In a biography of stunning richness and sophistication, Pulitzer Prize winner T.J. Stiles turns the focus squarely on Custer and away from the grim terminus that has defined his legacy. Whether Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontiers of a New America redeems its subject is another question — Custer is just too polarizing a figure. But Stiles brilliantly puts flesh and bone on what has become a cultural stick figure.
By explaining Custer’s life without constantly looking over his shoulder at the fate that awaits him, even going so far as relegating the Battle of the Little Bighorn to the epilogue, Stiles has perhaps given him a measure of redemption.
In this deft portrait, Stiles restores Custer as a three-dimensional figure, a complicated man whose formidable talents were nearly overwhelmed by his difficulties in managing affairs away from the clamorous riot of battle.