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Posted on Jun 19, 2006 in Armchair Reading

Custer at Little Bighorn.

By S. S. Sat Hanuman S. Khalsa

Dear Armchair General,

I just received your January 2006 issue on Major General G. A. Custer (Lt. Colonel US Cavalry). I wanted to make a suggestion to you. It is fashionable to write about Armstrong Custer and cover the Battle of Little Bighorn. You did a pretty good job telling the story that it was cavalry tactics of the "Indian Wars" used when attacking that the commanding officer splits his command on the attack to prevent the "hostiles" (as they were called) from scattering.. Custer did nothing wrong at LBH, in my opinion. His wing commanders (Benteen and Reno) were the cowards and didn’t follow through on their role in the attack.

My input is to suggest you write an article about the real "Boy General" of 1863 through 1866. He was not only brevetted every rank from Major through Major General but is to this day the "youngest" 2-star General in the history of the US Armed Forces. He was age 24 when Secretary of War Stanton appointed him that honor. He was promoted right after the Battle of Cedar Creek in the fall of 1864. It became official in the spring of 1865. He is not the youngest general however in the Civil War. That honor would go to Brigadier General Galusha Pennypacker. When Custer was appointed Brig. General on June 29th, 1863 just before the battle of Gettysburg he was the youngest general.


He was in over 20 battles of the Army of the Potomac and was victorious in at least 11. His fame and public attention of his persona did not come from 1867-1876 but during the years of the national war of Rebellion as it was called in the north. Yes, he did graduate last in in a class of 34 but there were many more that fell out and several southerners that dropped out to join the Confederacy. He wanted to be a cavalier so finishing at the bottom afforded him that. He led by example and was always in front. Sheridan gets much of the glory, but Custer was his "Boy Sabrer"

At Saylor’s Creek on April 6th, 1865, Gen. Kershaw would only surrender his sword to Major General G. A. Custer.

He defeated Maj. General JEB Stuart not only at Gettysburg but at Yellow Tavern where the southern "Cavalier" was mortally wounded and died.

GAC captured the first confederate battle flag of the confederacy and received the first flag of surrender at Appomattox in Virginia.

I suggest you read professor Greg Urwin of Princeton, University’s book: Custer Victorious. More than 5,000 books and still counting are written about GAC and many of them are about the last 40 days of his life. He was in 4 Indian battles.He was victorious in three. In my opinion he did what Patton, MacArthur, Eisenhower, "Black Jack" Pershing, or even Rommel didn’t do. He died in the field of battle facing his foe. He died with honor. At his funeral at West Point where some of him may be buried, many veterans from the "Michigan" Brigade were present to honor him. At the unfurling of his statue in Monroe, Michigan was the the president of the US and about 15,000 citizens. He didn’t hate Indians and he was thought with much honor by his Southern foe, many of them Generals. Only the "Gray Ghost" couldn’t stand him. Mosby, himself a colonel blamed Custer incorrectly for killing his men in the Shenandoah Valley.

So, Arm Chair General, when you refer to Custer as General, do him the honor of showing his successful years between ’63 and ’65 when he served as one. In the years from 2011 to 2015 we will celebrate and honor the many heroes of the Civil War during the 150th anniversary, It would be a good idea to write about many of them on both sides and include Custer in the list. He was a very come and fearless leader to his men in battle. Even horse soldiers from Vermont 1st Cavalry served with him from 1863 to the very end at Appomattox. .


S. S. Sat Hanuman S. Khalsa
Portland, Oregon

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Thanks for your very detailed letter, analysis, and suggestions.  I’m sure you have since read the article on P. 42 of that same issue, in which we recognize his Civil War campaigns.
Thanks again, and look for your letter in our Letters to the Editor section online!
Brian King
Website Editor
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Dear Brian,
Thanks for your reply. When I got the magazine, I saw GAC on the cover and only found the LBH article at first. I apologize. Thanks for you’re positive description of the "Boy General". So much as been written that is politically correct since the 1960’s. His true ‘military career" is during the war of "Rebellion". You honored him with your article. More articles need to bring back this true American hero of our past. This is why I like Greg Urwin, Robert Utley, the recently deceased Brian Pohanka. and Louise Barnett. GAC was only in four battles with Amerindians and was victorious in three.Gen. Crook gets off easy. His defeat to Crazy Horse at the Rosebud may have helped strengthen resolve to hasten Custer’s battalion’s demise on June 25th.  LBH was his day to die. Hookah Hey! He did what not even George Patton achieved. They remind me of each other in some ways. At Cedar Creek, GAC defeated Jubal Early before "little" Phil Sheridan arrived from Winchester. Patton’s grandfather was killed in that battle. After the war Custer was body guard to president Johnson, bought thoroughbreds in Louisville, KY, rounded up "Klansmen" and went where his Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan sent him. It seems he has been tainted by Vietnam and the roll of racism in both that conflict and the Indian wars.  Custer may have been prejudice but he was no racist!
Again, thanks for the great feature.. speaking on the Alamo. Why do 184, destined to be decimated brave souls, outnumbered by 4,000 or more Mexicans become heroes and Custer with 210 brave men are deemed villains? Jim Bowie was a legend. So was David Crockett. In fact Crockett is one of Custer’s heroes along with Thomas Jefferson. These guys go down to Texas and basically steal land from another country and Custer, who gave his life to the Army gets made jokes of.
Its pretty hypocritical if you ask me. Manifest Destiny.
What if Lt. Colonel Custer had defeated the brave warriors of the Cheyenne and Sioux. What would we say today? He was a brave soldier and an "Indian hater" We don’t say that about Phil Sheridan. He’s buried right next to the Arlington home of General R. E. Lee, now our national cometary. His words "the only good Indian is a dead Indian" are infamous!
If Custer had obeyed Sheridan’s orders during 1864, he would have torched Monticello and the U. of Virginia. Pretty sad to think of that. Then Custer would be thought of as vicious and ruthless. No Brian that would be Phil Sheridan.
Thanks for your true and kind words about "Fanny", Hard ass, Long Hair, Hiatze, Creeping Panther, Iron butt, Yellow Hair, Son of the Morning Star and the Boy General. Garryowen!
We need more magazines like Armchair General. God bless you and your staff.
S.S. Sat Hanuman Singh Khalsa