December 12, 1874

General Custer Gives an Order to His Loyal Adjutant Cooke, Who Would Die Next to Him at The Little Bighorn

Autograph Letter Signed
2 pages
SMC 289
George Custer, who had been giving orders to Lt. Cooke ever since the Civil War, here gives another. About the unlawful removal of band instruments, it is probably among the most benign. Cooke, as Custer’s longtime adjutant – though Custer consistently misspelled his name without a “e” – handled all the General’s (mostly tedious) administrative duties, of which this inquiry is one. But Cooke was more than Custer’s able administrator: he was his stalwart friend. Not surprisingly then, on June 25th , 1876, as his right-hand man, Cooke wrote out and dispatched Custer’s last, and most famous, orders: "Benteen. Come On. Big village. Be quick. Bring pack. WW Cooke. P.S. Bring pacs." He would die with Custer later that day, at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Found next to Custer - along with Custer’s brother Tom, and fellow officers Yates, Smith and Reily – Cooke had been scalped, and half of his face, where once adorned with a flowing dundreary, torn off.

This order to Cooke concerns another 7th Cavalry regular who also rode with Custer – though not as a friend. Major Lewis Merrill, with whom Custer had numerous run-ins, is alleged here to have taken some innstruments belonging to the 7th Cavalry band: Cooke is tasked with making sense of what happened.
Autograph Letter Signed (“G.A. Custer”), 1 page, quarto, headquarters 7th Cavalry, Fort Abraham Lincoln, Dakota Territory, December 12, 1874. To His Adjutant, Lt. W. W. Cooke.
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