Meet Jeff Barnes, Author of The Great Plains Guide to Custer

Nebraska author Jeff Barnes will speak about George Custer’s strong ties to Kansas during his presentation, “Custer in Kansas: Breaking in the Boy General” at the library on Thursday, March 8 at 7:00 pm in Marvin Auditorium 101BC.

Barnes researched and traveled extensively in preparation for his new book, The Great Plains Guide to Custer: 85 Forts, Fights, and Other Sites, a comprehensive guide to Custer’s activity on the Great Plains, and the first travel guide to the many sites visited by Custer west of the Mississippi. Barnes will use historical maps, rarely seen photographs and images to highlight his talk.

The book is organized chronologically, starting with Custer’s crossing of the Mississippi down in Louisiana, his time in Texas, through his time on the Great Plains and finally his arrival at Little Bighorn.

In a review complimentary of The Great Plains Guide to Custer, True West magazine says “for anyone driving out to the Little Big Horn (one of three re-enactments are described in the book), there can be no better companion on the seat beside you.”

“I try to give folks a better understanding of what Custer was about,” Barnes said. “When he first started in Kansas, there were a lot of folks who might have called him a pacifist. There were many instances in his early days in Kansas where he gave the benefit of the doubt to the Indians and encouraged them to not be attacked or punished. He had many opportunities to take Indians hostage, and he didn’t. Kansas, for better or for worse, changed him.”

Later on, Custer was more aggressive toward Indian tribes, though he preferred taking hostages to killing, Barnes said. Custer was in Kansas from 1866 to 1872 to fight in the Indian Wars. During peacetime, Custer hunted buffalo and entertained celebrities like P.T. Barnum on the Plains.

Barnes spent about a year putting the book together, but he’s been visiting historical sites tied to Custer for about 30 years, he said. While researching the book, he summited two mountains in two days – Inyan Kara, south of Sundance, Wyoming, and Harney Peak in the Black Hills of South Dakota – both mountains that Custer had climbed.

Mark your calendar and bring your questions for Jeff. Copies of the book will be for sale following the program. See you there!