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A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn - the Last Great Battle of the American West Paperback – May 14, 2009
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Top Customer Reviews
It's a big book -- nearly 400 pages of text plus voluminous and valuable source notes -- that provides background and context and also vivid word portraits of personalities and activities. I consider it be quite simply the best available account of the Little Bighorn for the intelligent general reader who wants to know what was what and who was who, without those biases and distortions so common in writings about Custer and his last battle.
In the book's foreword, Donovan comments that he has departed from the strict historical record only in the area of the part played by Custer's direct command after he had sent his last messenger. Of necessity, any account of those activities requires interpretation of highly conflicting evidence and of some plain-old educated guesswork -- and James Donovan has done a superlative job of crafting a reasonable, plausible account of what happened.
There IS a lot of information here, but it's skillfully blended into the narrative, and the author did a good job of synthesizing all the material (the Indian and white accounts, and the new archaeological and forensic research and analysis from the past few decades). It also seems like the author went to great lengths to show the Indian side of the story, which is a plus.
As you'll see, the book contains 83 pages of notes. But don't let that fool you; it's not a dry, academic type of read at all. (In fact, I'd say it's better written than anything else I've read on this subject.) And there's a lot of extra supporting material in all those notes, if you want to read them. But, notes or no notes--this is just a great read, and a wonderful new entry in the field. Good job, Mr. Donovan. (And, by the way, your publisher did a nice job, too. I'm a "book" person, and this book is quite handsome, both inside and out.)
James Donovan's treatment is fair and detailed. As pointed out in other reviews, there is a lot of information included. Donovan also avoids the traps sprung on so many modern historians when they attempt to moralize the battle, Custer, and the U.S. Army. It has been well established after the digs of the 1980's that, contrary to so many theories, the 7th Cavalry was not well armed, and from modern analysis of the battle field did not conduct themselves as a well trained unit would have. Donovan uses this information, and also guardingly includes the accounts of the Indians present at the battle.
I also have to compliment Donovan on his ability to provide context to the battle itself and to the United States at the time. His ability to provide strong narrative also makes the book read like a novel at times. In places, A Terrible Glory is a real page turner.
The copious and well organized notes will also be of interest to the serious student of the battle. A Terrible Glory isn't for the casual reader though it is written in an easy style. Well researched and even handed, A Terrible Glory is highly recommended.
Although many accounts of the battle exist, James Donovan`s "A Terrible Glory" claims to be the first book to relate the entire story, and the first to include new findings which significantly alter the perception of this battle, the military response to the events and the attraction the public has had for the great mystery of what happened in Custer's final hours.
Donovan weaves overwhelming research and detail into his narration, often pausing and backing up to paint the full picture of the events as they develop. His characters, from Custer to Crazy Horse and General Grant, are presented with the depth of a Larry McMurtry novel, a monumental achievement in recreating men who died over a hundred years ago. He approaches the battle from all angles, allowing the different stories to slowly build toward their inevitable clash.
The marriage of captivating story with enchanted researcher/writer often proves to be an incendiary combination. Donavon's meticulous approach and seemingly total immersion into writing this story create the feeling that the author rode alongside the subject of his life's work. With "A Terrible Glory", we ride with him.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very well written. Provides an historical perspective that I was never exposed to before. Could not put the book down.Published 3 days ago by Mazz
This is the first account of the Little Big Horn battle, and am glad I started with it. There is plenty of detail from both sides, and the account is also very readable. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Kevin C. Rohrer
James Donovan has provided us with the most indepth, accurate and detailed information of this battle and all the people involved in it. Read morePublished 3 months ago by patrick crotty
I found this book to be great. I love the detail in it; the fact that the author delves into all the history instead of what Custer alone did. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Brian K. Johnson
I've read a lot about the battle over the years but I think that Donovan does one of the best analyses of the battle and how it progressed, in particular the Last Stand itself,... Read morePublished 3 months ago by 1250man
Another good book massacre. Pretty good timeline as events unfolded. Talks about Reno and Benteen's battle with the Indians after Custers death. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Sam Addams