Just when you thought nothing more could be written on Lieutenant Colonel George Custer, along comes a brilliant narrative that gives new life to the U.S. Army's most embarrassing domestic defeat. The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn (Viking, $30, May), by National Book Award winner Nathaniel Philbrick, rivals Evan S. Connell's Son of the Morning Star: Custer and the Little Bighorn in its breadth and accessibility, following the converging paths of Custer and Sioux chief Sitting Bull. Philbrick blames the Seventh Cavalry's massacre on commander General Alfred Terry, who knew Custer lacked the humility to back down from a fight and who has since "slunk back into the shadows of history, letting Custer take center stage in a cumulative tragedy for which Terry was...responsible." The Seventh doesn't come off much better, depicted as a band of drunk savages led into battle with those most famous of last words: "Boys, hold your horses. There are plenty of them down there for us all."
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