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

December 12, 1874

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General Custer Gives an Order to His Loyal Adjutant Cooke, Who Would Die Next to Him at Little Bighorn
Autograph Letter Signed
2 pages | SMC 289

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      Background

      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 an “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 instruments 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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      Page 1 transcript
      Hdqrs 7th Cavalry
      Fort A Lincoln DT
      Dec 12th 1874

      1st Lt W.W. Cook
      Adj[utan]t 7th Ca[valry]
       
      You will please report in writing to Natl Hdqs the facts and circumstances relating to certain instruments pertaining to the band of the 7th Cav which it is alleged were taken by Major Lewis Merrill 7th Cav and which has never been returned. You will designate the instruments query then return when known, state who is responsible for this when they were taken by Major Merrill and by what authority.

      G A Custer
      Lt. Col 7th
      Cavalry Regt

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      Page 2 transcript
      This letter was written by Gen Custer to his Adjutant Captain Cook, from Ft. A. Lincoln 1874. I have a file of old letters and old orders by Custer, Sherman, Sheridan, Terry, and others. - Key