A highly accessible chronicling of the Civil War’s pivotal year. Prize-winning historian Stevens (Hoover Dam: An American Adventure, not reviewed) presents the important political and military developments of 1863, a year that crippled the Confederacy’s hopes for national independence. In January, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, enabling the Union to seize the war’s moral high ground. With one stroke of the pen, Lincoln rendered the Confederacy an international pariah. On the battlefield, the Union began asserting its industrial and numerical superiority. In Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman, Lincoln finally found commanders who would wage a relentless war of attrition, attacking the enemy and bleeding it (and themselves) dry. During his long siege of Vicksburg, Grant’s army dug miles of trenches, blazed away with heavy artillery, and waited for the starving city to surrender. On July 4, the Confederates raised the white flag over Vicksburg, giving Union forces complete control of the Mississippi River. Meanwhile, Robert E. Lee marched north into Pennsylvania, hoping to surprise the Union army. At Gettysburg, the bloodiest battle of the Civil War resulted in a second major Union victory. Lee’s battered army crawled back into Virginia. In just one disastrous week, the Confederacy had been split in half and its army beaten back to the suburbs of Richmond. While Stevens provides an excellent analysis of battlefield tactics, he’s less effective on the political front. Considering the plethora of Lincoln scholarship, Stevens’s portrait of the president lacks nuance and depth. We never sense Lincoln’s brilliant navigation between idealism and practical politics. Yet Stevens must be commended for including informative, colorful vignettes of Walt Whitman, Andrew Carnegie, Louisa May Alcott, and John D. Rockefeller. Throughout, the prose is simple and easily digested. A solid, largely successful history of 1863 aimed at the general reader. (illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: April 13, 1999

ISBN: 0-553-10314-8

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Bantam

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1999

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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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