Civil War, Custer celebrated

NEW RUMLEY The Custer Memorial Association met June 4 to celebrate the town’s favorite son, Gen. George Armstrong Custer, born in New Rumley, who would be the 170 years old in 2011. The Custer Memorial Association meets regularly and celebrates his achievements the first Saturday of every June.

The featured event was a demonstration by the 6th Ohio Volunteer Cavalry, members of which represent five states and two countries. The cavalry use Civil War uniforms, weapons and tack and practice 19th Century battle tactics.

A bugler sounded ordered as the horsemen rode in formation and simulated a cavalry charge and a pitched battle of clashing sabers. An officer spoke about life in the Civil War era cavalry and answered questions.

Leroy VanHorne, secretary of the CMA, gave opening words. He added that 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War will launch four years of commemoration of the battles that decided this nation’s future.

“The next four years are going to be really good as far as reenactments go,” he said. He also praised the cavalry for their dedication to recreating the past. “It really takes us back in time and history.”

VanHorne said Ohio has a great deal to be proud of with regards to the Civil War.

More Ohioans fought in the war than from any other state. Soldiers from Ohio were also invaluable in creating the state of West Virginia, by helping fight off the Confederacy when West Virginia broke away from Virginia.

He noted that Custer’s name and legend has endured and grown stronger during the years. On average a new book about Custer is out every year. He said Custer still holds the record at age 23 of youngest man ever promoted to general in the history of the world.

“There’s nobody younger that ever made it as far as General Custer,” he said, adding that Custer’s leadership, daring and initiative saw him through every major battle in the war.

He often turned the tide in a struggle through his famous cavalry charge, where he always rode in the forefront. Custer’s brother, Tom, also earned renown as the first man to earn two medals of honor.

Rick Williams, Custer living history portrayer from Middleton, stepped into the boy general’s boots and spoke about Custer’s early years in New Rumley, focusing on his academic experience at West Point and contrasting it with his first year of military service. While he performed poorly in his studies, he excelled in the theatre of war.

“It’s amazing how he went from last in his class to the youngest man promoted to general,” Williams said. “I think his personality overrode his shortcomings while his natural abilities as leader brought him to national attention.”

Williams added that he believed Custer’s personality was better shaped after his time at the academy.

“His years at the academy demonstrated some self-imposed limits and he had to overcome that,” Williams said, noting among those lessons learned included the need to maintain strict discipline in following even the smallest rules.

He added that on the surface it was amazing that so apparently unpromising a man as Custer had earned the rank Custer did, but his accomplishments speak for themselves.

Williams will next portray Custer June 24-26 at Hardin, Montana, where he will reenact Custer’s Last Stand.

Steve Ball, portraying a Union first sergeant, performed on guitar.

The Harrison Central High School Band performed.

DeFrank may be reached at