Deliverance from the Little Big Horn
Doctor Henry Porter and Custer's Seventh Cavalry
Joan Nabseth Stevenson
High Plains Book Award
Narrated by Tyler Edmunds
Approximately 6 hours
Book published by University of Oklahoma Press
A unique retelling of the Custer saga and its aftermath—from a medical perspective.
Of the three surgeons who accompanied Custer’s Seventh Cavalry on June 25, 1876, only the youngest, twenty-eight-year-old Henry Porter, survived that day’s ordeal, riding through a gauntlet of Indian attackers and up the steep bluffs to Major Marcus Reno’s hilltop position. But the story of Dr. Porter’s wartime exploits goes far beyond the battle itself. In this compelling narrative of military endurance and medical ingenuity, Joan Nabseth Stevenson opens a new window on the Battle of the Little Big Horn by re-creating the desperate struggle for survival during the fight and in its wake.
As Stevenson recounts in gripping detail, Porter’s life-saving work on the battlefield began immediately, as he assumed the care of nearly sixty soldiers and two Indian scouts, attending to wounds and performing surgeries and amputations. He evacuated the critically wounded soldiers on mules and hand litters, embarking on a hazardous trek of fifteen miles that required two river crossings, the scaling of a steep cliff, and a treacherous descent into the safety of the steamboat Far West, waiting at the mouth of the Little Big Horn River. There began a harrowing 700-mile journey along the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers to the post hospital at Fort Abraham Lincoln near Bismarck, Dakota Territory.
With its new insights into the role and function of the army medical corps and the evolution of battlefield medicine, this unusual book will take its place both as a contribution to the history of the Great Sioux War and alongside such vivid historical novels as Son of the Morning Star and Little Big Man. It will also ensure that the selfless deeds of a lone “contract” surgeon—unrecognized to this day by the U.S. government—will never be forgotten.
Joan Nabseth Stevenson is an independent scholar
“Stevenson’s medical perspective on Little Big Horn is revelatory, written with an eye for striking details.”
“This is a book that needed to be written. In Deliverance from the Little Big Horn, Joan Nabseth Stevenson has tackled a complicated, unfortunately somewhat obscure topic with a level of expertise and credibility that places her among the finest Old West medical writers around. She re-polishes the sometimes weary and dull recounting of the Custer battle with the grit and gory detail it deserves. She has accurately depicted the challenges, limitations and delivery of medical trauma care of the day. To tell the tale of Maj. Marcus Reno’s perspective of the battle, withdrawal and “deliverance” from the point of view of the Old West contract army physician Dr. Henry Porter is brilliant. I highly recommend the book to all True West readers.”
—James P. Kornberg, M.D., Sc.D, “Frontier Doc” True West contributing editor
“John Nabseth Stevenson’s evocative account of Porter’s battlefield heroics in the face of overwhelming odds is a wonderful addition to the existing literature on this seminal battle.”
—Cowboys & Indians
“I read this entire gripping saga in one sitting, fascinated by Joan Stevenson's exciting narrative style and her perceptive insights into certain heretofore obscure details of our nation's most famous failed military expedition. With her keen knowledge of the medical practices of the era, Stevenson sheds graphic illumination on the skills and bravery of the physicians and soldiers who served on that tragic battlefield. This remarkable book is an important addition to the history of medicine, military history, and any collection of Americana.”
—Sherwin B. Nuland, Clinical Professor of Surgery, Yale University School of Medicine, and author of How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter
“A gripping account of medical care in the Indian-fighting army. Often grim but always insightful, Stevenson’s examination of doctoring in the 1870s is an exceptional contribution to Custer and Little Big Horn literature and to the woeful saga of medicine in the Old Army.”
—Paul L. Hedren, author of After Custer: Loss and Transformation in Sioux Country and Great Sioux War Orders of Battle
“Joan Stevenson explores an important and often overlooked dimension of the Battle of the Little Big Horn: the intricate medical aspects. Told largely through the life and experiences of the only surgeon with Custer’s command to survive that bloody day, Deliverance from the Little Big Horn offers a stirring tale that will readily appeal to readers enamored not only of that engagement but of other army-Indian conflicts throughout the West.”
—Jerome A. Greene, author of Yellowstone Command: Colonel Nelson A. Miles and the Great Sioux War and editor of Lakota and Cheyenne: Indian Views of the Great Sioux War, 1876–1877
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