The Battle Of The Little Bighorn

Fate brought Custer and Sitting Bull together one bloody June evening at the Little Bighorn—and marked the end of the Wild West

Act 1: The Characters Read more »

Western Hero

Overrated

It’s hard to choose the most overrated of the West’s many overrated heroes. It’s a fool’s congeries that has to include George Armstrong Custer, who made the biggest mistake of his short, vainglorious life when he decided to attack an Indian encampment down on the Little Bighorn. It has to give a nod to Zebulon Pike, father of a half-century misconception that the Great Plains was fundamentally uninhabitable, and to “the Pathfinder,” John C. Frémont, who without Kit Carson to lead him around by the nose could not have found his bum with either hand.Read more »

The Little Bighorn

In the fall of 1960 a novelty-song about Custer’s Last Stand climbed its way inexplicably onto the Billboard charts. To the ominous beat of a tom-tom, an Andy Devine sound-alike named Larry Verne, portraying a trooper of the 7th Cavalry, implored, “Please, Mr. Custer. I don’t want to go,” in a cracking, hopeless chorus. Read more »

Overrated/Underrated

Novelist; author of Chesapeake and Texas , among many others

Most overrated: Read more »

West Point In Review

The old school is alive with the memory of men like Lee, Grant, Pershing, and Eisenhower

Each year most of West Point’s three million visitors enter the U.S. Military Academy through the Thayer Gate. They drive past the cluttered main street of Highland Falls, which the historian Samuel Huntington described as a town of a sort “familiar to everyone … a motley, disconnected collection of frames coincidentally adjoining each other, lacking common unity and purpose.” A moment later the visitors are in, as Huntington put it, “a different world [of] ordered serenity….Read more »

The Reluctant Conquerors

How the Generals Viewed the Indians

The white man’s peace at Appomattox in 1865 meant war for the Plains Indians. In the next quarter century six and a half million settlers moved west of the Missouri River, upsetting a precarious balance that had existed between two million earlier pioneers and their hundred thousand “hostile” red neighbors. The industrial energy that had flowed into the Civil War now pushed rail lines across traditional hunting grounds.Read more »

Echoes Of The Little Bighorn

No single battle in American history has won more attention from more writers than the relatively insignificant defeat of a handful of cavalry by a few thousand Indians on the Little Bighorn River in 1876. How could there be anything new to say about it?Read more »

“There Are No Indians Left Now But Me”

So spoke Sitting Bull, greatest of Sioux chiefs, as he bitterly watched his people bargain away their Dakota homeland

If Sitting Bull had not put his faith in a miracle, in the fateful winter of 1890, the American struggle with the Dakota Sioux—the last big Indian “war”—might have faded into a peaceful if pathetic accommodation between conqueror and conquered. But a miracle seemed the only refuge for the great old chief in that bitter season of a bitter year; and he thought he saw one coming.

The Man Who Killed Custer

To Stanley Vestal, the old Sioux warrior White Bull describes the day when he counted his greatest coup

FOREWORD

Few episodes in American history have held more fascination for writers—or the public—than George Armstrong Custer’s Last Stand. More has been written on this relatively unimportant incident in American history than on the Battle of Gettysburg—and probably no two accounts agree in all details.