Chronicles of Custer: First Stand of a Failed Campaign (Paperback)

Chronicles of Custer: First Stand of a Failed Campaign By Matt Vincent Cover Image

Chronicles of Custer: First Stand of a Failed Campaign (Paperback)

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(Kansas & Regional)
The story of the Hancock Expedition of 1867, a five-month military effort designed to intimidate, pacify, relocate and, if necessary, eradicate the indigenous people living between the Arkansas River on the south and the Platte/South Platte River to the north. The central Great Plains, essentially.

Although this controversial removal policy was eventually achieved, it did not happen in 1867, and this book reveals why the campaign faltered and failed. Miserably. The blame was shared by many, including a misguided government under the Andrew Johnson Administration, religious fanatics wrapped up in the doctrine of Manifest Destiny, corporations and, generally, the rest of the usual suspects. Blame was also shared by the U.S. military, specifically for giving too much power and responsibility to a young, inexperienced military officer named George Armstrong Custer, an unlikely "Civil War Hero" who managed to ignite a Plains Indian War that would not end for almost a decade. Some blamed Hancock. Some blamed Sherman and others blamed Sheridan. But the result was the same.

This 354-page book took five years to research and write. It includes hundreds of contemporary newspaper accounts, military orders, saddlebag dispatches, correspondence, books, journals and letters from those who participated in what turned out to be a military fiasco, a certified debacle that Custer's own wife, Elizabeth, spent more than 50 years trying to refurbish after her husband's death in 1876.

From these sources and more, the author was able to glean first-hand accounts of what transpired on the plains of Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado from April through August of 1867, weaving anecdotes and facts into what I hope readers will view as an honest and compelling narrative. Most valuable to this story were the military transcripts from Custer's court-martial records from Fort Leavenworth.
Matt Vincent was born in Yuma, Colorado, where he attended high school. He graduated from the University of Colorado School of Journalism in 1980. After working for a several weekly newspapers on the Colorado Front Range, he moved to Texas in 1983 and began writing for the Houston Post. During that time, he became a frequent contributor to outdoor magazines like Field & Stream, Outdoor Life, Texas Fisherman and Gulf Tide, and he was eventually hired by the Bass Anglers Sportsmen Society in 1988 where he became editor to a sister publication to Bassmaster Magazine called B.A.S.S. Times. He remained there as an editor, writer and photographer for the next 20 years. Eight years after the B.A.S.S. publishing group was acquired by ESPN Outdoors in 2001, Vincent made a career change, retiring to pursue a career in commercial photography and freelance writing. In 2021 he self-published his first book, a collection of short stories titled “Wild Times & True Tales from the High Plains,” which is currently out-of-print after selling almost 2,000 copies. He currently resides on a small farm on the High Plains of Colorado with his wife, Robin, along with a menagerie of dogs, cats and chickens.
Product Details ISBN: 9781736457535
Publisher: Matt Vincent
Publication Date: February 28th, 2023
Anyone with a clear view of U.S. history knows Custer was no hero and Matt Vincent’s well-researched book, “The Chronicles of Custer,” presents a convincing case that Custer, far from a hero, played a large part in igniting the mid-1800s-era Plains Indian War, resulting in bloodshed across the Great Plains. Vincent provides a compelling tale, backed by news accounts and journals and letters of eyewitnesses, of Custer’s 1867 pursuit of Indians across Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado Territory, taking the reader along on foolishly painful marches and fruitless campaigns that bred hatred not only among the Sioux, Cheyenne and other tribes but also officers and enlisted men under his command. Eye-opening accounts of escalating desertion reveal the harsh treatment and conditions he forced upon his men and regional placenames and landmarks add familiarity to those of us living in the same region Custer egotistically marched through. Historical accounts have painted Custer as a selfish self-aggrandizing narcissistic celebrity seeking wealth and fame through exploits as a cavalry officer but Vincent also points out Custer’s desire to be known as a great hunter, envious of contemporaries like Buffalo Bill Cody and Wild Bill Hickok to the point of putting himself and his command at risk, while ignoring official duties, pursuing buffalo and game animals, then anonymously writing of his hunting prowess in national publications. More notable were decisions and maneuvers Custer made, sometimes skirting orders, so he could reunite with his bride, Libbie. Apparently, men and cavalry horses suffered, some died, because of Custer’s desire to satisfy his libido. Ultimately, Custer was court martialed and found guilty on a number of charges. But with friends in high places, he survived the punishment and was called back into service. However, he would not survive the war he helped ignite. This book, richly illustrated by Brigitte Shafer, is a fascinating, well-documented fresh look at a celebrity/soldier run amok. As Vincent intones in the preface, “Whether (Custer) was derelict, inexperienced, or simply incompetent as a western field commander will remain a subject for other historians to debate.” This is ample ammunition to start that debate.

Joe Arterburn
Sidney, NE