5 Geniuses Whose Careers Peaked at a Shockingly Young Age

#2. George Armstrong Custer Was a General at 23

Wikipedia/US Army

Here's a thing everyone remembers about General George Armstrong Custer: He got his ass handed to him at the battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876. Here's a thing no one ever seems to notice: the guy was only 35 at the time.

Since modern day generals tend to be on the older side, and our minds tend to picture Civil War era leaders in the white-whiskered Colonel Sanders fashion, we tend to assume that esteemed military leaders of the olden times were at least in their 40s. However, by the time Custer realized the Indian force was slightly stronger than he was prepared to deal with, he had already been a general for nearly 13 years. Yes, this means the dude became a general when he was only 23 years old, which is a year earlier than even Napoleon Bonaparte himself could pull off.

US Army
Even Custer's horse was older than him.

Not that he wasn't a stereotypical slacker, because he was -- he graduated last in his class at West Point, and lived his life there in a constant competition to see who could rack up most demerits while still somehow graduating. Whoever he was up against, Custer definitely won. His 726 demerits were just one shy from expulsion. To add insult to injury, Custer was also one of the biggest fops in military history. Contemporaries described him as "one of the funniest-looking beings you ever saw," and he often went into battle wearing fancy outfits and long, curly blond hair.

Still, sometimes the kid in lavish clothing on the battlefield turns out to be a superhero. Despite his youth, awful grades and habit to dress like the Civil War was a tea party, Custer managed to impress officers with the kind of courage that is often difficult to distinguish from sheer madness and/or stupidity. The man knew no fear on a battlefield, becoming a hero at Gettysburg and serving continuously throughout the war, from the First Battle of Bull Run up to Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox.

"So, Bob, how does it feel to know that history will best remember you for getting your ass kicked? Ha ha!"

Custer ended the war as the youngest major general in the U.S. Army, and there's no telling what he could have become had, you know, a certain incident not ended his career.

#1. Andrew Jackson Was A Badass (and/or Madman) from Birth On

In many ways, Andrew Jackson was nothing but a Batman who thought costumes were for pussies and who ditched that Bruce Wayne crap at an early age so he could straight-up become vengeance. How early an age? Really, pick your number, because Old Hickory was a tougher man at birth than most of us can ever hope to become.

His placenta was made of callouses.

In fact, he had Batman already beat at birth. Instead of the whole "billionaire with murdered parents" jazz, Jackson was born into crushing poverty in the American wilderness and with his father already dead. He had no time for adolescence, what with the American Revolution breaking out and all, so he decided to skip that shit and started serving in the local militia as a courier. He became a POW at 13, an orphan at 14, and the sole survivor of his entire family by the war's end. As a consolation prize, he gained an archenemy: all of goddamn Britain. British soldiers had mistreated Jackson during his time as a war prisoner, and he blamed them for the deaths of his mother and two brothers.

With the war over and his family gone, a teenage Jackson decided the only thing left to do was to become even more of a grown-up and as quickly as possible. Despite having little schooling, he hit the books, becoming a lawyer at 20, a solicitor at 21, and then a freaking U.S. Senator at 30. Despite enjoying the distinction of being the youngest senator in Congress' then-history, Jackson resigned less than a year later to become a judge in the State Supreme Court of Tennessee at 31. And so it went.

"I don't even know what the hell a 'Grand Moff' is, but I'll sure as shit take the post."

Oh, and remember that deep-seated hatred he had against the British? He nurtured it for a full 15 years until he unleashed it in full, terrifying force in the Battle of Orleans in 1814; thus, earning a reputation that would eventually catapult him in the White House in the process. Yes, Andrew Jackson patiently waited 15 years to beat his childhood archenemy up so badly, it made him President.

Still, presumably he held back a little, seeing as Britain still exists.

If he killed them all, what would he have to hate then?

Jacopo asks that you read this exclusive, online-only chapter for his upcoming book THE GREAT ABRAHAM LINCOLN POCKET WATCH CONSPIRACY, which you can preorder today! Matthew has a twitter here and a blog here.

Related Reading: Sometimes, great geniuses turn out to just be great nutjobs- Pythagoras was convinced beans were evil. If you're interested in what separates the geniuses from the jerkwads, well- reading this might help. And hey, let's not praise Einstein's genius without pointing out what a gigantic pervert he was.

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