THE VACANT CHAIR

THE NORTHERN SOLDIER LEAVES HOME

An insightful glance at the unique cultural and social milieu of the Union soldier. Relying extensively on diaries, letters, and other primary sources, Mitchell (History/University of Maryland; Civil War Soldiers, 1988) discusses how the Union soldier understood his military experience. Antebellum ideology used the family as a metaphor for one's country, emphasizing the ``Republican Mother'' who educated her sons as self-sacrificing patriots; thus, ``the centrality of home and the family made them central to the Northern soldier's understanding of the Civil War.'' Soldiers—serving under officers who often came from the same town and who were thought of as equals—regarded their generals as fathers, their officers as elder brothers, and the war itself as a family quarrel. That men soldiered with lifelong neighbors and friends meant that the Union soldier brought the value of the home front into battle with him, giving war a sense of purpose: It also frequently weakened military discipline. Mitchell discusses in depth the Union soldier's distinctive view of manhood; his complex relationships with white Southern women—and with black soldiers, who were generally excluded from the American ``family''; his peculiar brand of religion; and his attitude toward death in battle. Mitchell sees as significant the Union focus in the late Civil War against Confederate civilian society, a focus that weakened the Southern soldier's will to resist: Observing that the Union soldier's strength was that he fought the war with home in mind, he notes that ``the Confederate soldier fought the war the same way, and, in the end, that proved part of his weakness.'' An eloquent revival of the simple verities of a vanished era- -idealism, patriotism, small-town parochialism, sense of family and manhood, and fear of failing in the eyes of one's community—that drove the soldier of the North. (Twenty-five halftones)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-19-507893-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1993

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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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

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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