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A Terrible Glory

4.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,181 Ratings  ·  150 Reviews
In June 1876, on a desolate hill above a winding river called "the Little Bighorn," George Armstrong Custer and all 210 men under his direct command were annihilated by almost 2,000 Sioux and Cheyenne. The news of this devastating loss caused a public uproar, and those in positions of power promptly began to point fingers in order to avoid responsibility. Custer, who was c ...more
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Published April 1st 2010 by Findaway World (first published 2008)
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Apr 26, 2016 Matt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Little Big Man, the 1974 film based on Thomas Berger's novel, an unhinged George Armstrong Custer, facing death at the hands of Lakota and Cheyenne Indians at the Little Big Horn, rants about Ulysses Grant's drunkeness until being felled by an arrow. It is a classic, seriocomic scene, that is readily available on YouTube if you care to look it up.

Little Big Man was a revisionist western, attempting to make up for years of stereotypical Indian portrayals by...stereotyping the other side. This
Mar 20, 2015 Shane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A perfect example of why I love a good history book. Before reading this, I had only a glimmer of an idea of what happened at the Battle of the Little Bighorn, complete with the customary demonization of General Custer that everyone seems to get from their high school teachers. James Donovan has clearly done an exhaustive amount of research to craft what is an engaging work that covers the battle, its antecedents, and its aftermath. Better than just a dull retelling of the details of this histor ...more
Keith Akers
Jul 19, 2011 Keith Akers rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the third book I've read on the Little Bighorn incident. It was well written and informative. This book follows a straight chronological sequence.

I actually read this book after reading the Philbrick book on this battle, even though this one was written first. I'd say they are broadly similar, covering the same basic ground, with good maps and fairly easy to follow. Critics who say that Philbrick did not substantially add to Donovan's book, therefore, have a valid point. I found Donovan
Oof. This book rates somewhere between the low twos to the mid fours depending on what chapter your in. I suppose it's my hatred of media frenzies in general that made the whole book difficult to read. After all, the actual important history of Custer's Last Stand was it's effect on America and its culture. The fact that Custer dies and Sitting Bull lives is really only important to the speculative fiction crowd.

I know it isn't fair to blame the author for a history that I just can't find fas
Miles Mathews
Jan 30, 2013 Miles Mathews rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have been a student of Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn for many years, and James Donovan's book is among the best I have ever read on the subject. I agree with historian Robert Utley that the author's use of first-hand sources are superior.

Opinions about Custer are everywhere to be found; however, it has been my experience that most of those who have a strong opinion on either side of the debate have no real knowledge of the subject. Donovan's book is one of the best places to sta
Jared Shipley
Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer remains one of the most controversial figures in American history. It seems that for every act of nobility there was an equal act of juvenility. His deep love and devotion to his wife Elizabeth was countered with his boastfulness and arrogance regarding his military ability. He graduated last in his class from West Point, yet led the Third Division during the Civil War, which played vital parts in securing Union lines and, the day before Lee's surrender, seized t ...more
Most history books refer to Custer's battle at the Little Bighorn as merely a historical footnote - more popular mythology than anything else. Read this book and find out the detail and events surrounding the story taking it from footnote to turning point. Custer's days as a Civil War Calvary officer lead him to posting in the west as commander of the 7th Calvary. His goal - passification of the west against the non-treaty "hostiles" or Sioux. Here his path will tragically cross with Sitting Bul ...more
Mansoor Azam
General Custer has always been a topic I wanted to read. so much aura of romanticism built around his last charge. So it was all but natural that I grabbed this one with both hands though I went to buy some other book.
The author builds the story with a lot of poise and effort. Though the title says that this one is about the battle at Big Horn but author goes and builds the character of Custer through his history though it s not very detailed to be counted as a biography but gets you in the gro
Carlene Amaro
May 23, 2015 Carlene Amaro rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having read numerous accounts of the various battles of the U.S. war against the western native nations, I found that this account provided more detail from all sides of the conflict, yet, inevitably, left me confused. The author's exhaustive research, inclusion of accounts from natives, scouts, enlisted men, and letters, showed how impossible it is for anyone to assess performances during battle. This book did not appear to attempt to lay blame for the results of the Battle on the Little Big Ho ...more
Aug 27, 2012 Kelley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was one of the best historical accounts I have read in a very long time. It is incredibly well researched and documented. I reread the chapter on Custer's last few minutes a couple of times, it was so well written and descriptive. The confusion of the battlefield is captured as Custer and his men come to realize that while other forces are in the area, help is not likely to show up. Spoiler alert: They all die. Custer, two of his brothers, and one of their nephews were all killed in the bat ...more
Stilted writing in a Custer hagiography

First, Donovan's writing style, while not necessarily pedestrian, is definitely stilted at times and also grating at times. For instance, I think I would have torn out what's left of my hair if I heard the phrase "dundreary Cooke" one more time.

This is nowhere near "Son of the Morning Star" stylistically. And, it has some copy editing problems.

But, let's get to the meat of the book.

While Custer's reputation, certainly among his surviving contemporaries in t
Ben Garrison
Jul 08, 2013 Ben Garrison rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very easy to read history of Custer and the LIttle Bighorn. This would be a good one to read before visiting the battlefield. The book is balanced in its perspective and clearly revealed the conditions and motives behind the big defeat for Custer and the 7th Calvary--and the big, last victory for the Indians.

The book was not easy on the drunken Marcus Reno. Deservedly so. That said, the author could have mentioned the fact that Reno's descendants tried to rehabilitate his name--and they were s
Ted Behrens
Apr 22, 2009 Ted Behrens rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A Terrible Glory Custer and the Little Bighorn: The Last Great Battle of the American West by James Donovan. Captures the battle and its aftermath better than any other I've read with over 150 pages of Bibliography. Of particular interest to me are the descriptions of the Reno and Benteen battle which rages on Reno Hill only a few miles from Custer's last stand. In addition Donovan clearly details the convergence of Gen Crook and Gibbons as their troops move through the area during the seige. Th ...more
Oct 12, 2015 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a detailed account of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Custer’s last stand, and Custer’s life (although not a full biography). It features extensive research and offers interesting side-notes, for example it was told that Custer was at Appomattox Courthouse when Lee surrendered. Gen. Sheridan purchased and gave Custer the table on which the conditions of surrender were signed, as a gift to Custer’s wife.

The book offered lots of detail about Custer’s contentious relationships with fello
Colin Darby
Aug 30, 2015 Colin Darby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The facts of the Custer battle do not vary much from book to book; what usually differs is authorial interpretation of the participants' behavior. This was the first book I'd read that made me believe that, perhaps, Custer was more than a glory-seeking fool - not that he was not also that, at times, but that there might be more to the man. The trend in Custer scholarship was, for a long time, either to gild the man or to geld him, but Donovan does a pretty good job splitting the difference even ...more
Bill Brewer
Sep 17, 2014 Bill Brewer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bill by: Park personnel at the Lttle Bighorn National Monument
Custer’s Last Stand, The Battle of the Little Bighorn, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse are all names my generation grew up with but until I visited the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument Battlefield and purchased this book I had no idea of the untold story. To put the event in a time perspective, it occurred a hundred years after the Declaration of Independence and in fact news of the battle reached the east coast during the Centennial celebration. It was the worst national event followin ...more
Jerry Smith
Jan 12, 2015 Jerry Smith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, war, 2015-read
Custer is an interesting and highly polarizing figure in American history, it cannot be argued. This book is essentially two halves, covering his bio and those with whom he came into contact in the first part, followed by the battle itself and aftermath thereafter.

I enjoyed the first part more than I thought I would and the writing is good, although there are some chapters that seem to rely overly on the same words to describe specific situations, and in close order. Milieu for example. However
This book is well researched and written at a level that is approachable to the lay reader (ie. it doesn't read like a textbook). It covers the lead-up to Custer's famous last battle and provides an overview of the major personalities involved (white and native American), as well as a blow-by-blow account of the battle itself. It also examines the fall out of the battle and its impact on the surviving soldiers, the American military, Custer's wife and, importantly, the Indian tribes of the Great ...more
Myke Cole
Jun 14, 2014 Myke Cole rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There are fewer events more contentious in US history than the Little Bighorn, and no character more in dispute than that of Custer. With A Terrible Glory, Donovan declines to take a side, rooting his narrative in the primary sources and sticking (as much as one can) to fact. The result is a gripping story that paints a balanced picture of Custer and the other major players in the Indian Wars, from Sherman to Sheridan to Reno to Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. The book avoids the temptation to giv ...more
'Aussie Rick'
Excellent and detailed account of the Battle of the Little Bighorn - the book to read if you want to know what really happened.
Oct 07, 2014 Jimmacc rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book. Good overview of the Indian war period, Custer's background, and a little of the back and forth between Indian War and Civil War. The pace has a gradual slowdown as you got closer to Little Bighorn. The march to the Little Bighorn was s...l...o...w... but once you got there the descriptions and story telling were excellent. It was not clear through the audiobook what resources were available to compile the story, so a quick look in the library showed what sections were documented ...more
A worthwhile read but the description of the battle could have used more and larger maps. It was hard for me to follow the logistics of the fighting. I was able to get an understanding of the things that caused their failure and how it affected them. Because of its focus on Custer, there was little about the Native American side of things. The author did a pretty good job of conveying a sense that the Indians were protecting their families as it was the intent of the army was to invade the vill ...more
I recommend this book. The author presents an overview of the battles with the Plains Indian tribes from the Sioux uprising in Minnesota and the Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado during the Civil War to Wounded Knee. He presents the perspective of the Indians, including the Crow and Arikara Indians who were mortal enemies of the Sioux and served as army scouts.

The author also describes life in the cavalry during the Indian wars. The soldiers were largely poorly trained, poorly equipped and often p
A Terrible Glory tells of the Battle of Little Bighorn from the perspectives of the US Cavalry and the conglomeration of natives gathered at Little Bighorn, while expressing sympathy for the leaders on both sides. The battle, largely misunderstood, is detailed in the book and mostly blames cowardice on the part of certain officers and white man's pride for the disaster that made this battle infamous.

Very intense was Donovan's writing of the battle itself, often flipping back and forth between
Jul 21, 2011 Alex rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
A detailed account of the events surrounding the celebrated "Last Stand" on the Little Big Horn River, Montana Territory, 25th June, 1876, when five troops of the famed 7th Cavalry under their charismatic commander, George Amstrong Custer,were killed to a man by a confederation of Sioux & Cheyenne warriors and the remaining seven troops so severely mauled they barely escaped with their lives.
Occurring barely a week before the Centenary celebrations of the Declaration of Independence, the def
Nov 17, 2012 Trace rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I still don't feel like I'm qualified to write a reliable review of a book on the topic of George A. Custer, the Battle of Little Bighorn, or the Indian wars of the American West. My sense is that James Donovan did a great job researching this book, delving into primary and secondary sources to flesh out the facts about the battle. At times, the book was a little tedious, but it is a superb recounting of the events of the battle. I also felt like Donavan gave very fair treatment to Custer, Marcu ...more
Jun 11, 2014 Don rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, war, biography
If you want a thorough and well researched account of events, personalities and conflicts both cultural and personal leading up to the Battle of the Little Bighorn and an understanding of the politics, collusion and betrayals in its aftermath this book will satisfy that itch.

While most media portrayals of Custer at the Little Bighorn often make Custer out to be either the hero or the goat, Donovan looks at the evidence and from this we see the human Custer. Here the reader can set aside Custer t
Sep 12, 2010 Krista rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up because I wanted to know the whole story, the true story, the real story. Of course I should have realized that one can never know the whole, true, real story of anything because all history is clouded by perception and current trends.

The Custer/Little Bighorn story is one of those that has had a remarkably fluid back-and-forth of revisionist touches. When I went to the Little Bighorn National Monument in 1996, I came out of there thinking Custer would have been fine if Reno and
Aug 10, 2008 George rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Certainly a well written book, but I would take his conclusions with at least a grain of salt. These are arguments that have wandered back and forth for over 130 years now and will never be entirely resolved since Custer and the men who rode with him all died. He does a very good job of explaining why Custer acted in the way he did, so you won't find Custer the madman of the movie Little Big Man in this book, but something a little closer to the Custer of They Died with their Boots on, but drawn ...more
Jun 24, 2008 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in American history
Shelves: nonfiction
Four stars for shedding new light on an American icon in a readable, enjoyable and fascinating account.

First off, everything I ever learned about "General" Custer turns out to be wrong. No surprise, really, as I learned that stuff in high school. But it's safe to say that history has been unkind to Custer.

A Terrible Glory details the events that led up to Little Bighorn both from the perspective of Custer and his soldiers and the Sioux who they attacked. It's well written, elegantly structured,
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James Donovan is the author of the classic illustrated account of Custer's Last Stand, A Terrible Glory, and Custer and the Little Bighorn. He lives in Dallas.
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