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The George Armstrong Custer Collection of the
Monroe County Library System

Custer in the News
In Monroe County and throughout the United States

CUSTER WAS OUT OF FAVOR WITH GRANT

(Monroe Evening News, September 1, 1955, p.19)

Gen. Custer was out of favor with the Grant Administration at the time he fought his last battle, because of a political incident. But for that he, and no Gen. Terry, might have had the supreme command.

The incident may have had a bearing on the campaign itself, and even more so, on the criticism of Custer that followed. The "Custer Battlefield" bulletin has this to say: "It (news of the catastrophe) shook the government administration like an earthquake. Congressmen, newspapers, and magazines demanded explanations and investigations of the unnecessary slaughter. Accusations and insinuations concerning the blame for the disaster led from Washington to Ft. Abraham Lincoln, the home station of the 7th Cavalry. President Grant regarded the defeat as a "sacrifice of troops" by Custer. Others condemned Reno. The mystery that hung like heavy clouds over the battlefield on that fateful day in 1876 still is unsolved."

But the investigations touched much more than the battle and the Indian problem out of which it had evolved. The Monroe Democrat on Friday, June 10, 1910 declared the general's last days were embittered by the political incident that occurred shortly before he started on the Indian campaign of 1876.

In the spring of that year, it reported, Custer had been called to Washington to testify before a congressional committee investigation dishonest dealings at the Ft. Sill trading post. The trader was a relative of Gen. Belknap, who had been on Grant's staff during the war. Belknap had been made secretary of war when Grant became president.

The contractor at Ft. Sill had turned in a large consignment of grain for the cavalry. Custer suspected it had been stolen, refused to receive it, and wired his suspicions to Gen. Terry. He received orders to accept it.

Custer told the investigating committee he thought the order relating to the grain had been issued by Sec. Gen. Belknap. Later he learned it had been issued by Gen. Terry, and he promptly corrected his testimony before the committee.

Meantime, however, Belknap's political enemies had started an investigation of the secretary, and they used Custer's original testimony as the basis for attacks on Belknap.

Custer tried to see President Grant to set the matter right, and went to the White House three times, but Grant refused to see him. He tried to see Lt. Gen. Sherman who, however, was not at Washington at the time. Custer then went to Inspector General Marcy, who told him he could return to his regiment.

When he reached Chicago, however, he received a wire telling him he acted without authority in leaving Washington without seeing Sherman or the President. It bore the name of Sherman. He wired in reply, "When I said Monday night I was going, you said: "That was the best thing I could do." The next day word came he might go on to Ft. Lincoln but should not accompany the expedition, Gen. Terry having been given the command. Terry joined Custer in urging that he go with it; newspapers supported Custer and denounced the administration, and at length Grant yielded and permitted him to join the expedition, but as a subordinate officer.

(Monroe Evening News, September 1, 1955, p.19)

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