Most Americans are familiar with the name “General George Custer” and his historical last stand at Little Big Horn. He has become a vital and renowned piece of American History that is taught in schools still today. Few people know however, that one of the biggest reasons he is such a well known war hero, is due to the campaigning and image restoration that his beloved wifeElizabeth“Libbie” Custer did for him posthumous.
After his slaughter in the Battle of Little Big Horn, General Custer was doomed to be a forgotten name, just another man who mistakenly led his men into a dangerous and unwise situation. Knowing this, Libbie Custer sought out to restore his image and make him the American Hero that she viewed him as. As part of her image restoration process, Libbie followed the common steps of image restoration – denial, evading responsibility, corrective action, mortification, and reducing offensiveness.
Elizabethwas only able to begin writing and discussing the details of her husband’s life nine years after his death. Grieving the loss of her husband proved to be hard for her, and she ended up wearing the widow’s dressings of all black and muted colors for the rest of her life. This showed her sorrow as well as her determination to not let people forget the greatness of her husband.
As part of her campaign to promote General Custer as an American Hero, Elizabeth used such tactics as showing his loving side as a kind husband, and romanticized a violent period of American History by showing him as a brave and courageous man. Another brilliant move of Libbie Custer was how she presented herself to the world. She carried herself with such poise and grace; she became the kind of person who “must have been married to a hero”.
Elizabeth Custer turned upside down the image of a man who’s legacy was doomed to be that of a foolish man who led his men into a dangerous situation. She made him into the kind of man Americans were proud to have grace the pages of their history books.