Court-Martialing Custer

Conflict: Civil War

George Armstrong Custer

George Armstrong Custer

From mid-September into October of 1867, a General Court-Martial was held at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas for then Brevet Major-General George Armstrong Custer.  Custer faced two main charges:

  1. Absence without leave from his command
  2. Conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline

Additional charges were brought against Custer for further prejudicing good order and military discipline by giving orders to pursue some supposed deserters  and shoot them down without a trial.

You can read the proceedings of the trial starting here.

One witness testified that Custer instructed him to “get on your horse and go after those deserters and shoot them down.”

Custer provided a written defense in which he said he had “sought to compress … within the smallest possible compass and if it still seem long, it is because fewer words could no be employed to express what I believe to be a fair and temperate review of the evidence now before you.”  The written defense rambled for 45 pages.

The Court found Custer guilty on all charges and sentenced him, “to be suspended from rank and command for one year, and forfeit his pay proper for the same time.”

In September of 1868, William T Sherman sent this telegraph asking that Custer be reinstated because of a need for “active young field officers of cavalry:”

Sherman Telegraph

Telegraph from William T Sherman requesting that Custer be restored to duty

Other interesting documents on Fold3 related to Custer include: