It’s Friday again so stand up if its your birthday today!
If so you share April 8th with Elizabeth Bacon Custer, wife of the famous and much maligned General Custer and some might say a single minded redirector of history...
Elizabeth Bacon was born in 1842 in Monroe, Michigan, to a wealthy family.
She graduated from the Young Ladies Seminary and Collegiate Institute in Monroe as a valedictorian– a student with the highest grades.
She also met the man who would become her husband-a soldier called George Custer. Initially her father disapproved, being an influential Judge he deemed Custer, who was from a poor background, not worthy of their well to do family. His opinion changed when Custer was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General prior to the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. Gettysburg has been described as the turning point of the American Civil War and was one of its bloodiest events. General Custer was eventually revered as a national hero and married Elizabeth Bacon with her fathers blessing a year later.
Elizabeth was renowned for her devotion to her husbands military career and travelled extensively with him, including to his last assignment at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. Custer had been sent with his Seventh Cavalry to quell the native plains tribes but was overwhelmed by over 1000 warriors. Of the 700 men of the cavalry 220 were killed.
President Ullysses Grant severely criticised Custer’s actions, publicly blaming him for the loss of life. From this point on Elizabeth devoted herself to clearing her dead husbands name, fearing history would condemn him as a scapegoat. She wrote many articles and three books as well as giving lectures, eventually redeeming his reputation.
“Custer’s last stand” nowadays is a part of American folklore. Elizabeth even received a letter from President Roosevelt who stated he was “one of my heroes”.
She enjoyed a successful and wealthy literary career and left an estate worth $100,000 when she died in 1933, aged 90.
She was portrayed by Olivia de Havilland in 1941 in the film “They died with their boots on”.