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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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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