George Armstrong Custer and George Morningstar

George Morningstar.  Latisha had even liked his name.  It sounded slightly Indian, though George was American, from a small town in Michigan.  He had come out west to see, as he put it, what all the fuss was about.  Tall, with soft light brown hair that just touched his shoulders.

(King, 131-2)

custer-seated1Though the above lines describe George Morningstar, they could almost as easily be applied to George Armstrong Custer, the famed figure of the American Civil War.  He is most famous for his ‘Last Stand’ at Little Big Horn.  Custer was born in Ohio, though he grew up in Michigan, and was assigned after the war to drive the Sioux west into reservations.  The Plains Indians gave him the nicknames “Yellow-Hair” and “Son of the Morning Star” (Wikipedia.org).

Like the relationship between Morningstar and Latisha, Custer too was intrigued by the Native lifestyle and is rumoured to have taken an Indian wife (Utley, 107).  Custer was also a prolific writer, who kept records of his journey across America (compiled in My Life on the Plains) and wrote long letters to his wife (compiled in The Custer Story: The Letters of General George A. Custer and His Wife Elizabeth).  George Morningstar consistently sends letters to Latisha after leaving her, until “finally they became boring.  Just like George.  Even the poetry dulled.  After Elizabeth was born, Latish stopped reading them altogether, stuffed them into a brown grocery bag in her closet instead, leaving them to collect like dust in a corner” (King, 250).

chief_sitting_bullIf she had read the letters, Latisha would have realised that George Morningstar was planning to attend the Sun Dance; the very event that Sitting Bull attended before the Battle of Little Bighorn.  There, he cut 100 strips from his arms and had a vision of soldiers falling from the sky, accompanied by a voice which told him: “I give you these for they have no ears” (A&E Biography).  Later that month, the La Kota would be victorious in battle against both Gen. Brig. Crook and Custer.  Custer underestimated the native forces, assuming that he would overrun them easily, and attacked them without waiting for reinforcements (A&E Biography).  Similarly, Morningstar underestimates the reaction that he will recieve by attending the Sun Dance, and is summarily dismissed for disobeying the rules and attempting to photograph the event (King, 386-7).

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2 responses to “George Armstrong Custer and George Morningstar

  • doctorsara

    I think you are absolutely right about the interchangeability between the two historical Georges. George as a type of cultural imposter is very interesting and speaks to the desire of settler-colonists to gain legitimacy over stolen property.

  • George Morningstar

    I found this to be very interesting because my name is actually George Morningstar! My mother being from South Dakota, but living in NY now, this article made me feel more connected to the west, Im glad I stumbled accross it. Very interesting.

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