George Armstrong Custer: Extremely Important and Unpublished Archive from an Officer who Marched with His 1876 Expedition to the Little Big Horn.

Lot Number 38582
Title George Armstrong Custer: Extremely Important and Unpublished Archive from an Officer who Marched with His 1876 Expedition to the Little Big Horn.
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Description George Armstrong Custer: Extremely Important and Unpublished Archive from an Officer who Marched with His 1876 Expedition to the Little Big Horn. (Little Bighorn/ Greasy Grass) Capt. Otho Ernest Michaelis (1843 - 1890) Ordnance Officer for the Seventh Calvary who marched with Custer on his 1876 expedition to the Little Big Horn. Remaining with Terry"s column, he was one of the first to arrive at the site of Custer"s Last Stand at the Little Big Horn the day following the battle and assisted in identifying bodies on the field. Important and extremely rare correspondence of twenty-nine (29) Autograph Letters Signed (A number are multiple pages) together with an Autograph Manuscript, 17 May through 9 November 1876. The letters, mostly written to his wife, Kate Woodbridge Michaelis, chronicle Otho Michaelis" westward march with George Armstrong Custer and the Seventh Cavalry from Fort Abraham Lincoln to the Yellowstone River during the Great Sioux War of 1876. Michaelis, in charge of ord­nance for the Seventh Cavalry, describes the march into the heart of Sioux country as well as the aftermath of Custer"s defeat and the subse­quent attempts to give battle to the Indians. It appears that some of his correspondence was intended for public consumption as the letters contain several requests to forward material to New York Tribune editor, Whitelaw Reid. This includes Michaelis" analysis and insight into factors that led to Custer"s defeat. Michaelis" correspondence opens on the day of the Custer expedition"s departure from Fort Abraham Lincoln on 17 May 1876. Writing from "1st Camp on Heart River" he described the cavalry"s departure: "This morning at 3 a.m. reveille sounded, and promptly to the minute - at 5 we left camp. We rode to the post - where the troops passed before the General. First came the Indian Scouts - singing their peculiar songs. Then the 7th Cav­alry - the band playing "The girl I left behind me - headed by Custer and Mrs. Custer - who came to this place. The Gatling battery and the infantry battalion followed. It was really an inspiriting sight. The wives of the officers were all on the steps of their quarters to bid their husbands farewell ...we marched to the West up the bluffs that surround Fort Lincoln -passing the train which had left in advance... Major Smith same down to pay the troops, and Mrs. Custer is going back with him..." As the expe­dition marched westward, Michaelis began to grow nervous about what was to come. On 24 May 1876, from "Camp No 9- Branch of Heart River" he wrote,"... We are beginning to feel that we are near Indians. During the march one company was ordered form the advance ground to protect the Indian Scouts. My heart beat a little more rapidly for things began to look business like..." Of course there were the occasional distractions from the harsh duty. In one letter he remarked, "You have no idea how tedious is it is to walk in a line so far every day". As a high-ranking officer in the Seventh Cavalry, Michaelis enjoyed fre­quent contact with the commanding officers. On 25 May 1876: "... General Custer invited me to dine with him which I did- and had really very nice dinner. You know he has taken his colored Mary with him. I enjoyed especially the bred, and some jelly cake..." The march, although at time monotonous, was also not without distraction. On 27 May 1876,"... after progressing about 12 miles - we found that our guides - Custer included - could not find the trail. My orderly, an old cavalry soldier, said he knew where it was - and so the General sent me with 20 cavalry in search of it. the Mr Hugh remembered that it was not at all in the direction we were marching - so I had to return ingloriously ... "Bobtail Bull", one of our Arickeree scouts finally found the trail..." Because the expedition required transporting Gatling guns and other heavy equipment, bridges were required for creeks and streams that often were the best routes through the harsh country. Writing the next day from "Camp 7 3/4 miles in the Bad Lands on Davis Creek", Michaelis vividly described the struggle: "We crossed the same creek eight times today - and built five bridges. The General went beyond this place about a mile but found the difficulties attending the further crossing of the creek in­superable - considering the exhausting work performed during the day. The only known practicable route through ... is by the val­ley of Davis Creek - a tortuous as the windings of a zigzag pattern." Though the march proved arduous, he could still appreciate the scenery: "My first glimpse of the badlands showed me an Egyptian ruined city. The conceal knolls, typical of the re­gion - look not unlike distant pyramids. Other mounds presenting broken surfaces to the view appear in every fantastic architec­tural form. .." As the column moved west, Custer would command small reconnaissance parties. On 29 May, from "the north bank Little Missouri" he wrote: "Custer goes on a 24 hour"s reconnaissance tomorrow morning with 4 companies of his regiment." Again on the 30th, "...Custer with four companies has been out on a reconnaissance up the river - and has just come in - having seen no fresh Indian signs ..." By the 8th of June, Michaelis was itching for a fight: "... We shall have about 600 effective men with us, and if we can strike a blow - we shall be home sooner than was expected. It was a bold movement on the General"s part to leave O"Fallen Creek, and strike at once due west across Powder River ...I am glad I am going on this scout for I want to see an Indian campaign ... General Custer does not think that we shall strike any Indians. We are going into the country near which the Crazy Horse fight took place last winter General Custer however does not think that the Indians would remain there. He thinks that they are on the Yellowstone. Scout went to the mouth of the Powder River last night to communicate with the boat. [The steamboat, Far West, had been moving up the Yellowstone River parallel to Terry and Custer"s column.] They have just re­turned ... The scouts brought a dispatch from the stockade announcing that the scouts with orders for Gibbon could not deliver them on account of Indians. This may change the General"s plans ..." Col. John Gibbon"s column had been marching eastward from Fort Ellis in order to link up with Custer"s men just as Brig. Gen. George Crook"s command moved northward from Fort Fetterman in the Wyoming Territory. The object was for the three bodies to converge at the Yellowstone River and overwhelm the Sioux and their allies. Due to the difficulties of the march and lack of communication, these plans began to go awry in early June. On 9 June, he wrote, "...a message from the General. He met Major Brisbin with one company of cavalry, and one of infantry, Gibbon"s advance guard, at the mouth of this river. It appears that the scouts with General Terry"s instructions for Gibbon to remain on the Rosebud, could no get thro" on account of Indians; so General Gibbon, in accordance with his original orders marched down the Yellowstone. The General went up this morning in the boat, about 30 miles I understand to intercept him. We expect him back tonight, and then our future movements will be decided upon ... Will you please get... my copy of the Department map (Dakota and Montana), and send it to Whitelaw Reid, N.Y. Tribune, with a line explaining that I requested you send it. "* Several days later on the 12 June Michaelis reached the "... Yellowstone River - at mouth of Powder ... [where] we found the steamer "Far West" - and Major Moore"s battalion of the 6th Inf"y - which had been at the stockade ... Reno"s right wing of the 7th Cav"y with one Gatling gun went up Powder river on the 9th - are then to strike across to Tongue River - near where the Indians are supposed to be camped. We shall stay here a day or two, and then go up the Yellowstone with pack train to meet Reno. If we meet the redskins, and strik
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Estimated Price USD 60,000.00 - 90,000.00
Actual Price USD 89,625.00



Auction House Heritage Auctions
Auction Name Legends of the West
Sale Number #6092
Auction Date December 11, 2012 - December 11, 2012
Book Images 38582