Monday, July 31, 2017

The Civil Exuberance of War in General

As another Lame Cherry exclusive in matter anti matter.

The following is a bit of amusement in the history of the Civil War. It involves Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer of the Union Cavalry under General Philip Sheridan and Lt. General James Longstreet of the Confederate forces, formerly Division 1.

The Boy General in George Custer would be 25 years old at this meeting and Old Pete in James Longstreet would have been 44 years of age.

The background on this, is this was the morning of the capitulation to surrender by General Lee to General Grant. General Lee had neglected to give notice to his front line commander, General Gordon, that a truce was being put into effect, and sent Captain Sims forward with the order. This is where General Custer appears on the opposing side.
Custer asks to be conducted to the Confederate lines, and is brought forward where he in bluster demands the unconditional surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia in the name of Phil Sheridan.

It is amusing that James Longstreet even in this low point is not bluffed nor is about to be stampeded as he lectures George Custer on the important points:

1. General Lee is in command of the Army of Northern Virginia, and not General Longstreet, as Longstreet has no authority to surrender or give orders to the Army as he only commands one division. To do so would be mutiny, and he would be shot.

2. General Sheridan is not in command of the Union Army, so for George Custer to be demanding surrender in a subordinates name has absolutely no authority.

3. General Custer is behind enemy lines and could be immediately taken into custody as a prisoner of war.

4. That such demands were in complete disrespect of General Grant, and if Longstreet were in command, he would not receive the Custer ultimatum in the least due this fact.

George Custer settles down after this lecture, and it is then that General Longstreet in forms General Custer that a meeting between Lee and Grant is taking place and that a truce has been established.
With that General Custer rides back to his command.

 As my troops marched to form the last line a message 
came from General Lee saying he had not thought to give 
notice of the intended ride to meet General Grant, and 
asked to have me send his message to that effect to Gen- 
eral Gordon, and it was duly sent by Captain Sims, of the 
Third Corps staff, serving at my head-quarters since the 
fall of A. P. Hill. 

After delivering the message. Captain Sims, through 
some informality, was sent to call the truce. The firing 
ceased. General Custer rode to Captain Sims to know 
his authority, and, upon finding that he was of my staff, 
asked to be conducted to my head-quarters, and down 
they came in fast gallop. General Custer's flaxen locks 
flowing over his shoulders, and in brusk, excited manner, 
he said, — 

" In the name of General Sheridan I demand the un- 
conditional surrender of this army." 

He was reminded that I was not the commander of the 
army, that he was within the lines of the enemy without 
authority, addressing a superior officer, and in disrespect 
to General Grant as well as myself ; that if I was the 
commander of the army I would not receive the message 
of General Sheridan. 

He then became more moderate, saying it would be a 
pity to have more blood upon that field. Then I sug- 
gested that the truce be respected, and said, — 

As you are now more reasonable, I will say that Gen- 
eral Lee has gone to meet General Grant, and it is for 
them to determine the future of the armies." 

He was satisfied, and rode back to his command. 
I do not record this to make sport of General Custer nor make him out to be a fool, but to bring a reality that Soldiers twice his age on both sides of the army were quite emotional and flustered during this time. George Custer always had a boyish exuberance in jumping on tables and throwing furniture about to celebrate, as he had a most lively character.

Libby Custer, the General's wife is a favorite of mine and I have championed here often, as well as her husband, as his assassination and the assassination of his command under money interests and President Grant are the same coup plotting children against Donald Trump. I note though that George Custer's version of events is quite different as Libby reported it, as she stated that General Custer was the first to receive the surrender of the Confederate Army and brought the news  back. He was the first in Sheridan's command and probably most of the Army of the Potomac to learn of the capitulation talks, but he was not the first to receive the surrender as it did not happen.
No mention of General Longstreet tongue lashing Custer appears in the private letters of George or Libby Custer, in being chewed out by a superior officer above him two grades in rank.

This is of course nothing anyone would desire as the fine moment of Custer bravery, riding behind enemy lines, demanding surrender of the entire army of Northern Virginia, is negated by the tongue lashing of a superior officer, and gave way to receiving the surrender first, and I believe Libby Custer stated that as a token, George Custer rode away as his memento of the small table that the surrender was signed on.

This is not meant for Custer haters to seize upon this and ridicule him, but is a fact of the war, and how excited people become. None of this should be overlooked in George Custer rose from lieutenant at the war's start to Brigadier General for bravery and leadership inside the cavalry. He was inexperienced at age 25 when James Longstreet was cutting his teeth in the Mexican American War, to further his patience in learning diplomacy.
James Longstreet was nicknamed by his father Peter as a child, because he was Biblical Cephas, steady as a stone. That nickname followed him throughout life as Pete and Old Pete, and he always was of this character.

In examples of General Custer and General Longstreet, General McClellan was puzzling early in the war how deep a river was, along with his staff. Young Custer having enough of the discussion, rode out into the stream and said, "It is this deep General!"

General Longstreet by comparison when faced with being yelled at by President Jefferson Davis or giving his judgment on an issue of war, to find General Lee and General Stonewall Jackson meeting behind his back would simply say, "I gave my opinion on the matter and they did not want to hear it, so I did not say anything more".

The Custer Dash though had as much planning as the Longstreet maneuvers. One was the speed of cavalry and the other was the smashing power of musket and artillery. They were apples and oranges and in their positions both were successful.

Selective memories are always interesting and other memories become amusing when adding the details to events. This is a wonderful piece of history, but only a piece of two fine general's careers in serving America when political will failed.

I would have given a great deal of the time space ratio to have witnessed those 20 minutes of that day in the exchange between General Longstreet and General Custer. After the war they both would have heard a constant refrain from me in, "In the name of Phil Sheridan.........", and then I would smile and wait for the both of them to smile.

Nuff Said