Probably won’t settle any arguments.



A dark episode of the Civil War comes under scrutiny by an author who admits to having a fascination with 19th-century massacres.

Fort Pillow, Tenn., on the Mississippi River, housed some 650 federal troops in 1864. Among the soldiers, two types were locally hated with particular passion: “Tennessee Tories,” or homegrown unionists, and former slaves who had donned Yankee blue. On April 12, a force of some 2,300 veteran Confederate cavalrymen under Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest traveled across the western counties of Tennessee to attack Fort Pillow. Forrest, notes Ward (Dark Midnight When I Rise, 2000, etc.), had plenty of reason to despise both the Tories and the African-Americans in the Union ranks, for he had been a slave trader before the war, and unionist and abolitionist ideas were strong in much of the state. As Ward observes, Tennessee was the last of the Southern states to secede and enter the Confederacy, and was effectively the first to be reabsorbed into the Union. Not that that made life any easier for the former slaves; the unionists and the Union Army generals alike considered them to be well-suited for the heavy grunt work involved in being artillerists—“heaving shells and cannonballs, hauling cannon into place, pulling caissons, driving mules.” When Forrest’s troops arrived, they immediately set about butchering Yankees and former slaves: As Ward documents, scores were killed after they surrendered, as they did after a vigorous battle, one that the Confederates, by a contemporary account, considered “the hardest contested engagement that Forrest had ever been engaged in.” The battle remains surrounded in controversy: For their part, some Northern historians consider the attack on Fort Pillow to have been a premeditated massacre, whereas some Southern historians have ascribed the post-surrender killings to the confusion of battle, the alleged drunkenness of the artillerists and the like.

Probably won’t settle any arguments.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2005

ISBN: 0-670-03440-1

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

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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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