No one knew Custer better than Connell

Before the battle of the Little Bighorn: Custer and a four-legged friend.

Long before the Little Bighorn: Custer and a four-legged friend.

“Why he was esteemed as an Indian fighter is puzzling. None of his frontier campaigns demonstrated particular skill or insight. Not that they were botched, just that his strategy could not be called brilliant…. He could be likened more to an actor than to a playwright. Invariably he gives the impression of a man on stage performing as he has been instructed to perform, delivering lines composed by somebody else.  Throughout the Civil War his smashing victories were plotted by other men.”

So wrote Evan S. Connell in his 1984 book, Son of the Morning Star: Custer and the Little Bighorn.” A few days ago, Connell died, at the age of 88, in his New Mexico home, according to the Washington Post.

I don’t have much to add to any obituary, except that “Son of the Morning Star” is a book that belongs on the shelf of any writer aspiring to write history. Connell breathed life and color into the world of George Armstrong Custer much like Shelby Foote did for the Civil War. He was a writer’s writer.

No one lives forever, and 88 is a ripe old age, of course, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be missed.

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