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 Six years before he died, he completed this previously unpublished memoir/history, which was purchased by editor Martin in 1995.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.
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