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Custer Survivor: The End of a Myth, the Beginning of a Legend Paperback – January 2, 2010

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Frequently Bought Together

Custer Survivor: The End of a Myth, the Beginning of a Legend + Where Custer Fell: Photographs of the Little Bighorn Battlefield Then and Now + The Mystery of E Troop: Custer's Gray Horse Company at the Little Bighorn
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 225 pages
  • Publisher: History Publishing Company, LLC; 1 edition (January 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 193390903X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933909035
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 0.7 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #161,409 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For decades, Custer's "Last Stand" at Little Big Horn has captured the American imagination. Remembered by some as the tragic result of imperialist policies and by others as a noble sacrifice for American expansion, the one thing everyone learns in school is that Custer's battle against Lakota and Cheyenne forces left no Americans alive. In this chronicle of meticulous research, handwriting analysis and document investigation, journalist Koster turns that myth on its ear: though a number of people claim to have fought at (and survived) Little Big Horn, Koster identifies the one reluctant claimant who actually did-Sergeant Frank Finkel of Company C. A carefully deconstructed historical mystery sure to thrill American history enthusiasts, Koster's narrative and methods are entirely transparent, presenting all the information and leaving readers to draw their own conclusions. Though Finkel's story isn't particularly dramatic, Koster's pursuit of the truth behind a great American myth makes for a compelling tale in itself.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Nov.1, 2009

Over the years there have been a number of claims of survivors of Custer's battalion at the Little Bighorn in 1876, but none has held up under close scrutiny--until now. Journalist Koster (The Road to Wounded Knee) carefully reconstructs the life of Frank Finkel, second sergeant of C Company. He marshals all of the available documentary, historical, archaeological, and forensic evidence, to show that the Frank Finckel born in Ohio in 1854 was the George August Finckle who enlisted in the Seventh Cavalry in 1872, the Frank Finkel who died in Dayton, WA, in 1930, and the "long sword" whom Rain-in-the-Face reported being told escaped the battle on a runaway horse and whom he saw in Chicago in 1893. Koster also tells how Finkel's desire to enhance his status and his second wife's efforts to erase all traces of his first wife, supposedly part Cherokee, misled researchers for decades but also kept Finkel's story alive. VERDICT This well-written and carefully reasoned argument is essential reading for scholars and students of the West and will be of great interest to anyone with even a passing interest in Custer and the Little Bighorn. Highly recommended.--Stephen H. Peters, Northern Michigan Univ. Lib., Marquette

--Library Journal

Midwest Book Review, December 12, 2009

5.0 out of 5 stars A thought-provoking addition to American history shelves,

Custer Survivor: The End of a Myth, the Beginning of a Legend dares to challenge the long-standing historical assumption that the 210 troopers under Custer's command were exterminated to the last man. Drawing up extensive research and forensic evidence, Custer Survivor reveals the untold tale of one trooper who escaped, the Second Sergeant of C Company. Following his ordeal after his escape and the successful life he pursued thereafter, Custer Survivor is a thought-provoking addition to American history shelves with a focus on intense historical scrutiny and re-examination.

Over the years there have been a p> --Midwest Book Review

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Customer Reviews

It is a fast reading book, as well, and I liked that too.
Simone G. Eisold
Besides the photos, eye color, handwriting, etc; the author provides much written documentation.
There is absolutely no hard evidence to support the authors unfounded conclusion.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

107 of 126 people found the following review helpful By Michael L. Nunnally on December 27, 2009
Format: Paperback
The whole contention of this book is that Frank Finkel was really Sgt. August Finckle of Company C, reportedly killed in the Custer fight on the Little Big Horn. But the problem is that Finkel only claimed to be Sgt. Finckle when the original name he gave, Frank Hall, could be found on no known rosters. But author Koster claims Finkel never used the name Frank Hall. He claims it was a lie made up by Finkel's second wife Hermie Billmeyer and offers up a plethora of bizarre reasoning to prove it. CUSTER SURVIVOR drags us through a painful array of genealogist and so called handwriting experts who verify the author's claims. But not so fast. In a 1921 interview with Finkel in the Walla Walla Bulletin, written by W.H Banfill, himself a student of the battle, Finkel said he enlisted under the name "Frank Hall" so that his parents wouldn't find out. In another version Finkel said he "rode back to Ft. Benton and was discharged." He even says so in CUSTER SURVIVOR (pg.109). The 1921 article/interview was given four years before he even met Hermie Billmeyer. So much for research. When no military papers could be found on Finkel he simply changed his story and stated, "I never had any discharge papers from the army for I was never discharged. There was none of my command left to apply to (some 24 soldiers of C Company survived the battle) and I wasn't going to chase all over the country to find some one to discharge me. As far as the army was concerned, Frank Hall was reported dead along with the rest of Custer's men and I let it go at that." That quote comes straight from Finkel himself in 1921.Read more ›
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39 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Grundy on March 27, 2010
Format: Paperback
Let's keep this short...
The "survivor" had a different name, a different place of birth, and an eleven (eleven!!) year age difference than the guy who enlisted in 1872. But, the author tells us, he was about the right height and made his F's (in the "studied" signatures) in an old German style.
Thats the author's the rest of the book is about the battle and geneological research of the family of the guy who the author believes is the survivor.
Forget the fact the government soundly and repeatedly denies they ever heard of this "survivor" not to mention the fact the imposter himself and his zany, money-grubbing, glory-seeking second wife muddied the waters so bad with their countless lies and cover-ups that it made any chance of a serious investigation virtually impossible. According to the author, they did so because of a wave of anti-German sentiment (give me a break) and the fact that our poor "survivor" might have been deemed a deserter and Custer(Custer was already dead...or was he? Hmmmmmmmmmm)didn't treat deserters nicely.
I've got no problem with the book itself. I enjoyed reading it. Lots of fun.
My only issue is that it should be labeled fiction. PERIOD!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Al on July 30, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is the record of a couple of frauds; Finkel himself, who, even if his story was true, was a deserter, who lied when convenient, starting when he enlisted. And his widow, who after manipulating the aging Finkel into giving her the majority of his holdings and cheating his children out of the rest, went on to try to cheat the government, attempting to get a widow's pension. Thank goodness she was unsuccessful in her endeavors.

I saw many other inaccurate and implausible examples. One of the most glaring was that Lakota Rain in the Face, supposedly identified, or an unamed "Indian Women" identified Finkel and told Rain in the Face that she recognized Finkel in Chicago forty years after the Custer battle, when in 1876 Finkel got no closer than rifle range of the village and on a moving horse? How could either of them recognize a random elderly white man who at best they had got a fleeting glimpse of or seen slumping down wounded on a speeding horse forty years earlier?

Other little mistakes are some of the Native Americans in the photographs are mislabeled, Crawler is one, labeled as "Ice-Cheyenne". Crawler was one of the first Lakota to see the 7th Cav approaching and extensively photographed and interviewed concerning what he had seen. Tom Custer, may have been on paper a Troop Commander, but served as his brothers 'aide de camp". Captain Myles Keogh, commanded Custer's right wing and Second Lieutenant Henry Harrington Commanded C Troop, the Troop that the real Finkel was a sergeant in.

If Finkel survived the battle, assuming that you believe his story, could have faced punishment, but getting to civilization or one of the other columns for medical treatment would have been paramont to his survival.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By No Name Texan on January 16, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is an inconclusive and somewhat rambling argument. It is interesting, and provides a bit of insight for the times, but the core of the evidence to prove the case is quite weak.

We mostly have only personal statements of Mr. Finkel as transcribed by others, newspaper reporters among them. I have been interviewed for several newspaper and magazine stories, and it has always pained me that they rarely were as accurate as I would have preferred, and when I once asked for a correction from a major U.S. newspaper, that request was refused. Thus, it isn't clear to me what we can make of the newspaper reports of Mr. Finkel's story. Mr. Finkel's second wife apparently muddied the story even more.

There are apparently no photographs of Mr. Finkel's wounds, and no doctor ever reported on the nature of the wounds? The one bullet which was expelled by Mr. Finkel's body late in life is no longer available?

No other survivors from the 7th Calvary apparently met with Mr. Finkel after Mr. Finkel came forward as a purported Custer command survivor? One of these people would have likely recognized him, I would think, or they could have shared stories that would have validated Mr. Finkel's claim. We can't say that these meetings were avoided. Traveling long distances in the time that Mr. Finkel came forward was not that easy, and it was less easy for those who were elderly. My father often told me that traveling in the early 30s from their home in Northern NJ to his aunt's home in southern CT was an all day road trip, requiring up to 12 hours. Mr. Finkel was likely relatively much more isolated in his home town in Washington State.
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