Wheelan has combed entire libraries to make this thoroughly readable, lucid survey. Well-practiced buffs will welcome the...

THEIR LAST FULL MEASURE

THE FINAL DAYS OF THE CIVIL WAR

First-rate study of the often overlooked closing months of the Civil War, which, though the impending end was visible, saw some of the fiercest fighting of the conflict.

So desperate was Confederate resistance, writes former Associated Press editor Wheelan (Bloody Spring: Forty Days that Sealed the Confederacy’s Fate, 2014, etc.), that in the late winter of 1865, it did the unthinkable: it enlisted African-Americans into the army, conferring “the rights of a freedman” on anyone who signed up. Hearing the news, Abraham Lincoln rightly remarked that the South was done, “and we can now see the bottom.” It helped the Union cause that the generals under Ulysses Grant were committed to a program of total war. As Wheelan notes, William Tecumseh Sherman had earlier “held the conventional view that war was between armies and did not involve civilians,” but a spell in Tennessee convinced him otherwise—and even in surrender, many Southerners vowed to continue hating their Northern foes. “Hatred was practically all that remained for many former Confederates,” Wheelan sagely writes, for the South lay in utter ruin. The author capably traces the closing military campaign in Virginia, with Robert E. Lee’s fast-dwindling army encircled by a vastly superior Union force, and he examines the lesser-known theaters that remained, including pockets of resistance in the Deep South and Texas. At the same time, he writes critically, by way of foreshadowing, of the failure of Reconstruction, which would follow the North’s perhaps-too-lenient policies of repatriation of former Confederate leaders, some of whom quickly returned to Congress. Particularly interesting are Wheelan’s occasional forays into speculation: what might have happened had Lee fought a strictly defensive war? Is there any way the South might have prevailed?

Wheelan has combed entire libraries to make this thoroughly readable, lucid survey. Well-practiced buffs will welcome the book, but novices can approach it without much background knowledge, too.

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-306-82360-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Da Capo

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

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.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

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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