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Unidentified photographer 
George Armstrong Custer 
1859 (ca) 
Ambrotype, 1/4 plate 
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution 
Object No: NPG.81.138 
Exhibition label
Born New Rumley, Ohio
In June 1861—just two months after the start of the Civil War—George A. Custer graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and entered the Union army as a second lieutenant in the Second Cavalry. One of the army’s rising stars, Custer was only twenty-three when he became the youngest officer promoted to brigadier general, in 1863. By the war’s end, his conspicuous bravery and battlefield daring had earned him the rank of major general in Philip Sheridan’s cavalry corps. Custer was still a West Point cadet when he posed for this portrait holding his Colt pocket pistol. 

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