RaveThe Wall Street JournalMr. Stahr convincingly makes the case for Chase’s greatness without neglecting his shortcomings, chief of which was a burning ambition to become president ... Stahr convincingly refutes the commonly held belief that Chase sought to subvert President Lincoln in the interest of his own presidential nomination in 1864. On the contrary, Mr. Stahr demonstrates Chase’s continued loyalty and admiration for Lincoln ... Mr. Stahr weaves Chase’s personal and political lives together deftly, revealing for readers the whole man ... as powerful and moving a political biography as I have read. I learned a great deal from it, and I warmly commend it to those seeking a fuller understanding of the turbulent American 19th century and the critical early decades in the struggle for black rights.
PanThe Wall Street JournalWho would have imagined that an illiterate frontier teenager contributed so mightily to America’s future? Certainly not any previous historian of whom I am aware ... Particularly puzzling is Mr. Pearl’s assertion that the chance encounter between the tiny Indian war party, led by the minor Cherokee leader Hanging Maw, and the three white girls was somehow deliberate ... Despite the subtitle of Mr. Pearl’s book, \'Colonial Settlers, Tribal Nations, and the Kidnap That Shaped America,\' the author says little about settler life or the society and culture of the Indian nations encountered in the book. What he does say on the latter is often wrong ... the least authentic account of the early American frontier that I have read.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalThe book doesn’t fully deliver on its ostensible purpose, however. Although engagingly written, it is a largely unoriginal, thinly researched work that, judging by the author’s notes, relies heavily on secondary sources and on interviews with modern historians. The result is a story that concentrates as much on the endless intriguing among the parade of Mexican strongmen and idealists who wrestled for control of Revolutionary Mexico, and on nearly a century of American-Mexican relations prior to 1916, as it does on the professed topic of the book ... Examples of the derivative nature of War on the Border are many. As Mr. Guinn acknowledges, entire chapters are based in large measure on interviews he conducted with authors of books on the subject. A perusal of the bibliography reveals that Mr. Guinn used few Mexican sources and made no use of contemporaneous Mexican newspapers, which are readily available online and offer that nation’s perspective on Villa’s raid and Pershing’s expedition ... Mr. Guinn also neglected the vast resources of the National Archives, which include not only invaluable Army correspondence but also affidavits and eyewitness accounts by residents of Columbus ... Besides calling into question the need for a new book on the Punitive Expedition, an overreliance on secondary sources and their authors perpetuates incorrect facts and interpretations ... also suffers from an absence of adequate maps ... Mr. Guinn’s deft writing makes War on the Border an enjoyable primer on Mexican-American relations in the latter years of the 19th-century and during the Mexican Revolution, as well as an adequate introduction to Mexican political intrigues of the time.
Bob Drury and Tom Clavin
RaveThe Wall Street JournalThis may be the authors’ finest work to date. Unquestionably, Blood and Treasure is among the most redolent of time and place. I felt myself immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of frontier life, as well as the lurking dangers and gruesome deep-forest clashes between grasping frontiersmen and Native Americans defending their country—such are the authors’ keen descriptive powers. Numerous excellent maps enhance the text ... a raw and rugged tale with no shortage of horror and gore. The work is not hagiographic in its appraisal of Boone, whose shortcomings—his business naivete, for instance—the authors readily acknowledge. And there can be no escaping the painful truth that Boone’s frontier aspirations were antithetical to Native American survival. Nonetheless, he emerges as a fundamentally decent man, particularly in his devotion to family.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalDickson resurrects a critical but overlooked period ... Weaving high drama with deep insight, Mr. Dickson describes the extraordinary challenges that President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his Army chief of staff, George C. Marshall, had to overcome to make the G.I. Army a reality ... Mr. Dickson argues convincingly that the precursor to the G.I. Army was the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal relief program designed to provide work during the Great Depression ... Mr. Dickson deftly weaves the story of such tentative steps toward forging the G.I. Army into a parallel narrative of fierce isolationism, borne of a belief that America’s involvement in World War I had been a colossal mistake ... Mr. Dickson’s rousing narrative of the simulated battles restores these important exercises to their central place in the history of the Army. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower observed in retrospect that the benefits of the maneuvers were \'incalculable\' ... Mr. Dickson also presents a poignant counter-narrative, that of black soldiers and civil-rights leaders struggling to overcome the strictures of segregation ... The best history is character-driven, and in this Mr. Dickson excels. He follows the fortunes of emerging Army stars such as Bradley, George S. Patton, Mark Clark and Eisenhower himself with verve and compassion ... indispensable.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal...Mr. Saunt presents a passionate and provocative account of what he calls “one of the first state-sponsored mass expulsions in the modern world”; the \'U.S. counterpart of Europe’s ‘Jewish question.\' ” He convincingly argues that the root cause of the expulsion of the Indian inhabitants of the South was a vile mix of racial antipathy, unbounded greed and the naive idealism of self-styled Indian experts ... Drawing on prodigious research into primary sources, Mr. Saunt offers the most detailed account to date of the mechanics of Indian expulsion ... Although Mr. Saunt does a highly commendable job in relating the plight of the Southern native peoples during the era of Indian Removal, he does not provide readers with a solid sense of who they were. The cultures of the tribes affected are not examined; neither are the long traditions of both intertribal and internal strife that prevented the Indians from uniting against the white onslaught. In this regard, occasional errors arise ... This aside, Unworthy Republic is a much-needed rendering of a disgraceful episode in American history that has been too long misunderstood.
James M. Fenelon
MixedThe Wall Street JournalJames M. Fenelon’s Four Hours of Fury purports to tell the tale of Operation Varsity and the subsequent drive into Hitler’s heartland. Unfortunately, it fails to deliver on both counts ... Readers...never learn of the harrowing experiences of British troops whose large gliders made their landings even more treacherous than those of their American counterparts ... Readers also won’t learn from Mr. Fenelon of the tragic fate of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion ... Where Four Hours of Fury does succeed is in presenting the experiences of the fighting men of the 17th Airborne Division. Mr. Fenelon’s writing becomes inspired when he draws on his own experience to convey the sensation of dropping into combat ... Mr. Fenelon’s account would have been more valuable if he had directed his work to the full range of the operation’s fighting forces and had offered, given the operation’s death toll, a rigorous assessment of whether it was necessary.
Gordon H. Chang
RaveThe Wall Street JournalSignificant aspects of these men’s experience are necessarily subject to conjecture or have to be reconstructed. Despite this daunting impediment, Mr. Chang has accomplished the seemingly impossible. He has researched obscure American newspaper accounts. He has drawn on Central Pacific correspondence and financial records and made extrapolations from accounts of other contemporaneous Chinese immigrants. He has even evaluated archeological evidence. And he has written a remarkably rich, human and compelling story of the railroad Chinese ... In gripping prose, Mr. Chang evokes the challenges the Chinese railroad workers confronted ... Mr. Chang puts readers squarely into the shoes of the Chinese workers ... That book is clearly designed for an academic audience; fortunately, in Ghosts of Gold Mountain, Mr. Chang has mined expertly the extant material on the subject.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalMasters of narrative history ... their finest work: The authors have not only told the epic story of endurance that the Valley Forge experience represents but also placed it squarely in the context of what was occurring on the political, diplomatic and broader military fronts ... Messrs. Drury and Clavin clearly admire Washington. Never do they sink into hagiography, however. Rather, they approach Washington’s leadership with a refreshing mix of detachment, appreciation of his strengths and acknowledgment of his shortcomings—as well as a nice dash of humor ... The authors are to be congratulated for not shortchanging the forces and personalities on the British side ... above all, is a deeply human chronicle of the events from Washington’s setbacks in autumn 1777 to his defeat of the British at the Battle of Monmouth Court House in June 1778 ... recounts an epic of suffering, endurance and martial rebirth that Americans should never forget.
MixedThe Wall Street JournalHis deft human touch, evident throughout the narrative, makes for a complete sensory experience...But when Mr. Martin turns away from such details, he quickly gets lost ... hyperbolic ... kaleidoscopic and fragmented ... skewed ... Context and continuity are often lacking ... Readers interested in a soldier’s-eye view of Civil War combat will find aspects of A Fierce Glory rewarding. A satisfying narrative style, however, cannot raise the book to the level of a serious study of Antietam.
Colin G. Calloway
RaveThe Wall Street JournalThe fateful relationship between George Washington and the Indian tribes that bordered the new Republic is the subject of Colin G. Calloway’s brilliantly presented and refreshingly original The Indian World of George Washington ... Mr. Calloway deftly brings to life figures such as the Mohawk war chief and statesman Joseph Brant, the Miami war chief and realist Little Turtle and the bicultural Creek chief and consummate diplomat Alexander McGillivray—all towering figures who exercised the sort of outsize influence over the nation’s destiny that better known American Indian figures such as Sitting Bull and Geronimo never approached. An essential new entry in the literature of George Washington and the early Republic, The Indian World of George Washington conveys his interactions with Indians and the role of Indian land in Washington’s public and personal life \'from cradle to grave.\'
RaveWall Street JournalMr. Stark presents these stormy events with rare narrative skill that engages all the reader’s senses, as in his rendition of the Battle of Fort Necessity ... Mr. Stark’s work is supremely entertaining: the pacing superb, the descriptions of conflict and wilderness travails rousing ... a worthy addition to the shelf of Washington biographies.