There has been some debate of late on the subject, it being contended that Custer may have borne some mutilation with an arrow, which, due to its delicate nature, was not disclosed out of concern for the feelings of Mrs. Custer. The speculation is based on an alleged comment by Edward Godfrey to Custer historian Charles F. Bates. Godfrey's official description, however, was that Custer had been shot in the left temple and left breast. "There were no powder marks or signs of mutilation." In an 1892 article in Century Magazine
, "Custer's Last Battle," Godfrey repeats his assertion that Custer was not mutilated, "All the bodies, except a few, were *****ped of their clothing. According to my recollection nearly all were scalped or mutilated, but there was one notable exception, that of General Custer, whose face and expression were natural; he had been shot in the temple and in the left side."
Mrs. Custer was not completely innocent of the horrors that might be visited upon one captured by Indians. In her Boots and Saddles
she described a gruesome discovery while she and her husband were on a stroll:
The body of a white man was staked out on the ground and disembowelled. There yet remained the embers of the smouldering fire that consumed him. If the Indians are hurried for time, and cannot stay to witness the prolonged torture of their victim, it is their custom to pinion the captive and place hot coals on his vitals. The horror and fright this gave us women lasted for a time, and rendered unnecessary the continued warnings of our husbands about walking outside the line of the pickets.
The contemporaneous newspaper reports did not spare the families of those killed the gory details of the revenge exacted on the bodies. The Bismark Tribune
reported that some of the more obscene mutilations were visited upon the soldiers while still living. Nor was Mrs. Custer spared the details of what happened to other members of her family. Yet all of the newspaper accounts including those written by those there, indicate that Custer was not mutilated. Thus, the conclusion must be that the early reports were accurate and later reports may be regarded as unverified.