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The Army in the West

“Though I had not desired the colored infantry . . . I have never regretted my service in that regiment.”
    —Charles J. Crane (Class of 1877), on his assignment to the 24th Infantry



After the Civil War, much of the army went to the West, stationed far from public view. The army’s chief task was mediating between the swelling flood of white settlers and the Native Americans whose livelihoods, ways of life, and lives themselves were threatened.

West Point provided most of the officers, with the rank and file recruited heavily from immigrants and African Americans. Hierarchy reigned in the frontier army. Officers did not mingle socially with their men, nor did their wives and children have much to do with enlisted families.

Garrisons were usually small, rarely more than a few companies, and they were widely scattered. Isolated, poorly paid, often inadequately housed, and very slow to win promotion, bachelor and married officers alike found life on frontier posts harsh, as did military wives and children. Duty was mostly routine, and disability or death were far more likely from disease than combat.



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George Armstrong Custer




Key Figures






Libbie Custer and the Legend of Geore Armstrong Custer
George Armstrong Custer
1839–1876
Class of 1861



Fayette Washington Roe
Fayette Washington Roe
1802–1871
Class of 1824



Ranald Slidell Mackenzie
Ranald Slidell Mackenzie
1840–1889
Class of 1862



Henry Ossian Flipper
Henry Ossian Flipper
1856–1940
Class of 1877



George Crook
George Crook
1829–1890
Class of 1852





Smithsonian National Museum of American History


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West Point in History Introduction 1802–1860 1861–1870 1866–1914 1914–1918 Epilogue Introduction 1802–1860 1861–1870 1866–1914 1914–1918 Epilogue The Army in the West Wars for Empire Monumental Projects