the Battle of Little Big Horn in Montana, in 1876, when his battalion was annihilated by the Indians, made one of the most tragic and dramatic pages of American history.
Mrs. Custer was born in Monroe, Mich., the daughter of Judge Daniel S. Bacon, where she led a peaceful and sheltered life until 1864, when she married "the boy General with the golden locks". Her youthful soldier husband, General Custer, was born in New Rumley, Harrison County, Ohio, and was graduated at West Point in 1861. At the time of their marriage, he had already served successfully and won promotion in the Civil War, after having arrived fresh from the front on the day of the first battle of Bull Run.
He was then a Brigadier General in command of a brigade of Michigan volunteer cavalry, which under his leadership became one of the most efficient and best-trained bodies of cavalry in the Federal Army. After their marriage Mrs. Custer trod the unfrequented path for a woman of open campaigning. She slept where she could, drank water that in her own words contained "natural History," and never dared confess to a headache, depression or fatigue.
She followed the General until the close of the Civil War. She was near him at Richmond, Va., when Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox. He was one of the officers in attendance on General Phil H. Sheridan, who bought the little table on which the conditions for the surrender of the Confederate Army were written by General Grant, and presented it to Mrs. Custer.
Indian Campaign in 1867
After the Civil War General Custer, who was still under 26, was transferred to Texas. As Lieutenant Colonel of the Seventh Cavalry, in 1867-68, he gained his first experience as an Indian fighter. For two years he was stationed with his regiment in Kentucky, and in the Spring of 1873 he was ordered to Dakota Territory to protect the surveyors of the Northern Pacific Railway while locating that line trough the Indian country west of the Missouri River.
Mrs. Custer personally attended her husband on many of his most daring expeditions against the Indians. This was the era of the covered wagon, when the transcontinental trek was made by stage, canal boat, prairie schooner and afoot, and there was prairie fire and ever-lurking Indian peril to contend with.
Steamer Brought News
Finally, at Fort Abraham Lincoln, at Bismarck, N.D., Mrs. Custer waited while General Custer joined a huge expeditionary force in a campaign against the Indians that General Sheridan hoped would be decisive. Three weeks after the massacre, when General Custer with his entire command of five companies of Seventh Cavalry, numbering 207, were annihilated in about twenty minutes by the redskins, a slow-moving steamer brought the tragic news from up the river.
Following her husband's death she wrote three books on his experiences, "Boots and Saddle, or Life With General Custer in Dakota," "Tenting on the Plains" and "Following the Guidon". This was a part of her fifty years and more task of defending his memory, around which controversy flamed. She lectured up and down the country and battled for his rights in Washington. In 1926 she expressed the feeling that the old wounds had been healed.
While the widow viewed the massacre at the Little Big Horn River in Montana as a terrible tragedy, she said at one time, that "perhaps it was necessary in the scheme of things, for the public clamor that rose after the battle resulted in better equipment for the soldiers everywhere, and very soon the Indian warfare came to its end".
Before neuritis interfered with her walking she was a famous figure on the sunny side of Park Avenue as she took leisurely strolls about the neighborhood. She frequented the Cosmopolitan Club, which is near her home. She is quoted as saying that the modern club is a consolation for the widow and old maid. On her walks she was accompanied by her companion, Mrs. Margaret Flood, who, with her husband, Patrick Flood, an ex-service man, where permanent fixtures in the household.
In addition to war relics her apartment contained many Colonial treasures. One of her greatest treasures was the first Confederation flag of truce. In her hall was a long photograph showing the unveiling of a statue to her husband's memory in Monroe, Neb.
(New York Times, April 5, 1933)
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