The Fights on the Little Horn

Unveiling the Mysteries of Custer's Last Stand

Gordon Harper

This remarkable book synthesizes a lifetime of in-depth research into one of America's most storied disasters, the defeat of Custer's 7th Cavalry at the hands of the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians, as well as the complete annihilation of that part of the cavalry led by Custer himself. The author, Gordon Harper, spent countless hours on the battlefield
Date Published :
December 2017
Publisher :
Illustration :
16pp illustrations
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781612002149
Pages : 408
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781612005638
Pages : 408
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock
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Winner of the 2014 John Carroll Award, presented annually by The Little Big Horn Associates, as their Literary Award for the best book/monograph during the preceding year.

Winner 2014 G. Joseph Sills Jr. Book Award

This remarkable book synthesizes a lifetime of in-depth research into one of America’s most storied disasters, the defeat of Custer’s 7th Cavalry at the hands of the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians, as well as the complete annihilation of that part of the cavalry led by Custer himself.

The author, Gordon Harper, spent countless hours on the battlefield itself as well as researching every iota of evidence of the fight from both sides, white and Indian. He was thus able to recreate every step of the battle as authoritatively as anyone could, dispelling myths and falsehoods along the way. Harper himself passed away in 2009, leaving behind nearly two million words of original research and writing. In this book his work has been condensed for the general public to observe his key findings and the crux of his narrative on the exact course of the battle.

One of his first observations is that the fight took place along the Little Horn River—its junction with the Big Horn was several miles away so that the term for the battle, “Little Big Horn” has always been a misnomer. He precisely traces the mysterious activities of Benteen’s battalion on that fateful day, and why it could never come to Custer’s reinforcement. He describes Reno’s desperate fight in unprecedented depth, as well as how that unnerved officer benefited from the unexpected heroism of many of his men.

Indian accounts, ever-present throughout this book, come to the fore especially during Custer’s part of the fight, because no white soldier survived it. However, analysis of the forensic evidence—tracking cartridges, bullets, etc., discovered on the battlefield—plus the locations of bodies assist in drawing an accurate scenario of how the final scene unfolded. It may indeed be clearer now than it was to the doomed 7th Cavalrymen at the time, who through the dust and smoke and Indians seeming to rise by hundreds from the ground, only gradually realized the extent of the disaster.

Of additional interest is the narrative of the battlefield after the fight, when successive burial teams had to be dispatched for the gruesome task, because prior ones invariably did a poor job. Though author Gordon Harper is no longer with us, his daughter Tori Harper, along with author/historians Gordon Richard and Monte Akers, have done yeoman’s work in preserving his valuable research for the public.

About The Author

Gordon Harper is a researcher of American military history.


Foreword by Tori Harper

1 The Approach to the Little Horn: Benteen’s March
2 The Approach to the Little Horn: Reno’s and Custer’s March
3 The Approach to the Little Horn: Custer’s March to Medicine Tail Coulee
4 The Approach to the Little Horn: The Pack Train and Messengers
5 The Opening Shots: Reno’s Fight in the Valley
6 Across the Little Horn and Up a Hill: Reno’s Retreat from the Timber
7 Strange Interlude: Chaos on Reno Hill and the Weir Advance
8 Under Siege on Reno Hill
9 Introduction to Custer’s Fight
10 Death of the Valiant by Gordon Richard

1 A Question of Disobedience
2 How the Indian Bands Came Together at the Little Horn
3 The Number of Warriors Facing the 7th Cavalry
4 Two Controversies: Recruits at the Little Horn and the Indian-Fighting Record of the 7th Cavalry
5 The Location of Bodies and the Initial Burials of the 7th Cavalry’s Dead
6 Burials, Markers and Survivors
7 Reconstructing the Death Sites on Custer’s Field using Marker Locations
8 The Enlisted Men’s Petition

Epilogue by Gordon Richard


"The sheer breadth of Gordon Harper’s research is amazing; I’ve read every major account of George Custer’s last battle and the various imbecilities leading up to it (and a good many of the primary sources on which accounts are based), and I was stunned to find that The Fights on the Little Horn is, in its slightly ramshackle way, the best of them all. Care is taken throughout to keep the broader narrative moving forward, but the array of detailed excurses is positively joyful to the historically inquisitive....The Custer disaster is one of those odd little irreducible kernels of American history that exercise perennial fascination. Anybody who feels the pull of that fascination should make sure not to miss this deep-digging book"

- Open Letters Monthly

" provides a rich, well-documented narrative that will surely become one of the definitive sources of this bloody event. This is exceptional historical reporting that is meticulously researched, clearly written and as exciting as any well-crafted novel. This book is highly recommended"

- King Features Syndicate

"Having read and studied several previous books on the Custer Battle, I was hoping that something new would emerge and I was not disappointed. It is a great pity Gordon Harper did not live long enough to have seen his years of work and research in a completed form, but it does stand as a solid testimony to diligence...certainly a book that one cannot put down"

- Norman Franks, Author

"... vast amount of research...without a doubt other enthusiasts of one of history's most overrated field engagements will get hours of enjoyment debating just how many of its revelations are truly groundbreaking. .. the research and passion is commendable

- Wild West Magazine

"... Harper studied the battle for about 50 years but died before completing his book. However, the writers who finished it for him preserved his passionate style... the extensive research and focused conclusions make it an essential read for serious students."

- True West Magazine

"This is a thoroughly researched, intriguing and well-written book that should rank as a definitive source of information about what really happened."

- Toy Solder & Model Figure

"If the reader believes that there is nothing new to be written about the most famous and analyzed battle in the west, this book may convince him otherwise. It deserves a place on the shelf of every student of Custer's battle"

- The Journal of America’s Military Past

"...we are blessed that Gordon Harper’s scholarship is now available...he did his homework as his extensive bibliography attests... provide ample food for those who hunger for the serious study of the Little Big Horn, to whom I recommend the book. This contribution will at least challenge us to reexamine (if not revise) time-honored assumptions and conceptions. The reviewer is certain that it will lead to many more “fights” as we continue the perpetual debate on the subject that Gordon Harper loved so well.

- CBHMA Book Review

"Gordon Harper (1939-2009) had a life long fascination with the battle, lived near the field for a time and toured it often, collected accounts of the battle, official papers, memoirs, and more, and hoped to write a definitive source book on it, but passed away before it was completed. This volume was compiled from his materials by his daughter Tori Harper and Gordon Richard.The first half of the book is essentially a narrative treatment of the operations that culminated in Battle of the Little Big Horn, which Harper had largely completed before his death. It consists of four chapters that follow the various detachments of the 7th Cavalry as the moved toward the battlefield on the Greasy Grass River, followed by three chapters on Maj. Marcus Reno’s column, and then two chapters on the events and circumstances of the destruction of Custer’s battalion. The second part of the book is titled “Analysis. It consists of eight essays that address particular questions about the battle and battlefield archaeology, from “A Question of Disobedience,” discussing whether or not Custer deliberately ignored orders through“The number of Warriors Facing the 7th Cavalry”, “Burials, Markers, and Survivors,” and so forth.While it’s likely that neither Custerphiles nor Custerphobes will be entirely happy with all of Gordon’s conclusions, anyone with a serious interest in the events on the Little Big Horn, or in the “Indian Fighting Army,” will find this excellent reading."

- The NYMAS Review

"Drawing on Indian accounts, as well as evidence from cartridges, bullets, and bodies discovered on the battlefield, this work for general readers and scholars describes the defeat of Custer’s 7th Cavalry by Sioux and Cheyenne forces near the Little Horn River (a battle often known as the battle of Little Big Horn). The book also details the immediate aftermath of the battle, including the burial and reburial of combatants. The first half of the book offers a chronological narrative, while the second half offers analysis. B&w historical photos and contemporary battle maps are included. An ebook edition provides primary source appendices. Author Gordon Harper lived near the site of the battle for decades and collected information on the battle from local Native American tribes."

- ProtoView

“Gordon's book is a fine example of someone whose dedication to his subject has made him the absolute master of it. This is a remarkable, brilliant book which for me confirms Custer's place in history but presents the fine details in an authoritative, masterly way. Superb.”

- Books Monthly

“An excellent book, as said previously, not an easy flowing narrative but rather a military text book. Brilliantly detailed research and most informative.”

- Army Rumour Service

This new work offers a blow by blow account of one of the most famous battles in American history using firsthand accounts, forensic analysis, and extensive research... This book will be of interest to those readers who want a fresh take on the storied dash, as well as those who want a single, detailed account.

- Christopher Miskimon, Military Heritage, September 2019

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