Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Last Stand

I have read a few books about Custer...ok, more than a few. Why would I read about George Armstrong Custer? I don't know. I guess one of the reasons is because of all of the American icons of the past, so many of them have been almost deified by history so that they are infallible paragons. Custer is not that way at all. He strides through history warts and all.
He did not drink and he did not curse. He did have several lovers, he was brutal to his men, he desecrated Native American burial grounds. He was also brave, dashing, charismatic and an ass kicker in a fight. Of course he was brash, reckless, a climber and very, very vengeful. Lots of real characteristics here. Custer is just a great character. He was already a national hero before The Little Big Horn.
Of course the epic Last Stand always looms large in history and I'm sure that adds a lot to it.
I know more than I should about Custer, but I can still learn things that fascinate me.
I just read "The Last Stand" by Nathanial Philbrick. It was amazing. He presented facts that I had not read before. He wove together his sources into a fantastic narrative and I learned a whole host of new facts about Custer, the 7th Cavalry and the battle at The Little Big Horn. I also learned a lot about the Sioux people, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse.
I have been a bit pensive after reading the book because of how well he makes you feel what these people felt. Like characters in a great novel, I wish the ending could have been different for all of them.

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