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Lot # 1454 (of 1594)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1876 George Custer ALS - Just Six Days Before Leaving For Little Big Horn - His Last Autograph?

Starting Bid - $1,000.00, Sold For - $5,581.25

One-page handwritten letter, dating just one month prior to "The Battle of the Little Big Horn," signed by George Custer (1839-1876), American army officer. The letter, dated May 11, 1876, is written in response to a request for an autograph and reads in full: "As I cannot favor Miss Lillian with a verse, will she accept this with the autograph of G. A. Custer - U.S. Army." Both the text and signature have been penned in black fountain pen and grade "9." Just six days after writing this letter, on May 17, 1876, Custer rode out with the 7th Cavalry from Fort Lincoln into the Black Hills, Dakota Territory, there to meet his destiny. The goal of the expedition was to engage and defeat a group of Native American Indians who refused to remain within the boundaries of their designated reservations. On June 25th, Custer's regiment encountered a large Indian encampment near the Little Bighorn River. Not realizing the overwhelming size of the Indian force (they outnumbered Custer's troops by at least 3 to 1), Custer decided to attack at once. To make matters worse, Custer split his command into three battalions in an effort to outflank the encampment. That strategy proved to be his undoing and the ensuing battle resulted in the entire annihilation of Custer's regiment. With a loss of 208 men, the battle represented the worst defeat ever suffered by the U.S. Army at the hands of Native American forces. Despite the failure of the campaign, "Custer's Last Stand" remains the most famous battle ever waged between the U.S. Army and Native American troops, and his heroic death made him a national hero. Custer was later given a full military funeral and buried at the West Point Cemetery on October 10, 1877. The letter has been mounted onto a larger paper background and decorated with floral leaves. Period notations written along the top of mount read "From his grave at West Point - June 25 - Maj. General Custer." The letter (5 x 5.5 inches) has been matted and framed together with an engraving of Custer to total dimensions of 10.5 x 19.25 inches. Both the notations on the mount and the frame appear to be quite old, and it is most likely that this framed display dates from the turn of the century, or perhaps earlier. The frame itself was at one time exposed to light moisture. Water stains are evident along the left side of the matting and a very water light stain can be seen at the top portion of the letter (minor and not affecting legibility or display). The letter could easily be removed from the vintage frame and mat if desired. Aside from the light staining, the letter has a single horizontal mailing fold and is otherwise in Excellent condition. Autograph collecting was very popular in the nineteenth century, especially collecting of signatures of U.S. Generals. Custer, like many Generals, received many requests for signatures from collectors. The fact that this letter is truly an autograph (explicitly intended as a keepsake, not as a document or letter signature endorsement), as defined by Custer, and was written just six days before he left for Little Big Horn, suggests the possibility that this is the very last autograph ever provided by Custer. Custer signatures in any form are extremely rare. LOA from James Spence/JSA. Reserve $1,000. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $5,581.25

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