A well-written, well-argued story of the Civil War in the West. McDonough (History/Auburn Univ.; The Limits of Glory, 1991) continues to explore underexamined aspects of the Civil War, this time the western theater, often thought of as a sidelight to the real scrap in the East. In McDonough's view, the western engagements were crucial in sealing the fate of the Confederacy. He sets the stage for his account of the Kentucky battles by outlining the Confederacy's perilous state in the spring of 1862. The fall in February of the Tennessee river forts Henry and Donelson effectively split the South geographically and led to the abandonment a week later of Nashville, the first Southern capital to capitulate. On April 6, federal and Confederate armies clashed at Shiloh Church with horrific loss of life. Claimed as a victory by the Southern commanding general, the battle failed to halt the federal advance and led to the removal of P.G.T. Beauregard, the hero of Fort Sumter and Bull Run, as commander of Confederate forces in the West. He was replaced by the scruffy Braxton Bragg, whose record at Shiloh was itself ambiguous. On April 7, the Union Navy captured Island No. 10 on the Mississippi, which paved the way for the fall 17 days later of New Orleans. The South still had an opportunity to snatch victory at a clash in central Kentucky at a small town called Perryville, where in October 22,000 federals fought 17,000 Confederates. Forced to retreat, Bragg had to give up his dream of retaking Kentucky. The war would drag on for 30 more months, but McDonough shows that Southern defeat was increasingly inevitable. As studies of the Civil War become more narrow in focus, it's refreshing to find a volume that has some sweep to it, using the war in and around Kentucky to encapsulate the entire conflict in the West.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-87049-847-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1994

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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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