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tv   Book Discussion on Custers Trials  CSPAN  January 24, 2016 10:33am-11:49am EST

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>> this is a booktv on c-span2, television for serious readers. here's our primetime lineup.
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>> tonight at the kansas city public library is really honored to have the author of three of the best american biographies of the last 20 or 30 years to kind of collect important that t t.j. stiles has given us of the mid-19th century. first his book about jesse james which he helped us understand fictional creation of the legends, elegant initial credit by the "kansas city star." that would of course never happened today. [laughter] it's about the civil war of course but it's also about a great american theatrical tradition, decoration of celebrities in public life. that would never happen again
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today. he has such great moments, narrative moments. jesse james robbing a train near saint louis and issuing what in essence is the first press release by a bank robber. may be the first press release, bank robber and railroad robber. he makes you understand the dynamics. one of the three books i think that are necessary to understand what happened in our part of the world and also what created the civil war and what made the civil war so brutal. he gives as necessary truths and necessary myths that define us and help influence us today. and then with commodore vanderbilt, he defined the first entrepreneurial america, building or stealing a business which could have been cases of commodore vanderbilt homeric
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qualities. many of these attribute could be found today in a study of successful entrepreneurs come in many of those attributes would never be found in a study of successful entrepreneurs. in talking of our literary historical graphical files he mentions in his interviews were kline and robert caro among others, particularly for their ability to great context which he does so brilliantly. the characters have context, the main characters but also the the secondary characters have context and background, landscape so becomes a portrait not only of the individual man that he is writing about but a place and time that that man in habits. it has a dynamic quality in a place in time and the reasons for the actions come from the backgrounds, the reasons for the character amount. some of the best portraits of
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this book are of generals grant and sheraton with the longest and most intimate acquaintance of the skills, character, the romance and the legend of george armstrong custer, and they had to almost completely different views of the man's worth, the valley of the man. there is a great quote some of you might of the new yesterday when it entered his henry adamson's quote from this book, from "custer's trials." i quoted charles francis adams junior who is henry adams great-great-grandfather and a favorite character of t.j. stiles as it turns out and about another book, finishing a book today that epitomizes i think what t.j. stiles can do. adams said about the war, the civil war, as a cavalry officer, he said the truth would knock
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the romance out of you. in essence that's what t.j. stiles can do with a character like commodore vanderbilt, jesse james or george armstrong custer. and yet at the same time the brutal cynicism that is the civil war, the war on borders, the will against the indians also still has its romance. t. j. stiles is able to do that as well. to leave the romance in the brutality. he's a midwesterner, went to carleton college in columbia university. has written for the "new york times," been involved with more than one pbs documentary. a guggenheim award winner at the new york public library. is also been a janitor at a call center employee, which may give them some great perspectives that he brings to his work.
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he is a man who can present both the romance and the cynicism of our history, but always the truth, a great opera for. ladies and gentlemen, t.j. stiles. [applause] thank you very much. for the c-span audience you should know that my four year old daughter sasha, eight year-old son dylan, whenever i put on booktv every weekend they always go that's so boring and my eight year old son fights before the remote. if you've been made to watch this, della and sasha, now you have seen me. it's okay. you can now turn the channel. [laughter] as many writers have said, custer, reduce i should say,
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custer does not lack for books. there are quite a few books about custer, added to disrespect them. sometimes biographers or writers of nonfiction are moved by the inadequacy of what has been written before, i think the subject simply hasn't been rocked to the public before properly. of course with custer that a lot of good writing as well as abundant writing. not all of it is good but some of it is very good. so why did i turn to george armstrong custer? what is it actually i'm trying to say to people that you should understand? well, let me put it this way. in my case it was a lot of investigation that went into my thinking about custer, but sometimes a single document can put a familiar figure in a different light. in this case a document i'm going to cite was written i mosby hansen who was the surgeon
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of the second wisconsin calgary regiment. he wrote this letter in texas to the nearest superintendent of the freedmen's bureau on october 12, 1865. so several months after the civil war had ended. he described a case in which a nine year old girl had been kept on a plantation about 23 miles from the town of hempstead with his surgeon was posted. she had been owned during slavery by a man named chambers. unlike many african-americans from slavery had been separated from her family. she had been divided away from her mother. her mother action was living in hempstead with a woman named mrs. cody. so benign your cruelty said she would try to find her mother. she set out on some across a
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23 miles into hempstead texas county mother and then send it appeared% of the owners of plantation. this teenage boy had been ordered what his mother, quote, to bring her out or kill her. this is four months after juneteenth when emancipation was proclaimed in texas. slavery was not yet abolished by the 13th amendment, but it had been put into effect in texas by the orders of the general and others. i should say that the full emancipation had not yet been felt. so he ordered the crew to come within. she clung to her mother. according to hansen he then tied her hands behind her and then tied a rope around her waist, pulled out and tighter to a ring and settled, but dispersed to
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the horse. long before reaching home, this nine year old girl who had once been kept as a slave, kept as a slave long after the announced emancipation, long before reaching the plantation 23 miles from instead, she was quote a mass of broken flesh and bones. another went to the provost marshal of the union troops were occupying instead, for justice. he wanted nothing to do with the case. so she went to the command of the forces in the area who was also in hempstead and as for justice. his name was major general george armstrong custer. and according to him he sent to arrest the boy. then had to make a decision. what was he going to do with this case? how is he going to justice? this is a custer we really see in all the accounts of custer which focus on his death at the
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little bighorn or the focus on his role on the indian wars, or some books that focus on his role as a union calgary commander during the civil war. this is a site i think we don't see so much. the administrator of occupied territory, and then who must have the justice. this is kind of a turning point in his life. it's not that everything rested upon the decision he would make. it's not that this was the decisive action or question he faced. and yet this moment was both personally and professionally, he must face the world he has helped to make as a major general, as an important combat officer on the winning side of the civil war. what is the world he has helped to make? that some of the questions i ask in my book. who is this man that wants had a troubled and catastrophic life?
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we find in 1865 this is the moment when he begins to face that transition come when he starts as both a professional army officer and in his private life, personal life which is so important my book, how does he deal with that world. well, professionally he is someone who had risen to national thing. this is a man who was not just a celebrity after his lifespan, not just in memory but during his lifetime was a national celebrity. he had risen to become the brigadier general at the age of 23. as many people are family with custer's story will note, he graduated last in his class at west point in 1861, but first in the merits. [laughter] -- demerits. this was amended been a junior officer. graduated last in your class in
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the regular army would put you at the bottom of the promotion list. but these were not regular times. george armstrong custer was with a few people for whom the nation, the outbreak of the nation's bloodiest war was an incredibly lucky thing. when he went to war as a young man he transferred from being the kind of reckless self-indulgent youth to someone who have a sense of purpose. there's no hint in the right about him from his commanders, reports or his career that self-indulgence rule, does of a young man at west point. there's a reason for that. it gave them purpose. he takes part in a raid during the initial a campaign that listen to the nature george mcclellan the mcclellan puts into the staff. from their keep us both sharing his personal accounts and his
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marriage, but is also very rarely -- custer lands on the head of the union calgary, eventually, into army of the potomac. when lee invades the north that gives him an opportunity to shake up the command structure and just custer upon as brigadier general at the age of 23. custer went directly to almost directly to the battle of gettysburg at a couple of other battles of which he performs well. at the battle of gettysburg he is the lead combat general, the one who's out in front. he's not commend all the union cavalry but he is a leading officer in the battle between the confederate cavalry and the union calgary. he shows up in this brigadier general's uniform, double-breasted uniform, very flamboyant. is not a regular uniform but it is black velvet.
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it has elaborate gold braid. a general's uniform wasn't double-breasted appeared a junior officer's uniform wasn't single breasted. the fact he showed up immediately in this outfit with a blue sailor shirt with a bright red tie, it was a very well thought out and elaborate costume. it's not the sort of thing that you buy in a store, just elaborate costumes. he had it in his trunk. he was thinking about the fact he might become a general when he's in his 20s. this is someone who has great dreams for himself. so he appeared in discussing and yet it's important to remember that as flamboyant and attention depending as it is, aside people scored can't afford. in this case there was a practical benefit. this is a world, this is a world
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in which the battlefield is much more compact. it's a little smaller than the modern battlefield which is controlled by modern communications. these battlefields are permissions of troops they can see the commanders in the field. command and control is inducted through sight and sound. that's why the importance of trumpeters, buglers and banners, sight and sound. you show up in front of the troops, a brigade, a 23 old no one had ever heard of before. this elaborate costume, it tells his troops that he believes in his own courage and skill and he would lead them from the front. just as they could see him leading the charge, they would see him if he was leading the retreat from the rear. so this is actually in some ways i think surprising, a declaration of confidence in himself and his belief in his
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own courage and his own personal fighting skill. that calgary was a field in which in this mess air of mass infantry warfare, as a calgary man, you fought at close range against mostly other cavalry men. so the cavalry charge from the british amount to charge mostly took place in cavalry fighting. in which they might have a short barrel carbine which had a shorter range than the infantry rifle. usually used revolvers and sabers. these are close range weapons which demand personal skill. custer may be the last american joe to actually kill someone in a sword fight. so that personal skill and the courage and also surprisingly professional competence. everybody knows custer was brave, at least his detractors would say reckless, but you see him as a very capable and professional tactical commander.
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and so as the work progressed, special as he moved into the 1864 overland campaign and followed cheriton, the new commander into the shenandoah. by the way, gettysburg he helped win by the way. should mention that. that helped make him a national celebrity. the press called him the boy general of the golden locks. ya long golden hair which he very to show what you were as the attention-getting aspic. as he went to these other battlefields, as i trace my book, it's not military history but i follow that. the fact that he had real skill as a commander as well as personal courage. one of the foremost combat commanders of the union army. there's a very, very few if any division commanders, the largest sized unit commanded, who becomes a household name, and i
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was custer. he was one of the very few on the union side. he is a national hero. then has to confront the world the war has made. the fact it is destroy slavery. the fact that the seven stage are not under martial law. they are being ruled and administered by the federal government through the army. so you have slavery. you have still very unfinished revolution, as yet uncertain future for the future of former slaves. you have the question of the role of the federal government, the role of the army. all these things come together professionally for custer when acoustic taxes and finds himself faced with a case of a nine year old girl who have been brutally murdered simply because she was wanting to be with her mother. there's also custer in the personal site. custer personally is someone who
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is much more volatile than the short sketch is professional career would suggest. he is someone who never -- [inaudible] capture with someone who was flamboyant, attention getting costume, his desire for everyone to see them as something great. the flipside of this is the fact that he was from a very obscure background. his father, his letters are filled of the word isn't spelled. they were poor people who were self-reliant and yet there background, custer want something bigger, something greater. this was a man who is a product of border state culture. he was from southeastern ohio originally by his father was from maryland and he had a very strong southern sympathy.
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custer goes to west point i think part of the reason he spent so much time playing pranks and doing things other than might get good grades is that he is playing to an audience, trying to have an image of who he is. trying to bring popularity. he wants to be accepted. he feels like the field of young men who come from all across the country including some of the best families in the country, he wants to be accepted among them. the way you do that is by being a prankster, the devil may care fellow. ..
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before the war we -- they do not want him to be elected. he was also summoned unlike his mentor who believed in victory. he wanted to win. it shows up in many personal combats, he wanted to win. so the desire for victory, what keeps propelling him for combined with personal skill. he is working the idea of how to advance in the u.s. volunteers is a temporary army, he was writing to republican politicians, he's tried to build up support. he finally meets his wife would be an through a very convoluted
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courtship they get married. she goes to to washington becomes his personal lobbyist. there's another side of the story to bring out. the women in his life. she is an amazing, strong woman who reasons the restrictions placed on women at this time. she is that middle-class women and respectability is important to her and her family. she accepts it. she is constantly working through constraints, trying to find her own way and try to help her husband. so she is loving congressman trying to keep her husband's name front and center. trying to make sure that brigadier general could be concerned with the center. she said from congressman from michigan, everyone says she's a corrupt and drunk, but i don't care, i think he's a nice man. translation, yes it's translation, yes it's true but i can work with this guy. she's a very interesting woman.
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there is a third woman that comes into custard's life before libby. her name is eliza brown. she had been slaved in virginia, she had come to the big house and worked with the family inside the house. the first chance she got like so many people -- custer had just finished the gettysburg campaign. fighting heavily all the way, the calvary led the pursuit did most of the fighting after gettysburg. he decides that there is common ground, he had a chance to establish his staff and his household as a general. he read remembered that there is a black woman cook and he would like to have that. he goes to the contraband and he
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talks with the young woman and he likes eliza and asked if she would like to cook with me. and she said sure as long as you're good to me i would be good to you. what's interesting, this is a woman who never had social security for herself. you do not have to turn her story, we don't have a lot of details of her story, but it was a world in with your children could be sold off. it's very likely to be divided by marriage where someone could be sold off or taken somewhere else. families were being ripped apart, personal security is nonexistent. if you're an enslaved staff your body is not your own. she is someone who learned how do you survive in this world. so she knew that information was
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paramount. we know that she went to custards headquarter she was using his influence to trade information for careers of visitors from other high headquarters. she is someone who began to turn her position into one of authority. she turned it into a seat of authority, she would deliver food to other contraband. she really takes the opportunity in which she is also creating security and authority for herself. she is also going with custard into battle. so she actually gets captured during the battle, it turned out to be run of the greatest accomplishments as commander. she can expect rape a possible
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execution, she could be sold back into slavery. yet she is defiant with the confederate soldiers who captured her. the first opportunity she gets she makes it very quite ingenious escape. she finds her way back to custer's camp and is cooking for her that night and remains with him. this is a brave woman. after the civil war in her cook ten, the canvas caught fire. flames were going to the top and she remembered custer had a big gamble of gun fire it in there it's a bomb. so what does she do? she goes in grabs the cannibals it out herself. custer could not believe how cool and delivered she was. after the civil war, they go
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west and custer and eliza brown and his wife libby, his brother tom who comes into staff, as custer takes command, she brings the custards into and she put her whole heart and soul. here's a woman who sees her advantage and seizes the rare opportunity she has. she is also also trying to educate the general about what it meant to be a slave. i felt for example that custer wrote in a letter to his father-in-law, he said every protester and now write a
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america will forever only debt to the civil war eliminating this evil of slavery. so we see the impact that she is having on them. yet, there's another side to this too. the personal side that were eliza brown establishes for herself she is denying authority to the wife. libby who shows up during the civil war. this is a personal relationship and yet it also echoes what is going on in the nation, slavery abolishes eliza brown, her primary survival mechanism, she has to learn to survive during slavery is a how to deal with relations across the racial the divide. she is living living in a world run by white people.
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libby, in the late 1900s she never really dealt with black people before. she is actually disadvantaged. eliza brown manages this relationship. makes libby ally and she make sure she's out of the kitchen so that libby does not take over as the woman of the house. over time that's frustrating to libby. this mothering care that eliza brown is actually keeping libby from asserting herself. in 1865 in this family unit, it goes west. all the tensions are playing out. custer has to do with this challenging environment,
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occupying the state that had never been invaded and conquered during the war itself. slavery in texas went from 75000 slaves to 400,000 in 1865. they were shipping property to texas for safekeeping. the atmosphere -- so you have a volatile explosive environment. custer is now placing something else with himself. he had confidence in combat but in other areas it was a different story. there he was an insecure, young man from a pack ground trying to prove something about himself to the world. and i think to prove something to himself. whenever he was challenged he would get defensive. here he is in texas, not to run
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the third division which he commanded but who said the wars over we should go home. what is he do? requires tact, custer is the individual from earlier and he is a romantic. for example the grant review let the end of may 1965, custer wrote a course which i basically -- it was work at the time and it was worth $10000. in $1865. and our dollars that would be a lot of money.
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it was a self-indulgent side to get himself involved itself in sort, that side of him comes out. custer is feeling challenged and literally hiding and missing sudan when he goes to texas. i think this grand review that he writes this horse, it's a race horse and horse panics. it takes off, custer is holding a bouquet of flowers in one hand and he is leading the parade, the horse takes off and he gets control of this horse the harrisburg weekly said this was a great moment. he says he rode the charge of a sioux chief indian. the crowd roared.
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general custer should live in a less age. at the time, and earlier more romantic america is becoming more industrial. america is tackling these issues like race, it's a very difficult time. when he is assigned to the west to see the other side of that same view that there's a boundary in time. says the important of general custer has created a great surprise, certainly the department offers no feel for the peculiar talents of general test custard and it is not expected that he would assume an office that is purely executive. even at the time, custer was
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entering an era where an executive was needed. so this isn't something that i came up within my own head, i wish i had. but as a national celebrity at the time, america changes, we don't like it but it is changing, will will custer be able to adapt to it? in texas he is feeling challenged and he is dealing with troops that do not want to be there. as i point out, the commanders unable to inspire his troops and will often retreat from his men will try to leave through with pure application.
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custer was a man who troops loved. he felt confident in his ability as a warrior. as a manager, he feels not quite up to the task. he lashes out with outrageous discipline and shaving heads and even flogging which was made illegal by congress. it actually carries out execution but he sentenced to death or is court-martialed an officer who for circulating a petition asking his commander to resign. but he either show graciousness on his part he reduce the
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sentence. they pulled him aside at the last minute and the man was saved. today it would be a mock institution of culture. this shows custer being challenged resorting to lashing out. he is not able to be calm like he is in combat. he now comes with all of these challenges with the new world are coming to a head. he has to case of a 9-year-old girl. he has an amazing woman who has been in his household longer than his wife and she is trying very hard to teach them about these other people. custer custer is deeply conservative. he doesn't believe the federal government should be involved in
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the local level. he doesn't believe the army should be putting rules of a fair and also he still has these deep-seated concerns about race. he is not incapable of seeing across those divisions yet it is difficult for him. i should note that this is something in context, the provisional governor of texas who appointed by andrew johnson said the south must be a white man's country. then they write to an overall commander in texas, other portions of state not occupied with the troops are being badly treated. many instances are being murdered. it must be obvious to you as it is to me that we cannot depend
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upon the civil authorities of our state, this is late 1865, for some time for justice to evildoers. the manifestation of the federal purpose on the military authority to punish offensive in a few cases would have a good effect. so on on all sides custer feels the personal and political pressure to do something. under military ministration he is the authority, yet the deeply held conservative view politically, was that democratic worldview and he said it is not my responsibility so he releases to the civil authorities and then they release the boy. not just that personal moral crisis but this is the part and
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on a professional level, what is microscopic. in 1866 was a temporary army set up for the civil war. someone tells you custer was a general yes he was. he reverts to a regular army, permanent standing army and it is very confusing with the two armies. the army goes out his captain and he goes to washington. he testifies before the congressional judge basically explains very truthfully how disloyal they are. they're they're trying to maintain the racial order that they had in slavery and custer's very honest about this. at the same time he was
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describing himself he would describe the confederates because they have to consider the within the army and the troops. he is speaking radically to republicans and about his future. he's been on us but he also knows his audience. what he finds out is that there is a conflict brewing between republicans and andrew johnson. over whether there will be civil rights laws or whether there'll be some sort of established civil rights, possibly some equality for free people. the weather will have a racial hierarchy which, by law slaves will be kept down. custer sympathizes with andrew johnson and he also finds out that general grant has assigned him to a black regiment.
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what we now call the buffalo soldiers. he was supposed to be the lieutenant general, they have an excellent record. custer writes directly of the head of his military superiors to president johnson. johnson sets out on a grand tour to try to defeat the republicans and take control of the future of the country, in 1866. grant does not want to be a part of this and he retreats as soon as he can from it. custer is next to president andrew johnson, he is the regular army officer, joining the political pool. what is interesting is that if custer is out to the west after this, we think of him as being
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this devices figure, people are divided about him even today. the beginning of the political divide in the public divide, is a firmer side and the question. it it happens over the question of reconstruction. silver race, politics, the role of the federal government, the future of the nation, apart from the west even though it incorporates the west. that's where it becomes controversial. as a result of this, the republicans learn that custer thinks libby is in his life and i know congress, i know politics, i've been been dealing with them, don't go anywhere near it. stay away. she says you are not running for congress and so he agrees. so he gets a sign, not sure if johnson interviewed directly of the calvary and goes west.
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there's so many sides to the story he had a very public life. so there's other sides of the story the zürich key to my book. i'm showing and other aspects simply because i try to integrate them with the lesser sides that at the time were key to both him and the public view of him. he goes to the west and meanwhile custer is facing a crisis in his marriage. in 1866, he was hoping the $10000, he spent months in new
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york, get to him is probably's favorite place on earth. he began to talk with stockbrokers which was run out of new york. many on wall street were key leaders of the democratic party. so it was excited to be accepted among the elite. the need to rise above the origins and put them behind him which also leads to his defensiveness and bitterness and his ambition to be great. he goes to new york says i want to make a lot of money and live here, don wan is a key part of that, don juan dies. he embarrasses himself publicly and has a controversy hanging over him. also new york he writes to libby about all of the women who are flirting with him.
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about how much attention he's getting from the opposite sex. when people are interested sexually and you your feeling pretty good. for custer it is like hitting his weak spot. then it elevates his value to libby. so they had a real passion and it was turning out pretty great. so she is frustrated and then they go west and bring a young friend of hers who had written about a cheap mary customer. there's an affair that develops
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in kansas between custer and this young woman who has come with him. so laws it eliza brown and the b custer and custard brothers tom are also up there. he does not want to deal with many people so he has hanging over him which is brewing out of he goes out and basically provokes a war of cheyenne. custer looks at the calvary the office on training calvary
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officer. he gets trying to begin who has a real sense of humor, he comes and says tell the truth and he says we don't want to fight. how about look around for a while and you'll see the supply. customer said that's a good idea. but he never comes back. later he goes to the camp again and custer's looking for troops. i'm embellishing a little bit, it was also a time where he abandoned his men to go back to libby. two of his him and get
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ambushed and killed by hostile union. here's of it does nothing about it. he goes right back and continues his marriage to libby. it's really the low point of his life. this often taken as a great turn in his life is at the rock bottom. because i am leaving custer into different parts of america and see what we can do with his character. he has been in crisis ever since he began to see a world in which the war was over and in combat he can't rely on his ability in combat anymore to carry him over. so there is want to secure man who needed attention and all of this seems to have the fact that you're dealing with warfare, his mind isn't in it, he's dealing
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with other components. it comes to this great crisis. custer manages to save himself the way he does again and again in a way that is counterintuitive to the public view of him which is his ability to fight. the fight at little big horn obscures the fact that even though he handled himself while that he could fight. if he gets called back early from the suspension that his court-martial, convicted, suspended for a year. he comes back and showed his plans and fights the battle. it's a crucial battle and i think he is to be blamed of the desk there. though he was carrying out his orders the way described.
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this is very much the army in charge. custer although exceptional, don't see him as something we can excuse as the person of action. so so there are complexities in the book. he goes to further operation that helps to bring north of cheyenne and help to pose a chapter of the war. so talk about every aspect beyond custer, the nature of the environmental crisis that we see through the wars. it's not settlement but actually migration through the high plains that is degrading natural resources. this is people going west and others that incorporate in my book. so talk about the larger history and then to bring it back to my
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story which is the story of custer, his wife and family. libby custer also withdrew crises. his wife was dealing with this complicated employee and then there is a social tension and power, all of a sudden she is within the black community. libby basically goes nuts. i may not crazy but she is living in fear, she thinks is going to be raped, there's a lot of ugly racial stuff that happens. again it signed by the fact that there is a great crisis in the marriage. when they're living in the planes there's larger because
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she goes through living in the black community of the planes, multicultural world and living on the frontier. to going to going to living on this isolated coast. now she is the one who is isolated and has no group that she is a part of. so they come to a head and libby fired eliza brown after time of going through the dramatic events, after the great crisis of the civil war. it finally ends with libby firing eliza. and so there is a very important conclusion. so the book goes on and as i follow the lesser-known episodes of custer's life i paid attention to the way in which he
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helped make this world and the way he came down to it. custer was a soldier who, he loved to ride ahead of his troops to scout out campsites. he is someone who also is ready to take part. he spent two years in new york. he spent months and months trying to launch -- trying to create an illusion of a great prosperous business that he could put the shares. yet, he he never tends to have the actual business of the mine. and it never goes anywhere. he sees what is going on and yet he cannot quite come to grips with the business that the financial markets are all about. he loves the theater, here has a
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relationship with a famous actor, he was a passionate, chronic writer. the memoir with the new national magazine was coming out, the first two essays, my life in the planes is also public intellectual. it's a very serious position on american indians in the great plains, the history. in the narrative you see a man who is out of step with the leading edge of the figures. the super were impact of the generation much like world war i had been lost to that generation. henry adams didn't fight and he was a -- these intellectuals
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come out and they seem more cynical. we we get a march darker view of the world. custer, coming from that area where you can still have the tribe comes on the civil war with this intact. the key to his popularity, they see custer he is still the romantic figure that they envision for the war. his books and style -- this is someone who is trying to be part of the new world and making sensibility. so he hopes for success and he is creating ambassadors. he has a bad reputation reputation as a member of the army command. read the letters between different commanders about custer that are buried in the files at the national archives,
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they say things like his reputation is true. he is a problem officer, sometimes you have custer on the right that he is just making trouble. he can't get along with a large organization. someone who financial is a disaster, he is a gambling addict. as a follow to kentucky where he is first being around the ku klux klan he is spending lots of time playing poker. so someone with this project -- finally gambled on wall street. trading stocks. the time he goes out to little big horn they have $9000 in debt.
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presidents of the largest companies in america are making six-$8000 per year. that's how much money he was in debt. so custer was creating disasters for himself. their reaction of general grant and the republicans and democrats sweep the house in 1874, what does he do? he begins to take part of it. he's leaking stories to the press, he's testified on capitol hill. not just a testimony, he is walking through capitol hill with leaders of the critical opposition to his commander-in-chief. no army officer would do that today. so here custer wants to take part in the world yet he was out of step. is one more chance and grant reluctantly allows him to go out
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and gives into appeals to custer superior. he says we can go out and fight in this campaign in 1876. the one thing that he does is a thing that finally let him down. ultimately that was why it was a shocking people talk about it. he had many flaws in people who love custer will be frustrated with it but one thing he spectacularly failed and yet when you look back on his life he says so much about him so much about america. that's custer, all exaggerated in america. [applause]. thank you.
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[inaudible] if you have questions please come up to the microphone so we can hear you. >> was it general sheraton, is that how he was able to get that and what he was good at. >> absolutely. custer's relationship with grant which is not near samiti immediate as his relationship with sheraton is key in the book. grant is very much a modern general. he is an idealist. he doesn't work with custer directly in the civil war but
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custer was a fighter and grant respected and admired custer's skill. after the war, custom custer created these crises for himself over and over again. even in 1860 in about custer gave a speech to grants opponent. custer was an army officer, grant was a commander general of the union army when he took president. custer goes and makes a speech for the opposition. so sheridan's last most powerful patron. it really developed a close relationship, a mustang mentor or father, son relationship.
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over his conviction was court-martialed. another court-martial custer after his conviction in 1867 which i talk about because custer is challenging the conviction with the press. the army is violating institutional procedure comments challenging the intellectual integrity of the command and the structure of the army. their discussion in the army that he deserves to be court-martialed. they do not approve of this but in the end when you read what sheraton wrote to grant, at the very end even shared and now is getting fed up with custer. saying i wish he was been less
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time on his campaign and more time on capitol hill. [inaudible] >> we're speaking about how custer was such a competent officer during war but a politically blind and deaf, maybe civilian or noncombat. i kept thinking about pat and there's great differences between their origins can you comment on a little bit of the psychology on that. >> this is something very interesting. pat was a very good example of someone who really had good
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skills as a commander. he sent refinance a good combat combat commander than some people are going to come out say you're wrong. put it this way he won a lot of respect as a commander. but again extracting the troops, with his ability to fight and brought back. it was the same thing with custer. the problem with custer that it gets for either and farther apart. how many battles did he fight after the civil war? if you count the campaign that ensues but not the battles but certainly had led to great results so there's a campaign in
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1869 coordinate 1873 on the is to quite major battles for indian wars. he made some victory but there an isolated position, belying his reputation for recklessness. he keeps his men in hand, he measures out his resources carefully, he shows real confidence, real professional demand but there is opportunities to save himself they go further and further apart. same thing with custer, the message got bigger and a chance of saving himself cap further apart. >> so follow up to what you just said. what do you think would happen
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to custer if he had lived? >> i think he would have bought my book. [laughter] i think all of the people who hated him would have also bought my book, just to cover my bases. again, this propensity, reviewer who said custer's only significant significant for the way he died, that's wrong. custer's most famous for the way he died and if he died that way we went talk about him the way we do. he was a significant figure both for what he did and how he impacted the public. remember there are people who are real fans or haters of custer on my facebook page, there are are some quotes that the publisher reposted elsewhere. another hundreds of people who are on how much they hate
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custer. has nothing to do with the book itself. they hate custer because he symbolizes big issues in american history. that was true during his lifetime. so lifetime is very significant in that trajectory into the future is another question. will people remember him if he served out his years in the army, i don't know. what happened to him? i have to think that self-destructive capacity would have continued. his ability to get out of that 9000-dollar debt was to become a lecture and you can make a lot of money. so possibly he could have take himself out but i think he would've dug himself another whole after that. there's so much to write and read about, you don't have to like him. you get some good insight here
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is continually making trouble. he's a three-dimensional figure. he might have exploded, i tried to figure out what makes them tick. so much material in his life was such a fascinating woman and a liza brown and others around him, when you really began to get inside living through a dramatic revolutionary time. so i mentioned and i'm going off topic, i'm not to mention or condemn him, trying to be honest and view his live in the context of that time. so let me finish quickly.
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custer would not become president. perhaps in 20 years, but in 1876 there's no way he would be president. he familiar with the leaders of the democratic party because they're very close on that subject. i can tell you that they don't talk about custer at all in 1876. you'll just come out of the blue like that, even custer and become president. the other thing libby was opposing going into politics. she fell a she knew washington is who's already worried that she was alienating people politically and she would said that you have to be careful. she wanted to keep him out. i think between libby and the fact that he just was not on the radar screen. the candidate of the people who make candidates, the ringleaders
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of that era they were nazi custer that way. i i didn't put it in the book because i thought it was so little that we are talking about. i will tell you now, i'm certain -- >> when he went into the back hills of 19701874 and confirmed whether or not there was gold, was gold, was this an expedition for the army? was an expedition for the politicians that wanted to reacquire the land through war through the sioux or was it part of a financial ambition that he had played out unsuccessfully but prominently in new york? >> one of the things about custer's death death as it's often said that people dislike him and it was political justice.
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there's precious little of it in american history. custer led an expedition in 1874 to the black hills. they found gold and this was during the great depression. it was called the great depression until the other great depression. custer found gold and led to people violating the treaties and going in, white settlers setting up mining camps. a few things about that. one, it was a military expedition, it was organized and the brainchild of general sheridan. what he wanted to do, what, what the army was constantly being reduced in numbers. they didn't have the troops to send in so they're engaged in warfare's with their neighbors,
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their sometimes complex with migrants and settlers on the borders of territory they claim. what he wanted to do was have places all around the reservation to retaliate. so that if another conflict directed they were ready. if you read the newspaper especially from the dakota territory it said only a few thousand white settlers from the territory. so custer did not look in for gold but everybody expected it. so the troops and the prospectors, they looked everywhere for gold. so custer carried out this expedition that he didn't go looking for gold personally. when he talked about it he said there is gold but i don't know how much. he was more interested in it is in agriculture and that can
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eventually be developed. one thing he said in his report was that it is easily accessible. that's what starts gold rushes. anyone can go in and get goal. remember, gold was money. it was a worth money, it was money. you could take all to the minutes and have it down and made into coins. it was money. so there were actually gold dollars. he said anybody can find it, after a while it gets harder to find and then people set up their big-money operation and then anybody with a parent can get goal. custer talks about how easy it is to get. so we contributed to the goldrush but not his personal plan.
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other expeditions had been beat now by the native americans. so now that he was some innocent in the world, this was part of the context that he carried out more than anything. [inaudible] >> that's an interesting question i don't think so. >> ..
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provide you with enough information to what it must've been like. but the new interpreter will tell you the truth. you know, major concern of judgment. they did have since the ear over the years of peacetime duty, custer would go off and do his


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