2023 George Armstrong Custer Symposium
We are pleased to present the following speakers:
James Hessler – With Custer to the End: Captain George Yates – Among the Seventh Cavalry’s officers, Captain George Yates does not receive the same attention as Reno, Benteen, Keogh, Tom Custer, or many others. Yet, Yates had one of the longest-standing relationships with George Custer dating back to the Civil War, and they died within only feet of each other on Last Stand Hill. Join Jim Hessler as we discuss the life and career of Captain George Yates, from the Civil War, through his wife’s ties to this region, and to those final bloody moments in Montana. About the speaker – James Hessler originated the idea for this symposium. Jim has worked as a Licensed Battlefield Guide at Gettysburg National Military Park for two decades. He authored or co-authored three full-length books on the Gettysburg campaign: Sickles at Gettysburg (2009), Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg (2015), and Gettysburg’s Peach Orchard (2019). His books received several distinguished book awards. Jim currently co-hosts the popular Battle of Gettysburg Podcast and has made numerous national media appearances. He has written several articles for publication and was one of the primary content designers for the American Battlefield Trust’s mobile Gettysburg application. Jim is a frequent speaker at Civil War Round Tables and other historical groups nationwide. In addition to Gettysburg, he leads tours at several other historic sites including Little Bighorn. Jim currently sits on the Board of Directors for the Little Bighorn Associates.
Jeffry Wert – Fighting Was His Business – For George Armstrong Custer, 1863 was a momentous year. He rose from a staff officer to a brigadier general of volunteers in command of the Michigan Cavalry Brigade. By year’s end, he had become one of the most renowned generals in the Cavalry Corps and the prospective husband to Elizabeth “Libbie” Bacon. About the speaker – Jeffry D. Wert is a retired high school history teacher and an award-winning Civil War historian, who has written biographies of George Custer, James Longstreet, and Jeb Stuart. He also has written books and articles on the campaigns and battles in the conflict’s Eastern Theater.
Siobhan Fallon – The Battle AFTER the Little Bighorn: The Widow, the Writer, and the Man They Called Coward. Rumors and accusations began to swirl from the moment General Terry’s command arrived on Reno Hill and told the surviving members of the Seventh Cavalry that Custer was dead. Thought to have been assisted by Elizabeth “Libbie” Custer, Frederick Whittaker would finish his A Complete Life General George A. Custer just six months later. Whittaker’s book claimed: “The massacre at the Little Big Horn was due to Reno’s cowardice and Benteen’s indifference.” It was Major Marcus Reno himself who requested a court of inquiry in Chicago in 1879. While Reno’s name was officially cleared, the results of the Reno Court of Inquiry continue to add to the controversy surrounding the Little Bighorn fight. About the speaker – Siobhan Fallon is the author of the collection You Know When the Men Are Gone and the novel The Confusion of Languages. Her essays and stories have been featured in New York Times Modern Love, Washington Post Magazine, NPR’s Morning Edition, Stars and Stripes, The Huffington Post, among others, and have been performed by both national and international theater groups. An Army spouse, Siobhan started researching military wives and became hooked on the life of Elizabeth Bacon Custer as well as everything Little Bighorn. She is currently at work on a book about the Reno Court of Inquiry. Siobhan also has a series on YouTube titled “The Lives of the Little Bighorn.”
Eric Wittenberg – George Armstrong Custer in the 1864 Overland Campaign – Eric J. Wittenberg will address George Custer’s crucial role in Ulysses S. Grant’s 1864 Overland Campaign, addressing the Michigan Cavalry Brigade’s participation in one of the Civil War’s most important campaigns. About the speaker – Eric J. Wittenberg is an award-winning Civil War author whose specialty is Union cavalry actions. He is the author of 24 published books and dozens of articles, most of which focus on the mounted arm. Educated at Dickinson College and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, he is an attorney in private practice. Eric serves on the boards of the Little Big Horn Associates and Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, and is the program coordinator for the Chambersburg Civil War Seminars and Tours. He and his wife Susan and their three golden retrievers live in Columbus, Ohio.