George Armstrong Custer December 5, 1839 – June 25, 1876, was one of the youngest Generals in US military history. He led fro the top at the age of 26. Known for his unique personal style, it can be argued that he was one of the first major self made brands. With finely curated blond curls and a red neckerchief he was highly confident and openly aggressively flamboyant. Like a charismatic military commander, he lead from the front and thusly he engendered followers. He also created critics. Loud critics. In the Shenandoah Valley he is credited for the defeat of Jubal Early’s army. He helped cut off the retreat of Lee’s Army leading to the Confederate surrender.
In the 7th Cavalry after the Civil War, he was asked to lead expeditions against the Sioux and the Cheyenne. On June 25, 1876 he led a large group of Army scouts and cavalry into Little Bighorn Valley in Montana Territory. His goal was to attack a confederation of Indian tribes and strike a devastating blow to the aggressive Sioux.
One of the things that love about his story is the fact that he had admirers in the same way Hollywood stars have admirers. During the American Civil War, poetry was very much alive and considered a masculine pursuit. Walt Whitman wrote this poem to the departed Custer who lost his life at his Last Stand.
A DEATH-SONNET FOR CUSTER.
BY WALT WHITMAN.
From far Montana’s cañons,
Lands of the wild ravine, the dusky Sioux, the lone-
some stretch, the silence,
Haply, to-day, a mournful wail—haply, a trumpet
note for heroes.
The Indian ambuscade—the slaughter and environ-
The cavalry companies fighting to the last—in stern-
est, coolest, heroism.
The fall of Custer, and all his officers and men.
Continues yet the old, old legend of our race!
The loftiest of life upheld by death!
The ancient banner perfectly maintained!
(O lesson opportune—O how I welcome thee!)
As, sitting in dark days,
Lone, sulky, through the time’s thick murk looking
in vain for light, for hope,
From unsuspected parts, a fierce and momentary
(The sun there at the center, though concealed,
Electric life forever at the center,)
Breaks forth, a lightning flash.
Thou of sunny, flowing hair, in battle,
I erewhile saw, with erect head, pressing ever in
front, bearing a bright sword in thy hand,
Now ending well the splendid fever of thy deeds,
(I bring no dirge for it or thee—I bring a glad, tri-
There in the far northwest, in struggle, charge, and
Desperate and glorious—aye, in defeat most desper-
ate, most glorious,
After thy many battles, in which, never yielding up
a gun or a color,
Leaving behind thee a memory sweet to soldiers,
Thou yieldest up thyself.