Return to the Old West
Books about George Armstrong Custer
Son of the Morning Star: Custer and the Little Bighorn
by Evan S. Connell
Custer’s Last Stand is among the most enduring events in American history–more than one hundred years after the fact, books continue to be written and people
continue to argue about even the most basic details surrounding the Little Bighorn. Evan S. Connell, whom Joyce Carol Oates has described as “one of our most
interesting and intelligent American writers,” wrote what continues to be the most reliable–and compulsively readable–account of the subject. Connell makes
good use of his meticulous research and novelist’s eye for the story and detail to re-vreate the heroism, foolishness, and savagery of this crucial chapter in
the history of the West.
448 pages, North Point Press; 1 edition, 1997.
The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn
by Nathaniel Philbrick
Nathaniel Philbrick has emerged as a historian with a unique ability to bring history to life. The Last Stand is Philbrick’s monumental reappraisal of the
epochal clash at the Little Bighorn in 1876 that gave birth to the legend of Custer’s Last Stand. Bringing a wealth of new information to his subject, as well
as his characteristic literary flair, Philbrick details the collision between two American icons- George Armstrong Custer and Sitting Bull-that both parties
wished to avoid, and brilliantly explains how the battle that ensued has been shaped and reshaped by national myth.
496 pages, Penguin Books; Reprint edition, 2011.
Crazy Horse and Custer: The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors
by Stephen E. Ambrose
On the sparkling morning of June 25, 1876, 611 men of the United States 7th Cavalry rode toward the banks of the Little Bighorn in the Montana Territory,
where 3,000 Indians stood waiting for battle. The lives of two great warriors would soon be forever linked throughout history: Crazy Horse, leader of the
Oglala Sioux, and General George Armstrong Custer. Both were men of aggression and supreme courage. Both became leaders in their societies at very early
ages; both were stripped of power, in disgrace, and worked to earn back the respect of their people. And to both of them, the unspoiled grandeur of the Great
Plains of North America was an irresistible challenge. Their parallel lives would pave the way, in a manner unknown to either, for an inevitable clash
between two nations fighting for possession of the open prairie.
560 pages, Anchor Books, 1996.
My Life on the Plains
by George A. Custer
In 1874, just two years before General George A. Custer’s death at Little Big Horn, a collection of his magazine articles was published as “”My Life on the
Plains.”” Custer, General in the U.S. Army’s Seventh Cavalry, wrote personal accounts of his encounters with Native Americans during the western Indian warfare
of 1867-1869. The collection was a document of its time and an important primary source for anyone interested in U.S. military affairs and U.S./Native American
relations. Custer’s references to Indians as “”bloodthirsty savages”” were tempered by his empathetic understanding of their reason for fighting: “”If I were an
Indian, I often think I would greatly prefer to cast my lot among those of my people who adhered to the free open plains, rather than submit to the confined
limits of a reservation.””
270 pages, Applewood Books, 2009.
Boots and Saddles or, Life in Dakota with General Custer
by Elizabeth B. Custer
The honeymoon of Elizabeth Bacon and George Armstrong Custer was interrupted in 1864 by his call to duty with the Army of the
Potomac. Her entreaties to be allowed to travel along set the pattern of her future life. From that time onward, she did indeed accompany General Custer on all
his major assignments except the summer Indian campaigns, “the only woman,” she said, “who always rode with the regiment.”
This is the story of Elizabeth B. Custer (1842–1933), told in her own words. She was not only a housewife on the Plains; she was whatever the occasion demanded:
nurse to a group of frostbitten soldiers; any-hour-of-the-day hostess to the regiment, since her husband was not fond of entertaining; the garrison’s favorite
confidante (and many an interesting story she has to tell); and would-be Indian fighter whenever the women of the regiment had to be left alone.
Boots and Saddles also offers a gentle, loving portrait of George Armstrong Custer, husband and man, by the person who knew him best. Elizabeth Custer’s
absolute devotion to him is revealed in every line of her story, which ends, appropriately enough, with the day on which she received the news of the disaster
at Little Big Horn.
342 pages, Bison Books, 2010.
Custer Victorious: The Civil War Battles of General George Armstrong Custer
by Gregory J. W. Urwin
“Custer found himself in the one dilemma all soldiers most dread—he was outnumbered and completely surrounded. With disaster looming in every quarter and no
chance of escape. . . .” So Gregory J. W Urwin pulls the reader into a scene describing not the Battle of the Little Big Horn but a Civil War engagement that
George Armstrong Custer and his troop survived, thanks to strategy as much as naked courage.
Many books have focused on Custer’s Last Stand in 1876, making legend of total defeat. Custer Victorious is the first to examine at length, with attention to
primary sources, his brilliant Civil War career.
Urwin writes: “None of Custer’s exploits against the Plains Indians could compare with those he performed while with the Army of the Potomac.” The leader of a
brigade called “the Wolverines,” Custer was promoted to major general and the helm of the Third Cavalry Division when he was only twenty-four. Urwin describes
the Boy General’s vital contributions to Union victories from Gettysburg to Appomattox.
308 pages, University of Nebraska Press, 1990.
The Battle of the Little Bighorn
by Mari Sandoz
Mari Sandoz’s account of the battle in which General George Armstrong Custer staked his life—and lost—reveals on every page the author’s intimate knowledge of
her subject. The character of the Sioux, the personality of Custer, the mixed emotions of Custer’s men, the Plains landscape—all emerge with such clarity that
the reader is transported in time to that spring of 1876, when the Army of the Plains began its fateful march toward the Yellowstone. The background of the
tragedy is here: the history of bad blood and broken treaties between the Sioux Nation and the United States, the underlying reason for Custer’s expedition and
for the convocation of Indians on the Little Bighorn that particular year. The author’s analysis of Custer’s motives and political ambitions sheds new light on
an old mystery and will be hotly disputed by the general’s admirers.
191 pages, Bison Books, 1978.
Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer
George Armstrong Custer (December 5, 1839 – June 25, 1876):
American soldier, whose Last Stand against Sioux and Cheyenne warriors at Little Bighorn, Dakota Territory, has become an enduring legend in
Custer was born on December 5, 1839, in New Rumley, Ohio, and educated at the United States Military Academy. When he graduated, the American Civil War was
under way; he was assigned to the Union army as a second lieutenant and arrived at the front during the First Battle of Bull Run. By June 1863, he was in
command of a cavalry brigade, with the rank of brigadier general of volunteers. His brigade fought at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and under General Philip
Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley. As major general of volunteers, Custer participated in most of the actions of the last campaign (1864-65) of General Ulysses
In 1866, after the war, Custer applied for a leave of absence to accept command of the Mexican cavalry under the Mexican president Benito Juárez, who opposed
the rule of Emperor Maximilian. Custer’s application was denied; he became lieutenant colonel of the 7th Cavalry Regiment and was assigned to Kansas to engage
in the wars against the Native Americans. He campaigned (1867-68) against the Cheyenne. In 1873 he was ordered to Dakota Territory to protect railway surveyors
and gold miners who were crossing land owned by the Sioux. After three years of intermittent clashes with the Sioux, the U.S. Army determined to crush the
Native Americans by a three-way envelopment. Custer’s regiment formed part of the forces of General Alfred Howe Terry, one of three groups participating in the
movement. Ordered by Terry to scout in advance of the main force, Custer’s regiment, on June 24, 1876, located an encampment of Sioux, the size of which Custer
underestimated. He attacked the morning after but his regiment was hopelessly outnumbered, and the entire center column, including Custer and 264 of his men,
Sunday, June 25, 1876:
In a decision that has ever since baffled historians, Custer divided the Seventh Cavalry into three main elements during the early morning hours of Sunday, June
25th. He then subdivided his own immediate command into separate wings. In retrospect, this division of his troops in the face of an overwhelming number of
hostiles was not the best decision he could have made. However, it was an accepted and field tested military tactic that had proven successful in the past. But
at Little Big Horn, it failed miserably.
Chief Sitting Bull of the Hunkpapa Sioux
The Indian Counterattack:
The Lakota and Cheyenne warriors, although surprised by the army’s attack, quickly rallied and put all elements of the Seventh Cavalry’s attack on the
defensive. The Indians fought in a prescribed cultural manner as is demonstrated by oral tradition and physical evidence. It is clear from new archaeological
sources that the Lakota and Cheyenne warriors outnumbered, outgunned, and outfought the soldiers of the Seventh Cavalry, giving the army its worst defeat of the
entire Indian Wars.
Links to other sites on George Armstrong Custer and Native Americans
George Armstrong (From Wikipedia)
George Armstrong Custer
George Armstrong Custer
(Civil War Trust)
George Armstrong Custer Home Page
Thomas Ward Custer Home Page
Battle of the Little Bighorn (From Wikipedia)
Washita Battlefield National Historic Site
American Indian Heritage Foundation
Native American Web
Read Indian County Today Online:
Autry National Center