Friday, June 23, 2017

Booknotes: A Surgeon with Custer at the Little Big Horn

New Arrival:
A Surgeon with Custer at the Little Big Horn: James DeWolf's Diary and Letters, 1876 by James Madison DeWolf, edited by Todd E. Harburn (OU Press, 2017).

"In spring 1876 a physician named James Madison DeWolf accepted the assignment of contract surgeon for the Seventh Cavalry, becoming one of three surgeons who accompanied Custer’s battalion at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Killed in the early stages of the battle, he might easily have become a mere footnote in the many chronicles of this epic campaign—but he left behind an eyewitness account in his diary and correspondence. A Surgeon with Custer at the Little Big Horn is the first annotated edition of these rare accounts since 1958, and the most complete treatment to date."

More from the description: "In letters to his beloved wife, Fannie, and in diary entries—reproduced in this volume exactly as he wrote them—DeWolf describes the terrain, weather conditions, and medical needs that he and his companions encountered along the way." "After DeWolf’s death, his colleague Dr. Henry Porter, who survived the conflict, retrieved his diary and sent it to DeWolf’s widow. Later, the DeWolf family donated it to the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument. Now available in this accessible and fully annotated format, the diary, along with the DeWolf’s personal correspondence, serves as a unique primary resource for information about the Little Big Horn campaign and medical practices on the western frontier."

Editor Todd Harburn adds biographical details on DeWolf's life in the introduction. He also enhances the value of this new edition of DeWolf's writings with extensive explanatory endnotes. Maps and photos are placed throughout the volume, and additional materials in the appendix section include some account book pages from DeWolf's diary, a collection of pre-LBH campaign diary pages from 1875, and the introduction to the 1958 edition.

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