A strong argument that deserves a spot in every Civil War buff’s library.

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This thorough appraisal of President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination addresses the theory that John Wilkes Booth was part of a multifaceted conspiracy directed by Confederate Secretary of State Judah Benjamin.

Prindle (Revolution II, 2012, etc.) begins with the 1864 Dahlgren affair. After a failed Union raid on Richmond, Southerners published documents found on Union Army Lt. Col. Ulric Dahlgren’s corpse that mentioned a plan to destroy the city and kill Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his Cabinet. Prindle sets aside the enduring debate over their authenticity but asserts that Benjamin, who directed the Confederate Secret Service, believed them to be genuine. Prindle argues that Confederates were involved in a plot to kidnap Lincoln, spirit him to Richmond, and ransom many prisoners, which then led to retributive schemes to decapitate the Union government. Through 17 brisk chapters, the author sketches the Confederate officials, undercover operatives, and civilians who advanced the conspiracy. He tracks clandestine activities from Virginia to Maryland to Canada, connecting dots while adding detailed context. Prindle effectively captures the complexity and chaos of the war’s final months: Battlefield losses mounted, Lincoln won reelection, Confederate desperation grew, and after Richmond fell, a kidnapping plot became untenable. Booth found his own plot competing with another to blow up a portion of the White House during a Cabinet session. Prindle identifies the only official who could have authorized either plan, other than Davis himself: Benjamin, who escaped to England with a fortune from the Confederate treasury. Prindle, an author of three novels, displays fluent storytelling, rendering familiar history as a page-turner. His abundant endnotes and synthesis of obscure details ably reflect his 30-year avocation of studying and lecturing about the Civil War as an independent scholar. A retired justice of the peace, Prindle’s granular accounting of the military tribunal, the executions of the conspirators, and the legal aftermath showcases his full skill set and typifies his discerning approach. Throughout, he gives competing views their due and carefully supports his own. Prindle’s conclusion relies on an “unbroken chain of circumstantial evidence,” as he admits, but readers need not be wholly persuaded to find it worthwhile reading.

A strong argument that deserves a spot in every Civil War buff’s library.

Pub Date: March 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4556-2473-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Pelican Publishing Company

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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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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Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.


A master storyteller’s character-driven account of a storied year in the American Revolution.

Against world systems, economic determinist and other external-cause schools of historical thought, McCullough (John Adams, 2001, etc.) has an old-fashioned fondness for the great- (and not-so-great) man tradition, which may not have much explanatory power but almost always yields better-written books. McCullough opens with a courteous nod to the customary villain in the story of American independence, George III, who turns out to be a pleasant and artistically inclined fellow who relied on poor advice; his Westmoreland, for instance, was a British general named Grant who boasted that with 5,000 soldiers he “could march from one end of the American continent to the other.” Other British officers agitated for peace, even as George wondered why Americans would not understand that to be a British subject was to be free by definition. Against these men stood arrayed a rebel army that was, at the least, unimpressive; McCullough observes that New Englanders, for instance, considered washing clothes to be women’s work and so wore filthy clothes until they rotted, with the result that Burgoyne and company had a point in thinking the Continentals a bunch of ragamuffins. The Americans’ military fortunes were none too good for much of 1776, the year of the Declaration; at the slowly unfolding battle for control over New York, George Washington was moved to despair at the sight of sometimes drunk soldiers running from the enemy and of their officers “who, instead of attending to their duty, had stood gazing like bumpkins” at the spectacle. For a man such as Washington, to be a laughingstock was the supreme insult, but the British were driven by other motives than to irritate the general—not least of them reluctance to give up a rich, fertile and beautiful land that, McCullough notes, was providing the world’s highest standard of living in 1776.

Thus the second most costly war in American history, whose “outcome seemed little short of a miracle.” A sterling account.

Pub Date: June 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-7432-2671-2

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2005

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