Ronald Reagan, Shapell, and General Custer

Most history buffs would find an original letter from General Armstrong Custer to be an amazing artifact.  A history buff like President Ronald Reagan would find it to be further proof of his brilliance as an officer.  Ronald Reagan, a self-confessed “Custer buff” would have loved to see the letter featured now by Shapell and penned by General Custer on June 25th, 1876.

In their most recent program entitled “Between the Lines,” Shapell is featuring documents that reflect the current date in history.  This two page letter, penned by General Custer to General John A.J. Creswell, shows Custer’s love for family and for the fight.  In it he requests that his sickly brother, Boston Custer, be made a Second Lieutenant. As he wrote in the hand-written, signed letter, “I am extremely anxious to obtain an appointment from the Secretary of War of my youngest brother Boston Custer as second lieutenant in the 7th Cavalry.”

Over a century later, in 1984, Ronald Reagan wrote to a Western historian to defend General Custer.  In his letter, Reagan wrote the he didn’t think that Custer was a swashbuckler who would knowingly have placed his own family members in harm’s way.

Certainly, the Shapell letter shows the pride that Custer had in his family members.  He described Boston as “in every respect admirably adapted to perform the duties of a cavalry officer.  He is nearly twenty four years of age, of excellent habits and character and I think would be a credit to the service.”

While thousands of pages of analysis have been written about the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Reagan’s perspective is a unique and interesting one; and one that is, perhaps, backed up with this original letter by General Custer displayed at Shapell Manuscript Foundation.



James Fishman has been involved in the world of online magazines for more than 15 years. He helped launch Sunstone Online and continues to improve the magazine as site editor and administrator. His writing focuses primarily business and technology. To be in touch with James, feel free to contact him at james[at]

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