Friday, August 21, 2020

George Custer Accidentally Shoots His Horse

In 1874, George Armstrong Custer published My Life on the Plains, an account of his career as an Indian fighter to that time.  One story that Custer relates about his hunting a buffalo tells us much about his military skills.

“Determined to end the chase and bring down my game, I again placed the muzzle of the revolver close to the body of the buffalo, when, as if diving my intention, and feeling his inability to escape by flight, he suddenly determined to fight and at once wheeled, as only a buffalo can, to gore my horse.  So sudden was this movement, and so sudden was the corresponding veering of my horse to avoid the attack, that to retain my control over him I hastily brought up my pistol hand to the assistance of the other.  Unfortunately as I did so my finger, in the excitement of the occasion, pressed the trigger, discharged the pistol, and sent the fatal ball into the very brain of the noble animal I rode…. (I) found myself whirling through the air over and beyond the head of my horse.”

Custer now faced the buffalo on foot, but the animal wandered off without further ado.

Custer continues, “In a moment the danger I had unluckily brought myself stood out in bold relief before me….Here I was, alone in the heart of the Indian country, with warlike Indians known to be in the vicinity.  I was not familiar with the country.  How far I had travelled, or in what direction from the column, I was at a loss to know.  In the excitement of the chase I had lost all reckoning.  Indians were liable to pounce upon me at any moment.  My command would not note my absence probably for hours.  Two of my dogs overtook me, and with mute glances first at the dead steed, then at me, seemed to inquire the cause of this strange condition of affairs.  Their instinct appeared to tell them that were in misfortune.”

After wandering aimlessly “about three or four miles,” Custer saw a column of dust that he knew had one of three causes, “...white men, Indians, or buffaloes.”  Fortunately for him, on this occasion, Custer had stumbled on his own cavalry.

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