George M. Randall was born in Ohio, but he spent his youth in Norristown. It was in Norristown that he began his military career at the age twenty when President Lincoln called for volunteers at the beginning of the Civil War. He joined the 4th Pennsylvania Volunteers under Colonel John F. Hartranft for a 90 day enlistment. When the regiment was disbanded just before the Battle of Bull Run, Randall joined the regular army in the 4th United States Infantry Regiment. He saw action at Antietam and in siege of Petersburg.
Randall ended the war a captain in the regular army and decided to make the military his career. He was sent west to fight in the Indian Wars and served for a time with General Custer as his chief of scouts. He was not with Custer at the time of the Battle of Little Big Horn. At one point he was captured by a Native American tribe and condemned to be burned at the stake, but he was saved by the intervention of the chief of another tribe. In 1870, that chief was among six captive chiefs that Randall brought on a tour of Philadelphia and Norristown. This was typical strategy of the U.S. government to convince the Native Americans of the strength of the United States and futility of further resistance. The chiefs were shown several sights in Norristown and always attracted a curious crowd.
At the end of the 19th century, Randall was sent up to Alaska as thousands made their way north for the Gold Rush. There, he organized the military department of Alaska and laid the first telegraph line greatly improving communication with the rest of the United States.
When the army was reorganized in 1901, he was made a Brigadier General. After Alaska he served in various places throughout the country and in the Philippines from 1903 to 1905. He retired from the army in 1905 and settled in Denver, CO, where he died in 1918.
But his story wasn’t quite over. In 1944 the USS General George M. Randall was launched. It was a troop transport that was mainly active in the Pacific. During the Korean War (1950-1953), the USS General George M. Randall was the first ship to return the remains of Americans killed in action to the United States. It was also the ship that, a few years later, brought Elvis Presley to his post in Germany. The ship was decommissioned in 1961.Sources: Times Herald, July 28, 1937, March 7, 1945, March 19,1951; http://www.navsource.org/archives/09/22/22115.htm