What is the best book about Custer and battle of Little Big Horn?

4,530 Views | 54 Replies | Last: 6 days ago by LMCane
Tylerag72
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We plan a visit to the LBH battlefield next summer and would like to do some reading before we go.
JABQ04
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I liked:"
The Last Stand" by Nathaniel Philbrick
"Son of the Morning Star" by Evan Connell
"A Terrible Glory" by James Donovan

Very interesting subject and the battle didn't play out how it's presented and been portrayed in legend and myth
Cen-Tex
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If you' don't have time to read, there's an excellent video series on YouTube created by Custer Apollo. He walks the battlefield describing the events in detail. There's about 30 or more 15 min videos. I watched them before taking my trip last year and they helped a lot.
ABATTBQ87
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Rabid Cougar
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"Son of Morning Star"

Get out of your car and walk. Make sure you take the trails down into the ravines below "Last Stand Hill" and walk out onto Reno- Benteens position. The trail down into the ravines is very eerie. Very little has changed since the battle.

If you know the story of what and where events took place, you will "see it".
Cen-Tex
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After your visit thru the battlefield, have lunch at the Custer Battlefield Trading Post & Cafe. It's located up the road from the park entrance on Hwy 212. Try their Indian Fry Bread w/Taco Meat.
Aggie63
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The Last Stand. Absolutely the best thing I have ever read on Little Big Horn. I highly recommend it!

Tylerag72
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Thanks for all the great suggestions. I have watched several of the Custer Apollo videos today. They were very good.
TRD-Ferguson
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My wife and I stopped there last week. Our first visit. Camped near there the night before. Spent a full day and walked all we could.

It is very eerie. I stood in many spots and thought "What was he thinking?".

Well worth the time. Surprisingly close to the interstate.
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Junction71
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I've read all the books mentioned. Evan Connell's Son of the Morning Star was, to me, the most impressive. The big question about LBH was whether Custer should have split his forces like he did. As it was, Benteen never got into the fight. Only Custer's 5 companies of around 40 men each were totally slaughtered. Were the opposing forces just too big and strong that everyone would have been killed if all together. Custer's scouts, everyone including native and white, forewarned him. An interesting fact is that this battle was fought on June 25, 1876, 9 days before the nations Centennial. A huge celebration was planned in Wash D.C. The battlefield results took a while to reach Washington but was there in time to put a huge pall over the events planned.
BQ78
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Quote:

Were the opposing forces just too big and strong that everyone would have been killed if all together.
The fact that the remnant's of Reno's command (3 cos reduced) and Benteen's (3 cos at full strength) held the Indians at bay for 24 hours before Terry arrived, sort of answers the question that with the other half of the regiment they would have been okay.
Rabid Cougar
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BQ78 said:

Quote:

Were the opposing forces just too big and strong that everyone would have been killed if all together.
The fact that the remnant's of Reno's command (3 cos reduced) and Benteen's (3 cos at full strength) held the Indians at bay for 24 hours before Terry arrived, sort of answers the question that with the other half of the regiment they would have been okay.
I disagree. They would have been strung out the same as Custer's command and more than likely separated into smaller groups and wiped out piecemeal too. It may have taken longer to do so and certainly at the cost of more native casualties.


Renos' men were very nearly "Custered" on the south end of the camp, across the river and up the hill. Had they been the main focus of the Indian camp's furor they too would have been wiped out. They were not subjected to full scale attacks on the hill as the camp as the natives were to busy plundering Custer's command and packing up to move. Reno/Benteen's position was harried those 24 hours by individuals to keep them where they were while the camp was leaving.

Bottom line, if the camp leaders wanted Reno/Benteen's command dead they too would have been wiped out. Granted there would have been many more Indian dead as a result of this. The Natives were not big on assaulting fixed positions unless they were certain the enemy was already defeated. The didn't completely overrun Custer's men until they were down to a dozen or so survivors.
BQ78
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Perhaps you are right and your points are well taken. To clarify my point, if Custer kept his command together, not let it string out, scouted the village versus attack (per his orders) and waited for Terry; if he had been attacked by the village, I don't think he would have been annihilated.
Tylerag72
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I read in Philbrick's book that in spite of all Custer's mistakes he came very close to success. Don't you think he was counting on Bentsen coming to support him as he had done at the Wa****a?
BQ78
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I think he was more concerned with the Indians getting away, that is probably what he thought was going on and why he rushed into action. He did send the note to Benteen to hurry up. But encumbered with the supply mules, Custer had to know they couldn't be there johnny on the spot. If he felt he was dependent on Benteen he would not have ridden up to the ford by the Indian camp from Weir Point, rather he would have waited there for Benteen.
Rabid Cougar
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Benteen had an axe to grind with Custer. Custer abandoned Major Joel Elliot ( a good friend of Benteen's) at the Wa****a when the warriors from nearby villages showed up. Elliot and his severely outnumbered command were subsequently wiped out.

It was never proven that Benteen deliberately delayed his arrival though.
aggiedad55
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Rabid Cougar it was not proven because Benteen and Reno got their stories straight and stuck to it. Neither one of them could stand Custer.
Cen-Tex
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The trapdoor Springfield rifles carried by the 7th weren't a recipe for success either. Besides bows & arrows, some of the Indians carried repeating rifles.
BQ78
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Outside of Calhoun, Keough and Sturgis the officers of the 7th were trash. The Custers were impetuous glory seekers who despised their men, Benteen was a drunk and Reno was was an indecisive coward.
Aust Ag
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Did the Indians know who Custer was, his rep? Did that play into their motivation? If so , I would imagine he would not have been a pretty sight in the aftermath.
BQ78
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Absolutely, he had led the expedition into the Black Hills in violation of the Treaty of Laramie. The Black Hills were sacred land to the Lakota and if you ever go there, you will see why,compared to the surrounding terrain. So they knew him well.

If you ever get a ranger alone and ask, they will tell you of his mutilation, mainly by the Lakota women. He was scalped (but had recently had his hair cut so it wasn't his long Curly locks), had his eyes gouged out, cut open from throat to groin and his entrails pulled out, emasculated and then shoved in his mouth. Leg tendons all cut up too. He was a mess as were most of the dead soldiers.
JABQ04
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I thought Custer wasn't really mutilated. Now his brother Tom, a different story.
Tylerag72
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I read that the Cheyenne women punctured his eardrums with their sewing implements so that "he would listen better in the afterlife". He had been told that he would be killed if he violated the agreements he had made with the Cheyenne concerning their land. I think the only other mutilation was an arrow up the *****. Didn't the Cheyenne regard him somewhat as "family"since he supposedly fathered a child by a Cheyenne woman? Yes, Tom was horribly mutilated from what I read.
JABQ04
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This is also what I've heard/read. And he had a finger cut off. I guess some after death damages but nothing like the rest of his troopers.
BQ78
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Hmmm, guess I was remembering what happened to Tom and confusing him with George. George did have a Cheyenne wife with whom he had a child, when Libby wasn't around. Rumor is he had syphillis and he gave it to Libby too.
Cen-Tex
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BQ78 said:

Hmmm, guess I was remembering what happened to Tom and confusing him with George. George did have a Cheyenne wife with whom he had a child, when Libby wasn't around. Rumor is he had syphillis and he gave it to Libby too.
I understood it to be a case of gonorrhea he contracted while on leave as a cadet at West Point.
Stive
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Was there a specific reason that Tom was so mutilated compared to George? Or was Tom more in line with what happened to all the other soldiers?
Bighunter43
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Stive said:

Was there a specific reason that Tom was so mutilated compared to George? Or was Tom more in line with what happened to all the other soldiers?


Pretty much in line with the rest of the soldiers. It was said that unless they had a tattoo or some other type of mark, you might not even recognize your best friend!!
JABQ04
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Which is exactly how Tom was recognized. He had a couple of tattoos, I think his initials, on his arm.
BQ78
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Don't know how many of you are into war games but there is a company called WDS (formerly John Tiller) that just released a free demo for their Early American Wars series. The free demo they recently added was the Battle of Little Big Horn. The big map encompasses all the areas that saw fighting and you can play about three or four scenarios including a giant two day action scenario. I've played around with it some and it's not too bad, especially for the price. You may get it here:

Free Battle of the Little Big Horn Computer Game
Rabid Cougar
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Little Big Horn Battle

A very good narration of the battle on YouTube. 50 minutes long.
Junction71
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Yellow Hair Custer wasn't mutilated. His brother Tom supposedly had his heart cut out and with the heart still quivering the Indian drank his blood. I guess you could say that was the ultimate "counting coup".

There was one survivor on or near Custer Last Stand Hill. Does anyone know who/what it was? Answer later unless someone knows.
Stive
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It was a horse right?
BQ78
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Keough's horse "Comanche"
Junction71
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Correcto. Some Ag's know all the details. If I'm not mistaken the horse was stuffed and currently resides at KU Museum of Natural History.
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