George Armstrong Custer, U.S. Army major general, killed in battle at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)"The Custer Myth is a living thing, which refuses to die despite the efforts of careful historians to reduce it to uncontroverted facts. Almost everything about it is in some degree disputed."
—The Custer Myth, by William A. Graham (1953)
On June 25, 1876, the Custer myth got its start as Sioux and Cheyenne warriors clashed with the U.S. Army's Seventh Cavalry in Medicine Tail Coulee and the surrounding area on the Greasy Grass River (Little Big Horn) in Montana Territory. When the shooting was over, five companies of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer's command had been wiped out, with 262 men dead and 55 wounded, half the battalion. So startling was the Indian victory that when Crow scouts who had been riding with Custer met up with Gen. Alfred Terry the day after the fight and told him what they had seen, he refused to believe them.
Since that June day 136 years ago, hundreds of books, most of them bad and some of them brimful of outright lies from beginning to end, and more than 50 movies, most of them dreadful, have kept that myth flourishing. A good deal of it was spun into being by Libbie Bacon Custer, his widow, who wrote three books glorifying her husband and transforming him from a reckless, aggressively ambitious military politician into a heroic legend. This effort was assisted by two factors: