President Ronald Reagan Defends George Custer Against Charges of Negligence at Little Bighorn

June 21, 1984

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President Ronald Reagan Defends George Custer Against Charges of Negligence at Little Bighorn
Typed Letter Signed
1 page | SMC 248

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      Background

      Having played George A. Custer as a thoughtful West Point cadet in the 1940 saddle swashbuckler, Santa Fe Trail, Reagan continues to view the controversial general as a serious sober officer. Writing to Western historian and Custer biographer David Humphreys Miller, Reagan defends Custer from his detractors:

      His image has been blurred and distorted over time but in truth he was a brilliant officer and not at all the boastful show-off his detractors would have us believe. And he certainly wasn't on a glory ride on that fateful day. He was carrying out his orders to the letter.  It isn't well known that a brother, a nephew, and his brother-in-law died with him in that last battle.


      Describing himself as a “Custer Buff,” Reagan regrets that White House  custom forbids his writing a foreword to Miller’s book – perhaps a reprint of his seminal 1957 study, Custer's Fall: The Native American Side of the Story.


      Typed Letter Signed, as President, marked "Personal," 1 page, quarto, The White House, Washington, June 21, 1984. To David D. Miller in Rancho Mirage, California. With transmittal envelope.
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      The White House
      Washington
      June 21, 1984

      PERSONAL

      Dear Mr. Miller:

      Neil sent me your letter regarding a foreword to your book.  I can't tell you how much I regret having to say no and I'm honored that you would ask me.  It seems that custom forbids it while I'm in this job.  But I want you to know how real my regret is because I've been something of a Custer buff myself and not just because I once played him on the screen.

      His image has been blurred and distorted over time but in truth he was a brilliant officer and not at all the boastful show-off his detractors would have us believe.  And he certainly wasn't on a glory ride on that fateful day.  He was carrying out his orders to the letter.  It isn't well known that a brother, a nephew, and his brother-in-law died with him in that last battle.

      I'll be looking for your book when it's published and I wish you success.

      Again my regret and best wishes.

      Sincerely,

      Ronald Reagan

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      Mr. David H. Miller
      P.O. Box 1675
      Rancho Santa Fe, California 92067