Son of a Morning Star

Son of a morning Star Chief Sitting bull

The splendid name ‘Son of the Morning Star’ was bestowed on General Custer by the Great Plains Indians of the First Nation.

The Indian women said he looked magnificent on a horse, all six foot of him, in his white buckskin suit, wide brimmed hat and blonde hair. These women of the First Nation called him Long Hair or Yellow Hair.

George Armstrong Custer was born in Ohio and in his teens joined West Point Military College. Academically Custer was a disaster- he was to finish last in class. But lucky for him the Civil War was on and he was rushed into battle where he excelled. Custer was brave to a fault. His men adored him and his now famous 7th Cavalry won every battle. He had sixteen- yes SIXTEEN horses shot dead under him. Which was no problem for Custer, who would grab a loose horse; jump aboard, shout ‘charge’ and his 7th Cavalry would win yet more battles. His promotions were rapid due to his bravery and victories. He made history by becoming general at age 23. This has never been equalled before or since. This was truly astounding, the boy general at 23.

When the Civil War ended Custer and the 7th Cavalry had nothing to do except chase and kill Indians at the behest of the American Government’s policy of ethnic cleansing. Even General Sheridan, to his shame, said many times “The only good injun is a dead injun”.

In 1874 gold was found in the Black Hills of Dakota and of course another treaty by the U.S. Government with the Indians was torn up. Chief Crazy Horse and the Chief Sitting Bull and their people were pushed further West into Montana where nobody lived. Montana in 1875 was empty and barren. Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse had enough and for the first and last time in First Nation history gathered 3,000 brave warriors from nine tribes including Sioux, Cheyenne, Blackfeet, and many Lakota tribes. U.S. President Roosevelt ordered General Custer and his almighty 7th Cavalry to sort out these pesky Indians and so Custer and his six hundred man regiment headed into immortality at The Little Big Horn.

The legend of the Last Stand has been immortalised in dozens of films and hundreds of books. I myself have about ten books on the battle. I am a hundred per cent certain Custer lost the battle because of the following; his arrogance to believe his six hundred men could beat 3,000 warriors fighting for their people’s very existence. His refusal to bring gatling guns as they would slow him down, (he was correct in this). And he spilt his unit into three units, one unit under Major Reno, the second unit under Captain Benteen. These two drunken cowards on hearing the first shots two miles from The Little Big Horn, ran away with their units, their canteens full of whiskey and left Custer and his two hundred men to their fate.

The battle lasted one hour, every soldier was killed including Captain Myles Keogh from, Co. Carlow. Captain Keogh at 6’2” was called the handsomest man in the U.S. army. Keogh was the most erudite man in the 7th Cavalry. He had previously fought for the Pope in his Papal Army before going to America. After the battle, the Indian women robbed and mutilated all the bodies except two; Custer (or Yellow Hair) and Captain Keogh. The inquiry found Custer’s 7th Cavalry was armed with the single shot Henry rifle. The Indians had sixteen shot Winchester rifles. Custer was outmanned and outshot to boot.

Major Reno and Captain Benteen were charged with cowardice but all charges were dropped because of fear of bad publicity to the glorious 7th Cavalry and by extension to the still fairly new U.S. Army. The only survivor of the battle was a horse called Comanche who belonged to our old friend Captain Myles Keogh from Carlow. To this very day a horse called Comanche, progeny of Captain Keogh’s horse is brought out on Army Day to a twenty one gun salute and blaring bands playing Custer’s tune Garryowen. Every soldier including generals must salute Comanche. All armies need icons and heroes and this horse is the holy of holies, a sight to behold.

The Americans wanted revenge and sent a large army after the main body of Indians who were heading to Canada but were caught at Wounded Knee where they were slaughtered. The First Nation people will never forget Wounded Knee. Unlike Geronimo who was a killer and a thug (Geronimo actually strangled his own children) Chief Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull were noble warriors who fought the good fight to save their people. All we can do is say a prayer for ‘The Son of the Morning Star’ and his gallant 7th Cavalry, most of them young Irishmen who left an impoverished Ireland to seek a better life in the new world only to die in the dust of Montano and North Dakota.

The god of the First Nation is called ‘Great Spirit in the Sky’. I hope the great spirit in the sky gave a special warm welcome to the hundreds of cold, hungry, terrified men, women and children who were gunned down and fell dead and dying in the snow and ice at Wounded Knee.

By Noel Twamley