Alexander’s over-the-top advocacy of Jackson's prowess and sour attacks on everyone else detract from an otherwise...



A highly partisan review of the career of an outstanding Confederate commander.

Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson (1824-1863) was undoubtedly a gifted military tactician, but he commanded Confederate troops, in a subordinate position, for only a little less than two years. Based on this record, Alexander (MacArthur's War: The Flawed Genius Who Challenged the American Political System, 2013, etc.) proclaims him not just "by far the greatest general every produced by the American people," but also "one of the supreme military geniuses in world history." The author ably describes Jackson's leadership in battles from First Manassas to Chancellorsville. He contends that Jackson had recognized that new military technologies compelled changes in infantry tactics and had formulated a new theory of battle that could have won the war by crushing federal armies with minimal loss of Southern troops, a theory he repeatedly but unsuccessfully pressed on an unresponsive high command. Alexander has nothing good to write about anyone but Jackson. Jefferson Davis was "a decidedly third-rate leader," James Longstreet was "a very slow learner," and Robert E. Lee was "incapable of absorbing the most basic rules of warfare." Indeed, Alexander suggests that Lee only retained his position as an army commander, rightfully Jackson's, because he was a member of the Southern aristocracy. The author offers his acerbic critiques with the full benefit of hindsight and of information unavailable to commanders at the time, and he displays little understanding of the political constraints binding the Confederate leadership. Finally, Alexander’s summary of the outbreak of the war, which glaringly avoids any mention of the attack on Fort Sumter, raises the question of whether he has omitted from his narrative any inconvenient facts that might dim Jackson's overpowering glow.

Alexander’s over-the-top advocacy of Jackson's prowess and sour attacks on everyone else detract from an otherwise thoughtful analysis of the general's tactical insights.

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-425-27129-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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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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