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Custer's Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America (2015)

by T. J. Stiles

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246781,413 (4.28)19
A new biography of Gen. George Armstrong Custer that radically changes our view of the man and his turbulent times. Historian T. J. Stiles paints a portrait of Custer both deeply personal and sweeping in scope, proving how much of Custer's legacy has been ignored. He demolishes Custer's historical caricature, revealing a volatile, contradictory, intense person--capable yet insecure, intelligent yet bigoted, passionate yet self-destructive, a romantic individualist at odds with the institution of the military (he was court-martialed twice in six years). The key to understanding Custer, Stiles writes, is keeping in mind that he lived on a frontier in time. During Custer's lifetime, Americans saw their world remade. In the Civil War, the West, and many areas overlooked in previous biographies, Custer helped to create modern America, but he could never adapt to it. His admirers saw him as the embodiment of the nation's gallant youth, of all that they were losing; his detractors despised him for resisting a more complex and promising future. He freed countless slaves, yet rejected new civil rights laws. He proved his heroism, but missed the dark reality of war for so many others. Native Americans fascinated him, but he could not see them as fully human. Intimate, dramatic, and provocative, this biography captures the larger story of the changing nation in Custer's tumultuous marriage to his highly educated wife, Libbie; their complicated relationship with Eliza Brown, the forceful black woman who ran their household; as well as his battles and expeditions. It casts surprising new light on a near-mythic American figure.--Adapted from book jacket.… (more)
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A biography that looks at the life of George Armstrong Custer. Very fair, I thought, in the treatment of Custer's life. Looking at his warts and all show the complexity of his life and times. ( )
  foof2you | May 25, 2018 |
In spite of the subtitle this book actually covers Custer's time in the Civil War in detail as well as the post war period. It is more than just a simple biography as it does a pretty decent job of looking at Custer's character and motivations. Not for everyone, but worth the effort if it is a subject you have an interest in. ( )
  jztemple | Aug 14, 2017 |
A wonderfully researched and written book about the life of George Armstrong Custer. Only a tiny portion of this about Little Big Horn. Mostly it chronicles his service in the Civil War and beyond. The book covers both the good and the bad of this complex man. He is very brave constantly risking his life leading cavalry charges and his men respect him as a leader. On the other hand he has a gambling problem, is a womanizer who has no problems flaunting his feminine flirtations to his wife Libby. He is also the consummate self promoter trying to move up in the Army. A well deserved Pulitzer winner. ( )
  muddyboy | Jan 23, 2017 |
Pulitzer Prize winner. Beautifully written biography of a typical lionhearted White Man whose courageous and daring exploits and adventures can only make we weakling, effete, lazy American males of 2016 shudder in fear and wonder. Facing, cold, hunger, disease, death, and horror Custer plunged forward with no reticence and no unmanly bleating - just unbridled courage and the desire to do something special with his life, to lead others to victory and glory, to rise above the humdrum existence most of us are destined to live. He fought he loved he enthused he wrote he flew he lived life to the fullest and he never, ever shirked his responsibility to others - he was a man of obligation and of love.

No one is upset at his killing of hundreds of Confederate soldiers and civilians. Everyone, it seems gets to blubbering about the poor, helpless, noble, we-were-here-first Indians who never harmed anyone and lived joyously and non-violently until the evil Europeans brought death, disease and murder to our shores - except that is total bullshit - as the White Man was just another tribe competing (not with the "Indians" as a group - there was no such thing) with the Sioux and the Commanche and the Apache and the Blackfeet and the Lakota and the Cheyenne and the Pawnee and the Kiowas and so on. The Sioux slaughtered the Pawnee on sight. The Pimas hated and murdered Apaches whenever they got the chance. The Iroquois and the Algonquins actually ate one another. Custer was just better at it than his adversaries were, and, of course, he had white technology at his disposal which made his job a whole lot easier.

This is a great book about a great man and it should not be reviewed through the prism of political correctness which is nothing but idealized envy by non-whites for the overwhelming success and brilliance of White People, like George Armstrong Custer. ( )
  BayanX | Dec 20, 2016 |
Well written biography but Custer himself makes reading this uncomfortable. Custer is such an unsavory character. Wouldn't want him in my command if I were a general. Tragic story of how US treated Native Americans. Custer thought war was glorious; it's just a killing field. ( )
  Doondeck | Jul 21, 2016 |
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And how much he suffered merely to appear in his own eyes what he wished to be! -LEO TOLSTOY, "The Raid"
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To my parents,
Dr. Clifford and Carol Stiles,
to my late mentor,
Richard Maxwell Brown,
and most of all
to my daughter,
Sasha
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The story begins with its ending.
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A new biography of Gen. George Armstrong Custer that radically changes our view of the man and his turbulent times. Historian T. J. Stiles paints a portrait of Custer both deeply personal and sweeping in scope, proving how much of Custer's legacy has been ignored. He demolishes Custer's historical caricature, revealing a volatile, contradictory, intense person--capable yet insecure, intelligent yet bigoted, passionate yet self-destructive, a romantic individualist at odds with the institution of the military (he was court-martialed twice in six years). The key to understanding Custer, Stiles writes, is keeping in mind that he lived on a frontier in time. During Custer's lifetime, Americans saw their world remade. In the Civil War, the West, and many areas overlooked in previous biographies, Custer helped to create modern America, but he could never adapt to it. His admirers saw him as the embodiment of the nation's gallant youth, of all that they were losing; his detractors despised him for resisting a more complex and promising future. He freed countless slaves, yet rejected new civil rights laws. He proved his heroism, but missed the dark reality of war for so many others. Native Americans fascinated him, but he could not see them as fully human. Intimate, dramatic, and provocative, this biography captures the larger story of the changing nation in Custer's tumultuous marriage to his highly educated wife, Libbie; their complicated relationship with Eliza Brown, the forceful black woman who ran their household; as well as his battles and expeditions. It casts surprising new light on a near-mythic American figure.--Adapted from book jacket.

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