An engaging study, particularly for students of Civil War military history—and of leadership.



A carefully argued account of “the largest army in American history”—and one that barely survived its commanders.

Civil War historian Wert (Gettysburg, Day Three, 2001, etc.) considers the Army of the Potomac as something of a microcosm of Northern society; its recruits were “awkward on drill fields, rowdy in camps and on city streets, attired in a kaleidoscope of multicolored, ill-fitting uniforms,” spoke many languages, and, at least at the army’s formation in 1861, were wont to think of their officers as equals. Many had joined the army for the money, nothing more. But, Wert asserts, many more joined out of sheer idealism, a motivation that would keep the army, if not a good portion of its soldiers, alive for the duration of the war. Working against that idealism and exuberance was the disdain of the professional officer class, made up of men who were inclined to think of their subordinates as rabble—and who, like George McClellan, were often afflicted by what Abe Lincoln called “the slows,” a seeming reluctance to engage an enemy led by the much more audacious Robert E. Lee. Slowly, Wert shows, the Army of the Potomac shed its lesser poor leaders after being bloodied at places like the Battle of First Bull Run. But McClellan’s overly cautious approach still turned victories into defeats, as at Malvern Hill in July 1862, when he inflicted great damage on Lee’s forces but still withdrew from the field, a turn that “saved Richmond and redirected the war in Virginia.” Interestingly, Wert connects that caution to McClellan’s conservatism otherwise, which caused him to regard Lincoln’s plans for emancipation and the suspension of habeas corpus with horror; McClellan, Wert sympathetically notes, also feared that if his army were destroyed, so too would be the Union. Still, McClellan’s removal from command allowed subsequent generals, especially U.S. Grant, to transform the Army of the Potomac into one of the most consistently effective forces to serve the Union cause.

An engaging study, particularly for students of Civil War military history—and of leadership.

Pub Date: April 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2506-6

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2005

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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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