A fine work, as winning in its production as it is riveting in its contents, for everyone captivated by the Civil War.




The most significant parts of an extraordinary, recently discovered Civil War memoir, created in art as well as word, see the first light of day.

Sneden, a Canadian immigrant into Connecticut, joined the Union forces as a young man of 29, served in some of the worst fighting in Virginia, was captured and interned under the awful conditions of Andersonville, and lived to tell his tale. He told it in a postwar memoir (based on voluminous diaries, still lost) and a series of vivid, affecting watercolor drawings and maps, only recently found and only now becoming known. The watercolors, many of them reproduced here in beautiful renderings, record as few other known battlefield artworks the realities of fighting and imprisonment. Sneden's maps have the brilliance both of guides to land and structures and of true artistry. Fortunately, the written reports of what this soldier saw match the images captured in his art. They reveal a sensibility stripped by battle of any Victorian excess. Modern in their understatement, powerful in their simplicity and directness, they not only provide a record of the engagements and situations in which Sneden found himself—they sweep the reader along by their force and clarity. Bryan and Lankford (both of the Virginia Historical Society) have pared Sneden's manuscript memoir and selected its freshest and most compelling parts in a high act of editorial scholarship. The result is one of the most compelling additions to Civil War literature in many years.

A fine work, as winning in its production as it is riveting in its contents, for everyone captivated by the Civil War.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-684-86365-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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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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