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The Last Stand : Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little…

by Nathaniel Philbrick

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1,2803311,648 (3.98)54
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.
  1. 10
    Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee 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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» See also 54 mentions

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I was initially a little reluctant to pick this book up, since we've all read the story of Custer's Last Stand, both the old version which portrays him as the iconic American hero, as well as the version which shows him as an egotistical glory-seeker who foolishly led his troops to their deaths. But there's always more to the story, and Philbrick is the type of author who seems to have an ability to dig into historical archives and bring out little known facts, making you feel like there's much more to the story than you'd ever considered before. There was a lot more to the story than I'd been exposed to before, and was glad I finally read the book. ( )
  rsutto22 | Jul 15, 2021 |
I am not really sure how I feel about this book. If you like to read about military strategy and the minutia of battle then you will like to read this. I was put off by it but fortunately it was just a small part of the book. So much of it was leading up the the battle, outlining the foibles of the major characters. Well researched and using voices of both native and white combatants it gives you a feeling for both sides. I was happy to see that it didn't portray Custer as the hero everyone believed at the time. Surprisingly it didn't try to give a blow by blow of Custer's actual fighting and I appreciated that. ( )
  book58lover | Jan 10, 2020 |
I really enjoyed Philbrick's previous book In the Heart of the Sea a while back, so I added this to my to-read pile. In it he details, with as much accuracy as can be discerned nearly 150 years later, the events and decisions (and egos!) leading up to The Battle of the Little Bighorn.

The logistics of just how the hostility went down were interesting and educational. However, I had read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee a number of years back, and therefore couldn't help but bring to this reading experience a cloud of sadness, hopelessness and anger. While I don't remember the specifics regarding what I may have learned about Custer as part of our public school history curriculum, his cultural legacy as a result of his involvement in Little Bighorn certainly feels like that of a fallen hero. And like so many near-legendary figures whose deeds have become larger than life, let's just say that the real Custer isn't so deserving of anyone's adulation. ( )
  ryner | Aug 26, 2019 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 33 (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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