Interesting perhaps for some Civil War buffs in its portraits of everyday life under arms. For the rest, though, there’s...




“Most of the boys here think that we are just going to have a frolic,” wrote one South Carolinian before the Battle of Bull Run. It turned out to be rather more serious than all that, as this middling chronicle relates.

The Battle of Bull Run was more a colossal mess than a donnybrook, with respect to the title of Detzer’s (Emeritus, History/Connecticut State Univ.; Allegiance, 2001, etc.) latest work: it was inexpertly planned, turned on serious blunders, and provided a near–textbook example of the “fog of war.” Even so, only about a thousand soldiers were killed in the battle—a significant enough figure, Detzer writes, considering that “only 1,733 American soldiers had been killed during the entire Mexican War.” The chief virtue of Detzer’s overlong and overwritten account is its marshalling of such thought-provoking details: he notes, for instance, that a soldier’s woolen uniform weighed about four to six pounds and his backpack and other equipment about 40 more—far less weight than soldiers have to carry today, “but their burden tends to be much more artfully balanced”; and he affords a thorough look at how difficult it is, logistically and mechanically, to keep an army on the march through hostile countryside, which often leads to hungry, tired, and confused men being forced into battle. Unfortunately, however, Detzer tends to toss off characterizations—Jefferson Davis had no sense of humor, Pierre Beauregard was muscular but on the short side, Robert E. Lee was “certainly one of the best military minds of the era”—that do precious little to move the story or our understanding of history forward. And too often the prose sounds like Cormac McCarthy on a bad day: “. . . intestines handing like confetti from low bushes, soldiers with no faces or with holes blasted completely through them, men whose dying agonies had made them tug spasmodically at the grass until their fingertips turned green.”

Interesting perhaps for some Civil War buffs in its portraits of everyday life under arms. For the rest, though, there’s nothing particularly significant here.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-15-100889-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2004

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet