Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn: An Encyclopedia, by Thom Hatch, McFarland & Company, Inc., Jefferson, N.C., 1997, $45 hardback.
If all the different published perspectives on the Little Bighorn were stacked up under the big sky of Montana, would the resulting tower dwarf Custer Hill? Yes, we contend, though others would no doubt argue the point. But few will argue that the legacy of George Armstrong Custer and his battle lives on and comes with a massive bibliography. This 229-page encyclopedia–with entries from “A Company, Seventh Cavalry” to “Yellowstone Expedition of 1873”–adds to the stack, but it also will help many readers and writers who have been overwhelmed by the stack. Most of the entries include “sources for further study.” In the introduction, Thom Hatch says the encyclopedia “acts as a comprehensive guide to assist the interested reader in gathering the relevant information–fact, theory and speculation–into a manageable perspective.” About 40 historic photographs and 14 maps accompany the text, and there’s an appendix for those who want a record of Custer’s Civil War activity. Almost anything to do with the life and career of Custer can be found here, including entries such as “Presidential Aspirations of Custer,” “Mary Adams” (Custer’s black cook) and “Responsibility for Custer’s Defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.” The main Indians in Custer’s life are also well-represented. This encyclopedia might not tell you everything you ever wanted to know about Custer and the Little Bighorn, but–as Custer buffs well know–all the books combined don’t tell you everything.