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Crazy Horse and Custer

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  7,750 ratings  ·  498 reviews
From bestselling historian Stephen E. Ambrose, a dual biography of two great nineteenth century warriors, General Custer and Crazy Horse, culminating in the Battle of Little Bighorn.
Paperback, 560 pages
Published June 2nd 2003 by Pocket Books (first published 1975)
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Lisa Phillips I am 100 pages into this book and I would say it depends upon the level of interest the 12-year-old has in historical writing. It does tend to be a bi…moreI am 100 pages into this book and I would say it depends upon the level of interest the 12-year-old has in historical writing. It does tend to be a bit dry, but it is certainly descriptive of both Custer's young life and that of Crazy Horse. It compares and contrasts both boys' upbringing, accomplishments, and ambitions. If your young reader can maintain interest for well over 400 pages, it is certainly not too difficult.(less)
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 ·  7,750 ratings  ·  498 reviews

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Oct 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
Chief Crazy Horse gave native Americans one of its few moments of triumph in its struggle with the white settlers, who in the mid-19th century moved across the country, shot the buffalo, and built a railroad which would make the Western tide ever more inexorable. “Custer’s last stand” achieved mythic proportions, and it firmed up US resolve to finish the Indian problem once and for all. Within a few years, the reservation system was firmly in place.

I personally don’t usually like reading descrip
B.T. Clifford
Aug 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stephen Ambrose is one of the most readable historians I've ever come across, and Crazy Horse and Custer is a prime example of why. He gives these men life on the page. Rather than focusing on their battle at Little Big Horn and propagating the prevalent misconceptions of the men, he reaches back into their childhoods and beyond, into the cultures that created the men. He picks no favorites and presents the stories of both in great detail.
I particularly appreciated the work on Custer. This was t
Oct 01, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Custer and his immediate antecedents were consummate crackers. Jacksonian Democrats, American expansionists spoiling for a war, any war. Settled long enough and far enough East to entertain romantic, Fenimore Cooper-ish images of Noble Red Men, but made impatient by the independence of the tribes that still existed, on the land still to be taken by whites. Northerners, and loyal Unionists when the time for fighting came, though untroubled by slavery while it existed, and absolutely opposed to bl ...more
Edward Rathke
Jan 23, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: us-history, biography
This book was sometimes quite painful to read. Had I known at the start that this was written in the 70s, I probably would have skipped it. The thing that kept me going is that I actually did want to know more about Custer and maybe read something similar to what SC Gwynne did with the Comanches, warts and all. What I mean by that, I suppose, is that I wanted a wider look at who these men were. Something Gwynne did very well in his book is recreate the contexts of conquest and extermination. He ...more
Apr 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Wow. History has gotten so much better since I was in Junior High...

Immensely readable, Ambrose has written a wonderful depiction of the times based on the conflict between two immense, American heroes. He paints a vivid picture of their up-bringing, formative years and early careers that eventually and inevitably led to their day at the Little Bighorn. This history is fair to both: elegant and moving. We come to know and perhaps love both protagonists, and the tragedy of Crazy Horse's death is
T.E. George
Oct 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing
As a child of the 50s, I grew up with the romanticized Hollywood version of Cowboys and Indians. My image of both was Randolph Scott, Fess Parker and more often than not some nameless actor who was less Native American than I am. Because my great-grand mother was half Cherokee, I proudly bragged to friends about the legends that accompanied her memory while arguing fiercely for my right to be one of the cowboys instead of a “dastardly Indian”.

Stephen Ambrose illustrates this dichotomy of my Amer
Bob Mayer
Mar 27, 2022 rated it really liked it
A very good read about the parallel lives of two who would meet in an unexpected place; at least for one of them. An important part of the book is Custer's battle record in the Civil War and then his atrocious actions afterward. Custer was a narcissist and eventually, they all end up in a bad place. That he took so many with him is a tragedy. ...more
Rodney Harvill
Jan 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, history
Many have heard of the Little Bighorn, in which George Armstrong Custer, a U.S. Army cavalry officer and Civil War veteran, led his men into an ambush where they were annihilated while fighting Indians in Montana. How many can name the leader of the Indians? That man was Crazy Horse, a member of the Oglala Sioux nation. While these two men came from very different backgrounds, there was much in common between them, and this book highlights these similarities by alternating between accounts of th ...more
Mar 26, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At times there is too much speculation in Stephen E. Ambrose's Crazy Horse and Custer for my tastes, too many "we can't possibly know, but ..." moments, and despite the honesty of those moments, I can't help feeling that they diminish the work as an historical record.

Then again ... maybe they don't. Maybe those moments are the truth about every single history book ever written, and actually naming the moments that are speculation, especially those that are educated speculation, elevates the aut
Jan 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I found this book to be excellent. Ambrose goes into good detail on how the Sioux Indians lived their organizational structure and their customs. I highly recommend this book if you have any interest in the American Indian. Other reviewers thought Ambrose was biased towards the U.S. Army I really didn't feel that way. The book does discuss the treatment of the Sioux by the Indian Agents and the Army. It seemed each had a different idea of what was the correct approach controlling Indian populati ...more
Aug 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
I low-rated this book for its careless use of such highly charged words as "savages" and "civilized" and such statements as this: "The United States did not follow a policy of genocide; it did try to find a just solution to the Indian problem."

Whether from policy or from the unanticipated sum of myriad government-aided and -abetted acts of soldiers and settlers, the result was genocide. Nor was "a just solution to the Indian problem" ever a major concern of U.S. Indian policy. After all, the "In
Daphne Wuest
Dec 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
He is only human

After reading the story of red cloud, this story shows that Crazy Horse is the real hero. Selfless sacrifice and holding to tradition shows that Crazy himself revieled the true chief that Crazy Horse was. Lead by example and for the tribe, not for yourself.
The more I read about Custer, the more similarities I saw with Donald Trump -a person only living for himself, and self promotion. Sacrifice all who follow, as long as more self promotion is seen. History repeats itself.

Clay Davis
Nov 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
A great book about those two men with in depth details about their lives and times.
Aug 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
Really fascinating learning about Custer and Crazy Horse. I enjoyed that Ambrose gave me an in depth look into these men. Also, I learned a lot more about the Buffalo and geography of the Great Plains/West than I realized I would.
Milt Jacobs
Sep 09, 2017 rated it liked it
Too much politics in first half of book.
Aug 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
I love Ambrose, what a shame that he's gone. After a slow start (read a bit like a PhD dissertation but I wouldn't want anyone comparing mine) this was really fun. Like a lot of folks I had the impression that Custer was a buffoon. To the contrary he was a leader, motivator and while flamboyant at times not at all like what you've casually been exposed to. Much has been said of his last place finish in his West Point class. This was by design, he just did what he had to, but was surprisingly cap ...more
Nov 07, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, west
So dry. So wordy. So soporific. (Don't forget, I was a history major. I've read A LOT of history.) As soon as I got to 51% I called myself finished. (It has been a couple of years since I invoked my personal 51%-and-I-can-call-it-read rule. )
Jun 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This writer/researcher is an American treasure.......

Aug 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stephen Ambrose has become one of my favorite authors after reading Undaunted Courage and now Crazy Horse and Custer.
There is so much more to this story than just the Battle of Little Bighorn. The book starts out with telling the early life of Crazy Horse (how he lived among the Indians). He grew up having strength and courage and loved the freedom of the West. So much detail went in to describing the beauty of the land and the life of the many Indian tribes that roamed it. Then Ambrose went on
Lisa Phillips
Apr 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
In order to encourage a good friend to read more, I proposed we read a book together and he could choose. Crazy Horse and Custer was the book he selected, and it was a great choice. He enjoys history and I enjoyed learning all about the two men who met at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. The subtitle of the book is The Parallel Lives of Two American Warriors and it is an apt title. Stephen Ambrose did an amazing job of writing and documenting his sources and footnotes. It is at times very hard ...more
Sep 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I had heard the name of Mr Ambrose before but I hadn’t really picked up any of his books. Mostly, this had to do with his preferred subject period — mostly the Second World War — which has not entered my reading interests at any point. However, this look into the mid-19th century proved to be a good starting point for me, and I was immediately captivated by the style employed.

The author demonstrates very good understanding of the subject but also of human psychology. Some of the ideas that he pu
Andrea Jacka
Apr 24, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I found Crazy Horse and Custer an extraordinary read. A layperson in regard military jargon, explanations of battle plans and minute reiteration of those plans, at no point did I get lost or feel the need to skip explanations of battle scenes in this book. Full of detail about the lives of each man, their culture, what shaped their personalities and attitude, there is no doubt Crazy Horse and Custer were both remarkable men. I was caught up in this fascinating period of American history, the inf ...more
Stuart Sullivan
Jan 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
In depth biographies of the parallels and divergence in the lives of two of the most influential leaders of post Civil War America. Stephen Ambrose is a meticulous researcher and presents many interesting details of both Crazy Horse and Custer, and the societies they lived in. Some details may seem a bit tedious to the casual reader, but I found it fascinating. I have read several of Ambrose's books and intend to read several more.
Nov 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Ambrose masterfully parallels the lives of these two men and the worlds they both fought for until that day they both collided on the Little Big Horn. You will gain insight into not only these two fascinating warriors but better understand the two cultures that collided on the plains of the 19th Century America. This was a very enjoyable read.
“I could whip all the Indians in the northwest with the Seventh Cavalry.” - George A. Custer

- The Indians had a communal ideal and practice, while the whites had an individual ideal and practice.

- After looking over much of the eastern United States, Sitting Bull declared that in his opinion “the white man knows how to make everything, but he does not know how to distribute it.”

- What was new in America was individual expectation of personal betterment. It
Terry McIntire
Aug 25, 2022 rated it it was ok
Started to read in preparation for trip to S. Dakota. The historical events are probably quite accurate. The conjecture about what the individuals were thinking or why they took certain action seems to be included just to make this a good read. I did not finish the book, after a about 1/3 of the book, I moved on to another book to learn about this time in history.
Gregg Bell
Apr 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Crazy Horse and Custer is a story of opposites and similarities. Two men from wildly different worlds collide as history forces them together. The book is fascinating as it explores the men's lives individually, and then, as they clash, collectively. The differences in the men's lives are apparent.

Crazy Horse is a man living free and easy, close to the earth, nature-smart, and satisfied with the ordinary life of a young brave. Custer, on the other hand, a West Point grad, is a man of military d
Danny VanVleet
Apr 04, 2022 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely fascinating read. A ton of information on the United States, the Indian tribes, the culture of the times and the very similar lives that Crazy Horse and Custer lead leading up to the day of Custer's death. A long book but totally worth the read. ...more
Dec 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
An excellent introduction to both Crazy Horse and well as the epic battle that made them both famous/infamous. As usual, Ambrose does a good job in trying to be objective--especially in dealing with polarizing individuals and topics like US/Native American relations and the myths and reputation surrounding Custer & Crazy Horse. Robert Utley and Allan Eckert are two other historians which to my mind give good and accurate historical descriptions of subject matter which has become high ...more
Richard Klueg
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a dual biography of two fascinating men who were representative leaders in the conflict of American and Indian cultures in the Nineteenth Century Great Plains. Both men are admirable for their personal courage and commitment to their way of life, and both died tragically as a direct result of that commitment.

This is not a "white man evil, Indian good" treatment. The author attempts to fairly explain what drove both cultures, and what was inefficient, foolish, or immoral in each. It seems
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Stephen Edward Ambrose was an American historian and biographer of U.S. Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Richard M. Nixon. He received his Ph.D. in 1960 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In his final years he faced charges of plagiarism for his books, with subsequent concerns about his research emerging after his death.

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