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The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and…
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The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn (edition 2011)

by Nathaniel Philbrick

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1,0223112,004 (3.98)48
Member:jonathanpfeeney
Title:The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn
Authors:Nathaniel Philbrick
Info:Penguin Books (2011), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 496 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
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The Last Stand : Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn by Nathaniel Philbrick (Author)

  1. 10
    Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West by Dee Brown (foof2you)
    foof2you: This book is a good place to start if you are interested in the America Indian and their plight in America.
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Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
Philbrick is an excellent writer. He presents a balanced and very readable narrative of the famous battle, as well as its aftermath. ( )
  ArtRodrigues | Aug 8, 2018 |
This is definitely the best book I have read about the Little Bighorn. At last I feel I fully understand what actually happened, the chronology of the battle, the mistakes Custer made, the actions of Reno and Benteen and the often glossed over fact that while Custer's entire command died, more than 200 soldiers miraculously survived 2 days of siege by up to 4000 Indians. Philbrick presents Custer as brave and dashing, but tactically inept and terrible at man management, he seemed to have a knack of making enemies. All of the 3 key commanders on the day made significant errors. Philbrick highlights that Custer had, against the odds, succeeded in the catching the Indians by surprise, but squandered the advantage by splitting his command and then failing to charge the Indians when they were panicked and confused.. Reno had the chance to charge right through the startled Indians but hesitated and the advantage was lost, after which he proceeded to get drunk. Benteen detested Custer and failed to come to his aid as ordered, but partially redeemed himself by leading the heroic defence of Reno Hill. Philbrick doesn't just look at the commanders though, he make the book very readable by giving the stories of individual soldiers and Indians. Its is an intensely personal account where you can feel the fear and confusion, the heat and the dust, the pain of wounds and the finality of death. Philbrick has done a great job of marrying a strategic account of the battle with individual stories, it is really a great read. ( )
  drmaf | May 2, 2018 |
Nathaniel Philbrick is one of my favorite historians and I have enjoyed his books more than most. I gave this book a shot because he wrote it but I had little to no interest in Custer or the Battle of Little Big Horn. Despite being a fantastic writer, I could not get into this book at all. I felt like it dragged quite a bit and even when it came to the climactic pages of the final battle, I was still not all that interested. I think people who want to know more about Custer or Sitting Bull would really enjoy this book, but it just wasn't for me. ( )
  msaucier818 | Apr 9, 2018 |
The Last Stand is the best book I’ve read so far about the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Author Nathaniel Philbrick is noted for books on maritime events; he observes (and comments that other historians have also noted) that warfare on the Great Plains was somewhat similar to navigation on the open ocean. This turns out to be one of many strong points in the book; other accounts focus on the actual day of the Last Stand, June 25th, but Philbrick shows the complete tracks of the various US Army and Lakota groups as they moved through Montana Territory in the days leading up to the battle as if they were opposing fleets searching for each other on the ocean.

Custer’s image has changed from glorious hero to clueless fanatic over the years; Philbrick certainly doesn’t consider him a glorious hero but notes Custer’s aggressiveness had served him well right up to the day that it didn’t; in particular, he comments that Custer’s cavalry charges against J.E.B. Stuart on the third day of Gettysburg prevented Stuart from breaking into the Union rear at the same time Pickett’s division was attacking the front, and thus may have won the battle for the Union. Philbrick also notes that Sitting Bull had a “Last Stand” of his own, killed in 1890 while being arrested by Lakota police for supposedly supporting the Ghost Dance movement.

I’d always assumed that the battle was lost from the very beginning, but Philbrick notes Lakota interviewed after the battle commented that that if Major Marcus Reno on the right had pressed forward in his original charge or if Custer in the center had charged as soon as he came up, the 7th cavalry might have won by breaking into the village and taking the women and children hostage. Custer has been criticized for splitting his command in two, but the Lakota thought it was genius as the two columns converged on their village. Reno stopped short and deployed skirmishers (a move that temporarily confused Sitting Bull, who thought it might have been preliminary to negotiations – which he was willing to undertake). Reno then downed the better part of a bottle of whiskey and retreated to a defensive position, where he held out – or more accurately, Captain Frederick Benteen held out while Reno drank – until the Lakota, never good at assaulting a prepared position, gave up and left the next day.

On Custer’s side of the battle, some have speculated he may have waited to see the results of Reno’s attack before making his own – possibly out of prudence – uncharacteristic for him, or possibly to gain more glory for himself. There’s conflicting reports from witnesses over whether or not Custer was seriously wounded very early in the battle. On this side, the decisive move came from Crazy Horse, who led his own charge into a large group of 7th cavalry soldiers and disrupted them; Philbrick speculates if Custer’s battalion had stayed organized a little bit longer the troopers might have been able to set up a defensive position like Benteen’s and hold out (indeed, Lakota commented after the battle that if Custer troops had fought as well as Benteen’s they would have survived).

A fluid and easy read. Numerous well-done maps (I admit this is sort of a fetish for me). Photographs of the participants and “ledger drawings” of the battle by the Lakota. Appendices with orders of battle for both sides. The Index seems sparse; I wasn’t able to find a couple of things I was looking for. But overall highly recommended. ( )
2 vote setnahkt | Mar 7, 2018 |
I really enjoy Philbrick's ability to bring history to life. This is the first book that I read of his that isn't about the sea, so I was curious to see how it would be different from the other stories I had read. I wasn't disappointed. I would recommend this to anyone interested in the history of the old west. ( )
  ktlavender | Jul 17, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 31 (next | show all)
Why does Custer persist? Nearly 134 years after his last stand, a military debacle that cost the lives of all 210 men under his immediate command, George Armstrong Custer remains such an iconic figure in the American pageant that mere mention of his name evokes an entirely overromanticized era in the American West. By all rights he should be a footnote. That he enjoys the glory of single-name recognition is a testament to the power of personality, show business and savvy public relations. Custer wasn’t just an Indian fighter. He was one of the first self-made American celebrities.
added by ozzer | editNew York Times, BRUCE BARCOTT (Jun 10, 2010)
 
A great strength of this book is its use of eye-witness accounts of that chaotic day – particularly those of the Indians who saw the battle as a great victory – although the sequence does jump back and forth somewhat confusingly at times.
 
Experts may find more to quarrel with here than I did. But even if Philbrick has everything right, that doesn't make The Last Stand the "definitive" book on the Little Bighorn, any more than Connell's was. There clearly ain't no such animal, and never will be. What may be most to this one's credit is a humanity that can make even inveterate Custer-haters pity the men who got stuck following him, as did at least one Sioux warrior at the time. "I felt really sorry for them, they looked so frightened," Standing Bear later told his son. "Many of them lay on the ground, with their blue eyes open, waiting to be killed."
 
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Epigraph
Maybe nothing ever happens once and is finished.
Maybe happen is never once but like ripples maybe on
water after the pebble sinks, the ripples moving on,
spreading, the pool attached by a narrow umbilical
water-cord, to the next pool which the first pool feeds,
has fed, did feed, let this second pool contain a different
temperature of water, a different molecularity of having
seen, felt, remembered, reflect in a different tone the
infinite unchanging sky, it doesn't matter: that pebble's
watery echo whose fall it did not even see moves across
its surface too at the original ripple-space, to the old
ineradicable rhythm.

-WILLIAM FAULKNER, Absalom, Absalom!
Dedication
To Melissa
First words
High up in his floating tower, Captain Grant Marsh guided the riverboat Far West toward Fort Lincoln, the home of Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and the U.S. Army's Seventh Cavalry.
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The bestselling author of "Mayflower" sheds new light on one of the iconic stories of the American West, reminding readers that the Battle of the Little Bighorn was also, even in victory, the last stand for the Sioux and Cheyenne Indian nations.

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