Usually, individuals remembered throughout history are seen in a positive light when something good is accomplished while viewed in a negative light when something bad is achieved. Sometimes an individual can be remembered as having a favorable reputation while at the same time known for a devastating failure.
One such person was born in Harrison County, Ohio on December 5th, 1839. Although Union General George Armstrong Custer is mostly remembered in history for his death in Montana at the Battle of the Big Horn by the Cheyenne Indians in 1876, he is also remembered for his reputation during the Civil War as an effective and dashing cavalry leader.
Custer’s reputation was much different years before the Civil War when in 1857, he attended West Point and was known for the many demerits he received for his disobedient behavior as well as earning poor grades. While graduating at the bottom of his class in 1861, Custer would shortly be put into military action despite his showing of bad academic’s. He would be involved in fighting at Virginia in July of 1861 during the First Battle of Bull Run; this occurred roughly two months after his departure from West Point.
During the entire war, Custer was a part of the Army of the Potomac. Being a part of almost all the important battles that involved the army, Custer accomplished being the youngest general in the Union army at age 23 in June of 1863. Custer would command the Michigan cavalry brigade in General Judson Kilpatrick’s third Cavalry Division. Custer and his troop known as his “Wolverines” played an important part in halting the cavalry attack by Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart, who assisted the victory of the Union in Pennsylvania at the Battle of Gettysburg.
Custer achieved this just shortly after his promotion. He would personally lead every attack in battle which helped earn the admiration of his men as a leader. An observer of Custer’s command wrote, “So brave a man I never saw and as competent as brave. Under him a man is ashamed to be cowardly. Under him our men can achieve wonders.”
During the campaigns of 1864, Custer secured his greatest battlefield success. He would lead the attack in Virginia at the Battle of Yellow Tavern on May 11th, 1864; the attack resulted in Stuart’s death. Custer would one month later lead an attack at Trevilian Station on a train carrying supplies that resulted in the Confederate cavalry surrounding them.
Nonetheless, his soldiers created a triangle and fought valiantly to stop the Rebels until the arrival of reinforcements. Custer’s men in October achieved an impressive victory at Tom’s Brook in the Shenandoah Valley over the Confederate cavalry; this would become the best one-sided Yankee cavalry win of the war in the East.
When the Civil War was finished, downsizing occurred which resulted in the demotion of Custer to lieutenant colonel. Fighting Native Americans, his postwar missions were not as effective which on June 25th, 1876 Custer’s reckless attack on the camp at Little Big Horn led to his demise; this earned him an undesirable reputation that reduced his previous success in the Civil War.