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)
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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