I’ve been fascinated by the Battle of the Little Big Horn (aka “Custer’s Last Stand”) since the summer between 4th and 5th grades. And no, I’m not going to try to draw some sort of ham-fisted connection between the battle and taxes. This post is purely personal.
I remember that summer, when I stumbled across an old book in my parent’s musty basement. The book was a fictional account of the “only survivor” of the battle … a cavalry horse named Comanche. That book was the spark of a lifelong obsession with the battle.
I would soon learn that this book was total, ridiculous, fiction, devoid from almost any reality. But it drew me in.
I’m not sure what the draw is. Maybe it’s the fact that no one really knows how the battle played out. (To clarify: no white man knows how the battle played out.)
I’ve read countless books on the subject. My bookshelves are lined with dozens of books about the battle. Dozens more reside in boxes in my garage. I’ve visited the battlefield in Montana at least five times (I’ve honestly lost track).
I have my own pet theory about what happened, but I won’t bore you with it here. Not today anyway. At heart, it comes down to Custer underestimating the size of the Native American village he was attacking, and spreading his forces way too thin and out of effective range for contact or help. (There WERE soldiers who survived the battle. Custer divided his force into 4 parts. The other 3 parts survived; his did not.)
There are many books out there about Little Big Horn. To this day, books are still being written.
But I would recommend staying away from the modern-day books with their cheesy “shocking revelations” that are not really all that shocking.
Here’s a good starting point.
Son of the Morning Star by Evan S. Connell.
This book, written in 1984, is the single greatest resource about the battle. Connell relates stories and anecdotes from both the U.S. and Native American side.
I have read this book repeatedly. The picture you see is my original copy my parents bought me almost 25 years ago. I’ve read it so many times the pages are falling out. I learn something new each and every time I read it. If you’re going to read one book about the battle, this is the one.