GDG- Custer: G'burg, LBH & Philbrick

CWMHTours at CWMHTours at
Fri Jan 20 09:05:46 CST 2012

1.  Agree.
2.  If you ever can, go visit LBH.  When I went  there and actually walked 
the hills and all the decades of wondering what  happened disappeared.  
Suddenly all the pieces came together.  And  when you keep in mind that this was 
insurgent guerilla war and the Indians would  hit and run and the heavier 
more clumsy cavalry couldn't catch them Custer's  motives and actions can be 
explained.  The Northern Plains horsemen, the  dog soldiers, have been 
called the finest light cavalry in the  world.
The Indians rode with only a blanker and a rifle or spear in  their hand.  
The cavaly first had a saddle.  Water.  Food.   Usually a peg and rope to 
tether the horse.  A carbine.  Ammo.   Maybe even a saber.
Now who is gonna win the race?
If you wanted to arm chair general it on a Monday morning yes,  Custer 
should have done a real reconnaisance.  He might even have wanted to  consider 
that maybe just this once, just this once, the Indians miught not run  away 
like they did every single other time.  Had he known that days in  advance 
instead of trying to catch the Indians that they would for the first  time try 
to catch him he might have taken the Gatlings and kept his forces  together 
and set up the defensive camp on Reno hill instead of riding up and  down 
steep ridges.
Instead all he knew was a big camp and the Indians always ran  away.  The 
purpose of Terry's campaign was to finally catch the  Souix.  He found them.  
And before they could run away he wanted to  attack and trap them.  The 
purpose of Benteen's column in fact was to guard  Reno's left flank and prevent 
the Indians from escaping  that  way.
You can understand and explain Custer's actions.  Maybe  you can't excuse 
it tho.
3.  Sins?  Custer had sins?  ;-)
4.  I think PTSD among ACW vets was pretty common.   I guess it was one of 
the conccrns of the Grand Army of the Republic that many  vets were mentally 
incapacitated by something mentally and had trouble taking  care of 
themselves.  But drinking and "odd" behavior on the part of  officers was common 
before the war.  Ulyses Grant out west comes quickly to  mind.  It may have 
increased after the war but it  preexisted. 
"Just  the facts, ma'am." 

Your Most Obediant Servant

In a message dated 1/20/2012 9:03:21 A.M. Eastern Standard Time,  
madpd2001 at writes:

Esteemed  GDG Member Contributes:
Please allow me to share some thoughts on this  recent discussion:

1. Great stuff. As usual learned  alot.

2. Although I may have missed it (I'm a 'digest' person and  the lack of 
'snipping' makes reading everything tedious) I did not see a  reference to 
Nathaniel Philbrick's recent book on Custer & LBH. He was a  'talking head' on 
the AE/PBS show. Thought it was great, comprehensive, and  broke new ground. 
Perhaps I am prejudiced....he's a favorite author of mine.  Would like to 
hear other's thoughts on the book. BTW his most recent book  on why we should 
all read/re-read Moby Dick has several references to the ACW  and 
Melville's anticipation of it in MD.

3. Seems to me Custer's  greatest among many sins was to underestimate his 
opponent, something a  thoughtful, competent competitior would never do, 
both in sports and 'real'  life.

4. I seem to recall reading somewhere about the # of ACW  vets who suffered 
from PTSD. Just slightly better than speculation but makes  perfect sense 
when thinking about the conduct of several of Custer's officers  (Reno?) 
drinking, depression, etc.

Mike  DiLauro
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