On a scorching June Sunday in 1876, thousands of Indian warriors - Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho - converged on a grassy ridge above the valley of Montana's Little Bighorn River. On the ridge five companies of United States cavalry - 262 soldiers, comprising officers and troopers - fought desperately but hopelessly. When the guns fell silent, no soldier - including their commanding officer, Lt Col. George Armstrong Custer - had survived. Custer's Last Stand is among the most enduring events in American history - 130 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 research and novelist's eye for story and detail to re-create the heroism, foolishness and savagery of this crucial chapter in the history of the West.
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Part anthropological study of Plains Indian life, part military history, and part character study of the principal actors in the Battle of the Little Big Horn, Evan Connell's justly well-known book presents a balanced and critical account of George Armstrong Custer's career. ("Why he was esteemed as an Indian fighter is puzzling," Connell remarks. "None of his frontier campaigns demonstrated particular skill or insight.") Connell also examines the lives of Captain Frederick Benteen and Major Marcus Reno, the admirable General George Crook, and their foes Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and Rain in the Face. Reno comes out worst: he held the dubious distinction of having the worst record before or since in the history of the United States Military Academy, and he was dishonorably discharged for incompetence after failing to get his column into battle in time to save Custer's command. Connell's thrilling story has all the inevitability of a tragedy, but there are no tragic heroes to which to point.About the Author:
Evan S. Connell, long recognised as one of the most important American literary voices, is the author of seventeen books, including Mrs. Bridge, Mr. Bridge, Deus lo Volt: A Chronicle of the Crusades and El Dorado & Other Pursuits (both available in Pimlico). He lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
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