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They Died with Their Boots On (1941) Poster

Goofs

Anachronisms 

Several tire tracks can be seen towards the end of the movie when the 7th Cavalry is chasing Crazy Horse and the Indian war party.
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Anachronisms 

By July 1863 (Battle of Gettysburg), Winfield Scott had been retired from the army for over a year, stepping down in 1862 in favor of George B. McClellan, who lasted in the position for less than a year. Henry "Brains" Halleck was in that rank in July 1863.
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1940s-era overhead electrical lines are seen several times during the Civil War battle at Hanover.
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After Butler has refused to take the letter back to Fort Lincoln, the camera shows a side shot of California Joe's head and he has what appears to be a hearing aid in his ear.
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Upon Custer's first arrival at Fort Abraham Lincoln, a soldier announcing his arrival is standing in front a 1930s era plaque memorializing the fort's founding.
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Custer is shown kissing Elizabeth while wearing a Civil War Campaign Medal, first issued on 26 May 1909, with a distinctive two color ribbon (blue and gray, not that it's obvious in a black and white film) first issued 12 August 1913.
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In pre-Civil War scenes at West Point and during Civil War scenes, the cadets and soldiers, respectively, are carrying breech loading Springfield rifles that were not generally issued prior to 1873.
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Boom mic visible 

During the office scene where they are discussing which cadets can be graduated early, you can see the shadow of the boom mic on the wall in the left rear of the room.
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Character error 

Ulysses S. Grant graduated from West Point in 1843, ranking 21st in a class of 39--not at the bottom of his class, as characters state in the movie.
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Crew or equipment visible 

During the final battle a trooper struggling with an Indian is shot in the back with an arrow by another Indian. The outline of the square block under his clothes into which the arrow was fired can be clearly seen.
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Errors in geography 

The 7th Cavalry is depicted as being organized at Fort Abraham Lincoln, Dakota Territory. In fact it was organized at Fort Riley, Kansas, and its first campaigns were against the Southern Cheyenne, not the Lakota.
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When Judge Bacon speaks with the preacher as he collects rents, mountains are clearly visible over the rooftops. There are no mountains anywhere near Monroe, Michigan.
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During the First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) scene, the soldiers are shown riding among rather large hills. The hills appear to be almost barren. The actual battlefield is on gently rolling hills with plenty of flora.
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Factual errors 

Among the many historical inaccuracies is the fact that Crazy Horse and Custer never met each other face to face. Given Crazy Horse's relative anonymity, it is also unlikely that he would have been recognized had he in fact been captured prior to the Little Big Horn.
In the film George Armstrong Custer argues that there is no gold in the Black Hills, but in reality he led the 1874 expedition that discovered gold near French Creek.
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Phil Sheridan was not Commandant of West Point during Custer's time there as portrayed in the film. In fact, he was only nine years older than Custer and, having graduated from West Point in 1853, was only a First Lieutenant at the outbreak of the Civil War, not a Colonel.
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The movie shows Custer and the 7th charging with their sabers, hard to do as they did not bring them along on this campaign.
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While the film has Custer offered $10,000 to become President of Sharp's railroad company, the position for which he was actually offered $10,000 in gold (and requested a leave of absence from the Army) was to serve as an Adjutant General in Benito Juarez's army in Mexico.
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Numerous times during the film Libbie Custer refers to Gen. Phil Sheridan as "Uncle Phil," a dear friend of her father. In fact there is no evidence that she knew him in any way prior to meeting him through George, although it's possible that she might have come to think of him as family in later years.
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Libbie Bacon's father was, as portrayed in the film, against the idea of his daughter marrying Custer, but not because Custer insulted him in a bar. Judge Bacon thought Custer, who was from a humble background, was of insufficient social standing to deserve his daughter's hand. The judge relented only after Custer was promoted in 1864 to the brevet (temporary) rank of Brigadier General.
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On 28 June 1863, three days prior to the Battle of Gettysburg, Gen. Pleasonton promoted Custer from captain to acting brigadier general of volunteers.
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When Custer and Gen. Scott are shown standing side by side, Custer is significantly taller. However, in real life Gen. Winfield Scott at 6'5" was nearly six inches taller than Custer.
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In the film Custer is awarded a medal. In reality, he never received any decoration, though he did receive honorary (brevet) promotions for gallantry. The only medal awarded by the government, or the Army, was the newly developed "Medal of Honor", which George Custer never won--though his brother Thomas was one of three soldiers in the Civil War (along with only 16 others since then) to receive it twice.
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As Custer meets Libby while walking his "Punishment Tour" at West Point, he's carrying a Springfield muzzle-loader but the musket has no ramrod, which was essential to its loading. That might be the least of the mistakes in this scene, since history records that Elizabeth "Libbie" Bacon never met Custer while he was at West Point; she met him in 1862, almost a year after he left the academy.
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When the Michigan cavalry charges at Gebysyburg they appear to be carrying a 35-star flag (straight rows of 5x7). Use of the 35-star flag went into official effect on 4 July 1863 (following the admission of West Virginia into the Union), which happens to be the day after this scene take place.
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Lt. Gen. Winfield Scott (who in reality was no longer in the Army, as noted elsewhere on this page) is handed a message stating "Stuart attacking Hanover", dated 30 June 1863, which is the date Stuart was having his "Ridearound" east of Gettysburg. However, just before receiving the wire, he was discussing with Maj. Taipe his concern about the center of the line at Gettysburg, and that Stuart would "turn the flank at Roundtop". The battle of Gettysburg was started on 1 July, with the battle of Little Roundtop on 2 July.
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When at the company trading store talking to Sharp; Custer asks where the Winchester rifles are from that are being sold to the Indians. He is told they are Civil War surplus. The Winchester repeater came out in 1866, the Civil War ended in 1865. Custer also states that they would outrange his carbines. In actuality the reverse is true. The Winchesters were advantageous v the carbines, as repeaters.
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Plot holes 

"Queens Own Butler" originally introduces the song "Garry Owen" to Custer during the Civil War while in a bar. A couple years later, Custer and his officers meet Butler whereupon Custer tells him he's haunted by the song, but can't remember it. Butler sits down at a piano and plays it for Custer and his officers. Although the officers are hearing the song for the first time, they somehow all know the words and begin to sing along.
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Revealing mistakes 

In several scenes (as Custer rides into the Black Hills, and later during his charge at the Little Big Horn) the sky as originally shot was apparently later replaced as a visual effect. The clouds are out of sync with the motion of the camera against background hills and the other elements of the shots.
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In the last battle scene where Indians are overrunning the soldiers, a warrior leaps atop a trooper. To the far left of the scene, a white building or barn can be seen clearly.
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Spoilers

The goof items below may give away important plot points.

Character error 

Custer tries to get "Queen's Own" Butler out of the final battle on the grounds that he is a foreigner and not an American. If that were true, the 7th Cavalry would have gone into battle without about 40% of its men. Then, as now, joining the US Army was a path to citizenship. Foreigners in the 7th Cavalry were mostly from Ireland, England, and principalities such as Prussia and Bavaria which became Germany in 1871. Other nationalities serving in the 7th Cavalry came from France, Australia, Sweden, Switzerland, Italy, and Hungary.
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Continuity 

California Joe is shot in the back by two arrows but as he utters his last words to Custer there is only one arrow in his back.
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Factual errors 

Numerous inaccuracies regarding the Little Big Horn battle. For example, George Armstrong Custer was most likely one of the first casualties in the battle, not among the last. Since so many facts about this battle were covered up and were only puzzled together as late as the 2000s, the filmmakers in 1941 can be excused for some of this.
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Revealing mistakes 

Before Butler is run through with a lance, the shadow of the prosthetic is visible on the ground.
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After Sharp is hit by shots in the chest and Custer holds him as he is dying seconds later, the blood trickling out of the right corner of his mouth is already dry.
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See also

Trivia | Crazy Credits | Quotes | Alternate Versions | Connections | Soundtracks

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