Captain Otho Michaelis described in vivid detail how he came across George Armstrong Custer’s ‘serene and peaceful’ corpse before condemning his commander’s ‘bad generalship’.
The wartime leader died at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876 between the US Army’s 7th Cavalry Regiment and native American Indians.
Custer’s 700-strong cavalry suffered a crippling defeat, with five of 12 companies completely annihilated, resulting in the deaths of 274 soldiers.
Michaelis wrote and signed his account on June 28, 1876, three days after Custer died – alongside four family members.
The letter, that is now being sold at auction, said: “The General’s body is untouched – his expression is serene and peaceful.
“Bad generalship on Custer’s part the cause and do not like to say this – but I do – he divided his command and the five companies with him were butchered to a man.”
Addressed to his wife, Michaelis began the note: “Oh darling Sunshine, how can I ever write the horrible events of the past few days – The 7th Cav’y is all up – 300 hundred men and officers butchered.
“Sent a lock of the General’s hair off for his poor wife. “His sister, Mrs Calhoun, loses on one day a husband, three brothers and a nephew.
“There were over 3,000 well armed, well organized Indian warriors – better armed than our cavalry.
“We have 40 wounded on our hands, and we commenced a slow march back to the boat this Evening.
“I cannot describe the horrors I have seen.”
The four page pencil-written letter measuring 10ins by 7ins is being sold by auctioneers Christie’s.
An auction house spokesman said: “This is a vivid on-the-spot report from Otho Michaelis, describing, in vivid detail, his discovery of Custer’s body.
“The 7th Cavalry’s chief of ordnance emotional letter was sent to his wife and also described the terrible battlefield scene he witnessed.
“Interestingly Michaelis, who was a close friend, places the blame for the debacle at the Battle of Little Bighorn squarely on Custer.
“It’s a fascinating account…