It’s a story that has been burned into American memory since it first went down on that hot summer day in 1876, when the 650 soldiers under the command of George Armstrong Custer came under attack by untold thousands of allied Sioux and Cheyenne warriors. Best known for popular books about maritime history (Sea of Glory, 2003; Mayflower, 2006), Nathaniel Philbrick steps onto dry land with his vivid account of the Battle of Little Big Horn and the many missteps and personality clashes that led to it. “It was daunting from a research point of view in that I had to read them all,” says Philbrick of the hundreds of books already devoted to the subject. “But from the beginning I felt I was coming to the topic from a unique point of view. One of the arguments running through my past books is that before the West took center stage in the collective American imagination, there was yet another wilderness that was essential to the country’s sense of itself as an emerging world power—the sea. With The Last Stand I hoped to identify the differences and continuities between these two legendary regions of adventure, opportunity and exploitation.” If the landing of the Mayflower represents the opening of the American frontier, Custer’s rendezvous with destiny represents its closing. Having dispatched with Custer and his command, Philbrick says that he is returning to that opening and staying on terra firma with his next book, a study of Boston during the American Revolution, a time of terrific stress that, he says, “felt very much like a civil war.”
For a list of all the best nonfiction books of 2010, click here.
The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn
Nathaniel PhilbrickViking / May / 9780670021727 / $30.00
This book was featured in the Kirkus Best of 2010