The Last Stand: Book summary and reviews of The Last Stand by Nathaniel Philbrick

The Last Stand

Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn

By Nathaniel Philbrick

The Last Stand
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  • Published in USA  May 2010,
    496 pages.

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Book Summary

Little Bighorn and Custer are names synonymous in the American imagination with unmatched bravery and spectacular defeat. Mythologized as Custer's Last Stand, the June 1876 battle has been equated with other famous last stands, from the Spartans' defeat at Thermopylae to Davy Crockett at the Alamo.

In his tightly structured narrative, Nathaniel Philbrick brilliantly sketches the two larger-than-life antagonists: Sitting Bull, whose charisma and political savvy earned him the position of leader of the Plains Indians, and George Armstrong Custer, one of the Union's greatest cavalry officers and a man with a reputation for fearless and often reckless courage. Philbrick reminds readers that the Battle of the Little Bighorn was also, even in victory, the last stand for the Sioux and Cheyenne Indian nations. Increasingly outraged by the government's Indian policies, the Plains tribes allied themselves and held their ground in southern Montana. Within a few years of Little Bighorn, however, all the major tribal leaders would be confined to Indian reservations.

Throughout, Philbrick beautifully evokes the history and geography of the Great Plains with his characteristic grace and sense of drama. The Last Stand is a mesmerizing account of the archetypal story of the American West, one that continues to haunt our collective imagination.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Philbrick humanizes history, not only putting a recognizable face on the players in one of our nation's most notorious events but also providing insight into their hearts and minds." - Library Journal

"Starred Review. While off his usual stride with a surfeit of unnecessary detail, ... Philbrick writes a lively narrative that brushes away the cobwebs of mythology." - Publishers Weekly

"Philbrick delivers a compellingly readable rendition of the famous battle." - Booklist

"A stirring, perceptive retelling of an endless fascinating battle." - Kirkus Reviews

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Author Information

Nathaniel Philbrick Author Biography

Photo by Ellen Warner

Nataniel Philbrick was born in Boston, Massachusetts, acquired a B.A in English from Brown and an MA in American Literature from Duke University. He worked for four years at Sailing World magazine; was a freelancer for a number of years, during which time he wrote/edited several sailing books, including Yachting: A Parody, for which he was the editor-in-chief. During this time he was also the primary caregiver for his two children. After moving to Nantucket in 1986, he became interested in the history of the island and wrote Away Off Shore: Nantucket Island and Its People. He was offered the opportunity to start the Egan Maritime Institute in 1995, and in 2000 he published In the Heart of the Sea, followed by Sea of Glory and Mayflower. The Last Stand was published in May 2010. He is ...

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