While I've spent a goodly amount time in my 65 years on all things Alamo, my interest in LBH is of recent vintage. I am new to this board, and my thin library of LBH titles is telling: single works by Donovan, Philbrick, Welch and Ambrose, the first two well-thumbed, the latter pair not so much. Like Henry Harrington, my copies of Son of the Morning Star" and "Little Big Man" have gone mysteriously missing.
Point is, I'm soliciting suggestions from the biblio-savvy as to what titles I should next add. I'm more interested in the battle at the moment than in the whole of GAC's life.
Steve I would heartily recommend The Strategy of Defeat at the Little Big Horn: A Military and Timing Analysis of the Battle by Frederic C. Wagner III AKA Fred. This tome is for serious students only who are willing to put aside preconceived opinions and look at the battle with an open mind. He has done the research to bring the timelines of all participants into focus and enabling the reader to really see the big picture at one time. Excellent maps add to one's comprehension and understanding of the terrain, often the most forgotten factor that affected the fight.
I would also recommend Participants in the Battle of the Little Big Horn: A Biographical Dictionary of Sioux, Cheyenne and United States Military Personnel also by Fred. This resource is invaluable in identifying the players of the LBH. Indians and soldiers are ID'ed and bios given. Fred has also provided as many of the various names participants had as is known. It is a valuable tool for those interested in doing in-depth studies of the battle.
Another good read is Custer's Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America by T.J. Stiles which provides a view of the post war Custer of the late 1860's to 1876. This book fleshes out the GAC unknown but to family and friends. The author does an admirable job of not injecting personal bias into this study of a deeply complex man. This book will assist you understanding the decisions Custer made as well as those he did not.
Wish you all the best with your studies and hope you will post your views as you progress with your studies. Regards Dave
Fred, Frederick Wagner III(has already posted to you), has two books on the topic, both are on Amazon, both are top drawer. Wagner's books are "Participants in the Battle of the Little Bighorn"(I use it regularly) and "The Strategy of Defeat at the Little Bighorn". Also I recommend "Little Bighorn Appendices" by Patrick Griffith written while many participants were still alive, inexpensive via Kindle. Check out writers Liddic, Hardorf, Mary Liberty(John Stands in Timber), Donohue, there are many more, and some writers seem to have a slant or agenda.
If Fred sees what we have written, he will give you his thoughts. Others here on the board, I am sure will have other suggestions.
I do not like the Philbrick work. Or Ambrose. Neither are/were of the same caliber as any number of other authors... and historians.
I my opinion, the best books out there-- especially for someone who is new, but very interested-- are Connell's Son of the Morning Star, written in an unusual style (not chronological) with no footnotes or endnotes (much like Shelby Foote's Civil War volumes).
From there, to best works are James Willert's Little Big Horn Diary-- a daily account of all four columns, culminating at the battle; and Greg Michno's Lakota Noon.
My Participants book is sort of a "companion" volume you might dog-ear as a reference work. As for the Strategy book I would recommend it only once you have a good, basic understanding of the events: it is not for beginners.
I would also caution you on one major point... or maybe more. This event is probably the most contentious piece of American history you will run into. Not only is the final hour something of a mystery, but it involves one of this country's heroic figures, heroic to some, a demon to others. Sides are clearly drawn; favorites are clearly played; demons and devils are identified: from both camps.
I wrote Strategy from an absolute viewpoint of neutrality. I put all prejudices and preconceptions aside: and you should do the same in reading it. That may be difficult to do, but it is mandatory. You cannot read that book "knowing" Marcus Reno was "drunk" (he wasn't); or that Fred Benteen hated Custer and thereby disobeyed orders, pouting all the way to perdition (he didn't). If you believe those things, please don't waste your time or money buying the book. It is $55 on Amazon and has been since the day it was issued, 23 months ago. You will also need six or seven bookmarks to follow the narrative properly, because you must use the timelines in the rear of the book... and there are more than 60 pages of them.
So beware: Strategy pulls no punches: it isn't for the Custer lovers or the Reno-Benteen haters; but it treats all three very fairly. Also... I am a very aggressive writer and have no compunction in offending sensibilities. I also tell people I did not write the book: the participants did, for it is driven by the timelines dictated by those who were there, both white and red. And I used more than 1,000 accounts by more than 220 people. I set out to find the truth; to solve the mystery of what happened to George Custer and the 209 men who rode with him. I believe I did... and in the two years the book has been available, not one single person has successfully challenged a single time or a single event as I have described it.... And believe me, I hang around some pretty serious LBH people.
The book has a dozen maps; 20+ photos; 25 timelines; more than 1,600 endnotes; and four appendices. But the key is the bookmarks.
By the way, Steve, if you have read the Donovan book, you have the background. Jim and I have battled this out over dinner and drinks-- in my opinion, he is too one-sided-- but his work is top-notch stuff and A Terrible Glory, along with Edgar Stewart's, Custer's Luck, are the best "starter" books out there. The others I recommended are the acme.
You're so generous to respond. Donovan and I had an email exchange upon the publication of his post-"Terrible Glory" book on the Alamo. I was much more impressed with the former than the latter. We had met through the intercession of a mutual friend, a writer named Allen Barra, who'd I'd met during my 13 years at the Newark Star-Ledger. Allen gave me a kind blurb for my first ebook, "What They Did There: Profiles From the Battle of Gettyburg," a best-seller in its genre since 2014.
What really matters is how much I look forward to purchasing and devouring your books.
There is no generosity in response, at least not mine: it is a pleasure, believe me.
I have heard that about Jim's Alamo book, i.e., not quite up to the A Terrible Glory standards. One of my main issues with Jim's book-- the LBH one-- was in my initial reading and finding as many errors as I did, both factual and editorial. I seem to remember listing on these boards some 22 before I stopped counting. Unfortunately, that post was inadvertently deleted when the boards crashed one time and Diane was unable to save every post we had put up. Still and all, the book is extremely worthwhile.
Mike Donahue is another name you will encounter. Anything Mike writes is worth the purchase. He is the head of the fine arts department at Belmont College (I think it is) in Waco, Texas, and is a seasonal ranger at the battlefield. I use his work all the time, even while disagreeing with some of it... but that is the nature of the beast.
Here is an interesting little story... and I hope Tom Tubman does not mind me revealing our phone conversation.... The Participants book came out in 2011, and some acrimony arose between an English researcher/LBH-nut and myself. The acrimony became serious and when he had the occasion to review the book in one of the publications of a LBH organization, he blasted it. His criticism was centered more on the differences between his research of English troops who were in the 7th Cavalry and my research, which was primarily from enlistment records. Fortunately, however, he and I have subsequently become good friends... and collaborators. Then I came up with the idea of a 2nd edition of Participants, modifying my own work with his, plus adding the names of more than 5,000 Indians who could have been at the battle. I had done some census work for one of the leading Sioux experts in the country and figured a good percentage of these names were likely at the battle.
Anyway, it worked out quite well and the 2nd edition was published late last year. Then, the past June, I was at the battlefield with friends and one of them-- Tom, on these boards-- met with some folks who were apparently living at the Cheyenne reservation in Montana. They got to talking and this fellow mentioned some names who his ancestors claimed were at the fight. Tom checked the Participants book and found all but two (he had the old edition). So when we all got home, Tom called and asked me about these other two. I checked the new edition, and bingo!!!, there they were, both names, living at the reservations in 1900. So, of the new 5,060 names, Tom has verified two new "definites" who were at the battle. I thought that was cool as hell.
While I've spent a goodly amount time in my 65 years on all things Alamo, my interest in LBH is of recent vintage. Thanks
I would like to join the others in welcoming you aboard. Look forward to exchanging ideas with you.There is a thread in this forum that deals with the Alamo. I thought it was very interesting.Many of the people that have interest in the LBH also have interest in the Alamo, as they had similar outcomes.
I read Donovans book "Blood of Heroes"and thought it was a good read, but I would like to ask you, if I may, what did you think of its historical accuracy.
I felt the same way about "Blood of Heroes" as I did about the most recent film on the Alamo starring Billy Bob Thornton - well-intentioned, but ultimately unsatisfying. Of course Donovan's effort is far better than atrocious wastes of otherwise innocent tree pulp as Jeff Long's "Duel of Eagles" or Philip Thomas Tucker's "Exodus From the Alamo." And yet I felt let down by "Blood of Heroes" (its title too echoic of Alan Huffines' earlier "Blood of Noble Men") after having bees so engaged by "A Terrible Glory," whose success I suspect led to pressure for Donovan to repeat by tackling another prismatic, epochal event. The result is provocative, I suppose, bot too much a hurried mish-mash. One particular nit I have is that nowhere does Donovan mention that Martin Cos was Santa Anna's brother-in-law. (Unless I'm wrong about the oversight.) I'm sorry if I come off as too vague, but I've never been comfortable acting the critic, whether regarding books, films, TV shows or my great-aunt's kale pudding. I dreaded having to pass judgment on things during my quarter-century as a newspaper scribe.