The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 85, July 1981 - April, 1982

Book Reviews

These are minor points. This is a thorough, well-written, definitive
biography. Just don't be discouraged after reading the second para-
graph on page xii of the Preface and Acknowledgements.
Florida State University RICHARD A. BARTLETT
Nomad: George A. Custer in Turf, Field and Farm. Edited by Brian
W. Dippie. (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1980. Pp. xvii+
174. Introduction, illustrations, notes, index. $22.50.)
"Nomad" was Custer's pen name for fifteen letters, dated between
1867 and 1875, that he contributed to Turf, Field and Farm, a popu-
lar nineteenth-century American sporting weekly. Naturally, Custer
described horseracing and hunting, but he also used his letters to the
journal to comment on Indian campaigns, to criticize fellow army
officers, and to promote the cause of the Kansas Pacific Railway.
In some ways the Nomad letters are the recreational complement to
Custer's articles in The Galaxy, which were published as My Life on
the Plains (1874). However, three of the Nomad letters (numbers 3, 4,
and 5, pp. 20-39) concentrated on General Winfield S. Hancock's
expedition of 1867 against the Indians of Kansas. As Dippie points
out, these letters "anticipate several chapters in My Life on the Plains,
but there are significant discrepancies between the two versions" (p.
xiv). Dippie painstakingly details the discrepancies in the two accounts
regarding skirmishes, parleys, atmospheric conditions, Hancock's
actions, and Custer's behavior. Thus, Dippie calls into question the
accuracy of several passages in My Life on the Plains, which he says
"historians have been too much inclined to cite . . . uncritically" (p.
xiv). Dippie finds that Custer made scenes in My Life on the Plains
more "dramatic" (p. 128, n. 13) than he saw them as Nomad, and was
"actively deceitful" (p. 133, n. 8) in the fifth Nomad letter regarding
some of the campaign's events, especially where Hancock was con-
cerned. Evidently Custer criticized Hancock out of spite, thinking that
Hancock was responsible for his court martial in 1867. Dippie does
a splendid job throughout of comparing the narrative of all the Nomad
letters with the text of My Life on the Plains and Elizabeth Custer's
three books, "Boots and Saddles" (1885), Tenting on the Plains (1887),
and Following the Guidon (189o), and other appropriate works. Dip-
pie offers a fine general introduction, as well as short introductions
to the four Nomad sections: "Kansas, 1867," "Kansas, 1869-1870,"
"Kentucky, 1871-1873," and "Dakota Territory, 1873-1875." In his


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 85, July 1981 - April, 1982. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed October 9, 2015.