became part of the 7th Cavalry as Lieutenant Colonel. His unit became known as Custer's 7th.
While stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, Libbie spent her days happily painting and horseback riding while Custer readied the troops to fight Indians. They had to protect the railroad workers lying transcontinental lines from the Indians and try to get the Indians to return to reservations.
Unlike during the Civil War, when Libbie and Custer were apart for weeks at a time, these Indian campaigns found their separations lasting months. Of course neither cared for these arrangements but they wrote to each other daily.
While living on the plains, it became a common occurrence for visitors to request a buffalo hunt. Between June 1st and October 16th, 1869 there were 200 such visitors. Exactly how many requests were fulfilled is not recorded. I guess it depended on who was making the request. One such hunt with 2 English Lords resulted in 126 buffaloes killed in 3
Libbie often went along on the hunts but
Custer felt it too dangerous for ladies to
not as a be out on
a horse on the plains because there horse could twist a leg in and fall.
Of course, there were other dangers on the plains, mainly hostile Indians. Custer gave a standing order to his men that if his wife was in danger of being captured, she was to be killed. Libbie knew this and she knew that if her escort was killed, leaving her alone, she was to commit suicide.
The Custers spent a couple years in Kentucky. It seems their time here was very pleasant. The 7th Cavalry was there to keep an eye on the Ku Klux Klan. Libbie spent time reading and sewing. She became quite the seamstress which was a good thing because Custer’s salary was not much and she could hardly afford the latest fashions.
In 1873, Custer's 7th Cavalry was assigned to Fort Abraham Lincoln in Dakota, Territory. In her book Boots and Saddles, Libbie wrote "of all our happy days, the happiest had now come to us at Fort Lincoln."
Libbie's "job" as the Commanding Officer's wife was to make life merry for the men and women so far away from civilization and who were enduring so many hardships to serve their country. The companies each gave a ball during the winter and preparations involved them for days in advance. The enlisted men were included in these galas and everything was carefully planned.
In May 1876, Custer and 12 companies of the 7th left on a campaign to force defiant Sioux and Cheyenne onto reservations. Custer's younger brother, Tom was part of the 7th Cavalry. His other young brother, Boston, and nephew Harry Reed went along as civilian employees. Libbie watched the troops as they departed and later recalled, "In a few seconds they had disappeared, horses, flags, men and ammunition. And we never saw them again." On June 25th, Custer and five companies of about 210 troops under his immediate command, including his brother, Tom and his
brother-in-law James Calhoun, were killed at the Battle of the
Little Bighorn. Also Boston, and his nephew,
News of the disaster reached Fort Abraham Lincoln early in the morning of July 6th.... Libbie was awakened and informed of the tragedy. As wife of the commanding officer, it was her duty to accompany the officers as they informed the
other widows at the fort.
Libbie's life was shattered.
She lost not only her
husband, but in-laws, friends and the military life she had shared with Custer. She returned to Monroe where memorial services were held in August.
Libbie slowly recovered from her grief in Monroe but she knew she would have little opportunity there to make a
Critics of the Battle of the Little Bighorn began to generate controversy. President Grant said, "I regard Custer's massacre as a sacrifice of troops, brought on by Custer himself, what was wholly unnecessary - wholly unnecessary." Some felt he had disobeyed orders but not Libbie. She had a copy of his orders which gave Custer free reign in putting down the Indians.
Libbie knew she had to defend her husband's name but she also had to make a living. She turned down an offer from Frank E. Howe of the U. S. Pension Agency for a clerk's
job in the federal would be perfectly
government employ. impossible for me to
ask for or
position from the present never communicated with Little Big Horn.
administration." President the widows of those killed
Grant at the
Libbie got the idea to write of her life and experiences with General Custer. However, she would need some means of support. She became secretary of the Society of Decorative Arts in New York City. It was the ideal job as she only worked 3 days a week. The rest of her time was devoted to writing about her life with Custer, answering numerous letters she received from people concerning Custer and in trying to get Custer's name untarnished.
In 1885, Boots and Saddles appeared in bookstores. Also by this time she was receiving a widow's pension from the military. She began writing newspaper columns. Her column dealt with public affairs, art, and people of interest and those in the news. She also described her travels, along with activities she attended in New York City. She wrote the books, Tenting on the Plains and Following the Guidon.
She joined a lecture circuit and toured the country. Often her topic was in defense of her husband although she never mentioned his death. She spoke on frontier army life, life with the cavalry in the field and in the garrison and on buffaloes and buffalo hunting.