LINCOLN'S MEN

HOW PRESIDENT LINCOLN BECAME FATHER TO AN ARMY AND A NATION

A worthwhile, though hardly groundbreaking study of the emotional bonds forged between the average Union soldier and “Father Abraham” Lincoln. Historian Davis (“A Government of Our Own”: The Making of the Confederacy, 1994, etc.) borrows copiously from the correspondence and diaries of Union soldiers to argue that Lincoln was revered by his troops as a kindhearted father figure. Although most of Lincoln’s face-to-face encounters with Union troops were brief, he left an enduring impression on them. Lincoln’s mesmerizing eloquence, combined with his melancholy face, convinced the average soldier that “he suffered as they did . . . he, too, was a casualty” of war. Davis vividly re- creates the comic first impression most soldiers got of their president—a gaunt, tattered Lincoln saluting them from an undersized horse during military review ceremonies. While the soldiers enjoyed lampooning Lincoln’s ugliness and backwoods manner, they sensed implicitly that he cared deeply about them. Lincoln constantly voiced appreciation for the average Union soldier, which did wonders for flagging military morale, especially after the carnage of Gettysburg. Lincoln possessed a common touch that even the lowliest private could feel. Of course, Lincoln’s popularity among the troops was tested. The Emancipation Proclamation angered thousands of white, working-class soldiers who feared economic competition from freed slaves. Lincoln’s removal of General George B. McClellan was another test. When Lincoln faced McClellan in the 1864 presidential election, however, the troops voted overwhelmingly for “Father Abraham.” Davis meticulously recounts Lincoln’s efforts to gain the army fair pay, humane living conditions, and adequate medical care. In one delightful chapter, the author describes Lincoln’s policy of freely granting leniency to soldiers convicted at courts-martial. Lincoln was particularly merciful to the young, the stupid, and the inebriated. It’s no surprise, then, that Union soldiers immortalized him in his death. While Davis’s insights aren’t particularly new, his examination of Lincoln from the viewpoint of the average Union soldier confirms “Old Abe’s” undeniable genius as a wartime leader.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-684-83337-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1998

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018

  • New York Times Bestseller

21 LESSONS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY

A highly instructive exploration of “current affairs and…the immediate future of human societies.”

Having produced an international bestseller about human origins (Sapiens, 2015, etc.) and avoided the sophomore jinx writing about our destiny (Homo Deus, 2017), Harari (History/Hebrew Univ. of Jerusalem) proves that he has not lost his touch, casting a brilliantly insightful eye on today’s myriad crises, from Trump to terrorism, Brexit to big data. As the author emphasizes, “humans think in stories rather than in facts, numbers, or equations, and the simpler the story, the better. Every person, group, and nation has its own tales and myths.” Three grand stories once predicted the future. World War II eliminated the fascist story but stimulated communism for a few decades until its collapse. The liberal story—think democracy, free markets, and globalism—reigned supreme for a decade until the 20th-century nasties—dictators, populists, and nationalists—came back in style. They promote jingoism over international cooperation, vilify the opposition, demonize immigrants and rival nations, and then win elections. “A bit like the Soviet elites in the 1980s,” writes Harari, “liberals don’t understand how history deviates from its preordained course, and they lack an alternative prism through which to interpret reality.” The author certainly understands, and in 21 painfully astute essays, he delivers his take on where our increasingly “post-truth” world is headed. Human ingenuity, which enables us to control the outside world, may soon re-engineer our insides, extend life, and guide our thoughts. Science-fiction movies get the future wrong, if only because they have happy endings. Most readers will find Harari’s narrative deliciously reasonable, including his explanation of the stories (not actually true but rational) of those who elect dictators, populists, and nationalists. His remedies for wildly disruptive technology (biotech, infotech) and its consequences (climate change, mass unemployment) ring true, provided nations act with more good sense than they have shown throughout history.

Harari delivers yet another tour de force.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-51217-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more