Last In Their Class:
Custer, Pickett and the Goats of West Point
"There have been countless books written about West Point and its graduates, but few can match Last in Their Class in terms of both in-depth research and superb story telling."
"There are books one needs to read and there are books one wants to read. Last in Their Class is both."
"Last in Their Class is the ultimate inside look at the nation’s top military academy and its peerless partiers, unrivaled underachievers and, in many cases, most honorable men ever to set foot on a battlefield."
“My career as a cadet had but little to commend it to the study of those who came after me, unless as an example to be carefully avoided.”
George Armstrong Custer
United States Military Academy Class of June, 1861
Today’s “Goat,” the West Point cadet finishing at the bottom of his class, enjoys a short-lived celebrity among his classmates. But in the 19th century, he was something of a cult figure. One of these famous Goats was General George Armstrong Custer. Custer’s contemporaries at the Academy believed that the same spirit of adventure that led him to carouse at forbidden local taverns during his West Point days also motivated his dramatic cavalry attacks in the Civil War and afterwards. And the same willingness to risk the wrath of the Academy also sent another famous Goat, General George Pickett, marching fearlessly and perhaps foolishly into the teeth of the Union guns at Gettysburg.
In Last in Their Class: Custer, Pickett and the Goats of West Point, James S. Robbins guides the reader from the difficult beginnings of West Point through the carnage of the Civil War to the drama played out on the grassy bluffs over Little Big Horn. It is many books at once – a social history of West Point, a stirring combat narrative, and a string of remarkable profiles of remarkable men. The author makes extensive use of primary sources, many previously unpublished. Even readers familiar with the Custer legend will be intrigued by Robbins’ fresh perspective. In addition, the author gives us brilliant portraits of many other figures who made military history after leaving the Academy under a cloud—among them Jefferson Davis, Philip Sheridan, and James Longstreet—along with washouts like Edgar Allan Poe and James M. Whistler who made a different kind of history.
Last in Their Class plunges the reader into vivid action. It also tells us much about the soul of the American solider, his daring, imagination and ability to prove himself against high odds.
James S. Robbins is a Professor of International Relations at the National Defense University in Washington, DC. Robbins is a former Special Assistant in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and frequent commentator on national security issues for National Review, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications. He holds a Ph.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Medford, Mass.
Please send comments to Author@LastInTheirClass.com