SHILOH, 1862


Stirring Civil War history from the author of Forest Gump.

Groom (Kearny’s March, 2011) presents Shiloh, fought on April 6-7 in western Tennessee, as a turning point in the war. The casualty count exceeded all previous American wars combined. After setting the stage, Groom takes the reader to Pittsburg Landing, the nearest town to the battle, a few days beforehand. Grant and Sherman had moved 48,000 troops into the area, and were expecting more. Against them were arrayed some 45,000 rebels commanded by Albert Sidney Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard. But little of the commanders’ brilliance showed in the early fighting. Grant and Sherman, expecting reinforcements from Don Carlos Buell, were caught unprepared. Meanwhile, Beauregard either misinterpreted or disregarded Johnston’s battle plan, sending his troops in three consecutive waves rather than in three corps fighting abreast. Add to that the utter greenness of the troops, many of whom had never fired their guns, and the difficulty of the terrain, and it is easy to understand the chaos of the first day’s battle. Driven back in the morning, the Union lines stabilized over a sunken road to repel successive rebel assaults. When Johnston was killed, Beauregard, after more fierce action, called his men off to await the morning. But it was too late—Buell, with 17,000 reinforcements, arrived on the field, leading the Union to victory. Groom follows individual soldiers and small units as well as the larger shape of the battle, and quotes extensively from primary sources, including memoirs by Henry Stanley, Ambrose Bierce and Lew Wallace. The author also looks at the battle’s impact on civilians, some of whom remained in their farmhouses while fighting raged over their fields. The emphasis on the human element gives the book a power that sets it apart from most military histories. Essential reading for Civil War buffs and a great overview of a key battle for neophytes.  


Pub Date: March 20, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4262-0874-4

Page Count: 512

Publisher: National Geographic

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012



Two veteran Washington journalists offer a vigorous and resonant portrait of the 30-year decline and polarization of our capital. Jaffe (of Washingtonian magazine) and Sherwood (of WRC-TV, formerly of the Washington Post) tell their story in episodic sketches, covering the city's historic caste system among blacks, the rise of community organizer (and, later, mayor) Marion Barry during the War on Poverty, and the shift of power to blacks after the traumatic 1968 riots. The authors criticize the long-standing federal stranglehold on the district, as well as the Post's ignorance of black Washington, but their major culprit is ``Boss Barry,'' who emerged in his second mayoral term (1982-6) as a betrayer of the biracial coalition that first elected him. Barry's failures were legion: political spoils for a narrow group of adventurers such as profiteer-from-the-homeless Cornelius Pitts; a top aide turned embezzler; a police department in disarray; a downtown that boomed as other neighborhoods crumbled. His defiance of the black bourgeoisie and the white power structure preserved his popularity among blacks, and when he was arrested on drug charges in 1990—an episode recounted in telling detail—his lawyer successfully argued that the government was out to get him. After serving a six-month jail term for one misdemeanor, Barry began a comeback as council member from the city's poorest ward. The authors criticize the current mayor, reformer Sharon Pratt Kelly, as out of touch, and warn that federal receivership for Washington is as likely as full home rule and statehood. Reliance on dialogue-rich scenes sometimes sacrifices depth for drama, but this is a memorable and disturbing reminder of much unfinished urban business.

Pub Date: May 1, 1994

ISBN: 0-671-76846-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1994




In a splendid retelling of a great story, Ambrose chronicles Lewis and Clark's epic 1803-06 journey across the continent and back. Thomas Jefferson, more than anyone else, helped to effect the dream of a transcontinental US. As noted historian Ambrose (Univ. of New Orleans; D-Day, 1994, etc.) recounts, Jefferson's first great accomplishment in this regard was the Louisiana Purchase. His second was the dispatching of a US Army "Corps of Discovery" under his neighbor and friend, Captain Meriwether Lewis, to travel by land to the Pacific Ocean in search of a waterway to the West. Lewis, partner William Clark, and their 30-man expeditionary force recorded hundreds of species of birds, plants, and animals not previously known to Western science; mapped the interiors of the country; established ties with Indian tribes of the Northern Plains and the Northwest; and set the stage for the exploitation of the western country, particularly in the fur trade. Also, by Ambrose's account, Lewis and Clark's well-meaning ignorance and diplomatic maladroitness set the tone for early American relationships with Native Americans. Despite their close relationships with some Indians, Lewis and Clark persisted in absurd beliefs about them, some of which were subscribed to by Jefferson, as well (e.g., that Indians were descendants of a long-lost tribe of Welshmen). Although the expedition was a great success and fame and fortune followed, Lewis, now drinking heavily and suffering setbacks in love and politics, fell into a deep depression and committed suicide in 1809. The author speculates that he might have considered his great expedition a failure because the land remained unexploited by Americans. A fascinating glimpse of a pristine, vanished America and the beginning of the great and tragic conquest of the West.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 1996

ISBN: 0-684-81107-3

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1995

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