A masterful and engaging account of the Civil War from the perspective of the soldiers who fought it, by the author of Custer (1996) and General James Longstreet (1993). Wert examines two brigades, one each from North and South, that found themselves at such battles as Manassas Junction (Bull Run), Fredericksburg, Sharpsburg (Antietam), Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg—battles that were vividly recounted at the time in memoirs, letters, and other firsthand reports. The Stonewall Brigade, from Virginia, received its name because of the leadership of Brig. General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson; the Iron Brigade was made up of men from Wisconsin and Michigan. Wert covers the recruitment, training, and initial deployment of each unit. But more important than these military details is the light he sheds on the reasons why men are drawn to fight in a war that is sure to be bloody (—We are in the midst of a great revolution,” wrote one Southern officer of his people’s fight “to maintain their rights—). Throughout the account, the words of enlisted men and officers dominate the narrative, and this firsthand testimony helps create a history that is far more vivid than any remote account could be. Wert skillfully interjects his own voice only when needed to guide the tale along. The voices he brings back to tell of the war’s progress and its rigors are voices of frustration (aimed at their leaders), fear, and homesickness mixed in with a healthy dose of everyday concerns; in their immediacy, they leap across the gap of 130 years that separates us from their era. Wert writes history the way it ought to be written: with clear prose, a deep understanding of his sources, and with the voices of ordinary men—all of which make the events as real to us as if they had only happened yesterday. (13 maps, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-684-82435-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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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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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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