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Cavalier in Buckskin: George Armstrong Custer and the Western Military Frontier (Oklahoma Western Biographies) Paperback – November 15, 2001

4.7 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Had George Custer been killed at Appomattox, writes the author, he would have been remembered only as the great cavalry general who ranked next to Sheridan in the Union Army. At 23, the "Boy General" combined audacity, courage, leadership and an uncanny instinct for striking the critical blow in battle. By contrast, his reputation as a frontier commander was tarnished, and his claim to immortality rests on the debacle at the Little Big Horn. Utley, former chief historian and assistant director of the National Park Service, has written extensively about military action in the West. Here he examines the man behind the legenda man of contradictions who inspired devotion or hatred but not indifference. Custer's quest for money led to shady deals and probable kickbacks; he faced a court-martial and was suspended from the Army for a period. Utley gives a detailed picture of the frontier Army and the events that led up to the Last Stand. He refutes the notion that the battle was an act of bravado to secure personal glory for Custer. Rather, he argues, it was bad luck. Nobody expected the Indians to stand and fight; other companies mismanaged intelligence, and all of them underestimated their opponents. Utley makes a plausible case. This is heady material for western and military buffs. Illustrations. 13,500 first printing; BOMC and History Book Club selections.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Publisher

When first published in 1988, Cavalier in Bucksin received the 1989 Western Heritage Wrangler Award for Outstanding Nonfiction.
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Product Details

  • Series: Oklahoma Western Biographies (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press; Revised ed. edition (November 15, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806133872
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806133874
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,492,946 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By D. West on July 15, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have been an avid reader of Custer related literature
through the years and this is simply the best book on the market
on George Armstrong Custer. As a graduate student at Mississippi
State University and taking a course on the American West I gave
a lecture on Custer and recommended this book to the class.
Mr. Utley gives great detail on Custer's life. As with any
reader of Custer the debate rages on about General Terry's orders
to Custer and if they were obeyed or not. The author brought
out something I had not read before and that being the affidavet
of a cook who overheard a conservation between Terry and Custer.
A great book on Custer and especially on the Battle of the
Little Bighorn. Also, being a Civil War buff I liked the way the author mentioned how former Confederate generals were some
of Custer's biggest defenders after the battle.
If one were looking for a starting place on Custer this book
would be the one.
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Format: Paperback
Although brief, Robert M. Utley's biography of general G.A Custer is probably the definitive account of his controversial life and career. I have read several biographies of this pitoresque contradiction of a man, but no one comes close to Utley. Not Van DeVater("Glory-Hunter"), not Kinsley("Favor The Bold"), not even Mongaghan(whose "Custer" is labeled definitive by Utley himself in the preface). I have yet to read Whittakers hagiographic 1876 tomb, but i'm sure that neither that book or any future one will touch Utley's splendid analysis of the man and his time. My only reason for not awarding five stars is because of the fact that the book is very short. In every other respect it's a masterpiece in terms of text, illustrations and maps. Buy it!
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Just when you think you can't learn one more thing about a subject, an author like Utley presents facts you either had forgotten or didn't know. I believe the majority of people only connect George Armstrong Custer with the Battle of the Little Bighorn, as I did. Then, Utley presents Custer before the massacre and one finds out that he was a very important Civil War General. I had heard of Sherman, Sheridan, Stuart, Grant, Lee and more, but never heard of Custer and the great things he accomplished as a General in the Civil War. Graduating last in his class at West Point, one would never have thought he would have been so effective; but, part of him graduating last was his antics and jokes that took away from his studies. Utley has done a superb job of presenting Custer as a soldier, husband and human being and leaves us still wondering...why did Custer go into that valley on that June day of 1876? Reno and Benteen, his back-up never showed in time. Is that why they were both court-martialed? Lots still to learn as I haven't finished the book. A great read!
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Format: Paperback
This is a very short biography (just under 200 pages, not counting the pictures) of one of the most flamboyant and controversial military figures in our nation's history. Volumes could be written about George Custer, and indeed have been, and yet still there could never be a consensus as to the man's character, his skill as a warrior, and the amount of blame he should shoulder for charging headlong into immortality when he and part of his regiment were wiped out at the Little Bighorn. Custer is one of those figures on whom it would be difficult to write a good biography in 500 pages. Somehow, Utley has done it in 200.
This work is by no means thorough, but rather provides a good introduction and outline of Custer's life. Not a lot of detail is provided about any one phase of Custer's adult life--boy general, frontier greenhorn, Indian fighter extraordinaire--and yet there is enough information here to get a good idea of what Custer the man must have been like. I think it is outside of the scope of this book to psychoanalyze this complex individual, or to analyze his several controversial achievements, from Civil War battles to an Indian attack on the Washita River to rushing into battle at the Little Bighorn without the necessary reconnaissance, and yet Utley manages to put things into a perspective that at least seems reasonable and fair, if not conclusive. His section on the Little Bighorn battle is concise, to the point, and objective, and, though he tends to imply that the blame for Custer's death cannot be fixed entirely on Custer's rashness, yet he does not attempt to deify or exonerate the man wholly from blame.

This book was meant to be a short introduction into Custer's life, and in that it fills its purpose completely.
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Robert Utley is a respected and skilled historian of the West. This work is skillfully woven to give general insights into the personality and character of Custer. The text is extremely readable and structured to be understood by all. The prose is not stilted to the academic and the anecdotes described will maintain the interest of those not particularly interested in the sociopolitical background of events. Custer is painted neither as saint nor sinner and receives balanced treatment. This is a worthwhile read for those interested in the time frame and the participation of Custer in American Western History.
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