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The Education Of George Armstrong Custer

Custer was an example of one following the Great American Dream — after enrolling in the McNeely Normal School (which became the Hopedale Normal College) in Ohio, he needed to move in with his elder half-sister. He knew he would have to work for what he obtained in life. He graduated from McNeely in 1856, after which he was an educator in Cadiz, Ohio. He enrolled in West Point in 1857 and was appointed as a cadet. He would have been 17 at the time.

The course demanded five years of study alongside 79 other cadets. However, the study was streamlined to four years because of the Civil War, and the class graduated on June 24, 1861 (which was the same year the war broke out). 

His education at West Point was hardly exemplary. It was worthy of note only because of his poor academic and social conduct!

The class of 79 cadets diminished to 34 after many dropped out or joined the Confederacy. Out of those remaining, Custer ranked dead last. Custer was given an awe-inspiring 726 demerits during those four years, which remains one of West Point’s worst since its conception.

The local minister said, “[Custer was] the instigator of devilish plots both during the service and in Sunday school. On the surface he appeared attentive and respectful, but underneath the mind boiled with disruptive ideas.”

One roommate remembered, “It was alright with George Custer, whether he knew his lesson or not; he simply did not allow it to trouble him.” 

Others noted that Custer’s career would have been doomed had the Civil War not broken out during the end of his education. He achieved decent postings at the beginning of his tenure as a junior officer, and quickly climbed in rank due to his willingness to take big risks — which included disrespecting higher ranking officers or outright ignoring their orders to gain notoriety for himself.

Read General George Armstrong Custer’s Own Words

When most of us read about history directly from a textbook, we have to trust the words printed. That’s because historical figures themselves didn’t write those books. Historians did. And historians are capable of bias. They’re capable of making mistakes. Of course, anyone who wants to be remembered is capable of the same kind of error in translation. But still, we can learn quite a lot from reading the candid words of historical figures when they don’t realize those words will be etched into stone for the remainder of time.

One letter written by George A. Custer was written to a cousin named Augusta Frary during his stay at the Brunswick Hotel in New York City.

The letter reads: “My dear Cousin; The fates seem determined to prevent me from paying long expected visit to you. I received your letter soon after I arrived in Washington but had decided before starting for the east from Dacota that I would [illegible] the opportunity of my trip to Washington + New York to, at least call upon you. I left Washington, for good as I supposed last Thursday, stopping one day in Philadelphia to visit the Centennial grounds and buildings, intending to leave New York last night at 8 oclock and stop over on train at Albion on my way west, but alas for my plans, yesterday I received a summons calling me to Washington as witness in the Belknap impeachment trial before the Senate on Thursday next.”

Sure, this letter lets us know that Custer probably had a penchant for run-on sentences. But imagine what fun it is for historians to fall down that rabbit-hole. Are you familiar with the Belknap impeachment trial? We didn’t think so.

Belknap had a storied career in politics, before which he was a member of the Union Army and lawyer. He served as a government administrator in Iowa before President Ulysses S. Grant made him Secretary of War. He was investigated for corruption by Democratic Congressman Hiester Clymer — a friend of his! — after rumors arose of Belknap’s corrupt practice of receiving illicit trade-related profits. 

In the space of one morning after chatter of impeachment began, he confessed to President Grant and resigned. Clymer continued his investigation anyway. He was swiftly impeached by unanimous vote in the House of Representatives (even though he was no longer in office), a precedent that has haunted impeached officials to this day, including President Nixon. 

Custer was involved to testify during Clymer’s investigation. This testimony was explosive at the time, because Custer had previously leveled serious accusations at both President Grant’s brother and Belknap. He even went so far as to arrest the president’s son for drunkenness! Ironically, Grant’s frustration with Custer kept the latter away from the battlefield for nearly a month — and the first battle Custer would participate in after his return was also his last.

Listen to some of his letters read aloud wherein he describes the mentality of his men before going into battle — and his expectation that they will suffer few casualties or none at all:

What Was The Worst Native American Massacre Of All Time?

The vast majority of all Native American massacres resulted in anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred casualties (even if we include those who were responsible for the massacre to begin with). But those seem insignificant to the most brutal slaughters in Native American history. In fact, the two worst massacres were nightmares even if we look at all of history. So what were they?

The Massacre of Cholula

Descriptions of the bloodbath that occurred at Cholula are based on little evidence, and historians are torn about what actually occurred there. It seems that one of the Native American leaders was trying to halt the advance of Cortes, who had brought the full brunt of his force to bear down on them. Although the Spanish did not encounter resistance upon entering the city, they heard rumors that they were to be murdered in the night. 

They decided to kill the local nobles as a reminder of Spanish supremacy.

But of course they did not stop there. They captured the enemy leaders and then torched the city. During the sack, they murdered thousands. Reports were as low as 3,000 or as high as 30,000. Certainly this was one of the most egregious slaughters of Native Americans of all time — but it doesn’t even hold a candle to the first on the list.

The Massacre of Tenochtitlan

Surprise, surprise: Cortes was responsible for this one as well. He and his forces had pushed the Aztecs into a corner by August 13, 1521. They surrendered. Cortes had lost a bit of gold during his conquests in South America, so he did what any god-fearing man would do to get it back: he burned the feet of his enemies using oil as a catalyst until they gave up the location. 

During the entirety of the conquest for Tenochtitlan, between 100,000 and 240,000 people were killed. These included fighting men, but an enormous number of the dead were women and children. Reports suggested that tens of thousands of Aztecs were floating in the city’s canals after it fell to Cortes.

It’s difficult not to characterize these atrocities as genocide.

Cortes went from town to town, slaughtering those who resided in each. Few were spared. Even after those who resided in the city surrendered, the Spanish and their allies continued to press the attack, killing everyone. The Aztec civilization as a whole was pillaged and looted. Women were raped en masse. Children were stabbed in front of their families. Although there were some survivors, they had nowhere to go and they were hunted thereafter.

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.

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.

Battle Of Antietam Facts: What Happened At The Battle Of Antietam?

Have you heard about the Battle of Antietam? If so, you might be wondering what happened to it and how it affects the American Civil War. The details below contain the information about the Battle of Antietam and what had happened since it had started.

What Is The Battle Of Antietam?

This is also known as the Battle of Sharpsburg which has taken place on the 22nd of September 1862 at the Antietam Creek. This Antietam Creek is close to Sharpsburg, Maryland. The outcome of this battle had been significant to the future of America. In fact, it remains one of the most deadly one-day battles in the entire history of the American military troops.

The Beginning

Some sources, have stated that this battle started at dawn on the 17th of September as the fog has started to be lifted. There are names that have been mentioned during the battle such as Brigadier General John G. Walker whose units had formed the Confederate flank. On the other hand, the Confederate center and right flanks had been formed to the west part of the Antietam Greek.

On the other hand, Lee’s troops had become hungry and worn-out. Most of them got sick. They had been watching and waiting for McClellan’s Army to assemble along the east side of the creek. Moreover, the Union forces have started to reduce the number of their Confederates.

These military troops from both sides had faced-off across a thirty-acre cornfield which was owned by David Miller. The Union troops had been the first to fire from the left flank of the Confederates. The Confederate troops had fought them off in an effort to stay away from being overrun. They transformed the cornfield into a killing field. After eight hours of bloody fighting and birth injury, there had been more than 15, 000 casualties.

The End

As the dark hours approached, there were many dead and wounded bodies from both troops in the Antietam battlefield. After four hours more of an intense fight with cannons and muskets, it resulted in over 23, 000 injuries and about 3, 650 soldiers dead.

The day after this bloody battle, Lee had started to move his ravaged military troops back to Virginia. On the other hand, McClellan did nothing. He allowed Lee to retreat with no resistance at all. However, President Lincoln was not pleased. He had believed that McClellan did not take the opportunity to win over the Northern Virginia Army while they had been down.

The Animals of Little Big Horn

The Animals of Little Big Horn

We are all aware of the legendary General Custer of the civil war. If you have never heard of this name before, General Custer’s war stories are as big of an american folk tale as Paul Bunyon. While General Custer was a real person, his loving wife and friend, William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, embellished on every letter he had sent back, making him out to be a larger than life war hero who died valiantly trying to save his men. That is not the case, General Custer led his men to a battle so bloody. One native american account said that they were turning their guns on themselves.

The Dogs

Anyone army going to battle in the 1800s were equipped with horses. Unfortunately, horses are not the best companions. General Custer brought along a few pets for the ride to the Battle of Little Big Horn; they were his dogs. Tuck, Swift, Lady, and Kaiser were all trained to run alongside his horse when running into battle. Tuck was the only victim of the Battle of Little Big Horn, the others had stayed back at the camp that day with their caregiver.

In a letter to his wife General Custer often wrote about his beloved dogs to his wife. In one letter Custer wrote “ Tuck regularly comes when I am writing, and lays her head on the desk, rooting up my hand with her long nose until I consent to stop and notice her. She and Swift, Lady, and Kaiser sleep in my tent.”

The Horses

The horses of the Battle of Little Big Horn had very strange stories. One of the most popular stories is the aftermath of the Battle of Little Big Horn where soldiers were forced to kill and eat their horses just to survive. Some of the strangest stories that arose from that day are:
The mysterious horse Little Soldier. Little Soldier was Bobtailed Bill’s horse. Bobtailed Bull was a scout working with Major Marcus Reno. It is said that after Bobtailed Bull had did in battle, Little Soldier ran over 300 miles to his home in the Dakota Territory.

Another mysterious horse was found by General Godfrey on the Yellowstone River. When Godfrey found the horse it was dead; although, it was completely intact and nothing was missing from its saddle, no even the oats the horse was fed. The horse had been shot in the forehead and left to die.

One of the horses that was stolen by the Sioux was sold to a resident in Canada. The horse was recovered by the Mounties and after U.S approval James Morrow Walsh was allowed to keep the horse. He named the horse “Custer” after the legendary general.

What Is The Trail of Tears?

Historical Context

In 1830, the Indian Removal Act was signed by Andrew Jackson. The law’s purpose was to negotiate with Native American tribes and help them relocate from land in the deep south to land that was west of the Mississippi River called The Indian Territory. As one would assume, the Cherokee Nation and other Indian tribes were not as enthusiastic to leave their homeland and were forced to relocate.

What Is The Trail Of Tears?

The Trail of Tears is not a literal trail but refers to a series of forced relocations of Native Americans from their land.

Between the years of 1830 and 1850, the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole, and Cherokee people were held at gunpoint and forced to march across the United States. The most infamous march was the Cherokee removal in 1838. Due to a discovery of gold on their land, 16,543 Cherokees were forced to leave their home.

During these death marches, many Native Americans died of disease and starvation before even reaching their intended destination. It’s estimated that up to 6,000 Cherokee’s died during their removal in 1838. Some Indians were given money to purchase food during the trail, but some suppliers sold them bad food which caused much of the starvation.

Where Does The Name Trail of Tears Come From? 

The terminology “Trail of Tears” comes from this removal as many Cherokee’s wept for their loved one’s death during this relocation. In Cherokee history, the event is called nu na da ul tsun yi (“the place where they cried”) or nu na hi du na tlo hi lu i (the trail where they cried).

What Was The Aftermath?

The Trail Tears is considered one of the darkest and most shameful events in American History. In 1987, about 2,200 miles of trails were labeled the “Trail of Tears National Historic Trail” which crosses over 9 states. It’s to commemorate all of the Native Americans who lost their lives during this time.