May 17, 1876
It is the beginning of an epic failure, as Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer and 12 companies of the 7th Cavalry ride out of Ft. Abraham Lincoln. Traveling with him is his brother Tom Custer, winner of two Medals Of Honor during the War, and his brother-in-law, LT. James ‘Jimmi’ Calhoun. Also tagging along for the fun was Custer’s nephew Boston Custer, serving as a teamster.
under the command of Gen. Alfred Terry, with the intent of dealing with Indian resistance in western Montana along the Yellowstone Territory.
This story needs little explanation to true students of the West. It is a well documented tale of glory hunting, egotistical over-confidence, failure to take due caution and supreme under-estimation of one’s enemy.
Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer was a hero during the Civil War, and the favorite of General Sheridan. He could always be counted on for taking charge of a situation, and he was always at the front of that charge.
Custer was the head of the cavalry group that fought at Yellow Tavern, and brought down Confederate Cavalry General and hero James Ewell Brown “Jeb” Stuart.
Custer didn’t lack for courage, although some called it foolhardiness, and some called it “Custer Luck” that he always came out ahead.
He had been a shining star for the Union during the Civil War, but fighting Indians out on the Plains was a different matter. They didn’t fight like he was used to, they would run off in different directions and wouldn’t fight unless the odds were in their favor. They didn’t wear uniforms and they didn’t fight out in the open. Custer was a bear for discipline, unless it applied to him. He was used to the men under his command following him without serious complaint, but he forgot – or didn’t recognize – that in the war, they were mostly volunteers fighting for a common cause. Out of the plains, they were not volunteers and they did not see the need for such rigorous discipline. And many of them would run off to go gold mining whenever the opportunity arose. This was a much different war, and different soldier, than the one he had just served in and with.
abandoning his post to ride one hundred miles to be with his wife, Libby – among others, and even a suspension of his rank and duties, but he always seemed to land on his feet. At least, he did until this campaign.
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Photo courtesy of wikipedia.com