This Land Is Mine!
by Elsie S. Wilmerding
BookVenture Publishing

"'You see, think strategy, and you’ll hit your target,' his father says. 'Hunt with a plan in your mind and be ready.'"

19th-century American history is full of fascinating, influential people who shaped the tumultuous expansion of the United States and lived through the displacement of the natives who lived off the land before colonization took place. On this subject, two of the first names that certainly spring to mind on either side of this conflict are General George A. Custer and Crazy Horse. Despite their differences in heritage, background, and their fundamental differences regarding land rights, they were similar in age, ability to lead, and battlefield prowess. Following both of them in their youth to their infamous years, this book illustrates the inevitable collision of these two leaders that would be a pivotal moment in this country’s history.

Going beyond the Battle of the Little Bighorn, this book investigates the lives of its two most prominent icons and the aftermath of their meeting on the battlefield. Crazy Horse’s story begins at the age of six, where he is raised by his father and uncle to be a capable and confident leader. As he grows up with friends and participates in his first buffalo hunt, his skills as a warrior develop as he approaches manhood. However, the atrocities carried out by the United States Army and the federal government against his Oglala Lakota tribe and other tribes spur Crazy Horse into action. Meanwhile, Custer grows up in rural Ohio, determined to attend West Point and join the army. He struggles in class, however, and begins to doubt that his dreams will come true. His parents send him to a seminary in Michigan to accelerate his studies, and after some tribulations, he makes it to West Point, graduating early and avoiding discharge due to the escalating Civil War. Their positions as leaders and the tension brewing between the government and the native tribes lead them into direct conflict with each other.

Blending historical detail and an element of fictional narrative, this book makes the two leaders of this battle come to life as human beings, not just as names in a history book. Not solely focused on Custer and Crazy Horse, readers will also encounter other familiar figures like Sitting Bull and Ulysses S. Grant, and even learn about lesser-known individuals like artist George Catlin and photographer Edward S. Curtis who depicted honest Native American culture in their work. Using supplemental materials like timeline charts, paintings, and photographs both historical and modern, the people, places, and events covered in this book are on full display for enhanced understanding.

The language used makes this an excellent study guide for school children learning about Custer and Crazy Horse, but there are certainly violent details that may not be appropriate for younger readers, despite their historical accuracy. As a book, the subject matter is interesting both for its significance and for the way it is presented. The addition of fictional encounters and dialogue make the details come to life without diluting the factual accuracy. This decision makes the book not only practical in its enjoyment but also fun to read. History buffs who don’t always want their content dryly presented or young readers looking to have a better understanding of the Battle of the Little Bighorn will fall right into the information presented here. American history is often compelling enough to not need any extra flair in its presentation, but accessibility is important, and the way the author presents both sides of the story leads to a more balanced understanding of the conflict, what led to it, and how it became so bloody.

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