TO GETTYSBURG AND BEYOND

THE PARALLEL LIVES OF JOSHUA LAWRENCE CHAMBERLAIN AND EDWARD PORTER ALEXANDER

Historical hindsight is always 20/20, as this otherwise thoughtful and well-written comparative biography of two important Civil War commanders shows. On the surface, the lives of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain of the North and Edward Porter Alexander of the South have little in common. Alexander was a career officer, educated at West Point; Chamberlain was a citizen soldier who taught rhetoric in college before volunteering to fight. Alexander was born on a Virginia plantation; Chamberlain came from rock-ribbed Maine. Beneath these superficial differences, however, Golay (The Civil War, not reviewed) maintains that more united these men than divided them. Both fought in some of the major engagements of the Civil War, and though neither ever rose above middle-level commands, they enjoyed the ear of those more powerful, exerting an influence beyond their rank. Both reached the critical point of their careers at Gettysburg, where Chamberlain's bold defense of Little Round Top arguably saved the battle for the Union, while Alexander's confusion concerning orders and battle strategy led to the disastrous Pickett's charge. Following the war, both men went on to civilian success. Chamberlain became president of Bowdoin College and governor of Maine. Alexander was a successful railroad executive. But neither man, argues Golay—making use of their personal papers and writings—ever escaped his past. The two had found their greatest fulfillment and their true mÇtier as soldiers in the Civil War, and they both wrote and lectured extensively about their experiences. But the author occasionally judges his subjects with the wisdom of hindsight, as when he claims that the men never really understood the respective causes for which they fought (Alexander thought the war was an inevitable part of the country's evolution; Chamberlain viewed war as, Golay says, ``a test of character''). A riveting portrait of two men who felt they had outlived their historical moment.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 1994

ISBN: 0-517-59285-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1994

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more