Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Booknotes: The Most Desperate Acts of Gallantry

New Arrival:
The Most Desperate Acts of Gallantry: George A. Custer in the Civil War by Daniel T. Davis (Savas Beatie, 2019).

George Armstrong Custer will always be most popularly remembered for getting himself and five entire companies of his regiment killed at the Little Big Horn during his rash assault on the Indian villages there in Montana, but I always think of him foremost as a successful Civil War cavalry general. Daniel Davis's The Most Desperate Acts of Gallantry: George A. Custer in the Civil War offers readers a brief but thorough summary of that meteoric career, which saw him rise from fresh West Point graduate to brevet major general.

From the description: "Plucked from obscurity by Maj. Gen. George McClellan, Custer served as a staff officer through the early stages of the war. His star began to rise in late June, 1863, when he catapulted several grades to brigadier general and was given brigade command. Shortly thereafter, at Gettysburg and Buckland Mills, he led his men—the Wolverines—in some of the heaviest cavalry fighting of the Eastern Theater.

At Yellow Tavern, Custer’s assault broke the enemy line, and one of his troopers mortally wounded the legendary Confederate cavalryman, J.E.B. Stuart. At Trevilian Station, his brigade was nearly destroyed. At Third Winchester, he participated in an epic cavalry charge. Elevated to lead the Third Cavalry Division, Custer played a major role at Tom’s Brook and, later, at Appomattox, which ultimately led to the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia.
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Supporting this comprehensive introductory narrative is a host of new and archival photographs along with an excellent set of maps from ECW series cartographer Hall Jesperson. Modern images of seemingly every landscape vista across which Custer and his men charged enemy lines are included in the book. The final chapter briefly examines the war hero's post-Civil War life, and in the first-person epilogue the author walks in Custer's doomed footsteps at the Little Big Horn.

The appendix section contains four entries. Author Daniel Davis discusses the life of decorated Custer brother Tom and also contributes the volume's final word on the Custer legacy. In the other two, Ashley Webb looks at the relationship between George and Libby Custer, and Paul Ashdown assesses the Custer memory.

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