By Larry McMurtry
Simon & Schuster, $35.00, 178 pages
On a summer day in 1876 when General George Armstrong Custer marched the 7th Cavalry onto the battlefield of Little Bighorn, no one present knew the long-term impact the event would have on U.S. history. Disobeying direct orders, Custer willfully and recklessly rode his troops into a large force of Lakota Cheyenne resulting in his own death as well as 250 of his men. Although judged at the time as a stunning failure in the army’s attempt to take control of territorial lands of the west, it was also the beginning of the end an independent indigenous people and culture. Despite the embarrassing defeat, Custer’s name and the battle soon passed into legend, where it has remained for more than 130 years.
In this short life essay, Larry McMurtry, the best-selling and Pultizer Prize-winning author of Lonesome Dove, recounts and illustrates the complicated story of events leading up to the infamous battle and the public relations campaign that followed. The book is more of a museum piece than a biography, featuring numerous archival photographs and paintings from the period. The text adds nothing new to the narrative while the event and the man behind it remain as fascinating as ever. Readers who enjoy the history of the western U.S. will enjoy.
Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen