Alexander (Korea, 1986), in a significant and well-argued contribution to the already massive corpus of Robert E. Lee/Stonewall Jackson scholarship, asserts that ``Stonewall Jackson, not Lee, possessed the strategic vision necessary to win key battles''—and perhaps the Civil War. Douglas Southall Freeman's classic Lee's Lieutenants (1942-46) crystallized the scholarly consensus about Lee and Jackson: Lee was a masterly strategist, perhaps the greatest America has ever produced, while Jackson was a brilliant tactician who lacked the stuff of overall command. Here, however, Alexander argues that Lee prevented Jackson from crossing the Potomac to intimidate Washington and demolish northern industries, and stopped him from destroying Pope's Union army. On at least four occasions, Jackson attempted unsuccessfully to convince Lee and Jefferson Davis ``to mount an invasion of the North and to challenge the will of the Northern people to wage war.'' In reviewing the amazing, though familiar, story of how Jackson bedeviled vastly superior Union forces in the Shenandoah Valley, Alexander demonstrates the striking aggressiveness and creativity of Jackson's strategic vision, and he speculates that, at Chancellorsville, Jackson was fatally wounded just as he was about to ``destroy all or most of the Army of the Potomac and to leave the North powerless to prevent invasion.'' While these speculations about Jackson make for interesting reading, the fact is that Jackson's eccentric and difficult personality marginalized his influence on the strategic planning of the South; moreover, attempted Confederate invasions of the North such as those proposed by Jackson invariably resulted in disaster. Alexander recognizes that neither he nor any other historian can answer the absorbing question of whether the South could have prevailed had Jackson lived, or had it pursued Jackson's more pugnacious strategy, but the author makes a compelling case that Lee's pursuit of limited objectives ultimately assured a Union victory. An enjoyable and thoughtful exercise in ``what if'' history, and a fine reassessment of Jackson's military career. (Sixteen pages of maps.)

Pub Date: Nov. 23, 1992

ISBN: 0-8050-1830-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1992

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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