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Custer the American Hero?

Discussion in 'Other Notable Biographies' started by major bill, Dec 29, 2016.

  1. major bill

    major bill Captain Forum Host

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    So why do many Americans see Custer as dying as a hero? When I was a kid Custer was still a major hero around here. Many bar had the lithograph of the "Last Stand" up on the wall well up to the 1980s. Later in bars in more rural areas.
     
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  3. Irishtom29

    Irishtom29 Corporal

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    Seven Years War, Naploeonic Wars.

    Yeah, I know they sent soldiers to the continent at times. But they did best using small armies carefully and concentrating on sea power. Using huge armies to the fight in the Great War ruined Britain.
     
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  4. FZ11

    FZ11 Sergeant Major

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    Fox and Scott were just writing a book. I,unfortunately,have it. Later writers like Micheno do not agree with Fox and Scott. See the critical reviews of Fox's book on Amazon books for more details. There was a "Last Stand" as about 10-20 troopers killed their horses and used them for cover at the end. Custer was found there. Unknown whether Custer rode or was driven as far south as he ended up. When the Indians left Reno, Custer was cut off from an easy retreat to Reno/Benteen. The firing was sporadic at first at long distance. The entire Custer fight lasted maybe 1.5 hours. The last stand lasted about 15-20 minutes. Custer's troops don't have enough ammunition to sustain this fight. At the end about 10-30 troops out of ammo try to run for the river and the rest is history.
     
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  5. Zoey141

    Zoey141 Cadet

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    Hero - No. Unlikely hero - May be.
     
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  6. Waterloo50

    Waterloo50 Captain Silver Patron

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    I have read a number of reviews on Fox and Scott and none of them were good. In fairness though, its important that people attempt to offer a differing view point, history needs opposing points of view because it helps to keep the debate going and occasionally they uncover new truths. I think we need revisionist historians, I've lost count of the number of articles and books that I have read which offer radical new theories or challenge long held beliefs. I haven't got the book written by Fox but its probably worth having just because it offers a very different point of view. I have absolutely no problem with any author offering a wild theory as long as it is evidenced based, unfortunately it looks like Fox and Scott cherry picked only that evidence which supported their argument and they neglected to include other evidence which countered it, a balanced view point is what we need.
     
  7. Waterloo50

    Waterloo50 Captain Silver Patron

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    I have a theory on this, I think that it has a lot to do with how the public cope with loss, here in Britain especially after the Great War, Douglas Haig (Commander of the BEF 1915 and the Somme and Ypres) was held in very high regard by the British public, his funeral was a day of national mourning and the country really felt that they had lost a great leader. The feeling of loss and grief experienced by the British suddenly altered during the early 1960's, no longer was Haig hailed as a hero or a champion of the British army, moreover he was seen as a butcher the public even gave him a new nick name 'Butcher Haig', even today he comes in for a lot of criticism and most British people will tell you that Haig was an idiot responsible for the deaths and injuries of over two million men. So what changed, in my opinion it was the fact that people had come to terms with the loss of their loved ones and they wanted answers, the government understood that the British public would naturally want to hold someone to account and from the British governments point of view it couldn't be Haig because they were responsible for appointing him, if he was to blame then those in power were also to blame. The government and the military painted a wonderful picture of Haig, the British were led to believe that he was a great leader who did his best for the men in the trenches, in other words, your loved ones didn't die in vain and so it is with Custer.
    The story of Custer being that he was a great and noble leader, a capable officer who through no fault of his own met an untimely demise, he fought with courage and dignity and died a heroes death, he became an icon and the very thing that all Americans hold in high regard. As we know, the American public were grieving his loss, they had lost one of their bravest and most daring officers and just like the British in the aftermath of the Great war the American public would have perhaps been uncomfortable if they were told the truth. So for many years Custer has this heroic icon status and it wasn't just Americans that hailed him as a hero, he is world famous and so is his story.

    As time has passed more people have questioned the events at LBH, even a cursory glance over the evidence of that battle shows that the story as its been told for many years doesn't quite add up, there are some uncomfortable truths in there and with it is the revelation that Custer was perhaps not the selfless heroic man that everyone thought he was.

    So that's my theory, Custer was seen as a hero by the public to prevent a national emotional meltdown, as time has passed and emotions have dissipated so to has Custer's legend.
     
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  8. uaskme

    uaskme Corporal

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    Early reports from the US Government portrayed the Battle as a heroic event. Probably what people wanted to hear but it for sure is what the Governmenr wanted them to hear. News was breaking in the east about the time of 4th of July celebrations. Government did want people's Holiday to be ruined over a massacre. I suspect the Sioux had a pretty good 4th
     
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  9. dlofting

    dlofting Sergeant

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    I think what Fox and Scott did is develop a theory based on their archaeological findings. Some people feel that they didn't allow adequately for the site disturbance/contamination over the years. Fox and Scott (or one of them, I can't remember) said they had taken that into account. Whether you agree or disagree with their interpretations, their investigations added a lot to the knowledge of the battle.
     
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  10. Waterloo50

    Waterloo50 Captain Silver Patron

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    I agree, and that's the point, the government told the public what they needed to hear and that is how the legend started.
     
  11. 1NCCAV

    1NCCAV Private

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    Since my post about this I've found two articles that say Keogh was wearing an Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) medal. It makes sense that he would not have worn his papal awards in the field. It still seems to be speculation as to whether or not that influenced the natives not to mutilate him.
     
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  12. diane

    diane Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host

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    Very good indeed! I think you've hit a lot of bull's eyes right there.

    The 40s and 50s were huge for Westerns and Custer along with the Confederates had a real heyday. It was strange that Australian actor Errol Flynn led the pack with this - he played both Custer and Jeb Stuart. He died with his boots on and rode raids with Ronald Reagan! (How you put either Reagan or Flynn as Custer, I don't know...) The most interesting aspect of this was TV westerns. They all featured CW veterans - Paladin was a Union officer, Gil Favor's cowboys were former Confederates, Lucas McCain was a Union sharpshooter, Johnny Yuma roamed the West wearing his outlawed uniform. None of them could settle down and/or lead quiet lives, was the interesting key! After WWII and Korea, America of the 50s and 60s was full of just such men. The key wasn't defeat but the final victory - for some time after the war, most Americans didn't know we'd vaporized a sizable portion of Japan to achieve it. Well, it set off a national soul-searching that took many forms, some more radical than others, but Custer really got to be a symbol of all this! First, during WWII, he was a hero dying tragically at the hands of double-dealing savages. Then, during the 50s, he was a dashing and just slightly short of arrogant hero who was fighting for truth, justice and the American way. (Even the Confederates were added to that category.) Then, as Vietnam progressed into something...we still can't figure out what happened there - Custer became a symbol of the out-of-control military stalking through the world seeking out third world people to use as stepping stones to get at bigger fish. Little Big Man - Richard Mulligan's Custer was nuttier than Granny's fruitcake. And, for a couple decades Americans just went for comedies and detectives on the tube and the Terminator on the screen - forget the military. Now, we're going through another national search and all of a sudden new books on Custer are popping up - revising and restoring him for the most part, and, with a twist. Indians are included. Indians are really important in discussing whether or not Custer is an American hero. That 50s heyday I mentioned? That was Termination, when the US government decided to get rid of the Indian problem once and for all and finish what the Dawes Act and the Indian Allotment Act started. You don't exist. There! I fixed it! And, currently, we're back to the Noble Redman image in many ways, or the victim. And, again, Custer is symbolic and has mysteriously been tied to Wounded Knee. Or not so mysteriously. That was the end of the Dakota-US wars, the Plains wars, and the end of the 'wild' Indian. Custer, who didn't do as much to massacre Indians as militias, vigilante groups and packs of bounty hunters, morphs into the symbol of US-Native relations much as the CBF has morphed into a symbol of all the racism in the country.
     
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  13. 1NCCAV

    1NCCAV Private

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    For the same reason a film like Dances With Wolves was a success? The native viewpoint is the in thing. And I suppose it's only fair to consider how the other side saw things.

    Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say a white viewpoint on any subject these days is automatically suspect at the least if not outright condemned from the start.
     
  14. Bee

    Bee 2nd Lieutenant

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    Integration! Cut the hair! Attend mission schools! No Native language! I still hear stories of the Bad Old Days: They were worse than you thought.
     
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  15. Waterloo50

    Waterloo50 Captain Silver Patron

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    thanks diane, that means a lot.:thumbsup:
     
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  16. dlofting

    dlofting Sergeant

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    Happened in Canada too, and we're still dealing with the repercussions.....not a piece of our history that I'm very proud of.
     
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  17. thomas aagaard

    thomas aagaard Sergeant Major

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    And Denmarks behavior in Greenland... tried to make the natives civilized... when one read about it, it sound way to much like the "white mans burden"... just 50+ years to late...
     
  18. Bee

    Bee 2nd Lieutenant

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    Australia, too -- the story of the Aborigine is very similar.
     
  19. Waterloo50

    Waterloo50 Captain Silver Patron

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    I know where you are coming from, I can't think of many places in the world which belonged to the British Empire where the indigenous people hadn't been repressed or enslaved. Rightly or wrongly, I feel zero guilt when it comes to the actions of my ancestors, I prefer to embrace the history of my country warts and all. That doesn't mean that I condone what Britain did, it just means that I accept it. Respect to you though for saying 'not a piece of our history that I'm very proud of.'
     
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  20. diane

    diane Brev. Brig. Gen'l Forum Host

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    That's my position - pobody's nerfect! If you try to make them that way, it gets very messy very quick. And the opposite is true as well. Much better to accept it all as it was and go on in, hopefully, an improved path. (Gosh, that sounds like a Beatles tune...)
     
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  21. Irishtom29

    Irishtom29 Corporal

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    EFA3FD50-C889-4EF3-AB0F-DCE60376C7B2.JPG None of us feels bad enough about what was done to the Indians to go back to the Old Country.

    Last year I visited the Dade battlefield where Major Dade and his command of about 110 regulars were rubbed out by Seminoles. Kind of a sad lonely place, my wife and I were the only visitors there.
     
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