Mark W. Bradley: Bluster’s Last Stand
Bluster’s Last Stand
The True Story of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Bush
Satire By Mark W. Bradley
In a conscientious effort to comply with the “Truth and Transparency in Government Act” passed by the courageous 109th Congress in 2006, Vice-president Richard “Buckshot” Cheney recently agreed to declassify and make public some 16,000 top-secret Pentagon and State Department documents, some dating from as recently as 1883. As History Department Chair at the University of Dubai’s new Baltimore campus, I was among those invited to take part in the ceremonial unveiling of those documents at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. Once the refreshment table was picked clean, the newspaper reporters, celebrities, and cable news correspondents fled the building in a thunderous herd, allowing us historians to get down to the tedious but rewarding business of pouring over a virtual treasure trove of primary source material.
Three days later, while plowing my way through an ancient water-stained box of documents labeled “27445B”, I made the following startling discovery.
Contrary to all newspaper accounts of the time, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer was not among the brave men killed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Having departed the Seventh Cavalry two months prior with a case of smallpox, he spent the spring of 1876 lingering on the edge of death. Finally, on June 23, 1876, the celebrated colonel passed peacefully from this life, and was buried in a Bismarck cemetery with little or no fanfare.
So who was the shadowy figure at the head of the Seventh Cavalry on the 25th of June, 1876? For nearly one hundred and thirty years, the United States Army has kept his identity a closely guarded secret. Only now can the shroud of mystery be lifted from this remarkable story.
With the sudden departure of Colonel Custer in April of 1876, the War Department faced a serious predicament. With no senior officers in the vicinity of the Yellowstone River, the generals back in Washington were forced to seek the help of a Connecticut congressman by the name of Phineas T. Bush. After initiating a flurry of urgent (and possibly extortionate) telegrams, Bush was able to provide the army with a highly irregular solution to its worrisome dilemma.
It seems the congressman had a son, one George Armstrong Bush, who had served (albeit briefly) as coxswain for the Coast Guard Academy’s rowing team stationed in Newport, Rhode Island. During his time there, he had earned the nickname “Bluster” for his tendency to get bombed on a Saturday night, challenge one of the local stevedores to a duel with pistols, and then (once he sobered up) offer a cash prize to any terminally-ill scholarship student willing to act as his stand-in. This lovable scamp (a lifetime member of the famous “Scull and Boat Society”) had been suspended from his unit for repeatedly falling overboard during routine maneuvers, on one occasion suffering a self-inflicted eye-socket bruise while trying to retrieve a runaway oar. In an effort to put a safe distance between his son and any potentially lethal source of fluids (including water), P.T. Bush hustled the boy off to the Dakota Territory, ostensibly to spearhead the campaign of the Republican gubernatorial candidate, U. B. Hornswoggled.
Meanwhile, the congressman used his considerable cloakroom influence to finagle for his son a highly unusual inter-branch promotion from rank Second Class Seaman to Lt. Colonel of the Army, thus qualifying him to fill the empty boots so recently vacated by G. A. Custer’s untimely demise.
It was with great urgency, therefore, that a team of army scouts was dispatched to the Black Hills to locate young George and inform him of his good fortune. After weeks of scouring the barren countryside, they finally found him in Deadwood, where he had been tirelessly toiling as a freelance missionary operating inside the town’s seedier sporting clubs, saloons and opium dens, altruistically sharing his wealth with those less fortunate than himself.
With the help of his newfound army buddies, Lt. Col. George Armstrong “Bluster” Bush soon found himself ready and eager to assume command of the Seventh Cavalry. Untrained in the art of horseback riding, Bush was provided with a specially designed “tandem” saddle. On the occasion of his first (and indeed his only) appearance before his enthusiastically cheering troops, he rode into camp astride a white charger, wearing a fringed buckskin jacket, regulation blue cavalry hat, and a padded shoulder harness. Mounted behind him in the saddle was his personal aide-de-camp, Buck Private Lance Gannon. Gannon (who miraculously survived the massacre at the Little Bighorn) went on to an illustrious career that included stints as a Pinkerton gumshoe and a Parisian bath house attendant. In fact, it was while serving a six-month sentence on procurement charges in a Spanish jail that Gannon sold, for the sum of $20,000, the following transcript to his erstwhile cellmate - the unfairly maligned New York City politician, William “Heck-of-a-Job” Tweed. Shortly after this transaction, Tweed found himself extradited back to New York, where he later died in prison. The whereabouts of the nearly priceless historical document Tweed had in his possession at the time of his death remained obscure until its rediscovery a few short weeks ago. It is presented here for the first time in its entirety.
June 24, 1876
Thank you…thank you kindly…thanks so much…hey, how yall doin’?…heh, heh, heh…you guys are great, really…hey, thanks… God loves you brave men and so do I! Heh, heh, heh…AHOOO-O-O-O-AH!!! Hey, thanks…No, really…
Thank you all for being here. Major Reno, Captain Keogh, Capt. Benteen, officers and soldiers of the Seventh Calvary: Major combat operations here in Montana have ended. In the Battle of the Great Plains, the United States Army has prevailed. Even as we conversate here this afternoon, specialistically trained soldiers of our occupationary army are engaged in rounding up the final outposters of savaged Injun resistance, and securifying the safeliness and prosperitude of all peace-loving white folks in this, the overwhelmingless countryside of this great country.
In this historific battle, we’ve succeeded in successfully mortalizing our once immortified enemies. Now, having boldly cast an imperminable security blanket over the uplifting heads of our people, we can truly call ourselves the “Pacifiers of the Plains.” Our proudly nationalistic nation is proud of what has been accompliced here in Montana, as well as in the Blank Hills of Dakota. With the help of a few more-or-less civilified Indian alliancers, it is you, the men of the United States Calvary, who have achieved this outstandish achievement.
All that’s left for you brave combatters to do now is to mop up the remaining remnants of terroristic tribalousness, and incarcinate them somewhere where they won’t be able to practice their escapist tactics on themselves, each other, or anywhere else in the world.
As of today, I can report to you we’ve got em on the run. Crazy Horse - known to us all as “The Great Evilizer” - may have temporaneously slipped through the captivating fingers of our calvarymen, but we have a pretty good idea where he’s hiding, and when we find the smoked-filled sweat lodging where he and his fellow sweaters smoke their peace-pipe of war, we’re gonna smoke him outta there, post partum.
That’s right, we’re gonna ask first, and shoot questions later. As we say back in New Haven “you can’t use two stones to kill one bird without breaking a few eggs”…
As for the brutal Dictator of Dakota himself, his days, too, are closing to a draw. We simply can’t sit still while Sitting Bull still sits seated in his seat of power. For far too long, he has prevented his people from seeking the sanctionary of the reservation. Instead, he has subjectioned them to the most uncivilianized and humidifying forms of degradiation ever devised. Indivisibly and as a group, they have been forced to watch their loved ones insidiated in his hogans of horror, his teepees of torture, and his wigwams of wape.
Behind me, you are beholden a red and gold banner that reads “Go, Redskins!”, and I couldn’t disagree less with those strivant words if I tried, and believe me I have. But just killing Injuns is only half the omission. We’ll need to stay here long after the last nativistic terrorizers have been placified and the causes of the inservancy surpressed. Infrastructively, we still have much to do.
With the help of good-fearing ministers in missionary positions all over the prairie, we will put an end to pornification and bestiopathy once and for all in these parts, whether pubic or private.
With the help of our medicinal doctors, we will educate these ignoramic savages about Pharmacopial science, releasing them from their reliance on primitive herbal treatments like birch bark for headaches and foxglove for heart disease in favor of modern 19th Century wonder drugs like creosote and mercury. Instead of practicing primational cures like singing off-key to sick people, they will learn new and improved techniques of restoring the body’s magmanistic balance through the use of galvanizing neck braces and electrically-charged underwear.
In short, we will bring the benefits of 19th Century technostrophe to the prolifically plain people of the plains, the underbellied and the overblown, the downloading masses yawning to be free…
Unfortunately, the document becomes mostly illegible at this point, what with all the bullet holes, smoke-damage and coagulated blood-stains obscuring the beautifully florid calligraphy. It seems that during the final stirring passages of this inspiring (but somewhat premature) declaration of victory, several thousand uninvited guests arrived from over the ridge to question Colonel Bush about his plans for an exit strategy. Evidently, the platitudinous answers he provided them proved inadequate to assuage their concerns…