Does the Lost Custer Treasure Really Exist?

Thanks to all of you who watched me on last week’s America Unearthed episode, “Custer’s Blood Treasure.” Recently, I’ve seen a few questions bouncing around about the exact nature of the lost Custer treasure. Some people have even doubted its existence all together. So, I thought I’d add in some details from four primary sources as well as some reporting by Kathryn Wright, who originally broke the Custer treasure story back in 1957. Perhaps this will shed a little light on the exact nature of the Custer treasure as well as how the story originated.

Where did the Custer Treasure Come From?

Two Moon Vault and supposed storehouse of lost Custer treasure (Constructed by W.P. Moncure)

Two Moon Vault and supposed storehouse of lost Custer treasure map (Constructed by W.P. Moncure)

The lost Custer treasure consists of about four months back pay given to the Seventh Cavalry more than a month prior to Custer’s last stand. Contrary to popular opinion, it wasn’t stored in a pay wagon and taken to the battlefield but rather, was carried into battle by the individual soldiers themselves. After the fighting was over, the Indians stripped the dead soldiers of their belongings, including their various monies. This hoard of harvested pay and other trinkets, in total, makes up the lost Custer treasure.

So, the first question we must answer is whether or not there is evidence that Custer’s men were paid prior to the Battle of the Little Bighorn. And fortunately, there is. On June 22, 1923, Sergeant John M. Ryan, who was with Major Reno during the battle, published a first-person narrative entitled, “The Narrative of John M. Ryan” in the Hardin, Montana-based Tribune. In it, he states that the Seventh Cavalry marched out of Fort Abraham Lincoln on May 17, 1876. Upon arriving at the Big Heart River, they camped for two days. Around that point, probably on the evening of May 17 itself, “the paymaster joined us under an escort of infantry, and enlivened the boys’ hearts with about four months pay.” Ryan goes on to state that, “if (the paymaster) had paid at the fort some of the troopers would undoubtedly have deserted.”

Was the Lost Custer Treasure really worth $25,000?

So, we know the men went into battle carrying a substantial amount of back pay. But how much money were they really carrying?

Ryan adds no further details about the evening. But according to Private Peter Thompson, “the blood sucking sutler (arrived) with his vile whiskey, rotten tobacco, and high priced notions. It was plain to be seen that he would reap a rich harvest on this expedition.” So, we know the sutler (who went by the name of John Smith) took at least some of the pay given to Custer’s men, including the payment of old debts, when he left the next morning.

So, how much was left? As far as I’m aware, the sole account on this score belongs to Sergeant Daniel Kanipe, who was also with Major Reno during the battle. On April 27, 1924, Kanipe wrote a first-person narrative entitled, “The Story of Sergeant Kanipe, One of Custer’s Messengers” for the Greensboro, NC-based Daily Record. In it, he states what he saw after the battle had concluded: “In all this pile of men, not a one had a stitch of clothes on. The Indians had taken it all. They must have gotten about $25,000 in money off of them, too, for we had just been paid at Powder river camp before we left on the campaign and there had been nothing to spend a cent for.”

So, that’s the origin of the “$25,000″ figure that is bandied about amongst treasure hunters. Admittedly, it’s highly undependable since it’s based on one soldiers’ estimate of how much money his fellow troops collectively carried into battle fifty years after the fact. How does that $25,000 hold up under a little bit of scrutiny?

We know 268 U.S. troops (including scouts) were killed at the battle. In order to match Ryan’s $25,000 figure, each deceased soldier would’ve had to be carrying about $92 apiece, which breaks down to an average monthly pay of about $23 (this assumes none of the deceased had spent money with the sutler). It also excludes the value of any personal objects or additional monies carried by the troops into battle.

According to Private Charles Windolph’s book, I Fought with Custer, he was paid $13 per month in those days. Of course, that reference is from 1947, a full 71 years after the fact. But it matches up with what privates were paid at the beginning of the Civil War so it’s probably pretty accurate. Officers, of course, made much more money than privates. For example, a Lieutenant Colonel (General Custer’s official title) would’ve pulled in $181/month at the beginning of the Civil War. So, at first glance, an average monthly pay of $23 per deceased soldier seems reasonable to me. And if that’s the case, the treasure could very well have been worth $25,000 in total.

Was the Lost Custer Treasure just Currency? Or did it include Gold & Silver Coins?

So, we’ve established the lost Custer treasure existed. And we’ve also established that it’s value in 1876 dollars could’ve been around $25,000. But what form of currency did it take? Was it paper currency? Or were there gold and/or silver coins as well?

Ms. Kathryn Wright is the reporter who first investigated the story of the lost Custer treasure. She sought out an answer to the currency question in her original article, Indian Trader’s Cache, which was published in the Winter 1957 issue of Montana: The Magazine of Western History. Here’s what she had to say on the subject: “Not all of it was in currency. Army regulations covering 1876, which were checked for me by Raymond P. Flynn, archivist at Washington, D.C. at the request of Chief of Air Staff General Nathan F. Twining, show that the troopers were paid in gold, silver, and U.S. treasury or bank notes.”

David Meyer’s Analysis

Well, that’s all for now. I hope this clears up some of the many questions regarding this interesting treasure-based side note to one of history’s most infamous battles. Unfortunately, as is often the case when dealing with treasure stories, the details are murky and open to many questions. This is especially true since various primary sources crafted their reports decades after the Battle of the Little Bighorn had ended. Regardless, it seems likely the Seventh Cavalry carried a fairly substantial amount of pay into battle on June 25, 1876. Although the exact amount is in question, it very well may have matched Ryan’s estimate of $25,000. And that pay was probably in numerous forms, including gold, silver, and currency.

The bigger question is what happened to the hoard after the battle. And that brings us to the mysterious envelope which W.P. Moncure had once stored inside the Two Moon vault (pictured above). In her article, Wright reported seeing a couple of sentences typed on the envelope about its contents, including this one: “Hiding place and location of money and trinkets taken from dead soldiers on Custer battlefield.” Assuming the envelope still exists, it may be the only known reference to the final whereabouts of the lost Custer treasure.


David Meyer’s Wild West Coverage

Custer’s Blood Treasure (America Unearthed)


David Meyer at "Custer's Last Stand"

David Meyer at “Custer’s Last Stand”

Date: 12/03/2014

Bestselling author David Meyer makes television debut on Custer’s Blood Treasure

David Meyer teams up with the #1 hit show America Unearthed for Custer’s Blood Treasure.

On Saturday, December 6, 2014 at 9pm EST, bestselling action/adventure author David Meyer will team up with world-renowned forensic geologist Scott Wolter in the world premiere of Custer’s Blood Treasure, the latest episode of H2’s #1 hit original series, America Unearthed. David Meyer is an adventurer and creator of the Cy Reed Adventure series. In Custer’s Blood Treasure, he helps Wolter unravel the mystery behind a legendary treasure dating back to one of America’s most infamous events, Custer’s Last Stand at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

David Meyer is the international bestselling author of the Cy Reed Adventure series. Praised for relentless pacing and thrilling, twisty plots, his books—Chaos, Ice Storm, and Torrent—have taken readers on unforgettable journeys into ancient ruins, secret bases, and lost worlds.

Official Website:

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David Meyer’s Wild West Coverage

The “Pantsing It” Revolution Begins!

Pantsing vs. PlanningTorrent (Cy Reed Adventure #3)

I’m trying something new with this latest book, namely “pantsing it.” In other words, I tossed my outline into the digital trashcan (or more accurately, skipping the outline process all together) and proceeded to let it rip (err … not my pants). The resulting book, Collapse (Cy Reed #5), is looking good so far.

On the bright side, I’m writing fast and with good scene-to-scene creativity. Collapse begins with a bang and doesn’t rest for the over 80 pages I’ve written. Mysteries deepen. Surprises abound. Danger piles upon danger. Hell, this might just be the best set of action-oriented scenes I’ve ever written. Even better, it hasn’t really felt like work. I could get used to this type of writing.

Two drawbacks, though. First, I’m writing loose. Side characters have gotten lost in the mix. Plot lines have been dropped. I’m not too worried … this happens to me when I’m writing with an outline as well. The second drawback should be obvious … I have no clue where I’m going next. I conceived of Collapse in a single afternoon as a four-part story. To start, I put Cy into a crazy situation and then raised the stakes repeatedly. Now, I’m nearing the end of Part I and I’m starting to get nervous. I have a setting for Part II and a basic idea about what happens in it. But it’s vague. And I have no clue what will happen in III and IV.

So, the jury is still out on pansting it. But the early results are promising. If I’m able to connect disparate story lines, deepen the characters, and enhance the themes over multiple drafts, pantsing could be a winner.

Ruins & Upcoming Releases

Collapse, you say? Whatever happened to Ruins? For those of you who don’t know, I started a new book right after getting back from Turkey. Tentatively titled, Ruins, it was to be my first attempt at a pantsing novel. Unfortunately, I gave into planning early on in Ruins and started trying to outline it. Since that defeated the whole purpose of the book, I immediately shelved it and came up with the idea for Collapse. I still plan on writing about Turkey, but it won’t be for a little while yet.

Miasma (Cy Reed #4) remains on the shelf. I hope to finish the first draft for Collapse in late October. After a little break, I’ll begin work on the Miasma edits. Miasma is my most complicated book yet and it’s also a bit of a mess, so it could take some time. I’m tentatively setting aside four months for edits, cover building, and formatting. If all goes well, you’ll be able to get your hands on it in mid-March 2015. Future stories, especially if this pantsing strategy works out, will hopefully be finished much quicker and with far less aggravation.

My Big Announcement … I am a Writer!

It’s time to make an announcement I honestly never thought I’d be able to make. No, it’s not the long-awaited film deal. But in many ways, it’s much bigger than that. So, here it goes. I’m pleased to announce my official retirement from the financial industry. Today, I formally conclude my old career and begin my new one … as a full-time writer. This has been a long time coming, far longer than many people probably realize.

David Meyer exploring Montana

It’s time to move forward!

My journey from Wall Street to adventurer / full-time writer has been a crazy one and perhaps I’ll devote a few posts to it someday. But for now, I’d like to thank the people who supported me along the way, namely my wife Julie, my family, and especially all of you, my readers. I wouldn’t be here without you.

Unlike most traditional writers, I’m basically a one-man operation (with a little editing help from the wife-thanks Julie!). I don’t hire researchers to generate ideas. I don’t employ substantive editors to shape and mold my novels to meet market demands. I don’t utilize copy editors to correct my grammar and spelling. I don’t hire cover artists or formatters to create attractive packaging. And most importantly, I don’t have a team of salespeople and publicists pushing me and my books into bookstores, libraries, and onto the general public.

But while I lack the vast resources available to other authors, I’ve managed to sell tens of thousands of books across the globe over the last few years. That level of success has allowed me to make a career change that would’ve seemed unthinkable just a short while ago. So, once again, thank you. Thank you for buying my books. Thank you for rating and reviewing them. And thank you for spreading the word. Without all of you, I wouldn’t be making this transition—and achieving a lifelong dream—today.

If I’ve learned one thing over the years, it’s that the secret to happiness is to live your truth. With that said, it’s time to live my truth …

I’m a writer. And I’m damn proud of that.

Me on TV, Miasma, and Chaos

David Meyer in Montana

David Meyer in Montana

David Meyer on Television

Some big news for me lately. As reported on my Facebook Page …

Just got back from Montana where I was filming my first major television appearance. I can’t say much at the moment, but I had a great time. Expect it to premiere sometime in the next 6 to 9 months … stay tuned!

Miasma Update

In other news, I finally moved Miasma past the 1/3 point today. It’s been slow out of the gate, as I’ve spent way too much time revising early drafts. My first drafts are very messy and full of inconsistencies. Characters are flat. Some vanish for no reason. Others die only to be resurrected. Subplots get dropped. Story points don’t connect. Locations change, sometimes in the middle of chapters. Some scenes go on and on. Others move way too fast. And so on.

In the past, I’d write 50 pages, become frustrated with the problems, and revert to endless rewrites. And that would work … to a degree. The section would markedly improve. But when I’d try to move the story forward, I’d hit more walls as I attempted to connect the new, messy material with the older, polished stuff. I’d then go back and start over again, often writing the first section over and over again, in several different ways, as I tried to figure out how to make everything fit together.

I’ve come to realize my creativity comes in waves. The first draft is going to be messy no matter what I do. But at the same time, it contains a layer of creativity. Further drafts add more creativity. Characters get combined and fleshed out. Story points get connected. Scenes settle into place. Moving forward, I’m going to take advantage of this. My plan is to finish the first draft of Miasma, warts and all. Only then will I begin the creative rewrites.

Chaos Update

I published Chaos way back in October 2011. I read it the other day and found myself dissatisfied with the writing style. I still like the story. But it’s a bit bloated. So, I’m thinking about publishing a second edition. I’m not even halfway through my first take and I’ve already cut over 10,000 words. Anyway I hope to get this done within the next month or so. And don’t worry … if you’ve already bought Chaos you should be able to update it to the second edition with no problem.

Word Count

Miasma: 22,076 words / ~80,000 words

Chaos (Second Edition): 32,045 words / 83,135 words (Words Cut = 10,102)

Back to Work!

Delaware River

Delaware River

Back to writing after a few days in Pennsylvania. I hate taking time off in the middle of a book, but at least it was a scenic trip.

Torrent is Here!

I’m pleased to announce the arrival of Torrent, the third book in the Cy Reed Adventure series. This time, Cy Reed matches wits with a long-deceased Maya architect as he races to uncover the shocking truth behind one of the greatest treasures of all time. You can pick up the e-book  at any of the retail outlets listed below. The paperback is available through, other online outlets, or your local bookstore.

Torrent by David Meyer



In 830 AD, a brilliant Maya architect constructed a massive vault deep within a hidden canyon. For centuries, it has protected an astonishing treasure … and a terrifying secret.


Haunted by tragedy, Cy Reed leads a salvage expedition to one of the last untouched places on Earth. Meanwhile, a shaman senses a disturbing shift in the natural order. And a famous archaeologist searches for the fate of a lost civilization.


Assaulted by endless rain, bizarre phenomena, and mythical creatures, Reed races to solve a puzzle millions of years in the making. Forging a path through cursed tunnels and deadly traps, he fights his way toward an epic discovery that could free him from his demons … or drown him under a tidal wave of destruction.

Amazon Paperback * Kindle E-Book * Nook E-Book * Smashwords E-Book * iBooks E-Book * Kobo E-Book

First Draft of Cy Reed #3 is Done!

I finished the first draft of Cy Reed #3 earlier today. It’s tentatively titled Lost Canyon and clocks in at 404 pages. No idea on the publication date yet but I’m shooting for January 2014. I’d love to have it out sooner, but this book is going to require a little editing magic.

Today also marks the three-month anniversary of Ice Storm‘s publication. It wasn’t easy to get it out the door. On one hand, I was thrilled to put it behind me. On the other hand, it’s always hard to let a book out into the real world. I don’t have kids, but I imagine the feeling is  similar.

Anyway I didn’t have much clue how Ice Storm would do once it hit the market. Chaos sold reasonably well for a first novel but it certainly wasn’t a best-seller. Well, these past three months have been a wild run to say the least. I’m humbled to report Ice Storm has sold far better than even my wildest expectations.

I had my first real “sales breakout” on August 3 in the UK when Ice Storm cracked the Action & Adventure Kindle list at #84. I’m not sure where it peaked but it did get to #18 at one point and #483 in the overall UK Kindle store.

Ice Storm’s experience in the U.S. market has followed a different, but also exciting path. Since publication, it’s risen steadily in the overall Kindle rankings. It reached #7,864 a few days ago and has since settled back down to 11,478. I’m not sure if it’ll keep rising or not, but it’s been fun to urge it on.

Ice Storm is Here!

Ice Storm, aka my development hell book, is finally here!

Ice Storm by David Meyer

Ice Storm is an action/adventure novel and the second in the Cy Reed Adventure series after Chaos. It features all of the things you’ve come to expect from me…forgotten history, crumbling ruins, lost treasure, and strange monsters. If you like Indiana Jones or novels by the likes of Clive Cussler, James Rollins, Steve Berry, or Douglas Preston, then Ice Storm is perfect for you.

You can pick up an e-reader version at any of the retail outlets listed below as well as the paperback at (all outlets should be available in a few days).

Amazon Paperback * Kindle E-Book * Nook E-Book * Smashwords E-Book * iBooks E-Book * Kobo E-Book * Diesel E-Book * Sony E-Book

Ice Storm Description


Deep in the heart of Antarctica lies a forgotten military installation. Deadly secrets are secured behind its doors…including the remnants of a decades-old plot to devastate mankind.


Disgraced treasure hunter Cy Reed is on the trail of an incredible treasure when a cargo ship mysteriously explodes. At the same time, a team of geologists makes an astonishing discovery that could rewrite ancient history. And a beast of impossible origins unleashes a bloody rampage across the ice.


As Reed unravels the mysteries behind Antarctica’s dark past, he begins to uncover a sinister conspiracy. Plagued by ferocious storms and betrayed on all sides, he races toward an inevitable clash that could salvage his ruined reputation…or unleash hell upon the world.

Ice Storm: It’s Time to Pick up the Pace

The slow writing pace of my development hell book, Ice Storm, has finally gotten to me. So, I buckled down last night and ripped out 6,000 words.

Ice Storm: It’s Time to Pick up the (Writing) Pace!

My “open novel” experiment for Ice Storm, aka my “Development Hell” book, has been a rather brutal experience. Trying to rearrange and finalize a manuscript that’s undergone way too much rewriting is no easy task. A lot of free writers like to compare a novel to a dinosaur skeleton. The idea is that the story already exists inside one’s head. It just needs to be excavated. Actually, I think that’s a pretty good way to describe how my brain works. But for reasons I’ve talked about before, the Ice Storm excavation didn’t turn out so well. Thus, I’m sitting here with a jumble of mixed-up bones.

Up until now, I’ve been editing at a pace of 3,000 words per weekday and half that on weekend days. Ice Storm is about 90,000 words long, so it’s a five-week process. It’s hard enough to write a novel over multiple weeks. Editing that same novel over an extended period of time is just grueling. So, I picked up the pace yesterday. I edited 6,000 words yesterday, bringing my redraft to a word count of 63,000. I’m now in the last third of the book. If I can keep this up for another six days, my redraft will be finished. I’ll have to do another draft of course. And probably another one after that. That’s unavoidable. But this draft should put the bones in the right places. Then its just a matter of tidying up.

I created storyboards for two other novels yesterday. One is a science fiction book. The other is a paranormal tale. They don’t really fit into the Cy Reed universe. Well, the second one might. The science fiction story deals with some scientific theories I’ve written about in the past. They’re not particularly well-known but I find them fascinating. I might just take a crack at this one once Ice Storm is done.

Other Stuff

The Chaos paperback is now 10% off at Amazon ($12.56)! I see a few of you have taken advantage of the sale already. For the rest of you, act now before it goes back to list price. Other than that, I’m still thinking about making adjustments to my sidebar (that one on the right with Chaos in it). I might expand it to include international bookstores. And yes, the link to buy Chaos at Diesel (see sidebar) is STILL broken. Diesel has a revised version of Chaos but doesn’t seem to have posted it yet. I emailed Smashwords but haven’t heard back from them.