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July 18, 2013     Valley News and Views
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Valley News & Views Page 5 July 18th, 2013 The Goat Vs George Armstrong Custer Last week the Goat went up against Grant Marsh and we learned a little about one of the most famous steamboat captains ever, and how he ended up living out his life in Bismarck, North Dakota. It was Marsh, who announced Custer's death to the world in July of 1876 and returned survivors from the fight at the Little Big Horn, on board the Steamer Far West, in record time, to Fort Abraham Lincoln, near Bismarck. One of his passengers on the return voyage was a horse named Comanche, said to be the lone survivor of Custer's Last Stand and the only horse, other than possibly Mr. Ed, to be interviewed by a newspaper, the Bismarck Tribune. The Goat had hoped to include information about Comanche's team mate, Captain Myles Keogh, who was killed in the fight. Keogh's record during the civil war was remarkable, but in doing his homework, the Goat realized a very important personality was being left out. That of George Armstrong Custer. That's Custer's picture on the front page as a young lad attending west point. One of the things that got the Goat's goat was the difference in what people seem to think they know about Custer and Custer himself. So much of what has been written on the subject is interpretations, often slanted in a creative effort to paint him one way or another. It's most popular now, among many, to think of him as a vain, reckless and even evil ego-maniac, who like all the soldiers of the time just found great joy in killing Indians, especially the women and children. In the end, he got all his people killed at the Little Big Horn. For the sake of accuracy, there's a difference between Custer's Last Stand, and the Battle of the Little Big Horn, although both involved the 7th Cavalry. The Battle of the Little Big Horn lasted two days and there were a good number of survivors, all of them associated with or members of the 7th Cavalry. Custer's Last Stand was a part of the Little Big Horn fight, which didn't turn out too well for Custer. He and his battalion were wiped out. We'll get to that later. The Goat found an interview with Custer's brother, Nevin. There were four brothers, George, Tom, Boston and Nevin. Tom and Boston were killed in the last stand, along with a brother- in-law, James Calhoun, their sister Margaret's husband, and a nephew, Harry Armstrong Reed. Nevin tried to enlist during the Civil War but was turned away due to rheumatism. He continued to tend to the family farm. In an interview that took place after Custer's death, Nevin talked about their childhood and life on the farm. He noted that George was a book worm. He'd sneak books out to the field and their father had to keep them at least fifty feet apart when they worked to keep them from horsing around. He said his brother George was bashful. Whenever George tried to talk to a girl he'd blush and his face would turn red. He was well behaved in school. When everyone else was getting into trouble, George was somewhere reading a book. Custer's first ambition in life was to become a school teacher, which he did in 1856, after working his way through his secondary education. In 1858 he won an appointment to West Point. Unlike his earlier years, Custer had become a bit mischievous. He graduated bottom of his class, not because of academics, but because of demerits. An important part of a students class ranking was based on demerits. Before Custer had finished his first year, he had enough to keep him skating on thin ice until he graduated. Robert E. Lee on the other hand, is said to have made it throughWest Point without a single demerit. Why so many demerits. Seems George had become a bit of a prankster. For example, one day during a French class, he asked the instructor how to say "class dismissed", in French. The instructor said it in French and Custer got up and left the room, followed by the rest of the students. Pretty tame by today's standards, but something you might have expected John Belushi to do in Animal House. Custer's class was graduated a year early because of the impending start of the Civil War. He was involved in the first Battle of Bull Run, also known as Manassas, the first major battle of the Civil War and in most every major engagement thereafter. He did pretty good. Prior to Gettysburg, at the age of 23, he received a brevet (temporary) promotion to Brigadier General. He later received a brevet promotion to Major General. No one prior to that time or since has been promoted to a General rank at that early an age. I'm guessing it wasn't because he was an idiot. In 1862 as a Lieutenant, he was placed under the command ofMaj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton, who was in command a cavalry division. Custer began to pick up his flamboyant style under Pleasonton, who introduced him to extravagant uniforms. This was not terribly uncommon at the time, as the military hadn't established a standard of dress, which offered them some freedom. Good example, Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart wore an Ostrich plume in his hat. He felt good doing it and it distinguished hi m om all the rest; Of course, we'd never do anything like that in this day and age, would we? Custer did become flamboyant. He had some uniforms that would put Liberace to shame. His dress initially tended to alienate those under his command, but because he always insisted on leading a charge instead of leading from behind like many did to avoid being hit, he quickly won their respect. They even began to adopt some of his uniform styles. Mostly the red neckerchief. He is most known for his buckskins, red neckerchief, and treating his long blond hair with cinnamon oil. Following the war, many from his Michigan Brigade which he led at Gettysburg, wanted to join with him in the regular army and follow him out west, where his troops were to later refer to him as "Old Iron Butt." He was a pretty good commander. Custer was an aggressive cavalry commander, known for his Custer "dash". But, he wasn't reckless. He was a meticulous planner. Marguerite Merrington, author of "The Custer Story in Letters," wrote, "George Custer meticulously scouted every battlefield, gauged the enemies weak points and strengths, ascertained the best line of attack and only after he was satisfied was the 'Custer Dash' with a Michigan yell focused with complete surprise on the enemy in routing them every time." Some say that Gettysburg would not have been won without him and his engagementwithJ.E.B. Stuart and he was instrumental in Lee's surrender. These are long, interesting stories with lots of information to be sorted out, but he must have done something right. He was given the table on which Lee signed the Confederate surrender. It didn't seem he was extremely narcissistic either. In reading some of his battle reports, he is very objective and matter of fact. However he did make it a point to bestow praise on those under his command and over him, when praise was due. Likewise, from what I've read in his book, "My Life on the Plains," written in 1874, he comes off very objective and observant. He would have been a good geographer. He didn't hate the Indians and thirst for their blood either. It's important to remember, although not always portrayed properly in the movies, it was and is the civilians in Washington D.C. that set the policies and use the military to enforce them. That's how the system was designed and intended to work. Custer was a good soldier and was fairly dutiful, even though he didn't necessarily agree to what the yahoo's in Washington were up to. He and his troops spent their time on the frontier, not always fighting, but often interacting with the Indians and asp result began to build an understanding. Custer wrote, "I have yet to make the acquaintance of that officer of the army who, in time of undisturbed peace, desired a war with the Indians. On the contrary, the army is the Indian's best friend so long as the latter desires to maintain friendship." Unfortunately the friendship was often strained by policies made in Washington and carried out by dutiful, but not necessarily agreeable soldiers. That's how the system was designed and intended to work. Healsonoted,"Itispleasant at all times, and always interesting, to have a village of peaceable Indians locate their lodges near our frontier posts or camps. The daily visits of the Indians, from the most venerable chief to the strapped papoose, their rude interchange of civilities, their barterings, races, dances, legends, strange customs, and fantastic ceremonies, all combine to render them far more agreeable as friendly neighbors than as crafty, bloodthirsty enemies." The idea of bloodthirty Indians was really hyped by the media of the time. In "My Life on the Plains" he wrote, "If I were an Indian, I often think that I would greatly prefer to cast my lot among those of my people who adhered to the free open plains, rather than submit to the confined limits of a reservation there to be the recipient of the blessed benefits of civilization with its vices thrown in without stint or measure." So, what happened at the Little Big Horn? There are about a hundred million interpretations of the event, all trying to pin point a single cause of the defeat. The 7th Cavalry was basically on a scouting mission to try to locate the Indians, who had gathered on the Little Big Horn with Chiefs Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse and Gall, as well as many less known chiefs. General Terry, who Custer had met with on the Far West was a day or two behind. The plan was to wait for Terry and his troops before doing anything. However, as the 7th drew close to the encampment, they were spotted and knew it. That can create a bit of a pickle for a commander.., a judgment call. If the cavalry were to fall back, rest and wait for Terry, the Indian camp would have the chance to pull up stakes and disappear again. By engaging them, they could put an end to the whole thing. They hadn't had a chance to assess the full size of the force in the valley below, but Custer knew they would be outnumbered. He split the regiment into three battalions, one under Major Reno, one under Captain Benteen and Custer took one himself. The plan wasn't that bad. Reno would ride down and engage the camp from the southwest, Custer would go the long way around and engage from the northeast, thus putting them in a pincher or hammer and anvil. Benteen would then flank them. Even though outnumbered, the maneuver would cause the Indians to have to fight on three sides. Unfortunately for Custer, Reno fell back, Benteen arrived late and the mass of warriors were all free to converge on Custer and his troops. Had they had radios or cell phones to communicate with, Reno could have reported he was falling back and Custer could have halted his advance. Or, Custer could have told Reno to hold his ground, he was just about there. In the end, what happened, happened. Sitting Bull, who wasn't engaged in the fight, but remained in the camp evacuating women and children, received his information from his warriors. In an interview, Sitting Bull noted several times that the warriors said Custer's men and horses Were tired and wobbly. They did a good job of maintaining their discipline and fought well, but they were tired.., and vastly outnumbered. Sitting Bull said he thought they (the Indians) were whipped at first. So many variables, who knows what really went through everyone's minds that day. All the leadership, from Sitting Bull to Custer were ofprettygood character. They were disciplined and dutiful in their own right. Left to Sitting Bull and Custer to work things out and follow through, without the pressures from Washington, they could have come to a satisfying agreement for all and the whole thing could have been avoided. Sitting Bull noted in an interview later in life, when pressed on his apparent greatness, "I'm just a man." That was true of all of them that day, except of course for the women. One thing for certain, without going through first hand and personal accounts from the past, we know only what we are told about our history. The meaning of which can be skewed in all directions by the teller and their agenda. I think Sitting Bull and Custer, who were both in the thick of it would agree that you have to take a lot of stuff with a big grain of salt and make sure to do your homework, lest you find yourself following the follower. Oops, the Goat got carried away again. Lloyd Omdahl Continued From Page 2 trapped by the logic and support of the National Rifle Association. She explained that she was respecting North Dakota's gun tradition. However, that argument loses credibility when a majority of those who own guns favor the background check. As for both senators on this issue, what they are giving us as reasons are really excuses. It is unlikely that the Giffords-Kelly visit will change the minds of enough additional North Dakotans to influence our senators. Neither will it change the ideology of the U. S. Senate or reduce the influence of the NRA. Getting universal background checks on guns in America is challenging because reason has little impact in the debate. The most vociferous gun owners are driven by psychological reasons and opinions based on psychological factors cannot be changed by reason so logic is of no avail. All of this being said, gun ownership may already be too widespread for new legislation to be very worthwhile. Registration of all existing guns would be necessary to make the program effective. But convictedfelons, thementally challenged and gun radicals aren't going to come forward for background checks. Because so many guns are already out there, background checks may be closing the barn door after the horse is gone. Even so, gun ownership by dangerous felons has been prevented by the background checks already required of dealers. In the final analysis, universal background checks will not solve the problem but it would catch a few folks who shouldn't have guns. (Excuse me but I think a rabbit just ran into the carrots.) Sharing Hometown Recipes, Coola'ng Tips and Coupons By Janet Thar 3e Spice Up your BBQ with Bold Tastin' Grilled Steak ant to liven up an ordinar 3, steak at your next summer barbecue? Home cook Ashley Muller's Bold Tastin' Grilled Steak should be on the menu! The seasonings on this steak are great and the taste of this amazing marinade will have your guests asking for seconds (maybe thirds!) See step-by-step photos of Ashley's recipe plus thousands more from home cooks nationwide at: www.justapineh.eom/grilledsteak You'll also find a meal planner, coupons and chances to win! Enjoy and remember, use "just a pinch"... _J What You Need Beau Monde Seasoning 1 tsp ground cloves l tsp ground cinnamon I tsp ground allspice ! tsp ground nutmeg l tsp ground black pepper I tsp ground white pepper l tsp ground bay leaves 1 tsp salt 1 I/2 tsp celery seed Steak Marinade i c soy sauce 2 large onions, coursely chopped 2 clove garlic, halved I/4 c Kitchen Bouquet bottled gravy coloring - \\; I Bold Tastin' Grilled Steak \\; 2 tsp Beau Monde seasoning Steak (your choice) Directions Mix together all 9 Beau Monde seasoning spices and place in a small jar or sealable bag. (If you can't find ground bay leaves use a blender to grind up 2 bay leaves.) Combine soy sauce, onion and garlic in an electric blender. Cover and process at high speed for about 1 rain or until mixture is very smooth. Stir in gravy coloring and Beau Monde seasoning. Arrange meat in a shallow baking dish (I prefer to use gallon sealable bags). Pour 1/2 cup marinade over each piece of meat. Allow to stand at room temperature for 2 hours or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 24 hours. Bring meat back to room temperature before cooking. Slightly oil your favorite grill, then place meat on top and cook to your desired preference. Submitted by: Ashley Muller, Chandler, AZ (pop. 236,123) www.justapineh.com/gril iedst eak Brought to you by American Hometown Aledla