William T. Trego: Catalogue Raisonne

The Charge of Custer at Winchester, 1879

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Alternate title: Custer's Charge at the Battle of Winchester. A.K.A The Woodstock Races
Oil on canvas, 24 x 30 inches


This now-vanished painting won an award at the Michigan State Fair in Detroit in 1879. It was the work that launched Trego’s career and made him an overnight sensation at age twenty. The City of Detroit was so stunned by the work that an attempt was made to purchase it for permanent display in some local venue. While this attempt failed, an American diplomat, John C. White, Secretary to the American Legation in Brazil, utlimately purchased the painting for one thousand dollars in 1884. What became of the painting beyond White's purchase is unknown. Anyone with any information about the work and its whereabouts is asked to contact us through this website or by calling the James A. Michener Art Museum at (215) 340-9800.


Michigan State Fair in August/September 1879 (Detroit Free Press, 23 August 1879. Detroit, September 1879: Angell’s Art Gallery (Detroit Free Press, 23 Aug 1879)


“The principal figure is, of course, the yellow-haired chieftain mounted on his blooded black charger, dashing across the field at the head of his regiment. His sword is raised high in air, and his face, which is a portrait, expresses all the fire and lofty courage and enthusiasm which characterized the man, and made him pre-eminent as a cavalry leader.” (The Cleveland Free Press, day and month unknown, 1879, as quoted in Abram Trego Shertzer, A Historical Account of the Trego Family [Baltimore: 1884], p. 71) “Best historical painting in oil done by exhibitor, W. T. Trego, Detroit . . . $5.00.” (Eighteenth Annual Report of the Secretary of the State Board of Agriculture of the State of Michigan for the year ending August 31, 1879 [Lansing, MI: 1880], p. 398) “His picture of Custer’s charge is for sale, and it is upon the proceeds of the work—which occupied fully a year—that he hopes to be able to attend the art school at Philadelphia this coming winter.” (“Custer’s Charge at the Battle of Winchester,” Detroit Free Press, 18 September 1879, p. 6) “Trego’s career was really launched in the summer of 1879 when he exhibited The Charge of Custer at Winchester at the Michigan State Fair.” (Helen Hartman Gemmill, “William B. T. Trego, the Artist with the Paralyzed Hands,” Antiques [November 1983], p. 994)

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James A. Michener Art Museum William T. Trego Catalogue Raisonne