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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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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