Son of the Morning Star: Custer and the Little Bighorn
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Son of the Morning Star: Custer and the Little Bighorn

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  1,409 ratings  ·  96 reviews
Custer's Last Stand is among the most enduring events in American history--more than one hundred years after the fact, books continue to be written and people continue to argue about even the most basic details surrounding the Little Bighorn. Evan S. Connell, whom Joyce Carol Oates has described as "one of our most interesting and intelligent American writers," wrote what...more
Paperback, 448 pages
Published October 30th 1997 by North Point Press (first published 1984)
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The dominant impression I get of Custer from this, the first book I’ve read about the “national totem” who “stands forever on that dusty Montana slope,” is that of a real natural born killer. One of those gracefully ferocious, lupine men. The accounts of his preternatural energy and aggression and extracts of his own letters cohere into a picture of predatory grace, of sleek, elemental blood-thirst and glory-hunger. Custer was eerily in touch with his nature—-the nature of a gleeful hunter. Conn...more
I first tried to read this book at a very young age. I'd already been to the Little Big Horn (at that, pre-politically correct time, still called "Custer's Last Stand National Monument") and had read the Landmark Book on Custer's death and had seen Errol Flynn die with his boots on. That didn't prepare me for novelist Evan S. Connell's take on George A. Custer's famous final battle.

The problem was that the book starts post-battle, with the discovery of Custer's dead command. My mind, at that ti...more
"My estimate of Reno and Custer is this: The former was brave but not rash, and Custer was both," wrote a First Cavalry acquaintance of Custer.

As I read this book, I tried to imagine the vast American West as an ocean of grass, imbued with danger, distance and the chance for honor, not unlike the high seas of Nelson and Farragut. It wasn't too hard to conjure. At the same time, I expected a view of the Army as a blunt instrument of national policy, often stupid and genocidal. This also was easy...more
Carol Storm
"Many things are told of Sitting Bull. Some are certainly false, others may be true. But one thing is beyond dispute. Sitting Bull liked women. He liked women enormously. He was certainly married two or three times. He may have been married as many as eight or nine times. Here he is pictured with . . ."

I think it shows how memorable this book is that I not only remember all the characters, and the stories, I actually remember the captions on the pictures in the photo section of the book!

This is...more
I'm not especially interested in Custer or the American West, and I generally avoid anything about the Indian Wars because the subject is tragic and infuriating to the point that it affects my ability to function normally. But this is a terrific book. It's a lot like listening to a vastly informed elderly relative natter on about his most beloved subject. It's discursive, but all the meanderings are full of treasures, and you can't help being swept up in his enthusiasm and affection. It's schola...more
Once in a while you find a book that is so well written that beyond the days of reading, long after you have finished it, the book continues to haunt you. Son of the Morning Star is one of those books. The beauty of Evan Connell's prose and the excellence of his history make this book a minor masterpiece. Perhaps the larger-than-life presence of the central character, who the Indians named "son of the morning star", General George Armstrong Custer, is partly the reason for the magnificence of th...more
Feb 07, 2011 John rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Custer!!!
This is a great book. It is way more than just a story of the Battle of the Little Big Horn. The battle is just the glue that holds the book together. The author goes into the lives of Custer, other soldiers, their wives, scouts, traders, trappers, journalists, politicians and others. Then there are the Indians, their various tribes, customs and motivations.

The books covers the time before and during the battle, plus the aftermath (from both sides). It brings in buffalo hunting, the gold rush i...more
I wish I had read Son of the Morning Star before going to the Custer memorial in Montana. I had read enough of Custer to understand the battle, but the personal stories Connell uses to build to the battle make it all the more interesting. I do like how Connell recounts the different versions of stories by soldier, native American, observer, and then says "it could have been that way, or another."
Custer, of course, does not shine in this story, but others do.
Ray Pierson
OUTSTANDING! What an incredibly well researched book. I feel like a fool for having ignored for years on the mistaken belief that it was a novel.

One real eye-opener was the number of soldiers who were able to flee the fight. Bodies were found twenty miles from the fighting. Maybe some of the stories about survivors were true. The magazine WILD WEST had an interesting article about one such survivor, and it certainly rang true to me.
A.V. Roe
A Terrible Glory is better and more informative, but Son Of The Morning Star explains his nickname in detail, because he perpetrated his massacres at dawn and there were a number of them. What is so ironic is that his demise at the Little Big Horn was partly due to the fact that he ignored all of his own rules. He didn't know the size of the enemy encampment, he didn't attack at dawn while his enemy slept and he split his forces, again and again.

What is supremely ironic is that Custer is an Amer...more
Gloria Mccracken
No, I did not finish this book in one day. In fact, it took me many months (perhaps more than a year) to read, but I read it in such tiny bite-sized pieces that it didn't seem worthwhile to add it to my currently reading list.

Let me say that I believe this a great novel -- and it is a novel, even though it is heavily drawn from a plethora of historical documents. On literary quality alone it is almost certainly worthy of five stars. However, I did find it a chore to read, so for me it was a thr...more
Discursive yet engrossing, this one of the more unusual history books I've read. With an unpredictable, nonlinear narrative that follows characters and themes rather than dates and events, this is not a blow-by-blow of Little Bighorn or Custer's final moments. Rather, it's a feisty, freewheeling exploration of the battle and the confluence of personalities, historical events, and pure chance that led to it. What might have been footnotes in a more orthodox book become revealing digressions here....more
Steven Howes
OK, I admit I am a Custer/Little Bighorn junkie. I have read a number of other works on this subject and decided to read this one based on a review in Wild West magazine of the made for TV movie (1991) with same title. The review stated that of the many movies made regarding Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn, this one was probably the most historically accurate and truly reflected the nature of the characters involved. Therefore I decided to invest the time in reading this rather long...more
I have never been a particular fan of General George Armstrong Custer.

In another life, another career, another part of the country, long, long ago, I made a movie at West Point, one of the few the Army ever allowed to actually be filmed right there at the school. I was really into creating a life for my character, and I was naturally interested in the history of this most illustrious military academy, so I soaked up as much as possible while I was there—the history, traditions, trivia, lore, ru...more
Miles Mathews
Evan S. Connell's book, "Son of the Morning Star" has been on my to-read list for several years. The book did not disappoint me! While Connell has not written the most scholarly study, his book includes a great amount of information, not only about Custer and the 7th Cavalry, but also about numerous participants on both sides of the battle.

Connell's book is not written in chronological order, and it could be difficult to follow for those who might not be familiar with the details of the Battle...more
Mark Silver
I was hoping to get the "definitive" answer to the question if Custer was a hero or a bungler. Although Connell definitely leans toward bungler from the very first page, he seems to present a balanced case, with the reader making the final judgment. Obviously a dark period of US history as relates to the treatment of the Indian tribes. I found the government treatment of the Indians interesting, given that we had finally recognized the humanity of blacks, yet sought to exterminate another people...more
We do not see our hand in what happens,
so we call certain events melancholy accidents... Stanley Cavell

Crazy Horse - all he ever wanted was to be left alone. Very weakly he began his death song.

Crazy Horse was the kind of being never seen on earth: a genius in war, yet a lover of peace; a statesman who apparently never thought of the interests of any human being outside his own camp; a dreamer, a mystic, and a kind of Sioux Christ... This quite possibly was the laconic (using only few words) ind...more
Reading this book was like listening to a senile old man trying to tell you a story of something you are really interested in, and that you know he knows a lot about, only to listen to his narrative wind through side stories and inanities that ruin the experience.

I've read other books by Connell and really liked them. It was clear that he had a great amount of interest in Little Bighorn and had spent years researching Custer, the massacre, and several Indian tribes. But I get the feeling he lock...more
Geoffrey Fox
On the making of late 19th century America's most celebrated tragedy, the annihilation of George Armstrong Custer and his 200+ 7th Cavalrymen at the Little Bighorn. Vivid portrayals of Custer (reckless, flamboyant & very ambitious -- he may have timed his attack to influence the Republican convention to nominate him for president), Maj. Marcus Reno (brave but slow-thinking, he panicked and survived in disgrace), Capt. Frederick Benteen (hard-drinking, foul-mouthed, sagacious & very bold,...more
Joe Fitch
Fantastic book! Not often that you find a history that's this colorful and readable. Connell has certainly done his homework for this book as he draws from a multitude of sources to present a work that is more about the people involved in the Battle of the Little Bighorn than the battle itself. He avoids the trap of presenting any one side or any people as being either heroes or victims. Connell paints intimate portraits of the exceptional personalities involved, such as Custer, Reno, Benteen, C...more
Evan Connell is a wonderful writer of novels. This isn't a novel, it's a history and it's really a history for historians. Meticulously researched and drawing on hundreds of documents and oral histories, the detail is overwhelming and for me, much more than I wanted to know. I thought a novelist would make the story of Little Big Horn engaging, especially a writer as good as Connell. Wrong. There's no real perspective here -- he gives the reader the perspectives of as many people as possible --...more
This book is pretty amazing. The dogged pursuit of truth from all forms of record, written, spoken, architectural, archeological, ethnographic. Connell has dissected every aspect of the Custer/Little Big Horn myth. This wide survey of the evidence can be a bit rambling at times (and even repetitive) but when you are done you know it all.

The major surprise of this book is that the biggest losers were the Native Americans and the biggest winner was Custer himself. We would not know about Custer to...more
I read this book when it first came out, in 1984, and it completely slammed me, showing what biography could be, and what a biographer could do. I was in high school at the time, and several years before had gone through a period in which I was obsessed with the Indian wars of the mid 19th century, so I was familiar with the general facts of Little Bighorn, Washita, Sand Creek, etc. What I had not yet grasped was how to look at the people involved in these events as people, and Evan Connell's nu...more
Cindy Finley
This book is like a novel and the reader learns just what led to Custer's last stand. It also let's us see how Custer's bravado led to his downfall, and we see how the Indian's felt about what was going on. A great book that I have read several tims
An incredible book on the battle of the Little Big Horn. There is a reason this book received such high praise.
An extremely detailed review of all of the events leading up to and after the massacre of Custer and all of his troops at the Little Bighorn. The author has researched numerous interviews/chronicles which were taken/printed in the 30-40 years after the battle took place from white as well as native American sources. He effectively provides a detailed biography of Custer's life as well as many of his key subordinates and many of the native American chiefs and warriors who participated in the batt...more
The best book of its time - should be required reading for American History students.
Jill Hutchinson
Fascinating take on the Battle of the Little Big Horn. It pretty much strips Custer of his hero status......history had made him a doomed warrior standing alone against a vicious foe when in fact, the truth is somewhat at odds with that perception. This book has been questioned as to its historic veracity but I found it to be gripping and well researched. The "Last Stand", romanticized in the same manner as the Charge of the Light Brigade, will always be open to conjecture but this is a ripping...more
Like Mansfield's bio of Macarthur, this short biography is the prototype excellent biographies. It is primarily about Custer and his road to the Little Bighorn. There is very little about his Civil War action but enough to help understand the character.

The most frustrating part of reading this book is that it leaves you hungry for more information about so many of the supporting actors -- Myles Keogh, Bloody Knife, Lonesome Charlie Reynolds, Gall, etc - but you soon discover that Connell has pre...more
Very readable and, I thought, fair.
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Evan S. Connell, over the last half century, has published nineteen books of fiction, poetry, and essays, several of which—including the best-sellers Mrs. Bridge and Mr. Bridge, and the erudite, anecdotal, and totally unique nonfiction book Son of the Morning Star—are American classics. I've admired his work for many years, since first reading Diary of a Rapist, and was happy for a chance to inter...more
More about Evan S. Connell...
Mrs. Bridge Mr Bridge The Diary of a Rapist Mr. Bridge/Mrs. Bridge Deus Lo Volt!: A Chronicle of the Crusades

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“Just across from Bismarck stood Fort Lincoln where friends and relatives of Custer’s dead cavalrymen still lived, and these emigrating Sioux could perceive such bitterness in the air that one Indian on the leading boat displayed a white flag. Yet, in accordance with the laws of human behavior, the farther downstream they traveled the less hostility they encountered, and when the tiny armada reached Standing Rock near the present border of South Dakota these Indians were welcomed as celebrities. Men, women and children crowded aboard the General Sherman to shake hands with Sitting Bull. Judson Elliot Walker, who was just then finishing a book on Custer’s campaigns, had to stand on a chair to catch a glimpse of the medicine man and reports that he was wearing “green wire goggles.” No details are provided, so green wire goggles must have been a familiar sight in those days. Sitting Bull mobbed by fans while wearing green wire goggles. It sounds like Hollywood.” 1 likes
“Captain Jack, that volatile Modoc, seems to have been handled still more causally. After being hanged and buried, Jack was exhumed, embalmed, and exhibited at carnivals: admission ten cents. How many instances of such sensibility one chooses to catalogue may be limited by the amount of time spent turning over musty pages. During the seventeenth century, Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle, came upon a wood plank near the ruins of Ft. Crèvecoeur deep in the wilderness of the New World, upon which a French deserter had printed: NOUS SOMMES TOUS SAUVAGES” 1 likes
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