Autie the prankster

His Mother

Well, the A-Z challenge was quite an undertaking. Congratulations to everyone who made it all the way to Z and thanks to all who stopped by and left comments on my posts. I will have a shout out at the bottom to all of you. For those of you who liked the Old West posts with a secret to guess, there will be more of those coming, including one today. I’ll also have some contests upcoming in which you can guess who made the quoted remark, who created the artwork, who is in the photo, etc. all, naturally, with an Old West theme. So on to today’s post

United States Military Academy

Autie was born in New Rumley, Ohio at the beginning of December 1839. His mother Marie’s marriage to his father, Emanuel, a blacksmith was not her first. Four more children followed. With too many mouths to feed, they packed Autie off to Michigan at age 10 to live with his half-sister in Monroe. After finishing primary school he returned to Ohio where he hauled and sold coal to earn room and board while attending college. He then spent two years teaching as he tried to enter law school. A man with great ambition but without funds, Autie gave up his dreams of the law and tried for appointment to West Point. His father, a staunch Democrat had little pull with their Republican Congressman, John Bingham, and Autie’s application went no place.

Autie the Cadet

But luck intervened. Autie began to keep company with Mollie Holland. He wrote a note suggesting she should engage in some earthly passions with him which was intercepted by the girl’s father. Being a close confidant of the Congressman, the elder Holland requested Congressman Bingham reconsider the young man’s application, and Autie was off to the Academy. He engaged more in pranks than in studies and would eventually graduate with 726 demerits, the very last in his class. By graduation the Civil War had erupted, but Autie’s departure for the field was delayed by a court-martial on yet another matter of conduct.


Fortunately for the young officer his audacity as a prankster translated into daring on the battlefield. The casualty rates within his units were nearly as high as the praises he received from commanders regarding his exploits. While serving with the Union Army he rose steadily through the ranks. During leave, he met and married Elizabeth Bacon. They moved to Washington where his wife lobbied the political class on behalf of her husband. By the war’s end he’d gained wide notoriety becoming something of a celebrity. But the peacetime Army had less interest in daring and more in discipline. Autie was demoted to captain and thought seriously about leaving the service. He was offered the post of adjutant general in the Mexican Army, but was forced to turn down President Juarez by the US State Department.

custer5Autie went west. He turned down a post and higher rank leading “colored troops” in the 10th for a lower rank and a billet with white troops. Stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, he became executive officer of a regiment under first, Colonel Andrew Smith and afterward, under Colonel Sam Sturgis. He participated in the 1867 Cheyenne Campaign. But he also went AWOL and abandoned his post to visit his wife. He underwent court –martial again for that, for refusing medical assistance to injured soldiers and, ironically, for executing deserters without trial. He was found guilty and forced to leave the service.

Custer 2
Autie the Officer

But this was not the end for Armstrong, the name he mispronounced “Autie” as a toddler and which forever earned him that nickname. He was recalled and fought against Black Kettle at the Washita. He fought the Cheyenne, the Kiowa and later the Blackfeet and the Crow. In 1874 he wrote an autobiography. But he would ultimately bear one final disgrace which his wife Elizabeth, better known as Libbie, would work tirelessly to erase. His dishonor would come while facing the Lakota, or as known to their enemies, the Sioux. You see Colonel Sam Sturgis was away from his command in the nation’s centennial year, 1876. And this left Armstrong – George Armstrong that is – to lead the Seventh Cavalry to destruction in what has ever since been known as Custer’s last stand.


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5 thoughts on “Autie the prankster

    1. Thanks for the kind words. Good officer? I guess it depends on whether you serve under him or he serves under you. I suppose he got the job done — up to the last time. Glad to hear from you Susan. Thanks for stopping by.

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