Though sometimes dry, a good summary of the run-up to our nation’s most destructive conflict.




Southern historian Lankford (Richmond Burning, 2002, etc.) traces the final steps to the Civil War.

He begins with John Brown’s 1859 raid on the U.S. arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Va. Troops led by Robert E. Lee quickly crushed his attempt to start a slave revolt, but the event polarized the nation. Northern abolitionists treated Brown’s death as martyrdom for a great cause; Southerners saw it as a barometer of Yankee hatred of their region. The Deep South took Lincoln’s election as its pretext to secede, but the slaveholding border states hesitated to abandon the Union. Lankford focuses on these states, above all Virginia, where the calls of loyalty and secession seemed equally strong in early 1861. In his first inaugural address, Lincoln, whom radical southerners saw as embodying all the forces aligned against them, tried to balance firmness and conciliation. Fort Sumter became the test of the president’s intentions. Secretary of State Seward was among the advisors who tried to convince him to abandon it; the South, they argued, would come to its senses if not provoked. After some hesitation, Lincoln decided to re-supply the fort. When his intention became known, Confederate artillery quickly forced the garrison’s surrender. From that point, the border states began to tilt toward disunion. A Baltimore mob attacked U.S. troops on the way to Washington, and Virginia’s secessionists gathered support from moderates such as Jubal Early, a staunch Unionist who went on to become a Confederate general. By the end of May, when Kentucky left the Union, U.S. troops were already in Virginia, and war was a foregone conclusion. Lankford cites contemporary newspapers and journals and letters from ordinary citizens of both regions, as well as from national leaders.

Though sometimes dry, a good summary of the run-up to our nation’s most destructive conflict.

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2007

ISBN: 0-670-03821-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2006

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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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