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A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Little Bighorn - the Last Great Battle of the American West

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

It's hard to be neutral about Custer and the Indian Wars,

and I'm not. Uniquely for a battlefield, at Little Big Horn stones mark the places where soldiers were found after the battle. One can stand on the terrain, among the stones, and even with little knowldge of tactics and firefights see how the battle around Custer play...
and I'm not. Uniquely for a battlefield, at Little Big Horn stones mark the places where soldiers were found after the battle. One can stand on the terrain, among the stones, and even with little knowldge of tactics and firefights see how the battle around Custer played out. Custer lost control of the battle and his units were destroyed piecemeal. Donovan captures the disasterous mess and the afterword, and provides a good, though short, version of the 150-odd years of prologue. He does not, however, draw the unremarkable though obvious conclusions inherent in his story: Custer's and the 7th Cav's failures were due to more than hubris. Custer's experience in the mass battles of the Civil War, with virtually unlimited resources, high-quality troops, and abundant adjacent support had little application to a non-traditional foe when he had fewer resources, needed to be more self-sufficient in the field, and had lower-quality troops. He was a general in the Civil War at the age of a modern lieutenant, learned his lessons young, and didn't adapt to remarkably different circumstances. Donovan's book would be of interest not only to Old West and cavalry fans, but also to historians and strategists who would like additional chapters in the story of the US military adapting, or failing to adapt, to unconventional warfare with peoples who are just not going to adapt to American ways. Same story, different century. Unsurprisingly, these lessons were also lost on the Army at the time, and an organizational and national failure was laid on an individual. Lastly, Donovan does a fine job providing the Indian's perspective, from the sorry history of broken treaties and outright fraud, through the battle and the aftermath.

posted by Anonymous on June 5, 2008

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

Once again the Indian side is not covered

Custer split his command and stopped upon the ridge above the indian encampment to watch the other column charge toward the indians.This was reported by the surviving indians after the battle but, was ignored. Custed planned on cutting the escape off after the indians w...
Custer split his command and stopped upon the ridge above the indian encampment to watch the other column charge toward the indians.This was reported by the surviving indians after the battle but, was ignored. Custed planned on cutting the escape off after the indians were run out of the village. He would not beleve his scouts that the encampment was that large,plus he was a glory seeker. After watching the attempted charge fail he realized his mistake and with indians charging from the revine was in no position to attack,retreat or run.Although there were attempts to run. They did the only thing left: dismount and die.

posted by Anonymous on May 30, 2008

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2008

    It's hard to be neutral about Custer and the Indian Wars,

    and I'm not. Uniquely for a battlefield, at Little Big Horn stones mark the places where soldiers were found after the battle. One can stand on the terrain, among the stones, and even with little knowldge of tactics and firefights see how the battle around Custer played out. Custer lost control of the battle and his units were destroyed piecemeal. Donovan captures the disasterous mess and the afterword, and provides a good, though short, version of the 150-odd years of prologue. He does not, however, draw the unremarkable though obvious conclusions inherent in his story: Custer's and the 7th Cav's failures were due to more than hubris. Custer's experience in the mass battles of the Civil War, with virtually unlimited resources, high-quality troops, and abundant adjacent support had little application to a non-traditional foe when he had fewer resources, needed to be more self-sufficient in the field, and had lower-quality troops. He was a general in the Civil War at the age of a modern lieutenant, learned his lessons young, and didn't adapt to remarkably different circumstances. Donovan's book would be of interest not only to Old West and cavalry fans, but also to historians and strategists who would like additional chapters in the story of the US military adapting, or failing to adapt, to unconventional warfare with peoples who are just not going to adapt to American ways. Same story, different century. Unsurprisingly, these lessons were also lost on the Army at the time, and an organizational and national failure was laid on an individual. Lastly, Donovan does a fine job providing the Indian's perspective, from the sorry history of broken treaties and outright fraud, through the battle and the aftermath.

    9 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 17, 2009

    Very well done

    Another very good book that has came out in the last 10 years or so that deal with the facts and cuts through all the garbage that the US Army have thrown down since the battle. This book also helps put to rest the one sided propaganda crap that really started with the movie Little Big Man. (Good entertaining movie but its fiction and I am amazed how many people actually think this movie is a true story it is laughable) I would also like to add about the archelogical digs that fox did. First of all he used Indian testimony that there was no last stand and I have read countless books on the subject and for every Indian testimony he gives that it was a short battle I can show you 10 Indians testimonials that say just the opposite. For not finding more shell casings on last stand hill he forgot to mention up into the 1960's it was legal for people to walk the battlefiel and pick up shell casings and people did. There also has been other research of the area and these people have said themselves they have picked up shell casings. He also failed to mention there has been a road that has been put in and a monument. Most of the major Indian players from Sitting Bull on down have talked about how the soldiers put up a brave fight on Last Stand Hill. When Terry arrived they also found there was a breast work of around 40 horses killed that the soldiers layed behind to fire but this fact has seemed to be covered up over the years. the Army and especially Beenteen and Reno had to make it seem like a route to cover up their cowardice and indifference. The new evidence also points out that there was close to 200 Indians that died fighting custer which points to a hard fight. The army also made the Indian camp larger than it was they would like us to believe they were 4000 warriors Beenteen in one of his many lies even said 9000 at one time but there was 1500 warriors with the the possibility of maybe 2000 which was exactly what the Army believed they would find all along.custer had his faults but what History has done to his memory and how it has portrayed him is criminal. Beenteen and Reno are the two history should villafy and then guys like Grant, Terry and Sherman should receive their fair share of the blame for covering up. If you like to read some other good books the best one might be To Hell with Honor by Larry Skelnar.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 26, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    This book tells the whole story in minute detail

    If you are interested in the history of the US west after the civil war, this book provides incredible detail. You may find the beginning somewhat slow as the backgrounds are developed, but if you really want to understand the actions of the players during this period the detail is essential. It makes it much easier to understand the interactions of Washington DC, the US Army, civilians and the native Americans.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 10, 2009

    Custer's Defence

    George Armstrong Custer certainly had his personal faults, including self promotion and a huge ego. However, the writer makes a good case that the Battle of the Little Bighorn and the subsequent destruction of the Seventh Cavalry should not be blamed on his shortcomings. Rather, many mistakes by a number of partiscipants contributed to this tragic event. The book also provides some interesting insights into the post Civil War lives of President Grant, General Sherman, Sitting Bull,Crazy Horse and, of course, Custer.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 25, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Good But Not The Final Word

    This is a solid, well-written account of the Little Big Horn. The author sheds light on some aspects of the battle and aftermath that were new to me. However, I think he underplayed some of the archeological work done by the Fox-Scott team in the 1980s that suggests that the Custer battalion disintegrated under fire and his account of the Last Stand seems unconvincing in that light. I still feel that Evan S. Connell's Son of the Morning Star is the best, most original book written about the battle and Custer. Stephen Ambrose's Crazy Horse and Custer is a good dual biography of both men and Gregory Urwin's Custer Victorious demonstrates why Custer had such a high reputation in the post Civil War Army.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2008

    SERVED IN CUSTER'S OUTFIT

    I've been fascinated by Little Bighorn since 1968, when I served in the 7th Infantry [Custer's old Seventh Cavalry]in Vietnam. Serving with me was Gary Medicine Bird, grandson of Kills-At-Night, a Cheyenne warrior who fought in this battle, who is mentioned in the book 'Son of the Morning Star,' and who lived to be over 100 years old. Old enough to tell his grandson firsthand about the events of that day.--Tom Reilly

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 17, 2010

    A very interesting book.

    I have been to Custer National Park and after reading this interesting account will be making plans to return. The author takes a story that is very well known, and through very thorough research brings to light new and interesting conclusions of what probably happened on a long ago time in the untamed wilds of our very young country. I found myself unable to put the book down after believing that I knew the story of what transpired leading up to the battle of the Little Big Horn. But with the conclusions drawn and the information provided there is a deeper insight into the motives and emotions of those involved. During my reading I found myself with feelings and emotional ties to the main participants that surprised and delighted me. Be prepared for an unexpected thrilling ride to the conclusion!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2009

    Fair and Interesting Take on Custer and the Little Big Horn

    I found A Terrible Glory to be a fair and balanced portrayl of Custer, and based on extensive research. The book was neither a tired attempt to glorify Custer and gloss over his shortcomings and mistakes (there were several), nor another book devoted to laying the blame for the Little Big Horn disaster solely at Custer's feet. Rather, the author explained how the result of the battle also was the product of the mistakes and cowardice of the other officers, the soldiers' gross underestimation of the strength and skill of the Indian warriors, and the poor organization and training of the soldiers, including the officers, who accompanied Custer. I also enjoyed the author's inclusion of a human element by explaining the strengths and weaknesses of the players in the story, as well as the effect of the Little Big Horn on those who survived or were left behind (Mrs. Custer, for example). Overall, I found the book to be an easy read that should appeal to those, like me, who had little knowledge of the Little Big Horn or Custer, and Custer or Little Big Horn buffs looking for a fresh take.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2008

    Once again the Indian side is not covered

    Custer split his command and stopped upon the ridge above the indian encampment to watch the other column charge toward the indians.This was reported by the surviving indians after the battle but, was ignored. Custed planned on cutting the escape off after the indians were run out of the village. He would not beleve his scouts that the encampment was that large,plus he was a glory seeker. After watching the attempted charge fail he realized his mistake and with indians charging from the revine was in no position to attack,retreat or run.Although there were attempts to run. They did the only thing left: dismount and die.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 24, 2008

    A non fiction book that reads like a novel

    I'm not a Custerophile as others who rated this book seem to be. In fact, about all I knew about the man was that he was defeated at Little Bighorn by Sitting Bull and the Sioux tribe. I have, however stopped by the battlefield on a number of occasions whilst driving from Washington to Colorado and always found it to be a fascinating place. That having been said, I could not put this book down. I'm sure, as others are wont to point out, there might be a few factual errors in this book but I certainly didn't care. I read on with reckless abandon. I would highly recommend this book to anyone.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2008

    Brilliantly written┬┐

    The Indians assisted settlers, teaching them how to raise crops and even sharing their food with them. In return, the white man looked on the Indians as savages and treated them like animals. The American government, on more than one occasion, cheated the Indians. Eventually, the Indians fought back. Custer¿s reputation grew as an Indian fighter. A Terrible Glory is a history buff¿s dream come true. James Donovan carefully researched the Battle of Little Bighorn. He considered recent findings. While we can never be certain what happened June 25, 1876, we can speculate. A Terrible Glory is written brilliantly. This book is hard to put down. There are over 500 pages, and yet the book is mesmerizing to the end. The photographs add much to the text. They make this tiny bit of history come alive. Donovan aptly describes the battle and aftermath. ¿There were skulls to crush, eyes to tear out, muscle and tendons to sever, limbs to hack off, and heads to separate from bodies.¿ A Terrible Glory will fascinate many. History buffs should rush out and get their copy today.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 11, 2008

    No victory for either side

    Good book - a little confusing when explaining the Terry,Gibbon,Cook marches to find the hostiles. Some stuff is new, but like the titanic, history can't be rewritten. Somewhat slow beginning but then it takes off and shows the confusion of battle. The aftermath was the sad part of the book - no one won in this scenario. Custer was dead, Reno / Benteen and the rest of the officers chose to protect the honor of the regiment. Libbie suffered and the indians never got what the originally wanted - to be left alone.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2008

    Donovan on Custer

    A candid, objective, and refreshing look at the mystery of June 25, 1876, a blazing-hot day of thirst, terror, and tragedy for Custer and 220 troopers of his beloved Seventh Cavalry. A must for every Custer fan!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 15, 2012

    A Terrible Glory was fantastically written. My previous impressi

    A Terrible Glory was fantastically written. My previous impression on the Battle of Little Bighorn was changed drastically. Having Custer taking the majority of the blame for the masacre (as most people would understand it) is simply unjust. This book is a great read. You get a more compelling sense in what actually happened at the Little Bighorn.

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  • Posted October 14, 2011

    Worth reading

    This was a great book, i read it cover to cover in day. I would read it again, its that good.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2011

    De4we8

    A pompous politician/general who thought himself invincible and his command paid the ultimate price, as did the plains tribes he tried to subjugate

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  • Posted March 15, 2011

    A Terrible Glory

    I just recently got interested in the civil war era and found this book to be very good. It dragged a bit in certain parts, but James Donovan really paints a vivid picture of Little Bighorn and the men who were there.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2008

    very disapointed

    i would like to say that the real victim in that battle was the native americans and i would hope that anyone who really wants to see the truth of all those battles of the west with the natvie americans will also read bury my heart at wounded knee.

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2008

    A good read that has a significant error.

    I enjoyed the book but it seems to jump around a bit. It also has a significant error on page 276 where the author writes that Custer was first shot in the right breast and then the right temple. These injuries occurred on the left side, and the author himself notes that later on page 308 when describing the fatal wounds.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2008

    Not perfect, but close!

    Simply put, this is a very, very good book. I thoroughly enjoyed how Donovan brought the players to life - many with a detailed story of their early life until their death. On one hand Donovan does a great job of describing the organization of the post -Civil War army, its politics, its training, its leaders and its strategy. On the other hand I was a bit disappointed in the description of the battles (Rosebud and Little Big Horn). At some points the descriptions could be vivid at others the description could be abrupt. While it was not hard to see parallels in the army¿s efforts to quell the insurgency and track down it leaders (some of whom used another country for safe haven) with our efforts today in the Middle East, I was never quite sure whether Donovan was a fan of Custer or not. Clearly he was no fan of Reno, and to a certain extent, Benteen, but I suppose my question implies that Donovan did a fine job in sticking to the facts and not letting any personal bias surface. Recommended without reservations.

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