Next came 12 years of checkered service in the American West, ending with the famous massacre at Little Bighorn. The most interesting unanswered question about Custer has less to do with his history than ours--why, more than a century later, are we so captivated by the man and his story? Wert believes the answer lies in the fact that Custer is a "symbol of the nation's guilt over its sad history of continental conquest." (Amazon)
George Armstrong Custer has been so heavily mythologized that the human being has all but been lost. Now, Jeffry Wert reexamines the life of the famous soldier to give us Custer in all his complexity.
Although remembered today as the loser at Little Big Horn, Custer was the victor of many cavalry engagements in the Civil War. He played an important role in several battles in the Virginia theater of the war, including the Shennandoah Campaign. Renowned for his fearlessness in battle, he was always in front of his troops, leading the charge. His men were fiercely loyal to him, and he was highly regarded by Sheridan and Grant as well.
But after the Civil War, when he was assigned to the Indian Wars on the Plains, life changed drastically for Custer. No longer was he in command of soldiers bound together by a cause they believed in. Discipline problems were rampant, and Custer's response earned him a Court-Martial. There were long lulls in the fighting, during which time Custer turned his attention elsewhere, often to his devoted wife Libby.
Wert carefully examines the events around the defeat at the Little Big Horn, drawing from recent archeological finding and the latest scholarship. His evenhanded account of the dramatic battle puts Custer's performance, and that of his subordinates into proper perspective.
From beginning to end this masterful biography peels off the layers of the legend to reveal the real George Armstrong Custer.
Jeffry Wert's article on Custer in the Civil War
- Paperback: 464 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster
- custerwest.org note : 10/10