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"E'en though a cross it be

Nearer, my God to Thee,"

This was the hymn Libbie Custer and other officers' wives sang on June 25th, 1876 as they gathered together at Fort Abraham Lincoln, lamenting the absence of their husbands. Little did they know that at that moment their worst fears were coming true at the Little Bighorn.

When news of the battle reached the fort on the night of July 4th, Libbie wept for her own losses, yet still found the strength to accompany the Army officers as they broke the news to the other widows.

When Custer and the 7th Cavalry left Fort Abraham Lincoln months earlier, Libbie felt a premonition that her happy days in the garrison had ended. And now that it was fact, Libbie wished she could "die."

Libbie was not unfamiliar with death. Born Elizabeth Bacon on this date in 1842 in Monroe, Michigan, by the age of twelve she had lost her mother and three siblings. But she had learned to cope with death while attending a Christian seminary for girls. Through faith she found hope and solace and graduated at the top of her class.

With her husband now gone, there was little time to mourn. She had to find a way to support herself and with Custer's parents who had lost four sons to the Little Bighorn battle. Liens against her husband's estate threatened to quickly deplete Libbie's resources. She was equally determined to build a positive public image of her husband. She later wrote, "Oh, if you knew how I think and think and plan at night in the still hours, ways to have the world see my husband as he should be known." However, opportunities for women were very limited, especially for women of her class.

She soon found a solution. Working to counter the negative publicity surrounding her husband, she threw herself into writing books describing their domestic life on the frontier. Her first book, "Boots and Saddles" appeared in bookstores in March of 1885.

The technicalities of writing was no problem, but researching and rereading letters brought back many painful memories, and as she later wrote, she found herself "strained to the utmost with excessive exhaustive emotion."

Libbie published three books, introducing readers to world of daily life on a cavalry frontier post. But they were also essays on the bonds of marriage in the face of hardships and danger while surviving separations and even death. Writing in disarming fashion, she extolled her late husband, silenced his critics, and endeared herself to many.

Libbie once wrote of her short marriage that, "She had lived through a blaze of sunshine for twelve years." After Custer's death, and for the next fifty years of widowhood, Libbie's commitment to her husband's memory never waned. Even today their love endures in the writings Mrs. Custer left behind.

Dakota Datebook written by Rich Campbell


Custer, Elizabeth B. "Boots and Saddles" or, Life in Dakota with General Custer. University of Oklahoma , Press, 1961.

Norman.Leckie, Shirley A. Elizabeth Bacon Custer and the Making of a Myth. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, 1993.[podcast]/media/dakotadatebook/2010/apr/08.mp3[/podcast]