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



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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