The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 99, July 1995 - April, 1996

Book Reviews
The Civil War Memories of Elizabeth Bacon Custer. By Arlene Reynolds. (Austin:
University of Texas Press, 1994. Pp. 181. Introduction, bibliography, index.
ISBN 0-292-71168-9. $24.95.)
In three published books-Tenting on the Plains, Following the Guidon, and Boots
and Saddles-Elizabeth Bacon "Libbie" Custer left a full account of her life on
the frontier with her husband, Gen. George Armstrong Custer. She was a grace-
ful writer, and her lively descriptions bring us flood, fire, and Indian scares as
well as personal glimpses-Custer's jealousy, the time he lifted her from the sad-
dle of a galloping horse, the premonition of disaster which overcame her as he
departed for Little Big Horn.
But the first book, Tenting on the Plains, begins at the end of the Civil War.
Missing is Libbie's view of their life during the war. We know that they married
in 1864 and that Libbie followed him to war, but two biographies of Libbie, nei-
ther unbiased, and various other sources only hint at their life during this peri-
Now Arlene Reynolds, the actress who portrayed Libbie in episodes of the tele-
vision series The Real West and in two original plays based on her life-We Rode
with Custer and Then You'll Remember Me-has filled this gap. Apparently Libbie
planned a "war book" all along. She kept letters from friends and her own jour-
nals from the period, and she frequently jotted down notes about her war expe-
riences. Reynolds has pieced these fragmentary materials together to fashion a
manuscript that sets Libbie's Civil War experiences in roughly chronological
order, and she has done a superb job of preserving Libbie's tone and style. The
Civil War Memories has all the vivacity and charm of the earlier books.
Historians may worry about what has been lost in the editing of the fragments
and jottings, but Libbie's other books should not be taken as factual accounts.
They are highly colored by the strong will of a woman determined to make a
hero of her late husband. Similarly, The Civil War Memories is not a factual
account, but it is an authentic picture of Libbie Custer and her memories of the
Civil War.

Texas Christian University


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 99, July 1995 - April, 1996. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed November 28, 2014.