Blemished by repetitive prose and a needlessly bumptious tone, Tucker’s narrative nevertheless contains much to interest and...

PICKETT'S CHARGE

A NEW LOOK AT GETTYSBURG’S FINAL ATTACK

A popular historian deconstructs “the greatest assault of the greatest battle of America’s greatest war.”

Judging by the battlefield remains of combatants uncovered in 1996 or the 2014 Medal of Honor President Barack Obama bestowed on an artillery officer who helped thwart the Confederate assault, the real-world aftermath of Pickett’s Charge continues to unfold. Certainly, controversy persists among Civil War historians about precisely what happened on July 3, 1863, when Robert E. Lee went for broke and the “high tide of the Rebellion” was repulsed. Tucker (George Washington’s Surprise Attack: A New Look at the Battle that Decided the Fate of America, 2014, etc.) tracks the assault from the opening, unprecedented artillery bombardment to the end, where “the foremost attacker of Pickett’s Charge was killed near the open crest of so much strategic importance.” Determined to spotlight some hidden or neglected truths, he dots this narrative with various pieces of odd information, including, for example, the curious tendency of soldiers armed with bayonets during the intense fighting to eschew their use in favor of clubbing each other with muskets. The author also pauses to add a list and description of soldiers severely wounded in the groin and testicles. He comments on the precise nature of the terrain the attackers traversed, the disproportionate influence of Virginia Military Institute graduates within Pickett’s division, the considerable number of Irish and Germans among the Confederates, and the diversity of their backgrounds, facts at odds with the romanticism about “the very flower” of Southern culture and refinement that perished that day. More than anything, Tucker aims to pierce the myth that Lee’s plan was doomed. He argues that given the South’s need to strike a decisive blow, Lee’s tactics, a complex mix of artillery, infantry, and cavalry, were sound, that in spite of subordinate officers’ failures of leadership, communication, and execution, the assault came excruciatingly close to succeeding.

Blemished by repetitive prose and a needlessly bumptious tone, Tucker’s narrative nevertheless contains much to interest and provoke Civil War enthusiasts.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-63450-796-7

Page Count: 488

Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

1776

A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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