George Custer

George Custer

Subject: General George A. Custer

Weeks before the battle of Gettysburg George A. Custer was made Brigidier General. From writings I have read, Custer was just a lieutenant.If this is true? What did he do which was considered above and beyond to be promoted this high rank? I don't think this was commissioned rank just brevet.At his death at Little Big Horn I think his stone has down Lieutenant colonel as his rank. Am I wrong let me know.

Reply from James Epperson

A clarification: his promotion in June of 1863 was to Brigadier General, United States *Volunteers*, and therefore was not a promotion within the Regular Army. For most officers, their Regular Army rank lagged behind their Volunteer rank. When the war ended, they all reverted to their Regular Army rank, hence Custer became a Lt. Col.

I think it was John Gibbon who told US Grant that the toughest change in rank for an officer was *not* when he was promoted from 2nd to 1st Lieutenant, as was commonly thought, but when he went from Major General (USV) to Captain (USRA)! (Although I think and *hope* that Gibbon's RA rank was higher than that at war's end.)

Reply from Benedict R Maryniak

This is a long answer to Mike's question about George "the-Indians-finished-Trevilian-Station" Custer, but it's my favorite Buford anecdote. It appears in a number of resources, but I recall it is definitely in Starr's three-volume set on the Union cavalry.

While General Buford's division marched north towards Gettysburg, his men caught a spy near Frederick. A drumhead court-martial condemned the man to death and the sentence was carried out immediately. A committee of indignant citizens confronted Buford regarding the matter, and the General stated he had been afraid to send the prisoner to Washington because he knew the authorities would make him a brigadier-general.

It took a while for me to grasp the full relevance of Buford's alleged jibe - he was expessing his displeasure at the June 29,1863, transformation of three cavalry captains into brigadier generals -

* "Temporary Captain" George Armstrong Custer was made Brigadier Genl of US Volunteers on June 29 of 1863 at age 23. He rose to Major Genl a week after Appomattox.

* 2nd US Cavalry Captain Wesley Merritt was made Brigadier Genl of US Volunteers on June 29 of 1863 at age 29. He rose to Major Genl on April 1, 1865.

* Captain & Aide-de-Camp Elon John Farnsworth was made Brigadier Genl of US Volunteers on June 29 of 1863 at age 36. Genl Pleasonton reportedly had to lend him a coat with brigadier shoulder straps upon receiving the surprise notice about his promotion. Farnsworth was killed July 3 charging Longstreet's right flank at Gettysburg.

Ben Maryniak