Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Owens, Kenneth N.||Hayter, Earl W. (Earl Wiley), 1901-1994

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of History


Custer; George Armstrong; 1839-1876; Little Bighorn; Battle of the; Mont.; 1876


General George Armstrong Custer's famous "Last Stand" at the Battle of the Little Big Horn has given rise to bitter controversies among scholars and popular writers alike. Essential elements in the historical narrative are yet vigorously disputed between investigators who have devoted their best energies to reconstructing the events of that day, June 2$, 1876. The figure of George Custer has become central to the controversy which has since persisted, yet there are also involved intense disagreements regarding the course of Indian-white relations on the western plains and the conduct of military affairs in the post-Civil War era. In this paper the Battle of the Little Big Horn is studied as a critical problem in frontier historiography. At the outset, an attempt is made to summarize the life and career of General Custer, pointing to conflicting assessments of the man and his military capabilities. A review of Indian affairs on the plains follows, which indicates both the course of policy that led to the Army's campaign in the summer of I876 and the various disputes concerning these events. Next there is provided an account of the Battle of the Little Big Horn itself, which draws upon available published sources to indicate the major areas of conflict in historical evaluations. Finally, a more thorough examination of historiographical materials is provided, pointing out the five principal schools of thought which may be distinguished in the Custer literature. It is concluded that in view of these continuing controversies, there is yet needed more disciplined scholarly study of Indian affairs, the career and character of George Armstrong Custer, and the events of the Battle itself before it will be possible to arrive at sound conclusions regarding Custer's Last Stand.


Includes bibliographical references.


vii, 136 pages




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