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There are those in Washington who believe the West will never be settled, the Northern Pacific Railroad will never breach Nebraska, a hostile Lakota will never submit to providence. And it is that manner of small thinking that would say this horse could never be broken. Discipline, time and patience, are the three great levelers.
~ The Colonel.

George Armstrong Custer, or better known as The Colonel, is the main antagonist of DreamWorks' sixth full-length animated feature film Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (sometimes called Spirit).

He was voiced by James Cromwell, who also played Robert Callaghan in Big Hero 6, Dr. Arthur Arden in American Horror Story: Asylum, Captain Dudley Smith in L.A. Confidential, Joseph Campbell in The General's Daughter, William Donahue in Eraser and Warden Hazen in the 2005 remake of The Longest Yard.

Personality

The Colonel (who is loosely based on the nonfictional Colonel George Custer because of similar appearance and behavior) is the commander of a cavalry battalion (presumably the 7th cavalry which is what Custer commanded). Like most Americans who expand the west and his real-life counterpart, he is completely prideful and bigoted towards Native Americans and believes that the United States is destined to dominate all of the Western areas of North America. He possesses a calm and calculating attitude and rarely loses his patience. However, he’s a relentless horseback rider and a strict disciplinarian, as shown when he denies Spirit food or water for three days after numerous failed attempts at breaking him. He is also shown to be bellicose in battle, as demonstrated when he ambushed a Lakota village, endangering not just the warriors, but the unarmed women and children.

However, the Colonel also appears to have at least some sense of honor and humility if he realizes he has been beaten, as shown after Spirit and Little Creek got away by jumping the Grand Canyon. Realizing he has lost, he tells his men to stand down and depart, even nodding in recognition.

Biography

First Confrontation

The Colonel met Spirit after the treacherous gang of wranglers brought him to his army base. The Colonel orders his men to bring him to a blacksmith named Murphy for him to be tamed, only for him to get severely beaten by the wild mustang. The Colonel then takes Spirit to the corral and tries to have his soldiers break him, but all attempts fail miserably. The Colonel then orders his men to tie up Spirit and deprive him of any food or water for three days as punishment for his defiance. During those three days, the Colonel is introduced to a Lakota tribesman named Little Creek, who was caught and arrested by his men for stealing supplies from the base. The Colonel then orders his soldiers to tie up Little Creek to the post and deprive him of any food or water as well. When Spirit's three days were up, the Colonel nearly succeeds in breaking Spirit. As the Colonel proudly boasts about his apparent success, Spirit quickly regains his confidence and manages to throw the Colonel off his back. As the Colonel gets back up, he notices the other cavalry horses cheering for Spirit's victory and tries to shoot the mustang. However, Little Creek manages to free himself and stop the Colonel before escaping with Spirit and the other cavalry horses.

Second Confrontation

The Colonel and his men got more horses and launched a surprise attack on a Lakota village. Ironically, the village he was attacking was Little Creek's village. Rain (whom Spirit had strong feelings for) came to Little Creek's aid and ran against the Colonel, but she gets mortally wounded by the Colonel and is swept away by a river. The Colonel then tried to kill Little Creek, but Spirit knocked the Colonel off his horse. The Colonel was surprised at Spirit's coincidental reappearance, while Spirit ran to rescue Rain. As Spirit lay by Rain's side, the Colonel's soldiers capture him and take him away to a railway station to have him transported to the construction site of the Northern Pacific Railroad, while leaving Rain to die. However, Spirit destroys the railroad once he realizes that it was going to invade his homeland and escapes the construction site with Little Creek after he came to rescue him in exchange for saving his life.

Final Confrontation

The Colonel and his Cavalry unit accidentally found Spirit and Little Creek in the Grand Canyon the next day after the destruction of the Northern Pacific Railroad. A dangerous chase is ensued and Spirit and Little Creek manage to knock out a few soldiers before being cornered by the Colonel. However, the pair successfully manage to escape their pursuers as Spirit leaps across the canyon, amazing the Colonel. One of his men raised his rifle to shoot at the pair, but the Colonel stopped him. Both exchanged nods of recognition and the Colonel left quietly with his men.

Quotes

The Colonel: What seems to be the problem, gentlemen?

Sergeant Adams: We got us a crazy one here, sir.
Soldier: Real mustang, Colonel.
The Colonel: Really? [examines Spirit.] The Army has dealt with wild horses before. This one will be no different. [Spirit bites his staff.] Induct this animal, Sergeant.
Sergeant Adams: Yes, sir.

~ The Colonel ordering his soldiers to have Spirit tamed by Murphy.
Sergeant Adams: Uh, Corporal, round up some volunteers to take this animal to the stables.

The Colonel: Not the stables.
Sergeant Adams: Sir?
The Colonel: The corral. It's time to break that horse.

~ The Colonel ordering his soldiers to break Spirit after Murphy's failed attempts to tame him.
The Colonel: Sergeant!

Sergeant Adams: Yes, sir.
The Colonel: Tie this horse to the post. No food or water. Three days.
Sergeant Adams: Yes, sir.

~ The Colonel ordering his soldiers to deprive Spirit of any food or water for three days.
Sergeant Adams: We got a hostile! Bring him back this way! [the soldiers bring Little Creek to the Colonel.]

The Colonel: Well, what do we have here?
Sergeant Adams: We caught him by the supply wagons, sir.
The Colonel: Ah, a Lakota. Not as tall as the Cheyenne, not as fine-featured as the Crow. Take him away, gentlemen. Show him our best.
Sergeant Adams: Corporal, take him to the stockades.
The Colonel: Not the stockades. The post. No food or water.

~ The Colonel capturing and imprisoning Little Creek.
Sergeant Adams: With the Colonel's permission, sir. Incoming patrol reports hostiles headed north.

The Colonel: Ah.
Sergeant Adams: The railroad has expressed concern, sir. They've requested additional patrols.
The Colonel: How long has it been, Sergeant?
Sergeant Adams: Sir?
The Colonel: The mustang. How long has it been tied?
Sergeant Adams: Three days, sir.
The Colonel: Good. Fetch my crop and spurs.

~ The Colonel ordering Sergeant Adams to prepare him to break Spirit.
You see, gentlemen, any horse can be broken. Move along, mustang.
~ The Colonel boasting about his apparent success in breaking Spirit.
Soldier, secure that horse!
~ The Colonel after failing to break Spirit.
I don't believe it.
~ The Colonel surprised to see Spirit and Little Creek at the Grand Canyon.

Gallery

Images

Videos

Trivia

  • His real name "George Armstrong Custer" is never mentioned in the film.
  • Although he is the main antagonist, he has little screen time due to the majority of Spirit's scenes focus on him with the Cimmaron horses, Rain, or Little Creek.
  • Gene Hackman was considered for the role of the Colonel.
  • In real life, during the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Custer and the 7th Cavalry attacked Sitting Bull's village but were overwhelmed by thousands of Lakota warriors and killed in the battle, making it one of the most significant military defeats the U.S. suffered during the Sioux wars, which would eventually lead to the infamous Wounded Knee massacre of 1890 in retaliation for Custer's defeat. It was unknown if that event happened after the events of the film, as the Lakota warriors were one of the main protagonists during the film.
  • The scene where the Colonel attacks Little Creek's village was likely inspired by the Battle of Washita River of 1868, in which Custer led an attack on a Cheyenne camp under Black Kettle and killed approximately 150 natives before capturing 53 women and children.

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