Friday, July 25, 2008

Mighty Western Women: Libbie Custer

• Libbie Custer, wife of the famous general ... talented writer who chronicled her frontier adventures in books making her a wealthy woman

From Wikipedia:

After her husband’s column was wiped out at the Battle of the Little Big Horn in June 1876, many in the press, Army, and government criticized Custer for blundering into a massacre. President Ulysses S. Grant publicly blamed Custer for the disaster. Fearing that her husband was to be made a scapegoat by history, Libbie launched a one woman campaign to rehabilitate her husband's image. She began writing articles and making speaking engagements praising the glory of her martyred husband. Her three books, Boots and Saddles, (1885), Following the Guidon (1890); and Tenting on the Plains, (1893) were brilliant pieces of propaganda aimed at glorifying her dead husband’s memory. Though generally considered to be largely factually accurate, they were clearly slanted in Custer's favor.

Her efforts were largely successful. The image of a steely Custer leading his men against overwhelming odds only to be wiped out while defending their position to the last man became as much a part of American lore as the Alamo. It would not be until the late 20th century, more than a half century after her death, that many historians began to take a second look at Custer’s actions leading up to the battle and found much to criticize.