From: Carrie Martin
Date: 23 February 2004
Subject: Mass Murderer: Col. George A. Custer
Word Count: 1,389
The Truth: Colonel George Armstrong Custer
The mention of Colonel George Armstrong Custers name is almost certain to conjure thoughts of patriotism, bravery, and heroism. After all, this is what we have been taught in school since we were young, impressionable children. The facts of history seem to contradict what we have been taught thus far. It is not unreasonable to assume that to promote patriotism and love of country our history books would tend to try shed the best possible light on past military situations. Custers military movements were no exception. The history books state that he was a good man, but that is a skewed example of who Custer really was. Custer was driven to genocide by self promotion, visions of grandeur, and an abiding hatred of the Native American race.
George Armstrong Custer was born in New Rumley, Ohio in 1839, but spent much of his youth in Monroe, Michigan. Beyond this, not much is known about his childhood until after his graduation from Alfred Stubbins Young Mens Academy in 1855. After graduating Custer began teaching in Harrison County, Ohio. He only lasted two years. After the first year Custer was petitioning an Ohio congressman for a chance to attend West Point Military Academy, north of New York City. Custer was eventually accepted into West Point where he ultimately finished at the bottom of his class. Just days after graduation, Custer was on guard duty and failed to end a confrontation between two cadets. Custer was court marshaled but escaped punishment due to the outbreak of the Civil War and the demand for officers. Although his units saw some of the highest casualty rates, Custer became well known for his aggressive, fearless nature. After receiving the white flag of surrender from Southern Confederate General Robert E. Lee, Custer married Elizabeth Bacon in Monroe, Michigan 09 February, 1864 (Biography, George Armstrong Custer).
After his marriage and the end of the Civil War, Custer was stripped of his Civil War commission of General. In 1867, he was sent to Texas to reestablish order (Biography, George Armstrong Custer). Being the proud and determined man that he was, Custer felt this task was beneath his abilities. Custer was above the lowly, everyday tasks of the average man, he had to prove to himself and others that he was more than mediocre. It was well known that Custer was a daredevil and that he had frequent and quite extreme mood swings (History Television). While one minute he would be charming and debonair, the next he would be in a torrential rage. The evidence of how truly despicable this man was is difficult to find, because the history books depict him as a very extraordinary man. To find evidence to the contrary, it is best to look to the Native American point of view; but to provide balance traditional American history need also be examined. Most efforts to determine exactly what Custers mental state was at the time of his murders, will yield an unrepentant, proud man who believed he was doing what was necessary for his country. In his mind he could do no wrong. Upon further investigation, it becomes clear that his only concern while killing hostile warriors, and their women and children, was personal promotion in the public eye and his own.
Custers pride clouded his judgment on more than one occasion. After the battle at Washita, in which 103 of the Cheyenne nation were killed along with over 800 of their animals, Custer sent a small detachment of his men to search for escaping Indians; failing to send out scouts first to determine the safety of this decision (Biography, George A. Custer). Because of his neglect, the detachment rode directly into a camp of Indians and was slaughtered. His well honed sense of distain was even more evident when he did not discern a need within himself to search for his missing men; they were found by chance two weeks later, dead. But due to his popularity in the public Custer was not punished, or even reprimanded for his crimes (Biography, George A. Custer).
The support of the public was growing by the week and could not have escaped Custers attention for long, if it ever did. While the public may have continually supported Custer, the media and certain government agencies did not, We make treaties-that is, we pledge our faith-and then leave swindlers and knaves of all kinds to execute them (The Custer Massacre, August 05, 1876). But the majority of the government that did approve of Custer and his tactics made sure that he received only good publicity through the press. Considering his conduct following the Washita Massacre, November 22, 1868, (Washita River Massacre) he must have known that he could do whatever he felt necessary to promote himself and his career. No longer having any fear of military discipline and with the public on his side, he could focus on his other agenda: wiping out the Indian race.
The genocide of the Indian race was more than just a means of military advancement to Custer. It must also have served him well in his mind to be the one credited with silencing this dreadful race so that the white man could further his settlements west. He was known to extend friendship to the Indians, all the while planning his next attack (History Television). The Indians, not wanting to participate in unnecessary war, were deceived by his charm time and again. This is an example of his mood swings that he was well-known for, and it also suggests that he had some control over them. He had at least enough control over his emotions when finding himself in diverse situations, that he could convince others of his heartfelt intentions. This ability of character acting was essential to his advancement in the military, but also for his own agenda of personal fame. Fame aside, a man that disobeyed orders to kill a meager estimate of 130 human beings could not hold that race in any regard. To single out a race and allow such atrocities to befall them speaks to the fact that he could not have found this an endearing race. The anger that emanated from Custer toward the Indian race is said to stem from his guilt in respect to an affair that he had with an Indian woman. While he was married to Elizabeth, under American law and in the eyes of his God, in the eyes of the Indians he was also married to their squaw whom he had slept with and supposedly created a child with (Stephen Goode, Jan. 3, 2000). Although it has never been unequivocally proven, it remains a strong theory. To this day there are blonde haired, blue eyed Indians born whose specialized traits supposedly originate from the time of Custer.
Custer was a driven man; he was driven by several inborn senses. He was driven to succeed in the military, promote himself to fame, and to do his best to wipe out an entire race. He held no one but himself and his wife in any regard unless they served his purpose. He was a cold man who was known to fly into and out of rages on a regular basis and was not well liked by those in his command because he worked them hard while he went hunting (Biography, George A. Custer). He was unnaturally calm and unconcerned in reference to his men, when they were missing, to try to find them. His efforts as a military man were evident in all of his actions, as was his blatant disregard for humanity. His sense of wrong and right were never apparent. He appears to have had no conscience or feeling. His murderous disregard for the Indian race as well as his own men seems to support that theory.