Sunday, August 25, 2013

Custer's Indian Mistress


Custer
One of the enduring stories associated with George Armstrong Custer is that of his having an Indian mistress and child. 

After the battle of the Washita in 1868, the battle which propelled Custer into the public’s perception as America’s pre-eminent Indian fighter, Custer took a number of women prisoners.  According to Ben Clark, the chief scout of the expedition, “…many of the squaws captured at the Washita were used by the officers.” According to Clark, “Custer picked out a fine looking one (named Monahsetah aka Me-o-tzi) and had her in his tent every night.” Captain Frederick Benteen corroborated Clark’s story, relating how the regiment’s surgeon reported seeing Custer not only “sleeping with that Indian girl all winter long, but…many times in the very act of copulating with her!”  The story is also common in Cheyenne oral history, which also alleges that that she bore Custer’s child, called Yellow Hair or Yellow Bird.

Monahsetah was the seventeen year old daughter of Chief Little Rock.  Her name translates as “The young grass that shoots in the spring.”  Although not acknowledging any intimate relationship, Custer describes Monahsetah in his book My Life on the Plains as “…exceedingly comely…her well-shaped head was crowned with a luxuriant growth of the most beautiful silken tresses, rivalling in color the blackness of the raven and extending, when allowed to fall loosely over her shoulders, to below her waist.” 




For almost one hundred and fifty years, Custer has been a Rorschach test of American social and personal values. Whatever else George Armstrong Custer may or may not have been, even in the twenty-first century, he remains the great lightning rod of American history. This book presents portraits of Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn as they have appeared in print over successive decades and in the process demonstrates the evolution of American values and priorities.



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