IN THE HEART OF THE SEA THE VOYAGE OF THE WHALESHIP ESSEX And THE LAST STAND by NATHANIEL PHILBRICK

February 28, 2014 at 7:45 pm Leave a comment

The subjects of this piece are a recently read book and a book I read in the past by the same author.

The Last Stand deals with an historical event etched in the American psyche, Custer’s Last Stand.  This is an extremely informative and well-written book tracing, with remarkable detail, the events leading up to the battle and the confrontation between the cavalry under Custer’s command and the Indians led by Sitting Bull.

The root causes of this disaster are many.  Custer’s overconfidence in his abilities as a military tactician along with the incompetence of some of the officers in his command played a major part in the outcome, along with the underestimation of the number of Indians he faced on that fateful day, June 25, 1875.  This was a tragedy that did not have to happen.

As the soldiers approached, Sitting Bull was expecting to discuss peace when his village was attacked by some of Custer’s forces who had no idea of the size of the Indian village.

Custer had 650 men under his command.  The population of the village was 8000.

It is my lack of historical knowledge that makes this book so interesting to me.  I thought Custer’s entire command was destroyed.  Custer divided his command into three parts, one commanded by Major Marcus Reno, one commanded by Captain Fredrick Benteen and one commanded by him.  Reno’s group made the initial attack on the village before Custer engaged in battle.  When Custer was attacked, he sent a message to the rest of his command to come to his aid, but the made no effort to help and only learned of Custer’s demise when told by and Indian scout.

Philbrick handles this remarkable piece of history with skill and thoroughness that brings the characters and events to life.

I want to mention the other book by this author that I read some time ago dealing with an event in maritime history that gave birth to a classic novel.

In the Heart of the Sea, The Voyage of the Whaleship Essex is a fascinating read.  The Essex set sail from Nantucket in 1819 in search of whales.  I thought all whaling was done in the Atlantic, and initially it was, but by 1819 the whale population was greatly depleted and whaling was done in the Pacific.  This made for a long and hazardous voyage around the tip of South America.

Fifteen months after the Essex set sail it was rammed by a sperm whale and eventually sunk.  Twenty men sought survival in three boats.  Of the 20, only six survived resorting to cannibalism by the end of their ordeal.

Guess which famous author worked this tale into a classic of fiction.  

Entry filed under: OBSERVATIONS & OPINIONS, READER'S OPPORTUNITIES, Walt Trizna, WALT'S OBSERVATIONS, WALT'S OPINIONS. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

GROWING OLD WITH NEW TECHNOLOGY MY MIND AT WORK

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