The Significance of the Last Stand

Topics: American Civil War, George Armstrong Custer, Battle of the Little Bighorn Pages: 10 (3297 words) Published: June 2, 2006
The Significance of the Last Stand

I. Fictionalizing History

Relating history of past to history of present

[1] What do historians create with the history they account? History is a story that never ends. The events of the present in essence have already happened in the past. Historians try to make sense of the present by deconstructing the past. Only through analysis of the past can one understand the present. I remember playing cowboys and Indians as a child. I would always play the part of the cowboys, and consequently the cowboys always won. At the end of my day's adventure I went to my parents to tell them of my conquest against the Indians. I made certain to include every detail of the battle -- from first charge to last saber stroke. History was made that day in my backyard with the green figurine—soldier on horseback—whose defeat of the Indian nemesis forces was both courageous and honorable.

[2] Past history is connected to the occurrences of the present. History repeats itself as present action gains significance from past events. President Clinton was recently impeached. To date he is the first President to receive this less-than-honorable acclaim. In my opinion, no critical repercussions resulted. The only reason why Clinton's impeachment was important was because it was the first such instance in our nation's history. If President Nixon had not resigned and had been impeached and removed from office, the importance of Clinton's impeachment would have appeared far less important in retrospect. Because of the past history of our nation, the present history became significant.

II. The Purpose of They Died With Their Boots On

Recreation of American Cause 1876

[3] American film demonstrates history as narrative. The historical classic They Died With Their Boots On is a recreation of the history of General George Armstrong Custer's life. This movie adds to the already prevalent myth of the Boy General. The movie was released in 1941, when Germany, under Adolf Hitler, had control of "Fortress Europe," and threatened to end democracy as the world knew it. The United States prepared to defend democracy in total war. American soldiers needed a cause to die for. The most important aspect They Died With Their Boots On created was a reason for United States Soldiers to die, fighting for the American cause.

[4] To understand the ramifications this movie had on the existing nation of the time and to understand the American Cause Custer taught us to die for, Custer's life must be examined.

III. The Life of a General


[5] George Armstrong Custer was born on December 5th, 1839, in a small hamlet of New Rumley, Ohio, to Emanuel Henry and his second wife, Maria W. K. Custer. His father Emanuel was a blacksmith who came from a prosperous military heritage—his grandfather, also named Emanuel, came from Hesse in the Germanies around the middle of the eighteenth century and fought in the Revolutionary war. This was a fact proudly remembered by the family. Custer's mother, Maria Ward, was widowed in 1835, and remarried Emanuel Henry to produce two children who died in infancy before George Armstrong was born.

[6] The Custer's produced five children: George, Nevin, Thomas, Boston, and Margaret. George was understandably the favorite of both mother and father from birth. His parents called him "Autie," after his own childhood efforts to pronounce his middle name. Tom, the third born, developed a close relationship with his big brother—imitating and admiring George's actions. Tom followed George all the way into the Battle of Little Bighorn—Tom was a soldier under his big brother's command. Eventually the brother that Tom imitated and admired would lead him to death.

[7] George Armstrong Custer was a born militarist. When Autie was four he took a trip to the dentist to get a tooth removed. Little Autie,...

Bibliography: Cullens, J. "Custer 's Last Stand." Army Quarterly and Defense Journal [Great Britain] 90.1 (1965): 104-9.
Dippie, Brian W. Custer 's Last Stand: The Anatomy of an American Myth. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1994.
Hutton, Paul Andrew, ed. The Custer Reader. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1992.
Rolland, Marc. "Knocking the Paste Eye out of the Idol: The Second Death of George Armstrong Custer." Revue Francaise d 'etudes Americaines [France], 1993.
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