Ohio History Journal

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Another Look at

George Armstrong Custer



Custer in the Civil War: His Unfinished Memoirs. Compiled and edited by

John M. Carroll. (San Rafael, CA: Presidio Press, 1977. 233p.;

illustrations, bibliographic checklist, index. $27.50.)

Centennial Campaign: The Sioux War of 1876. By John S. Gray. (Fort

Collins, CO: The Old Army Press, 1976. 392p.; bibliography, maps,

index. $20.00.)

Li/e in Custer's Ca\valr: Diaries and Letters of Albert and Jennie Barnitz,

1867-1868. Edited by Robert M. Utley. (New Haven: Yale University

Press, 1977. xiv +- 302p.; illustrations, appendices, bibliography,

index. $15.00.)




More than a century ago "Custer achieved an immortality," writes

Robert Utley, "that a dozen brilliant victories could not have earned him,"

one of those truisms that is incontestable because obvious. This perplexing

man, whom author John Carroll calls "a great officer and leader of men,"

whom fellow officer Albert Barnitz called "The most complete example of a

petty tyrant that I have ever seen," is also justly appraised by Utley as a

"repository of a host of baffling contradictions," a "paradoxical combina-

tion of virtue and vice." The battle in which he lost his life, gloriously or

ignobly is uncertain, was relatively small in scope and of itself minor. But it

has become the most popularly known conflict in American history, the

subject of more than one thousand paintings and illustrations, of more

than a score of movies, and of hundreds of essays and books. The three

reviewed here are merely among the most recent; they will not be the last.

One of the most cogent evidences of the enduring fascination of Custer's

character and achievement is the devotion afforded him by such men as

John Carroll, author and editor of nearly a dozen books on his hero.

Carroll is an ardent champion of Custeriana and a fervent apologist;

among the devotees in the Custer cult-the Associates of The Little Big





Bruce A. Rosenberg is Professor of English at Brown University.