NEW! A Soldier's Story     Calvin Farnham Johnson  16th Pennsylvania Cavalry Regiment


 

 

 Hampton, Wade III was born in Charleston SC on March 28, 1818,  the eldest son of a wealthy and prominent cotton plantation owner.  In 1836, at the age of eighteen, Hampton graduated from South Carolina College, now the University of South Carolina. In 1852 he was elected a Representative to the South Carolina General Assembly, then as a Senator from 1858 to 1861.  At the outbreak of the Civil War, Hampton resigned both his seat and his comfortable life to enlist as a private in the southern army.  However, the South Carolina governor insisted on a colonel's commission, which Hampton accepted.  Although he had no military training whatsoever, the new Colonel began organizing what would soon be known as "Hampton's Legion" of South Carolina infantry (six companies), cavalry (four companies), and artillery (one battery), the formation of which he partially financed. In spite of his lack of martial training, Hampton's skill as a horseman, natural grasp for mounted tactics, leadership abilities, and bravery under fire, would prove him to be a superior cavalry officer; one of the very best the South, even the nation as a whole, would produce during the war.  This richest of southern planters was physically strong, highly intelligent, and a thorough outdoorsman, and would be one of only two southern cavalry officers to achieve the rank of Lieutenant General in the Confederacy, the other being Nathan Bedford Forrest. Hampton is, today, undisputedly one of the most underrated commanders of the Civil War, north or south.  His performance and record of success live in the shadow of the dashing, vainglorious JEB Stuart.  Hampton would take command of the Confederate Cavalry Corps in the East upon Stuart's death at Yellow Tavern in May 1864, but Hampton's name would never rise to the revered heights gained by some of his mounted contemporaries, such as Stuart, Sheridan, or even Custer.  Hampton was not the resplendent dandy that made for headlines and idealized admiration.  But his victories, especially when outnumbered and out-resourced, would be unparalleled and earn the admiration of his fellow southerners and the guarded respect of his foes. During the war, Hampton was wounded five times, the first at First Bull Run (Manassas) in July 1861.  Never having been in action before, Hampton threw his Legion, 600 infantrymen strong, into this first major battle of the war at a decisive moment and provided an opportunity for Confederate corps commander Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson to bring his men onto the field.  Although surrounded and his horse shot from under him, Hampton stubbornly held his ground until urged to retire by superiors.  Hampton suffered a wound to the head when he later led a charge which overran a Federal artillery position and captured two cannon. On May 23, 1862, he was promoted to brigadier general and given command of a brigade of infantry.  Hampton distinguished himself as a leader of foot soldiers, but he gladly accepted Confederate army commander Robert E. Lee's offer to command a brigade in Stuart's Cavalry Division.  On the third day of the battle of Gettysburg, July 3, 1863, Hampton led his troopers into the massive cavalry clash east of the main field of battle.  Although suffering from a saber wound to the head from the previous day, Hampton's fighting this day would be no less than exemplary.  At the peak of the fighting, Hampton shot three Federal troopers from their horses and ran a fourth through with his sword.  Seeing one of his own horsemen surrounded and battling several assailants alone, Hampton charged to the trooper's aid and knocked one Federal from his saddle.  Receiving another saber wound to the head, with his own blood clouding his eyes, Hampton killed several more blue troopers while defending himself and his man.  He cleaved the skull of one down to the chin with a solitary blow from his massive blade.  Before leaving the field, Hampton would also receive a severe shrapnel wound in his side. On September 3, 1863, he was promoted to major general.  It would take until the spring of 1864 for Hampton to recover from his wounds to resume command of his veteran division.  With Stuart's death on May 12, Lee turned to Hampton for command of his Cavalry Corps.  He set out to engage the enemy immediately.  Hampton's performance in the June battle of Trevilian Station justified Lee's decision to place the big man in charge of a big task.  In this, the Civil War's largest all-cavalry battle, Hampton's determination, tenacity, and brilliant tactics enabled the gray clad troopers to route the Federal horsemen led by Philip Sheridan, who not only outnumbered him, but were also armed with the new repeating rifles.  The fierce clash, which had erupted in dense woods, forced the troopers to fight dismounted.  In the heat of the struggle, Hampton saw the opportunity to mount an assault against the Federals in a dusty clearing near the Virginia Central Railroad.  "Charge them, my brave boys, charge them!" Hampton yelled, and led the attack himself atop his favorite horse, a burly bay named "Butler."  The battle continued into the next day, when a bold Confederate counterattack broke the Federal line.  On the 13th, the defeated Sheridan retreated without destroying the railroad, the object of his expedition.  The battle of Trevilian Station was the Civil War's truly decisive cavalry fight and the thrashing that Hampton gave Sheridan might quite possibly have extended the war another six months.  As Thomas L. Rosser wrote of the event:  "...Hampton whipped him (Sheridan) - defeated his purposes and turned him back."  While Hampton was in command of the Confederate Cavalry Corps through to the end of the war, he never lost a single fight. On September 16, 1864, Hampton took to saddle to mount his own raid behind Union lines.  In what would become known as the "Beefsteak Raid," his troopers captured over 2400 head of cattle and 304 prisoners, suffering a loss of only ten of his own men.  For the inadequately-provisioned southern army, the nearly two million pounds of meat would be a windfall. Characterizing Hampton's legend among the Federals, one Union officer admitted, "With his wonderful powers of physical endurance, his alert, vigilant mind, his matchless horsemanship, no obstacles seemed to baffle his audacity or thwart his purpose."  At no time was this more true than on March 10, 1865, when Hampton (now a Lt. General since February 15) charged into a force of 70 Federal cavalrymen with only five of his own.  Personally killing no less than three of the 13 northerners killed, he also captured 12 more as the others ran off, thereby demonstrating the veracity of the northern view that "he would hunt his antagonist as he would hunt big game in the forest.  The celerity and audacity of his movements against the front, sometimes on the flank, then again in the rear, kept his enemies in a constant state of uncertainty and anxiety as to where and when they might expect him."  The southern loss in the engagement was listed as "one horse." Upon Lee's capitulation in April 1865, Hampton was reluctant to surrender.  He would, however, muster the courage that had served him and his men so well on the battlefield and decided that the best way to serve his southern soil after the war was to help rebuild it.   He supported President Johnson's plan for Reconstruction and sought reconciliation between the North and South while attempting to restore his lost fortune.  In 1865, Hampton ran for governor of South Carolina but was defeated by James Lawrence Orr.  When radical Reconstruction policies against the South were imposed, Hampton took the lead in South Carolina in the fight against widespread Republican corruption.  In 1876, after a successful bid for governorship, Hampton would become the first Southern governor to be inaugurated in opposition to Northern policies.  Hampton was reelected governor without opposition in 1878, but resigned in February of the following year when he was elected to the U.S. Senate and served two terms.  In the spring of 1899, his home on Camden Road in Columbia was accidentally destroyed in a fire.  Eighty-two years old and with very little money, Hampton had limited means to find a new home.  Without his knowledge, a group of friends raised enough funds to build him a new home and presented it to him "over his strenuous protest."  He died in Columbia on April 11, 1902, and is buried in Trinity Cathedral Churchyard.  

 

Sheridan, Philip H., Sheridan’s date and place of birth is uncertain, but he claimed to have been born in New York in 1831. Although he was destined to come out of the Civil War with the third greatest reputation among the victors, his military career did not begun auspiciously. It took him five years to graduate from West Point (1853) because of an altercation with fellow cadet and future Union general, William R. Terrill.
Posted to the infantry, he was still a second lieutenant at the outbreak of the Civil War. His assignments included: second lieutenant, 4th Infantry (since November 22, 1854); first lieutenant, 4th Infantry (March 1, 1861); captain, 13th Infantry (May 14, 1861); chief quartermaster and chief commissary of Subsistence, Army of Southwest Missouri, Department of the Missouri (ca. December 25, 1861-early 1862); colonel, 2nd Michigan Cavalry (May 25, 1862); commanding 2nd Brigade, Cavalry Division, Army of the Mississippi (June 1-September 4, 1862); brigadier general, USV (July 1, 1862); commanding 11th Division, Army of the Ohio (September-September 29, 1862); commanding 11th Division, 3rd Corps, Army of the Ohio (September 29-November 5, 1862); commanding 3rd Division, Right Wing, 14th Corps, Army of the Cumberland (November 5, 1862-January 9, 1863); major general, USV (December 31, 1862); commanding 3rd Division, 20th Corps, Army of the Cumberland (January 9-October 9, 1863); commanding 2nd Division, 4th Corps, Army of the Cumberland (October 10, 1863-February 17, 1864 and February 27-April 1864); commanding Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac (April 4-August 2, 1864); commanding Army of the Shenandoah (August 6-October 16, 1864 and October 19, 1864-February 28, 1865); also commanding Middle Military Division (August 6, 1864-February 27, 1865); brigadier general, USA (September 20, 1864); major general, USA (November 8, 1864); and commanding Sheridan's Cavalry Command (March-April 1865).  After serving in a staff position during the early part of the war he was recommended for the command of a cavalry regiment by Gordon Granger. Within days of taking command he was in charge of the brigade with which he earned his first star at Booneville in northern Mississippi. In the late summer of 1862 he was given a division in Kentucky and middle Tennessee. He fought well at Perryville and Murfreesboro and was given a second star in the volunteers to date from the latter. At Chickamauga his division, along with almost two-thirds of the army, was swept from the field. However, at Chattanooga he regained his somewhat tarnished reputation when his division broke through the Rebel lines atop Missionary Ridge. There was some question of who, if anyone, had ordered the troops all the way up to the crest. His division made a limited pursuit. When Grant went to the East, he placed Sheridan in command of the Army of the Potomac's mounted arm. Against J.E.B Stuart's depleted horsemen Sheridan met with mixed success in the Overland Campaign but did manage to mortally wound the Confederate cavalryman at Yellow Tavern. His purposes were thwarted at Haws' Shop and Trevilian Station. His Irish temperament brought him into conflict with Generals Meade and Warren and Duffie and Stevenson. Following Early's threat to Washington, Grant tapped Sheridan to command a new military division, comprised of three departments, and charged him with clearing out the Shenandoah Valley. Despite being plagued by irregulars along his supply lines, he managed to worst Early at 3rd Winchester, Fisher's Hill, and Cedar Creek. At the outbreak of the latter battle he was returning from a meeting with Grant and rode at a gallop from Winchester to the scene of the early morning reverse. Reforming his men, he drove the enemy-who had lost all sense of order while plundering the camps-from the field, taking many prisoners. For this campaign he was named brigadier and major general in the regular army, vacating his volunteer commission, and received the Thanks of Congress. He also burned his way through the Valley, preventing future Confederate use of its grain and other stores.  The next March he destroyed Early's remaining forces at Waynesboro and then went on a raid, threatening Lynchburg. Rejoining Grant, he smashed through the Confederate lines at Five Forks, necessitating the evacuation of both Petersburg and Richmond. During the action he unfairly removed Warren for slowness. It was his cavalry command, backed by infantry, which finally blocked Lee's escape at Appomattox. His role in the final campaign even eclipsed that of army commander Meade. After a postwar show of force against Maximilian in Mexico, he headed the Reconstruction government of Texas and Louisiana. His severity forced his removal within half a year. Remaining in the regular army, he died as a full general in 1888, having been the commander-in-chief since 1884. In the meantime he had commanded the Division of the Missouri, observed the Franco-Prussian War, and worked for the creation of Yellowstone National Park and its preservation
. Source: "Who Was Who In The Civil War" by Stewart Sifakis

 

Lee,  Fitzhugh was born at Clermont, Fairfax county, Va., November 19, 1835. He is the son of Sydney Smith Lee, who was a brother of Robert E. Lee, and son of Gen. and Gov. Henry Lee.  Fitzhugh Lee was graduated at the United States military academy in 1856, and after serving until January 1, 1858, in the cavalry school at Carlisle, Pa., as an instructor, he was assigned to frontier duty in Texas with his regiment, the Second cavalry. He served at several Texas posts, and on May 13, 1859, in a fight with Comanche Indians was shot through the lungs with an arrow. In 1860 he was ordered to report to West Point as instructor of cavalry. In 1861 he resigned his commission as first lieutenant, and tendered his services to his native State. He was commissioned first lieutenant, corps of cavalry, C. S. A.; promoted lieutenant-colonel, First Virginia cavalry (Stuart's regiment), August, 1861, and colonel, March, 1862. His first service was rendered in staff duty, under General Beauregard at Manassas, and as adjutant-general of Ewell's brigade during the battle of First Manassas. In the spring of 1862, with his regiment, he aided in covering the retreat from Yorktown, and in the raid of the cavalry under Stuart, around McClellan's peninsular army, he was particularly distinguished in the capture of the camp of his old Federal regiment, and in the defense as rear guard while Stuart's other commands built a bridge over the Chickahominy, which he was the last man to cross. He was recommended by Stuart for promotion to brigadier-general, which soon followed, and at the organization of the cavalry division, July 28th, he was put in command of the Second brigade, consisting of the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Ninth Virginia regiments and Breathed's battery. He took an active part in the cavalry operations in August, connected with Jackson's advance northward, and in the capture of Manassas depot; participated in Stuart's advance into Maryland, screening the movements of the army, and after McClellan could no longer be held in check at South mountain, his brigade covered the retreat through Boonsboro, where there was a fierce and protracted fight. He succeeded in delaying the enemy through the greater part of September 16th, and then joined the army before Sharpsburg. In November his brigade was reorganized. He served on the Confederate left above Fredericksburg in December, took part in the raid on Dumfries and Fairfax Station, and in February, 1863, moved to Culpeper to guard the upper Rappahannock, giving battle to Averell at Kellysville, an action which Stuart reported as "one of the most brilliant achievements of the war," which he took "pride in witnessing." At the field of Chancellorsville he led the advance of the flank movement, rode with Jackson to reconnoiter the position of Howard, and commanded the cavalry in the Sunday battle. During Stuart's raid of June, 1863, he captured part of Custer's brigade at Hanover, and reached Gettysburg in time for a fierce hand- to-hand cavalry fight on July 3d. During the retreat he rendered distinguished service. He was now promoted major-general and in September took command of one of the two cavalry divisions, with which, when R. E. Lee decided to push Meade from his front on the Rapidan, he held the lines while the main army moved out on the enemy's flank. He fought about Brandy Station and encountered Custer at Buckland Mills. After the contest with Grant in the Wilderness his division, thrown in front of the Federal advance toward Spottsylvania, engaged in one of its most severe conflicts. The Confederate troopers were a terrible annoyance to the Federals, "swarming in the woods like angry bees," and Sheridan started on a raid to Richmond to draw them off. At the resulting battle of Yellow Tavern, where Stuart was fatally wounded, at Hawes' Shop and Cold Harbor, and at Trevilian's, he contested with Sheridan the honors of the field, and August, i864, found him again opposed to that famous Federal officer in the Shenandoah valley. Here he commanded the cavalry of Early's army. He fought the spirited battle of Cedarville, and at Winchester, September 19th, displayed great courage and energy in attempting to save the field. In the midst of a terrible artillery fire his famous horse "Nellie" was shot, and at the same time he received a wound in the thigh which disabled him for several months. On recovering he made an expedition into northwestern Virginia in the following winter. Upon the promotion of Hampton to lieutenant-general, Lee became chief of the cavalry of the army of Northern Virginia, and commanded that corps at Five Forks. After rendering invaluable service on the retreat, he was ordered to make an attack, on April 9th, at Appomattox, supported by Gordon, and in this movement, which met overwhelming opposition, his cavalry became separated from the main body. He participated in the final council of war, and after the surrender returned to Richmond with Gen. R. E. Lee. He then retired to his home in Stafford county, and resided later near Alexandria. In 1874 he delivered an address at Bunker Hill which greatly aided the restoration of brotherly feeling. He was a conspicuous figure at the Yorktown centennial, and at the Washington centennial celebration at New York city, at the head of the Virginia troops, he received a magnificent ovation. In 1885 he was nominated for governor by the Democratic party and made a memorable and successful campaign against John S. Wise. After serving as governor until 1890, he became president of the Pittsburg & Virginia railroad. In 1896 he was sent to Cuba as consul-general at Havana, under the circumstances one of the most important positions in the diplomatic service. In this he represented the United States with such dignity and ability that he was retained in the place after the inauguration of President McKinley, through all the trying difficulties preceding the war with Spain. After the outbreak of war he was made a major-general of volunteers in the United States army, and at the close of hostilities was appointed military governor of the province of Havana.

Torbert, Alfred, born in Georgetown, Delaware, 1 July, 1833; died at sea, 30 September, 1880. He was graduated at the United States military academy in 1855, assigned to the 5th infantry, served on frontier duty during the next five years in Texas and Florida, on the Utah expedition, and in New Mexico, being promoted 1st lieutenant, 25 February, 1861. In April, 1861, he was sent to muster in New Jersey volunteers, and was made colonel, on 16 September, of the 1st New Jersey regiment. On 25 September, 1861, he was promoted to captain in the 5th United States infantry. Colonel Torbert served through the peninsula campaign, was given a brigade in the 6th corps on 28 August, 1862, and fought in the battle of Manassas on the two following days. He also took part in the Maryland campaign, and was wounded at the battle of Crampton's Gap, 14 September, where he made a brilliant bayonet; charge. He was commissioned brigadier-general of volunteers on 29 November, 1862, and was at Gettysburg. He fought his last battle in the infantry at Rappahannock station, 7 November, 1863, and in April, 1864, was placed in command of the 1st division of cavalry of the Army of the Potomac, participating in the skirmishes at Milford station and North Anna river. He commanded at Hanovertown, and then participated in the cavalry battle at Hawes's shop, 28 May, 1864, for which he was brevetted lieutenant-colonel, United States army. He also repelled the enemy at Matadequin creek, 30 May, and drove them close to Cold Harbor. He took that place on the 31st with cavalry alone, after a severe fight, before the arrival of the infantry, and held it the next, clay against, repeated assaults. He was now ordered by General Sheridan, with another division, to make a raid to Charlottesville, had the advance, and commanded at Trevillian station on 11 June. On 8 August, 1864, General Torbert was made chief of cavalry of the middle military division, and given command of three divisions when General Sheridan took command of the Army of the Shenandoah. When Sheridan was closely pressed at. Winchester, Torbert was specially active with the cavalry and aided in putting the enemy to flight, for which he was brevetted colonel on 19 September, 1864. He had been brevetted major-general of volunteers on the previous 9 September Returning through the valley, he halted after several actions at the command of General Sheridan, and fought the cavalry battle at Tom's river on 9 October, completely routing General Thomas L. Rosser's command, and pursuing it many miles. On 19 October, at Cedar Creek, General Torbert assisted the 6th corps in holding the pike to Winchester against desperate assaults. He commanded at Liberty Mills and Gordonsville on 22-23 December, 1864, when his active service ended. After his return from a leave of absence on 27 February, 1865, he was in command of the Army of the Shenandoah, 22 April till 12 July, 1865, of the district of Winchester till 1 September, and of southeastern Virginia till 31 December On 13 March, 1865, he was brevetted brigadier-general, United States army, for Cedar Creek, and major-general for gallant and meritorious services during the war. He was mustered out of the volunteer service, 15 January, 1866, and resigned from the regular army, 31 October, 1866. He was appointed in 1869 minister to San Salvador, transferred as consul-general to Havana two years later, and filled the same post at Paris from 1873 till his resignation in 1878. He lost his life, while on his way to Mexico as president of a mining company, on the steamer "Vera Cruz," which foundered off the coast of Florida.

 

Gregg, David, was born in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, on April 10, 1833.   He was a first-cousin of the war-time governor of Pennsylvania, Andrew Gregg Curtin.   His paternal grandfather, Andrew Gregg, had served in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate from 1791-1813, so Gregg came from a family with a long history of public service.   His second cousin was the cavalryman Brig. Gen. J. Irvin Gregg, who was a fine solder in his own right.He was educated at various private schools and at Bucknell University.   In 1851, he was appointed to West Point, and graduated in 1855.   Upon graduation, he was commissioned into the 2nd Dragoons, serving in various posts in the West.   In September 1855, he was promoted and transferred to the 1st Dragoons, and served out the balance of his antebellum career in California, working as regimental adjutant.   When the war broke out, he was a captain in the 3rd U.S. Cavalry, and was assigned to the newly formed 6th U.S. Cavalry.   When volunteer units were organized, he was elected colonel of the 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry. In that capacity, he served well on the Peninsula and in the Antietam Campaign.   Accordingly, he was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on November 20, 1862.   By the spring of 1863, he commanded the Second Division of the Army of the Potomac's Cavalry Corps, a position he held until his resignation from the army in February 1865.   He was a wing commander at Brandy Station, and served with great honor at East Cavalry Field during the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg.   Most historians credit Gregg's forethought with the victory on the East Cavalry Field.   Known for being calm and brave under fire, Gregg tended to be deliberate and thorough.   He rarely made a mistake in battle, although his late arrival at Brandy Station could have made the difference in determining the outcome of the battle. During the 1864 Overland Campaign, Gregg again distinguished himself with conspicuous service.   As a reward for his fine service, he received a promotion to brevet major general of volunteers on August 1, 1864, cited for highly meritorious and distinguished conduct throughout the Overland Campaign.   Gregg continued to command the Second Division until he resigned his commissions on February 3, 1865 under mysterious circumstances; at least one historian has claimed that he was suffering from nervous anxiety that prohibited him from further commanding troops in the field. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan commented, "it is to be regretted that he felt obliged a few months later to quit the service." After a brief career in farming, President U.S. Grant appointed Gregg U.S. consul to Prague, and he served in this capacity for several years.   Married to a member of the leading family of Reading, Pennsylvania, Gregg settled there after the war.   He was extremely active in veterans' activities, and was a leading, honored citizen of the community, which paid tribute to him with a handsome equestrian monument near his house.   In 1907, he published a work titled, The Second Cavalry Division of the Army of the Potomac in the Gettysburg Campaign, which later appeared in Annals of the War.   Gregg died on August 7, 1916, and was buried in Charles Evans Cemetery in Reading.

 

 

Rosser, Thomas, Confederate Army officer, was born on October 15, 1836, in Campbell County, Virginia, the son of John and Martha Melvina (Johnson) Rosser. In 1849 the family moved to a 640-acre farm in Panola County, Texas, some forty miles west of Shreveport, Louisiana. As his father was compelled by business to remain for a while in Virginia, Tom Rosser, at age thirteen, led the wagon train bearing his mother and younger siblings to Texas. For four years he attended the Mount Enterprise school in Rusk County. Upon the nomination of Congressman Lemuel D. Evans, Rosser entered the United States Military Academy at West Point on July 1, 1856; he resigned on April 22, 1861, only two weeks before graduation, when Texas left the Union. Among his fellows in the class of 1861 was George A. Custer, who graduated dead last in a field of thirty-four cadets. Rosser was commissioned a first lieutenant in the regular Confederate States Army and assigned as an instructor of artillery. He commanded a company of the New Orleans Washington Artillery battalion at the first battle of Manassas (Bull Run) and was wounded at the battle of Mechanicsville. He returned to the army after recovering and was appointed colonel and commander of the Fifth Virginia Cavalry at the instigation of Gen. James E. B. (Jeb) Stuart. Rosser was promoted to brigadier general on September 28, 1863, and given command of one of Stuart's divisions. He was given command of the Confederate cavalry in the Shenandoah Valley in October 1864 and promoted to major general on November 1. In 1865 he rejoined Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia at Petersburg and took part in the Appomattox campaign. Refusing to surrender, he cut his way out of the federal lines and attempted to lead his division to a junction with the army of Gen. Joseph E. Johnston in North Carolina. He was intercepted and captured, however, and paroled in May. After the war he returned to Virginia, where he became chief engineer of the Northern Pacific and Canadian Pacific railroads. He later became a planter in Charlottesville. On June 10, 1898, President William McKinley appointed Rosser a brigadier general of United States volunteers for the Spanish-American War. He was honorably discharged on October 31, 1898. He died at Charlottesville on March 29, 1910, and is buried at Ridgeview Cemetery.

 

Custer, George,  was born on December 5, 1839 in New Rumley Ohio, graduated last in his class from West Point in 1861, served with great distiction and heroism during the Civil War, advanced to the rank of Major General in 1864 at the age of 25, and was assigned to command a cavalry division in Hempstead, Texas after the end of the Civil War. Custer did unexpectedly well in the Civil War. He fought in the First Battle of Bull Run, and served with panache and distinction in the Virginia and Gettysburg campaigns. Although his units suffered enormously high casualty rates -- even by the standards of the bloody Civil War -- his fearless aggression in battle earned him the respect of his commanding generals and increasingly put him in the public eye. His cavalry units played a critical role in forcing the retreat of Confederate General Robert E. Lee's forces; in gratitude, General Philip Sheridan purchased and made a gift of the Appomatox surrender table to Custer and his wife, Elizabeth Bacon Custer. In July of 1866 Custer was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the Seventh Cavalry. The next year he led the cavalry in a muddled campaign against the Southern Cheyenne. In late 1867 Custer was court-martialed and suspended from duty for a year for being absent from duty during the campaign. Custer maintained that he was simply being made a scapegoat for a failed campaign, and his old friend General Phil Sheridan agreed, calling Custer back to duty in 1868. In the eyes of the army, Custer redeemed himself by his November 1868 attack on Black Kettle's band on the banks of the Washita River. Custer was sent to the Northern Plains in 1873, where he soon participated in a few small skirmishes with the Lakota in the Yellowstone area. The following year, he lead a 1,200 person expedition to the Black Hills, whose possession the United States had guaranteed the Lakota just six years before. On the verge of what seemed to him a certain and glorious victory for both the United States and himself, Custer ordered an immediate attack on the Indian village. Contemptuous of Indian military prowess, he split his forces into three parts to ensure that fewer Indians would escape. The attack was one the greatest fiascos of the United States Army, as thousands of Lakota, Cheyenne and Arapaho warriors forced Custer's unit back onto a long, dusty ridge parallel to the Little Bighorn, surrounded them, and killed all 210 of them.

 

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