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The George Armstrong Custer Collection of the
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Custer in the News
In Monroe County and throughout the United States

GENERAL CUSTER'S RANK AND COMMAND

(The Army and Navy Journal, May 27, 1876)

A correspondent of the New York Tribune signing himself "Bayonet," writes to that paper from Washington as follows: "General Custer's rank in the Army is and has been since the war that of lieutenant-colonel, and he has never been assigned upon his brevet rank, which can only be done by the President. His actual command is and has been for some years the post of Abraham Lincoln, with control over a district embracing three adjoining posts, authority to be exercised only in case of emergency when there is not time to communicate with the department commander".

"A regimental commander has actual command of only such parts of his own regiment as may be stationed at his post. Expeditions for the field are made up of detachments of several regiments, usually from different posts, under an officer selected by higher authority for the special command. No officer can claim it, but, all things being equal as to availability, the details of commanders are usually made to alternate among those officers of sufficient rank who are available, and it is considered a mark of confidence and favor to be selected".

"Since General Custer has been stationed in that country he has always been given these commands, although I Lieutenant-Colonel, while the Colonels of the two regiments, parts of which with his own made up the expeditions, were kept at their posts with a mere guard. The impression seemed to gain ground that General Custer was the only officer stationed in that region suitable to conduct such an expedition, and that these commands necessarily belonged to him. General Terry only goes with a part of his legitimate command, and should General Custer go along with cavalry, he still has all his own legitimate command."

"As to there being hardships attending General Custer's release from the expedition, had he previously been assigned to it, this opinion could have come only from a misapprehension of the circumstances. General Custer, fearing that the Court of Impeachment would detain him so long as to prevent his joining in time to go upon the expedition, set himself about getting released temporarily from attendance at court, subject to call by telegraph. This step was properly taken through the military channels of the War Department, and therefore came to the notice of the President, who, knowing that such a request was equivalent to asking that his testimony be dispensed with altogether, since by joining the expedition he would be for several months beyond the reach of telegrams or messengers, saw at once the impropriety of such a request, which others had not noticed, and gave his disapproval to it, ordering that another officer be detailed to command the expedition".

"This was a command which General Custer could under no circumstances claim as a right. Nevertheless, after this decided expression of the President upon the subject, General Custer did go in person and get temporarily excused from appearing as a witness, subject to call by telegraph, and start to join his command, when he could justly claim to go with the troops of his garrison, and therefore be out of reach of any summons, by telegraph or otherwise. In this there appeared the spirit of insubordination, and the order to stop him at Chicago became imperative".

(The Army and Navy Journal, May 27, 1876)

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