Skip to main content Smithsonian Institution

Catalog Data

Custer, George Armstrong  Search this
Physical Description:
buckskin (overall material)
metal (overall material)
overall: 27 in x 24 in; 68.58 cm x 60.96 cm
Object Name:
Used in:
United States: Montana
United States: North Dakota
United States: South Dakota
Date made:
ca 1870
Physical Description
Double-breasted buckskin coat, with fringe on the pockets and collar and along the sleeves.
Specific History
This buckskin coat was worn by Custer when he was a lieutenant colonel with the 7th U.S. Cavalry in the Dakotas. It was one of several owned and worn by Custer, who preferred to dress like a frontiersman while out West.
In 1912, Custer's widow, Elizabeth, donated this buckskin coat to the Smithsonian as a tribute to her husband.
General History
George Armstrong Custer was born in 1839 in New Rumley, Ohio; by 1857, he was enrolled as a cadet in the U.S. Military Academy at West Point upon appointment by a congressman. He graduated last in his class of thirty-four. During the Civil War, he became known for his fearlessness (some said recklessness) in battle; indeed, he was promoted to the rank of Major General by age twenty-five. He figured prominently in General Philip Sheridan's campaign in the Shenandoah Valley in 1864; at the surrender at Appomattox in April 1865, Sheridan gave Custer's wife Elizabeth the table on which the surrender was signed.
After the war, George Custer reverted to the rank of captain. He was given command of the newly formed Seventh Cavalry in 1866 and elevated to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He gained a reputation as an Indian fighter who often ignored orders if they did not suit his sense of self-aggrandizement. His recklessness finally caught up to him on June 25, 1876, when he and his five cavalry companies were annihilated by a combined force of thousands of Sioux and Cheyenne warriors at Little Big Horn, Montana.
In 1864, George Custer married Elizabeth (Libby) Bacon. Libby followed her husband on campaign during the Civil War, and even went with him to the frontier. After his death, she crusaded to perpetuate the image of her husband as a gallant soldier; to this end, she undertook speaking engagements and wrote several books.
In 1912, she donated this coat to the Smithsonian in memory of her husband.
Related event:
Indian Wars  Search this
The Development of the Industrial United States  Search this
Related Publication:
Kendrick, Kathleen M. and Peter C. Liebhold. Smithsonian Treasures of American History
National Museum of American History. Treasures of American History online exhibition
Related Web Publication:
Credit Line:
Elizabeth B. Custer
ID Number:
Catalog number:
Accession number:
See more items in:
Political and Military History: Armed Forces History, Military
National Treasures exhibit
Clothing & Accessories
The Price of Freedom: Americans at War
Exhibition Location:
National Museum of American History
Data Source:
National Museum of American History