ON MANY A BLOODY FIELD

FOUR YEARS IN THE IRON BRIGADE

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

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21 LESSONS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

A highly instructive exploration of “current affairs and…the immediate future of human societies.”

Having produced an international bestseller about human origins (Sapiens, 2015, etc.) and avoided the sophomore jinx writing about our destiny (Homo Deus, 2017), Harari (History/Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem) proves that he has not lost his touch, casting a brilliantly insightful eye on today’s myriad crises, from Trump to terrorism, Brexit to big data. As the author emphasizes, “humans think in stories rather than in facts, numbers, or equations, and the simpler the story, the better. Every person, group, and nation has its own tales and myths.” Three grand stories once predicted the future. World War II eliminated the fascist story but stimulated communism for a few decades until its collapse. The liberal story—think democracy, free markets, and globalism—reigned supreme for a decade until the 20th-century nasties—dictators, populists, and nationalists—came back in style. They promote jingoism over international cooperation, vilify the opposition, demonize immigrants and rival nations, and then win elections. “A bit like the Soviet elites in the 1980s,” writes Harari, “liberals don’t understand how history deviates from its preordained course, and they lack an alternative prism through which to interpret reality.” The author certainly understands, and in 21 painfully astute essays, he delivers his take on where our increasingly “post-truth” world is headed. Human ingenuity, which enables us to control the outside world, may soon re-engineer our insides, extend life, and guide our thoughts. Science-fiction movies get the future wrong, if only because they have happy endings. Most readers will find Harari’s narrative deliciously reasonable, including his explanation of the stories (not actually true but rational) of those who elect dictators, populists, and nationalists. His remedies for wildly disruptive technology (biotech, infotech) and its consequences (climate change, mass unemployment) ring true, provided nations act with more good sense than they have shown throughout history.

Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-51217-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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