CUSTER, ELIZABETH. 1842-1933.
THIRTY YEARS OF CORRESPONDENCE.
Approx. 70 Autograph Letters Signed ("Elizabeth B. Custer," "Libbie Custer," and "Libbie"), and 1 Typed Letter Signed, approx. 300 pp recto and verso, 4to and octavo (conjoining leaves), various places in Michigan and New York, March 13, 1878 to November 15, 1910, to Herbert Swett and his parents, many on black bordered mourning stationery, toning and creasing throughout, a few leaves laid down to board. Together with a printed invitation to the unveiling of the statue of Custer in Monroe, Michigan, and other related correspondence.
The mythology that today surrounds General George Armstrong Custer is a much a product of the labors of his widow, Elizabeth Bacon Custer, as of Custer's own exploits. Graduating dead last in his class at West Point, Custer distinguished himself as a cavalry officer during the Civil War, though he is best remembered for his exploits during the Indian Wars of 1874-76. After his death at the Battle of Little Big Horn, his widow found it difficult to live on her military pension, and took to the lecture circuit to support herself. For the next 60 years she championed her husband's career, touring the world and writing several memoirs of their life together. This lot features a large collection of correspondence between Elizabeth Custer and Judge Swett, one of the men who helped Mrs. Custer untangle her husband's expenses after his death. She also writes to Mrs. Swett, and to their son Herbert, who joined the Custers at Ft. Lincoln in 1875. Her letters detail her continuing grief at the loss of her husband, her early financial woes, the strain of her long work hours, and, in later letters, the joy she feels at the esteem the nation holds for her husband.
From a letter to Judge Swett, May 10, n.y.: "My dear friend / I acted upon your advice as soon as I received your letter enclosing Mr. Terry's. I wrote to him and told him that previous to sending you the letter asking for help, I had written to him and supposed from my not having any reply that the letter did not reach him. I enclosed a letter that President Arthur had sent to Mr. Blanton Duncan of Texas in reply to one the latter had written him about my increase of pension. The President's letter was a polite working of a willingness to do anything he could--It meant nothing ... Michigan is almost the most indifferent state as to its heros of any in the land. It was one reason that made me glad to leave there. Oh if only I had been born in Ohio I would not now be so forgotten as I am." Later, once her book Boots and Saddles has been published to great acclaim, her spirits are lifted. From a letter to Herbert Swett, Dated May 19, : "When I read review after review and find that God did give me the gift to so describe Autie as he lived his grand, simple, unspoiled life, I find my eyes overrun with grateful tears and at night I cannot pray in any words but--I thank thee, I thank thee, I thank thee. For the first time in these long sorrowing nine years I feel reconciled to my life. I begin to see HIS hand in it all for I have so often wondered why I was left. Mr. Swett need never spur me on the take up my life as I should, beliving that I can keep Autie fresh in the hearts of his country men, after this. How often he has tried to incite me, how slow I was to obey, how sorely I have taxed his patience. God willing I will do more with Autie's name dead than many of his contemporaries do with theirs living."