An immensely affecting evocation of the military experience during the Civil War, which tracks a small band of Union soldiers over the entire course of the belligerency. Drawing on personal papers, archival material, and allied sources, veteran Civil War historian Gaff (Brave Men's Tears, not reviewed) offers a start-to-finish account of those who served in Company B of the 19th Indiana, a regiment that along with other all-volunteer outfits from Michigan and Wisconsin comprised the so- called Iron Brigade. Recruited as the Richmond City Greys shortly after Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter, the unit went into action in the summer of 1862, at Brawner Farm and the second battle of Bull Run. As an integral part of a storied legion in the Army of the Potomac, it subsequently campaigned (with considerable distinction and appalling losses from disease as well as rebel muskets) at South Mountain, Antietam, Gettysburg, the Wilderness, Laurel Hill, and Weldon Railroad (a gateway to the South's capital). In addition to providing meticulous reconstructions of the many battles in which the Hoosiers fought, the author recounts how they relieved the tedium of winter camps with bad whiskey, baseball, foraging, and games of chance. Gaff also details the adverse reaction to the Emancipation Proclamation of troops who had rallied around the flag to quell an insurrection, not to free black slaves. Covered as well are the ways in which Washington induced veterans to remain in the ranks once their three-year enlistments were up, the unhappy lot of POWs, the persistent problem of desertion, the political games played by general officers, the paperwork snafus that seem to afflict any military organization larger than a squad, and the informal ceasefires often arranged by Northern and Southern pickets. American history on a human scale, and an estimable close-up contribution to a genre overcrowded with big-picture assessments. (25 photos, five maps, not seen)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-253-33063-7

Page Count: 618

Publisher: Indiana Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1996

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

Did you like this book?

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?