Custer’s Last Band

custerOn June 22, 1876, Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer confidently led his 7th Cavalry, several officers’ wives and assorted hangers-on out of Fort Abraham Lincoln near present-day Bismarck, North Dakota. With him was the regimental band, a sixteen-piece brass band mounted on matching white horses and led by Chief Musician Felix Vinatieri. They played “Boots and Saddles”, and then Custer’s favorite, the cheerful tune of “Garry Owen”, which would forever after be associated with the ill-fated 7th Cavalry and its demise.

Custer’s only concern was that the wily Sioux would escape before he could engage them in battle, but his spirits were high, and the entourage took on the air of a summer pleasure outing. Hunting and scouting parties detached themselves occasionally to canter across the prairie.

When the party reached the confluence of the Powder and Yellowstone, General Terry’s orders were explicit: the band was to turn back. Custer, taking one bugler and the handsome white horses with him, rode into an ambush. The band arrived back at the fort – by steamboat – in time for the frontier Fourth of July celebration. Thus, the Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2001,  2003, and 2004 (and the Colts in 2006).


The place kicker for the New England Patriots football team in 2001 was a young man named Adam Vinatieri, the great-great-grandson of Felix. Adam’s talented toe not only drilled the game-winning field goal as time expired in the Big Game, but he kicked five game-winning field goals during the 2001 season to get them there, including three in overtime.Vinatieriband2

According to Patriots’ statistics, Vinatieri is the most reliable field goal kicker in franchise history, connecting on 80% of his kicks. He scored 24 points during the 2001 postseason and is now the top Patriots scorer in postseason annals with 54 points.

Following Super Bowl XLI in 2007, in which Adam Vinatieri participated for a record fifth time, he now holds nearly every Super Bowl record a place kicker can own: most appearances by a place kicker, most extra points made and attempted with 13, most field gold attempts (10), most field goals made (7). He is second in all-time Super Bowl scoring (34), has kicked the fifth-longest field goal in the game’s history (48 yards), and in Super Bowl XXXIX his six points scored was the most by kickers in the big game. His career totals now stand at 288 of 349 field goal attempts (82.5%) and 405 of 412 extra point attempts (98.3%).  He is the first kicker ever to win four Super Bowl rings.

Not bad for a kid who couldn’t get drafted after graduation from South Dakota State University, even though he is the Jackrabbits’ all-time leading scorer!

Now sports fans….


What if Custer had defied his superior and taken the band to the Little Big Horn that blazing hot summer day in 1876?

One comment on “Custer’s Last Band

  1. Leo Solimine

    Although most of the Seventh Cavalry’s band members did not go on this expedition, those who played the bugle did. Buglers in the US Cavalry also served as messengers — an especially important role when moving multiple units prior to and during combat. One such bugler was John Martin — he carried the infamous last message (“Come Quick … Big Village … “). Martin was born in Italy, abandoned as an infant and marched with Garibaldi before coming to America and joining Custer’s Seventh Cavalry. Please see ‘Custer’s Bugler: The Life of John Martin (Giovanni Martino)’ for more info on his life and actions at the Little Big Horn. My book has been noted for the extensive and in depth research from sources in the US and Italy, providing details of John Martin never before published. Thank you.

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