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Kirkus ReviewsIn a real contribution to the literature on the Civil War, Furgurson (Chancellorsville, 1863, 1992, etc.) paints a lively portrait of the Confederacy's first city in wartime.
Before the Civil War, Richmond, Va., the state capital, was a prosperous city; during the war, it served as the South's administrative capital, military headquarters, and principal industrial center. As a result, Richmond was under almost constant threat from Federal armies. In the early years of the war, the citizenry of Richmond exhibited enthusiasm for the Confederate cause, tempered with nervousness during various Union invasions. After Grant launched his 1864 campaign to subdue the Southern capital, the city developed a siege mentality that ultimately sapped the will of the South. As a result, in a metamorphosis that was a mirror image of Lincoln's in the North, the popularity of Jefferson Davis waned through the war, until the man who once could not walk through Richmond without being mobbed could ride through the streets of the capital without so much as a cheer. As Davis's western military effort collapsed, the war became more and more a fight to preserve Richmond. Also, Furgurson shows that the struggle for mastery of Richmond reached inside the capital, where Union sympathizers and Federal spies worked to undermine the Confederate government and give aid and comfort to the large numbers of Northern prisoners there, interned at the notorious Libby and Belle Isle prisons. While most Unionists made modest contributions, one spy, Elizabeth Van Lew, was acknowledged by generals Butler and Grant to have given valuable information to the Union side throughout the war. The author points out that the Confederate war effort survived the fall of the other major Southern cities—New Orleans, Mobile, Atlanta—but ended immediately when the rebel government abandoned Richmond.
A well-conceived, finely drawn portrait of wartime Richmond.