Custer was born in Illinois in 1839. He went to a local Prairie School where he appeared a bright and able student. His family did not have enough money to put him through further education so he was sent to the West Point Military Academy to be come a cadet officer.
Although West Point worked hard for Custer it was really a bit of a waste as he neglected studies and was 34th out of a class of 34. He was far from the best student West Pont had taught if the American Civil war hadn’t have broke out it would have been unlikely that he’d have graduated
The American Civil War of 1861 – 1865 however proved to be the making of George Armstrong Custer. Within 2 Years he became a Brigadier General he obviously had made a good soldier fighting on the United States side against the confederates of the South. This Climb up the rank ladder most likely would not have happened in peace time. After the war he lost his rank and reverted to become a Captain.
After the Civil war Custer became part of the Indian Wars of around 1860 – 1890 and joined the U.S. 7th Cavalry whose job it was to control the Indians and enforce the United States Views and ways which may conflict with the Indian’s. Very soon Custer Became virtually a commander of the 7th Cavalry. The United Sates Government were encouraging people to settle in the West putting pressure on the Indian’s to give up more and more land. The Indian’s were eventually forced into reservations with idol promises and treaties by the U.S. Government. Custer and the 7th Cavalry wanted to make sure the Indian’s did as they were told by the U.S. Government.
Custer Lead the 7th Cavalry against Black Kettle and the Cheyenne in 1867. 6 of his men were killed compared to massive Cheyenne loses including women and children. Custer appeared pleased with his role as rounder up of the Indians. He helped Develop the winter war against the Indians although the winter made it difficult for the cavalry it was even more difficult for the Indians who during winter became immobile and quite defenceless. They didn’t hunt in the winter and relied on the preserved buffalo meat they hunted in the other seasons. If these food supplies were destroyed the Indians could be starved and die out.
After the massacre of the Cheyenne at Washita Custer was involved in several other campaigns against the Indians. In 1874 he was sent to the Black Hills which belonged to the Sioux on a scouting mission. Gold had been discovered on the Black Hills and Custer allowed the information to be leaked out after the Authorities wanted it to be kept secret. This caused White prospectors to go there which angered the Sioux as the land belonged to them.
In 1875 Custer was getting the idea that perhaps he may run for President. To help his campaign he wanted to damage the current president Grant’s reputation. He accused President Grant’s brother in law of corruption, taking contracts to supply agencies that looked after the Indians on reservations. As a result of this Custer was suspended from his duties as Commander of the 7th Cavalry. He went to his Commanding Officer General Terry who helped Custer Make an apology via a telegram. Custer got his job back. Custer had been disgraced and his good reputation among whites was damaged.
In 1876 Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse refused to live in their reservation. They wanted to be out following old Indian traditions and the old lifestyle which was far better for Indians, hunting Buffalo and moving around on the plains. The Government wanted them contained. In the summer of 1876 the 7th cavalry lead a campaign against them to round up and punish the unwilling Indians.
It was during this campaign that Custer and his regiment faced their last stand at the battle of Little Big Horn. The plan was that the 7th Cavalry under Custer and the 7th Infantry under Gibbon would form a pincer movement around the Indian settle meant at little big horn. Custer disobeyed his orders and cut through mountains meaning he would arrive at the Indian camp first. It is though that he may have done this to reclaim personal glory or glory for his regiment. Another mistake Custer made was his refusal to take Gatling guns which were rapid fire, crank driven guns with clustered barrels, the first practical machine gun firing many rounds per minute. His men and horses became tired due to forced marches. Custer split his regiment in to 4 units, Reno, Bentea and Mcdougal commanded the other 3 units. He set off towards Little Bighorn. As he led his troops into the camp they became surrounded and he and his unit were all killed. The other 3 units held off the attack for about 30 hours until the Infantry came.
There were other factors which weren’t Custer’s fault. The number of Indians at Little Bighorn was under estimated.
The Indians were supplied with better weapons with which warriors had bought off traders. These Winchester magazine repeaters were far superior to the single shot muzzle loaders Custer and his men had. Evidence has shown that Custer and his men’s single shot rifles had became faulty with cartridge shells becoming wedged in the heated carbine chambers which they hacked at with their hunting knives.
The Indians where expected to have retreated like they would normally do in battle but they stood and fought.
The news of the defeat of one of the United States finest Regiments reached Washington on July 4th 1876 the 100th anniversary of Independence Day. This was a huge blow to their pride. Consequently changes were made within the military such as the increase in numbers and the campaigns against the Indians more vicious, the Sioux were wiped out.