General George A. Custer, the man Jan 7, 2011 14:48:42 GMT -5
Post by bc on Jan 7, 2011 14:48:42 GMT -5
Dec 15, 2010 8:30:20 GMT -5 @conz said:In summary, I think Custer was very well tuned to "Life on the Plains." He lived there, he loved it, he smooched with the locals, white and Indian, as much as he could, and more than most officers out there did.
He seems to have understood, and studied, Native culture more than much older officers that had been on the Plains before the Civil War, and certainly respected the Indians more than most whites did.
Note that his troubles with Grant started because he was trying to defend the Indians against the depredations of corruption in the government bureaucracy...even at the risk of his own career.
Custer studied sign language so he could communicate with the Natives...how many officers did that?! He was ahead of his time...and he would have made a good trapper/mountain man if he had not become a Soldier. He loved it out there, and he loved its people.
Had he lived, he may have become another "Lawrence of Arabia" of the American West.
Of any office you can think of out there, what man was more prone to “go native” than George Custer? Anti-government, anti-authoritarian, pro-Indian spirit of independence and nature…no military man had more respect for Native culture than did Custer. In his dress, his activities, and his spirit, George Custer was more Indian than he was Washingtonian, I think. He should have been a trapper and married into a tribe.
Custer was more Army and Democrat than Indian. My memory of Custer's writings was that he thought the Army, not the Interior Department, should have control over Indian affairs as the Army had earlier in the 19th Century. This view appears to have been appreciated by Gen Sherman. Custer must have been right because the noble Frederick Benteen is on record as favoring the same thing.
Custer, Benteen, and many other officers were, in general, sympathetic toward Indians. They believed the Army could administer any Indian policy better and more honestly.
The issue that got Custer in trouble with Grant invovled Custer's willingness to openly criticize the handling of traderships on Army posts and the involvement of Grant's Secretary of War in corrupt dealings. This got him involved with Democrats trying to impeach Belknap and weaken Grant. At least on the matter of the traderships, Custer may have had some support from Gen Sherman.
And this boils down to the problem with any staff type job in the corporate world or government. The army was charged with enforcing NA policy and took the blame for any failings. Those with direct line responsibilty for making decisions and policy got the rewards for positive effects while deflecting the blame for the failings. The army in a staff position regarding NA policy was doing all the dirty work but could do nothing to change any conditions that might make their job better and easier. Basically a control issue that occurs all the time. Staff can make recommendations but not actually change policy. Hence the frustration. Seeing graft along with being a victim of it as well helped make the frustration worse.
Custer, beginning back in his Kansas years, avoided camping in a post where he didn't have some control with the post traders. He still commanded the troops with his policies and not the post commander and his policies. He did things like send TC ahead to deal with the post traders to get special priviliges for the officers if the trader wanted to do business with the men. Custer decided when the men could go to the post for a drink or whatever and decide if traders are allowed in his camp. Business as usual back then but today may be referred to as a kickback.
At FAL he was post commander but still couldn't completely control the post traders who were right there. He could do things like he did with the Montana column and not pay the men until they were 2 days away from post.