OT - Custer and his wolverines at Gettsyburg

Submitted by riverrat on July 16th, 2013 at 10:46 AM

For those interested, Esquire ran a series of articles on Gettysburg this past week (sorry, I've been on vacation). Both Ohio and Michigan distinguished themselves, and I thought that perhaps the history buffs on this blog who haven't seen these articles might be particularly interested in Custer's (yep, that Custer) decision to confront J.E.B. Stuart and deny Lee's plan to disrupt the American supply chain. According to Bateman, who is a former Army officer and currently a military analyst, Custer's action might well have prevented another rout along the lines of Chancellorsville.

The link is here, and the entire series is fascinating. 



July 16th, 2013 at 10:59 AM ^

There's a statue of Custer in Monroe.  My future best man wrote his upper level paper on the local glamorization of Custer, delving into some of his more impressive military feats, such as his (while perhaps reckless, ultimately victorious) decision at Gettysburg.

Hooray for history geeks!


July 16th, 2013 at 11:14 AM ^

I just moved from Gettysburg just down the hill from Bufords men I figured Id chime in a few more Michigan tidbits from Gettysburg.  This is mostly a copy and paste from my post about 2 years ago on this subject but it is relevant to this post so I figured I would repost it.  

1.  The 24th Michigan of the Iron Brigade become one of the most famous regiments from the civil war based on what they did on the first day at Gettysburg.  They along with some of thier Iron Brigade partners become the first soldiers to capture one of General Lees Generals (Archer).  They suffered over 80% casualties and their epic struggle against the 26th north carolina is also one of the greatest unit on unit struggles of the war.  The 24th was from Detroit.

2.  Col. Jeffords of the 4th Michigan was a University of Michigan Law graduate.  While leading his regiment in the wheatfield his flag bearer was shot down while his unit began to retreat.  He turned back to rescue the flag and just as he did he was bayonetted to death by at least two confederates.  This is a pretty famous moment that a few paintings have depicted.

3.  Gen. Elon Farnsworth- Was expelled from the University of Michigan after one of his classmates died by being thrown out a window.  He later moved to Illinois and was commanding a brigade of cavalry at Gettysburg.  On the third day he was ordered to charge with his cavalry through rock infested forest by south round top.  He refused but when his man hood was challenged he at once accepted and led the charge through the woods.  His men overan the 1st Texas Infantry but soon encountered a second line from Laws brigade.  At this point farnsworth was shot 5 times in the chest and died in what is now know as the south cavalry battlefield.  I just hiked this area yesterday and this was quite possibly the worst possible attack of the battle.  General Kilpatrick who ordered the charge being one of the worst generals of all the war. 

4.  16th Michigan-  Mentioned as being with chamberlains men on little round top.  Little know fact during this battle is that for no reason during the middle of the battle the 16th michigans colonel and half his men just turned and walked to the rear.  No one really knows why, most just contribute it to the confusion of battle.  That colonel went on to serve for another year before being killed at Peebles Farm in '64. 

5.  7th Michigan- Fought off Pickets charge just south of the angle.

The rest of the Michigan units not discussed in detail at Gettysburg-

1st Michigan Infantry- Fought near the Rose Farm, Day 2

3rd Michigan Infantry- Fought near the Peach Orchard, Day 2

5th Michigan Infantry- Fought in the Wheatfield, Day 2

9th Michigan battery- helped repulse pickets charge, positioned in front of where the current pennsylvania monument is.

3 companies of 1st and 2nd USSS.  Fought as skirmishers for most of Day 2 around little round top and devils den.  Thier monument is about 100 yards west of the 16th michigans monument on little round top.

Michigan Cavalry Brigade- East Cavalry Battlefield Day 3, also battle of hunterstown a few days earlier.  Custer led several good ole Cavalry charges here just like the old movies potray them.  Enough said here with the link above from the original post.

70th New York Co. C-  This company actually from my home town of Paw Paw, MI.  When they joined up Michigan had met its quota for soldiers so they went to NYC and joined the 70th.  Three of the guys from Paw Paw carried General Sickles of the battlefield after his leg got blown off by the Trostle Barn. 


July 16th, 2013 at 11:20 AM ^

On the subject of Custer, I was in the area a few years ago and checked out Little Bighorn. The museum and battlefield are a pretty interesting place to spend a few hours.


July 16th, 2013 at 11:38 AM ^

...was damn stirring.

What followed was a swirling, chaotic mass of charges and countercharges, mounted and dismounted, as the Union forces wrestled with a Confederate mass several times their own size. If the Rebels had gotten through and in amongst the baggage Lee's grand vision would likely have come true. But Custer's men, personally led in every single charge by their boy-general, inflicted a stunning and nearly unprecedented check on the celebrated cavalry corps of Stuart. The crisis on the flank witnessed Custer riding to the front of his last remaining uncommitted regiment and leading them in a desperate meeting charge against eight full regiments of Confederate cavalry. Bellowing, "Come on you Wolverines!" Custer took his men into the vortex and, amazingly, checked the rebels. Having two entire regiments equipped with the new fangled Spencer repeating rifles probably did not hurt either.


July 16th, 2013 at 11:49 AM ^

Stuart commanded around 3,500 men at Gettysburg on day 3. Jackson had over 25,000 men at Chancellorsville. That comparison is silly. JEB could have been a nuisance, but not much more than that on day 3. That's not to diminish Custer's performance at Gettysburg, which is rightly celebrated. Lee had little chance of victory after day 1 and none after day 2. He should have withdrew on day 3, instead he wrecked his army.


July 16th, 2013 at 12:14 PM ^

This was always my understanding, but Bateman in the article sets up another possibility - I'm paraphrasing Bateman, but according to this theory American troops were so paranoid of Lee's army getting behind them *because* of his success at doing just that at Chancellorsville that Lee hoped that the sight of burning baggage behind the American lines at Seminary Ridge would make them panic again...


July 16th, 2013 at 3:19 PM ^

Disagree with Bateman.  J.E.B's rear action at Gettysburg on the supply chain, even if wildy successful, would have had no effect on the final result.   Pickett's division was gone, and the previous two days' of Lee mis-steps had already dictated the result.  



July 16th, 2013 at 3:55 PM ^

If there’s any foods that you like, I suggest you put your name on them, or they will be thrown out… by me. Uh, house was built in 1825 by General Custer..."




July 16th, 2013 at 8:09 PM ^

I made the 1.5 hour trip to Gettysburg for the 150th. I made the PickettPettigrewTrimble march. It was one of the most memorable trips I've had to Gettysburg.

My photo is of the 24 th Michigan Iron Brigade.

Everyone should get to Gettysburg for a few days at some point.


July 16th, 2013 at 8:49 PM ^

When I read the series I thought that it would be interesting to post the Custer quote but thought it was too OT to post.  Thanks for the courage to post it. It is a great series of short articles that contains some nice insights that surprised me even though I have read quite a bit about the Civil War and Gettysburg in particular. For example that Custer wore a red bandana around his neck and his men were worried that it would single him out so they all began to wear red bandanas to protect him.  

The series is also interesting because he invited other experts to comment on his writings blog style and some of those comments were also enlightening.  "Come on you Woverines!"


July 17th, 2013 at 12:42 AM ^

Coincidentally, I'm currently on vacation in Gettysburg and today I went to see the East Cavalry Battlefield where Custer (whose soldiers were called the "Wolverine Brigade") and Generall Gregg fought Stuart. It, without a doubt, has the best Michigan monument in Gettysburg, although the location is far-away from the rest of the city and the battlefield. If anyone goes to Gettysburg, I highly recommend taking the 12 minute drive to see it.


July 17th, 2013 at 7:30 AM ^

on the subject: http://www.amazon.com/Custer-And-His-Wolverines-1861-1865/dp/093828987X

The Michigan Cavalry Brigade suffered the heaviest casualties of any Union cavalry unit in the Civil War. Best-known for its flamboyant commander, the Brigade played a central role in some of the Civil War's most crucial battles.

Dramatic coverage is given of the Brigade's critical defense of the Union line at Gettysburg on July 3, when J.E.B. Stuart's flank attack could have made Pickett's Charge a success. Custer and the Michigan Cavalry Brigade's key role in surrounding Lee's army at Appomattox is not widely known and is described in full detail in Longacre's compelling narrative.



July 17th, 2013 at 10:16 AM ^

...among us, I live in the Fredericksburg, VA area and so have the good fortune of daily being among the greatest concentration of battlefields in the United States (Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, Spotsylvania Courthouse). As part of the Civil War sesquicentennial, the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park staff has already put on two incredible events for the 150th anniversaries of the Battles of Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. 

Among the sites I visited were the ruins of Belvoir, a plantation house on private property in Spotsylvania County that served as the primary field hospital for Lee's Army of Northern Virginia during Fredericksburg and where Stonewall Jackson last spent time with his wife and infant daughter in the weeks leading up to Chancellorsville; the location of the Union Army's southern Rappahannock River crossing that led to the action on the southern flank of the Confederates at Slaughter Pen Farm (only the second time ever that the public has been allowed access to the site); and a hike along the full 2 mile length of Jackson's Flank Attack from its starting point alongside Plank Road across several tracts of privately held and NPS owned fields and wooded areas (the first time ever that the public was allowed this access). 

These two outstanding programs were done on shoestring budgets as the NPS was flowing its sesquicentennial budget dollars elsewhere (Gettysburg and Vicksburg in 2013). From conversations with the F&SNMP Chief Historian, NPS will be funding the The Wilderness and Spotsylvania Courthouse commemorations at the Gettysburg level in 2014. 

I highly encourage people to consider adding a visit to F&SNMP to your May 2014 plans.