Description

    George Armstrong Custer Letter Signed on blue-lined stationery, two pages, 7.5" x 9.75", "Camp near Fort Hays Kansas", May 3, 1867. The letter, titled "Circular No 12", states (in full): "Attention having been frequently called of late to the prevalence of profanity among both Officers and men of this command. The Brevet Major General Commanding the Regiment [i.e., Custer] deems it his duty to adopt measures for its prevention. It has been considered of sufficient importance as to be made the subject of an Article of War. Aside from any questions of morality connected therewith, the unrestrained use of profane and vulgar language, either by inferiors or superiors, in each other's presence or hearing, is calculated and tends to undermine discipline, and to destroy that becoming and necessary respect which the subordinate should feel for a superior. Its use by a superior tends to weaken his authority; if unchecked in an inferior, its tendency is to establish undue familiarity and lack of respect for proper authority."

    "It is urged therefore upon all Officers and men to cast their influence against this growing and unnecessary evil, and Officers are hereby directed on all occasions to rebuke and punish all men of this command who in future are guilty of the use of profane or vulgar language. It should be sufficient for all to know that both orders and the Articles of War prohibit the evil complained of, but infinitely more important is the fact that the Divine Law, before which all other authority bows in humble submission, proclaims and declares 'Thou shalt not swear.'"

    "Company Commanders will cause this circular to be published to every man in their command. Officers of the Day in future will instruct all sentinels and camp guards to suppress every instance of this disorder occurring in the vicinity of their posts, and to cause the arrest of any men who they may hear making use of profane or vulgar language. G. A. Custer Lieut Col 7th Cavy. and Brev Maj Genl U.S.A. Commd'g Regiment"

    Custer's directive is dated the day he arrived at Fort Hays, Kansas, reporting to General Winfield Scott Hancock. One month later, Custer, along with a column of 350 infantry, 20 wagons, and the 7th Cavalry, departed Fort Hays in search of renegade Indians. When Custer took command of the 7th U.S. Cavalry in early 1867, it was his desire to turn the 7th into a crack regiment, as Custer's wife Libbie put it: "...to bring that motley crowd into military subjection". Hence, Custer's directive against profanity in the ranks. It is interesting to note that, during the Civil War, Custer acquired a well-deserved reputation for his extravagant use of profanity, so much so that even his most hardened Wolverines (the nickname for his Michigan Cavalry Brigade) were shocked by his language. It was said that Custer reserved his choicest expletives not for his enemies, but for his colleagues. A wonderful directive, considering its source. In fine condition.


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    April, 2007
    16th-17th Monday-Tuesday
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