Washington, DC: np, August 19, 1866. Broadside. 59 x 24 cm. Matted, framed and glazed. Right edge slightly frayed. Three old folds, one neatly repaired, otherwise a nice example. In the text the "Committee on Address," which includes Major Generals G.A. Custer, A.McD. McCook, L.H. Rousseau, George Crook, S. Meridith, and Thomas Ewing, argues that the country should move forward with accepting the South back into the Union, not holding the Southerners in vassalage. The nation should come together at the convention in Cleveland to make the case: "In pursuance of a resolution of a meeting of Soldiers now, or lately, in the Union Army, held in this city last evening, we invite those of you who approve the Restoration Policy of the President and the principles announced by the National Union Convention at Philadelphia, to assemble at Cleveland on the 17th day of September next, for consultation on the momentous issues now convulsing our country." Custer's is the first name listed in the group of six members of the "Committee on Address." The whole second column is made up of the names of other officers in support, approving the call for both general and local conventions. OCLC lists only a copy at Abraham Lincoln Library. Item #63716
A rare broadside published in 1866 which captures both Custer's intensity and his disenchantment with politics. A separate printing of this call to comrades-in-arms by George Armstrong Custer to restore citizenship to the defeated Confederacy's military elite [cf. New York Times, Aug. 22, 1866 or Springfield Illinois State Register, August 20, 1866, cited by Jay Monaghan in his biography "Custer: The Life of General George Armstrong Custer," (Boston: 1959)].
In July of 1866 Custer was in Washington seeking employment. He applied for the job of Inspector General of the U.S. Cavalry. He was offered a commission as lieutenant colonel in the 7th Cavalry. He had accepted this commission only in the hope of later obtaining something better. He "found the capital agog with a bitter political fight concerning reconstruction of the Southern states. President Andrew Johnson and the National Union Party, on whose platform he and Lincoln had been elected, favored restoring self-government to all the states which had seceded, providing only that they abolish slavery and submit to a few minor requirements. Radical Republicans bitterly opposed this plan, and Custer's best friends were Radicals. Men Like Zach Chandler and John A. Bingham, Custer's most ardent supporters, insisted on treating the South like a conquered province, disenfranchising the most prominent whites and giving the vote to Negroes. As practical politicians they knew that the President's plan of reconstruction would destroy the Republican Party as well as their own political careers. A majority of the American people had been Democrats before the war and still were. The only possible way for the Republicans to stay in power was to insist that the Southern states enfranchise the freed slaves. Without their votes the Democratic Party, North and South, would take over the nation."
Custer thought it ridiculous to give the vote to newly liberated slaves, and believed that if the Republican Party could survive only with the ex-slave vote it should perish. Thus, Custer took up views in opposition to those of his friends. He attended a mass meeting in Detroit on August 9, 1866, to endorse the National Union platform, and was appointed one of four delegates to the national convention scheduled to meet in Philadelphia on August 14. Delegates from Massachusetts and South Carolina walked into the hall arm-in-arm. The Radical press deplored this mingling with defeated traitors, falsely reporting that Mosby was among the delegates. "With five others, [Custer] proudly signed his name to a call for all ex-soldiers and sailors to attend a grand rally in Cleveland on September 17, the anniversary of McClellan's victory at Antietam." [cf. Monaghan, pp. 269-79; including cited newspaper accounts on August 13, 15, 17 and 22, 1866]. While the response by radical Republicans was strident and swift, at this time Custer was not dissuaded from his chosen course, nor did he trim. The day following our call to convention, on August 20, Custer wrote a letter that was printed on the opening day of the convention, September 17, as an Extra of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, entitled "Custer's reply to the atrocious attempts of the corrupt or insane radical press to pervert his testimony..."
At this time he also wrote directly to President Johnson, applying for a colonelcy, even of infantry, as long as he commanded only white troops. The president invited Custer and Libbie to join the presidential party, along with members of the Cabinet and high-ranking generals, including Ulysses S. Grant, on "a swing around the circle." Ostensibly to lay a cornerstone for a monument to Stephen A. Douglas in Chicago and to visit Lincoln's tomb in Springfield, Johnson wanted to explain his Reconstruction policy to the people. On this trip Custer was led to consider a political career.
While in the East and New York state, where the group was well-received, the idea of a political career seemed plausible. Crowds were generally receptive to the military men, but rarely to the President. The Midwest, home to Custer, was however also the domain of the radical reconstructionists. Here treatment of everyone was more harsh and unforgiving. When the President was mistreated in Custer's home town he vowed never to return--a promise he kept. "The Custers left the presidential party at Steubenville and returned to Monroe...to prepare for the Soldiers and Sailors Convention he had helped call. On the opening day, September 17, 1866, many delegates failed to appear. This was discouraging, but Armstrong felt sure they were delayed by the heavy rains....A dispatch was read to the meeting from ex-Confederate soldiers in Memphis who wished the convention success and agreed to abide by any rules of reconstruction laid down for them by 'the soldiers of the Union.' Among the signers was Nathan Bedford Forrest, ringleader of the Ku Klux Klan which had been organized to defy the Federal government. The letter was misleading, for it indicated that the Klan might be in league with the National Union Party. At least that was the interpretation given it by the Radical press....Propagandists, enlarging on the meeting's apparent sympathy for the South, reported that Custer introduced Forrest in person to the convention--another of the palpable lies which people were beginning to tell about Armstrong." Custer had irretriveably lost his political support when he joined with the National Unionists, and was bitterly assailed by extreme Radical journals. In September, the Cleveland Leader got out "an extra designed to injure Custer." [cf. Merington, The Custer Story (1950, p. 186-7)]. A month later, in the fall of 1866, Custer boarded the train for Fort Riley, Kansas, to join the 7th Cavalry. On June 29, 1869, Custer applied through Gen. William T. Sherman to President Grant for an appointment as Commandant of West Point. Grant, who did not like Custer, denied the appointment and kept Custer at distance amongst the Indians in the politically remote West. Almost exactly seven years later, on June 25, in the centennial year of American independence, Custer rode to his fate, and into the history books.