General George Custer: A fool, or a misguided narcissist?

August 10, 2015

George Custer.

We are never short on examples of pure stupidity: people leaving their kids or pets in hot cars; also called abuse. How about those pick nickers who forget to douse the coals on their campfire or barbecues, and end up setting a forest on fire? Let’s not forget the countless first-timers who think they can ride a horse like a cowboy, or para-glide from atop a mountain, just like a pro. We already know the outcome.

For those of you who may not be familiar with this epic battle June 25, 1876 between the Native American Indians and the U.S. Army, let’s put it into perspective: Disregarding orders, General George Custer led a small regiment of soldiers into a battle with a much larger Indian force. Custer’s men were immediately on the defensive as the Native Americans staged a three prong attack. His 7th Calvary regiment was completely over-run and annihilated, leaving no survivors. Two days after the battle the corpses of Custer and his men  were found stripped, scalped and mutilated. President Ulysses Grant, who knew a thing or two about commanding an army, did not try to hide his feelings and blamed Custer for the massacre of his men.

A hero of the Civil War, Custer’s poor decision making, or perhaps his arrogance, led to what has been referred to as “worse military defeat” the U. S. has suffered. Custer had a reputation of being brave, but reckless, and was unquestionably a narcissist. He disobeyed orders as often as he wished. Many admired and loved him, but his enemies feared the worst for the soldiers under his command. A self-promoter, he had long curly hair, an ostrich plume in his hat, and a tight hussar jacket made of black velveteen with silver piping on the sleeves. He also wrote a number of magazine articles about his own daring exploits. He chronically disobeyed orders- simply because he felt he was better informed, and a better military strategist, and commander, than others. Yes, he really liked himself.

Custer had been advised by his own scouts that the size of the Native American Indian village was tremendous; they had estimated the Indian strength was as much as 11,000. Custer IGNORED the warning and decided he knew better, and it was wiser to divide his already tiny army of 600, into four units. His NOT brilliant military decision left him with only 215 soldiers. His plan was to meet up with the balance of the army as he approached the Native American Indian camp.

Custer, however, was SO anxious to attack the Native Americans that he disregarded those orders, too, and refused to wait for reinforcements. Historians have suggested that Custer was hoping his midday attack would catch the Indians off guard. You would think that Custers biggest concern would be his men, but NO, he was seriously afraid of being too late to engage the Indians. He did not want to miss the party. When he finally realized that his scouts were correct and he was wrong; it was too late.

Weeks before Little Big Horn, the army had even offered Custer a number of Gatlin guns to take along. Gatling guns are the equivalent of early machine guns, except they were the size of cannons. Custer didn’t think that he needed them; they were bulky and he felt that they would slow him down. Considering that Gatlin guns fired 1200 bullets per minute, he made a huge blunder by not taking at least one with him.

Yes, there really is a ship of\fools, and we have all been on board at some time in our lives; hopefully our own foolish experiences aren’t as severe as the ones described. There was, however, no bigger fool than the cadet who placed last in his class at West Point, George Custer.

3 Comments
    1. In classic narcissist fashion, Custer was a flaming delusional, in bondage to his own magical thinking: If I want something to be so, it shall be so!

    1. An insightful article. Thank you very much!

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