This past Sunday was an occasion to reflect on the life and times of George, a woeful leader if there ever was one. How did such a manâ€”a mediocre student in his younger days who would rather pull a prank on a classmate than pull a book off a shelfâ€”later ascend to such authority? How did such a manâ€”who, at one point in his service career, abandoned his duties and went A.W.O.L.â€”later come to command a powerful military force? How did such a manâ€”bristling with ego and so brash and glory-seekingâ€”later attain a position of respect and responsibility? Given such qualities and prior experiences, is it any wonder what came to pass? Is it any wonder that George became responsible for a military misadventure of historic proportions, one in which he foolishly and unnecessarily put troops in harmâ€™s way? Is it any wonder he was so ill thought of by some military officers, such as Major General David Stanley, who at one point had the following to say about George:
â€œI have seen enough of him to convince me that he is a cold-blooded, untruthful and unprincipled man. He is universally despised by all his officersâ€¦â€?
And consider, too, the words of the renowned historian, Stephen Ambrose, who offered the following assessment:
â€œHis undoubted audacity and courage were offset by a criminal lack of good judgment, a refusal to take the time to gather intelligence about the enemy, an insistence on attacking at the earliest possible opportunity, a petty jealousy toward his fellow officers, a monumental ambition, and a total disregard for the lives of his men.â€? (Americans At War, p. 60)
Such criticism is not unwarranted. George brought it all on himself. Without question, his actions were reckless and ill-conceived. And, as a result, on the 25th of June in the year 1876, George Armstrong Custer died for his sins.
Who did you think that I was writing about?