Books by William O. Taylor

Released: Aug. 1, 1996

Joining the crowded ranks of new books about General George Armstrong Custer's now mythic final battle in 1876 is this newfound eyewitness account by a private in the Seventh Cavalry, attached to Major Marcus Reno's command. Unearthed and edited by Martin, the director of the Western memorabilia department of a San Francisco auction house, Taylor's manuscript, completed five years before his death in 1923, vividly recounts the heroics of his badly outnumbered comrades and provides further evidence of Major Reno's incompetence and cowardice on the Little Bighorn. Reno, sent by Custer to flank a suspected Indian force, was attacked and fled the field. Taylor, despite losing his mount and his pistol, and with soldiers dropping all around him, managed to gain the bluff to which Reno's disordered force retreated. Trapped under a broiling sun with little water, surrounded by snipers, they listened to the fusillade of gunshots signaling Custer's last stand. While Taylor recounts such horrifying battlefield details as the mutilation of the bodies of dead soldiers by the Sioux, he speaks with great empathy of the Indians' plight. Upon seeing the body of a Sioux who had been scalped by soldiers, Taylor reflects, ``I could not help a feeling of sorrow. . . . He was within a few hundred rods of his home and family which we had attempted to destroy and he had died to defend.'' Some remarkable materials lend a homely power to Taylor's narrative: statements by army officers and Sioux leaders; period poetry about the battle; photographs of soldiers, Indians, and army scouts; and even a listing of such personal items as soldier's rings and watches recovered from Indians long after the event. This sweeping account by a surprisingly gifted writer is more than a battlefield epic; it is vibrant, living history that easily leaps the 120-year chasm between us and combatants that day at the Little Bighorn. (Editor tour) Read full book review >