powered by AFI
The new group of cadets at West Point in 1857 includes George Armstrong Custer, a flamboyant dresser with long curls, who wants to experience the glory of war. During his time at the military academy, Custer commits many infractions and his classroom performance leaves much to be desired. When Abraham Lincoln is elected president, and civil war breaks out, Custer is eager to graduate and join the battle. While on a punishment tour, Custer meets pretty Elizabeth Bacon, known as Libby, and arranges to meet her later that evening. Before their rendezvous, Custer, like many other cadets, is graduated early and sent to Washington, D.C. to wait for a commission. In Washington, Custer's bad reputation prevents him from receiving an immediate commission. Tired of waiting, he charms Lt. General Winfield Scott into inviting him to lunch and then confesses his dilemma. Scott has him assigned to the Second U.S. Cavalry. At the Battle of Bull Run on 21 July 1861, Custer disregards orders and leads his men in an attack on the enemy. He is wounded in battle and sent home, but later receives a medal. While on leave, Custer plans a visit to Libby to apologize for standing her up at West Point. Before he arrives at her house, Custer encounters Samuel Bacon and, not knowing that he is Libby's father, quarrels with him. Libby is delighted to see Custer and readily forgives him, but when she introduces him to her father, he angrily throws Custer out. Custer and Libby meet secretly that night, and Custer promises to marry her when he becomes a general, reasoning that her father could not possibly object to him then. Custer rejoins his regiment and by mistake is made a general of the Michigan Brigade. At the Battle of Gettysburg, in Pennsylvania, Custer again attacks against orders and the brigade loses many men, but Confederate general Jeb Stuart is driven back. Custer continues to distinguish himself in the war, and after it is over, Bacon agrees to Libby's marriage. With the end of the war, however, Custer is out of work. Ned Sharp, one of Custer's fellow cadets, offers him the presidency of a corporation he has formed with his father to develop the Dakota Territory, but when Custer learns he will only be a figurehead, he turns down the offer. Once again General Scott comes to the rescue, this time at Libby's request, and Custer is posted to Fort Lincoln in the Dakota Territory. The fort is in total disarray when Custer and Libby arrive. Sharp has opened a trading post that sells rifles to the Indians and also runs a bar that has resulted in a drunken corps of cavalrymen. Custer whips the soldiers into shape, closing both the bar and the trading post. Under his leadership, the Seventh U.S. Cavalry wages war on the Indians. When Crazy Horse's Sioux agree to move away from their land as the U.S. government has ordered, on condition they are allowed to retain the sacred land in the Black Hills, Custer promises he will defend their rights there. The Sharps's corporation, however, has plans to run a railroad through there in order to bolster its failing business, and the Sharps work behind the scenes to have Custer relieved of his command. In response, Custer accuses Major Romulus Taipe of falsely announcing the discovery of gold in the Black Hills. Learning of an approaching battle with the Indians under the leadership of Sitting Bull, Custer begs to be returned to his command. On 25 June 1876, to save Brigadier General Alfred Terry from certain defeat, Custer sacrifices the entire Seventh Cavalry in the Battle of Little Big Horn. Afterward, Libby presents a letter sent to her by Custer before his death. In his dying declaration, Custer renews his accusations against Taipe, who is forced to resign and return the Black Hills to the Sioux.