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Wild West Book Review: Custer and His Times

3/27/2018 • Wild West Magazine

Custer and His Times, Book Five

edited by John P. Hart, The Little Big Horn Associates, Inc., www.thelbha.org, 2008, $47.95 for members, $52.95 plus S&H for nonmembers.

Devotees of George Armstrong Custer founded Little Big Horn Associates in early 1967 to promote research on the best-known participant in the Battle of the Little Bighorn. One way the organization promotes itself is through a book series that presents the latest research on the man and his times. This fifth entry in the series, like the fourth, was edited by John P. “Jack” Hart, a professor of communication at Hawaii Pacific University in Honolulu. Although most people associate Custer with the Montana Territory battle in which he died, he covered far more ground, and so does Book Five. Part one of the book presents three Civil War entries, part two offers six entries about “Life on the Plains,” and part four closes with six entries on Custer’s legacy. Only part three addresses the Last Stand.

Wild West contributors Gregory F. Michno and Paul A. Hutton contributed two entries. In fact, Michno’s “Myth-Busting at the Little Bighorn” makes many of the same interesting points he made in his June 2008 Wild West article “10 Myths of the Little Bighorn.” Hutton’s “Was There a Last Stand?” draws from a U.S. News Online “Mysteries of History” live chat transcript. Nothing stirs up folks like the fight that eliminated Custer’s immediate command, but nothing Michno or Hutton says will cause as much ruckus as Gail Kelly-Custer’s section four entry “My Heritage, My Search.” The author claims to be a descendant of George Custer and his Cheyenne wife Monahsetah’s child, Yellow Hair (see P. 26, this issue). Editor Hart does issue a few warnings regarding the story’s merit. “But,” he adds, “whether or not the reader believes this story has reached the burden of proof, that these stories continue to endure is yet another facet of the Custer legacy.”

Three other Wild West contributors have entries in this book. Jeff Broome writes about “Custer’s Summer Indian Campaign of 1867,” while Louis Kraft writes about “Ned Wynkoop’s Lonely Walk Between the Races.” Robert M. Utley’s entry is a 2003 speech in which he reveals that he was 12 when he saw They Died With Their Boots On and Errol Flynn’s Custer became his hero. “I no longer see Custer in such a simplistic image,” Utley adds, “but he did turn me from the law to history, and he has lived with me ever since.” As long as new information and fresh perspectives keep coming, Custer shall keep living in this book series as well.

 

Originally published in the June 2009 issue of Wild West. To subscribe, click here.  

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