Featured What is the deal with George Armstrong Custer?

Joined
Aug 12, 2011
Location
Elliott Bay
You can pretty much thank his wife Libby for the "Custer Legend". She spent the rest of her life after he was killed promoting her husband, whether what she said was completely factual or not.
Budweiser gets credit too. Those murals of Custer's Last Stand graced many bars in the U.S. and can still be found today. Never mind the artistic license taken with fact. Just the whole business of debunking the Custer Myth has kept historians and Custer Buffs busy since 1876.
 

Northern Light

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Jul 21, 2014
Thanks very much- difficult to express how delightful this synopsis is without coming across as overly enthusiastic. Ok who am I fooling. The thing is so, so many of our ' main players ' either have agenda attached somewhere or like poor Mary Lincoln, their attendant William Herndon invisibly and forever shackled to an ankle. Unless one looks into this stuff it's not apparent some of these ugly shadows in our present are cast by unseen specters dragged forward all these years. Not always as simple as ' Mary Lincoln was a bipolar shrew ', ' Custer was a big jerk '. ( Still looking for an out for Sickles..... :smile: ) There's been an awful lot of brutal, bloodless murders, persist 150 years later, crazy. Just not-a lot is ever as cut and dried as popular legend, that's all, seems to be a rule of thumb.
JPK, I wonder if you are referring to my opinions, as you have used my words. Seriously, just kidding!:roflmao::roflmao::roflmao:
 
Joined
Aug 12, 2011
Location
Elliott Bay
I agree very much with what Eric said. To that I'll add this. The men who followed him during the Civil War loved him. Here's how one of them described him:

"Brave but not reckless; self-confident, yet modest; ambitious, but regulating his conduct at all times by a high sense of honor and duty; eager for laurels, but scorning to wear them unworthily; ready and willing to act, but regardful of human life; quick in emergencies, cool and self-possessed, his courage was of the highest moral type, his perceptions were intuitions. Showy like Murat, fiery like Farnsworth, yet calm and self-reliant like Sheridan, he was the most brilliant and successful cavalry officer of his time. Such a man had appeared upon the scene, and soon we learned to utter with pride the name of -- Custer." [James H. Kidd, Personal Reflections of a Cavalryman, p. 130]

"Stars of the first magnitude did not appear often in the galaxy of military heroes. Custer was one of the few. The popular idea of Custer is a misconception. He was not a reckless commander. He was not regardless of human life. No man could have been more careful of the comfort and lives of his men. His heart was tender as that of a woman. He was kind to his subordinates, tolerant of their weaknesses, always ready to help and encourage them. He was brave as a lion, fought as few men fought, but it was from no love of it. Fighting was his business; and he knew that by that means alone could peace be conquered. He was brave, alert, untiring, a hero in battle, relentless in the pursuit of a beaten enemy, stubborn and full of resources on the retreat. His tragic death at the Little Big Horn crowned his career with a tragic interest that will not wane while history or tradition endure. Hundreds of brave men shed tears when they heard of it--men who had served under and learned to love him in the trying times of civil war. I have always believed that some of the real facts of the battle of the Little Big Horn were unknown. Probably the true version of the massacre will remain a sealed book until the dead are called upon to give up their secrets, though there are those who profess to believe that one man at least is still living who knows the real story and that some day he will tell it. Certain it is that Custer never would have rushed deliberately on destruction. If, for any reason, he had desired to end his own life, and that is inconceivable, he would not have involved his friends and those whose lives had been entrusted to his care in the final and terrible catastrophe. He was not a reckless commander or one who would plunge into battle with his eyes shut. He was cautious and wary, accustomed to reconnoiter carefully and measure the strength of an enemy as accurately as possible before attacking. More than once the Michigan brigade was saved from disaster by Custer's caution. This may seem to many a novel--to some an erroneous estimate of Custer's characteristics as a military man. But it is a true one. It is an opinion formed by one who had good opportunity to judge of him correctly. In one sense only is it a prejudiced view. It is the judgment of a friend and a loyal one; it is not that of an enemy or a rival. As such it is appreciative and it is just." [Ibid., pp. 131-132]

Custer was an outstanding cavalry commander.

In the 1870s things were a bit different.

He allowed the 7th Cavalry to be fractured under his command. There were those he liked and to whom he gave preferential treatment. Others, like Frederick Benteen, resented it.

A good case can be made that responsibility for Custer's demise at the Little Big Horn can be placed on the cowardice of Marcus Reno and the outright hatred of him by Benteen.
Cash, you have captured the controversy of the man even in his own lifetime.

I'm not so sure Reno would have made a difference given the time it took to defeat Custer and the distance between the Reno-Benteen Battlefield and the Custer Battlefield. Once reinforced by Benteen and perhaps by MacDougal and the slow pack train, I think Reno would have shown up in time to be defeated himself. There were just too many Sioux and Cheyenne.

I think the Army tried to nail Reno for the defeat, but did not make the case.
 

diane

Retired User
Joined
Jan 23, 2010
Location
State of Jefferson
Custer has taken a strange, mythical and symbolic place in American interpretations of history. I'm reminded of the late 60s or so book by Vine DeLoria, Custer Died for Your Sins. It was a series of essays about theology, Red Power, anthropologists and so on. It's not surprising a lot of the Red Power movement of the 70s came out of the Sioux reservations in the Dakotas - Standing Rock, Pine Ridge, Rosebud and others, and that it culminated ultimately in Wounded Knee II. The first Wounded Knee was a direct result of Custer's dramatic demise, after all. These reservations are the poorest places in the United States, bar none, and...it's all Custer's fault! Seriously... Not so much getting killed, mind that was a good enough reason, but discovering that danged gold in the Black Hills.
 

southern blue

Sergeant
Joined
Oct 14, 2014
Location
Virginia
During the years of my misspent youth I was hanging out in D.C. like you did in those days. My friend knowing I was of Native descent pointed out to me a large graffiti written in blood red paint on the side of a building...CUSTER HAD IT COMING! It seems that it was somewhere in Georgetown...anyway...we had a good laugh over it.
 

diane

Retired User
Joined
Jan 23, 2010
Location
State of Jefferson
During the years of my misspent youth I was hanging out in D.C. like you did in those days. My friend knowing I was of Native descent pointed out to me a large graffiti written in blood red paint on the side of a building...CUSTER HAD IT COMING! It seems that it was somewhere in Georgetown...anyway...we had a good laugh over it.

:laugh: I still tease my father when he gets cranky over sore things, can't cut the mustard - what's the matter, Dad? Can't muss the Custer today?

military-cavalry-war-cowboys-indian-engines-36530201_low.jpg
 

theoldman

First Sergeant
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Location
upper mid-west
An interesting side note especially on St. Patrick's day- The only creature to survive from Custer's command on Custer's Hill was a horse named Comanche. Comanche was owned and ridden by Captain Myles Keogh, an Irish soldier. Keogh had previously served with Buford in the ACW and they became close friends. Keogh stayed with Buford when Buford became very ill and eventually Keogh accompanied Buford's body to West Point for burial.
 

diane

Retired User
Joined
Jan 23, 2010
Location
State of Jefferson
An interesting side note especially on St. Patrick's day- The only creature to survive from Custer's command on Custer's Hill was a horse named Comanche. Comanche was owned and ridden by Captain Myles Keogh, an Irish soldier. Keogh had previously served with Buford in the ACW and they became close friends. Keogh stayed with Buford when Buford became very ill and eventually Keogh accompanied Buford's body to West Point for burial.

That was made into a pretty good Disney movie called Tonka. Sal Mineo played White Bull and Britt Lomond was Custer - he became well known to 50s kids as the captain in Zorro. Not a bad Custer, though!

britt2sm.jpg
 

ole

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Near Kankakee
There is a small hamlet near the battlefield called Garyowen. Don't know if it's big enough to have a post office.

And isn't it spelled Gerryowen?
 

Mike Serpa

Major
Joined
Jan 24, 2013
There is a small hamlet near the battlefield called Garyowen. Don't know if it's big enough to have a post office.

And isn't it spelled Gerryowen?
From wikipedia-
Garryowen, also known as Garyowen, Garry Owen and Gary Owens, is an Irish tune for a quickstep dance. It was selected as a marching tune for British, Canadian, and American military formations, most notably Gen. George Armstrong Custer's 7th Cavalry. The name "Garry Owen" has also been used for US forward military installations during wartime, and for a small town in Montana near the Custer battlefield.

Garryowen is a private town in Big Horn County, Montana, United States. It is located at the southernmost edge of the land where Sitting Bull's camp was sited just prior to the Battle of the Little Bighorn, and the opening gunshots of the battle were fired only a few hundred yards from where Garryowen's structures stand today.
 

James N.

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Alright so I looked in the thread archives and didn't find anything this comprehensive but maybe some posters could point me to them? If this is already a thread... sorry!

Okay, so this is kind of embarrassing because I really should know this but... I know next to nothing about Custer (shoot me now). He was a cavalry commander during the ACW, he had cinnamon spiced ringlets in his hair, he was um... a tad flamboyant we could say, and him and the rest of his force died at Little Bighorn. That's about it. Oh... I do know one more thing. He inspires really strong feelings. Some people seem to love him, some people seem to hate him. Why is that? Can anyone tell me more information about him or recommend a book?

Here are some previous threads with modern photos I've made touching on the subject of George and Libby Custer:

http://civilwartalk.com/threads/custer-state-memorial-new-rumley-ohio.92627/#post-762357

http://civilwartalk.com/threads/george-and-libbie-custers-monroe-michigan.100034/#post-878007

http://civilwartalk.com/threads/east-cavalry-battlefield.104646/

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