George Armstrong Custer played an important role in the history of the United States He was born in Ohio in 1839 and went on to have a very successful military career Many people looked up to him George Armstrong Custer s life death and the actions of his followers all had huge impacts on the Native Americans of the Great Plains Takaki 2008 Gale 2004 p 355 Custer was a well respected man He was appointed Calvary officer for the Union during the Civil War and he attended the US Military Academy at West Point By the end of the war he was promoted to Brevet Major General He then became Lieutenant Colonel of the 7th Calvary which was a position he held until his death He led a lot of battles that were part of the Great Sioux War Gale 2004 p 355 Many Native Americans died in battles that were led by Custer during the Great Sioux war Some were killed by him and some were killed by his soldiers because he ordered them to do so The battles were considered to be civilization against savagery Takaki 2008 p 216 He was responsible for too many deaths to count In just one of the many battles that he fought he ordered his soldiers to attack a group of Native Americans who were sleeping and over a hundred of them were killed Takaki 2008 p 217
However although he did many horrible things to the Native Americans he was actually empathetic towards them Although he said they were infesting the plains Takaki 2008 p 217 he also said that they were favored sons of nature who were stamped with the proud majesty of free born men He said he admired their remarkable taciturnity perseverance for revenge and conquest stoical courage and the wonderful power and subtlety of their senses Takaki 2008 p 217 Likely one of the reasons that he had these positive feelings towards the Native Americans is because In many ways he identified with the Indians Takaki 2008 p 217 One way that Custer identified with the Native Americans is that he loved the vast open frontier He loved being there to escape from civilization He felt trapped when he was in the civilization of the Eastern states in the same way that the Native Americans felt trapped in reservations This helped him relate to them and understand why they didn't want to have to leave the land that they loved so much Takaki 2008 p 218 However while he understood how the Native Americans felt his own needs were more important to him than the needs of the Native Americans He wanted the land for his own people and was willing to do anything to get it including kill While trying to force them into reservations during the Great Sioux War he killed many Native Americans in battles He probably felt justified in this because he thought death would be preferable to life in a cage Takaki 2008 p 218 a cage being a metaphor for the reservations Had they not been killed they would have been moved into reservations eventually which in his opinion was a worse fate than death As discussed earlier Custer s feelings towards the Native Americans contradicted themselves He said many positive and many negative things about them Similarly his actions were contradictory as well For example he helped out the Native Americans by testifying in their favor in court when fraud in the Indian Bureau was being investigated He knew that doing so would impact his career in a negative way but he was willing to do it anyways However even though he went out of his way to help the Native Americans at his own expense he seemed to have no problem killing them Gale 2004 p 356
Custer was eventually killed in the Battle of Little BigHorn in Montana which is also known as Custer's Last Stand While he was aware that his troops were outnumbered and surrounded by the enemy he refused to surrender Takaki 2008 p 218 This said a lot about who he was as a person He was persistent and would never give up on what he was fighting for That was the final battle for not just Custer but for almost 300 of his troops as well because they were also killed in the battle Takaki 2008 p 218 Gale 2004 His death upset a lot of people including the famous William Buffalo Bill Cody Cody 1879 p 348 Cody and Custer had been friends and the news of Custer's death had been personally horrifying to Cody Hedren 2005 p 16 Cody wanted revenge for Custer s death In his autobiography he said But I tell you the day is approaching The boys are begging to muster That day of great retribution The day of revenge for our Custer Cody 1879 p 349 After hearing about Custer's death he killed and scalped a young Cheyenne Native American as revenge and proclaimed that it was The first scalp for Custer Hedren 2005 p 16 Overall Custer caused a lot of changes for the Native Americans of the plains Some were caused by him directly such as when he helped them out in court Other things were because of him but not directly Like when he ordered soldiers to kill some of the Native Americans Takaki 2008 There were even some events that were caused by him but weren't really his fault at all such as Buffalo Bill Cody s scalpings Custer had no say in this since he was dead at the time but Cody only did it because of Custer Cody 1879 In conclusion George Armstrong Custer shaped the frontier in many ways
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