Who: George Armstrong Custer
What: United States Army officer
Where: Born New Rumley, Ohio; died Little Bighorn, Montana
Why: His service in the American Civil War overshadowed by his Last Stand at Little Bighorn
When: Born December 5, 1839; died June 25, 1876
“I would be willing, yes glad, to see a battle every day during my life” – George Armstrong Custer
George Armstrong Custer had a busy life before his premature death at Little Bighorn. After growing up in Michigan and Ohio, he attended West Point, graduating last in his class of 34 a year early due to the outbreak of the Civil War. As a cavalry officer, he fought in the First Battle of Bull Run, the Peninsula Campaign, the Battles of Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Yellow Tavern, Trevilian Station, the Valley Campaigns of 1864, the Siege of Petersburg and finally, played a crucial role at Appomattox, where he was present when Lee finally surrendered. Throughout the war, Custer excelled, uncharacteristically avoiding injury and becoming a darling of the press due to his exuberance and flamboyance, and his impressive cavalry tactics. He became known for his daring and his bravery. After the war ended, Custer stayed with the US Army to fight in the Indian Wars, fighting the Cheyenne and Lakota as America pushed west. In June 1876, Custer’s luck ran out; leading the 7th Cavalry against Sitting Bull at the Battle of Little Bighorn. Despite being warned by scouts, Custer’s forces were wiped out by between 1,800 and 2,000 braves. He achieved the fame he had always craved – but not as a military hero, but as a reckless, incompetent fool. The debacle became known as Custer’s Last Stand, a far cry from the stellar service he had displayed during the Civil War.