Post by thehighwayman on Apr 14, 2010 10:36:30 GMT -5
Thank you rch, for clearifying my error. I confused General Hazen's article contesting certain points of fact contained in 'My Life on the Plains' with the Washita Letter.
The Benteen letter about the Washita was in anonimous responce to the various newspaper articles' portrayal of the fight as the story flashed across the country.
Sheridan had, I believe, one newspaper man as a guest at Camp Supply, and it was from his dispatches that the story was told. The newspaper reporter wasn't present at the Washita attack, and built his report purely from Custer's and Sheridan's versions of what happened and why.
Post by custersluck13 on Apr 17, 2010 14:44:39 GMT -5
This is a topic I have given much thought, and I still cannot form a definite opinion. I try to view that day and Benteen's reactions through the scope of battle and the "living in the moment" prism that subjects ones sense to. Benteen, I don't believe, had any other intentions than obeying Custers last command and was indeed coming to him. Now I get a sense he was dragging his feet. I do believe he felt he was being put out and he seems to be the type of officer to magnify self perceived injustices against himself . I think he believed Custer sent him on a "wild goose chase". So he was less then aggressive in returning. When he ran into Reno, I am not shy in stating I believe Reno was useless in his capacity that day. His situation was one he created. Was he too inebriated? Seems so. Did he freeze with panic and fear? Yes. I believe it was cowardice. His "charge" to the bluffs indicates so, as does his first dismount orders do. But all that was done when Benteen found his command. My personal military instincts tell me to obey the COs orders. They are given to you for reasons you may not yet understand. If you deviate, as Benteen did, you better have a dang good reason. I don't discredit Benteen the soldier. Good officer with as many human faults as anyone. I blame Reno. Had Reno carried out his duties, stayed of sober mind and bearing, the unravelling of the plan Custer had made, which was sound, would not have forced Benteen into the position of becoming the savior of the Reno Battalion. He became just that but to the expense of his commanding officer and his men. That was a decision we can debate all day. I believe Benteen did what he felt he had to do and it was just another case of when things go wrong, they snowball, and the 7th paid the price. Hard command decisions that day. Hard indeed.
Last Edit: Jan 5, 2014 1:33:57 GMT -5 by moderator
Post by benteeneast on Apr 21, 2010 8:33:41 GMT -5
I don't see how you can be a good officer and make poor decisions. Personal life should be separate from the attributes of a good officer. If the personal life interferes then it can be handled by court martial.
I would think that Army officer's are taught to know when to deviate from a plan or orders.
I believe Benteen demonstrated that quality of a good officer.
Yeah...I think the important thing to realize is that even a man you judge to be a "good officer" and have many positive attributes, you can still admit could have made better decisions in specific situations.
The semester is over. This means that I have my life back and can give myself the reward of reading what I want to and spending time where I want to. That said. I was intrigued with the topic “Benteen’s Positive Attributes” and couldn’t help but respond…even though this thread may have gone cold.
I went back and looked through the letters between Benteen and Goldin. For those of you who have not read these letters, I believe they provide an example of a man (Benteen) whose writings exhibit a level of narcissism and bitterness towards others that is difficult to read. One comes away from the letters with the belief that Benteen was always the offended party and that it was only through his natural superiority of character that he was able to withstand the indignities forced upon him by his inferiors. I would note that Benteen seems to have been devoted to his son. The lad apparently experienced health issues and at one time may have been near death. The letters clearly show his concern.
From the letters, it is clear that he was not happy with the “Custer’s gang” as far back as the Washita. Does anyone know of a work that deals with the “rotation of officers” policy in the Army in the 1870’s? It would appear from my readings that Benteen had given voice to his distain of Custer and fellow officers throughout his tour on the frontier. While his actions may not have been blatantly insubordinate, they would seem to have an impact on the esprit de corps. As his superior, I would think that transfer or reassignment might have been a positive choice for all parties involved.
It is true that the letters to Goldin were written late in Benteen’s life and it could be argued that they are the ramblings of an old man; however, they do seem to capture the essence of the man. When combined with other sources, the letters seem to substantiate what seem to have been some of the less than desirable character traits of the old soldier. It would be interesting to read the letters to Benteen from Goldin. What type of prompting or response did Goldin make to Benteen’s comments? There seems an interesting familiarity between the men that I guess I would not have expected. Perhaps because of Goldin’s subordinate position in the military relationship, Benteen was able to express his true personality without fear of confrontation.
This is going to stir the hornet's nest, but what the hell... right? The relationship between Benteen and Goldin was somewhat contrived and not always as honest as I think it should have been. Benteen no more knew Goldin than I did. Goldin, in his original correspondence, apparently, told Benteen he was a colonel... in the Wisconsin Guard. I am sure Benteen knew of Goldin being a Seventh Cavalry private and in the battle, but was unaware of Goldin's other "adventures" and tales... or maybe the tales came at a later date and after Benteen was dead.
As for Benteen's personality, I am sure he was naturally acerbic and sarcastic, but I find he also had a sharp wit, and far from being disliked by so many and being accused of disliking even more, he had his circle of friends and he had a solid list of people he liked and admired, John Gibbon being amongst them. Even Frank Gibson, Benteen's lieutenant at the LBH who Benteen professed to hold in a certain degree of disdain, admired, supported, and defended the captain until the day he died.
Benteen's dislike of Custer of course, is legendary, but it was not without its reasons. There are those who find no good in Benteen and will refute every argument anyone throws up defending the man, but most of Benteen's attacks of George Custer have some basis in truth. To me, it is simply a matter of who you like, who draws you in, who you admire, what good you-- the moral man-- sees in each of the characters. I always liked and admired George Custer; I feel the same way about Frederick Benteen, though for different reasons. To me, they were men of their times... men with common goals and common dreams, who simply did not like one another. Custer may have been more forgiving; Benteen, less willing to compromise. To me, that is Benteen's biggest fault.
Of course, as well, he had cause for bitterness. Frederick Benteen, Jr., survived and went on to have a career in the army, but his four siblings all died, and I am sure that left the old man very bitter. Coupled with some setbacks in the military-- maybe caused by his less - than - giddy personality-- these things helped fuel his bitterness. George Custer was a very easy target and when we see some of the man's actions in the mid- to late 1860's, maybe we can understand why. We do not get court - martialed for no reason.
Best wishes, Fred.
Last Edit: Mar 28, 2014 0:09:04 GMT -5 by moderator
There was no rotation policy as far as individual officers and men were concerned. Officers of the line above the rank of 2nd Lt were never transferred unless they were able to work out an exchange with another officer of the same rank. Any officer that did transfer lost his seniority within his new regiments. From 2nd Lt through Capt the officers were promoted by seniority within their regiments. Promotions to field rank were by seniority in the banch.
2nd Lts could be moved around more easily because there were usually 2nd Lt vacancies to be filled in all regiments and an exchange would not be necessary. 2nd Lt Larned transferred into the 7th Cav from the 3rd Cav, but when he did, he found himself junior to his West Point classmates who had stood below him in his graduating class. 2nd Lt Reilly transferred from the 10th to the 7th Cav, but he was so junior anyway that it made no difference.
The was an exception to the seniority rule and transfers during the 1869 - 70 reductions in the Army. Officers tranferred at that time kept their seniority by date of rank.
August V. Kautz' books on the customs of the service, written during the Civil War, are pretty good on details of duties, organization, and administration. These customs appear to still have been applicable in 1876. Most of the texts of Kautz' works are available on line at usregulars.com. These works have also been reprinted.
Thanks for the lead. I took a look at Kautz' Customs of Service for Officers of the Army (1864). These are the type of cultural artifacts that I find interesting. When you read such works you need to always be aware of the context in which they were written.
The source speaks to the nature of detached service (what it is and the responsibilities of the officer while on detached service), but it does not address the procedural aspect for how an officer is “detached”. Is it requested by the officer or can it be assigned? Have you read of the procedure?
So I may have stepped on your toes for this thread with my question in the last one...I take it you would like to have a discussion concerning why we should think it so important for Benteen to halt so long to assist Reno. Valid question.
Two aspects to this, I think: 1) Why should Benteen think it more important to stop for Reno than to continue to Custer, and 2) Why should Benteen have stopped for as long as he did, and not move towards Custer earlier than he eventually did?
1. Provided ammo. 2. Provided physical security against potential threats. 3. Enabled Reno's command to rally more quickly (morale recovers faster with help arrived). 4. Provided fresh horses to replace Reno's lost ones.