An interesting collection of letters by a personal confidant of Robert E. Lee's that will appeal principally to Civil War buffs. Historian Tower does the same service for Col. Walter Herron Taylor that he did for Brigadier Gen. Arthur Middleton Manigault in A Carolinian Goes to War (not reviewed), rescuing him from obscurity. Taylor, born in 1838 to a prominent family in Norfolk, Va., was educated at the Norfolk Military Academy and briefly at the prestigious Virginia Military Institute. Leaving VMI after only a year, he took up a career in banking, which was interrupted by the onset of the Civil War. Having served in the volunteer militia, Taylor maneuvered a commission in the Confederate forces and soon found himself on the staff of General Lee. As his adjutant, he came to be on intimate terms with the revered general. He was privy to many of Lee's innermost thoughts and often shared the same blanket with him on bivouac. Lee also permitted him to sign documents in his name and used him to carry his most important orders to his subalterns. Following the war, Taylor resumed banking and played a significant role in the development of Virginia's railroads. He wrote two volumes about his wartime experiences, including a biography of his old commander. Tower assembles over 100 letters by Taylor. Most of them are to his beloved fiancÇe, Elizabeth ``Betty'' Saunders, whom he married, after Lee gave him special leave, in the desperate, waning days of the Confederacy. The letters reflect the young man's horror of war, his fervent belief in the Confederate cause, and his worship of the man he served. The details cross the line into the hagiographic as the vaunted Lee can do no wrong in the eyes the young officer. One senses from the volume that Tower shares Taylor's esteem for Lee, and it proves that indeed one can be a hero to one's valet after all.

Pub Date: April 1, 1995

ISBN: 1-57003-021-9

Page Count: 350

Publisher: Univ. of South Carolina

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1995

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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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