Today in History – the Battle of Little Bighorn

June 25th is one of those days that is permanently in my memory because of a historical event.  Today, it is the 143rd anniversary of the Battle of Little Bighorn, the battle during the Great Sioux War of 1876 in which Civil War hero George Armstrong Custer and five companies of the 7th Cavalry Regiment under his command were wiped out by a much larger force of Native Americans.  Since my teenage years, my view of the battle has been largely shaped by a (somewhat) obscure book called Son of the Morning Star, by Evan S. Connell.

That book would eventually inspire a made-for-television movie of the same name, a movie that I really liked, despite its flaws and its general commercial failure.  Connell’s book was adapted into a screenplay by Melissa Mathison, who took Connell’s book and adapted it into a tale told by two women with very different perspectives: Libbie Custer (played by Rosanna Arquette) and Kate Bighead (voiced by Buffy Sainte-Marie and played by Demina Becker as a girl and Kimberly Guerrero as an adult).

Elizabeth_Bacon_Custer_-_Brady-Handy
Elizabeth “Libbie” Bacon Custer, probably circa 1865

It is largely because of Libbie Custer that her husband’s reputation and his memory in general did not suffer as much, at least for the first century or so after his death.  And frankly, it probably should have suffered.  Custer was brash, egotistical, vain, stubborn, and reckless with the lives of those who he led.  There is a reason he graduated dead last in his West Point class of 1861.  He was a controversial figure while he was alive, much less afterward.  It is largely because of Libby Custer that the view of Custer as a tragic hero perpetuated for so long (see the movie They Died With Their Boots On, with Custer portrayed by Errol Flynn).

But what actually happened at Little Bighorn is much more complex than what was portrayed in popular culture for so long.  And Son of the Morning Star (the book AND the movie) does a much better job than anything before or since in portraying the battle and what happened.  That’s my opinion, for whatever it’s worth.  Here’s a clip of the opening titles and scene, where the column under General Alfred Terry (played by Terry O’Quinn!) arrives on the battlefield to see they have missed the fight.  Note also Captain Frederick Benteen played by David Strathairn.  Also note that the story is largely narrated by the two women.

I don’t know if this film will ever find its way to DVD, much less Blu-Ray, but it should.

~Geoff

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Game of Thrones and the End of Character Arcs

A lot of Game of Thrones Fans were disappointed when the Battle of Winterfell seemed to be somewhat anticlimactic, particularly since most people felt that the fight between the living and the army of the Dead would be THE BIG BATTLE of this final season of the show.

Well, then last night happened.  Season Eight, Episode Five: The Bells.

If there is ANYTHING you can say about last night’s episode with 100% certainty, it is that the episode was decidedly NOT anti-climactic.  And it was one of those things that you just couldn’t stop watching.  Like the Red Wedding, but orders of magnitude worse.

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GoT S8E2: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

The first two episodes of Season 8 have come and gone, and there are only 4 episodes of the show left.  It took two years of waiting, but it almost seems like it is going by so fast now that it’s here.

Well. I won’t spend too much time recapping the episode, as I would rather spend time talking about what I think it all means and what will happen next.

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Some Predictions for GoT Season 8

Well, here we are – rapidly approaching the final season of my favorite TV show.  HBO has released some teasers and such.

So I thought I might make some predictions for what we might see in the final season of the show, and specifically, who I think will live and who will die.

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My presentation to WIHA last week

As Kelly and I are both new members of the Winthrop Improvement and Historical Association, I was invited to do a presentation for them, and so I decided to do my Boston in the Civil War era presentation, basically a revised version of a presentation I wrote for Historic New England years ago.

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Does the Night King have Greensight? A theory

I rewatched S7E6, “Beyond the Wall”, again and noticed a few things I had not noticed the first time.

For one thing, it almost seems like the Night King knows when Bran is watching him through Greensight.  Is it just me?  When Bran had warged into the ravens to fly over the Army of the Dead, the Night King looked up and the ravens scattered immediately, as if the connection to Bran had been suddenly interrupted or broken.  And since Bran immediately goes out of his warg/Greensight trance also, I am assuming that it is broken.

The Night King was created by the Children of the Forest.  Did they pass on Greensight to him when they created him?

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Thank God for Game of Thrones

As the news just gets harder and harder to watch, a little escapism once a week can be a wonderful thing.

Sadly, there are only two episodes left in this season, including tonight’s episode.  So GoT’s ability to blot out the awfulness of reality is going to be temporary.  You might even say limited to a brief… eclipse. [rim shot]

Thank you, thank you, remember to tip your server.

-Geoff