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Custer the hero.

Discussion in 'Civil War History - General Discussion' started by major bill, Oct 9, 2017.

  1. major bill

    major bill Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    Tonight at the Ann Arbor CWRT Father Vincent Heier gave a presentation. The Custer-Mosby feud 'Mistaken Identity or Familiarity Breads Contempt?'

    Here in Michigan Custer is a real Civil War hero to most people, however there are always a few people who do not see Custer as a great hero of the Civil War. Do these people what to judge Custer by his Little Bighorn campaign?
     

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  3. mofederal

    mofederal 2nd Lieutenant

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    Custer's accomplishments in the Civil War are separate thing from his later Army career. They do need to looked at differently. I know many do not do this. He was a different officer after the war, and his service on the plains were of a different nature. I do not agree with his actions on the Plains, but he was very much a man of his times, with their ideas, prejudices, and beliefs. Still Custer was Custer and as a soldiers he believed in action, and his orders, or rather his ideas on his orders. He never let orders get in the way of his own interpretation of his orders. He was who he was always.
     
  4. Longhall

    Longhall Private

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    Certainly no questioning his courage or sprit of adventure. That man would gallop into anything.
     
  5. major bill

    major bill Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    What do we think of his service during the Gettysburg campaign and Appomattox campaign? Would it have been better for the Union to have had another man in charge during these two campaign?
     
  6. chucksr

    chucksr Corporal

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    In context of the time, place, and situation, Custer can be considered an "American Hero" both during and after the Civil War. He made a tactical mistake at Little Big Horn--an irretrievable one unfortunately. That mistake should not be the basis of striking him from the list of competent American warriors.
    Apologizing for Custer is not necessary--simply put the man where he belongs--in 1860 to 1880 and judge him there, judge the mission, judge the character.
     
  7. major bill

    major bill Lt. Colonel Forum Host

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    We must judge by time and place. For example Black Elk is on his way to becoming a saint, however not for his roll as a young warrior.
     
  8. Rio Bravo

    Rio Bravo First Sergeant

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    I think Custer was a Hero, at the most vital of times for the Union during the ACW.
    His Michigan Brigade's heroic charge at Gettysburg stopped Stuart's attempt to reach the Federal rear, and greatly contributed to that victory. Again he served with distinction during the Shenandoah valley campaign, capturing Early's Army at Waynesboro, and finally his Command was responsible for cutting off the Confederate Army's last escape route at Appomattox.
     
  9. connecticut yankee

    connecticut yankee Private

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    I agree with your overall assessment of Custer. But I might add that Custer may not have made the tactical mistakes everyone thinks he made at the Little Big Horn. His final battle there has been analyzed and reanalyzed perhaps more than any battle in the Civil War including Gettysburg. Everyone who claims Custer had the wrong tactics needs to consider one vital, indisputable fact---no one knows and can't even make a reasonable guess at when Custer relinquished command of his column and of the rest of the 7th Cavalry present on the field that day. Why? Because everyone be they pro or con regarding Custer forms their opinion with the assumption that Custer died late in the action fighting to the end on Custer Hill. After all don't we call it his "Last Stand?". The truth is no one knows when Custer actually met his end. He very well might have died in the initial attempt to cross the LBH river. Think about it: Custer might have been out of the battle at its very start, not at its end as everyone somehow is led to believe. If such is the case, then Custer tactics to be criticized if you wish to do so, would be limited to issues such as "Why did Custer advance on the Indian village a day in advance of the other approaching U.S. columns?. Or perhaps you may want to criticize his dividing his force when he sent Benteen on scout or when he sent Reno ahead to open the action. His personality aside, one should be careful about evaluating Custer's overall impact on American history in both the Civil War and the Indian War. His record of achievements in the Civil war is superb. IMHO his is record of achievements in the Indian War should also remain superb.
     
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  10. tdftdf

    tdftdf Corporal

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    good points, Connecticut Yankee. I refer you to a book entitled "Custer's Fall". this book was a collection of interviews of various Indians from the battle / village done in the 1920s+ (many were on reservations). One common theme was that during the initial charge across LBH river, one soldier was shot from his horse, causing the charge to come to a stop...thereafter it was an orderly, then somewhat disorderly retreat. Speculation has it that the fallen soldier to have the charge stop could have easily of been Custer himself.
     
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  11. archieclement

    archieclement Sergeant

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    Agree and the Washita Massacre speaks for itself
    But wasn't his body found on Last Stand Hill? Also aren't there indian accounts of him on Last Stand Hill? Which would make it unlikely he died at the river............
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2017
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  12. tdftdf

    tdftdf Corporal

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    allow me to elaborate - based on the interviews of those Indians who recalled the river charge event, when this single soldier fell from his horse, the charge stopped, men dismounted and picked up this soldier, and then the slow retreat began. Custer's body was in fact found on last stand hill. If my memory serves me, his wounds included in the abdomen and head. 'Some' have connected the dots and speculate that his abdomen shot rendered him unable to command, and the head wound was taken / given (?) towards the bitter end.
     
  13. connecticut yankee

    connecticut yankee Private

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    Correct. His body was found on Last Stand Hill. But remember he nearly all of the officers known as the "Custer Clan" with him in his column---those who very close to him and were like family. These officers included his brother, brother-in-law, other officers like Capt. Yates who he knew from his Civil War days. Had Custer been killed or wounded early, there is no conceivable way his body wouldn't have been retrieved, and ultimately taken to the position on the hill.
     
  14. archieclement

    archieclement Sergeant

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    I guess a slight wound may have possible, but also because of his long blond hair he was easily recognizable and known to the Indians, and thought there was numerous accounts from Indians of him still being an active participant on Last Stand Hill
     
  15. mkyzzzrdet

    mkyzzzrdet Private

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    His hair was cut short for the campaign. Most Indian accounts said they didn't know "Long Hair" was even there. But they still may have recognized him as an important leader when they shot at him.
     
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  16. archieclement

    archieclement Sergeant

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    I thought there was both indian accounts of him from final stand, that his body was positioned where they thought the final stand occurred, that his body was in fact on top of other bodies, which would make it unlikely he was the one incapacitated first, and that spent cartridges from his personal rifle were around his body, IIRC was a civilian rifle which made ID that it was his easy. All of which I would think tends to make it likely he was an active participant at least to close to the end.
     
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  17. connecticut yankee

    connecticut yankee Private

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    Custer's hair was cut very short for this summer campaign. (He also kept it very short whenever he was on leave and visiting cities). Numerous Indian accounts claim he wasn't recognized neither during the battle itself nor its aftermath. I would think very few Indians in total would be able to recognize him---perhaps several of the chiefs who met and sat months and years earlier and tried to form treaties with him. How many of these chiefs do you think happened by chance to end up on Last Stand Hill? Although the story goes that in the aftermath some squaws identified him and consequently performed some mutilations to teach him a lesson not to break treaties, this too is very, very, debatable at best.
     
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  18. connecticut yankee

    connecticut yankee Private

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    Most written accounts say that Custer's body was not on top of other bodies, but rather under a heap. Because he was positioned that way, it is claimed he was not mutilated to the extent of all others. Whether this claim is bogus and was made to protect Libbie Custer from having to live with nightmare thoughts is anyone's guess.

    I am not familiar with Custer's gun being found after the battle and ballistic tests confirming it was fired on Last Stand Hill.
    If true, there is still no way of knowing if he was firing it, or someone else. Also, I can't believe many soldier weapons were left after the battle on the hill---the Indians scavenged everything---guns, clothing and any other equipment they could use.
    Remember this part of the field was under their control for another whole day and I'm sure a good number of women and children came up from the village for the pickings.
     
  19. archieclement

    archieclement Sergeant

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    been awhile since I've read bout it, so dug out my last read on it

    "On a flat crest, at the far end of the ridge lay Custer, naked, leaning in a half sitting position against two soldiers beneath him"

    then "Under his body and around him were about 20 cartiridge shells, At least some of them brass casings from his Remington sporting rifle" and 'Surrounding him were five of his officers"

    A terrible glory as source
     
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  20. chucksr

    chucksr Corporal

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    I do not disagree with your speculation and agree that "no one knows" , the enemy certainly did not document what happened that fatal day and all we have is conjecture, some of it, no doubt magnified by what we want to be true and by famous lithographs published down thru the intervening years.
    My point was merely that Custer's record both in the Civil War and the Indian Wars, judged fairly, puts him, as you put it, a "superb" leader.
     
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  21. E_just_E

    E_just_E Moderator Moderator

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    So, how do you feel about Southern slave holders, where they belong, in the antebellum South?
     

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