George Armstrong Custer is famous for his fatal defeat at the Little Bighorn in 1876, but Custer’s baptism of fire came during the Civil War.

After graduating last in the West Point class of 1861, Custer served from the First Battle of Bull Run (only a month after graduation) through Appomattox, where he witnessed the surrender. But Custer’s true rise to prominence began at Gettysburg in 1863.

On the eve of the Battle of Gettysburg, only twenty-three years old and barely two years removed from being the goat of his West Point class, Custer received promotion to brigadier general and command – his first direct field command – of the Michigan Cavalry Brigade, the “Wolverines.”


“A thoughtful and challenging new look at the great assault at Gettysburg, from planning to aftermath. Not afraid to lay blame where he thinks it belongs, Tucker is fresh and bold in his analysis and use of sources. Even though any reader knows in advance the outcome, still Pickett’s Charge maintains suspense to the sound of the last gun.”

—William C. Davis, author of Crucible of Command


 

Now that he held general rank, Custer felt comfortable wearing the distinctive, some said gaudy, uniform that helped skyrocket him into fame and legend. However flashy he may have been in style, Custer did not disappoint his superiors, who promoted him in a search for more aggressive cavalry officers.

At approximately noon on July 3, 1863, Custer and his men heard enemy cannon fire: Stuart’s signal to Lee that he was ready for action.

Thus began the melee that was East Cavalry Field at Gettysburg. Much back and forth preceded Custer’s career-defining action. An hour or two into the battle, after many of his cavalrymen had been reduced to hand-to-hand infantry-style fighting, Custer ordered a charge of one of his regiments and led it into action himself, screaming one of the battle’s most famous lines: “Come on, you Wolverines!” Around three o’clock, Stuart mounted a final charge, which mowed down Union cavalry – until it ran into Custer’s Wolverines, who stood firm, with Custer wielding a sword at their head, and broke the Confederates’ last attack.

In a book combining two popular subjects, Tucker recounts the story of Custer at Gettysburg with verve, shows how the Custer legend was born on the fields of the war’s most famous battle, and offers eye-opening new perspectives on Gettysburg’s overlooked cavalry battle.


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15 COMMENTS

  1. Custer broke the cavalry movement that would have hit the Union rear just as Longstreet’s brigades were hitting its front. It is one of the most remarkable of so many remarkable exploits of that war, that a young cavalryman defeated a rebel host five times the size of his force, and commanded by the best cavalry commander of the south.

    Still a southern “victory” there (and it is well-nigh impossible to visualize what such a victory would have looked like) would not have ended the struggle to keep the Union intact. More than half the territory claimed by the insurgents in 1861 was back under national control by the summer of 1863, there was a large and growing counterinsurgency at the south, and there were still another nine hundred thousand men serving in the U.S. army and navy in other theaters of the war.

    In any case, an aggressive, expansionist foreign power at its southern border and in control of the Mississippi River would have been an existential threat to the economic survival of the free states and to their evolving popular democracy. The war would have continued to its inescapable conclusion regardless of the outcome of any single engagement.

    • Custer finally got it coming at the battle of the Little Bighorn from 25th to 29th June 1876. It is a pity that his over-zealous mind, like Sherman and other good US generals, got them to participate on the “campaign” against the Brave Native Americans tribes of the plains. A sad story with broken treaties, massacres to a genocidal level and the remaining Natives were put on reservations, a nice word for concentration camp. Their spiritualism and their soul got lost after the climax of the Wounded Knee “massacre” on the 29th December 1890. Also, The US authorities made a mistake by putting young Natives in Boarding school to force them to forget their traditions/spiritualism, because like the burning of the Maya codices in Mexico in the 150s-20s, Humanity also lost memory of its past, that is tragic with the terrorism and genocide on the Native People of the Americas. The irony is that the US adopted a constitution mostly in line with the First Nation of Iroquois….

    • Sherman, a good general? How about a murdering psychopath who burned half the south away, allowed his men to rape and murder women, including slave women, murder nearly every male including many as young as 15, tore up rail roads, destroyed crops and made the fields useless, in short committed war crimes for the first time in the history or warfare.
      This was Lincoln’s plan: total, all out war against the seceded states in the south including the people.
      Sherman was a psychopath and Grant was a drunk.
      Lincoln the tyrant is as much to blame for that bloody conflict as anybody else.

    • Thanks for interjecting John. What I referred was to old documents I could from both Custer and Sherman, that was before they got involved in the Civil war and the “Indians wars”. From the documents I accessed while in the US, I came up with these conclusions that before rising to generals, these letters show they were humane. Unlike John Chivington, a supposed man of God, should have been locked up in the 1st place. I do not and no way accept what Sherman did with his troops in the South. Nor I accept Custer’s behaviour with the Native Americans, No way! I am fully aware, of Sherman treatment to the Natives and I do not accept these. All I am saying is these people got entrapped in the system and propaganda of their time. Any rational good person can easily loose his marbles. That is conclusion I reached with Custer and Sherman. I never looked at general and then president Ulysses Grant in details but I would accept your comment if you have looked at the man behaviour before, during and after these wars. As for Lincoln, I do not honour what he did for the South, but the guy, like President Andrew Jackson before him wanted to maintain the Union at all costs and by doing ugly things!

    • Having looked at the character a long while ago from his personal letters and documents (primary sources) I could consult while I was in the US, the impression is that, he like General Sherman and few other US generals, they were at start good men, but got embroiled in that system and propaganda to get rid of the “Savages” and somehow lost their good directions. Remember, these people can be affected by propaganda from their government and the government being under pressure from the settlers, mining, rail road builders wanting more lands… Like you, when I was very young I saw Dustin Hoffman’s Little Big Man movie. it was the first movie being sympathetic with the plight of the Natives of North America comparing to all John Wayne/John Ford Western. So, I had a bad impression on Custer and later Sherman initially, but my attitude towards them has changed as I see them being in effect a victim of the system who in turn have lost their good reason. This does man I accept US policies at the time, quite the contrary. A person of interest was John Chivington of Colorado/Montana and his personal document revealed a deranged person used to carry out the dirty work and killing he did at the Sandy Creek, with the ghastly display in his hats of the Natives genital parts. That guy should have been locked in the first place

    • Madame Gail, I made a typo mistake. Apologies. I wrote….t. This does man I accept US policies at the time, quite the contrary…, I should have written …This does not man I accept US policies at the time, quite the contrary….

    • Sherman was a bad. On the other hand Confederate generals such a Lee, were true gentlemen.
      The sad fact it continues to this day when we read about war crimes committed by American troops in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.
      Eisenhower himself was a war criminal as was that fat drunken louse Churchill.

    • John, I agree with you regarding general Robert E Lee. Overall, his conduit/behaviour during the war, as far as the records show, was impeccable. I concur with you regarding Ike and Churchill. These are 2 swines mass murder and war criminals. In Europe, bombing Germany in such ghastly way is testimony that these are deranged people from the start. Ike and history forget this, locked up 1 and half million German POW, stripped them of any right of POWs, did not allow the red cross to access the open air camps where these |Germans were put and dying like flies. There is nothing heroic of Ike or Marshall for that matter. Ike did everything to slow down General Patton advances in order for Stalin’s red hordes of savages to take Eastern Europe and Berlin. Charles Lindebergh was right to say in the NYT in 1970 that the US lost WWII. Looking at it, Stalin was the winner. He got what he wanted in Eastern Europe and to add insult to the injury he got a big shunk of Asia. That is no victory! Senator McCarthy was right when, regarding that issue he stated:”This must be the product of a great conspiracy, a conspiracy on a scale so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man.”

  2. This book may give another insight to what happened in that battle, but certainly not the big picture. The turning point of that war was financial and for once I am in agreement with Niall Ferguson here. The Union imposed a blockade in the Port of New Orleans in early May 1862 and this had the effect to suffocate the South’s economy including their cotton export. However, looking at the bigger picture, it was US president Andrew Jackson, who predicted that a pretext such as the South and North will be entangled in a war about slavery in a near future. Slavery had never been the root cause of this war. Even Abe Lincoln’s 1861 inaugural address was clear: he was happy for the south to continue slavery as long as the South stay in the Union, in essence as Andrew Jackson always wished. Nor was states’s rights was the cause. The intrigue of that war and the 600 000 dead and missing is always a financial one.

    • … One has to look at Britain (in Canada) and France (Mexico), both countries under the thumb of that pest called Rothschild and their intrigues to divide the newly formed USA. As well in the South, we have to look at the double dealing of Judah Benjamin, his betrayal and also his connection to the Rothschild masters. To sum it up, British Rothschild was not happy for Andrew Jackson for vetoing the charter of the 2nd Bank of the US around 1832, akin to today’s Federal reserve bank, a private company of European based directors, part of the master puppets who decide for war and human sacrifices. Their scam was simple but ingenious, that is printing paper money out of thin air, then charging this paper against non value/gold backing at interest. This is why most of the masses had been enslaved like cattle, working like bees (to death) -only these puppet masters decide the day of slaughter- and living in perpetual debts, akin to what the IMF do to target countries.

    • Correct. The popular myth that Lincoln was an abolitionist was just that, a myth. The southern states had complained bitterly about the huge tariffs placed on southern goods such as cotton, some as much as 234%.
      Lincoln was a puppet for the northern industrialists. Was elected with only 33% of the vote. Lincoln acted more like a tyrant, arrested and jailed editors for being critical of his policies, exiled a congressman from Ohio into Canada and ordered union troops to fire on draft protestors in New York City.In short, Lincoln is largely responsible for the kind of government we have today: dictatorial, overbearing and out of control. This is where the version of the government we have began….under Lincoln the tyrant.

    • Thanks John. The movie Lincoln is just a myth too but I did like the joke about Lincoln being in England where a portrait of President Washington was hanging. Otherwise, it is pure myth and propaganda. I was aware of the high tariffs that that the South was complaining about. When researching President Andrew Jackson, he got boggled into that issue and managed to sort it out. President Jackson was to well aware of British and French Rothschild intrigue to divide the USA and did all he can to thwart any attempt from the inside (senator Cahoun) and as well assassination against he, his cabinet…. Dr Pieczenik did a piece on youtube regarding Abe Lincoln/US Civil war and compared him to the crime committed by Pol Pot in Cambodia. He even stated that due to his high size, Abe got Mafran disease like Colonel Timothy Osman aka OBL of Al Qaeda, the database