cover image A Good Year to Die: The Story of the Great Sioux War

A Good Year to Die: The Story of the Great Sioux War

Charles M. Robinson, III, Author Random House (NY) $27.5 (412p) ISBN 978-0-679-43025-4

This is a provocative analysis of the Plains War of 1876 by an established scholar in the field. Making sophisticated use of Native American accounts, Robinson (Bad Hand: A Biography of General Ranald S. Mackenzie) demonstrates that the initial balance of forces was by no means unequal. The U.S. Army did not have the numbers, the doctrine or the leadership to win the kinds of decisive battles it expected to win. Robinson is particularly critical of generals George Crook and George A. Custer and correspondingly complimentary toward such Lakota warrior-statesmen as Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse. The work's centerpiece is the Little Bighorn, where Robinson believes Custer's exhausted men panicked in the face of superior numbers. The battle's principal importance, however, was as a catalyst. In its aftermath, the U.S. made available resources for the kind of attritional war the Plains Indians had no hope of waging successfully. This sympathetic account will appeal especially to those interested in Native American culture and history. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Sept.)