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"George Armstrong Custer: Changing Views of an ..." Topic


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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP20 Mar 2017 1:01 p.m. PST

…American Legend

"On June 25, 1876, Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and 12 companies of the 7th Cavalry attacked a massive Lakota-Cheyenne village on the Little Bighorn River in Montana Territory. Custer lost not only the battle but also his life, and in so doing achieved immortality. In the 130 years since, the death of Custer and every man in the five companies of his immediate command has grown to mythic proportions. ‘This demand for information and answers to ‘why' and ‘how' resonate down to us today, wrote historian Bruce Liddic. Except for the result, exactly what happened to Custer and his five companies will never be known with certainty….It has been the subject of more controversy, dissension, [and] dispute than almost any other event in our history.

Not that controversy was anything new to Custer by the time he died. He had already experienced many ups and downs, and yet had made a dashing mark in American history.

Shortly after the Civil War began in April 1861, Custer graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. In the coming years, he exploded across the American scene like a skyrocket. From the beginning, he exhibited his desire for action while showing no fear against the enemy. If a task needed to be accomplished, Custer was the man. His attitude brought him to the attention of his superiors, and in May 1863 Custer became aide-de-camp to Brig. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton, commander of the 1st Division of the Union Cavalry Corps. The following month, the young aide was photographed sitting astride his horse. Mustachioed, with collar-length hair, Custer struck a swashbuckling pose. Although not yet a household name, he had begun to carefully craft an image uniquely his own, that of a cavalier from days of yore.

On June 9, 1863, when his commanding colonel was killed during an attack on Confederate Brig. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart's camp at Brandy Station, Va., Custer took command of the regiment and led a saber charge through the surrounding Confederate forces. Pleasonton recognized his subordinate's common sense in hot situations, and his fearlessness and enthusiasm — all of which were in short supply in the Cavalry Corps. After Custer rallied faltering troops at Aldie, Va., in mid-June 1863, Pleasonton recommended him for a general's star.

Custer received his appointment as brevet brigadier general on June 29, 1863. Unimpressed with his uniform, he jettisoned the standard-issue cavalry jacket and trousers, replacing them with a loose-fitting velvet coat that had golden braids adorning its sleeves, and velvet pants he tucked into knee-length top boots. He had a silver star sewn onto each lapel of a light-blue, broad-collared Navy-issue shirt. To complete the refashioning, he looped a scarlet cravat about his neck and donned a black hat with a lower crown and wider brim than those of standard-issue hats.

With long golden-red curls falling to his shoulders, the Custer image was complete — wherever he now appeared, everyone knew who he was. Still only 23, the newspapers dubbed him the boy general. Always at the front of his command, his blazing necktie marking him as a recognizable target, Custer found himself the darling of not only his men but also the artists sketching the conflict. As historian Gregory Urwin wrote, That was the key to all the Boy General's foppish affectations — he made himself conspicuous on purpose, deliberately courted danger to allay his soldiers' fears and to always let them know where he was in a fight.

Commanding the Michigan Brigade for the first time, Custer attacked and forced Stuart's cavalry brigade from the field east of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863. During the war, Custer had been promoted to captain in the Regular Army and eventually was breveted to the rank of major general, commanding the 3rd Cavalry Division. Although the cost of his bravura was high in the number of men who died serving under him, he had forged a glorious public record. By war's end Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan, who commanded the Cavalry Corps, considered Custer his ablest man.."
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John Miller21 Mar 2017 1:12 p.m. PST

Tango01: Thanks for posting this. Loved the Errol Flynn movie referred to in the article, inaccuracies not withstanding. Thanks, John Miller

Personal logo piper909 Supporting Member of TMP21 Mar 2017 10:34 p.m. PST

"Son of the Morning Star", both book and the film inspired and derived from it, remain my favorite treatments of Custer and the Little Bighorn battle.

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