We try to approach every typing with a ‘beginner’s mind’, disregarding what we think we know of a person’s personality based on their popular persona. Even so, it is difficult to shake all prejudice, as we learn anew whenever we type someone like General Custer who really surprises us.
As the story goes, Custer was an audacious daredevil with a gung-ho approach who ended up taking one risk too many, infamously meeting his end in the showdown known as ‘Custer’s Last Stand.’ However, it may well be that this spectacular finale to Custer’s career has overshadowed the remainder of his career and permanently branded him as the Johnny Knoxville of warfare.
When we look beyond the myth and at the actual man, we do not find evidence that Custer had ES-P preferences. In reading his book ‘My Life on the Plains’ we find that it is not an exciting pageturner so much as an exhaustively – even obligingly – detailed account of his years of interaction with the Indians on the prairie. For at least 90% of the narrative, Custer relates the specific goings-on in undiscriminating detail, recording every fact of his dramatic encounters with the Indians as conscientiously as he reports every fact of the daily logistics. The narrative is full of passages like the following:
“On the same day our train of wagons set out for Fort Wallace to obtain supplies. Colonel West with one full squadron of cavalry was ordered to escort the train to Beaver Creek, about midway, and there halt with one of his companies, while the train, under escort of one company commanded by Lieutenant Robbins, should proceed to the fort and return – Colonel West to employ the interval in scouting up and down Beaver Creek. The train was under the special management of Colonel Cooke who on this occasion was acting in the capacity of a staff officer.”
From the consistent level of detail, it would be most reasonable to assume that Si is dominant in Custer’s psyche. In fact, his offering could serve as a stock example of Si being the cognitive function that focuses on getting to know each individual tree in order that one may, from the aggregate, know the forest. This bottom-up way of understanding things is painstaking and slow, but it has the advantage that it is thorough and trustworthy and leaves little room for guesswork. Indeed at one point he explains his writing style as follows: “I am thus minute in giving these details in order that the events … may appear in their proper light.”
So far we have spoken of the manner of Custer’s expression. But there is also evidence of Si dominance in the content of Custer’s writing. Military commanders who use Se tend to find combat thrilling* (e.g. Churchill, Mussolini, Alexander) and in their memoirs (if they have them) they attribute their daring exploits to the pleasure they naturally find in taking risks and navigating danger. And conversely, they often confess to feelings of restlessness and impatience during times of peace. As the quotes provided on our website show, this thrill-seeking attitude is wholly foreign to Custer’s psyche. By a long shot, Custer prefers peace and quiet, the logistics and camp life, and when he talks of his courage, he professes that it stems from a sense of duty and a desire to serve his superiors (whereas, by contrast, Churchill’s attitude to taking orders in the military was quite different as he wrote: “I resolved that as soon as [possible] I would free myself from all discipline and authority, and set up in perfect independence … with nobody to give me orders or arouse me by bell or trumpet.”) .
Furthermore, in chapter 2 of Custer’s book, he takes up the pen to argue against a newspaper’s accusation that the army is eager for war. In his reply, Custer describes the comforts that soldiers enjoy in peacetime and which they have to give up wartime, and he also laments that a military campaign against the Native American Indians is an impossible affair for the soldier who is not a gung-ho bravado, but who “strives to win the approving smile of his countrymen”. For as Custer would have it, if the army wins a battle, they will be criticized for slaughtering the Indians, and if they lose, it is shameful – and in either case the soldier of course risks his life.
* For an example of an Se type professing to find combat thrilling, one could look, for example, at Churchill, who in 1893 wrote: “[Military training] was thrilling. It did seem such a pity that it all had to be make-believe, and that the age of wars between civilized nations had come to an end for ever. If it had only been 100 years earlier what splendid times we should have had! Fancy being nineteen in 1793 with more than twenty years of war against Napoleon in front of one!”
Finally, it is worth noting that we are not the first to challenge the perception of Custer as a daredevil. Here is a quote by Marguerite Merington, who was a friend of Custer’s wife:
This expedition Captain Custer was detailed to lead, with a view to capturing the pickets and holding the north bank. Custer accordingly waded the stream, trying out its treacherous bed up and down for the best part of a mile. This was characteristic of Custer’s method: the meticulously careful preparation, the sure, cautious approach, the sudden surprise attack. When biographers describe him as ‘dashing,’ they do scant justice to the solid basis for that spectacular climax. In warfare Custer was the perfect artist, building results on sound technique.
In this way you could say he is the Tiger Woods of warfare.