The reader is introduced to a little-known side of Custer—a deeply personal side. George Custer grew up in an expanding young country and his early influences mirrored the times. Two aspects of this era dominate most works about him: the Civil War, and the war with the Indians, culminating in his death at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. When mentioned, if at all, his early life and years as a cadet at West Point are brief, and then only enough to set some background for discussion of the mystery of the Little Bighorn. This is the first Custer biography to focus on these lesser-known parts of his life in great detail.
The approach uses all of Custer’s known writings: letters; magazine articles; his book, My Life on the Plains; and his unfinished memoirs of the Civil War; along with materials and books by his wife, Elizabeth Custer; and reflections of others who knew him well.
The five chapters are Early Life (growing up and as a West Point cadet), The Civil War, The Indian Fighter, The Little Bighorn, and Conclusion. The theme of the book is not so much new historical information but the depth of his character development and lesser-known influences of his life. Custer draws together these elements in a succinct and accessible read.
The book also includes illustrations (primarily from Harper’s Weekly) and photos, such as Matthew Brady’s Civil War collection, to accompany the text.