Lot 701    

Display of Custer Little Big Horn Relics,
2006, Firearms and Early Militaria Auction, Dec 7
comprising an ummounted 2” x 3.25” albumen photograph of “Lt. Col. G.A. Custer” tipped to paper along with a purported silk “remnant” of 7th Cavalry colors and newspaper clipping referring to a “Mr. Schirmacher, one the heroes of the Yellowstone campaign under Custer,” and three spent .45-70 “brass shell casings” said to be relics from “the Custer battlefield at the Little Big Horn,” all mounted together under modern glass. With a photocopied notarized “Letter of Authenticity” given November 15, 2000 by a noted national dealer in Civil War militaria. The albumen is from the March 1876 series by photographer D.F. Barry (see Katz) showing Custer in the full dress uniform (helmet trimmed away) of his famous 7th Cavalry Regiment while the three .45-70s are correct cartridges for the issue Model 1873 Springfield trapdoor carbine with provenance not specified.

The section of silk bunting sits adjacent to a description that reads in full: Remnant of the only one of the colors of the 7th US cavalry saved from the Battle of the Little Big Horn, June 25, 1876 (picked up on the field). The accompanying “letter of authenticity” states that the fragment was at one time owned by the Goodspeed Book Shop at which time it was framed. It was originally owned by Pvt. Schirmacher, one of Colonel Custer’s troopers, referred to in the undated newspaper clipping. Despite the stated provenance the “flag remnant" could not possibly have been recovered from the Little Big Horn battlefield and is more likely a period piece of worn red/white/blue bunting imbued with late 19th century Custer mystique by Schirmacher, if indeed, we accept that he was the original owner. First and foremost, the remnant, roughly 3” x 5”, is made of thin silk, a material too fragile for field use, lightly machine stitched with a single strand of white cotton thread suitable only for a parade. Second, the precise details of both flags carried by the 7th Cavalry at the Little Big Horn are known and neither can physically match the cut and configuration of this purported narrow red/white/blue piece. The 7th Cavalry carried a regulation swallow-tail guidon made of heavy reinforced silk having a fly of red and white stripes with square blue union upper left containing two circular rows of 31 gold stars with four more stars at each corner. The second flag carried at Little Big Horn was Custer’s personal headquarters banner made by Libby Custer and it, too, was a swallow-tail design with equal horizontal stripes of red over blue with two large white crossed sabers in the center.

The regimental standard of the 7th Cavalry was not carried at the Little Big Horn while cavalry regiments were not authorized national colors—stars and stripes—until 1895. An examination of a photograph or diagram of a regulation cavalry guidon (which remained essentially unchanged from 1862 until 1885) it is evident that it is quite impossible to duplicate—even by selective cutting—the configuration of this remnant. It is speculative to suggest what Schirmacher’s symbolic remnant might be, but it is with a high degree of certainly not a relic of the 1876 Custer battlefield.

Property of the former First National Bank of Fremont, Indiana

Silk and cartridges RELIC, heavily trimmed albumen VG.
Sold: $977.50
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