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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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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