With efficiency and élan, Ecelbarger gives an often overlooked battle its due.




Civil War historian Ecelbarger (The Great Comeback: How Abraham Lincoln Beat the Odds to Win the 1860 Republican Nomination, 2008, etc.) closely examines the crucial battle of the campaign for Atlanta, the war’s most decisive engagement.

Antietam, Vicksburg, Gettysburg—each marked an important turning point in the Civil War, but none spelled the end for the South as did Atlanta. Militarily, the daylong battle on July 22, 1864, the bloodiest day of the war’s last ten months, assured the eventual capture of the South’s most important rail and commercial center. Politically, Atlanta’s surrender guaranteed Lincoln’s reelection, eliminating any chance that the war-weary North would allow the Confederacy to go its own way or return to the Union with slavery in place. Military buffs will appreciate Ecelbarger’s meticulous recounting of the battle—he breaks the action into increments as narrow as 15 minutes—the ferocity of which accounted for more than 10,000 casualties and kept one out of five participants from answering the next day’s roll call. The author’s careful reconstruction demonstrates how, with four hours of daylight remaining, the outcome could easily have turned into a Union disaster. Readers less consumed with precisely how the battle unfolded will likely prefer the numerous, sharp appraisals of the officers and soldiers. Conspicuous for the South was the aggressive John Bell Hood, whose command featured the likes of hard-drinking and hard-fighting Benjamin Cheatham, oft-wounded William “Shot Pouch” Walker, young “Fighting Joe” Wheeler, experienced Patrick Cleburne and William Hardee, who led the flanking maneuver critical to Hood’s designs. Gen. James McPherson, a protégé of Grant and Sherman, led the Northern army and died in the battle, but the slack was taken up by the inspirational John Logan, the tenacious Mortimer Leggett and Medal of Honor winners Manning Force and John Sprague. Their battlefield heroics enabled a triumphant Sherman to telegraph his president, two months before the election Lincoln believed lost, “Atlanta is ours, and fairly won.”

With efficiency and élan, Ecelbarger gives an often overlooked battle its due.

Pub Date: Nov. 23, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-312-56399-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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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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