Legacy: New Perspectives on the Battle of the Little Bighorn
Contemporary Scholarship on Famous Battle Collected in Book
New shots, this time scholarly and more balanced, now echo over the battlefield at the Little Bighorn, the site of the famous confrontation between Sitting Bull and George Armstrong Custer in 1876.
Legacy: New Perspectives on the Battle of the Little Bighorn is a start at binding the wounds that long have festered since the battle, which the Indians called Greasy Grass.
The book is a collection of essays from leading scholars who gathered in 1994 at Billings, Mont., for the three-day "Little Bighorn Legacy Symposium."
Charles Rankin, former editor of the Montana Historical Society Press and member of the steering committee for the event, said that new knowledge gained in the past 20 years demanded a new look at the famous battle.
"As a consequence of new scholarship, new investigative techniques, new evidence, and especially because of a growing Native American insistence on inclusion in the Little Bighorn story, the conventional interpretation has become hopelessly outmoded," Rankin said.
Robert Utley, a foremost authority on the battle and former chief historian for the National Park Service, said that the Society's book opens the way for a new understanding of the battle and its aftermath.
"It is certain to be counted among the few works basic to perceiving the context, the event, and the legacy of the Little Bighorn," Utley said.
The author of The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull and Cavalier in Buckskin: George Armstrong Custer and the Western Military Frontier , Utley called the Society's book "a truly outstanding contribution to knowledge and understanding" of the battle.
The book, which includes 16 essays written by such well-known western scholars as Brian Dippie, Paul Andrew Hutton, Richard A. Fox, Jr., and Richard Slotkin, is divided into three parts: The Context, The Battle, and the Myth.
The context sets the stage for the battle by examining such things as the bison and Indians in northern plains environmental history, Crazy Horse and Lakota leadership, and the Indians who fought as U.S. Army allies during the period.
Perspectives on the battle itself range from oral and written Indian histories of the fight, to the Army's view of the site as "holy ground," to insights gained from recent archaeological investigations.
The final section looks at the battle's legacy, through examinations of such things as paintings of the "Last Stand," Hollywood's portrayal of the Little Bighorn over the years, and the controversy that still rages over how to interpret the site.
Symbolic of that controversy was the 1994 decision to change the official name of the battlefield itself—from Custer Battlefield National Monument to Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.
In addition a new Indian memorial is being planned for the historic site near Billings.
The book, which includes a 24-page illustration section, is 360 pages, and is available for $19.95 paperback (plus shipping) by calling toll free 1-800-243-9900.