Custer's Last Stand Essay - Critical Essays

Quentin J. Reynolds


The author’s admiration for Custer is sweeping and profound. There is much to admire about Custer, and Reynolds emphasizes all of these traits. Occasionally, however, Reynolds has made too obvious an effort to present his hero in the best possible light, stressing the positive aspects of Custer’s life and downplaying or even glossing over the negative ones. Custer’s well-known disobedience and little-disputed impetuosity, foolhardiness, and impudence—factors which brought on his own demise at the Little Bighorn—are attributed to being the viewpoints of “Custer’s enemies.”

The brief discussion about Custer’s final class ranking at West Point (thirty-fourth out of thirty-four) is an example of the way in which Reynolds tries to avoid criticism of his subject. The author states that “even the officers didn’t care. They laughed and told Autie he’d still make a good officer.” After all, writes Reynolds, it was impossible for a “high-spirited lad” such as Custer to keep his mind on his studies, and “it was really only during the last few months that he had neglected his books.” While that may be true, the reader should understand that Custer was not a model leader in every aspect of his life. Custer’s high-spirited attitude did, indeed, almost bring his military career to an end even before he was graduated from West Point. Reynolds discusses this episode without tarnishing Custer’s image.

Although Reynolds is...

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