This classic photo profiles General George A. Custer with his wife, Elizabeth, at Fort Lincoln in Dakota Territory, two years before he met his waterloo at Little Big Horn. The slaughter that Custer and his cavalry walked into in 1876 was a shocking event that reverberated throughout the country in a time before media was truly mass. Custer’s fame, which was burnished continually by his wife after his death, was also enhanced by the brewery Anheuser-Busch, which commissioned a series of large-scale paintings of the general’s last stand and hung them in saloons and theaters in states all over the nation. A story of what occurred at the foot of the canvas in Detroit from the August 7, 1891 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle:
“A tall, venerable looking man stood upon the platform of the cyclorama of the battle of Big Horn yesterday afternoon and gazed long and earnestly upon the canvas. The old man was feeble, and as he leaned upon the ropes for support the hot tears coursed each other down his furrowed cheeks. The other spectators in his vicinity eyed him with a mix of sympathy and curiosity. Presently a crowd of survivors of the Sixth cavalry, which was commanded by George A. Custer during the war, came up the stairs. Just as the cyclorama lecturer began to tell in his monologue how Custer, his brothers Tom and Boston and his brother in law, Lieutenant Calhoun, had been slaughtered at Big Horn by the Sioux, the old man turned to go as though the narrative had no special interest for him, when one of the veterans, seizing his hand, exclaimed: ‘Why, old man, God bless you.’ Then, turning to his comrades, he ejaculated: ‘Boys, this is George A. Custer’s father.’ Instantly the white haired patriarch was surrounded by boys in blue, who fairly struggled for the privilege of grasping his hand.
‘I was with your son,’ said one, ‘when he made the raid out of Winchester and broke through Early’s line.’
‘I was with him in the First cavalry,’ said another, ‘when Tom, his brother, was shot in the mouth.’
‘I remember that engagement very well,’ replied the old man: ‘Tom brought the red necktie home that he wore on that day, and I’ve got it yet. The blood is on it still.’
There were tears in the eyes of many of the crowd that saw General Custer’s cavalry introducing themselves to the general ‘s venerable father. The latter is now 84 years old.”