Notes for Elizabeth Clift Bacon
!Material from GEORGE ARMSTRONG CUSTER “American Hero or Just a Fool?” by Paul Kensey in Meeting April 2004: Elizabeth (Libby) Custer
One day while walking down a street in Monroe Michigan a very young Custer approached the home of the town’s most prominent citizen, Judge Daniel S. Bacon. The daughter of the judge, Elizabeth (Libbie) Bacon, was swinging on the gate and had the audacity to call out, “Hello, you Custer boy” then ran into the house before “Autie” could reply. So began the relationship of George and Elizabeth, which would grow into one of the greatest romances in history. It was a love that neither time nor distance could separate. Yet at that time the two young people were poles apart. The Custers were poor by comparison, Custer’s father, Emanuel, was a Blacksmith, and Libbie’s father, a judge. Libbie was Presbyterian while Custer was nominally a Methodist.
Elizabeth Clift Bacon was born in Monroe Michigan on April 8 1842. Educated at Boyd’s Academy in Monroe and graduated valedictorian of her class. Home on leave from his appointment as ADC to General McClellan in 1862 the young Captain Custer was invited to a Thanksgiving Day party at Boyd’s Academy at which Libbie was attending. A short conversation and Autie was smitten with her. Never one to do things by half measure Custer set out on a campaign to win her heart. As time passed, Libbie’s interest grew but there was one snag, her father, Judge Bacon. The Judge was totally against the relationship. As Custer’s fame spread in the northern press, however, and with his promotion to Brigadier General, Judge Bacon relented.
At 6.00 PM, February 9 1864 the young couple were wed at the First Presbyterian Church in Monroe, Michigan. Custer dressed in Blue Frock Coat, Gold Braid, Gold Epaulets and Lightning Rod Pants. Libbie in traditional white. So began their twelve years of marriage. Libbie’s honeymoon was spent on the muddy battlefields of Virginia, after that the couple were rarely separated, following him from post to post. He once wrote to her:
“My Dear little Army Crow …..following me around.”
After that tragic day of June 25 1876, at The Little Big Horn River, Libbie had over half a century of life left to live. In 1885 the first of her three books, Boots and Saddles was published. Libbie Custer became his press agent and public defender, ready to argue with anyone who challenged his reputation on even the smallest point. She portrayed him as not only a military genius but as a refined and cultivated man, patron of the arts, and a budding statesman, thus misleading an entire nation for many years to come. Probably no man in history had a greater champion than Autie had in his beloved Libbie, On April 4, 1933, just a few days after her 92nd birthday Elizabeth Bacon Custer passed away at her apartment in New York City. She was to join her husband in death at the military cemetery at the United States Military Academy, West Point.
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