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On June 25, 1876, General George Armstrong Custer attacked a coalition of Sioux and Cheyenne near the Little Bighorn River in Montana Territory. A day later Custer and 268 of his men lay dead after one of the most famous battles in history.

More than 40 books have been written about that bloody day so it’s easy to question the need for another one. But new facts emerge all the time so every generation deserves a fresh synthesis and interpretation. That’s what Nathaniel Philbrick provides in his 2010 Montana Book Award honoree, The Last Stand.

Philbrick builds a compelling narrative around two charismatic characters: George Armstrong Custer, who thought his success as a cavalry officer during the Civil and Indian wars might launch him into the U.S. presidency, and Sitting Bull, whose political savvy welded the Sioux and Cheyenne tribes into the largest Indian alliance in history. In addition to these two, Philbrick brings life a large cast of supporting characters. Readers get to know not only combatants—Indians, officers, soldiers and scouts—but also the officers’ wives, the steamboat men who ferried soldiers and supplies up the Yellowstone River, and the people who lined the shores to watch the boat bring survivors to safety.

Based on his painstaking and comprehensive research, Philbrick braids together the strands of information that come from contemporary accounts of the battle, interviews conducted by participants on both sides, reminiscences, and new findings from archeologists. The result is a compelling narrative about one of the iconic events of American history.

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