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BOOK REVIEWS The Stakes of Power, 1845-1877. By Roy F. Nichols. (New York: HiU and Wang, 1961. Pp. x, 246. $4.50.) This volume is the fourth in "The Making of America" series. Emphasis in this series is upon interpretation, synthesis, and summation. Ninety pages—considerably more than a third of the smaU volume—are devoted to the prewar years, and here Nichols is at his best. Author of such books as The Democratic Machine, 1850-1854 (1923), Franklin Pierce (1931), and Disruption of American Democracy (1948) , Nichols knows both the history and the historical hterature of this era thoroughly. He sees the prewar period as a struggle for poUtical and economic power—a contest which broke down the democratic processes. That struggle for poUtical power turned into a miUtary conflict—summarized in cursory fashion in but fifty-seven pages. Lincoln emerges as a master poUtician, winner of the struggle for power within the Republican party and a pivotal figure in "the evolution of a new structure of power, both miUtary and poUtical . . . ." Civil War cultists wül be piqued at what is left out; it is difficult to quarrel with the contentions and facts included. The struggle-for-power theme is carried into the postwar years with "new business operators," the "new" RepubUcan party, reform movements, and postwar Democrats being enemies or aUies. Some critics wiU complain that Nichols rides his struggle-for-power thesis too hard. It, however, serves as a cement to bind the three eras together and to give unity to the 1845-77 period. The ideas and idealism of those years are practicaUy sidetracked as realism, poUtical and economic, reigns supreme. Errors of fact are few and far between, and the author's contentions are sound. This is history at its best. The fiterary style is "seasoned" with scholarship ; those who feed upon the menu served by Catton or Nevins may protest at the hardier fare. The bibUographical suggestions, confined to ten pages at the end of the text, are superb. Frank L. Klement Marquette University Crucial Moments of the Civil War. By Willard Webb. (New York: Fountainhead Publishers, 1961. $750.) Seldom have i approached a book with more pleasurable anticipation than this one, and rarely have I been so bitterly disappointed. From a man of 460 Webb's cultural, Uteral, and miUtary background one might expect something unusual, not an anthology of a few chapters, haphazardly thrown together. Some of them, like the one on Bryce's Crossroads, Streight's raid, and the 6th Wisconsin Volunteers, certainly do not depict crucial moments of the war, whereas others which do already have been threshed out to the last possible grain. Haskell's account of Gettysburg has been used in several previous anthologies , and one wishes that a moratorium be declared on it and some others, especially as they are taken from books readily available. Webb's introductory remarks to the chapters lack spark and, what is worse, are not always correct, as when he calls the action of the Union army at BuU Run "a somewhat disorderly retreat," only to be contradicted by his own author a few Unes later, who describes the debacle as a "gigantic rout and panic." Samuel Schmucker, war correspondent of the New York World and an eyewitness to the battles at White Oak Swamp and Malvern HiU, was a bad observer , and his errors should have been pointed out in the Preface or in footnotes . The actual battle of Malvern HUl certainly bears no resemblance to Schmucker's description. The same author, writing an account of Shiloh, remains uncorrected when he gives the Confederate strength at 70,000 instead of 40,000, and mixes up General Wallace with General Prentiss. Webb introduces the story of Second BuU Run with these words: "After Lee defeated McClellan on the Peninsula. . . ." One may take issue with this statement on both orthographic and historical grounds. And Longstreet did not let go with his guns when the Federal attack began to weaken, but while Porter was sending his regulars into the day's fiercest attack on Jackson's stronghold, and when the battle stiU was undecided. I always thought that after the battle of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 460-462
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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