Post by on Mar 11, 2009 12:43:12 GMT -5
It would be interesting to look up evidence as to the status and authority of the regimental major(s). You could be right, especially since LTC Custer is officially the second-in-command of the 7th Cavalry.
And Reno certainly does not act like an XO or 2IC in descriptions of officer duties during this campaign.
OTOH, Benteen and his supporters, in and out of the RCOI, talk about Reno automatically outranking Benteen and hence takes command of Benteen in this incident. The officers of the court never question this, so it seems valid.
Reinforcing that concept is the fact that Whittaker dropped his charges against Benteen due to this very issue, and I think for no other reason...that Reno was the 2IC and so Benteen really had no legal choice.
I'll keep an eye out to indicators of the authority normally delegated, and assumed, by the Majors of these regiments during this period. It's a good question.
The situation is similiar to Custer's at Gettysburg. Custer had orders to move his brigade from its position east of the town and rejoin his division south of the Round Tops. Custer's brigade was to be releived by Gregg's division. Gregg wanted Custer to stay. Custer was glad to stay if Gregg would take the responsibility. Gregg then took the responsibility.
That is another good issue, but I'm not sure I'm seeing the relevance here. Gregg's taking of responsibility for ordering Custer to stay does not relieve Custer's legal obligation to march to Kilpatrick. Custer could have legally told Gregg to stuff it and marched on, and I doubt anyone would have raised an eyebrow about it. OTOH, Kilpatrick always fumed at Custer for disobeying his order, and while he didn't prefer charges against Custer for following Gregg against his orders, he did express his displeasure.
I think Custer's is a great example of an officer using "moral" obligation to march to where most needed over the "legal" obligation of following your superiors orders. I don't think Gregg's assumption of responsibility here has any legal effect, except to tell Custer that he'll speak for him at his courts martial, if necessary. <g>