Sunday, June 25, 2006

Custer Had It Coming

Today is Sunday, 25 June 2006.

One of your author’s favourite bumper stickers has long been: “Custer had it coming.”

George Armstrong Custer was born in Ohio in 1839, and graduated from West Point in 1861, just in time to indulge his ambitions in the blood of the Civil War. Having, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica, “distinguished himself in numerous battles”, he was promoted brevet brigadier general in 1863, commanding a Michigan volunteer cavalry brigade. He ended the War as part of the Army of the Potomac, which harried the Army of Northern Virginia in its final retreat, until its surrender by the morally-corrupt slaver and traitor, Robert E. Lee.

As part of the general shrinkage of the US Army after the War, Custer was reduced to his permanent rank of lieutenant colonel and sent to Kansas in 1866 as part of the forces under General Hancock assigned to the “final solution to the Indian problem”. He chose to detour to dally with his wife, however, and was subsequently court-martialed and suspended for a year without pay. The First Americans having refused to play their part in the final solution, Custer was restored to duty in Kansas with the 7th Cavalry in 1868.

On Christmas Morning, 1868, his troops attacked without warning the encampment of Cheyenne led by Black Kettle, along the Washita River in Oklahoma, massacring women and children as well as First American braves. He and the 7th were then transferred to the Dakotas, where President U.S. Grant had ordered that all First Americans who refused to be imprisoned on concentration reservations by 31 January 1876 would be subject to armed persuasion. (A major motivation was to clear the sacred ancestral lands of the Lakota and Cheyenne, so they might be overrun and looted by goldhunters.)

The 7th was part of a pincer movement. However, when Custer arrived on the banks of the Little Big Horn River, he determined not to wait for the infantry column, as he had been ordered, and to attack at once and seize all the glory. The result was the Battle of the Greasy Grass, also known as the Little Big Horn and Custer’s Last Stand. It is unknown if he realized that he was outnumbered some 3 to 1.

This was of a piece with Custer’s entire career. His Civil War record was “distinguished” by a willingness to take high-risk chances with the lives of his soldiers, if he might win recognition and promotion. His gambler’s luck finally ran out at the Greasy Grass.

Custer did indeed have it coming. Unfortunately, he took some 208 men with him. Twenty per cent of his force was under trained (having been in service 7 months or less), they were undernourished, and had just completed a forced march of almost 24 hours. Many of the troopers, then as now, were immigrants and other marginalized persons.

Also on this date:

1898 - Maria Skłodowska-Curie and her husband Pierre Curie announce their discovery of radium.

1903 – Eric Blair, better known as George Orwell, is born.

1950 – Democratic People’s Republic of Korea invades the Republic of Korea.


Blogger RtR said...

I believe the author's editorializing blurs a line that separates the profession of politics from the profession of arms. Additionally, any history written by the winners necessarily misconstrues the other side of the struggle, at best.

Whether Robert E. Lee was a traitor or not, is entirely a matter of perspective. Had he been on the prevailing side of the conflict, the legitimacy that accrues to the victor may have treated his political reputation somewhat more kindly.

I do find it useful to compare the relative character of the generalship of of these two individuals by examining their personality traits through the lens of The Six Secret Teachings, attributed to T'ai Kung.

"Generals have five critical talents and ten excesses. What are referred to as the five talents are courage, wisdom, benevolence, trustworthiness, and loyalty. If he is courageous, he cannot be overwhelmed. If he is wise, he cannot be forced into turmoil. If he is benevolent, he will love his men. If he is trustworthy, he will not be deceitful. If he is loyal, he won't be of two minds.

What are referred to as the ten errors are as follows: being courageous and treating death lightly; being hasty and impatient; being greedy and loving profit; being benevolent but unable to inflict suffering; being wise but afraid; being trustworthy and liking to trust others; being scrupulous and incorruptible but not loving men; being wise but indecisive; being resolute and self-reliant; and being fearful while liking to entrust responsibility to other men.

One who is courageous and treats death lightly can be destroyed by violence. One who is hasty and impatient can be destroyed by persistence. One who is greedy and loves profit can be bribed. One who is benevolent but unable to inflict suffering can be worn down. One who is wise but fearful can be distressed. One who is trustworthy and likes to trust others can be deceived. One who is scrupulous and incorruptible but does not love men can be insulted. One who is wise but indecisive can be suddenly attacked. One who is resolute and self-reliant can be confounded by events. One who is fearful and likes to entrust responsibility to others can be tricked.

Where the line between politics and war disappears in unity is with the axiom expressed by Carl von Clausewitz that; "War is a continuation of politics by other means."

An understanding of the current USE/USSA Commander in Chief's leadership and the relative successes of his military ventures may be undertaken by analyzing his talents and excesses and the talents and excesses of his war cabinet.

Similarly, the potential ability of any successor government to resolve the current foreign policy instability should be subjected to the same scrutiny.

5:27 PM  
Blogger HH said...

Very thought through comment, RtR, so, before I answer, could you please define how you mean "profession of politics" and "profession of arms", as I suspect we view them somewhat differently.

Danke sehr.

8:46 PM  
Blogger RtR said...

Professions of:

Politics - The exercise of the mechanics of governance as a livlihood or primary endeavor.

Military - The exercise of the mechanics of conquest or defense in response to the demands of realpolitik, as a livlihood or primary endeavor.

As a sidenote, the resolution of the USE/USSA military involvement in Iraq's internal affairs is necessarily a military operation. Regardless of any individual's perspectives about what constitutes a proper and successful foreign policy, I believe that unless the goal is to create internal homeland instability (perhaps to secure phoenix-like or alternatively, Christian re-birth depending on religious perspective), it is in our national security interest (defining national as a democratic collective of our population's discrete concerns about our individual security rather than as a monolithic construct) to conduct a successful military operation to effect that resolution.

11:28 PM  

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