1. Welcome to the CivilWarTalk, a forum for questions and discussions about the American Civil War! Become a member today for full access to all of our resources, it's fast, simple, and absolutely free!
Dismiss Notice
Join and Become a Patron at CivilWarTalk!
Support this site with a monthly or yearly subscription! Active Patrons get to browse the site Ad free!
START BY JOINING NOW!

Is George Armstrong Custer under appreciated as a cavalry commander.

Discussion in 'The Eastern Theater' started by Hergt, Mar 3, 2011.

  1. Hergt

    Hergt Private

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2011
    Messages:
    182
    Location:
    Troy, Michigan
    How would you evaluate George Armstrong Custer as a Civil War officer. Where among Union Cavalry Generals would he rank. The more I have read about him the more I am impressed that he was the Murat of Eastern Theater. (Absolutely no discussion of the Indian Wars in this thread.)
     

  2. (Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)
  3. Lefty

    Lefty Corporal

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2007
    Messages:
    351
    During the Civil War Custer was as "competent as he was brave" to paraphrase Major James Kidd. I don't know that he was the Yankee version of Murat, however.

    A very unbiased and even-handed book on the subject is Greg Urwin's: CUSTER VICTORIOUS--The Civil War Battles of George Armstrong Custer.
     
    OldBrainsHalleck likes this.
  4. firefite44

    firefite44 Sergeant

    Joined:
    May 30, 2010
    Messages:
    502
    Location:
    Ohio
    LOL this ought to be interesting as I had MANY debates with others on what kind of officer he was. Let's see the haters come out on this.
     
    OldBrainsHalleck likes this.
  5. Hergt

    Hergt Private

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2011
    Messages:
    182
    Location:
    Troy, Michigan
    I thought this question may provoke a reaction. I am keeping my powder dry waiting for the haters to arrive. On a personal note love to see a mounted man. I am still healing up from a spooky Dutch Warmblood.
     
    OldBrainsHalleck likes this.
  6. truthckr

    truthckr 2nd Lieutenant

    Joined:
    Nov 1, 2010
    Messages:
    2,732
    Location:
    Waynesboro, Virginia
    I'm certainly not a fan of GA Custer, but I do think he was a very good cavalryman of the ACW. His turning away of JEB Stuart at Gettysburg has to be rated as a brilliant move. Attacking a much superior force and winning. His personal behavior in hanging some of Mosby's men at Front Royal (I believe) was reprehensible. But he appears to have been very sound as an overall tactician.
     
  7. Hergt

    Hergt Private

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2011
    Messages:
    182
    Location:
    Troy, Michigan
    I will have to find the source but I read last year that Custer had no part in the hangings which were in fact ordered by Wesley Merritt who as you know was promoted to general along with Custer and Elon John Farnsworth at the same time.
     
  8. Lefty

    Lefty Corporal

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2007
    Messages:
    351
    That was David Gregg more so than Custer although Custer did personally lead the two charges on July 3rd as well as at Huntertown the day before. That was a heck of a first week of "leading from the front" generalship. Kind of set the tone.
     
  9. prroh

    prroh Captain Honored Fallen Comrade

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2009
    Messages:
    5,571
    Location:
    Maryland
    tI think comparing Custer to Murat is the proverbial Gala to Granny Smith apples comparisons. Both were cavalrymen, but Murat was a commander of a large Corps who led thousands over great distances for several years with all the logistics that is necessary to do so and was engaged in giant battles. Custer was a brigade commander for a bit more than a year and a division commander for about half that.

    Custer was an aggressive commander who was much liked by his men and had a great instinct for "the moment". By this I mean he knew when to press and when to hold back. Escaping an encirclement at Bristoe Station, disobeying an order to withdraw on July 3rd at Gettysburg in order to add firepower to Gregg's hunch that Stuart was about to show up, pressing the retreating rebels to Appomattox and capturing the trainloads of rations which closed off Lee's retreat and robbed him of desperately need food, show the excellence of Custer's performance. I can't bring any major slipups in his performance from June 1863 to April 1865. The action at Hanover was handled remarkable well by a young person, basically inexperienced in command of any sort, who had been promoted from 1st LT to BG only a few days earlier.
     
  10. Hergt

    Hergt Private

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2011
    Messages:
    182
    Location:
    Troy, Michigan
     
  11. whitworth

    whitworth 2nd Lieutenant

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2005
    Messages:
    2,518
    Custer: much overappreciated

    A good cavalry officer compared to some. His strength was as a good number two under a leading officer. Got bypassed as a division commander, which few note. That officer after a somewhat slow start, went on to outstanding independent command late in the Civil
    war. (Wilson's Raid in Alabama and Georgia)

    By the time Custer gained division command, his highest command, the Army of the Potomac was in a siege war with Lee, with cavalry having a much limited role.

    Custer proved in the end in his last battle, that he could risk too much with a unplanned attack without adequate preparation. I doubt if he had lived, he would have remained in command or in the army.
     
  12. kansas

    kansas Corporal

    Joined:
    May 12, 2010
    Messages:
    409
    Location:
    herington kansas
    Custer seems to do well in a wartime setting, in a peacetime setting he was very poor. The man seemed to crave fame, he also seems to be very strong during the excitement of the civil war but begin lose control of his emotions and mental state during the boredome of peacetime. He gets a bad rap after the war, part of it justified, part of it not.
     
  13. prroh

    prroh Captain Honored Fallen Comrade

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2009
    Messages:
    5,571
    Location:
    Maryland
    I was comparing by results.
     
  14. Lefty

    Lefty Corporal

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2007
    Messages:
    351
    Murat did have curly hair and sometimes wore red.
     
  15. Hergt

    Hergt Private

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2011
    Messages:
    182
    Location:
    Troy, Michigan
    I started the thread and made it a rule to confine the discussion to the Civil War as the other stuff was not relevant here and is in much dispute. Perhaps we should rely on those who knew him. Phil Sheridan bought the surrender table on which Grant wrote the terms of surrender at Appomattox and gave it to Custer's wife explaining that he did not know of a man that deserved it more. Do you recall which Union General it was who called him the "greatest cavalry commander in the world?"
     
  16. Hergt

    Hergt Private

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2011
    Messages:
    182
    Location:
    Troy, Michigan
    When you start talking about mens' hair and the color of their clothes I am wondering if you were redirected here from the GQ site by accident. You are right Murat wore on one occassion the red uniform of a hussar (I defy you to prove how you knew this) and Custer wore a red tie. This was not the comparison I was referring to but keep up the humor.
     
  17. ibmicheal

    ibmicheal Private

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2011
    Messages:
    125
    Location:
    spokane
    Yes I have read CUSTER VICTORIOUS the story of custer in the CW, I also have read Many of his reports in the OR's as the Battery I represent in reenacting (1st US Battery L) it was used by Custer in some of his engagements and as I can tell he made good use of his Horse Artillery. I don't think he was better or worse then the other two promoted with him, Merritt and Farnsworth. He did what he was promoted for, Calvary leaders at the time were middle age men who hesitated men like Custer, Merritt and Farnsworth were young fast thinkers who acted now.

    Custer performed some Brilliant acts and on the other hand lost a lot men in doing so but thats how the North fought the war so my statement would be yes he was under appreciated in my view he got the job done sorta like Grant
     
  18. Hergt

    Hergt Private

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2011
    Messages:
    182
    Location:
    Troy, Michigan
    Another similarity was that Murat was known for his uniforms which were even by French standards quite elaborate. Murat Red.jpg Murat Blue.jpg
     
  19. prroh

    prroh Captain Honored Fallen Comrade

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2009
    Messages:
    5,571
    Location:
    Maryland
    Sorry, I thought you evaluated military leaders by effectiveness standards not by outlandish fashion
     
  20. 1SGDan

    1SGDan Captain

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2009
    Messages:
    6,407
    Location:
    New Hampshire
    Escaping an encirclement at Bristoe Station

    Pat do you mean Trevilian Station or is this a different episode?
     
  21. Hergt

    Hergt Private

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2011
    Messages:
    182
    Location:
    Troy, Michigan
    I was having a little fun, so I could use the picture of Murat in red for Lefty. There is not a single cavalry commander during the civil war that would meet the standards you find in Murat nor was there ever a cavalry battle during the Civil War that could compare to those in the Napoleonic wars. But the attributes of leadership in Custer that you noted in your Post #8 are those of Murat. Murat was not known as a good administrator so the logistics aspect of his leadership is open to debate. He generaled by the seat of his pants.
     

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)

Share This Page


(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)