What Was Native American Civilization Like Before Custer?

Most of us have a fairly skewed idea of what Native Americans were really like before settlers destroyed their culture both intentionally and unintentionally. Diseases from the west quite literally decimated Native American societies, which were big and booming, enjoying a level of size and prosperity that most of us probably can’t even imagine they were capable of building in the first place.

Oh, but they did built it.

Before settlers from the west arrived, and long before Custer’s Last Stand, Native American civilization was much different than we ever learned in grade school. Point in fact: have you ever heard of Cahokia, El Pilar, or Tikal? We thought not.

Cahokia Mounds in St. Clair County, Illinois, is considered the site of one of the biggest North American Native American settlements that ever existed. Before its rise to prominence, Cahokia had anywhere from 1,400 to 2,800 residents. But around 1100 AD, the population skyrocketed to anywhere from 10,200 to 15,300 people. But like all modern-day cities, there was a main “metropolitan” area surrounded by “suburbs” and farms with a lot more people.

Many archaeologists believe that there could have been around 40,000 people living there when the city was at its best. It became such an economic center that thousands more would have poured in and out each day. Eventually Cahokia’s population declined and was abandoned within 150 years. 

But Cahokia was dwarfed by the massive Maya city at El Pilar, located along the modern-day Belize-Guatemala border. Historians estimate that there may have been more than 180,000 residents in El Pilar when the city was at its peak around 1000 AD. We’re still learning about what it offered those who thrived there.

The ruins at El Pilar were discovered in 1983 by Dr. Anabel Ford, who said, “We need to be honest about the Maya and make sure people witness something with a level of veracity. I believe you can both show people something and have it be real. Besides, we have plenty of exposed temples already.”

And then there’s Tikal, another ancient Maya city located in the Guatemalan rainforests, where 100,000 people may have lived. Now, Tikal is a reminder of the superiority of Maya superiority: Tikal had an enormous amount of influence over other cities in almost every way. They interacted politically, but they could also assert control through their strong economy and powerful military machine.

Tikal fell into decline by the 4th century CE, giving newer civilizations a chance to prosper as well — which, of course, now we know they did.

Was Major General George Armstrong Custer A Devout Pet Lover?

When we discuss Major General George Armstrong Custer in the context of American history, it’s almost impossible to do so without mentioning the Battle of the Little Bighorn (hint hint). But the man was more than one battle. He lived his life gaining the attention of both his superior officers and those who served underneath him. More than that, he gained the attention of dozens of dogs — all of which he loved.

Documentation is scarce before Custer’s time in the Civil War, but we know a little of what came next. His first dog after the war was Byron, an English Greyhound. When he and his wife, Libby, were living in Hempstead, Texas (where he was stationed at the time), the dog came into his life. 

Not long thereafter, Custer’s friends gifted him one or two hunting dogs — Scottish Staghounds (or Deerhounds). He fell in love.

During his time in Hempstead, he could have been called a collector of the animals. By the time he and his wife picked up and moved to Austin, Texas, they had acquired a whopping 23 dogs at least. Back then they weren’t spayed or neutered, of course, and so when new dogs were born, they quickly became a part of the family.

One story describes Ginnie, a setter who gave birth while they were in Austin. A few of the puppies were struggling. Custer apparently nursed them to health, walking with them until they were as strong and as fit as the others.

Custer’s favorites were the young, strong dogs he used for hunting antelope or buffalo.

According to notes from before the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Custer tried to send his dogs back home with Libby. This was unusual as Custer usually kept a number with him even when traveling or on missions. Some historians interpreted this as an acknowledgment that the mission was both important and dangerous. But several of the dogs went along anyway.

We may never know what became of the dogs who joined him for his last adventure, but we do know that Custer had asked a soldier under his command to keep the dogs as he went into battle.

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Was General George Armstrong Custer Guilty Of Sex Crimes?

The life of General George Armstrong Custer and his inevitably violent demise at the Battle of the Little Bighorn remain fascinating subjects even today, in part because historians continue to debate over the many myths and realities faced by those who fought in the battle over a century ago. Depending on whose version of history you read, Custer may have actually raped a Native American girl and fathered a child by her. Is there any truth to this rumor?

Part of the myth comes from Custer’s own words. His work on My Life on the Plains described a Cheyenne prisoner who was taken captive after the Battle of the Washita in November 1868.

“Little Rock’s daughter was an exceedingly comely squaw, possessing a bright, cheery face, a countenance beaming with intelligence, and a disposition more inclined to be merry than one usually finds among the Indians,” he wrote. 

“She was probably rather under than over 20 years of age. Added to bright, laughing eyes, a set of pearly teeth, and a rich complexion, her well-shaped head was crowned with a luxuriant growth of the most beautiful silken tresses, rivaling in color the blackness of the raven and extending, when allowed to fall loosely over her shoulders, to below her waist.”

His description only continues from there. Does Custer sound like he’s smitten? Maybe he does, but this is hardly enough to implicate Custer in a sex crime, especially when we know he wasn’t the most reliable of narrators. Perhaps he only wanted his readers to understand the potential beauties to be found in Native American society, or perhaps he only wanted them to believe he was capable of seeing that beauty. 

If he did engage in sexual relations with the girl, can we really know for a fact that they were forced? Certainly not. Under the circumstances it may have been an extramarital, but consensual, affair. Most contemporary historians seem to agree that Custer likely had no relationship with the girl — an assumption based partly on the strong currents of white supremacy during the time period.

Those who do subscribe to the notion that he fathered a “yellow-haired” interracial child with the young Native American girl believe Custer precipitously abandoned the pair as soon as his wife came calling.

Truly, we’ll never really know exactly what Custer’s thoughts were, or what his motivations for writing what he did. Sex crimes in the 19th century were surely at least as common as they are today, but it’s difficult to ascertain the extent of the culture from the resources we have available. Are you the victim of sex crimes in Houston? The Ceja Law Firm can help.

What Is The Sioux Nation?

The Sioux Nation was a group of Native American tribes that lived on the Great Plains. Within the Sioux Nation, there were three divisions: Eastern Dakota, Western Dakota and the Lakota. Within each of these divisions were different languages but all of there was considered a dialect of Siouan language.

Although the Sioux are known as fierce warriors, it wasn’t until European settlers brought over horses that the nation could really thrive. With horses available, hunting and travel were much easier and the nation began to thrive as food and shelter became more readily available.

In 1868, the US Government promised the Lakota Indians a portion of the land in South Dakota. However, gold was discovered in the land that they promised Lakota Indians and the US decided they wanted the land back. The Lakota refused which is what led to the Battle of Little Bighorn. The Sioux Nation won this battle and killed 210 American Soldiers including General Custer.

Another major “battle” against the United States and The Sioux Nation was the Wounded Knee Massacre.  The area of land that the Native Americans were living suffered due to overhunting of bison by both the Native American and the white settlers. Unhappy, a group of Native Americans approached Colonel James Forsyth. Forsyth had 500 soldiers. It was estimated that 300 Native Americans including women and children were killed.

 

 

The Slaughter Of The Custer Family

Sometimes history can be partial to the truth, in part because it focuses on what certain historians find most important and what people are most interested to know. That’s probably why we focus so much on George Armstrong Custer and his alleged ineptitude during the final days before the Battle of the Little Bighorn, instead of what members of his family likely thought most important: for them, the tragedy was no less than a personal holocaust.

History often forgets that George wasn’t the only Custer to die that day.

Not long after the catastrophic defeat, George’s parents Emanuel and Maria received word of his death. But that wasn’t all. You see, George’s little brother Tom Custer was also present at the battle, and also died that day. He was five years younger than George and had attained the rank of captain. Unknown to most, he was the most highly decorated soldier during the American Civil War. To the U.S. Army, he was a gifted servant with a lot of potential. He has his older brother to thank for taking it all away.

It gets even worse.

Another younger brother, Boston Custer, was among those slaughtered that day. He was known as “Boss” to those in the 7th Cavalry, and supervised the horses.

Emanuel and Maria were also told of their 18-year-old grandson, Henry Armstrong Reed. He is thought to be the youngest soldier serving the 7th Cavalry at the time of his death. He was the son of Lydia Custer and David Reed.

To make matters even more personally devastating, their son-in-law James Calhoun had joined the 7th as well. At the time of his death, he had been married to Margaret Custer for only four years, and is responsible for providing historians with one of the most accurate and personal accountings of the 1874 Black Hills Expedition we have.

That so many of the Custer family members perished that day seems unreasonable, but historians point out that they were family-oriented people. They held family gatherings whenever the opportunity presented itself, even if they had to be organized at the military fort.

When they received news of the deaths, Emanuel was 70 and Maria was 69. They surely heard of how the soldiers who died at the Battle of the Little Bighorn were mutilated after the defeat.

The Mutilation Of Custer And His Troops

We often discuss the tactically inept decisions made by Custer before the Battle of the Little Bighorn without scrutinizing the uglier details of the battle itself. It’s not that much of a surprise. We want to know what went wrong or what would have happened if things had gone differently that day. What do we care if an arrow shaft was forced up Custer’s penis after the battle was over? Oh, wait, we do.

Certainly, it was common for Native Americans to mutilate the bodies of their dead enemies, but probably not for the reasons you think. Most of us are probably led to believe that the tribes were made up of fearsome warriors, sadistic butchers who were far enough removed from the comforts of civilization that they could do such a thing as shove an arrow up a man’s…well, you get the picture. But that’s not the way it was.

Sure, the Native Americans were fearsome warriors. Many of the longest-lasting, most oft-remembered cultures and civilizations on earth were made up of the same. We can’t speak of the Roman Empire without exploring the military prowess of its legions–or the butchery that they routinely committed.

The Native Americans didn’t butcher their fallen foes for want of blood and glory. They did it because they too believed in an afterlife, and they believed that mutilating their enemies in this world would prevent them from becoming a threat in the next. They were violent with us because we were violent with them.

Mutilation took many forms. Everyone knows about scalping, but it often went beyond that. It didn’t always occur after death, either. Some tribes–such as the Comanche–wanted to make a point. Matilda Lockhart described her rape and torture in the months she was held captive before a deal was made for her release. These are the stories that persevere, even though the Comanche were quite different in their interactions with white settlers than most other tribes, and even helped exterminate some of those tribes.

It’s up for debate whether or not the Native Americans responsible for mutilating Custer would have even recognized the man or known who he was, but we focus on that detail when we talk about it at all. Everyone was treated similarly; not just Custer. Then again, all we have to go on are the uncorroborated stories and reports introduced decades later.

None of the stories are ever so simple when entertained without context.

Hollywood’s Depiction of The Battle of Little Bighorn

There have been over 30 movies and several television films that document the events of Custer’s Last Stand in 1876 during The Battle of Little Bighorn during The Great Sioux War. George Armstrong Custer was a cavalry commander tasked with removing a group of Native Americans from The Black Hills in South Dakota. Unfortunately, Custer was greeted by thousands of Indians. Rather than retreating, he fought on leading his troop of 210 men to death.

The first Hollywood depiction was a silent film in 1912 entitled Custer’s Last Fight, directed and starring Francis Ford as Custer. In 1936, the first “talkie” was produced about Custer’s Last Stand. The film starred Frank McGlynn Jr and was produced by Poverty Row Studio. The movie was well received despite having many historical inaccuracies. The same year, famed director Cecil B. DeMille also directed The Plainsman, a film that fictionalized famous people from the west including General Custer. Custer was played by John Miljan.

In 1940, Santa Fe Trail a movie that has nothing to do with The Battle of Little Bighorn was released. The film had a subplot revolving around Custer attempting to woo Kit Carson Holliday who is not based on a real person. The reason why this movie is significant is that Custer was played by former (but not yet) President Ronald Reagan. This movie is constantly confused with the 1941 movie They Died With Their Boots On in which Errol Flynn starred as Custer. This is because both movies had the same leading woman. However, this movie is actually about General Custer’s life from the military academy to the civil war to his last stand. But it is still considered a highly fictionalized version according to a criminal attorney Odessa.

In the 1950s, the story began to portray Native Americans in a more sympathetic light with films such as the 1954 film Sitting Bull and the 1958 Disney film Tonka. In Sitting Bull, the story follows a soldier who is outraged by the treatment of Indians. In Tonka, a native American (played by white actor Sal Mineo) trains a horse that ends up being used by the US Calvary against his own people. Custer was played by Douglas Kennedy and Britt Lomond respectively.

The mythic quality of Custer has made him a character that appeals to every generation as we will never know exactly what happened at Little Bighorn. He’s been featured in art, featured in music and the subject of many novels and video games. Whether he is an Indian sympathizer or Indian murderer will forever be debated.

Were Soldiers Scalped at The Battle of The Little Bighorn?

Scalping is a brutal form of torture and murder practiced throughout history and by no means a Native American invention. The technique by which a person was scalped depended on how the scalper was taught. Among the Native Americans it varied from tribe to tribe. Each had its own method, but other factors were in play as well. Shape of the scalp. Size and purpose. How did the victim wear his or her hair?

Individuals chosen for scalping were usually dead or dying, and some survivors have actually described the process as relatively painless, even though the methodology seems to make a lack of pain impossible. Two semicircular cuts are made on either side of the scalp, and then the skin is torn away by grasping at the hair. Ironically, Native Americans acquired more precise instruments that were eventually called “scalping knives” from the European settlers themselves.

Is it possible to survive a scalping?

Believe it or not some people did survive after receiving prompt medical attention. The treatments for such a wound are mostly obscure, but the idea behind any such surgery is obvious. In order to stand a good chance of survival, a person must be allowed to regrow their lost skin. It is thought that the slow process must have included the puncturing of the diploe, a layer of spongy bone between the inner and outer layers of the skull. This allowed blood to blow, and new spots of skin to slowly regenerate the layer of lost dermis.

Was custer scalped?

Perhaps he was, but perhaps not. The Native Americans who killed him had no idea that anyone of note was heading the army of men. They would not have recognized him even if they had known he was there, even though many stories seem to say otherwise. Custer’s body was found with two fatal wounds–bullets to the head and heart.

When the slaughtered men who fought under Custer were discovered by General Terry a full two days later, most bore mutilations. The majority were stripped and scalped. Lieutenant Edward S. Godfrey said that an arrow had been forced up the shaft of Custer’s penis. Whether or not this is true is of course up for scholarly debate!

Custer’s body and that of his brother were buried shallowly there on the battlefield. They were rediscovered a year later. Their bones had been scavenged and scattered by animals.

Custer’s National Cemetery

War is known for its many casualties. When a soldier died on the battlefield – they were buried right then and there. However, during the Civil War the way in which soldiers were buried changed simply due to the fact that there was a plethora of American soldier corpses that the armies were incapable of dealing with. Families on both sides did not know whether their family members were alive or dead demanding that the government become involved. They asked for identification and proper burial of those who lost their lives due to war. In 1867, Congress passed the Nationa Cemetery Act which provided funds to help the government buy land for where the national cemetery would sit.

As per tradition, after battles, many of the killed soldiers at Fort Custer were buried on the surrounding area between the years of 1877 and 1881. Only official officers were identified. In 1879 in order to protect the graves, General William Tecumseh Sherman designated the area as a National Cemetery. There was an effort in 1881 to rebury the bodies but some of the bones found are still labeled as unknown. It wasn’t until December 1886 when President Grover Cleveland reconfirmed Sherman’s order with the War Department of General Orders and established National Cemetery of Custer’s Battlefield Reservation.

FDR issues executive order 8428 in July of 1940 to decree that the cemetery’s management would be placed in the hands of the Department of Interior rather than the War Department. As of 1978, there are currently no more reservations accepted however, there are 100 remaining plots designated to veterans and their spouses. There are an estimated 5,090 memorials currently on site. Several noteworthy army men are buried in this cemetery along with other Native Americans that were involved in The Battle of Little Bighorn.

Facts About The Battle Of Chancellorsville

There are many facts about the battle of Chancellorsville that most people know about. However, there are other facts that you might not be aware of. These facts can provide a better overall understanding of the battle and the consequences of it.

General Lee’s Perfect Battle Went Against Military Convention

Chancellorsville is generally viewed as General Lee’s greatest victory, but it was also the most improbable. His forces were outnumbered 2 to 1. He decided on a risky and unusual tactic. He decided to spit his smaller force not once, but twice. This allowed his forces to take General Hooker’s army by surprise and they were unable to push their advantageous numbers.

A Recent Overhaul Of The Union Army Could Have Played A Role

In 1963, after the Union defeat in Fredericksburg, President Lincoln chose a new commander, General Hooker. Soon after this, 2 other senior generals in the Union army resigned. This left Hooker short on experienced officers. When he went about reorganizing and streamlining the army, many of his key decision backfired on him. These changes demoralized the army and left the army vulnerable to attacks which may have contributed to the defeat in Chancellorsville.

General Lee Won, But At A High Cost

While the cost of lives in the battle was high on both sides, it was actually the loss of Stonewall Jackson that had the greatest impact. Jackson had been returning from a reconnaissance mission when his unit was mistaken for Union cavalry and fired upon by their own army. Jackson was shot 3 times and seemed to be recovering well after his left arm had to be amputated. However, 8 days after being shot, Jackson developed pneumonia and died. This marks the end of the life of one of the South’s brightest stars; delivering a great blow to the Confederate cause.

The Battle Was Briefly The Bloodiest In American History

In a single day of the battle, almost two-thirds of the casualties occurred. May 3, was the deadliest in the Civil War at the time. By the end of the war, this was given credit as the fourth deadliest battle. The 13,000 casualties suffered by the Confederacy amounted to 22% of General Lee’s fighting force; a number that was almost impossible to replace. The Union losses of almost 17,200 were also among the highest of the Civil War. The most deadly battle was the battle of Gettysburg. Both sides would suffer even greater losses than the battle of Chancellorsville.