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

The The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn is a 2010 book by Nathaniel Philbrick.

This book is one in a long series of books (and movies, TV, songs, poems, and scholarly studies) about one of the most famous losers in history, General George Armstrong Custer (Actually he was just a mere Lieutenant Colonel at the time of battle; he was addressed as a General because of his temporary rank earned during the American Civil war.) This book characterised Custer as a deeply-flawed individual yet he had qualities that endeared him to both his subordinates and superiors. Custer, according to the author (he was not the first one to write such), was impetuous, imprudent, vainglorious, disobedient and ambitious as well as having an eye for beautiful squaws, yet was brave, charismatic and commanded strong loyalty among his troops.

On the day of the battle (25th June, 1876), Custer committed 2 cardinal sins of a battlefield commander: He rushed into battle without knowing the size of the opposing side and he splitted his regiment without knowing how the indian forces were arrayed against him. In the end, about 3,000 of mostly Lakota and Cheyenne indians led by Chief Sitting Bull annihilated 5 companies of 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army. The Battle of the Little Bighorn led to the death of General Custer together with 267 men and scouts of the regiment.

One thing irritating about this book is the author’s procivility of writing about actual conversations between 2 or more people who ultimately died in Custer’s Last Stand. I mean, short of having the ability to contact the spirits of people long dead, how did the author know? If you are a first time reader of the history of Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn by reading this book, it will make you very distrustful of the facts as written by the author.

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