For scholars and the general reader alike, an insightful and highly readable treatment of a neglected dimension of Lincoln’s...

A former history professor at the Naval Academy examines Lincoln’s growth as commander in chief through his relations with the United States Navy.

Lincoln’s invention of a device to lift boats over river shoals belied his early confession to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles that “I know but little about ships.” The Civil War forced the 16th president to know a lot more, and Symonds (Decision at Sea: Five Naval Battles That Shaped American History, 2005, etc.) expertly demonstrates how he learned about ships, strategy, new technologies and, above all, about dealing with the fractious personalities to whom he delegated naval operations. At crucial times throughout the war, Lincoln asserted himself as advocate or arbitrator, sorting out quarrels among the dutiful but rebarbative Welles, who deeply resented interference in his department with Secretary of State William Seward and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton. Lincoln also oversaw the officious Gustavus Fox and subtly shaped the careers of senior officers like ordnance expert John A. Dahlgren and the initially successful, finally disappointing Samuel Francis Du Pont. Symonds limns these and many other striking personalities and examines the signal naval incidents of the war, including the unsuccessful effort to resupply Fort Sumter; the Kearsarge’s sinking of the notorious Confederate raider Alabama; the blockade of Southern ports; the Trent affair; the historic battle of the ironclads Monitor and Merrimack; David Dixon Porter’s gunboats mastery, which helped capture Vicksburg; and David Farragut’s heroics at Mobile Bay. But the focus remains on Lincoln—how he mastered people and the problems touching the Navy and his direction of the river, harbor and ocean war that proved every bit as crucial to Union success as the more celebrated battlefield victories.

For scholars and the general reader alike, an insightful and highly readable treatment of a neglected dimension of Lincoln’s wartime leadership. See also James M. McPherson’s forthcoming Tried By War (2008) for a broader portrait of Lincoln’s role as commander in chief.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-19-531022-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2008


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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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