Cover image for Custer's luck
Custer's luck
Skimin, Robert.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Herodias, 2000.
Physical Description:
297 pages ; 24 cm
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Nearly everyone knows that Custer died at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. But what would have happened if Custer had prevailed that day, bringing the Indian Wars to a close? What if his success as a commander at the Little Bighorn had ushered in a new era in American politics, leading to his becoming President of the United States? With a twinkle in his eye, Robert Skimin has created perhaps his most imaginative and enjoyable book yet -- an alternative history of George Armstrong Custer that is as believable as it is provocative.

Custer wins the White House with help from James Gordon Bennett, Jr., publisher of the New York Herald. He dubs his presidency "The Great American Empire", and wastes no time rattling his saber in several directions: Canada, Panama, and the Spanish colonies. He appoints his brother Tom to the cabinet, and his youngest brother, Boston, is elected to Congress from California. In a rare show of disloyalty to his wife and first lady, Libbie, the concupiscent Custer has affairs with the English beauty Lillie Langtry -- who has moved to New York -- as well as the famous Washington socialite, Kate Chase Sprague. The president's popularity soars as his glamour and direct appeals to the American public create a mandate for military build up and an era of American imperialism.

Meanwhile, Custer's personal and political legacy haunts him in intriguing and perilous ways -- especially in the figure of the Sioux war leader, Red Elk, whose wife's death at the Little Bighorn must be avenged. Red Elk enrolls in the Carlisle Indian School to learn English and begins to stalk his enemy; he later volunteers for Seventh Regiment duty, disguising himself as a recruit fromCeylon. When Custer declares war on Spain, and gathers a Cuban expeditionary force in San A

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Award-winning author Skimin and Texas Judge Moody, who edits Research Review: The Journal of The Little Bighorn Associates, deliver a fascinating what-if historical fantasy. (Skimin went this route earlier with Gray Victory [1988], in which the Confederacy wins the War between the States.) Now, he and Moody have made the golden-haired George Armstrong Custer, always a legend in his own mind, the winner at Little Bighorn. This alternative Custer is a figure of such enormous popularity that, eventually, he is swept into the Oval Office, where he quickly becomes a saber-rattling chief executive and declares war on Spain. The novel's fascinating subplot, about Sioux war leader Red Elk, whose wife dies at Little Bighorn and who dedicates the rest of his life to avenging her death, could have been a novel all by itself. An outstanding story, both as fiction and as historical speculation. The authors make us believe that it could have all happened just the way it is presented here. --Budd Arthur

Publisher's Weekly Review

What if Gen. George Armstrong Custer had won the 1876 Battle of the Little Bighorn after all and had emerged a national hero? That is the question Skimin (The River and the Horsemen) poses in this vividly imagined alternative history. As Skimin reminds the reader, Custer led a charmed life, at least until his famous last stand. As a fighting soldier, Custer's "luck" saw him safely through the Civil War, court-martial, scandals, failed investments, and Indian wars (almost). In this fictional universe, the general's luck holds much longer. After defeating the Sioux and Cheyenne at Little Bighorn, Custer becomes the most popular man in America. Full of himself and ever the opportunist, surrounded by brothers, nephews and sycophants, he begins to envision a political career. Aided by a ruthless newspaper tycoon and political powerbroker, and with a crooked charlatan as campaign manager, Custer runs for the presidency in 1880. He demolishes his opposition, and is swept into the White House on an imperial expansion platform called "The New American Empire." Determined to make the U.S. the most powerful nation on earth, Custer intends to annex Mexico, absorb Canada and kick Spain out of Cuba. Opposing him are two enemies, his hated army rival, congressman Frederick Benteen, and a vengeful Sioux warrior named Red Elk, who has a special score to settle with the general. From the smoke-filled rooms of Tammany Hall to the perfumed boudoirs of several famous mistresses, the ornery Custer manifests unexpected political acuity and a stinging authority that scares and threatens even his supporters. Of course, Custer's luck will run out, but getting there is all the fun in this preposterous and highly entertaining yarn of fame, politics and power. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved