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With Custer on the Little Bighorn: A Newly Discovered First-Person Account by William O. Taylor Hardcover – August 1, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Custer mania rides again! Every 20 years or so, interest in the story and legend of General Custer revives. And with the release of a spate of new books--and at least one movie--we seem to be nearing the crescendo of another such outbreak. With Custer on the Little Bighorn is one of the more interesting of this wave's batch of offerings. Written some four decades after the Battle of Little Bighorn by William O. Taylor, a former soldier in Custer's battalion, the book provides a level-headed account of the times--and the day in question--from someone who was there. In the process, Taylor shares his ambivalence over the mission that the army he fought for was engaged. Describing an encounter with a band of Indians he writes: "a howling mass of red warriors, naked to the waist, who, maddened and desperate by the terrified cries of the wives and children whose lives were put in jeopardy for the third time within a few weeks, rushed from their camps . . . They seemed to us . . . like fiends incarnate, but were they?"

From Publishers Weekly

On June 25, 1876, as General George Armstrong Custer and his soldiers fell to Sioux warriors, Taylor, a private in Troop A of the 7th Cavalry who had just ridden into battle with Major Marcus Reno, was bunkered down, under siege, in a valley below the Little Bighorn. Three days later, he helped bury Custer's troops. Discharged for reasons of health in 1877, Taylor became a lifelong student of his first and only battle. Six years before he died, he completed this previously unpublished memoir/history, which was purchased by editor Martin in 1995. The text integrates Taylor's personal memories with extensive borrowings from such then standard sources as Elizabeth B. Custer's Boots and Saddles and John Finerty's War-Path and Bivouac. Taylor's clear prose style as well as his handwriting, of which several pages are reproduced, pay tribute to the effectiveness of the common schools of New York State at mid-19th century. The author's sympathy for the Indians, his dislike of Reno and his belief that Custer was a victim of his own overconfidence reflect prevailing turn-of-the-century opinions without adding much to the respective debates. The narrative, on the other hand, offers vivid and original firsthand accounts of both the confused retreat of Reno's battalion across the Little Bighorn River and the grisly process of identifying and interring the already decomposing corpses on the site of the Last Stand. Martin's first-rate editing makes the most of a volume that will delight Custer buffs and engage scholars of the campaign. Photos. Editor tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (August 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670868035
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670868032
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 20 x 20 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #280,580 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Chris Wilson on December 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Discovered in a box packed away for decades, "With Custer on the Little Bighorn" is a fascinating first-hand account of the famous 1876 battle penned by participant William O. Taylor. The overly-detailed observations were edited by Greg Martin and published in 1996. This is a great addition to the library for anyone interested in the Battle of the Little Bighorn where General George Armstrong Custer led the Seventh Cavalry against a Native American village including leaders Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. An earnest hobby of Taylor's during his twilight years, it should not be considered more than an appetizer to the entrees of Evan S. Connell's Son of the Morning Star or Nathaniel Philbrick's The Last Stand.

Taylor was a 17-year-old private and rode down into that infamous valley on June 25, 1876, ultimately following Major Marcus Reno as they charged one of the largest Native American villages in U.S. history. Taylor would survive the three-day battle and live to comfortable old age when he decided to pen his memories for posterity. As Martin notes in his introduction, he was a consultant to an auction house when researching a trove of Custer memorabilia, including Taylor's battlefield artifacts. Among those items was a mysterious black box where he discovered Taylor's unknown handwritten manuscript. Taylor, who died in 1923, had painstakingly written the book a few years prior.

I love his accounts of Reno's retreat following the failed charge, and one specific Native American who "wore a magnificent war bonnet of great long feathers encircling his head and hanging down.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By L. Rothfork on December 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
After visiting the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in Montana a few years back, I developed a keen interest in "Custer's Last Stand". Consequently I read "The Custer Album" by Lawrence A. Frost; "A Terrible Glory" by James Donovan; and Thomas Berger's "Little Big Man", in which he paints a panoramic of the Sioux and the Plains Indians that pops with reality; with the grand finale being the "Battle of Little Big Horn" After reading that, your only question will be.."How the hell did he do it?" It's that good. But as good as that book was, it can't quite top "With Custer on the Little Big Horn" by William O. Taylor.

Private Taylor was there. The only reason he survived is because Company A, the one that Private Taylor belonged to, was divided from the main body, along with Companies M, and G, under Major Reno. The contingent of 112 men initiated the Calvary charge and were subsequently swarmed and forced to retreat across the Little Big Horn River. It's a ride that I will never forget because I was there too..thanks to Private William Taylor's spectacular book.

If you are planning a visit to the Battlefield, make the effort to read these books before you go...if you don't, you'll regret it.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By D. Hodges on May 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a first hand account written by a soldier who fought with Reno in the battle of the Little Big Horn. He seems to have made a sincere attempt at providing an accurate account of this historical event. He was possessed, and deeply effected by the battle, and spent his life studying it and comparing his memory with other survivors who had participated in the battle, both Indian and Whites.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Starcaster on May 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read this book twice which is something I have never done before. The first time, I borrowed it from the public library. The second time, I purchased it from Amazon. One of the best accounts of the Little Bighorn battle I have read, and I have read many books on the subject. Highly recommended.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Steph on August 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book brings you into the heart and head of the ordinary cavalryman. You get an up close idea on what it must have been like to be on the advance with Custer and his men, and for a little while you can see the flash of tinderboxes as the toops marched through the night, and the distant gaze of Custer as he sat outside his tent on the eve of battle. Intriguing!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By NHBunion on February 4, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Years ago I read the Custer biography "Son of the Morning Star", and recently picked up "Crazy Horse and Custer" by Stephen Ambrose--both wonderful Custer books. This book, "With Custer on the Little Bighorn" is a first-person account of the Last Stand starting with the days leading up to the battle thru follow-up of the Indian victory. William O. Taylor was a member of the 7th Cavalry.

Included are actual hand-written pages from William O. Taylor's diary along with some wonderful photos of the author, Custer, various Indian luminaries, etc. Taylor has a wonderful way of writing that puts the reader right there. He also takes a more neutral view of the Indians AND of Custer, neither demonizing nor worshipping either.

For Custer fans this is a terrific book!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By kurt seraphine on April 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is fun to read and real interesting. Taylor gives an eye witness account of the Little Big Horn fight from the prospective of a trooper who was with Major Reno at the south end of the village and then the hill top fight. They were lucky to survive the ordeal. If you have an interest in the Little Big Horn Campaign this will give you an idea of the approach march where stealth was of primary concern, the realization that the 7th Cavalry had been discovered by the Sioux, the concern the Indians would get away and the rapid preparation to attack the large Indian village from the South and East in hopes the Indians would retreat North into the Gibbon and Terry Columns, the actual attack upon the village and the aftermath. Kurt Seraphine
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