One Crowded Hour

1 books in series
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The Little Bighorn Publisher's summary

William Benet Sterling and his best friend Jacob (Jake) Brown grew up together on small farms on the Kansas prairie. Their future as farmers seemed simplistic, comfortable, inevitable, and boring. The day they rode into the sleepy town of Manhattan the air was electric. The famed Seventh Cavalry and it's dashing war hero commander, Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer were going to parade along Denison Street in front of Kansas State University.

The crowd fell silent as the commanding sound of a drum roll spilled into the street demanding undivided attention. The drumming slammed to a stop leaving a deciduous silence. Men could be heard issuing clipped orders then the first notes of The Girl I Left Behind Me floated on the warm hazy air and caressed the sense of martial glory and the romance of combat in the teenagers' psyche.

As Custer and his command staff pass in front of Jake and Will Custer looks directly at the boys and winks. From that infinitesimal and seemingly innocuous moment the boys' lives change forever. They enlist in the Seventh Cavalry the next year, April 1876, just in time to ride into the valley of the Little Bighorn to etch their names into the stone tablets of history.

The two teenagers gallop headlong into battle with Major Reno and A company as they mount a breath-taking charge against the Sioux and Cheyenne village along the river. They live the terror of being forced back into a small grove of cottonwood trees helplessly watching wounded friends being butchered and brutalized. As the fighting builds to an impossible pitch, it becomes clear that the only way out of this killing box is to charge into the enemy and race for better cover. Three companies of cavalry blast out of flimsy cover and into the open valley. The Indians realize the advantage and turn the breakout into a buffalo chase. Troopers endure a running gun battle through the valley, across the Little Bighorn River, and up a coulee to a flat, but defensible portion of the rolling bluffs.

Over the next 36 hours the boys fight for their lives, and the lives of those around them as Indians occupy the heights around them. Death stalks every second they stay on that hill. When it becomes clear men are going to start dying of thirst they volunteer to be part of a water party that must sneak back down the coulee, dart across 300 yards of open ground that is defended by the enemy, fill canteens, and make it back up hill safely.

Both boys become men on the hill and are forced to see the unvarnished reality and maddening futility of armed combat. Only one of them will live to tell the story.

©2021 David Larson (P)2022 David Larson
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