These books examine history-making confrontations that span seven centuries.

May 1291

The Mamluks seize Acre from the Crusaders and the Kingdom of Jerusalem loses its capital.

The Accursed Tower
Roger Crowley. Basic, Nov.
A 200-year war between Christians and Muslims is decided by a 13-hour assault on a coastal citadel. Crowley (Empires of the Sea), an expert on the Mediterranean and maritime history, draws on Arabic and Latin sources to narrate the climactic battle and makes the case for the fall of Acre’s importance in the history of siege warfare.

January 1815

Andrew Jackson’s outnumbered troops prevent the British from claiming New Orleans after a treaty between the U.S. and Great Britain is signed but before it’s ratified.

The Greatest Fury
William C. Davis. Dutton Caliber, Oct.
Historian Davis (Crucible of Command) explains how a motley crew of New Orleans fighters achieved an implausible victory against the better trained, better equipped, and more numerous British Red Coats, in what PW’s review called a “prodigious deep dive into Andrew Jackson’s strategy and tactics of the final battle of the War of 1812.” He shows how the outcome set the U.S. on a path toward global military dominance.

March 1836

Within a year of President-General Santa Anna repealing the Mexican Constitution, a group of American settlers in Texas defeat the self-described “Napoleon of the West” at the Battle of San Jacinto.

Sam Houston and the Alamo Avengers
Brian Kilmeade. Sentinel, Nov.
After the Mexican army killed more than 200 Texans in a San Antonio church, Sam Houston commanded a burgeoning force driven by the now-famous refrain, “Remember the Alamo.” Fox & Friends cohost Kilmeade (George Washington’s Secret Six) dramatizes the battle that established Texan independence and offers insight into the background of the Texas Revolution leader and the republic’s first president.

July 1863

One day after the Union victory at Gettysburg, Ulysses S. Grant takes control of the Mississippi River and drives the Confederate army west.

Donald L. Miller. Simon & Schuster, Oct.
Following a series of mistakes, failures, and false starts, Grant proved himself the Union’s most capable general by capturing Vicksburg, Miss., a Confederate stronghold. Miller, whose Masters of the Air is in development by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg for HBO, depicts the yearlong campaign, which led to the escape of tens of thousands of enslaved people across Union lines.

March 1915

A failed attempt to repel a Russian siege marks the beginning of the end for the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The Fortress
Alexander Watson. Basic, Jan. 2020
For anyone who studies 20th-century European history, one of the most disturbing developments is the practice of total war, or the expense of all possible resources in order to achieve victory. Watson pinpoints the brutal four-month siege of Przemysl, Poland, as the beginning of a series of battles fought to win no matter the cost. PW’s review called Watson’s most recent title, the Wolfson History Prize–winning Ring of Steel, “a major contribution to the ever-growing historiography of WWI.”

November 1941–March 1942

With a fortified base on Malta, the Allies dominate Mediterranean shipping lanes to Africa until the Italian navy and German air powers turn the tide.

Six Victories
Vincent O’Hara. Naval Institute, Oct.
The war to control Mediterranean shipping routes between Italy and North Africa, begun by the British navy in fall 1941, was a complicated series of air and sea battles of shifting fortunes. Britain’s initial success caused the German Africa Corps to retreat 400 miles, but by spring its progress was reversed by Italian naval strikes. O’Hara mines British and Italian archives to offer insights on naval warfare.

December 1941

Japanese bombers and torpedo planes carry out a surprise attack on Oahu, striking battleships and several airfields, including Hickam Field, where 189 people were killed and 303 wounded.

They’re Killing My Boys!
J. Michael Wenger, Robert J. Cressman, and John F. Di Virgilio. Naval Institute, Oct.
Historians tend to focus on the destruction dealt to the Pacific Fleet during the attack on Pearl Harbor, but the operation was multifaceted, with significant casualties also sustained at nearby Hickam Field. As in the film Tora! Tora! Tora!, the authors recreate the day’s events through multiple points of view from both Japanese and American sources.

October 1944

American airpower diminishes the Japanese Navy for the remainder of World War II.

The Battle of Leyte Gulf at 75
Edited by Thomas J. Cutler. Naval Institute, Sept.
The last time battleships faced off in war was in this decisive moment during World War II, when U.S. forces took the Philippines from Japan despite an all-out effort to prevent an invasion. Retired lieutenant commander Cutler (A Sailor’s History of the U.S. Navy) compiles essays from retired U.S. and Japanese navy personnel and historians that bring the confrontation to life.

December 1944

As Germany presses its final major offensive on the Western Front, the U.S. 7th Armored Division holds its position at St. Vith, Belgium, for six days longer than the Germans had bargained for.

Loss and Redemption at St. Vith
Gregory Fontenot. Univ. of Missouri, Nov.
The Battle of the Bulge is one of the most storied clashes in modern history. This account from Fontenot, a retired U.S. Army colonel, focuses on the 7th Armored Division, which was instrumental to the American counterattack.

November 1989

An East Berlin Communist Party boss announces that citizens may cross to the West at Berlin Wall checkpoints.

To Build a Better World
Philip Zelikow and Condoleezza Rice. Twelve, Sept.
Thirty years ago, masses of East German people stormed the checkpoints along the Berlin Wall and overwhelmed the guards, bringing a sudden end to years of repression. This triumph in the streets came about after years of diplomatic negotiations, which former national security advisors Zelikow and Rice chronicle through declassified files and interviews with the key players, including then-president George H.W. Bush.

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