Synopses & Reviews
The bestselling author of Mayflower
sheds new light on one of the iconic stories of the American West.
Little Bighorn and Custer are names synonymous in the American imagination with unmatched bravery and spectacular defeat. Mythologized as Custer's Last Stand, the June 1876 battle has been equated with other famous last stands, from the Spartans' defeat at Thermopylae to Davy Crockett at the Alamo.
In his tightly structured narrative, Nathaniel Philbrick brilliantly sketches the two larger-than-life antagonists: Sitting Bull, whose charisma and political savvy earned him the position of leader of the Plains Indians, and George Armstrong Custer, one of the Union's greatest cavalry officers and a man with a reputation for fearless and often reckless courage. Philbrick reminds readers that the Battle of the Little Bighorn was also, even in victory, the last stand for the Sioux and Cheyenne Indian nations. Increasingly outraged by the government's Indian policies, the Plains tribes allied themselves and held their ground in southern Montana. Within a few years of Little Bighorn, however, all the major tribal leaders would be confined to Indian reservations.
Throughout, Philbrick beautifully evokes the history and geography of the Great Plains with his characteristic grace and sense of drama. The Last Stand is a mesmerizing account of the archetypal story of the American West, one that continues to haunt our collective imagination.
"Philbrick here takes on an oft-told tale, replete with its dashing, flawed main character, its historically doomed, noble Native chief, and a battlefield strewn with American corpses. While off his usual stride with a surfeit of unnecessary detail, bestselling author and National Book Award winner Philbrick (In the Heart of the Sea; The Mayflower) writes a lively narrative that brushes away the cobwebs of mythology to reveal the context and realities of Custer's unexpected 1876 defeat at the hands of his Indian enemies under Sitting Bull, and the character of each leader. Judicious in his assessments of events and intentions, Philbrick offers a rounded history of one of the worst defeats in American military history, a story enhanced by his minute examination of the battle's terrain and interviews with descendants in both camps. Distinctively, too, he takes no sides. In his compelling history, Philbrick underscores the pyrrhic nature of Sitting Bull's victory it was followed by federal action to move his tribe to a reservation. 32 pages of b&w photos, 18 pages of color photos, 18 maps." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Praise for Mayflower, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in History
"Vivid and remarkably fresh...Philbrick has recast the Pilgrims for our age of searching and turmoil."
The New York Times Book Review
"A signal achievement. Philbrick enlightens and even astounds."
Praise for Sea of Glory, winner of the Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt Naval History Prize
"Brilliantly told...has to be among the best nonfiction books of this or any other year."
Los Angeles Time Book Review
"A breathtaking account of one of history's greatest adventures."
From the author of the New York Times-bestseller In the Heart of the Sea and the award-winning Sea of Glory comes this chronicle of the Battle of Little Bighorn.
With a fantastic body of work that includes In the Heart of the Sea and Pulitzer Prize finalist Mayflower, Nathaniel Philbrick has emerged as a historian with a unique ability to bring history to life. The Last Stand is Philbrick's monumental reappraisal of the epochal clash at the Little Bighorn in 1876 that gave birth to the legend of Custer's Last Stand. Bringing a wealth of new information to his subject, as well as his characteristic literary flair, Philbrick details the collision between two American icons- George Armstrong Custer and Sitting Bull-that both parties wished to avoid, and brilliantly explains how the battle that ensued has been shaped and reshaped by national myth.
About the Author
Nathaniel Philbrick, is a leading authority on the history of Nantucket Island. His In the Heart of the Sea
won the National Book Award. His latest book is Sea of Glory
, about the epic U.S. Exploring Expedition of 1838-1842. His other books include Away off Shore: Nantucket Island and Its People
, 1602-1890 (which Russell Baker called "indispensable") and Abram's Eyes: The Native American Legend of Nantucket Island
("a classic of historical truthtelling," according to Stuart Frank, director of the Kendall Whaling Museum).
He has appeared on NBC Today Weekend, A&E's Biography series, and National Public Radio and has served as a consultant for the movie Moby Dick, shown on the USA Network. He received a bachelor of Arts from Brown University and a Master of Arts in American Literature from Duke. He lives on Natucket with his wife and two children.