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Was Custer a war criminal?

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  Quote Nick1986 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Was Custer a war criminal?
    Posted: 26-May-2011 at 19:33

After his death George Armstrong Custer was lionised as a hero. Known for his flashy uniforms, fair hair and red scarves Custer hired journalists during his lifetime to record his actions. Behind the heroic facade, however, Custer was guilty of some terrible acts.
During the Civil War he ordered the hanging of captured Confederate soldiers (until they threatened to do the same to his men). After the war he was involved in the genocide of the Indians: women were raped, children were butchered and families were driven off their land. He made a peace treaty vowing to leave the Indians alone, only to resume his attacks on their settlements.
Eventually, his arrogance caused his downfall: ignoring the advice of his scouts and foolishly leaving the Gatling Guns behind, he attacked the defenceless village at Little Bighorn only to be overwhelmed by Sitting Bull's braves. Viewing this butcher with the contempt he deserved, the Indians refused to scalp his corpse and left it to rot like carrion
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  Quote Centrix Vigilis Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-May-2011 at 03:20
Can't start with GA....you must start with the Spanish who paved the way for the enslavement and genocide (as the term is properly identified in modern context) of natives 400 years before he was born.Wink
 
 
Ask the Arawaks....but wait we can't...... they no onger exsist. And not because of GAC.
 
The idea he was an Indian hater and destroyer given the conditions and social characteristics of the desires of the populace at large given the context of the era... won't wash any more today then it did then.
 
At best he's been a convienent scapegoat for AIM....at worse he remains merely a inept tactician on the moring of the Greasy Grass.
 
Not to mention the term or identification was not relevent to his time and has an identification of  a very short and recent life span....and application in the common parlance.
 
Wink


Edited by Centrix Vigilis - 27-May-2011 at 03:29
"Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence"

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Pilger's law: 'If it's been officially denied, then it's probably true'

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  Quote Cryptic Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-May-2011 at 10:19
Originally posted by Nick1986

After the war he was involved in the genocide of the Indians: women were raped, children were butchered and families were driven off their land. He made a peace treaty vowing to leave the Indians alone, only to resume his attacks on their settlements.
Is there any evidence that Custer or his unit ever committed large scale atrocities against Native Americans?   I dont think there is.
 
The only war crimes that Custer seems guilty of is using Native American civilian hostages as human shields (Washita Creek) to prevent warriors from sniping or attempting to over run his column as he withdrew.   The vast magority of the 50 or so Native Americans killed in the actual battle were combatants.
 
Even at Little Bighorn, Custer's intent was not to kill either Native American civilians or even combatants per se.  Rather, his intent was to give a "show of strength" that would intimidate the Cheyenne and Sioux to return to their reservations under cavalry escort. 
 
Yes, Custer's intimidation plan was probably going to involve killing several dozen combatants and a few non combatants (that is the way it usually worked), but Custer never planned a "genocide".  
 
Originally posted by Centrix Vigilis

The idea he was an Indian hater and destroyer given the conditions and social characteristics of the desires of the populace at large given the context of the era... won't wash any more today then it did then.
 
at worse he remains merely a inept tactician on the moring of the Greasy Grass.
Well said. 
 
Custer is guilty of leading what by 1876 was an inexperienced paramilitary police unit into battle against a determined enemy.  Custer's tactics were like IJN planning in the later stages of the war: Very complex and good in theory.  On "D-Day" neither Custers troopers as individuals nor his company and platoon commanders had the skills and resolve to carry them out. Custer, however, gave orders as if he was leading a trained, combat experienced regiment in 1864.
Could Jeb Stuarts cavalry won with the same Custer battle plan?  Maybe, or maybe not, but they would not have been over run. 
 
Even Custer's orders showed good tactics but poor execution:
-"Attention unskilled  and undrilled police unit , we are under fire, out numbered, and in difficult terrain.  Nobody panic, nobody break and run and no wild shooting (yeah, right).
 
-Companies will execute a bounding withdraw while covering each other. Commanders, you must synchronize the actions of your units with each other (uhmm, OK, just like in the book we read once)
 
-The smaller part of the regiment will respond aggressively.  On his own initiative, the commander is going to realize my emergency situation and intent.  His unit is going to break out of their weak encirclement, ignore harassing fire and link up with us (not a chance).... 
 
 
  
 


Edited by Cryptic - 27-May-2011 at 11:47
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  Quote unclefred Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-May-2011 at 10:36
It seems that almost every thread you see on forums these days criticizes him on the basis of atrocities against the poor 'noble savage'. This is completely wrongheaded and it makes me quite cynical concerning the indoctrination kids are getting in public school. I'm not talking about Nick, I know he is just starting discussion.

Edited by unclefred - 27-May-2011 at 10:37
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  Quote opuslola Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28-May-2011 at 19:48
Yes, unclefred, it is always hard for someone to place theirselves into another time, and another place!

For some reason, things seem to change!

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  Quote tjadams Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Nov-2011 at 22:26

It is always simple deduction: be on the winning side.

Being on the winning team allows your the wide scope of being a hero

of your nation and doing what needed to be done to make your nation safe

and secure for the betterment of your people.   Being on the winning side

makes one's legacy as tough, determined and of valor.  Dying young and 

the way his death has been whitewashed prevents him from being fenced

in as a criminal. 

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  Quote Nick1986 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Nov-2011 at 20:10
Some troopers acted like barbarians out West. I've heard Sherman's men (many of whom were ex-Jayhawkers) scalped dead enemies, made necklaces out of their teeth, and cut off the breasts of Indian women
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  Quote tjadams Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Nov-2011 at 09:34

Could be true Nick. 

Under the cover of war, normal, sanus men can easily crack and do what they normally

wouldn't do. Then there are the disturbed ones who in private life see nothing wrong

with their life choices and take it to the next, legal level, while wearing a uniform in

time of war.



Edited by tjadams - 06-Nov-2011 at 09:34
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  Quote Ranlaw Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21-Nov-2011 at 19:42
Custer got what he deserved and to to me he was no hero but no way as bad as that psychopath Sherman
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  Quote Autie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Dec-2011 at 21:31
Any ill words of my hero would, at one time, have bothered me a lot. I am such a kinder, gentler Custerphile now. I will be back on this thread Monday, 2 Dec (GAC's Birthday) to post some information on his behalfHeart

Edited by Autie - 01-Dec-2011 at 21:32
“[I have] too much confidence in your zeal, energy, and ability to wish to impose upon you precise orders...” - Terry to Custer
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  Quote Nick1986 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Dec-2011 at 19:07
I've always viewed Custer as a bloodthirsty murderer and willing participant in America's genocide of the Indians. At Little Big Horn he deliberately attacked the village where the women and children were
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  Quote tjadams Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Dec-2011 at 19:41
Originally posted by Autie

Any ill words of my hero would, at one time, have bothered me a lot. I am such a kinder, gentler Custerphile now. I will be back on this thread Monday, 2 Dec (GAC's Birthday) to post some information on his behalfHeart

Good to see the personal growth.
My man-crush-idol-worship-church-of Thomas Jefferson can
withstand the attacks as well. He wasn't perfect, he wasn't
always right, but if you follow one of his commandments of
"taking things by the smooth handle", debates come out
smooth as well.
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  Quote lirelou Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Dec-2011 at 23:59
Considering that the Indian policy of the United States was not their eradication, but rather to remove them from areas adjacent to settlers and eventually assimilate them into American society, I fail to see how the charge of genocide can be maintained, except in so loose a sense as to deny the term and real meaning. Custer was a warrior, and no less bloodthirsty than any of his opponents, whose very society rested upon making war against weaker peoples, and defending against the stronger. Used in the context of the Indian Wars, genocide becomes just another word. 
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  Quote tjadams Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Dec-2011 at 02:01
The US policy was to subdue the Indian by any means and if that meant moving them by 
force off their legal land, then so be it by any means. If it meant wiping out their food supplies forcing
them the weaken and starve to death or forced them against their will to live on a policed
reservation, then it was done by any means. 
Any tribe that resisted or held out was pressured by any means necessary to clean the land and 
make it ready for white settlement. Whole Indian bands were forcibly assimilated in hopes of wiping
out their identity by forcing them to become Christian, losing their cultural structure, lose their language,
lose their history.  Reservation life resulted in high alcoholism for Indians making them docile and
easily managed. Genocide is an ugly word that can go down many holes in definition, but ultimately it comes out
of one.  
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  Quote unclefred Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Dec-2011 at 14:41
Originally posted by Nick1986

I've always viewed Custer as a bloodthirsty murderer and willing participant in America's genocide of the Indians. At Little Big Horn he deliberately attacked the village where the women and children were
There were solid tactical reasons for seizing a village in fighting the plains Indians, it had nothing to do with women and children:
 
 "As far as his strategy was concerned in the past when confronting Indians they avoided direct engagements with Army troops. The Indians would scatter in several different directions making the pursuers waste their time chasing smaller elements. Custer's tactic was to hit a village at dawn from three sides blocking any escape. This tactic was successful at the Washita river engagement in 1868. This is the manner it which he attacked the village at the Little Big Horn".

Custer had planned to wait until dawn to strike the Indian camp on the 26th. However, word had arrived that the command may have been discovered and the secrecy blown. Thus Custer to prevent the Indian camp from breaking up and scattering ordered the 7th Cavalry to prepare to attack the camp immediately.

Prior to the attack Custer divided his command into 4 elements. One element was a company securing the pack train; one battalion under Captain Frederick Benteen and a battalion commanded by Major Marcus Reno. The last battalion was commanded by Custer personally.

Custer sent Benteen to scout around to the rear of the village. Reno's command would directly assault the village and Custer's command would support him. The last time Custer was seen alive was when he was seen Reno's battalion as they advanced to the Indian camp.

Unfortunately, Reno's assault on the village faltered almost immediately. Rather than charge the village he threw out a skirmish line. This allowed the Indians time to regroup and attack Reno's men. Reno panicked and gave several quick contradictory orders. Thus followed a route to escape from the Indians which the Indians later characterized as a "buffalo hunt." Reno finally secured a fighting position on the bluffs and stayed there surrounded by the Indians.

Custer it appears attempted to find areas to cross the big horn river and out flank the village. At some point Custer sent a message to Benteen via one of his orderlies who could barely speak English. The message stated "Come on. Be quick. Big Village. Bring Packs. Custer P/S Bring Packs!" Instead of immediately rushing to Custer's support Benteen slowly turned his command around and even halted his command to allow the horses to drink.

Benteen next found Reno's besieged command and rather obey his orders joined Reno in his positions. Meanwhile Custer was forced on to the defensive and wiped out.

Thus, Custer's attack at the Little Big Horn can be seen as something much more than as a reckless attack against superior numbers.

http://www.davidstuff.com/historical/custer.htm

 
 
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  Quote unclefred Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Dec-2011 at 14:52
Hi Autie, nice to see you posting here!
 
An interesting article from Historynet:
 
One controversial notion should be put aside right away: that the Plains Indians at the Little Bighorn were defending their homeland. That is a myth. When Custer surprised the Sioux and Cheyennes village, he was not attacking peace-loving defenders. The Little Bighorn Valley is part of the Crow Indians traditional homeland, and the Sioux had driven the Crows from it. Back on March 10, 1876, Indian agent Dexter Clapp of the Crow Agency in Montana said that the Sioux are now occupying the eastern and best portion of their reservation and by their constant warfare paralyzing all efforts to induce the Crows to undertake agriculture or other means of self support, and added that the Crows expect the Sioux to attack this agency and themselves in large force. Other tribes such as the Shoshones, Blackfeet and Arikaras were also victims of Sioux raids and war making. The proud warrior culture of the Plains Indians was one reason that disenchanted Sioux warriors and their allies left their reservations in 1876 to join the influential medicine man Sitting Bull, who had never signed a treaty with the United States. Another reason was that the government was not fulfilling treaty obligations, which was something Custer had pointed out when summoned to Washington. In any case, the Indians defiance meant war.
 
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  Quote Autie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Dec-2011 at 21:06
Thanks Uncle! Great to be posting in a forum that you are associated with.
 
During his day Custer was a hero. His ACW record was outstanding and it really is too bad that he is only remebered for LBH.
 
What's ironic is that by sticking up for Native Americans against the US Government, he almost didn't go on the 1876 Campaign. And, when blamed for attacking a day early, the Terry/Gibbion column was a day late...I guess they should have sent each other a text...lol
 
Like at Last Stand Hill, I too am in a no win situation. It has taken me awhile, but I understand where others are coming from on their perception of GAC. It's years and years of PC that has made his image what is today. Even McDonalds took all kinds of static by producing a Custer toy from Night at the Museum movie...and that movie was making fun of GAC. The haters don't even know enough to be pleased...they are just too happy to hate.
 
“[I have] too much confidence in your zeal, energy, and ability to wish to impose upon you precise orders...” - Terry to Custer
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  Quote Autie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 03-Dec-2011 at 21:19
Originally posted by lirelou

Considering that the Indian policy of the United States was not their eradication, but rather to remove them from areas adjacent to settlers and eventually assimilate them into American society, I fail to see how the charge of genocide can be maintained, except in so loose a sense as to deny the term and real meaning. Custer was a warrior, and no less bloodthirsty than any of his opponents, whose very society rested upon making war against weaker peoples, and defending against the stronger. Used in the context of the Indian Wars, genocide becomes just another word. 
 
Well said. Prior to any Europeans making it across the pond, the Indians were not just keeping to their own lands. They fought, killed, and died in tribe vs tribe warfare. They kidnapped each others women, stole possessions, and took over land. They attacked each others villages that contained women and children and I am sure women and children were sometimes killed in these attacks. The US Army did not, and especially not Custer himself, invent the concept of attacking an indian village.
“[I have] too much confidence in your zeal, energy, and ability to wish to impose upon you precise orders...” - Terry to Custer
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  Quote Nick1986 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Dec-2011 at 19:08
While the Indians did raid other tribes and even massacre women and children, such actions were generally small-scale until the white man provided them with firearms. While i've always been a big fan of old Westerns, i quickly began wondering what the white settlers were doing in Indian territory in the first place, and why it was acceptable for Americans to kill the natives and force them off their land
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  Quote tjadams Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Dec-2011 at 22:56
Solid points Nick.
The very real and fierce Comanche Indians were not much till they acquired the
horse and white man firepower. They moved south, into Texas for one, and drove
out other tribes.
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