He was the Boy General of the Civil War, a dashing and courageous cavalryman with famously golden locks and a frank, generous manner. After the war, he was a devoted husband and a frontier soldier who respected the Indians whether they were adversaries or allies.
Yet General Custer made a fatal miscalculation. His Last Stand at the Battle of the Little Bighorn is an iconic moment in American military history. For modern propagandists, Custers death fighting the Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne was payment for American sins against the Indians. But was Custer really the bad man his modern enemies make him out to be; and how could this skilled cavalry leader suffer such a devastating defeat?
In The Real Custer, James Robbins studies the life of this fascinating man, drawing on correspondence, histories, and other personal documents to reveal different facets of the real Custer: the son of a strict but loving father; the mischievous West Point cadet who preferred earning demerits to studying; the loyal friend who amiably crossed enemy lines to visit his Southern friends during the Civil War; the loving husband who took years to finally win the approval of his wife’s stern father; and, of course, the famous Boy General who led a military career full of glorious victories—until his final, fateful charge.
Robbins demonstrates that Custer, having graduated last in his class at West Point, went on to prove himself as an extremely skilled cavalry leader whose only failing was his boldness, which, though it had served him well in the past, caused the Army’s bloodiest defeat in the Indian Wars. The Real Custer is an exciting and valuable contribution to understanding Custer—who was a valiant soldier and a fundamentally good man, not the Indian-hating villain so often portrayed today—that will delight Custer fans as well as readers new to the legend.