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The army has dealt with wild horses before. This one will be no different.
~ The Colonel examining Spirit.
I don't believe it.
~ The Colonel's last words.

George Armstrong Custer, or better known as The Colonel, is the main antagonist of DreamWorks' 6th 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 Disney's Big Hero 6, Dr. Arthur Arden in American Horror Story: Asylum, Captain Dudley Liam 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 off of the real life 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 arrogant and xenophobic 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 temper. However, he is a ruthless 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 aggressive in battle, as demonstrated when he attacked a Lakota village, endangering not just the warriors, but the unarmed villagers.

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 escaped by jumping the Grand Canyon. Realizing he has lost, he orders his men to stand down and leave, even nodding in recognition.

History

First Confrontation

The Colonel met Spirit after the traitorous gang of wranglers brought him to his army base. Despite the mustang's wild behavior, he ordered his men to break him; but all attempts had failed. The Colonel orders Spirit to be tied to a post and denied food and water for three days as punishment for defiance. During those three days, the Colonel was introduced to Little Creek, a Lakota tribesman who was caught stealing supplies and weapons from the base. He had him tied up to a post with no food or water as well. When Spirit's three days were up, the Colonel tried to break him himself, and he almost succeeded. But Spirit gained his confidence back and threw the Colonel off. Enraged, the Colonel tried to kill Spirit with a Colt Revolver, but Little Creek saved Spirit and they escaped along with the Cavalry horses.

Second Confrontation

The Colonel and his men got more horses and launched a surprise attack on a Lakota Village. Unbeknownst to the Colonel, the village he was attacking was Little Creek's village. Little Creek confronted the Colonel, but his horse Rain (whom Spirit had strong feelings for) was shot by the Colonel. 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. His men then captured Spirit and sent him to a railway station while they leave Rain to die.

Final Confrontation and Redemption

He and his Cavalry unit accidentally found Spirit and Little Creek in the Grand Canyon, after the mustang had destroyed the Northern Pacific Railway when it found out it was going to invade his homeland. After a dangerous chase, Spirit and Little Creek escaped by literally jumping over the Grand Canyon. This act amazed the Colonel. One of his men tried to shoot Spirit, but the Colonel stopped him. Both exchanged nods of recognition and the Colonel left quietly with his men.

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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.

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