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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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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