Tuesday, June 25, 2013

137 Years Ago, One Stupid SOB Got His Just Reward

Good Tuesday morning!  The fires are still burning all over Colorado and the West Fork Complex fire has grown to almost 80,000 acres.  Our normal summer weather is not helping the fire fighters.  Hot and dry  here in Boulder, as usual.
   I don't normally celebrate the death of a person, but 137 years ago today, a lot of men lost their lives.  I mourn for all those who died this day, with the exception of one man.  This man had toiled hard to graduate from a Normal School, so he was certified to teach elementary classes to children.  He was bored after a year of teaching, and, for some reason applied to West Point Army Academy.  He was accepted into a small class of 34 students. He actually graduated in the spring of 1861, even though he was last in his class in all studies.  He decided he wanted to serve in the Cavalry, and since the Civil War was beginning, he joined the Army of the Potomac.  He volunteered for any duty that would bring attention to his name - he was a vain glory hound, and didn't care who knew it.  He generally followed orders, did well in a few scrapes, and was easily promoted.  He fought at the first Battle of Manassas (Bull Run), and during the Peninsula Campaign, he was promoted to Captain.  He saw action at Antietam and Chancellorsville.  Three days before the Battle of Gettysburg, he was named Brigadier General of all volunteers - he was all of 23 years old.  At East Cavalry Field, he led the First Michigan Cavalry in a charge that "broke the back" of the Confederate Army. He also lost 257 men and horses that day.  In his official report, he wrote, "I challenge the annals of warfare to produce a more brilliant or successful charge of cavalry."  His own men (a division) were not engaged in the fight; they were being held in reserve; but he convinced another Brigadier General (Gregg) to let him order the charge.
   He married a lady after knowing her for 14 months in 1864.  At the end of the war, he led the Second Division of Cavalry from Louisiana  back to Austin, Texas;  his subordinates greatly disliked the "eastern dandy" and were not quiet in their criticism.  In 1866, he was mustered out of the volunteer ranks and, again, was a Captain in the US Army.  He took an extended leave of absence; returning in 1867 as the new Lieutenant-Colonel of the newly created 7th US Calvary Regiment.  In mid-1867 he went AWOL to visit his wife, Libbie, and was court-martialed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. His punishment? He was relieved of duty for one year.  Before that year was up, he was reinstated, and sent to the Indian Territory.  In November 1868, he attacked the camp of  Black Kettle, a chief of the Cheyenne. It was described as the Battle of  Washita River - his report stated that they had killed 103 warriors; the Cheyenne say it was 11 warriors, along with 19 women and children.  But the biggest loss to the Cheyenne was the killing of 875 horses.  After the Battle of Washita River, it was alleged that this man had married the daughter of Chief Little Rock, a Cheyenne, and that they had two children.  The allegations were made by US Army Captain Frederick Benteen, Ben Clark (the chief of scouts), and Cheyenne oral tradition.  But no investigation was made.
  So, finally, on 25 June 1876, the 7th Cavalry, under orders from President U. S. Grant to "place all the natives onto reservation lands" broke into three battalions.  Captain Benteen had command of one, the second was led by Major Reno, and the third had George Armstrong Custer as their leader.  They were facing a large gathering of Lakota Sioux, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho near the banks of the Little Bighorn River.  At the end of the day, 263 US soldiers were dead, as were about 80 Native Americans.  I regret the deaths of all of these men - except Custer.  I cannot like the man in any way.

1 comment:

Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

"the killing of 875 horses"? What sort of man would order this?