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The Creator has not thought proper to mark those in the forehead who are of stuff to make good generals. We are first, therefore, to seek them blindfold, and then let them learn the trade at the expense of great losses… Thomas Jefferson

If this book offered nothing but its analysis of Pickett and Custer it would be well worthwhile however it goes much further offering views of the curriculum – and how unsuited the institutional needs were to the American reality – in a chapter on Ephraim Kirby Smith. The chapters on the civil war experience are more balanced than one might expect and the chapter on James McQueen McIntosh presents an interesting overview. Free of the revisionism that makes all Southerners devils and all northerners saints it is a good read about military history without too much sociology or psychobable.

Brigadier General James McQueen McIntosh, CSA, Cavalry Brigade Commander, McCulloch’s Division Goat of the Class of 1849 an indian fighter put in charge of a brigade

Last in their class : Custer, Pickett, and the goats of West Point    New York : Encounter Books, 2006 James S. Robbins Military education United States History 19th century Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xiii, 503 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 413-479) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG  

Today’s Goat, the West Point cadet finishing at the bottom of his class, is a temporary celebrity among his classmates. But in the 19th century, he was something of a cult figure. Custer’s contemporaries at the Academy believed that the same spirit of adventure that led him to carouse at local taverns motivated his dramatic cavalry attacks in the Civil War and afterwards. And the same willingness to accept punishment from Academy authorities also sent George Pickett into the teeth of the Union guns at Gettysburg. The story James S. Robbins tells goes from the beginnings of West Point through the carnage of the Civil War to the grassy bluffs over the Little Big Horn. The Goats he profiles tell us much about the soul of the American solider, his daring, imagination and desire to prove himself against high odds.

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