The Enduring Legacy of the Indian Wars and George Armstrong Custer
The Enduring Legacy of the Indian Wars and George Armstrong Custer
It’s easy to understand why this tremendous defeat shocked the American public at the time. But with Custerology, Michael A. Elliott tackles the far more complicated question of why the battle still haunts the American imagination today. Weaving vivid historical accounts of Custer at Little Bighorn with contemporary commemorations that range from battle reenactments to the unfinished Crazy Horse memorial, Elliott reveals a Custer and a West whose legacies are still vigorously contested. He takes readers to each of the important places of Custer’s life, from his Civil War home in Michigan to the site of his famous demise, and introduces us to Native American activists, Park Service rangers, and devoted history buffs along the way. Elliott shows how Custer and the Indian Wars continue to be both a powerful symbol of America’s bloody past and a crucial key to understanding the nation’s multicultural present.
“[Elliott] is an approachable guide as he takes readers to battlefields where Custer fought American Indians . . . to the Michigan town of Monroe that Custer called home after he moved there at age 10 . . . to the Black Hills of South Dakota where Custer led an expedition that gave birth to a gold rush."—Steve Weinberg, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“By ‘Custerology,’ Elliott means the historical interpretation and commemoration of Custer and the Indian Wars in which he fought not only by those who honor Custer but by those who celebrate the Native American resistance that defeated him. The purpose of this book is to show how Custer and the Little Bighorn can be and have been commemorated for such contradictory purposes.”—Library Journal
“Michael Elliott’s Custerology is vivid, trenchant, engrossing, and important. The American soldier George Armstrong Custer has been the subject of very nearly incessant debate for almost a century and a half, and the debate is multicultural, multinational, and multimedia. Mr. Elliott’s book provides by far the best overview, and no one interested in the long-haired soldier whom the Indians called Son of the Morning Star can afford to miss it.”
“Michael Elliott has invented the excellent term ‘Custerology’ to describe an intriguing cultural phenomenon—the ever-enduring interest in George Armstrong Custer. His book examines its manifestations with insight and authority. Custerology is a fascinating and valuable book that reveals its author’s generous sympathy and illuminating intelligence on every page.”
Louise Barnett, author of Touched by Fire: The Life, Death, and Mythic Afterlife of George Armstrong Custer
“That any writer could find a fresh approach to George Armstrong Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn is a phenomenon. Yet Michael Elliott presents a fresh approach by relating the public obsession that has flourished for 131 years to its continuing resonance in the present and, almost certainly, the future. Custerology will not only be essential reading for aficionados, but compelling for lay readers as well.”
Robert Utley, author of Custer and Me: A Historian’s Memoir
“Michael Elliott’s Custerology is a fascinating combination of meticulous scholarship, probing journalistic observation, and blessedly open-minded analysis. This is a book that says as much about America—in all its stunning and complex diversity—as it does about George Armstrong Custer and the battle that made him a national icon.”—Nathaniel Philbrick, author of Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War
Nathaniel Philbrick, author of Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War
"By ’Custerology,’ Elliott means the historical interpretation and commemoration of Custer and the Indian Wars in which he fought not only by those who honor Custer but by those who celebrate the Native American resistance that defeated him. This is not a history or biography of Custer. The purpose of this book is to show how Custer and the Little Bighorn can be and have been commemorated for such contradictory purposes. Elliott accomplishes his task primarily by looking at particular current instances of public history associated with Custer battlefields, museums, and reenactments, although he does mention some books and films. Also running through the book is the question of whether any commemoration of Custer and the Indian Wars is still relevant in the multicultural world of the 21st century. Elliott argues that it is. Not for the uninitiated, this complex and multilayered work is best suited for upper-division undergraduates and above and for others who are interested in the meaning and significance of Custer in today’s world."
"The three best books about Custer and the Little Bighorn are Evan S. Connell’s Son of the Morning Star (1984), the relevant chapters in Richard Slotkin’s The Fatal Environment . . . and Custerology, the book currently under review."
Larry McMurtry | New York Review of Books
"A fascinating travelogue, one comparable in size , scale, and significance to Ian Frazier’s Great Plains."
R. Eli Paul | Western Historical Quarterly
"An engaging, meticulously researched, and well-argued study, Elliott’s book makes a significant contribtion to the voluminous literature on Custer and the Indian Wars. In addition to its attention to the social significance of popular representations of Custer, the book is notable for its sustained, complex engagement with indiginous perspectives and politics."
Shari M. Huhndorf | American Historical Review
"Custerology succeeds as a meditation on the meaning of history. Elliott draws on both personal experience and a sure command of the vast Custer canon to describe why society latches onto certain aspects of the past and uses them to comprehend the present and alter the future. Anyone interested in why certain soldiers are remembered and others lie forgotten will find much food for thought in these pages."
Gregory J. W. Urwin | On Point
"Michael A. Elliot takes a different tack [on the history of General Custer] in Custerology: The Enduring Legacy of the Indian Wars and George Armstrong Custer. His study focuses on the plethora of books, articles, films and commemorative activities that continue to spring up around Custer's Greasy Grass. [...] Elliot's inside view of the Little Big Horn Associates and their intense interest in the Indian Wars is enlightening."
Great Plains Quarterly
Table of Contents
1 Ghost Dancing on Last Stand Hill: Crow Agency, Montana
2 Being Custer: Monroe, Michigan
3 Lives on the Plains: Cheyenne, Oklahoma
4 Into the Black Hills: Rapid City, South Dakota
5 Testimony in Translation: The Library
6 Little Bighorn Forever: Hardin, Montana • Garryowen, Montana
Epilogue: Indian Country