Buckskin coat

Buckskin coat

Usage conditions apply
Physical Description
Double-breasted buckskin coat, with fringe on the pockets and collar and along the sleeves.
Specific History
This buckskin coat was worn by Custer when he was a lieutenant colonel with the 7th U.S. Cavalry in the Dakotas. It was one of several owned and worn by Custer, who preferred to dress like a frontiersman while out West.
In 1912, Custer's widow, Elizabeth, donated this buckskin coat to the Smithsonian as a tribute to her husband.
General History
George Armstrong Custer was born in 1839 in New Rumley, Ohio; by 1857, he was enrolled as a cadet in the U.S. Military Academy at West Point upon appointment by a congressman. He graduated last in his class of thirty-four. During the Civil War, he became known for his fearlessness (some said recklessness) in battle; indeed, he was promoted to the rank of Major General by age twenty-five. He figured prominently in General Philip Sheridan's campaign in the Shenandoah Valley in 1864; at the surrender at Appomattox in April 1865, Sheridan gave Custer's wife Elizabeth the table on which the surrender was signed.
After the war, George Custer reverted to the rank of captain. He was given command of the newly formed Seventh Cavalry in 1866 and elevated to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He gained a reputation as an Indian fighter who often ignored orders if they did not suit his sense of self-aggrandizement. His recklessness finally caught up to him on June 25, 1876, when he and his five cavalry companies were annihilated by a combined force of thousands of Sioux and Cheyenne warriors at Little Big Horn, Montana.
In 1864, George Custer married Elizabeth (Libby) Bacon. Libby followed her husband on campaign during the Civil War, and even went with him to the frontier. After his death, she crusaded to perpetuate the image of her husband as a gallant soldier; to this end, she undertook speaking engagements and wrote several books.
In 1912, she donated this coat to the Smithsonian in memory of her husband.
Object Name
date made
ca 1870
Custer, George Armstrong
used in
United States: Montana
United States: North Dakota
United States: South Dakota
Physical Description
buckskin (overall material)
metal (overall material)
overall: 27 in x 24 in; 68.58 cm x 60.96 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Elizabeth B. Custer
Indian Wars
The Development of the Industrial United States
See more items in
Political and Military History: Armed Forces History, Military
Clothing & Accessories
National Treasures exhibit
Price of Freedom
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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Was this coat worn at Little Big Horn? It appears to have a stain on left breast. Blood stain?
I doubt it. Firstly, Custer was not actually wearing a buckskin coat when he was killed at Little Big Horn; he'd tied his coat to his saddle pack and was wearing a blue double-breasted bibbed shirt at the time. Still I suppose those stains on the coat could be droplets of blood that dripped from Custer when he was shot. A few years ago a coat went on auction claiming to be the coat Custer had when he died, but it may not be genuine. It was in much worse condition than this, but this one has been in preservation since 1912, so it makes sense.

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