President’s Letter by Stephen Miller
Was Custer a raving narcissist?
On the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg, JEB Stuart’s 5000 man column was ordered to out flank the Union army. This could have been a disaster for Meade’s forces. But, at a place called Rummel’s farm George Custer’s 1st Michigan cavalry attacked the head of Stuart’s column with the cry of “Come on you wolverines” and slammed into Stuart’s horsemen at full career and stopped Stuart dead in his tracks. It was one of the fiercest cavalry battles of the war; and Custer’s great moment of glory.
Then, at Appomattox, Custer showed what he was made of. First he confronted John Gordon and demanded his surrender. After being rebuffed by Gordon Custer tried to do the same to James Longstreet. Longstreet regarded Custer as an insolent child and sent him packing. Sixteen days after Appomattox, Custer stole the South’s most famous race horse, a fine thoroughbred by the name of Don Juan. Custer should have turned the horse over to the Union army; but decided that he wanted the horse for himself. He proudly showed the horse to anyone who came by. Even after Grant told him to release the horse, Phillip Sheridan had his back and abetted in the theft.
Custer rode Don Juan at the Grand review. He was dressed flamboyantly and cut quite the figure on his magnificent stolen horse. But Don Juan became spooked at all of the hubbub of the moment and bolted. Custer struggled to bring the horse under control; and finally did. The crowd gave him hardy applause further stroking the young Major General’s ego.
Custer thought the horse would secure his financial future. So Custer left his wife in Ohio and went to New York City to sample the good life. While in New York, Custer hobnobbed with politicians, people of great wealth, and foreign dignitaries. He wanted to be rich, so he could live in New York. He figured that Don Juan was his path to riches. He raced the horse; and people were impressed with Custer’s horsemanship. He wrote to his wife, Libbie, how he partied with the ladies of the street, or Nymphes du Pavé, as he called them. Money and politics filled his mind. His dreams of riches were thwarted when the horse suddenly died of a burst blood vessel.
Now Custer was forced to remain in the military. He was stationed at Fort Riley in Kansas as Lt. Colonel of the 7th Cavalry. There he continued in his self-indulgence. He once left his column to go shoot a bison; but only managed to shoot and kill his own horse. Another time he abandoned two seriously wounded troopers to go visit his wife. For this he was court martialed and convicted. However, he was eventually returned to command and earned the sobriquet of “Son of Morning Star” by the Sioux, for his habit of attacking Indian villages at dawn. He regarded Indian women as bearers of future braves and children as future foes. While he wasn’t as brutal as Chivington’s attack on Black Kettle’s peaceful Cheyenne at Pine Creek, he was a close second.
Custer’s final chapter occurred on June 25th and the 26th of 1876 when he divided his forces to attack a huge encampment of Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapahos at Greasy Grass Creek, Known as the Little Big Horn to the Washichunpi (white men). This attitude of ego and arrogance cost Custer and five companies of the 7th cavalry their lives. T’shunka Witko (Crazy Horse) had taught Custer his final lesson. There is much more to the history of this man; but time and space constrain me to this brief story.
This is the season. December is a busy time, whether you celebrate the birth of the Christ, Hanukkah, the winter solstice, Bodhi Day, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, or even Kwanza. Let us remember the reason for our celebrations, love of family, the thanks for a good life, and the celebration of a loving God. Let us all reject gross consumption and commercialism and hold what is dear to us all.
Merry Christmas everyone.
I want to convey what a privilege and honor it has been to serve as president of this fine organization. Thank you all very much.