Post by keogh on Jul 15, 2011 17:25:01 GMT -5
Jul 15, 2011 0:02:26 GMT -5 @brittles said:I am not baffled by Custer's tactics the least bit. I don't agree with them. That is the difference.
I think most Infantry officers will agree with this point of view.
My biggest area of disagreement lies in the fact that he had two major terrain features between his unit and Reno. My view is that did not in itself spell disaster, but it was a significant factor in his defeat. Like Steve wrote this evening, it is not distance, but if that distance is across the Grand Canyon it makes a difference.
Again, I suspect most Infantry officers would agree with your assessment above. The bluffs and the river crossing would be perceived as a significant obstacle for Infantry to negotiate. However, I don't think Custer would necessarily share these concerns in the same manner. As it turned out, the bluffs proved to be no impediment to his ability to reach Medicine Tail Ford, the main crossing into the village. The bluffs also gave Custer a significant advantage in providing him with far superior observation points on the lay of the land and how the situation in the valley was developing. The bluffs also served the purpose of masking the move of his main strike force from enemy observations.
A good plan for a flank attack minimizes the unknowns. Custer had no way that I know of to do this. Crossing a river was a given. That in itself is no walk in the park and it is a maneuver that can be stopped cold by a rather small number of your enemy. In addition he had the bluffs to contend with. He went in with no idea as to the trafficability of those bluffs. Now he may get lucky and find the going good and the ford(s) undefended. He had no way of knowing this. So what we know by hindsight, by walking the terrain, what we know with our topographical maps and overhead photography give us much more to work with than he had.
Custer, like many Cavalry officers, tend to take greater risks than Infantry officers. With these risks comes a greater chance of disaster should things go wrong, as well as greater chances of victory. This mindset, and willingness to accept greater risk, is what separates most Cavalry officers from Infantry. This, in my view, is why so many Infantry officers are critical of Custer for being willing to undertake these risks in his determination to achieve victory, but Custer had taken many of these same risks (quite successfully) throughout his career. Custer relied on his scouts knowledge as well as his own extensive experience on the Plains to judge how difficult crossing those bluffs would be. As it turned out, his judgement was correct and the bluffs caused little or no problems for his command to cross. And in doing so, Custer gained a visibility he never could have achieved had he followed Reno directly into the valley.
To sum up I have no objection in concept to what he did. My objections are based upon the fact that he lacked sufficient knowledge of what laid before him in a very hostile environment where one mistake in judgment could and in fact did lead to disaster.
I think you sum up the main differences between the mindset of most Cavalry officers vs. their Infantry contemporaries. Cavalry officers like Custer, were willing to accept far more risk, engage in far more bolder actions, and conduct far more extensive maneuverability than their more conservative Infantry counterparts. In my view, most Infantry officers require an overabundance of information concerning enemy deployments, reactions, terrain considerations, supply, recon, planning, etc. than the typical Cavalry officer. Again, I am using generalities here as there are always exceptions to the rule. Miles thought like a Cavalryman. Reno and Benteen thought more like Infantry officers, which is perhaps why so many of our own Infantry officers here relate more to their actions and decisions than they do Custer's.
In my view the risk he took by choosing his course of action was unwarranted and far from calculated. So it does not have anything to do with the differing views of cavalry and infantry officers now or then. It is a matter of evaluation of risk and reward.
I think you correctly point out the main differences between Cavalry and Infantry officers: their willingness to accept risks in battle. What most Infantry officers consider "unwarranted and far from calculated" would be considered par for the course to most Cavalry officers. The way both groups evaluate risk and reward are as close as night and day.