The Class of 1861: Custer, Ames, and Their Classmates after West Point
George Armstrong Custer wrote about his friend Pierce Manning Butler Young, who left West Point to become a Confederate general: "I remember a conversation held at the table at which I sat during the winter of '60–'61. I was seated next to Cadet P. M. B. Young, a gallant young fellow, a classmate of mine, then and since the war an intimate and valued friend—a major-general in the Confederate forces during the war and a member of Congress from his native State [Georgia] at a later date. The approaching war was as usual the subject of conversation in which all participated, and in the freest and most friendly manner. . . . Finally, in a half jocular, half earnest manner, Young turned to me and delivered himself as follows: 'Custer, my boy, we're going to have war. It's no use talking: I see it coming. All the Crittenden compromises that can be patched up won't avert it. Now let me prophesy what will happen to you and me. You will go home, and your abolition Governor will probably make you colonel of a cavalry regiment. I will go down to Georgia, and ask Governor Brown to give me a cavalry regiment. And who knows but we may move against each other during the war. . . .' Lightly as we both regarded this boyish prediction, it was destined to be fulfilled in a remarkable degree."
Ralph Kirshner has provided a richly illustrated forum to enable the West Point class of 1861 to write its own autobiography. Through letters, journals, and published accounts, George Armstrong Custer, Adelbert Ames, and their classmates tell in their own words of their Civil War battles and of their varied careers after the war.
Two classes graduated from West Point in 1861 because of Lincoln's need of lieutenants, forty-five cadets in Ames's class in May and thirty-four in Custer's class in June. The cadets range from Henry Algernon du Pont, first in the class of May, whose ancestral home is now Winterthur Garden, to Custer, last in the class of June. "Only thirty-four graduated," remarked Custer, "and of these thirty-three graduated above me." West Point's mathematics professor and librarian Oliver Otis Howard, after whom Howard University is named, is also portrayed.
Other famous names from the class of 1861 are John Pelham, Emory Upton, Thomas L. Rosser, John Herbert Kelly (the youngest general in the Confederacy when appointed), Patrick O'Rorke (head of the class of June), Alonzo Cushing, Peter Hains, Edmund Kirby, John Adair (the only deserter in the class), and Judson Kilpatrick (great-grandfather of Gloria Vanderbilt). They describe West Point before the Civil War, the war years, including the Vicksburg campaign and the battle of Gettysburg, the courage and character of classmates, and the ending of the war.
Kirshner also highlights postwar lives, including Custer at Little Bighorn; Custer's rebel friend Rosser; John Whitney Barlow, who explored Yellowstone; du Pont, senator and author; Kilpatrick, playwright and diplomat; Orville E. Babcock, Grant's secretary until his indictment in the "Whiskey Ring"; Pierce M. B. Young, a Confederate general who became a diplomat; Hains, the only member of the class to serve on active duty in World War I; and Upton, "the class genius."
The book features eighty-three photographs of all but one of the graduates and some of the nongraduates. Kirshner includes an appendix entitled "Roll Call," which discusses their contributions and lists them according to rank in the class.
George A. Plimpton provides a foreword about his great-grandfather, Adelbert Ames-Reconstruction governor of Mississippi and the last surviving Civil War general-and President Kennedy.
Stuart and thus unable simply to issue orders, had no alternative but to prove themselves exemplars of courage."2 As examples, it is not surprising that he mentions Custer and John Pelham, who conspicuously remained fearless and on horseback under the heaviest fire. There may have even been some advantages to being a boy general in the Civil War, where physical courage was of much greater importance to commanders of.
My Adjutant succeeded poorly. . . . While these depredations were going on the venerable old Dunker who owned the mansion . . . calmly sat on the porch and watched his despoilment in the most philosophical manner. Anxious to make amends, so far as my own conscience was concerned, I leaped the fence with my horse and rode up to where the.
Horses and men, Ames said, "The officers were quite ridiculous in their bearing and step. I refer to the company officers on foot; they bore themselves in such a manner and stepped so very high (sole of the foot horizontal) as to make caricatures of themselves. . . . The King looked like an elderly man—one about sixtyfive years old—.
Professor Oakes Ames, daughter of General Adelbert Ames and granddaughter of General Benjamin F. Butler, Governor of Massachusetts. I think you know my grandson, George Ames Plimpton."55 Blanche Ames asked Senator Kennedy to make corrections in future editions "for your own sake as well as mine."56 But he replied on July 13, 1956, saying, "It is not anticipated that Profiles in Courage will go through another printing and thus there will be no opportunity to make changes in the text."57.
Washington."10 But what was in the interest of historians was not necessarily in Babcock's interest. Bluford Wilson—who, as solicitor of the treasury, played a key role in exposing corruption—was examined on July 27, 1876, by Congressman Alexander Cochran of the Select Committee Concerning the Whisky Frauds. According to Wilson, President Grant told him, "If General Babcock is guilty, which I don't believe, he is the most guilty wretch in the world."11.