An important addition to the growing number of diaries, memoirs, and other primary source materials on the Civil War made accessible to the nonspecialist reader. Sears (To the Gates of Richmond, 1992, etc.) has skillfully edited 19 pocket diaries that the ``good soldier Haydon,'' a 27- year-old lawyer from Decatur, Michigan, painstakingly wrote, transcribed, and sent home to his father from 1861 to 1864. Haydon was a college graduate who read The Atlantic and quoted scraps of poetry to combat the boredom of army life, but the real value of his daybooks is historical and emotional rather than literary. Rising from sergeant to lieutenant colonel, Haydon saw action at or on the edges of both Bull Run battles and at Fredericksburg, more seriously during the ``Seven Days'' on the Peninsula. In 1863, he joined Grant at Vicksburg and was badly wounded leading an assault at Jackson, Mississippi. Unless you're a memoir-gourmet, Haydon's diaries aren't easy reading: Descriptions of the weather and of the awful, inadequate food become repetitious. Nonetheless, there's scarcely a day's entry that doesn't contain some stirring observation or moving reflection, all conveying a genuine mid- Victorian sensibility preserved amid unparalleled carnage. Haydon was obsessed with doing his duty, not only for the Union but in order to be seen as dutiful. (At one point, he writes that there's so much false illness that ``good soldiers sometimes suffer much pain and inconvenience rather than incur the suspicion of shirking duty.'') Readers who would otherwise wonder at troops like those who pinned their names to their coats for the purpose of identifying their corpses as they prepared to run into the cannon's mouth at Cold Harbor will here receive the authentic feel of the era's moral imperative. Survivor of many battles but weakened by his wounds, Haydon died of pneumonia in 1864, while on furlough. In this book of his own making, aided by Sears's introduction and deft chapter transitions, he at last receives his true memorial.

Pub Date: July 21, 1993

ISBN: 0-395-66360-1

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 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...


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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