A few notable naval battles changed the course of wars, even history, but the clash at Hampton Roads transformed the nature...




The former editor-in-chief of American Heritage revisits an epochal battle in naval history.

To some, the Monitor appeared “a mere speck, a hat upon the water,” but she was “the most complicated machine that had ever been built,” a combination of steam and iron whose revolutionary design so confounded naval architects that many doubted she would even float. Instead, when she appeared at Virginia’s Hampton Roads on March 9, 1862, the day after the Confederacy’s iron-plated Merrimack had already sunk two Union wooden ships, she preserved the Union blockade and immediately rendered every navy in the world obsolete. Popular historian Snow (I Invented the Modern Age: The Rise of Henry Ford, 2013, etc.) builds toward these days of savage battle (thousands watched from shore), telling each ironclad’s story through the men who conceived, financed, sponsored, captained, and sailed it. Especially memorable are the author’s tightly focused profiles of the desperate Confederate Naval Secretary Stephen Mallory and his harried counterpart, Gideon Welles; indefatigable Connecticut entrepreneur and lobbyist Cornelius Bushnell, who championed the Monitor’s innovative designer, the brilliant, prickly John Ericsson; John Dahlgren, “the father of naval ordnance”; and the Merrimack’s squabbling co-creators, John Brooke and John Porter; Franklin Buchanan, the Merrimack’s aggressive, first-day captain, and the Monitor’s skipper, John Worden, who emerged from the four-hour battle sightless in one eye. Snow’s energetic account encompasses issues large and small, including discussions of arms and armament; the origin of the word “splinter”; the battle’s inconclusive end; a Southern joke of the day (“Iron-plated?” “Sir, our navy is barely contem-plated”); Lincoln’s special interest in the Union’s ironclad; the difference between shells and solid shot, the “mystery” of the Merrimack’s name; and the enthusiastic Monitor fever that swept the relieved, almost giddy North.

A few notable naval battles changed the course of wars, even history, but the clash at Hampton Roads transformed the nature of warfare itself and offered a glimpse of the “grim modernity” Snow vividly captures.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4767-9418-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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...


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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