GDG- Custer, Merritt, & Farnsworth

CWMHTours at CWMHTours at
Wed Jan 25 19:16:39 CST 2012

THNX Chet-
Good post.
I owe you a bowl of chili.
A  Loyal Neo-Anti Unionist,

In a message dated 1/25/2012 6:45:41 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,  
agatematt at writes:

Esteemed  GDG Member Contributes:
> Esteemed GDG Member Tom Ryan  Contributes:

> Peter,
> This is very  little in the record explaining why Pleasonton pushed for
> Custer and  Merritt to be jumped from the rank of captain to BG other than
> the  fact that both men have served effectively and faithfully as members 
> Pleasonton's staff.  He apparently liked their pluck and dash,  especially
> Custer.  Both of these men were in some ways cut from  the same mold as
> Pleasonton himself.
> Given that  Pleasonton was assertive in manner and aggressive in fighting
> style,  he may well have wanted these young turks to lead his brigades,
> rather  than the older more settled officers -- and especially not 
> of  foreign birth since Pleasonton exhibited rabid xenophobia.
>  John Farnsworth's case was different, because Pleasonton used the  
> of
> young Farnsworth's promotion as an incentive (read  bribe) for his uncle,
> also named John Farnsworth, who was serving as a  congressman to expedite
> two
> of Pleasonton's  requests.
> One was to have MG Julius Stahel relieved from  command of the cavalry
> division attached to the Department of  Washington, and the second was to
> lobby for Pleasonton's promotion  from BG to MG.  In a letter to the
> congressman, Pleasonton  allowed that he was planning to promote nephew 
> to a BG (that  would be the quid pro quo).
> In fact, before long both of  Pleasonton's desires came about.  Stahel was
> reassigned, and the  MG promotion came through.  In return, Capt. 
> soon  became a BG, and put in command of a brigade in Kilpatrick's
> division  -- Kilpatrick having replaced Stahel and the division detached
>  from
> the Department of Washington and reassigned to the  AoP.
> Pleasonton spent his entire career inflating his own  accomplishments, and
> undermining anyone who he perceived blocking the  path to his achieving
> higher rank.  In addition, his ego often  got in the way of common sense
> actions, which led to repeated blunders  while in command at various 
> These characteristics were  frequently in evidence during the long
> Gettysburg
>  Campaign.
> Regards, Tom Ryan
> P.S. Not sure what  you mean by "the Cav mtn campaigns before Gtysbg."
> Please  explain  Also, if you have never been to the Loudoun Valley area,
>  you
> should go.  Much of it still looks like it did in 1863.   However, 
> development is starting to change the  landscape.
>      Whatever Pleasonton's thinking  and motives in the jumping over
> the-heads-of-so-many-others promotions  of two of the "boy generals, 
> (23) and Merritt (27), both proved  to be excellent cavalry leaders for 
> rest of the war as they  advanced to division command under the watchful 
> of Philip H.  Sheridan.

Have long wonder what input  Merritt's old commander John Buford
(when both were with the then 2nd  Dragoons in Utah in 1860) might have had
in Pleasanton's decision making  process
Of course, Farnsworth's death at  Gettysburg leaves him one of the
true what might have become of him as the  war marched towards its ultimate
It should also be noted that commanding cavalry was somewhat of  a
young man's game. While Pleasanton was 38, his successor Sheridan was  33
and other "youths" associated with the AOP included Randall MacKenzie,  24,
James Wilson, 26, August Kautz, 26, Judson Kilpatrick, 27 at the time  they
got their first star.
Finally, "the Cav mtn campaigns  before Gtysbg." might be referring to
the Union Cavalry's attempted probes  into the Blue Ridge Mountain passes to
see what the ANV was doing in the  Shenandoah Valley.
With regards,
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