Government Cost Savings circa 1876

Appropos the current shutdown of the Defense Department, there was much arguing over the defense budget in 1966.  “News” stories appeared on bulletin boards all around the Pentagon. The Washington Post published one as shown below.


The Washington Post June 18, 1966


Large Savings Achieved by Field Commander in West

July 1, 1876


Defense officials have lauded General George Armstrong Custer, commander of the 7th Cavalry, for his decision to save money by not taking the new Gatling guns into the field during his annual campaign in the Dakota Territories against the Blackfeet and Sioux.


Custer’s decision is expected to save $1760.00 in feed for horses to pull the wheeled Gatlings as well as $48.50 additional maintenance if the new and delicate weapons were exposed to dust and field conditions.



For those whose history was not formed by western movies, Gatling guns were early machine guns and the Sioux and Blackfeet wiped out Custer and his command.


  1. #1 by Mike Marquardt on October 10, 2013 - 7:39 pm

    Interesting on how what were considered “wise” decisions are utterly dismal. Dr. Boswell, thanks for sharing, and I look forward to many interesting stories, insights and musings that will be appearing on your blog in the years ahead!

    • #2 by John Boswell on October 11, 2013 - 1:47 pm

      Mike, thanks for the support. I so enjoyed my interaction with these very interesting-and bright-people that I felt a real loss at not being able to continue interacting with them. So far this is great-I hope to be able to continue it.

  2. #3 by Janet White on October 10, 2013 - 7:57 pm


    I was delighted to see you and hear your thoughts during the ELP 25th Anniversary celebrations.

    I was also very glad to see you had an iPad with you. I guess the iPod that ELP19 gave you at the end of class encouraged you to venture out into the world of technology more…and now a blog! Way to go!

    On another note – even as a gov’t employee I see the need for cutting costs! I think Custard had the rightr idea. We’ve gotten too big for our britches! What is really essential?

    • #4 by John Boswell on October 11, 2013 - 1:50 pm

      Dear Janet, hang on. I have a note from Thomas Jefferson coming up.

  3. #5 by Phil Schaper on October 10, 2013 - 8:05 pm

    Dr. Boswell: Are irreverent comments permitted, i.e., Did you suggest to Gen. Custer that he should avail himself of the new technology?


    • #6 by John Boswell on October 11, 2013 - 1:44 pm

      Dear Phil, I am not admitting that I was around, but I did not provide advice to Gen Custer.

  4. #7 by Ron Sheffield on October 10, 2013 - 8:10 pm

    Oh my, a terrible error marked by arrogance and a need to let money rule the day. This decision was however marked as a day of triumph, though a needlessly violent moment, in the history of Native Americans.

    As my tribe and many other indigenous people will attest: arrogance and greed can push at least 1 group of Americans down a rocky road often peppered with pain.

    My mom, a full-blooded Native, was an Elder of the Quechan Tribe of Fort Yuma Arizona. Her words stand true as I reflect on the current state of the Government shutdown. When I asked my mom about questioning our Elders for my research she proclaimed, “Son, be careful what you ask and be prepared to hear nothing.”

    • #8 by John Boswell on October 11, 2013 - 2:03 pm

      Ron, since I was a child and became aware of our treatment of native Americans I have been angry when the topic comes up. I began teaching by riding to work with a full blooded Indian (as she styled herself) woman. She could not identify herself as Indian because it was against the law in Virginia for Indians to teach in public schools. One of the more satisfying events that my father told me about concerned the remains of a tribe in eastern N C that had intermarried to some extent with slaves. They, of course, went to segregated schools which were dismal. Sometime around 1920 they had had enough of that and at the opening of school one school year they simply showed up at white schools and sat down in the proper classroom. They had a reputation of being “mean as snakes” and no one made a move to get them out. By the time my father told me this story, only they knew who they were.

  5. #9 by Margaret Gorman Kirchoff on October 10, 2013 - 8:21 pm

    Hello John. You never sease to amaze me, your passion for conversation and idea exchange is inspirational. And reflecting upon yesterday’s Wall Street Journal education subsection on the emerging directions of these alternative platforms via social media, it seems fitting we meet here. I think MOOC might be next experiment

    • #10 by John Boswell on October 11, 2013 - 2:06 pm

      Margaret, don’t get to far ahead of yourself (and me). I have two hand holders keeping me up to speed here. But, I think its great.

  6. #11 by Ralph Soule on October 11, 2013 - 1:53 am

    From what I gather reading web sources (not authoritative, I know), Custer did not take the Gatling guns into the field because he felt they would slow him down. Cost had nothing to do with it so I guess this is just a sardonic slant (nothing wrong with that per se) by the Post. I saw a quote in a story about the defense budget today that was just as amusing, “We did the Strategic Choices and Management Review, briefed Hill leadership and others [about the impact of $500B cuts over ten years] and nothing seemed to happen even though we painted a pretty dire picture of the world.”

    • #12 by John Boswell on October 11, 2013 - 2:33 pm

      Ralph, we seem to be in the hands of ideologues-I’m right so get out of the way.

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