Stirring history told in rich detail.

1864

LINCOLN AT THE GATES OF HISTORY

Historian Flood (Grant and Sherman, 2005, etc.) offers an inside view of the Lincoln White House during one of the most critical years of the Civil War, focusing on the president’s battle for re-election.

The author conveys the turmoil of a period when Lincoln spent almost as much time fighting his own Cabinet as his generals did fighting the Confederacy. Flood opens with the traditional White House New Year’s Day reception, then follows all the major twists and turns of Lincoln’s fortunes during the course of 1864. A key decision came in January, when McClellan was dropped from command. The general, who privately described Lincoln as “an idiot,” became his Democratic opponent in the election. Meanwhile, Grant was transferred to the eastern front to apply new pressure to the still defiant South. The election and the war were inextricably bound; as the Union army’s fortunes changed, so did Lincoln’s prospects for returning to office. Both the Peace Democrats and the radical Republicans saw him as an enemy of their goals. Grant’s first encounters with Lee’s army led to long casualty lists, and Jubal Early’s assault on Washington in July gave Lincoln reason to despair. By late summer, he was convinced the Democrats would oust him. But just before the election, Sherman’s capture of Atlanta, backed by Sheridan’s scourging of the Shenandoah Valley, gave Lincoln the boost he needed to win. Flood orchestrates the complex events of this roller-coaster year with a sure hand, taking plenty of time to look at individual dramas away from the main scene, such as the reporter who brought news of Grant’s first Virginia battles to Washington but was nearly shot as a spy before Lincoln saved him. The author does fair justice to all the astonishing events, closing with a poignant look ahead to the president’s assassination and a letter from an admiring journalist wishing, “May God help you in the future as he has helped you in the past.”

Stirring history told in rich detail.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4165-5228-4

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2008

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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