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FOUND TEXT SERIES: Civil War Memories Elizabeth Bacon Custer This version of Libbie Custer's Civil War memories is excerpted from The Civil War Memories of Elizabeth Bacon Custer, reconstructed from her diaries and notes by Arlene Reynolds, due out later this fall from University of Texas Press. This previously unpublished material comes from the museum at the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. Arlene Reynolds is an actress and writer currently living in Hardin, Montana. SOLDIER GIRL: THE CIVIL WAR MEMORIES OF ELIZABETH BACON CUSTER / Edited by Arlene Reynolds Elizabeth Ckft Bacon, Libbie to family and friends, was born April 8, 1842, in Monroe, Michigan. The only surviving child of Daniel and Eleanor Bacon, she was educated at private girls' schools in Monroe and New York. In 1862, at a Thanksgiving party, she was introduced to a young Union Captain, George Armstrong Custer, caUed Autie by family and friends. They were married February 9, 1864. Of her life with Autie she wrote, "I lived through a blaze of sunshine for twelve years," but on June 25, 1876, that life came to an end with the death of General Custer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Shortly after receiving official notification of her husband's death, Libbie left Fort Lincoln, Dakota Territory, and returned to her family home in Monroe. After a period of mourning she realized that she would have to do what she had once written she dreaded most, "Having to take care of myself." With very little money, but many friends, she headed east to New York City, one of the few places in that day where a woman could hope to make her own way. There she acquired the position of Secretary for the Decorative Arts Society. Having been encouraged to write by friends, and by her husband before his death, she began writing articles for the newspapers as a special correspondent. In 1885 her first book, Boots and Saddles, or Life in Dakota with General Custer, was published. The book was a success and was followed in 1887 by Tenting on the Plains, about their life in Texas, and in 1890 by Following the Guidon, life in Kansas. With the success of her books she became a sought-after speaker and for many years thrilled audiences with her stories of buffalo hunts and life on the plains. Shortly after completing her third book she began "dotting down notes" about her experiences as a young bride in the last year of the Civil War, a practice she continued for more than forty years. She also wrote to old friends asking them to recall their memories, and when people heard that she was planning this new book they sent her stories about the General which she kept for possible inclusion in her text. Why she did not write the book will most likely never be known. Libbie Custer died on April 4, 1933, just four days short of her ninety-first birthday. Though she left behind a rich literary legacy of life on the frontier she never completed her "War Book." The Missouri Review ยท 149 In 1989, while doing research for my play, We Rode with Custer, and one-woman play, Then You'll Remember Me, based on Libbie Custer's life and writings, I learned of the existence of these Civil War notes in the Foreword to The Custer Story. Marguerite Merington, who had edited the letters of the Custers, said that though Mrs. Custer's mind had been clear her hand was failing and the notes could not be put in publishable form. Over the next four years I frequented libraries and dusty vaults, wrote countless letters, and made more telephone calls than I care to remember. I learned about their early Uves, their life together, and her life after his death, and every now and again I would come upon a note, or an entry in a journal about the Civil War, or a reference to the book in a letter, but never her notes themselves, just enough to keep me searching. While researching in Monroe, Michigan, I found several references to her "War Book," but no notes. I returned to the archives...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 147-176
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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