The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull and the Battle of the Little Big Horn by Nathaniel Philbrick

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The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull and the Battle of the Little Big Horn by Nathaniel Philbrick

Category: History
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Robert James
Reviewed by Robert James
Summary: Going behind the myths which have built up about Custer's death, this is a fascinating study of the general himself, Sitting Bull, and the events which led up to their famous battle.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 496 Date: June 2011
Publisher: Vintage
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0099521242

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I have to admit that I was rather underinformed about Custer before reading this book; I knew that he was killed at the Battle of Little Big Horn and that opinion seemed to be split on whether he was an arrogant and over-confident commander or a dashing and brilliant one. From reading this admirably even-handed account, not just of his famous Last Stand but also of the events leading up to it, I found out a huge amount about him and the other personalities involved in his defeat.

Philbrick takes care to establish his characters well, with Custer being the undoubted centrepiece of the book but a lot of interesting detail about his wife, Sitting Bull, and fellow soldier Frederick Benteen in particular. The most fascinating parts were perhaps the details of the conflicts between the men fighting the Indians, especially Benteen and Custer himself, and the author skilfully brings out the motives of the various people. He's helped by an enjoyable writing style which pitches the reader into the thick of the scene. Additionally, there are some excellent photographs and Native American pictographs of the main players, and a comprehensive selection of maps concentrating mainly on the day of the Last Stand itself, which do a great job of illustrating how the fighting developed. It's clearly very well researched - while it weighs in at around 450 pages, just over 300 of that is the main narrative with the rest being appendices, notes, and an absolutely mammoth bibliography which will provide you with enough further reading to keep going into 2015 or so if you're interested in finding out even more about the subject.

All in all, this is an extremely worthwhile read for those interested in this particular period of American history, and is worth a try for the casual reader as well.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: For more on the American West, I would imagine the vast majority of reviewers would direct you to Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. There's a reason for that - it's incredibly moving and wonderfully written - so I'll follow the crowd!

Buy The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull and the Battle of the Little Big Horn by Nathaniel Philbrick at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull and the Battle of the Little Big Horn by Nathaniel Philbrick at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull and the Battle of the Little Big Horn by Nathaniel Philbrick at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull and the Battle of the Little Big Horn by Nathaniel Philbrick at Amazon.com.


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