Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Custer On Western Wednesday...!

So many of the early legends as we know them were formed of mostly one sided tales of the times!

If the true story were told, many of them weren't nearly as exciting as we would want to believe. Custer was certainly one of those characters, without a doubt! Today for Western Wednesday, let's look at the often controversial figure under a slightly different light! Thanks to the folks at for this article!

Oct 10, 1877: 
Custer's funeral is held at West Point


On this day in 1877, the U.S. Army holds a West Point funeral with full military honors for Lieutenant-Colonel George Armstrong Custer. Killed the previous year in Montana by Sioux and Cheyenne Indians at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Custer's body had been returned to the East for burial on the grounds of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, where Custer had graduated in 1861-at the bottom of his class.

Even before the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Custer had won national fame as a bold-and some said foolhardy-Civil War commander who eventually became the youngest major general in the U.S. Army. A handsome man, famous for his long blond hair (though he cut it short while in the field), Custer, even after the Civil War, continued to attract the appreciative attention of newspapers and the nation as a lieutenant colonel in the 7th Cavalry, a unit recently created to fight in the western Indian wars. Reports that Custer treated deserters of the 7th with unnecessary cruelty and overworked his soldiers led to a court-martial and conviction in 1867. But Custer redeemed himself, at least in the eyes of some, with his subsequent attack on a winter camp of Cheyenne in on the Washita River. Others, though, faulted Custer for attacking a peaceful band of Cheyenne and leaving behind some of his men when he withdrew from the battle under cover of night.

Though Custer was controversial in his day, his spectacular death at the Little Big Horn transformed him into a beloved martyr in the eyes of many Americans, especially those who were calling for wholesale war against the Indians. Some newspapers began to refer to Custer as the "American Murat," a reference to a famous martyr of the French Revolution, and they called for decisive retaliation against the "treacherous Indians" who had murdered the golden-haired general. Others refused to believe that Custer's own tactical mistakes could alone explain the disaster at Little Big Horn, and they instead sought to place the blame on the shoulders of other commanders who had been at the battle. (Tellingly, no one suggested that clever tactics and leadership by the Indians might have been the cause for Custer's defeat.) Custer's widow, Elizabeth, also worked to transform her husband into a legend by writing several adulatory books chronicling his career. Hundreds of other books and movies, many of them more fiction than history, helped cement the image of Custer as the great fallen leader of the Indian wars in many American minds.

Custer's status as a national hero and martyr only began to be seriously questioned in the 1960s, and since then he has often been portrayed as a vain and glory-seeking man whose own ineptitude was all the explanation needed for the massacre at Little Big Horn. The truth about George Custer is probably somewhere in between these two extremes.

Like I said, maybe just an average man with more than his fair share of attention! Some of it good, some of it bad! Probably we will never know just which Custer is the real one, but that's OK. After all, what would the stories of the early West be without a legend or two?

Coffee on the patio this morning! Temps are headed back up to the high 80s again!


Phyllis (N/W Jersey) said...

Good article - never knew his wife wrote several books! You always find the good stuff for us.
Coffee on the patio is fine - kinda warm here at 53. I'll bring some blueberry muffins for all.

linda m said...

Very interesting piece about Custer. Had no idea his wife wrote any books or that he was buried at West Point. Thanks for an interesting history lesson.

Sixbears said...

My Native American friend who grew up in that area has a different tale of the battle. Custer died running -at least according to him.

JO said...

Sixbears your Native American friend is right. Custer was not what people believed him to be. Custer had aquite and ego for sure.
I have read his wifes books.

Sure would love some coffee before I get started down the mountain. I will be headed in 88 degrees when I pull in to Tucson. Daughter went over and turned a/c down for me.
Its 42 here right now.

HermitJim said...

Hey Phyllis...
I'm always glad when I can find something new for ya!

So many topics out there to talk about. We should never get bored!

Blueberry muffins sure sound good this morning! Thanks for coming by with some!

Hey Linda...
Just goes to show that history doesn't have to be dull!

Thanks so much for dropping by today!

Hey Sixbears...
I hadn't heard that, but it wouldn't surprise me at all!

Always two sides to every story, I reckon!

Thanks for coming over today, my friend!

Hey Jo...
That will certainly be a little different than what you are used to! I don't think that Fred will mind!

Big egos seemed to rule the West!

Thanks, sweetie, for coming over this morning!

Syrbal/Labrys said...

Several years ago I read about the Little Big Horn battle site being treated as an archeological dig. It found the actual events did not match the stories told at all....the poor underfed soldiers were spread out as if in rampant and desperate flight with no real leadership or defensive strategy perceptible.

If nothing else, like the bumperstickers say, "Custer had it coming" for being such a lousy leader to his own men.

HermitJim said...

Hey Syrbal...
That is pretty much what some stories from the native Americans and their ancestors had said.

Without having been there, guess we will never know!

Thanks for coming by today!