Custer led more than 200 other other soldiers into battle against thousands of Lakota and Northern Cheyenne warriors on June 25, 1876, at the Little Bighorn River in what is now Montana. None of the U.S. soldiers survived the battle.
The flag that will be sold in October is tattered and fragile, measures 27½ by 33 inches and may be stained with blood. It was found three days after the Battle of Little Bighorn — or the Battle of Greasy Grass Creek, as the victors called it — beneath the body of one of Custer’s men killed in the battle.
Sgt. Ferdinand Culbertson, a member of the burial detail assigned to retrieve the remains of the 7th Cavalry, found the Cavalry guidon, or swallow-tail flag, that was used by cavalry companies. The design reduced wind drag as the soldiers advanced.
“It’s not a piece of decoration,” said Sotheby’s vice chairman, David Redden. “It’s a sacred relic. People died for this flag. This flag is really important as it symbolizes one of the great and mythological battles in American history.”