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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

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    I will be going to D.C. for a few days and then off to Brandy Station and then onto Richmond to visit the Museum of the Confederacy so I don’t have time to do a full accounting of all of George Armstrong Custer’s accomplishments during the CW. But by popular demand I will start from the time that he was a Lieutenant. Source used for now Custer Favor the Bold A Soldier’s Story, by D.A. Kinsley.
    Bull Run- Example of Personal Valor and Initiative:
    The road from Bull Run to Cub Run was choked off and passage over a suspension bridge clogged with broken down, overturned carriages stopped the retreat. “Custer glanced around. No one seemed to know what to do! Bolt into the woods? Tumble for cover…canister shot blasted the roadway…Recalling Napoleon’s coup de maitre on the bombarded viaduct at Lodi, he galloped up to the bridge and jumped off his horse. A capsized ambulance and a smashed buggy blocked access to the span. Custer laid hold of a wheel, gave a forceful yank, lugged the hospital wagon out of the way….Shells burst several yards from his body…Custer gripped a buggy wheel and dragged the vehicle aside. The passage across Cub Run was now clear…Then Custer(under Palmer’s orders) led his platoon up the creek to flush out Confederate sharpshooters… He was one of the last to leave the field…
    General Samuel Heintzelman, cited Custer name in Washington “for bravery above and beyond the call of duty.”
    In his memoirs Custer makes no mention of this incident other than to write as follows:
    Colonel Heintzleman, although suffering from a painful wound, continued to exercise command, and maintained his seat in the saddle…When within about two miles of Centerville, at the bridge across Cub Run, the crossing was found to be completely blocked up by broken wagons and ambulances. There being no other crossing available, and the enemy having opened with artillery from a position a short distance below the bridge…Captain Arnold was forced to abandon his guns.
    More to Come.
     

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  3. Hergt

    Hergt Private

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    More on Bull Run from Custers Memoirs. This extract from his memoirs evidences that an early age he was not prone to make rash decisions but was contemplative:
    “Walker(afterward Captain) inquired in the most solemn tones, ‘Custer what weapon are you going to use in this charge?” From my earliest notions of the true cavalryman I had always pictured him in the charge bearing aloft his curved sabre, and cleaving the skulls of all with whom he came in contact. We had but two weapons to choose from: each of us carried a sabre and one revolver in our belt. I promptly replied, “The sabre”; and suiting the action to the word, I flashed my bright new blade from its scabbard and rode forward as if totally unconcerned. Walker, yielding no doubt to what he believed was “the way we do it at West Point,” imitated my motion, and forth came his sabre. I may have seemed unconcerned, because I aimed at this, but was far from enjoying that feeling. As we rode at a deliberate walk up the hill, I began arguing in my own mind as to the comparative merits of the sabre and revolver as a weapon of attack… I reasoned pro and con about as follows: Now the sabre is a beautiful weapon; it produces and ugly wound; the term sabre charge sounds well; and above all the sabre is sure; it never misses fire. It has this drawback, however in order be made effective it is indispensable that you approach very close to your adversary-so close that if you did not unhorse or disable him, he will most likely render that service to you. So much for the sabre. Now as to the revolver, it has this advantage over the sabre: one is not compelled to range himself alongside his adversary before beginning his attack, but may select the time and distance. To be sure one may miss his aim, but there are six chambers to empty, and if one, two, or three miss, there are still three shots left to fire at close quarters. As this is my first battle, had I better not defer the use of the sabre until I have acquired a little more experience?” The result was that I returned my sabre to its scabbard, and without uttering a word drew my revolver and poised it opposite my shoulder. Walker…did likewise. With my revolver in my hand I put it upon trial mentally. First, I realized that in the rush and excitement of the charge it would be difficult to take anything like accurate aim. Then, might not every shot be fired, and without result? By which time in all probability we would be in the midst of our enemies, and slashing right and left at each other; in which case a sabre would be of much greater value and service than an empty revolver. This seemed convincing; so much so that my revolver found its way to my holster and the sabre was again at my shoulder. How often these changes of purpose and weapons might have been made I know not, had the cavalry not reached the crest…”
     
  4. OldBrainsHalleck

    OldBrainsHalleck Private

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    I agree that Custer has gotten a lot of negative press from historians in recent decades. However, I like to think that his reputation as a dashing, heroic cavalry officer helped give the media and the public a source of hope and morale during the trying times of the Civil War.
     
    J. D. Stevens likes this.
  5. Irishtom29

    Irishtom29 Corporal

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    The famous British Victorian soldier Sir Harry Flashman, who fought in Afghanistan, the Sikh Wars, the Sepoy Mutiny, in both the Heavy <and> Light Brigade charges at Balaclava, with Rajah Brooke, at Isandlwana and the Little Big Horn itself thought Custer a quite capable cavalryman and remarked that if your life depended on how well a brigade of cavalry was handled you could do much worse than soldier with Custer.

    He also thought Sherman a competent savage.
     
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2017 at 6:38 PM
  6. BillO

    BillO Captain

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    Custer was a brave man I'll give you that but if I was to have to go to war I'd want my leader to be a smart man. He wasn't.
     

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