You might already be aware that I like to look at history. I don’t know that I’d call it study, the thing that I do. I just sometimes get an urge to add a little bit more understanding to my knowledge of some event, or era, or whatever.
I grew up watching my father, typically enough for a small boy, fascinated by all the stuff the greatest man in the world knew and could do. I learned a lot from my father that way, because there’s practically no limit to his ability to fuck things up. Once I got that bit figured, the rest was valuable observation of a grossly negative example. There’s a lot of that in history, too.
One of my favorite case studies in fuckuppery is General George Armstrong Custer, also known in his day as Ringlets because the narcissistic little prick was particularly proud of his hair.
Ringlets couldn’t be proud of his scholastic achievement, having been dead last in his class at West Point. And of course we all know what became of him at Little Big Horn. His career up until then was not quite so disastrous. He was known as a hard-charger. He was also big on self-promotion, often inviting newspaper reporters to come along to his battles. He wanted everyone to know that he was some kind of great man.
Ringlets was also involved in the Civil War, and became one of the youngest generals in the Union army. They were simply short on officers so would make generals out of anyone who’d ever eaten lunch with someone qualified for the job. One hint of Ringlets’ narcissism came in his report after a battle near Gettysburg:
I challenge the annals of warfare to produce a more brilliant or successful charge of cavalry.
He’d just suffered the greatest loss in the war of any Union cavalry brigade.
Onward to the funny stuff. Here’s a photo of Lincoln and some senior officers at Antietam, one that’s been in my collection for many years as one of my relatives is in it:
Ringlets is in the photo. He’s the guy to the right, in front of the tent, and obviously not among the senior officers. It’s kinda like he snuck in there just to get himself into the photo, isn’t it? I’ve always thought it looked that way. Look at me! Look at me! I once stood within twenty feet of Lincoln!
Take a closer look. Amethyst and I did just that last night and saw some things that we’ve never noticed before. Custer appears to have too many legs, at least two right legs. And between the corner of the tent and the chair nearby there’s some kind of ghostly apparition. In those early days of photography they used very long exposure times, which is why you will often see strange looking eyes on people — they blinked during the exposure. Take a closer look at a really big version of the photo… I’ll wait.
Didja look? Looking at Ringlets’ feet, yeah, he was moving around during the (two or three seconds of) exposure which everyone of the day knew better than to do. It seems consistent with the notion that he’d just got there and was getting settled into place. They didn’t do snapshots then… those who were invited to be in photographs were posed before the photographer removed the lens cap. But check out that ghost. It’s walking toward Custer and wearing a glove on its left (nearest the camera) hand. The only one in the photo wearing a glove is Ringlets, just one, on his left hand.
The narcissistic little prick photobombed himself into history!