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The Truth Behind the Custer Massace

For whatever reason, history textbooks tend to make General Armstrong Custer out to be a headstrong fool and the Native Americans to be “bloodthirsty,” “cut throats” and “savages.” Reading primary source material covering this era in American history will paint an entirely different image of the Native Americans.

The Custer Massacre is not the only case of the military battling with the Native Americans in the 1870’s. In fact, for several years in the mid-1870’s there were dzens of cases of the military invading Native American camps and slaughtering the occupants. This era has become known as the Indian Wars. Reading July 1876 issues of various newspapers around the country paint an entirely different image of the Native Americans and Custer.

Baltimore Gazette: “The war was caused by the extortions and cruelties and robberies of Grant's Indian Ring, and then the daring and intrepid Custer was sent with his slender band into the jaws of destruction. Grant sowed the seeds of war and Custer reaped the bravest of death.”

Baltimore Sun: “While breaking our pledges with the Indians and in various ways exasperating them to vindictive retaliation, we have put arms into their hands and furnished them with ammunition to slaughter our troops and massacre our people in the outlying frontier settlements.”

Newburyport (Mass.) Herald: “The Indians have been swindled and exasperated by our agents, and whenever they have been justly treated they have been friendly. When they have been swindled and abused they have revenged themselves with the most barbarous cruelty.”

Wilmington (Delaware) Herald: “General Custer was an honorable, brave soldier. He appeared in Washington before an investigating committee and furnished evidence harrowing some of the President’s plan. For this he was reduced in rank and another appointed to take command of an expedition that he lost his life in. So, although humiliated by the President, he goes to his grave clothed in the honor of a brave man who died at his post.”

Elizabeth (New Jersey) Herald: “Can the act of the administration in invading the Black Hills country and waging war upon the Sioux be justified? If not, General Grant is clearly responsible for the terrible fate that has befallen the gallant fellows who, at his command, have marched to an inglorious death, with no palpable object except to produce a sensation for political effect.”

Chicago Courier: “The crime is not with the men in the ranks; it is not with the brave officers who led them on to death; it is with the corrupt administration that sacrifices the lives of brave men upon the altar of political and personal preference and promotion.”

Yonkers (New York) Graphic: “In a fit of spite, President Grant degraded General Custer, who, in a position where he would not otherwise have been, was massacred at the head of the Seventh Regiment of cavalry by the Sioux Indians on the 25th of June. The entire command shared the fate of their daring leader. Naught but contempt can be felt for a President through whose jealousy and petty pique we are indebted for the murder of General Custer and his brave soldiers.”

Newark (New Jersey) Journal: “Coming to Custer, how has he been treated? Because, against his wishes, he obeyed a subpoena of Congress and gave evidence terribly damaging to Grant’s beloved Belknap and other bosom friends, Grand defied decency and public sentiment and degraded the gallant officer, stripped him of his command. Custer may have been rash, but lack of brashness, impelling it, indeed, was the noble desire to completely wipe out the stain sought to be put upon him by President Grant.”

Cincinnati Gazette: “For whatever other causes have helped kindle this war, the gold-hunting invasion of the Black Hills country was the present occasion. In this regard our vacillating course has given the Indians cause to think that our treaties would not protect their rights in any lands which attracted the greed of even the most lawless of our people."

Norfolk Virginian: “He was insulted by the President and subordinated in his command of this expedition, because in obedience to a lawful summons he testified as to the corruptness of the post traders and army settlers, and it may be that it was the sting of disgrace that sent him recklessly into the thickest on the charge from which he emerged.”

Albany Argus: “Custer was degraded from his command because he went to Washington without leave and testified to the rapacity of the administration. Stung with the sense of unjust treatment, the brilliant scholar and brave soldier offered up his life as a sacrifice for the very country which had grown so sordid as not to appreciate his worth. The administration is justly held responsible not only for the existing Indian War, but for the slaughter of Custer and his brave command.”

Baltimore Gazette: “Grant can’t bear a high-spirited, honorable man. He likes the Babcock type of soldier better. The same spirit that makes him shield and protect Babcock now that he is known to be a rascal, made him send the gallant Custer back to his command and deprive him of his well-earned post of honor out there.”

So what is the “bottom-line” and truth behind the Custer Massacre? The United States government had signed treaties with various Native American tribes giving them their own sections of barren, unproductive land (reservations) and promising not to interfere with their ways in the future. Peace lasted only a short time as gold was discovered in the Black Hills. President Grant, due to greed, decided that they should take the land back at all costs. General Armstrong Custer was ordered by President Grant to invade Indian Territory and take the land back at all costs. Custer was faced with a lose-lose decision; defy the President and get court marshaled and hung or proceed with the battle and be killed. Some choice!

Something You Might Be Interested In

One night I was looking for something interesting to watch on television. Unfortunately, all of the shows I normally watch were reruns. I began clicking through the channels to see if I could find something I wanted to watch. As I clicked through the channels I stopped at the Health Channel. I didn't even know I had that channel on my cable service. It is not a premium channel and in my area one of the basic free channels.

The channel name itself may make many think it shows documentaries about nutrition, diet, exercise, etc. Instead they air documentaries about medical rarities. Some examples of documentaries include: "The Boy Who Was Born With No Skin," "The Woman Who Had a 180 Pound Tumor," "Conjoined Twins," "The Half Ton Man who Lost 750 Pounds," etc. (One particularily interesting fact I learned from the Conjoined Twins documentary was that of every 8 twin sets that are conceived, only one set is actually born. In the other 7 cases, one of the twins dies early on and is rejected from the womb.)

If you have cable or satellite television, check and see if your service carries the Health Channel. You might just like it.

New History Web Site Opens

As a fellow history buff, I have started a Web site devoted to gathering stories from everyday people about the homes and neighborhoods in which they have lived. I think that this is a rich source of anecdotal information that is worth documenting, hence my site - http://www.storyofmyhome.com.

It's a free site, and the information will be publicly posted. It is very possible that this method of gathering information could help many people uncover/solve questions about their own family histories.

Treasure Chest Contest

Each issue will contain a new clue to what the answer is. The answer can be either a person, place, or thing that relates to American history. The first with the correct answer will win the Treasure Chest prize. (See below.)

Contest Rules

1) To enter the Treasure Chest contest, send an email to help@historybuff.com with your answer to the contest.

2) The email with your Treasure Chest contest entry should contain "Treasure Chest Contest" as the subject line.

3) Only one guess per subscriber for each newsletter issue.

4) Failure to follow the above three rules will result in the entry being disqualified for that issue.

5) The contest ends when the first subscriber with the correct answer, and who follows the above rules, is submitted. Thus, the contest could remain active for several issues.

Treasure Chest Prize


Multi-format Player

  • Plays DVD, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW, CD, CD-R, CD-RW, VCD, JPEG, & MP3
  • Includes Wireless Remote Control
  • Component, S-Video, & Composite Outputs
  • Stereo Audio and Coaxal Digital Audio Ports

    DVD Movies

  • Ten different classic movies on DVD

    $20 Credit For HistoryBuffAuction

  • Bid on what you want from the auction - Up to $20*
  • To see examples visit http://www.historybuffauction.com/auction.cgi

    * In the event that the winner is under 18 years of age, the credit will be issued to the parent or guardian for bidding purposes.

    Clues:

    1) I was born/made in England.

    2) A direction on a compass enters into the equation.

  •  
    July Brain Teaser

    You have observed that if you throw a tennis ball against a wall, it will stop and return to you. Simple. But how would you throw the same ball so it would completely stop, reverse itself and return to you even though it has hit nothing and is connected to nothing?

    Answer: Throw the ball into the air.

    August Brain Teaser

    Inside the drawer of a dressing-table in a dark room, there are 28 black socks and 28 brown socks. What is the minimum number of socks that you must take out of the drawer to guarantee that you have a matching pair?

    Answer: Next issue. (No prizes offered for correct answer.)

    PS: If you make any money by winning bets on these brain teasers, a little commission would be nice :-)

     
    July Contest

    GRAND PRIZE QUESTION:There has only been one person that served as President of the United States AND Supreme Court Justice. Who was he?

    GRAND PRIZE ANSWER: William Howard Taft

    ALTERNATE PRIZE QUESTION: From what country did the United States purchase what would become the state of Alaska?

    ANSWER: Russia


    Seventy-three people entered the contests. Thirty-nine people either had the incorrect subject heading or the wrong answer to the question. Three prizes went unclaimed.
    The July contest winners were:
    • Dennis Shealer - Pennsylvania
    • Joyce Harrell - Washington
    • Brooky Porter - Maryland
    • Paula Lindsay - Florida
    • Vince Amato - Maine
    • Tony Femminineo - Michigan
    • Malena Wilcox - California


    This Issue's Question

    To enter the Grand Prize Contest, answer the question: Who was the first United States president to be inaugurated in the White House rather than on the Capitol steps?

    To enter the Alternate Contest, answer the question: Which United States president was the first to be born in the 20th century?

    Contest Rules

    • Contest entry deadline is Tuesday, August 22, 2006. Later entries will be disqualified. Winners will be notified by email within 24 hours after the contest deadline. Winners' names and states will be published in the next issue of the HistoryBuff.com newsletter.

    • Subscribers may enter both contests, but can only win one prize.

    • To enter either contest, email your answer to help@historybuff.com.

    • If entering for the Grand Prize, enter "Contest Entry Grand Prize" for the subject heading.

    • If entering for alternate prize contest, enter "Contest Entry" for the subject heading.

    • Alternate contest entries with prize desires such as "any prize is OK," "any of the historic newspapers" etc. will be disqualified. You MUST select ONE prize.

    • If entering both contests, send separate emails.

    • From subscribers entering the alternate contest, submitting the correct answer, correct subject heading, submission received by the deadline, as well as advising which ONE alternate contest prize they want to win, EIGHT will be selected to win ONE of the alternate contest prizes below.

    • From subcribers entering the Grand Prize contest, one will be selected to win the prize from those submitting the correct subject heading, correct answer, and by the deadline.

    • Subscribers to this newsletter that won a prize in my trivia contests in the last 90 days are ineligible to win.
    Grand Prize
    (One winner will be selected)


    • Two orginal WWII Newspapers
    • Two Maps of Hawaii Printed in 1943
    • Booklet of Events in Hawaii 1943-1944
    Alternate Contest Prizes
    Alternate Contest Prizes (Only one of each offered)


    Little Rascals DVD
    Over 3 hours of early Our Gang shorts


    Big Band Era Music CD

  • Chattanooga Choo Choo
  • In the Mood
  • Sweet Georgia Brown
  • I've Got A Gal In Kalamazoo
  • One O'Clock Jump
  • Cherokee
  • Little Brown Jug
  • Tuxedo Junction
  • Plus 22 More!
  • DVD Documentary About D-Day



  • DVD
    Over 3 hours of classic TV Series
  • My Little Margie
  • Trouble With Father


  • CD ROM Game
    Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
    Kid's Edition
    Based on the TV Game Show
    Original Historic Newspapers


    Original Daily National Intelligencer (Washington, DC) historic newspaper from 1843


    Original Baltimore American historic newspaper from 1857


    Original The Sun (Baltimore) historic newspaper from 1866


    Original The Salem Gazette historic newspaper from 1879
    That's it for this issue.

    Rick Brown


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