Elizabeth Bacon Custer

The wind blew unceasingly all the five years we were in Kansas--” Elizabeth Bacon Custer, Tenting on the Plains.

Kansas residents well understand Mrs. Custer's lament. Today, as the wind blows across the Kansas plains, it carries the memories of the pioneers and the U.S. Army soldiers sent to protect them. Such times are not lost to us, if we listen to the voices in the wind.

Elizabeth Bacon Custer

Elizabeth Bacon Custer, known as Libbie, was 34 years old at the time of the Battle of the Little Big Horn on June 25, 1876. In that one fateful Sunday afternoon, she lost her husband of twelve years, Major General George Armstrong Custer; three brothers-in-law, Colonel Thomas Ward Custer, Boston Custer, and James Calhoun; a nephew, Armstrong Reed, many friends, and even her home.

As a military widow, Libbie received a pension of $12 a month. She had to find a means to support herself, her husband’s aged parents, and his widowed sister. A friend solicited the Administration of President Ulysses S. Grant to commission her as Postmistress of the Monroe, Michigan Post Office. But after President Grant had criticized her late husband, Libbie replied she would “eat with the hogs before she accepted any help from this Administration!”

Literary friends such as Henry James and Mark Twain encouraged her to write her memoirs of her life with General Custer. Libbie found she enjoyed writing, though the task of re-reading the many letters she and her husband had exchanged and saved was a sad one. The result of her work was the publication of three books, Boots and Saddles, Following the Guidon, and Tenting on the Plains. The books chronicled the adventures of General and Mrs. Custer from the close of the Civil War until the 7th Cavalry's fateful march from Fort Lincoln in 1876, including assignments in Texas, Kansas and Dakota Territory. She became a much-requested lecturer, often performing readings from her works at events for women’s organizations and charity benefits.  Libbie died four days before her 91st birthday, after devoting her 57 years of widowhood to honoring her husband’s memory.

Deborah Buckner, a resident of Overland Park, is a licensed attorney and former state government lobbyist. During her career, she has been a frequent lecturer and presenter on legal topics, most notably the Missouri Open Meetings and Open Records Law. She is happy to use those skills to share her childhood fascination with the Custers which has become an adult obsession. Mrs. Buckner as Mrs. Custer

(Photo by Marcia Lowry)


Mrs. Buckner as Mrs. Custer
(Photo by Marcia Lowry)

“Civil War Courtship: General Custer's Charge on Elizabeth Bacon” (year-'round, especially appropriate near Valentine's Day)

Mrs. Custer tells of her first meeting with Captain George Armstrong Custer, her courtship over her father's objections, and her wartime wedding.

“The Custers in Kansas” (year-'round)

Hear Mrs. Custer's “living history,” of her days as an Army wife on the Kansas Plains, of the beginnings of the Seventh Cavalry, of earthquakes and tornadoes, of encounters with Wild Bill Hickok, Buffalo Bill Cody, and the Grand Duke of Russia.

“Winter on the Plains” (November-February)

Mrs. Custer tells of the hardships and the fun of life on a remote frontier Army post through the winter months. Custer's Seventh Cavalry finds a home at Fort Abraham Lincoln.

“A Civil War Christmas -- 1864” (November and December)

Mrs. Custer tells of her wartime courtship and marriage, attempts to travel home for Christmas, friendships that endured between the North and South and the joys of celebrating with an Army family.

“Christmas on the Plains” (November and December)

Mrs. Custer shares her stories of the special challenges frontier Army wives faced in trying to create a festive holiday on remote outposts far from shops and resources.

Contact: deb07 AT thebucknerhome DOT com

(913) 338-5689