Quite coincidently I just read two books set in the same time period, one a history, the other a fictional journal. I learned a LOT about this tumultuous period in our history and what happened when very different worlds collided.
The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn by Nathaniel Philbrick
I am embarrassed to mention how little I knew about this epic battle. I knew Custer lost, and that’s about all I knew. This is a detailed and absorbing history of the battle and the circumstances that led to this epic battle.
The battle tactics, the last third of the book, is the part I found the most fascinating. So many things went wrong simultaneously that led to the massacre of Custer’s army. Bad judgment and wasted time were the direct causes of many of the casualties. Since there are no human survivors of Custer’s final moments Philbrick uses interviews from soldiers in other battalions to reconstruct what may have happened during the last stand. Since many of the recollections conflict the author allows the reader to know them all and make a personal decision on what may have happened that day.
The Non-Fiction Book Discussion Group will be meeting at the Bridgewater Library in the Administrative Conference Room on Thursday, October 14th at 1:00pm to discuss The Last Stand.
One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus
This is one of those “What If?” books. In this case, it is the story of what may have happened had the United States Government decided to go along with Chief Little Wolf of the Cheyenne’s proposal for peace. The Cheyenne are a matriarchal society, so he proposed having one thousand white women marry the warriors of his nation so their children would be learned in the way of the white and the Indian, and would be accepted into our society. In return, the U.S. Government would receive one thousand horses. Needless to say, this didn’t happen, but this is the story of the women who responded an ad in the paper for women to live in the wilderness and serve their country.
Told entirely in journal entries and letters by May Dodd, the white woman who marries Little Wolf, this is the story of her acclimation (and difficulties with acclimating) to the Cheyenne way of life. This is a very candid telling; May tells us the good and the bad and seems to not hold much back. It is a very detailed look at a culture and culture shock.