George Armstrong Custer (December 5, 1839 – June 25, 1876) was a United States Army officer and cavalry commander in the American Civil War and the American Indian Wars.
Raised in Michigan and Ohio, Custer was admitted to West Point in 1857, where he graduated last in his class in 1861. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Custer was called to serve with the Union Army.
Custer developed a strong reputation during the Civil War. He participated in the first major engagement, the First Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861, near Washington, D.C. His association with several important officers helped his career, as did his success as a highly effective cavalry commander. During the war, Custer was eventually promoted to captain of the U.S. Army (May 1864), and to the temporary ranks of (brevet) major general of the U.S. Army (March 1865) and major general of the U.S. Volunteers (April 1865) at age 25. At the conclusion of the Appomattox Campaign, in which he and his troops played a decisive role, Custer was present at General Robert E. Lee’s surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865.
After the Civil War, Custer remained a major general in the U.S. Volunteers until they were mustered out by February 1866. He reverted to his permanent rank of captain and was appointed a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment, in July 1866. He was dispatched to the west in 1867 to fight in the American Indian Wars. On June 25, 1876, while leading the 7th at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in Montana against a coalition of Native American tribes, he and all of his battalion, which included two of his brothers, were killed. The battle is popularly known in American history as “Custer’s Last Stand.” Custer and his regiment were defeated so decisively at the Little Bighorn that it has overshadowed all of his prior achievements.
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