An expert, detailed account that should remain the definitive account for quite some time.




A skillful history of two years of fighting along the Mississippi River that ended with the July 1863 surrender of the fortress at Vicksburg.

Miller (Emeritus, History/Lafayette Coll.; Supreme City: How Jazz Age Manhattan Gave Birth to Modern America, 2014, etc.) begins in May 1861, when the first Union warship arrived to blockade the Mississippi. Nearly a year passed before Adm. David Farragut’s fleet captured New Orleans, but Vicksburg, on a high bluff, refused to surrender despite several naval bombardments. Mostly, the author recounts Ulysses Grant’s drive south, an operation that made him a national hero. Although more aggressive than most Union generals, his early efforts showed little skill. Luckily, his opponents showed less, and his February 1862 capture of forts Henry and Donelson in Tennessee made headlines. Rewarded with an army, he moved south and fought off a surprise attack at the Battle of Shiloh in April. Its massive casualties cast a pall over his reputation, and his superior took over command. He regained it in July and kept pushing toward Vicksburg. A November march through eastern Mississippi failed after raiders destroyed his supply depot. From December to March 1863, Grant made a half-dozen attempts: one by land, others by boat, helped by dynamiting levees or digging canals. Miller vividly recounts the painful details of their failures. In April, after laboriously constructing a 70-mile road over swamps and rivers, Grant’s army marched down west of the river and crossed over. Now south of Vicksburg on open ground, it won several battles and besieged the city, which surrendered after five weeks. "Vicksburg,” writes the author, “was that rare thing in military history: a decisive battle, one with war-turning strategic consequences.” Less enthusiastic historians point out that cutting off the trans-Mississippi states did not greatly weaken the Confederacy, as the subsequent 21 months of bitter fighting demonstrated. Still, it was the most satisfying Union campaign of the war, and Miller chronicles it with aplomb.

An expert, detailed account that should remain the definitive account for quite some time.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-4137-0

Page Count: 688

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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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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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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