Saturday, June 25, 2011

135 Years Ago Today

George Armstrong Custer met his end on a stretch of high plains in Montana called the Little Big Horn. Originally touted as a sacrificial lamb to the barbarian tribes and true american hero, revisionist historians have since painted him as a 19th century glory hunting nut job that died not soon enough.

As with most things in life (all things), the truth is somewhere in between. If the jingoistas of the 21st century only knew how bad these guys had it back then, they wouldn't be so strident. Soldiers today have it much easier. Soldiers of 1876 had no telephones, let alone Skype, iChat, Email, Smart Phones, Digital Cameras, and Video Cameras. Certainly the food was worse as were the living arrangements and pay. I'd have to wonder how today's men and women (there were none in service then) would fare against an aboriginal adversary under less than modern conditions.

Still we see parallels. Soldiers were used as a tool of foreign policy (remember, these were territories, not states and the indians were considered part of a their own nation). No matter what Custer or any other soldier thought about the Indian, he had a job to do. On this day in June, 1876, there were missteps, screw-ups, and the results at this point are history and far too lengthy to go into here. So on this day in June, how do we judge such men? How will we judge our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan 135 years hence? Will revisionism strike again?

George Armstrong Custer by all accounts was an overachiever. While graduating last in his class at West Point, he proved himself in the Civil War and became the "Boy General". The take away here is that he delivered, which is the lynchpin of leadership. Under promise, over deliver, or to put it another way, don't write a check with your mouth that your ass can't cover. Ultimately, his risk taking caught up with him, in a big way.

On this day in June, 2011, I salute George Armstrong Custer, that crazy bastard that gave his all on that hill in Montana. We still need crazy bastards like him from time to time. It keeps the shit merry-go-round moving in the right direction. Unfortunately, we have become a society of effete diletantes that would rather sell their mother in a back room deal than put any skin in the game and hence, are poorly suited to real leadership, especially in bad times, because they are more concerned about themselves than anything or anyone else. What they deliver is perception, not always reality and that is the politicalization of modern society. Look behind the curtain and see.

So, was he a glory hunting nut job that died not soon enough, or a sacrificial lamb to the barbaric tribes and a true american hero? You tell me.

Thank you for reading this blog.


Gary said...

"I regard Custer's Massacre as a sacrifice of troops, brought on by Custer himself, that was wholly unnecessary – wholly unnecessary."

---- President U.S. Grant
September 2, 1876

Custer. A glory hunter using his corpses of those around him to make a name for himself. One of the worst commanders in history.

Custer is not fit to wash the feet of Colonel Aaron Burr.

The Right Guy said...

I doubt he's the absolute worst. Reno and Benteen were far worse. They were cowards.

You seem to have a think for Burr. That's fine. Grant was a good general as was Patton and I am talking about on the field, not comfortably in a command center far, far away. Generals today don't get their hands dirty, and you could probably extend that to senior officers as well. I mean, when was the last time you saw an American general in the field? Not in Afghanistan or Iraq, that's for sure.

Yeah, Custer had the glory thing, but he also believed in Custer's Luck, which we all know ran out. Read about his Civil War exploits (which I am sure you have). Also, in his time, he was regarded as a hero, whether you like it or not, but history has not been so kind. So be it, but I find that life doesn't follow the white hat and black hat mentality of good and evil. I like to take the Clint Eastwood approach, which is realism. Show me the warts and all. People aren't cardboard cutouts. Even Burr had a taste for his servants yet he was quite the ambitious man for sure and his successes showed that. In some way it played against him in the end. How about Tammany Hall? That's got to be a good legacy as well.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that you would choose to write about this subject. Your "As with most things in life (all things), the truth is somewhere in between," has long been a practical mantra of mine, which keeps the voice of reason well lubricated and balanced. But you are right in your assessment of how soldiers of today have it easier than those from 1876. I almost enlisted in the Marine Corp, when my dad said, "Willy m'boy, if you want to serve in the military, choose the Navy over the Marine Corps. Living conditions aboard ship may not be like the Hilton, but at least you won't have to sleep in mud with mosquitos, and bullets whizzing around your head." Dad was right, life aboard ships were not like the Hilton. hahahaha! When I tell people how sleeping conditions were, they often don't believe me. Think of racks (beds) stacked four high with about eighteen inches between you, and shipmates above and below you. To the head of you, is another rack with no space between, as is to the foot of you. To your right, the series continues. To your left, about 2.5 feet away is another series of racks, and so forth. Privacy is a premium, and to say the least, things get... let's just say different when the AC goes out, which is most of the time. The point is, I had it better than my dad thirty years prior during his campaigns in the Solomon Islands. But I think you're right, men like Custer do play an intrinsic role in the military, but no man is gung-ho, and "blood-thirsty" 24/7. Only in history books, especially those which preach the doctrine of multiculturalism, with emphasis on "racism" can such characters exist.

So we have hellcats like Custer, and Patton on one end, and effete elites like Montgomery on the opposite side. But somehow, once upon a time we brought victory home, and I bet it was as most often is in life, somewhere in between.

As an afterthought, I have to admit, living conditions I had to bear were not the norm for most. But with a name of a ship called Roosevelt, what in hell would you expect? ;)

The Right Guy said...

The carrier Roosevelt or another ship?

When I mention effetes, I was looking at politicians like Obama or Clinton. Neither served and actually seem to have a disdain for those who have. Surely even General Patreus isn't cut fromt he same cloth as those mentioned. It's a different world today.

Anonymous said...

I was stationed on the carrier Roosevelt CVA-42... an outdated, cockroach infested pile of junk, I have been shaving with for decades.

The Right Guy said...

CVA-42? Holy shit. I have a cousin that was on the Kitty Hawk and the America during Viet Nam. He loaded the bombs on the planes.

Anonymous said...

I loaded bombs, but not on the "Rosie." That task was done aboard my second ship, the USS Spartanburg County, LST 1192.

I knew sailors and marines from the Kitty Hawk. Unfortunately, I enlisted during a time when most guys were trying to avoid the military. Biggest problem was the draft: I lived with too many conscripted folks. I am strictly against the draft, but at seventeen when I enlisted, I was young and impressionable among a collective of misfits; not all of course, but many. I could tell you stories that you may have not heard, mostly because of the aforementioned multiculturalism narrative of revisionist history. Sometime, I'll share my story via e-mail about the race riot aboard the Rosie. I think the Kitty Hawk had one, and maybe our sister ship, the Coral Sea, as well. It has been many years since my military days, my friend, but not all details are fuzzy, nor forgotten.

Gary said...

Correct Right Guy. I do have a thing for Burr. In fact I have a thing for all underdogs where the majority who claim to be so "wise and smart" pile on to trash them.

The wise majority is more often just playing a mindless game of follow the leader.

For your reading pleasure I still strongly suggest "Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr" by Professor Nancy Isenberg. It will open your eyes to our early Republic.

The Right Guy said...

He wasn't the only one.

Chuck said...

Yeah, but that's the book Gary read. hehe

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