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Custer Paperback – June 10, 1997

4.5 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The outlines of Custer's life are familiar to all: After graduating last in his class at West Point, he rose to become the Union's youngest general on the strength of his flamboyance and military genius. Next came 12 years of checkered service in the American West, ending with the famous massacre at Little Bighorn. The most interesting unanswered question about Custer has less to do with his history than ours--why, more than a century later, are we so captivated by the man and his story? Wert believes the answer lies in the fact that Custer is a "symbol of the nation's guilt over its sad history of continental conquest." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Like a cavalry charge led by its celebrated subject, fast on the heels of Louise Barnett's Touched by Fire (Forecasts, Apr. 15) comes a second, even finer Custer bio from Wert (General James Longstreet) based on a broad spectrum of archival research and recent scholarship. Wert's Custer is eager for glory and greatness. At one time the Union's youngest general, Custer found both during the Civil War by establishing an unsurpassed record as a cavalry officer. He also made many enemies because of his flamboyant personal style, but his exuberant self-confidence carried him so far between 1861 and 1865 that, Wert contends, he saw no reason to change in the different environment of the postwar frontier army. According to the author, Custer resisted maturity and understood neither himself nor his new enemies, the Plains Indians. Custer took personal and professional risks, Wert shows, because he was most alive living on the edge. At the Little Bighorn, he took one set of chances too many. Like Barnett, Wert offers a sensitive reading of the Custers' marriage, which Barnett sees in the context of gender relations and which Wert limns as a 19th-century love story. Wert's work outshines Barnett's in its comprehensiveness, however, particularly in its treatment of Custer's military experiences. His Custer is at once hero and victim, archetype and original, and consistently compelling. Photos not seen by PW. History Book Club main selection; BOMC alternate selection.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st Touchstone Ed edition (June 10, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684832755
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684832753
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #513,613 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jeffry Wert has done a wonderful job here in covering the life of one of the more controversial Generals in American history. The book is comprehensive and covers Custer from his early days as a boy (and for a short time, school teacher) in the midwest through West Point, the Civil War, his days in Kansas and finally his famous and final battle at Little Big Horn.

This book is a perfect fit for anyone who is interested in Custer but doesn't want to read 3 or 4 different books on the man. Yes, there are books out there that cover his life in the Civil War more in depth or that deal with Little Big Horn more but for those new to Custer and want a good overview of the man in one volume, this is perfect.

One thing I like about Wert is he's very balanced on Custer. We read in Wert's book about the man, his triumphs and some of his not so shining moments. Custer had great success during the Civil War and was highly thought of by his fellow commanders for both his courage and skills. He truly was one of the great calvary commanders of the Civil War.

At the same time Wert recounts some not so shining moments like Custer's attempt to trump his commanders at Appomattox by crossing the lines and trying to bluff Longstreet into surrendering the Army of Northern Virginia to him (Longstreet in short told Custer to buzz off). It also frankly deals with Custer's court martial at Fort Leavenworth where Wert does not excuse Custer's actions that landed him in hot water.

Wert really did a nice job on the research. At the same time Wert is a talented writer with a style that is easy and enjoyable to read. If you are looking for one book to read about Custer, this would be a good choice.
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By A Customer on August 27, 1998
Format: Paperback
I completely enjoyed this book. I have read it twice and keep a copy for reference. Mr. Wert tells an exciting story of possibly the most maligned military leader in American history. The reader gets a feel of what the real Custer was. Not a super-hero of the wild west and not the evil egomanic that has been put forth by some revisionist. Custer was above all a solider doing his duty and except for one fatal day in June 1876, he did it better than most. Great job Mr. Wert.
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Format: Paperback
I knew little about George Custer before reading Mr. Wert's book. I found it to be a well documented, balanced, but limited view of Custer's life and career. Wert provides a view of Custer that is different from the traditional found in average text books. This is the story of a fearless, and courageous American Cavalryman who possessed the traditional qualities that make a great military leader. It also tells the story of a man who has faults and vices like any other. What pleased me most about the book was the extensive documentation effort put forth by Mr. Wert, and the fact that he would always tell the reader whenever he was making an assumption that was not based on tangible documentation. I believe this is a must read for anyone wanting to learn about George Custer, especially his military experiences.
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Format: Hardcover
Wert's biography of the flamboyant soldier, who has become
more of a symbol in the 20th Century than a genuine person,
is highly objective, addressing both the positive aspects
of Custer's personality and career and also the negative
side. In examining the numerous controversies and charges
which surround the memory of George Custer, Wert carefully
presents the evidence pro and con and renders a judicious
conclusion. The book is balanced between Custer's early
career with its extraordinary successes during the Civil
War and his life after the end of that war, when he was
faced by challenges worse than those of a Virginia
battlefield. Through strong, unembellished prose, Wert
builds a well-rounded portrait of a soldier and a man,
neither without flaw nor yet the caricature that he has
become in recent decades.
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Format: Hardcover
Jeffery Wert has proven once again that he is an excellent Civil War historian and that is part of the problem with The
Controversial Life of George Armstrong Custer.

After a cursory swipe at Custer's pre-civil war life, Wert devotes the majority of his book to the Civil War. Not Custer, but the Civil War, battle after battle in incredible detail. Page after page. Major or minor battle, it matters little. Custer's involvement? Sometimes important, most times not. For a Civil War buff (I plead innocent) I imagine this book is a treasure. For a Custer buff (guilty), I would love to have seen the detail devoted to meaningless battles to events in Custer's life such as the day Custer shot his own horse out from under him while chasing buffalo, a silly but telling event in Custer's western life.
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By A Customer on June 30, 1998
Format: Paperback
I very much enjoyed the book,It was alittle long winded in some areas,but for most part very welly researched, documented, and told.It cleared up many misconceptions i had about custer and the battle of little bighorn.I would recommend it to anyone who likes history.
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Format: Paperback
This was my first autobiography to read about the life of Custer and it was well worth the time spent reading it.
Mr Wert's research was very extensive so he was able to bring to light some fasinating things about Custer's life, and particularly his love affair with his wife Libbie.
If there is a negative about this book it is the great amount of time spent covering the Civil War battles, but the Civil War is Mr Wert's area of expertise and I do enjoy reading about that period of American History.
Both the positives and the negatives are discussed about this very controversal figure leaving the reader to decide for himself what history will ultimately have to say about George Armstrong Custer.
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