Billy Heath: The Man Who Survived Custer's Last Stand

Billy Heath: The Man Who Survived Custer's Last Stand

by Vincent J. Genovese, Brian C. Pohanka
     
 

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For more than one hundred twenty-five years virtually every history book in print has contended that no white man survived the Battle of the Little Bighorn, where Custer made his famous "last stand." This book provides compelling proof that at least one member of the Seventh Cavalry, a man named William Heath, did indeed escape. In this intriguing analysis of

Overview

For more than one hundred twenty-five years virtually every history book in print has contended that no white man survived the Battle of the Little Bighorn, where Custer made his famous "last stand." This book provides compelling proof that at least one member of the Seventh Cavalry, a man named William Heath, did indeed escape. In this intriguing analysis of hitherto neglected historical documents, Vincent J. Genovese provides verifiable evidence that dispels the long-held myth that none of Custer's soldiers survived the massacre that took place in Montana on June 25, 1876.

Genovese chronicles the life of this "Lazarus of the Little Bighorn," who joined the army at age 27 after fleeing from Pennsylvania under threats on his life. Documents show that Billy Heath lived in a small coal-mining town in Pennsylvania and that he enlisted in the Seventh Cavalry in 1875, not long before the fateful battle. Further, U.S. Army records verify that he was one of the soldiers at the Little Bighorn. His name also appears on a list of those killed in action and is inscribed on the official monument that stands at the battle site.

What makes Genovese's contribution to the history of this famous event so interesting are public records that he here introduces, which show indisputably that William Heath lived on for fourteen more years after the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Birth records from his hometown in Schuylkill County, PA, indicate that he fathered seven children before dying in obscurity. His gravestone still exists in the local cemetery.

This is a unique and fascinating re-evaluation of a storied event in American history, which will surely provoke controversy.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Could anyone in Custer's detachment have survived the Battle of the Little Bighorn? Given the haste and lack of care in identification by the original 1876 burial detail, it is possible. But anyone making such a claim needs to provide a logical and exhaustively annotated argument, as if writing a brief for the Supreme Court. Instead, psychologist Genovese avoids the use of notes because they would get in the way of his story about reputed survivor William Heath. Moreover, at the very points where he needs to provide the most logical proofs he asks the reader to accept his suppositions on the basis of Heath family tradition. The archaeological record would probably help his cause, but he ignores it in favor of oral tradition and scant written records. Much of the book is background, and here Genovese juxtaposes events that occurred decades apart and jumps back and forth across the decades until the reader is thoroughly confused. In fact, he seems more interested in the scandals of the Grant administration and in the Molly Maguires than in his subject. If Heath did indeed survive the Little Bighorn, he needs a better-informed writer to champion his cause. Genovese is at his best when discussing Custer's psychological makeup. He should have written that book instead. Not recommended.-Stephen H. Peters, Northern Michigan Univ. Lib., Marquette Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781591020660
Publisher:
Prometheus Books
Publication date:
02/15/2003
Pages:
210
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.68(d)

Meet the Author

Vincent J. Genovese is the author of The Angel of Ashland: Practicing Compassion and Tempting Fate: A Biography of Robert Spencer, M.D.

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