An examination of Civil War soldiers’ attitudes on race and slavery.

Manning (History, Georgetown Univ.) bases her study, originally her Ph.D. thesis at Harvard, on soldiers’ letters home, regimental newspapers and similar documentary evidence, much of it unpublished—and liberally quoted by the author. These materials confirm that even those who were neither slaveholders nor former slaves identified slavery as the main cause of the war. This is especially important in considering southern soldiers’ justifications for fighting a conflict in which few had any personal economic stake. For the Confederate soldier in the ranks, Manning argues, slavery was the validation of white manhood, even for non-slaveholders. As a result, soldiers on both sides firmly believed that the Union cause was ultimately the end of slavery—well before Lincoln committed the U.S. to that policy. Union soldiers moving into slaveholding areas got their first look at the reality of slavery early in the war, and many were radicalized by it. The northerners were appalled that many slaves were obviously the progeny of their owners—who nonetheless treated them as little better than barnyard animals. The degrading treatment of slave women and disrespect for the family was a disgrace in their eyes. As for the southerners, not even the failure of the Confederate government to provide for soldiers’ families at home outweighed importance of preserving slavery. Northern victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg became divine vindications of the Union’s goals, especially among black soldiers, whose willingness to fight hard gave white Union soldiers—most of whom still harbored racial prejudice—the experience of working for a common goal with blacks. A final blow to Confederate troops’ morale was a proposal in late 1864, endorsed by Lee himself, to permit slaves to serve in the army as a last-ditch effort to counter the Union pressure.

Convincing and eloquent.

Pub Date: April 4, 2007

ISBN: 0-307-26482-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2007

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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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