Chapter 1: The Accused
In this chapter, Custer is brought to court for a trial for yet another offense he had committed. He pleads guilty out of His character. Stiles goes ahead to describe Custer’s character as a whole from this incident. His argument is that Custer, the accused, is a troublemaker, a troubled man, passionate and romantic, yet with a broad range of capabilities. During the court trial, it is evident Hazen himself had arrested Custer for failing to halt the fight, and his testimony helped the prosecution (Stiles 377).
Chapter 2: The Observer
Custer moves from West Point to Washington. The chapter describes Custer’s journey, the things he saw and observed as he traveled and the experiences he had. He spends a sleepless night in Washington and ends up in McDowell’s army. Stiles brings out the point that Custer was comfortable rather preferred being in the military. In one of his letters, Custer wrote, “I am more confident in him (McDowell) than any living man” (Stiles 1264). Custer participated in some activities including fights in McDowell’s army.
Chapter 3: The Protégé
Stiles compares Custer and McClellan. He argues that Custer fought in battles after seeing the manner of slavery that existed. However, he did not fight to end slavery but rather to preserve the Union. Custer made abolition noises to Republican figures in Michigan. In one of his political lectures, Custer backed it with an implicit threat: “A declaration of radical views, especially upon slavery, will rapidly disintegrate our present armies” (Stiles 1894).
Chapter 4: The Prodigy
If Custer learned anything at McClellan’s side, it was that the Civil War was political (Stiles 2290). This statement introduces in this chapter bringing out the aftermath of the war while Custer was at McClellan’s side. Later on, Custer meets with a lady Libbie and Stiles describes the events that revolved around their lives. The relationship of the two did not shape much the future of Custer. It is through the lessons learned about the Civil War while on McClellan’s side that gave Custer victory in the battles that followed.
Chapter 5: The Women
From the beginning of the book, Stiles had presented Custer as a passionate and romantic man, yet mischievous. And even here, as Custer’s life and his focus to Libbie, Judge Bacon dismissed him as “that mustached fellow.”Stiles says that the young captain came from the wrong family, the wrong party, the wrong profession (Stiles 3176). Though, he still interacted with other women who influences his life in one way or another. However, at the end of the day, Custer’s bride would have to be Libbie Bacon.
Chapter 6: The General
Custer had to determine in which way people viewed him, an actor or a general. In various instances, he portrayed the skill of being a public to tackle different situations that came his way. Custer did not secure the division’s escape alone, but he proved again that he was most adept on the battlefield, where he never lost confidence in himself (Stiles 3792). Stiles gives him the so said description in one of the instances, third Division near Brandy. Other more situations and scenarios came up, including the encounter of Mrs. McCellian and Libbie, which Custer had to take a medical leave to handle, as a general, and also heal himself.
Chapter 7: The Hero
Libbie and Custer travel by train from Potomac to Washington where they spend much time together.In Washington Custer introduces General Grant to Libbie. Libbie gives Grant an inferior description, but it turns out General Grant was the one to save Custer. As Stiles describes, what saved Custer, Ironically, was the man Grant put in Pleasanton’s place (Stiles 4439).
Chapter 8: The Victor
Stiles builds the victory of Custer at the end of this part of the book from the words of hope in Libbie’s letter to Custer. “I think of the days of peace when little children’s voices will call to us. I can hardly wait for my little boy or girl”, Libbie Custer wrote (Stiles 4977). Because of the sickness, however, sex did not give her children. But as a motivating factor, Custer goes ahead to be victorious in his battles in the better part of the chapter.
Stiles, T J. Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2015.