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The resonant narrative is cast in the form of a first-person journal kept by the martial wunderkind during the period from May 18 through the morning of June 25, 1876. Ordered by the War Department to lead a force of mounted troops against Sioux and other tribes resisting settlement on government reservations, Lieutenant Colonel Custer reflects on the almost constant conflicts of a checkered past and on his uncertain future. While pondering the campaign on which he's embarked, Custer recalls the glory of his Civil War service, the bitterness of occupation duty in a conquered South, and the cutbacks in America's military that reduced him in rank from a brevet major general to captain. The seasoned field commander remembers his comeback (when the Seventh Cavalry Regiment was organized) and the subsequent disgrace of a one-year suspension from the Army (for being absent without leave). The deterministic Custer reminisces as well about his instant redemption as victor over a large band of Cheyenne in a bloody midwinter engagement on the banks of the Washita River. He goes on to review his running battles with corrupt federal agencies and exasperation with elected officials who continuously changed national policy on Plains Indians. An affecting love story also runs through the uxorious warrior's autobiographical musings, one that details the abiding spiritual devotion he and his wife Libbie have for each other. Custer cherishes honor and glory at least as much as love, however, and at the close he marches out to embrace his as yet unknown fate on a summer's morn in the wilds of Montana.
A tour de force that sympathetically brings one of American history's more intriguing heroes vividly to life on the eve of his destruction.
Posted March 16, 2012