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George Custer

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George Custer
Gacuster
Historical Figure
Nationality: United States
Religion: Protestantism
Date of Birth: 1839
Date of Death: 1876
Cause of Death: Killed in Action
Occupation: Soldier, General
Spouse: Libby Custer
Children: None
Relatives: Tom Custer (brother)
Political Party: Democratic Party
Military Branch: United States Army
Turtledove Appearances:
The Guns of the South
POD: January 17, 1864
Type of Appearance: Contemporary reference
Southern Victory
POD: September 10, 1862
Appearance(s): How Few Remain
through
The Center Cannot Hold
Type of Appearance: Direct
Nationality: United States
Date of Birth: 1839
Date of Death: 1930
Cause of Death: Natural causes
George Custer (December 5, 1839 – June 25, 1876) was a United States Army cavalry commander during the American Civil War and the subsequent wars against the Native Americans of the Western Plains. While he'd demonstrated an exceptional level of aggression and bravery during the Civil War, he is best remembered for his defeat and death at the hands of the Indians in 1876 at the Little Big Horn.

George Custer in The Guns of the South Edit

George Armstrong Custer was a brevet general in the U.S. Army during the Second American Revolution. In 1864, when Hugh Kilpatrick attempted to rescue Union prisoners of war held at Belle Isle and in Libby Prison[1], Custer moved his troops west toward Charlottesville to draw C.S. General Richard Ewell away from Kilpatrick's line of attack.[2] This would have succeeded except for intelligence provided to Jeb Stuart by the Rivington Men.[3] As it was, Stuart and Ewell smashed Kilpatrick's force with their AK-47s.

George Custer in Southern VictoryEdit

George Armstrong Custer (1839-1930) was a career officer in the United States Army, eventually retiring at the rank of full general. He saw action in three wars fought between the United States and the Confederate States. In the War of Secession, he served as an aide to General George McClellan at the Army of the Potomac's headquarters; he arose as one of the few victorious U.S. commanders in the Second Mexican War; and he was in many ways the United States' military hero of the Great War.

The Second Mexican War, 1881-1882Edit

Although he'd fought in the War of Secession, it was in the Second Mexican War that Custer rose in the national consciousness. He commanded a cavalry regiment which helped pacify the first Mormon rebellion in Utah. Custer and his superior, John Pope, developed such a brutal policy against Mormons and suspected polygamists, that the hearts and minds of the citizens of Utah were forever lost to the United States. Nonetheless, Pope and Custer broke the rebellion, forcing the Mormons to quietly simmer for the next three decades. The important US Army outpost there was named Fort Custer. (It is also noted that despite Custer's demeaning views on the Mormons' practice of polygamy, he was hypocritically a notorious womanizer even when he was married.)

However, it was the fighting in Montana that put Custer's star on the rise, as he had an important role in one of the few victories the U.S. had in that war: the defeat of a British force commanded by Charles George Gordon. Custer had help from Theodore Roosevelt's Unauthorized Regiment, and Colonel Henry Welton's Seventh Infantry. The later had put the newly introduced Gatling guns to use in mowing down British infantry, despite Custer's contempt for the modern weapons.

This battle was to shape Custer's remaining career. His beloved brother Tom was killed by British forces, and this instilled in Custer a lifelong hatred for the Canadians. The fact that the war had ended just prior to the battle added salt to the wound. Further, as the facts of the battle were sorted and credit parsed, Custer found himself in competition with Roosevelt for the national limelight. The two were to remain bitter rivals for the remainder of their lives. Finally, despite the obvious success of the Gatling guns, Custer maintained a certain contempt for modernity, believing that battles could be won by sheer numbers alone, a belief he put into operation during the Great War with horrifying results.

The Great War, 1914-1917Edit

In the Great War, Custer was given command of the US First Army in Kentucky. Many of his policies were questionable, including his insistence of sending his infantry straight at the enemy without consideration for the defensive positions allowed by trench warfare. This myopia cost many lives, despite the best efforts and advice of his adjutant, Major Abner Dowling. Dowling was quietly contemptuous of Custer's vanity. Not only did Custer continue to dye his long hair blond, he drank surreptitiously and pursued women less than half his age and, for that matter, less than a third of his age.

In spite of himself, Custer became a hero. His approach of throwing men into the lines eventually wore down the C.S. Army opposing him, with its far more limited manpower. Moreover, despite his disdain for military modernity, Custer was one of the first people to see the importance barrels could have in war. Against the stated wishes of the United States General Staff, with the aid of then-Lt. Colonel Irving Morrell, he planned and successfully executed the Barrel Roll Offensive, the breakthrough which ultimately led to U.S. victory on the Kentucky Front. He was promoted to full (four-star) general. Custer expressed the hope that the U.S. would prosecute the war until the C.S. ceased to exist, and while understanding the pragmatic concessions made by President Theodore Roosevelt, nonetheless was disappointed that the war was not an absolute victory.

Military Governor of Canada, 1918-1922Edit

After starring in the Remembrance Day victory parade of 1918, Custer experienced a depressing stretch of menial duties at the US War Department in Philadelphia. When the US expelled the British from all of Canada and occupied the country, Custer asked his rival Theodore Roosevelt (who was elected president in 1912) to give him command of occupation forces. Roosevelt, remembering the bitter feelings after the Second Mexican War, initially refused but later relented and named Custer military governor of Canada. There, Custer tried to bring a stop to the ongoing rebellion. His success was limited, but he remained popular among Americans--and hated by Canadians.

In 1922, he was forced to retire by the first Socialist President Upton Sinclair. During a farewell tour of Canada, Arthur McGregor tried to kill him by throwing a bomb into his car. Custer, long suspicious of the prolific terrorist, caught the bomb and returned it to McGregor, killing him.

Retirement and DeathEdit

Custer did not prove very adaptable to retirement. He never quite understood that perhaps he'd lived too long after the Great War. Even Abner Dowling, by then serving under General John Pershing in Utah, the one man who knew Custer best, and probably hated him the most, was moved to tears by the sad state of Custer's life.

Custer died in 1930 and was buried in Arlington, West Virginia, where Former President Roosevelt had been buried in 1924. Jake Featherston railed against the humiliation of having two hated US leaders buried in Robert E. Lee's plantation.

TriviaEdit

Armstrong Grimes was named for Custer.

Literary commentEdit

The Southern Victory portrayal of Custer has much in common with Germany's Paul von Hindenburg, who served in his country's military for decades and was one of its senior commanders in the war that began in 1914.

ReferencesEdit

  1. The Guns of the South, pg 78.
  2. Ibid., pg. 79.
  3. Ibid., pg. 78.
Military offices
(Southern Victory)
Preceded by
None; Prince Arthur Albert as Governor General, Robert Borden as Prime Minister, George V as King
Military Governor of Canada
1917-1922
Succeeded by
Unknown

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