Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Booknotes: Custer

New Arrival:
Custer: The Making of a Young General by Edward G. Longacre (Skyhorse Pub, 2018).

Edward Longacre is the author of a great multitude of Civil War biographies, unit studies, and cavalry histories, and his work has on several occasions touched upon the life and career of George Armstrong Custer. His Custer And His Wolverines: The Michigan Cavalry Brigade, 1861-1865 was published back in 1997, and his latest, more biographical study of the famous and controversial "Boy General" is Custer: The Making of a Young General, the first of two planned volumes.

Focusing on Custer's Civil War career, Longacre's book offers "insight into this often-overlooked period in Custer's life. In 1863, under the patronage of General Alfred Pleasonton, commander of the Army of the Potomac's horsemen, a young but promising twenty-three-year-old Custer rose to the unprecedented rank of brigadier general and was placed in charge of the untried Michigan Calvary Brigade. Although over time Custer would bring out excellence in his charges, eventually leading the Wolverines to prominence, his first test came just days later at Hanover, then Hunterstown, and finally Gettysburg. In these campaigns and subsequent ones, Custer's reputation for surging ahead regardless of the odds (almost always with successful results that appeared to validate his calculating recklessness) was firmly established."

Longacre discusses "Custer's formative years, his character and personality; his attitudes toward leadership; his tactical preferences, especially for the mounted charge; his trademark brashness and fearlessness; his relations with his subordinates; and his attitudes toward the enemy with whom he clashed repeatedly in Pennsylvania and Virginia. Custer goes into greater depth and detail than any other study of Custer's Civil War career, while firmly refuting many of the myths and misconceptions regarding his personal life and military service." The book ends in the fall of 1863 with the general's star clearly on the rise, and the following volume will cover the remaining balance of the Civil War years along with Custer's service in Reconstruction Texas.

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