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The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn Hardcover – May 4, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (May 4, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670021725
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670021727
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.6 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (311 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #268,435 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Philbrick here takes on an oft-told tale, replete with its dashing, flawed main character, its historically doomed, noble Native chief, and a battlefield strewn with American corpses. While off his usual stride with a surfeit of unnecessary detail, bestselling author and National Book Award–winner Philbrick (In the Heart of the Sea; The Mayflower) writes a lively narrative that brushes away the cobwebs of mythology to reveal the context and realities of Custer's unexpected 1876 defeat at the hands of his Indian enemies under Sitting Bull, and the character of each leader. Judicious in his assessments of events and intentions, Philbrick offers a rounded history of one of the worst defeats in American military history, a story enhanced by his minute examination of the battle's terrain and interviews with descendants in both camps. Distinctively, too, he takes no sides. In his compelling history, Philbrick underscores the pyrrhic nature of Sitting Bull's victory—it was followed by federal action to move his tribe to a reservation. 32 pages of b&w photos, 18 pages of color photos, 18 maps. (May 4)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Exchanging maritime history for the landlocked Battle of the Little Bighorn, Philbrick explores the volatile political, economic, and social forces that led to the infamous confrontation. Drawing on a multitude of sources, he has produced an absorbing page-turner rich with complex characters and fast-paced action, and he demolishes commonly held myths along the way. However, despite his extraordinary research and writing skills, Philbrick doesn't have much to add to the debate surrounding the battle and its significance, and he occasionally loses sight of the story with too many intriguing asides. Critics agreed, though, that The Last Stand is "both a widely researched history of the ill-fated military campaign as well as a sympathetic attempt to capture the humanity of all involved" (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).

More About the Author

Nathaniel Philbrick
Life at a Glance

1956 in Boston, Mass.

Linden Elementary School and Taylor Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh, Pa.; BA in English from Brown University in Providence, RI, and an MA in America Literature from Duke University in Durham, NC

Philbrick was Brown's first Intercollegiate All-American sailor in 1978; that year he won the Sunfish North Americans in Barrington, RI; today he and his wife Melissa sail their Beetle Cat Clio and their Tiffany Jane 34 Marie-J in the waters surrounding Nantucket Island.

Melissa Douthart Philbrick, who is an attorney on Nantucket. They have two children: Jennie, 23, and Ethan 20.

After grad school, Philbrick worked for four years at Sailing World magazine; was a freelancer for a number of years, during which time he wrote/edited several sailing books, including Yaahting: A Parody (1984), for which he was the editor-in-chief; during this time he was also the primary caregiver for his two children. After moving to Nantucket in 1986, he became interested in the history of the island and wrote Away Off Shore: Nantucket Island and Its People. He was offered the opportunity to start the Egan Maritime Foundation in 1995, and in 2000 he published In the Heart of the Sea, followed by Sea of Glory, in 2003, and Mayflower, due in May 2006.

Awards and Honors
In the Heart of the Sea won the National Book Award for nonfiction; Revenge of the Whale won a Boston Globe-Horn Book Award; Sea of Glory won the Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt Naval History Prize and the Albion-Monroe Award from the National Maritime Historical Society. Philbrick has also received the Byrne Waterman Award from the Kendall Whaling Museum, the Samuel Eliot Morison Award for distinguished service from the USS Constitution Museum, the Nathaniel Bowditch Award from the American Merchant Marine Museum, and the William Bradford Award from the Pilgrim Society.

Amazon Author Rankbeta 

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#51 in Books > History
#51 in Books > History

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Customer Reviews

The book is very well written and is an exciting read.
Daniel Hurley
Author Nathaniel Philbrick has done an outstanding job with the research and the writing of this book.
P. Pollock
Neither Custer nor the great Sitting Bull wanted a battle like Little Big Horn.
Marvelous Mal

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

378 of 394 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Trinque VINE VOICE on May 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Nathaniel Philbrick is normally associated with nautical history, so it might be something of a surprise that in "The Last Stand" he has chronicled the Battle of the Little Bighorn, a military event that took place about as far from the ocean as you can get. But, it might be remembered that a large part of his "Mayflower" book was focused on the violent relations between the Pilgrims and Indians and on the slightly later King Phillip's War. Here in "The Last Stand", the author has returned to the subject of white-Indian relations and has created a vivid, engaging book.

Philbrick's "The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn" quite naturally invites comparison with 2008's "A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn" by James Donovan, about the same subject. Although both volumes present lengthy, quite comprehensive narratives, they do differ significantly. Donovan's book takes a more straightforward approach, while Philbrick's is more consciously "literary" in style, filled with numerous colorful incidents almost cinematic in impact. Additionally, Philbrick's "The Last Stand" devotes somewhat more attention to the Indian side of the story than does Donovan's volume.

Which book is "better"? The answer to that undoubtedly depends on the reader and his/her needs and expectations. Philbrick's volume is perhaps the more suited for random browsing or reading a chapter at a time, while Donovan's is probably better suited for focused, prolonged study. I personally enjoyed both Philbrick's and Donovan's volumes. Both books are representative of a much more balanced, even-handed approach to the Little Bighorn battle than had been characteristic of the past.
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123 of 136 people found the following review helpful By Randolph Von Dingleton on May 25, 2010
Format: Hardcover
As the owner of over 40 books on the Little Big Horn, I found this book to be a nice, reasonably "light" treatment of the Little Big Horn. If you are new to this particular event in our history, this is certainly a decent primer. I would also recommend "A Terrible Glory" by James Donovan, and "Son of the Morning Star: Custer and The Little Bighorn" by Evan S. Connell which was reviewed (quite favorably) in Time Magazine when originally released.

If you aren't new to this topic, and are looking for new insights - they are not here (in my opinion).

This is a well written, pleasant book and recommended to those who have little knowledge of the topic. Recommended for those folks.
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113 of 130 people found the following review helpful By DanD VINE VOICE on April 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Much has been said about the Battle of Little Bighorn. George Armstrong Custer has been portrayed as both an arrogant imbecile and a national hero. Sitting Bull has been portrayed as a murderous villain and a cultural icon of steadfastness.

Nathaniel Philbrick, as he did in his wondrous MAYFLOWER, digs deep into the heart of the legend. Custer and Sitting Bull were both men--human beings with faults and virtues, men who both appeared to desire peace, on the eve of the Battle--and yet, neither many any great overtures for it. Why? What drove these two men into what can only be described as a massacre? And what really happened at Little Bighorn that day?

Obviously, to the latter question, there is only conjecture, though Philbrick unbiasedly presents the various eye-witness accounts. When it comes to the battle itself, he places more emphasis upon Custer; yet it is clear that the purpose of the book is not just to describe the specific massacre, but to show how it was a last stand for two people: Custer, the most renowned Indian fighter in the West; and the Native Americans of the Northern Plains, who after that day faced a slow decline to reservation life, ridicule, and almost cultural obliteration. Philbrick's prose is smooth and readable; you don't have to be a history buff to enjoy this book. You just have to love a good story, and have an appreciation for what makes mankind both so great and so terrible. THE LAST STAND is another memorable work by Nathaniel Philbrick, and serves as a wonderful introduction into an oft-mythologized segment of American history.
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117 of 136 people found the following review helpful By Enjolras TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 4, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Custer, Sitting Bull, and Little Bighorn have become iconic names in American history, but often only through a distorted lens. Like many other students, I learned that George Armstrong Custer was a buffoon who led his troops to disaster at the Little Bighorn and that Sitting Bull was a "noble savage" (to use the term that sums up modern stereotypes of 19th century American Indians).

Nathan Philbrick's The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn certainly provides a more nuanced and interesting account of that history. The Last Stand follows both Custer's 7th Cavalry and the Sioux Indian tribe in the weeks before and during the battle.

Philbrick did an incredible amount of research to reconstruct the events and characters in the famous battle. This is a long book and it is brimming with detail, from the geography of the area to the colors of the 7th Cavalry's horses. At times, I felt like he introduced the reader to every single member of the 7th Cavalry (he pretty much does in the appendices).

If nothing else, The Last Stand will probably force you to reevaluate these men. Philbrick isn't a revisionist and Custer doesn't get off too lightly. Nevertheless, there is much about him that most Americans don't realize. For example, he became a brigadier general at the age of 23 (23!) and played a crucial role at the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War. He was also calm under fire and inspired pride among the lower ranks.
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