March 14, 1872
Custer Wants Kid Brother “Bos” – Who Would Die With Him at Little Bighorn – Appointed a 2nd Lieutenant in the 7th Cavalry
Custers, of whom there were five in the 7th Cavalry, lived as a clan, fought as a clique, and died in their matching white buckskins at the Battle of the Little Bighorn on the same afternoon. When Ronald Reagan, a self-confessed “Custer buff," asserted that the flamboyant general was a brilliant officer, he was dead-on: Custer was one of the best cavalry officers, if not the best, in the United States Army. But what made him so was, to no small extent, his absolute and single-minded love of the chase. In pursuit, every consideration but one flew from him - and when, on June 25, 1876, victory finally eluded him, at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, he died fighting, along with his entire command. Among the 268 dead were Custer’s nephew Autie Reed, his brother-in-law James Calhoun, his younger brother Tom and his youngest brother, Boston.
This letter, in which Custer lobbies for a second lieutenancy for his beloved “Bos,” marks, for the ultimately unlucky kid brother, the first step on the trail to the Little Bighorn.
I am extremely anxious to obtain an appointment from the Secretary of War of my youngest brother Boston Custer as second lieutenant in the 7th Cavalry. My brother is in every respect admirably adapted to perform the duties of a cavalry officer. He is nearly twenty four years of age, of excellent habits and character and I think would be a credit to the service.
Boston Custer was not appointed a Second Lieutenant, or even accepted, however, into the United States Army. He was frail and tubercular, and not, despite his brother’s pleading “in every respect admirably adapted to perform the duties of a cavalry officer.” So Custer hired him as scout, at a hundred dollars a month, and happily took him along on his first, and last, campaign. “I don't know what we would do,” Custer wrote from the trail, “without ‘Bos’ to tease…”
At the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Boston was initially at the back of the column, with the pack mules; but when he heard his brothers were engaged in a fight, he jumped on a horse, and galloped to join them.
Autograph Letter Signed (“G.A. Custer”), 2 pages, recto and verso, quarto, Galt House, Lexington, Kentucky. March 14, 1872. To General John A.J. Creswell.