Mari Sandoz Alvin M. Josephy, Jr. - Essay

Alvin M. Josephy, Jr.

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

There is really nothing new in [Mari Sandoz's telling of "The Battle of the Little Bighorn"], save the quality of the telling itself, and this rises above all previous accounts. This is the author of "Old Jules," bringing the same creative power and style to a great historic theme, enfolding in top-drawer literature what should have been there long ago. It is almost as if this were properly the climactic work of Miss Sandoz's career….

Buffs may disagree with some of Miss Sandoz's interpretations and conclusions, but to the white man that is the basis of the continuing lure of the battle: no one but Indians knew exactly what happened to Custer, and no one will ever know for sure why Custer did what he did. Miss Sandoz makes no mention of something that old Indians had told her about, but of which she was unsure: that some of Custer's men had gotten down to the bank of the Little Bighorn, but had been driven back after a sharp fire-fight. Now, new evidence secured with metallic detectors (and as yet unpublicized) seems to confirm the Indians' story. On the other hand, the author is quite uninhibited in using the testimony of Arikara Indians concerning Custer's hope of winning a battle and being nominated for the Presidency to explain his motives that tragic June. Her Custer is deaf and brooding, riding in a trance, committed to an appointment. (p. 6)

Alvin M. Josephy, Jr., "Soldiers and Indians," in The New York Times Book Review (copyright © 1966 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), July 3, 1966, pp. 6, 18.∗