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

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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

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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