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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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

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A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

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A sharp explanation of how American politics has become so discordant.

Journalist Klein, co-founder of Vox, formerly of the Washington Post, MSNBC, and Bloomberg, reminds readers that political commentators in the 1950s and ’60s denounced Republicans and Democrats as “tweedledum and tweedledee.” With liberals and conservatives in both parties, they complained, voters lacked a true choice. The author suspects that race played a role, and he capably shows us why and how. For a century after the Civil War, former Confederate states, obsessed with keeping blacks powerless, elected a congressional bloc that “kept the Democratic party less liberal than it otherwise would’ve been, the Republican Party congressionally weaker than it otherwise would’ve been, and stopped the parties from sorting themselves around the deepest political cleavage of the age.” Following the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, many white Southern Democrats became Republicans, and the parties turned consistently liberal and conservative. Given a “true choice,” Klein maintains, voters discarded ideology in favor of “identity politics.” Americans, like all humans, cherish their “tribe” and distrust outsiders. Identity was once a preoccupation of minorities, but it has recently attracted white activists and poisoned the national discourse. The author deplores the decline of mass media (network TV, daily newspapers), which could not offend a large audience, and the rise of niche media and internet sites, which tell a small audience only what they want to hear. American observers often joke about European nations that have many parties who vote in lock step. In fact, such parties cooperate to pass legislation. America is the sole system with only two parties, both of which are convinced that the other is not only incompetent (a traditional accusation), but a danger to the nation. So far, calls for drastic action to prevent the apocalypse are confined to social media, fringe activists, and the rhetoric of Trump supporters. Fortunately—according to Klein—Trump is lazy, but future presidents may be more savvy. The author does not conclude this deeply insightful, if dispiriting, analysis by proposing a solution.

A clear, useful guide through the current chaotic political landscape.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-0032-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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