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WINNING INDEPENDENCE

THE DECISIVE YEARS OF THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR, 1778-1781

Yet another excellent work of early American history from one of its best practitioners.

A masterly history of the lesser-known second half of the Revolutionary War.

Ferling reminds readers that American patriots, ecstatic after the 1777 victory at Saratoga, were not expecting the fighting to continue for nearly twice as long as before. In the scene-setting preface, the author gives low marks to both commanders, dubbing Washington a figure of great political acumen but risk-averse. Though Gen. William Howe mostly got the better of Washington, he was often lethargic and wrong-headed. More than most historians, Ferling gives credit to Howe’s second-in-command, Henry Clinton, who took over in 1778. With the declaration of war by France, Clinton sent nearly half his troops to the West Indies and several thousand more to Canada and Florida. Historians—if not most Americans—understand that Britain’s priority after that declaration was defeating its major rival, leaving Clinton shorthanded. By year’s end, Saratoga was old news, and massive aid from France was nowhere in sight. Ferling paints a vivid yet bleak picture: War weariness was widespread, Colonial currency nearly worthless, enlistments falling, and Washington increasingly desperate for men and supplies. Eventually, French loans helped to sustain the “enfeebled United States,” and Washington fought no major battles for the three years before Yorktown, a fact that disturbed his French allies no less than American critics. Frustrated by Washington, Clinton turned his attention to the south, capturing Charleston in May 1780. “Some believed that Clinton’s victory had saved Lord North’s ministry, enabling Britain to remain at war,” writes Ferling. Readers may recall that Gen. Charles Cornwallis continued north through Virginia to disaster at Yorktown. The author astutely points out that Clinton disapproved of Cornwallis’ actions, and Washington opposed French commander Rochambeau’s plan to march their armies down to Virginia but gave in. A traditionalist, Ferling concludes that, but for its blunders, Britain would have defeated the rebels, who made their own blunders—but not enough to lose. Impeccably researched, as usual, the book is a must-read for any student of Revolutionary history.

Yet another excellent work of early American history from one of its best practitioners.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63557-276-6

Page Count: 736

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

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Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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NIGHT

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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