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Custer’s Last Stand anniversary highlights Brainerd ties

The Battle of Little Big Horn, aka Custer’s Last Stand, took place almost 150 years ago in late June of 1876. George Armstrong Custer was no stranger to Brainerd, and former Brainerd resident Mark Kellogg was the only reporter to die in the battle between Native Americans and the U.S. Army.

General George Custer
Gen. George Custer.
Contributed / Library of Congress
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BRAINERD — People may not remember the Battle of Little Big Horn. But they’ve almost certainly heard of Custer’s Last Stand.

They are one and the same, however, with the latter popularized as an expression of doomed defiance against insurmountable odds.

What others may be surprising to learn is U.S. Army Lt. Col. George Custer passed through Brainerd, or that a former Brainerd resident was the only journalist killed in that battle.

Mark Kellogg
Mark Kellogg, a reporter for the Bismarck Tribune and New York Herald, was killed while covering the Battle of the Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876. Kellogg lived in Brainerd in the early 1870s.
Contributed / Public Domain

“Mark Kellogg lived in Brainerd for a couple of years, and Gen. Custer traveled through Brainerd and stayed on more than one occasion,” said Jeremy Jackson, a local historic investigator and researcher, of Custer, who was also a major general in the U.S. Volunteer Army.

The Battle of the Little Bighorn took place June 25, 1876, near the Little Bighorn River in Montana Territory. Custer led the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the U.S. Army against a band of Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne warriors. About 260 of Custer’s men died.

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Tensions between the federal government and tribal leaders rose amid the discovery of gold on Native American lands. The U.S. Army — including Custer and the 7th Cavalry — confronted the tribes when a number of them missed a federal deadline to move to reservations, History.com explained.

“Custer was unaware of the number of Indians fighting under the command of Sitting Bull at Little Bighorn, and his forces were outnumbered and quickly overwhelmed in what became known as Custer’s Last Stand,” according to History.com.

Kellogg was a journalist from La Crosse, Wisconsin, who accompanied Custer to their bitter end. Kellogg was born in Ontario, Canada, before his family moved to La Crosse in 1851. Through the Bismarck Tribune, Kellogg connected with the 36-year-old Custer.

“After stints in Lacrosse, Wis., and Brainerd, Minn., Kellogg arrived in rough and rowdy Bismarck not long after the railroad reached town,” according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Kellogg worked as a telegraph operator at the Wisconsin Telegraph Co. for many years before becoming a traveling journalist.

“He was the only civilian newspaper correspondent that died along with many officers and soldiers of the 7th Cavalry Regiment during the battle,” Jackson said. “Mark Kellogg is interred in the Custer National Cemetery in Montana.”

Chief Sitting Bull
Chief Sitting Bull
Contributed / Library of Congress

While living in Brainerd during the early 1870s, Kellogg ran as a candidate for the Minnesota Legislature and was defeated, according to Jackson, before becoming a last-minute replacement to accompany Custer to the infamous battle.

“He also wrote newspaper articles during his time in Brainerd that appeared in the St. Paul Pioneer Press (formerly the St. Paul Dispatch) under the pen name of ‘Frontier,’ and he was associated with the Brainerd Tribune,” Jackson said.

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The 45-year-old newspaper stringer’s dispatches were the only press coverage of Custer and his men in the days leading up to the battle and he is considered the first Associated Press correspondent to die in the line of duty.

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Kellogg’s last dispatch read, "By the time this reaches you, we would have met and fought the red devils, with what result remains to be seen. I go with Custer and will be at the death."

According to newspaper articles of the time, Custer spent the night in Brainerd on March 23, 1876, while traveling to Washington, D.C., by train, and returned again on May 8, 1876. Little did he know, his time on earth would soon be up.

The Brainerd Tribune documented at least two visits to Brainerd by Gen. George Armstrong Custer, but he was probably in Brainerd a few other times,” Jackson said. “He died at the Battle of Little Bighorn just a few weeks later on June 25, 1876.”

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at frank.lee@brainerddispatch.com . Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchFL .

Related Topics: BRAINERD HISTORY
I cover arts and entertainment, and write feature stories, for the Brainerd Dispatch newspaper. As a professional journalist with years of experience, I have won awards for my fact-based reporting. And my articles have also appeared in other publications, including USA Today. 📰
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