|Martin Pate's latest historical work on the Battle of the Little Bighorn eloquently captures Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer at the moment of his death on the brow of Last Stand Hill, that horrific Sunday afternoon 25 June, 1876. Martin revives the long forgotten allegorical style used by many Civil War artists during the 19th Century, and to my knowledge, has never been attempted before to depict Custer.
Carefully researched, Custer with fatal bullet wounds to the left temple and chest and hair cut short that fateful campaign, is dressed in a custom fireman's shirt with embroidered 7th Cavalry insignia on the points of the collar, buckskin trousers tucked into high top cavalry boots, cream colored hat at his feet, canvas cartridge belt, RIC Holsters, and with his presentation grade 1876 RIC Webley Revolvers. His trusty Remington No. 1 50/70 Sporting Rifle is at his feet.
This poignant painting is perhaps as close as we will ever get to that fateful moment on that knoll above the Little Bighorn when Custer passed into history and legend, and became an American icon. Note the four or five brass .50/70 spent casings at Custer's feet which were later found by 1st Sgt. John Ryan under his body, and the peculiar brass casing described by Lt. Edward Maguire found on the rise, which was supposed to belong to Custer's pistol.
The perspective is to the south toward Calhoun Hill, and from behind the sorrel horse barricade. Visible in the eastern heavens is planet Venus, the morning star; a symbolic artistic detail as Custer was known among his Indian Scouts as Son of the Morning Star. His personal flag, clutched in the hand of the Goddess of Immortality who is seen lifting Custer up for his final journey to the Heavens, is gently flowing in the breeze, which was out of a northerly direction that day. Pate's monumental work will undoubtedly stand the test of time and takes its rightful place in Custeriana.
John A. Doerner, Chief Historian,
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument
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