"A Vast and Fiendish Plot": The Confederate Attack on New York City by Clint Johnson, NOOK Book (eBook) | Barnes & Noble

"A Vast and Fiendish Plot": The Confederate Attack on New York City

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by Clint Johnson
     
 

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New York City, November 25, 1864. Confederate officers attempt to destroy the city with a series of lethal fires that will forever diminish it to a mere speck of an island.
What fueled these Southern patriots' rage? And what if they had succeeded?


This terrifying scenario almost became a reality following what the New York Herald declared "a vast

Overview

New York City, November 25, 1864. Confederate officers attempt to destroy the city with a series of lethal fires that will forever diminish it to a mere speck of an island.
What fueled these Southern patriots' rage? And what if they had succeeded?


This terrifying scenario almost became a reality following what the New York Herald declared "a vast and fiendish plot." Infuriated by the Union's killing of their beloved General John Hunt Morgan and the burning of the Shenandoah Valley, eight Confederate officers swore revenge. Their method: Greek fire. Their target: Manhattan's commercial district. The daring mission could have changed the course of American history.

In the first book to bring to life this bold conspiracy in full detail, Civil War expert Clint Johnson reveals shocking facts about the treacherous alliances and rivalries that threatened nineteenth-century America. Here is the truth about this stunning event, the spirit that fueled it, and the near destruction of the world's most influential city.

"A fresh and intriguing addition to Civil War literature. . .. Johnson dispels myths and shows how Southerners sought to take revenge on a 'sister city' they felt betrayed them."
--Brion McClanahan, author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers

"Insightful analysis of an amazing turn of events that nearly set New York City ablaze during the Civil War." -- David J. Eicher, author of The Longest Night

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
One of the Civil War's more alarming might-have-beens is reconstructed in this absorbing if padded history. Johnson (Civil War Blunders) recounts the attempt by Confederate secret agents to burn down Manhattan on the night of November 25, 1864, using what they called “Greek fire”—an incendiary concoction that ignited spontaneously on contact with air. The conspiracy went up in a puff of ineptitude—the fires, set in rooms at various hotels around the city, fizzled from lack of oxygen because the arsonists left the windows closed—but the author's meticulous study of Manhattan's 19th-century flammability shows how easily it could have launched a citywide inferno. Johnson makes the incident an index of the war's soaring intensity, setting it in the context of the Union Army's burnings of rebel cities and farms, the bumbling efforts of Confederate agents in Canada to foment insurrection in the North, and the pro-Southern sympathies of prominent New Yorkers who connived at the arson plot. The laxly edited narrative also shovels in extraneous material, including a flashback to Pickett's Charge, to make the story hotter still. Johnson's comprehensive account of this usually footnoted episode shows how close it came to becoming a major tragedy. Photos. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
Civil War Times contributor Johnson (Pursuit: The Chase, Capture, Persecution, and Surprising Release of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, 2008, etc.) examines an overlooked episode of the Civil War. The author spends much of the narrative working up to the attack by members of the Confederate Secret Service in November 1864. Many of the raiders had a history with John Hunt Morgan's cavalry unit, a Kentucky-based band that had raided Indiana and Ohio with devastating effect in 1863. Morgan's death during a Union raid on his headquarters made many of his men vow revenge. Several of these men ended up in Canada as part of the Secret Service. New York was a center of commerce, specializing in the shipment of cotton and tobacco from Southern plantations to markets in Europe and New England, with hefty profits remaining in Yankee hands. Many New Yorkers also carried on the slave trade, even after it became illegal. As a result, many in the city's financial elite strongly favored the Southern cause, even after the war broke out. The vicious draft riots that erupted in 1863 were only the most violent expression of the city's sympathies. It was against this background that the Secret Service operatives planned an attack on New York, as a measure of revenge for Union burnings of Southern cities. Eight men were chosen to carry out the mission. Armed with an incendiary chemical called Greek fire, they planned to burn several hotels and the Hudson River docks. The attacks fizzled; most of the fires were discovered before they caused serious damage, and none spread beyond their initial sites. Johnson chronicles the raiders' escape, the public reaction and the subsequent fates of the participants.The author's Southern sympathies are on full display, especially in his emphasis on the New York merchants' complicity with the slave trade, but the historical material is largely novel and clearly presented. An interesting addendum to the Civil War library, but should be read with a couple of grains of salt.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780806533889
Publisher:
Kensington
Publication date:
03/01/2010
Sold by:
Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
320
File size:
491 KB

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"A Vast and Fiendish Plot": The Confederate Attack on New York City 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
James_Durney More than 1 year ago
The Civil War has any number of small areas that lack studies. There are many reasons for this the major one being that people tend not to buy books about these items. For this reason, any book on these areas requires the serious student of the war to consider it. This book falls into this category. The failed attempt to burn New York City rated very little ink during the war of after it. However, this area can be an absorbing look at the war behind the lines. The publisher's marketing is not a complete picture of this book. First, Clint Johnson is a competent author writing a readable enjoyable book that is informative without being stuffy. Second, this book covers much more than the plot to burn New York. When cotton was king, New York was the king's banker. The city handled the international cotton trade acting as broker, banker and shipper. Southern cotton arrived on the cities' docks to be loaded onto transatlantic vessels. Luxuries from Europe were loaded onto costal vessels for shipment to the South. The city grew rich on cotton and was active in the slave trade long after it was legal to do so. The first thing we look at is the history of the cities' relationship with the South. While background, this section of the book gives the reader a valuable understanding of politics during the war years. The second major item is the Confederate Secret Service in Canada a mixture of wistful thinking, outright mismanagement and sheer stupidity. The author walks us through a series of operations, some downright silly to some that worked. The Saint Albans raid and bank robberies are a substantial part of this story. This is a history that we see in bit and pieces, presented in a reasonable detail here. Next, we have a look at Manhattan during the war years. This is a loving recreation of a city and a time. The author's prose paints a picture of a bustling metropolis where wealth and poverty coexist. The infamous Draft Riot is covered to the extent needed to help us understand the environment the arsonists are operating in. Lat we have the plot itself. The author uses all of the above to give us a complete picture of the environment and history of the plot. With this foundation, we understand the failure and the bumbling. This is a combination of the keystone cops and the gang that couldn't shoot straight that could have turned deadly. This is a readable enjoyable book with an attractive price that is worth reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago