I just finished Larry McMurtry’s book Custer, heavy on color illustrations, which were nice, though I’d seen most before. I’ve been interested in the history of the western half of the U.S. for quite a few years, which means I’m reading books dealing with invaders and with Indians—(Native Americans, if you prefer, though American is a word deriving from Amerigo Vespucci’s first name, so how is that more appropriate? And, as far as that goes, I was born in the U.S. myself, so I’m a Native American also. What do those dang Canadians call this continent’s aboriginal people? First Peoples or First Nations, or something of the sort.).
Talking about invaders, I can’t neglect to mention a great book on one of the latter—Hampton Sides’ Blood and Thunder. An Epic of the American West, which deals with Kit Carson. That guy went everywhere and had incredible adventures (that in many cases were disastrous for the Navajo and other peoples), this despite his two Indian wives and his considerable knowledge of native tribes. And, for the other side, equally mesmerizing, I can’t fail to mention S. C. Gwynne’s Empire of the Summer Moon. Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History. Another great book!
Anyway, McMurtry says four books thoroughly cover the story of George Armstrong Custer. I happen to have read only the first and the fourth one in this list, but they were excellent, presenting a variety of viewpoints for all sides involved:
Evan Connell, Son of the Morning Star (1984)
Robert Utley, Cavalier in Buckskin (1988)
James Donovan, A Terrible Glory (2008)
Nathaniel Philbrick, The Last Stand (2010).
One author I’d like to read in this regard, but haven’t, is Custer’s wife, Elizabeth Baker Custer. McMurtry lists these books by her (of varying quality):
Boots and Saddles (1885) [Typo in McMurtry, where it’s listed as 1985]
Following the Guidon (1893)
Tenting on the Plain (1890)
I notice there’s a free online version of Boots and Saddles. Chapter 34, containing letters from Custer to his wife, has one dated shortly before his last stand, June 21, 1876, at the mouth of the Rosebud river. Interesting to see his description of his Crow scouts:
They are magnificent-looking men, so much handsomer and more Indian-like than any we have ever seen, and so jolly and sportive; nothing of the gloomy, silent red-man about them.
Oh, yes, we like our red-men to be jolly! Like those Washington Redskins. Hey, what if a team were called Blackskins or Whiteskins, would we accept that or call it racist?
Well, this post is long enough and I haven’t gotten to my purpose, which was to list the next eight books I want to read dealing with the Western frontier. Maybe another post later!