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The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn

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really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  9,682 ratings  ·  864 reviews
Watch a video Read discussion questions for "The Last Stand."

The bestselling author of "Mayflower" sheds new light on one of the iconic stories of the American West

Little Bighorn and Custer are names synonymous in the American imagination with unmatched bravery and spectacular defeat. Mythologized as Custer's Last Stand, the June 1876 battle has been equated with other fam
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Hardcover, 466 pages
Published May 4th 2010 by Viking
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really liked it Average rating 4.00  · 
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Start your review of The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn
Jeffrey Keeten
”You ask me if I will not be glad when the last battle is fought, so far as the country is concerned I, of course, must wish for peace, and will be glad when the war is ended, but if I answer for myself alone, I must say that I shall regret to see the war end.”
George Armstrong Custer


 photo CusterWestPoint_zps064d2768.jpg
George Armstrong Custer at West Point

George Armstrong Custer was last in the graduating class of 1861 at West Point. They were graduated a year early due to the pressing need of the Union for officers, any office
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Matt
May 07, 2010 rated it liked it
"Back on Last Stand Hill, the relentless rifle and bow-and-arrow fire had winnowed the washichus to only a handful. By this point, [Lt. Col. George A.] Custer may already have suffered his first of two gunshot wounds - a bullet just below the heart. The blast would have knocked him to the ground but not necessarily killed him. Alive but mortally wounded, America's most famous Indian fighter could no longer fight...That evening on Last Stand Hill, as he lay on the ground with a gunshot wound to t ...more
Howard
I was drawn to The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull and the Battle of the Little Bighorn not so much by its subject matter, but by its author, Nathaniel Philbrick. For one thing, I was intrigued why a writer who heretofore had written about the sea and coastal areas, and had done so in admirable fashion, would venture into the hinterland and write about two of the icons of the American West and one of the most famous battles in American history. I wasn’t sure that it would be possible to learn a ...more
Jason Koivu
Jul 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
Did you hear the one about the military moron, the drunkard and the backstabbing subordinate?

The Battle of the Little Bighorn was such an unnecessary debacle that it might as well be a joke. But it's no joke. It's tragedy.

In the lead role of this tragedy is this boy...

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He finished last at Westpoint and went on to become this ego maniac...

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George Armstrong Custer made his career by daring and foolishly brave acts during the American Civil War, such as at the Battle of Gettysburg where his aggressiv
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Kurt
Nov 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
Nathaniel Philbrick has become one of my favorite authors. I've still yet to read his perhaps most famous book In the Heart of the Sea, but I have read, and thoroughly enjoyed, his Sea of Glory and Mayflower; and now I have finished his latest: The Last Stand.

Each of these books was intriguing and interesting from the first page to the last. The Last Stand of course is the story of George Armstrong Custer and the last days of the free Lakota people. My sentiments are always with the Lakota. Thei
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Scott  Hitchcock
Jul 20, 2018 rated it liked it
White man came across the sea
He brought us pain and misery
He killed our tribes killed our creed
He took our game for his own need

We fought him hard we fought him well
Out on the plains we gave him hell
But many came too much for Cree
Oh will we ever be set free?

Riding through dust clouds and barren wastes
Galloping hard on the plains
Chasing the redskins back to their holes
Fighting them at their own game
Murder for freedom the stab in the back
Women and children are cowards attack

Run to the hills, run f
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Ms.pegasus
Sep 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in history
After sifting through a staggering quantity of contradictory interviews, testimony, historical opinion, and even bald speculation, Philbrick succeeds in creating a new narrative of the ill-fated Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn. It is a narrative that bypasses ideology and blame, to refocus on the unbroken connection between historical events and their consequences. It is also a narrative that captures the very human actions that are lost in the approach of a formal inquiry which assu ...more
Geevee
May 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-history
This is the first book I have read on the Little Big Horn battle and for me it was a very interesting and well presented account.

My knowledge of the battle was basic, and I knew something of the main characters - Custer and Sitting Bull - but little about others such as Reno, Benteen, White Bull, Red hawk and the Scouts etc.

I also knew of the 7th US Cavalry, as they always appeared (or so it seemed to me) in Hollywood films about the West - and perhaps as I came across a squadron of the unit d
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Henry
Aug 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Nathaniel Philbrick has written an excellent account of an iconic event in American history. The book is extremely informative, objective and reads like an exciting novel. I highly recommend it to anyone who want to know the real story of ”Custer's Last Stand." ...more
M. D.  Hudson
Feb 02, 2011 rated it liked it
Like a lot of people, I have a low grade obsession with the Battle of Little Big Horn aka Custer’s Last Stand, and I’ve read several of the general reader accounts and even a few of the more scholarly things on the archaeology of the battlefield site. When I heard about Philbrick’s book, I was somewhat suspicious because it is being touted as the first time somebody tried to write a book incorporating the Indians’ point of view. Not true at all. Even back in the benighted 19th century people rea ...more
Michael
Satisfying, very readable account of the Battle of Little Bighorn, which was the last major violent resistance of Native Americans against the unbeatable forces of Manifest Destiny. The Lakotas and Cheyenne of the northern plains of the Dakotas, politically led by Sitting Bull and militarily by Crazy Horse, won a major battle, essentially precipitated by efforts of the U.S. government to wrest the Black Hills away due to gold. But this short term success sped up the punitive efforts leading to t ...more
Mike Kershaw
Dec 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
One of the best accounts of the Custer Battle. I particularly enjoyed Philbrick's focus on the events leading up to the Battle of the Little Bighorn -- the campaign, the reconnaissance operations, the various Indians moving to and from the encampment and the role of the Riverboat/Steamer, "The Far West" -- the causes of so many inevitable frictions that affect battles but we have a tendency to gloss over. I also enjoyed the fact that he spent some time on lesser known, but inarguable, aspects of ...more
David Zimmerman
Jan 07, 2019 rated it liked it
This is a book I really wanted to love, but there is too much here not to like, and I am beginning to not like Nathaniel Philbrick. Although he can write exceptionally well - and The Last Stand is no exception - his interpretation of historical events and the people who made them is frequently revisionist. In The Last Stand, Philbrick aims to set the record straight on Custer and the Battle of the Little Big Horn, but falls well short, offering more confusion than clarity.

If this were it's only
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David
May 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Philbrick lays it out plainly. The Battle of the Little Big Horn is always a little confusing to grasp. This is the best description and explanation I've encountered. Custer did lose the battle because he split his command into 3 unnecessary wings. But why? He was competing for glory with his subordinate officers. He wanted to take squaws as hostages, some for his own liking. He wanted to get all the credit for defeating Sitting Bull. Sitting Bull was the opposite of Custer and that's how Philbr ...more
Chris G Derrick
Jun 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: western
Loved it!
I found it a totally absorbing read - all the way through.
I really do take my hat off to people who write this type of historical fiction - all the work that goes into the presenting of the detail.
I realise it's all probably out there somewhere in some other novel but it still has to be brought together (in the correct order) into this one.
To me the way it was written made it a very easy and enjoyable read - and it held my interest from the first to the last page.
Really can't say better
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Steve
4 stars.

I don't feel like writing a review for this one, so there. Happy Wednesday.

:P
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Chris
May 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
Why do we need another book on the Little Big Horn? I've read Connell's and Donovan's books on the subject and enjoyed them. Nevertheless, I was curious to see how Philbrick would immerse himself in a non-nautical theme, although you could argue this environment is just a sea of grass.

Philbrick does a superb job. The soldiers and Indians come alive in this narrative and you want to keep turning every page. He tries to be even handed and impartial but it's hard not to make judgments. He singles
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Bentley
May 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is an audiobook that I listened to - unabridged. Philbrick always does a great job and this is no exception. Overall, this is an excellent ancillary read to the BOTM May selection. One story which stood out for me was at the beginning when Custer saw a buffalo which was not only huge - but even more magnificent. Custer's first inclination (even though the animal had no interest in him nor attacked him) was to ride like a demon after it and to try to kill it for sport. Accidentally, instead ...more
Gerry
Jul 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Never mind all the glamorised versions of General Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn, this is an evocative and absorbing account, possibly the definitive version of not only the final battle but also of Custer's career, which leaves the reader wondering, 'Custer? Hero or villain?'

Although Custer's last stand took place on 25 June 1876, the lead up to the battle(s) on the Little Bighorn began in December 1875. That was when Indian Commissioner EP Smith instructed his agents at the variou
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J.S.
May 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: vine, history-america
The Battle of the Little Bighorn occupies an interesting and somewhat awkward place in American history. It was a resounding defeat for the US troops, but it only delayed the inevitable suppression for the victorious Native Americans. It's often referred to as "Custer's Last Stand," where General George Armstrong Custer, a flamboyant and iconic "Indian fighter" and soldier, met his death when his severely outnumbered troops attacked an immense gathering of Lakota (Sioux) and Cheyenne led by the ...more
Kevin
Nathaniel Philbrick has done a marvelous job at recreating one of the bleakest moments in US military history. The book treats the events leading up to and including the Battle of the Little Bighorn. This was an event that I knew nothing about, other than Custer and all of his men were killed. The book describes the mistakes made, how Custer divided his entire force into 4 groups, how they initially lost contact, failed to press the advance, fell into confusion, were overwhelmed and ultimately d ...more
Nate
Jul 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is about as intense as popular history gets! Condensing the confusing, controversial and near-mythical series of events that we call the Battle of the Little Bighorn into such a gripping, readable narrative is truly a mighty deed. Now someone get the dude that made The Revenant to turn it into a movie! More later.
Sherry Sharpnack
Mar 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
I am not sure why I picked up this book several years ago: a) discounted price; b) the fact that I liked the author's book, "Mayflower?" I am definitely NOT a fan of George Armstrong Custer, nor have I ever been.

But this was definitely a DETAILED analysis of the days immediately preceding and the day of the slaughter at the Little Bighorn river. It was so detailed that I honestly couldn't follow all of it, even w/ the excellent maps showing the positions of various companies of the 7th Cavalry
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Pete
Mar 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Five stars seems excessive but this was so fast and weirdly fun -- weird in the sense of this is a book about the collapse of native american life and also about a bunch of government employees getting dead. The only other Philbrick book I've read was In the Heart of the Sea, which was equally enjoyable although not quite as steadily good. He knows how to create 3d characters from letters/contemporary accounts; it helps that there were a bunch of loons with weird axes to grind in and around the ...more
Alan
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I found this book to be a riveting and well documented account of the many characters involved in the drama of the Little Bighorn debacle. All the personalities and questionable actions by those in command makes this tragedy more compelling.
Bailey Malbuff
Feb 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, history, military
I liked the perspective of eyewitness accounts from both the U.S. Army and from the Indians who were involved in this tragedy. Very well written.
Steve Smits
Oct 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
This well-researched and well-written history of famous battle is told from the perspectives of both sides. Refusing to comply with the government's order to settle in a reservation, the Indians left seeking to return to their traditional ways on their ancient lands. In the thousands, they moved from camp to camp along various tributaries of the Yellowstone River in southeastern Montana territory. The 7th cavalry under Custer was charged with making them comply by any means necessary. It's clear ...more
Idril Celebrindal
Dec 28, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: american-west
I don't really know how many of my problems with this are actually with the book itself and how many with my reaction to the events depicted, and how the fact that I listened to it as an audiobook might have exacerbated either.

For one thing, Philbrick clearly likes Custer himself more than I do. I would hope that, even if he shared my antipathy, the author of a book like this would not let that influence his view of the facts. It felt however that Philbrick went out of his way to avoid criticizi
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Trish
Dec 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
This history does what every nonfiction title aspires to do: makes the reader want to run out and read as much as they can on the subject. That is exactly what I found myself doing today--looking in my public library for more. The Last Stand doesn't so much slake your thirst as inflame it. When I looked over the books on similar subject matter, I can see why. It was clear Philbrick used primary sources, but also built on what had come before: he consolidated information and didn't impede the for ...more
Aaron Million
Nov 15, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Philbrick recreates the Battle of the Little Bighorn, which includes Custer's Last Stand. He begins by discussing Custer's personality, career, run-ins with top brass (including President Grant), wife, and attitude toward Indians. Philbrick also provides mini-biographies of Custer's two top subordinates: Frederick Benteen and Marcus Reno. He does not forget about the Indians either, and talks of Sitting Bull, his tenuous grasp as leader of his tribe, and the overall relationship between the many ...more
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Philbrick was Brown’s first Intercollegiate All-American sailor in 1978; that year he won the Sunfish North Americans in Barrington, RI; today he and his wife Melissa sail their Beetle Cat Clio and their Tiffany Jane 34 Marie-J in the waters surrounding Nantucket Island.

After grad school, Philbrick worked for four years at Sailing World magazine; was a freelancer for a number of years, during whic
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