His Court Martial Almost Ended It


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We know how George Armstrong Custer met his end. But did you know he fought in the Civil war from the first major battle all the way to Appomattox?

We have copies of his correspondence with several friends that were then fighting for the South. That’s Custer on the right above. And by the way, the Rebel prisoner next to him was a buddy of his.

He had decent success for two years, but in 1863 his fortune rocketed.  J.E.B. Stuart’s brilliant Rebel horsemen were making short work of two Union brigades. Their Colonels were trying to rally the men, to no avail.

Lieutenant Custer spurred his horse past the colonels. Wearing his broad-brimmed white hat, Custer faced the troops and drew his saber. Pointing to the enemy, he went into a gallop. Moments later the colonels raced forward, followed by the rest of the Union Cavalry. That charge saved their bacon.

Two weeks later, Lt. Custer became Brigadier General Custer. He went on to be a very successful commander of cavalry in the Civil War.

Custer’s military future didn’t always look bright. He was last in his class at West Point, and had a lot of discipline problems.  

A Cadet would be expelled if he accumulated 100 demerits over six months. Custer typically piled up over 90, and then buckled down until the next semester. Here are some examples:

Dec 19th, 1857 – Calling “Corporal” in a loud & boisterous voice – 3 demerits
April 3, 1858 – Hair out of uniform at guard meeting – 2 demerits
Jan 27, 1859 – Late to supper – 1 demerit
Feb 17, 1859 – Throwing snowballs on barrack steps – 3 demerits

In his last semester before graduation, Custer got 97 demerits. And then got a court martial for not stopping a fight while on guard duty. If it had not been for the war, Custer would have been out on his ear.

Just goes to show, sometimes it takes a rebel to win.

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