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Son of the Morning Star: Custer and the Little Bighorn Paperback – October 30, 1997
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On June 25, 1876, Gen. George Armstrong Custer and some 200 cavalrymen under his command blundered into a coulee along the banks of Montana's Little Bighorn River. They never came out; several thousand Cheyenne, Sioux, and Arapaho warriors saw to that. The name and the event of the Little Bighorn have subsequently entered into American mythology, reverberating throughout the nation's history. Custer's famous demise has yielded thousands of books, and Son of the Morning Star is exceptional among them: part anthropological study of Plains Indian life, part military history, and part character study of the principal actors in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Evan Connell's work presents the first truly balanced account of Custer's career.
“Impressive in its massive presentation of information . . . Son of the Morning Star makes good reading--its prose is elegant, its tone the voice of dry wit, its meandering narrative skillfully crafted. Mr. Connell is above all a storyteller, and the story he tells is vastly more complicated than who did what to whom on June 25, 1876.” ―Page Stenger, The New York Times Book Review
“Son of the Morning Star leaves the reader astonished.” ―The Washington Post
“A scintillating book, thoroughly researched and brilliantly constructed.” ―The Wall Street Journal
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The book's organization (IMO) has five main sections:
1) Using the inquest of the battle as background, the major people on both sides are introduced. However GAC himself is mostly talked around, this section focuses on who saw him during the battle, and where he was found...
2) An extensive background and history of relations and interactions between the tribes, settlers, the government, and the military is presented. Significant incidents are examined in detail. There's a fair amount of tribal culture presented.
3) The career of GAC is presented in general historical order - lots of 3rd party quotes, and anecdotal detail
4) GAC and the 7th's journey into Montana and Little Bighorn is presented in detail. The battle, told originally via the inquest, is retold as it unfolds.
5) The clock jumps forward, and the major people involved are revisited years later.
Basically you get Little Bighorn twice, first with no context, later with a lot of it. Yes this is an oversimplification, and yes there are many sidetracks and illustrative vignettes along the way. Perhaps this is unconventional, but I totally agree with the blurb on the book - "brilliantly constructed". Above this, Evan Connell's skill with words, his ability to find fantastic quotes and work them into just the right place and to put the "story" into history makes this a very enjoyable and educational read.