A noteworthy addition to the groaning shelves of Gettysburg books: superb narrative enriched in equal measure by careful...



From Civil War historian Wert (A Brotherhood of Valor, 1999, etc.), an astute mixture of strategic analysis and common soldiers’ narratives detailing the 24 climactic hours on which the Union hinged.

Out of 51,000 casualties at the Battle of Gettysburg, approximately one-third fell on July 3, 1863. Since then, debates on responsibility for success and failure have raged almost as heatedly as bullets on that final day. Wert’s reconsideration won’t resolve all controversies, but he sees with admirable clarity through the fog of postwar mythmaking. The historian argues that longtime Confederate scapegoat Gen. James Longstreet performed his duty (except for one momentary lapse), even though he vigorously disagreed with Robert E. Lee’s order to assault the center of the Federal line at Cemetery Ridge. Wert further points out that Lee’s vague orders and passive supervision produced poorly coordinated attacks. With clear analyses of tactics and vivid miniature portraits, he demonstrates that equally important in deciding the outcome was the skill of Union commander George Meade and such subordinates as Winfield Scott Hancock, Henry Hunt, Alexander Hays, and John Gibbon, who anticipated Confederate tactics and steadied their men amid unbelievable confusion and carnage. Although Pickett’s charge of course gets its due here, so do other crucial actions, including the daybreak fighting at Culp’s Hill, which secured the Federal position; the Confederate cannonade preceding Pickett’s charge, whose failure to damage the Union batteries doomed the infantry assault before it started; and a late-afternoon cavalry clash, which served notice on the Confederates that their Northern counterparts would match them in future engagements. Ordinary soldiers’ accounts in letters and diaries illuminate the extraordinary heroism needed to survive the bloodletting throughout the day (e.g., at one Union field hospital, surgeons had 18 amputating tables simultaneously in use).

A noteworthy addition to the groaning shelves of Gettysburg books: superb narrative enriched in equal measure by careful tactical judgment and vigorous storytelling.

Pub Date: July 3, 2001

ISBN: 0-684-85914-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2001

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet