powered by AFI
After a flamboyantly successful career in the Civil War, young Gen. George Armstrong Custer goes West, accompanied by his wife, Elizabeth, to take command of the 7th Cavalry. As he sets out to subdue the Indians, who are rebelling against the government's reservation policies, he overcomes initial conflicts with the hard-drinking Maj. Marcus Reno and with Lieutenant Benteen, who is sympathetic toward the Indians' plight, and tightens discipline among his men. Custer receives a surprise visit from Gen. Philip Sheridan, who orders him to attack a Cheyenne village as appeasement for Washington politicians. Custer complies, but his troops run wild and massacre women and children. Though he refuses to take a conciliatory approach toward Chief Dull Knife, he concludes that government responsiveness to private interests must be curbed if peace is to be secured. A patrol of Custer's men deserts after gold is discovered on the reservation, and he is forced to execute the leader, Sergeant Mulligan; meanwhile, efforts to gain Washington's adherence to the terms of the Indian treaties fail totally. Following an Indian ambush of a new railroad that runs through their land, Custer is called to Washington. He exposes top-level politicians in President Grant's administration who have been bribed to serve as spokesmen for railroad and mining interests, and as a result he is relieved of his command. He is disheartened to hear that his men are about to march against the Indians without him. Through the diplomacy of his wife, however, Custer is permitted to return to Dakota to lead his men in battle. At Little Big Horn, his troops are overwhelmed by the Indians, and Custer is the last to die.