A candid evaluation of Robert E. Lee's military career, penetrating the misty legends surrounding the ``marble man'' and the Lost Cause that grew after his death in 1870. At the end of the war, McKenzie points out, many Southern newspapers blamed Lee and Jefferson Davis, among others, for their defeat. But Southern historians, he suggests, came to dominate the study of the Civil War and gradually reworked Lee's image, turning him into an idealized figure, incapable of error. Early Southern victories, he reminds us, were won by the skilled use of defensive tactics applied against the hapless efforts of incompetent Union generals. McKenzie asserts that Lee, an engineer, had a genius for just such warfare, but that he had to be pushed by Davis and ``Stonewall'' Jackson to go on the offensive, where he was often less effective. Jackson emerges as the greatest Southern strategist, an innovative general who advised Lee against a war of attrition, arguing for attacks designed to cause maximum casualties to the enemy. But Jackson died, and Lee, applying Jackson's tactics in less favorable circumstances, staged massive frontal assaults at Antietam and Gettysburg, against strong defenses, that resulted in huge casualties. And as younger, more innovative and battle-tested Union generals (Grant, Sherman, etc.) emerged, their new strategies and tactics consistently outclassed the poorly staffed and supplied Southern armies. McKenzie argues that Jackson's tactics, if used early in the war, might have won more battles and foreign allies for the Confederacy, leading to a negotiated peace. But Lee was not the figure to carry out such a strategy, and he was further handicapped by an interfering, inept president, by ill health, and by a bureaucracy unable to provide sufficient food, clothing, and arms for his troops. McKenzie's first book offers a clear, concise, realistic rereading of Lee's career and strategic abilities. A powerful revisionist work. (12 b&w photos, 6 maps, not seen)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 1997

ISBN: 0-7818-0502-3

Page Count: 381

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1996

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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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