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. 9, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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An admirable, warts-and-all history of a milestone in environmental preservation.



The story of a national park might seem a niche subject, but OnEarth magazine editor Black (Casting a Spell: The Bamboo Fly Rod and the American Pursuit of Perfection, 2006, etc.) surrounds it with a colorful, stormy, often-distressing history of our northern mountain states.

The author begins with Lewis and Clark, whose 1804–06 expedition passed nearby but brought back only rumors of odd geological events. The northern Rockies remained a backwater for another half-century. Almost no one but fur traders took an interest for the first 30 years; wagon trains pouring west after 1840 passed well to the south. By the 1850s gold mining and ranching produced settlers, quickly followed by the Army, both anxious to eliminate the Indians. Black provides painful details of 20 years of conflict that accomplished this goal. Lacking gold or good grazing, the Yellowstone area attracted few settlers, but visitors brought back tales of wondrous geysers, boiling springs and breathtaking scenery. In 1869 the small, privately funded Cook-Folsom-Peterson Expedition produced such a tantalizing report that Montana residents organized a large expedition. That expedition spent a month exploring, resulting in a torrent of publicity that led to the federally funded Hayden Geological Survey of 1871. Its enthusiastic report included historical photographs by William Henry Jackson and paintings by Thomas Moran, and the resulting publicity persuaded Congress to create the world’s first national park in 1872. Congress did not, however, provide money, so vandalism, poaching and commercial exploitation flourished until 1886 when the Army moved in. It did not leave until the new National Park Service took over in 1918.

An admirable, warts-and-all history of a milestone in environmental preservation.

Pub Date: March 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-38319-0

Page Count: 576

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2011

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A sturdy companion to Michael Lieder and Jake Page’s Wild Justice (1997)—highly recommended for readers interested in Native...



A solid case study in an emerging trend: American Indian lawyers’ use of the courts to extract rights and dollars hidden away in long-forgotten treaties.

When William Clark saw the fall run of salmon on the Columbia River, writes freelance journalist VanDevelder, he exclaimed that he could cross from bank to bank on their backs without ever touching water. In 1991, only a single salmon made the journey to an Idaho lake; it was “stuffed, shellacked, and mounted on a pine board and hung in the governor’s office in the Idaho statehouse in Boise.” Its fate aptly describes a subtext of VanDevelder’s narrative, for there was a time when Social Darwinists in the American government hoped that the Indians, dispossessed of their land and stripped of their traditions, would simply fade away. In 1945, that thinking seemed a factor in the US Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to create a vast diversion dam across the Missouri River in North Dakota, one that would flood lands claimed by the Arikara, Hidatsa, and Mandan peoples, who had helped Lewis and Clark during the winter of 1804–5 and regretted it ever since. The dam was built, despite the protestations of Indian delegations to the US Congress, displacing thousands of Indians—including the family of Raymond Cross, who would grow up to attend Yale Law and who would take a vigorous interest in redressing the wrongs visited on his people. So he has done, battling the likes of Justices Rehnquist and Scalia, whom Cross characterizes as “an ideological tag team and throwback to another century.” Despite setbacks, writes VanDevelder, Cross and other Indian attorneys have been hitting hard, reasserting Indian rights and throwing unschooled judges into confusion as “Federal courts are now routinely asked to sort through the myriad of conflicting conditions to divine what tribal leaders understood at the time [a given] treaty was made.”

A sturdy companion to Michael Lieder and Jake Page’s Wild Justice (1997)—highly recommended for readers interested in Native American issues.

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2004

ISBN: 0-316-89689-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2004

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