Wednesday, 6 June 2012


Blood on the Prairie. Panel from comic strip featuring General George Custer. Original artwork from Ranger (29 January 1966).Custer’s first post war command ended when his Michigan Cavalry was disbanded after a mutiny, which was partly caused by his heavy-handed discipline. Many volunteer units were pushing for disbandment but Custer had reintroduced the lash as a form of discipline. He mustered out of voluntary service in Feb 1866 and reverted to his army rank of captain but he still liked to be referred to as General Custer.  He made some moves to becoming the Commander of the Mexican cavalry and was offered but refused command of the 9th Negro Cavalry and in July 1866 took command as a Lt-Colonel of the newly formed 7th Cavalry, its Colonels being mainly on detached duties.
In early 1867 while on a recon mission Custer’s behaviour led to a courts martial and he was found guilty of absenting himself from his command, and using some troopers as an escort while on unofficial business, abandoning two men reported killed on the march and failing to pursue the Indians responsible, failing recover the bodies, and ordering a party going after deserters to shoot to kill which resulted in 1 death and 3 wounded, and finally unjustifiable cruelty to those wounded. He was sentenced to suspension from rank and pay for a year, but a lack of a replacement meant he was returned to duty early. The incident caused much bad feeling among the regiment’s officers for several years. The regiment saw minor skirmishes against the native Indians for the next few years. Custer didn’t see any action but published exaggerated accounts of the 7th cavalry’s actions. In November 1868 the 7th cavalry fought at the battle of Washita during which over a hundred Indians were killed including some women and children which the Cheyenne nicknamed Custer ‘Squaw killer” for.  Custer’s incompetence led to some deaths during the campaign, which also increased ill feeling towards him.
In spring 1873 the Regiment was moved to Dakota under command of Col D.S Stanley at fort Rice. While protecting some railway engineers the regiment skirmished with local Indians and during these Custer was charged with insubordination but his friends persuaded the Col to drop the charges. In 1874 a ‘Scientific’ expedition was sent to the Black Hill country with Custeartizanr leading the escort of ten companies of the 7th, some infantry and scouts and a detachment of Gatling guns.  He was charged with recon of a site for a new fort by the size of his force suggests another agenda. Some have accused Custer of spreading stories of a gold find and although the force was too strong the Indians attacked the gaggle of lawless prospectors that followed.  In 1875 the government tried to get the Indians to sell the area but by 1876 this had been abandoned and a military campaign was planned. The attacks on the trespassing prospectors were used as an excuse and the campaign was under General A Terry with Custer commanding the whole of the 7th Cavalry 600 men.

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