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.