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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
Top Customer Reviews
Facts abound. I started this book thinking it would primarily focus on Gen. Custer and the fight. While those topics are the framework of the book, Connell spends quite a bit of time exploring various indian chiefs, indian practices, previous conflicts and the conditions that produced one of our country's most celebrated battles. First person quotes are abundent and the author usually produces two or more sides to every episode. These explorations underscore how difficult getting at a true history is, particulary when pride and ego rest on a particular telling of an event. He has done very good research.
This is a brutal book. American and indian savagry are laid bare. Warfare and existence on the frontier were not pretty. The "rules" of war were abandoned by both sides with regard to the taking of prisoners or the frequent butchering of women and children along with those unlucky enough to be in the path of maurading soldiers or indian bands. Connell's book leaves no doubt that American notions of racial superiority, mainfest destiny and economics created the situation in which the indians would fight in the extreme to protect their lands from white encroachment. However, the author also underscores that most of the indian tribes were brutal and ruthless when attacking other tribes, lone indians and in their own rituals and customs. Had America respected it's indian treaties, it can be argued that the indian lands still would have had atrocities visited upon them as various tribes concentrated their full time attentions on settling the wrongs each felt had been metted out by other red men. His refusal to treat the indian as a politically correct manifestation of mother nature is refreshing and allows for a very balanced telling of the story.
The author has a unique writing style. He doesn't come to a fork in the road without taking it. These side tracks and tangents allow him to explore in full the charactors and milieu attendent to The Last Stand. However, they are presented in no particular order or chronology. The author paints a strong impression rather than presenting an ordered and structured telling of a compelling tale. This incohesion is so pronounced that the end of a chapter has no meaning other than to allow one to catch one's breath before plunging into the next twenty pages of free associations.
My opinion of this book changed several times during my reading. In the beginning, I found it hard to get into because of it's meandering style. But the vignettes, characters, facts and writing are all compelling. His style will require some adjustment to the frequent reader of history. But, by the end the reader will know that they have immersed themselvs in a darn good story that fascinates.
A prime example of this is within the first ten pages of the book, Connell is writing about President Hayes' Court of Inquiry, three years AFTER the battle.
Another thing which Connell does masterfully is tell BOTH sides of the tale. The Dakota and 7th Cavalry are given equal weight throughout the book and the author pours pertinent information as well as trivial but entertaining facts at the reader. And along with giving biographies on Reno and Benteen, the reader learns just as much background information on Gall, Crazy Horse and Two Moon.
About the only person I suggest shy away from this book is a college student cramming for a paper because there's no way they'd be able to find the needed info with Connell's writing style. However, if they don't procrastinate and began reading at the beginning of the semester, I promise you won't find another book with more info on the subject.
If you do read "Son of the Morning Star," be prepared to take a trip out to the high plains of Montana to see the battlefield. Connell's book instilled a 'must-see' desire into me on having to see the Bighorn for myself and I plan to go next summer. See you there!