The Siege of Washington: The Untold Story of the Twelve Days That Shook the Union

The Siege of Washington: The Untold Story of the Twelve Days That Shook the Union

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by John Lockwood, Charles Lockwood
     
 

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On April 14, 1860, the day Fort Sumter fell to Confederate forces, Washington, DC was ripe for invasion. Located 60 miles south of the Mason-Dixon Line, the nation's capital was virtually surrounded by the slave states of Maryland and Virginia. Only a few hundred soldiers were stationed in the city, and a rebel army rumored at 20,000 men lay just across the…  See more details below

Overview


On April 14, 1860, the day Fort Sumter fell to Confederate forces, Washington, DC was ripe for invasion. Located 60 miles south of the Mason-Dixon Line, the nation's capital was virtually surrounded by the slave states of Maryland and Virginia. Only a few hundred soldiers were stationed in the city, and a rebel army rumored at 20,000 men lay just across the Potomac River. The south echoed with cries of "On to Washington!" Jefferson Davis boasted that the federal capital would fall by the beginning of May, not two weeks away.
In The Siege of Washington, John and Charles Lockwood offer a heart-pounding, minute-by-minute account of the twelve days when the fate of the Union hung in the balance. The fall of Washington would have been a disaster: it would have crippled the federal government, left the remaining Northern states in disarray, and almost certainly triggered the secession of Maryland. Indeed, it would likely have ended the fight to preserve the Union before it had begun in earnest.
On April 15, Lincoln quickly issued an emergency proclamation calling upon the Northern states to send 75,000 troops to Washington. The North, suddenly galvanized by the attack on Sumter, responded enthusiastically. Yet one powerful question gripped Washington, and indeed the nation--whose forces would get to the capital first, Northern defenders or Southern attackers?
Drawing from unseen primary documents, this compelling history places the reader on the scene with immediacy, brilliantly capturing the tense, precarious first days of America's Civil War.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Historians have long been perplexed over why the South didn't attack Washington, D.C., in the early days of the Civil War. In this absorbing history, the siege of the Union capital and the panic over an expected Confederate attack that never came—offer significant insights into the long conflict. The Lockwoods, both historians, examine the two weeks after Fort Sumter, when everyone from Southern firebrands to Abraham Lincoln thought the rebels would seize the isolated and virtually defenseless Union capital, which was surrounded by slave states and had a substantial pro-Confederate population. The rail and telegraph lines were cut by Maryland secessionists, and the capital waited anxiously for Northern soldiers to push through hostile territory to its rescue while enduring food shortages, bank runs, and rumors of approaching rebel armies bent on hanging federal officials. The authors' well-paced narrative captures the suspense of the ordeal and the Union's achievement in improvising a defense from scratch. This vivid portrait of a weak and jittery Washington turns into a story of how Northern vigor and organization trumped Southern élan, presaging the larger war. 40 b&w illus.; 1 map. (Apr.)
Library Journal
The Lockwoods have filled a surprising gap in Civil War literature by describing the 12 days in April 1861 from the "first shot" of the Civil War at Fort Sumter to the relief of the federal capital by Union troops. During that time, Washington lay exposed to enemy attack. Lincoln struggled to get military support from the states, and citizens trembled as they contemplated what war likely meant for their safety. The authors give Lincoln and Gen. Winfield Scott points for realizing the dangers and acting forthrightly enough to forestall a collapse, but they ponder why the Confederates failed to seize the capital when they seemingly had an advantage. This day-by-day accounting captures all the confusion and fear that reigned in the first days of the war and shows how luck as much as decision determined the fate of the Union. Recommended as a good addition to large Civil War collections.
From the Publisher
The Siege of Washington is a thrilling story brilliantly told. In April 1861, the fate of the nation's capital - surrounded, isolated, and vulnerable - hung in the balance while dread, spies, and conspirators filled its streets. Who would arrive in Washington first? Union troops to save it? Or the rebel army to sack it? The Lockwoods possess an unerring eye for the human drama and illuminating details that make great history."
—James L. Swanson, author of the New York Times best-sellers Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer and Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse

"An exciting blow-by-blow history of a tense, historically significant fortnight."
—Kirkus Reviews

"[An] absorbing history . . . The authors' well-paced narrative captures the suspense of the ordeal and the Union's achievement in improvising a defense from scratch. This vivid portrait of a weak and jittery Washington turns into a story of how Northern vigor and organization trumped Southern élan, presaging the larger war." Publishers Weekly

"The Lockwoods have filled a surprising gap in Civil War literature by describing the 12 days in April 1861 from the "first shot" of the Civil War at Fort Sumter to the relief of the federal capital by Union troops . . . This day-by-day accounting captures all the confusion and fear that reigned in the first days of the war and shows how luck as much as decision determined the fate of the Union." —Library Journal

"This book by two brothers goes day by day, capturing the drama at every turn . . . an entertaining glimpse of a key early moment in the struggle for this nation's soul." —Huffington Post

"The Lockwoods' account of the first days of the Civil War is a tale well told, full of intrigue and real peril." —Daily Hampshire Gazette

"[T]his is a much-needed title, well-written, and certainly worthy of inclusion on the shelves of your Civil War library." —48thPennsylvania.com

"[A] detail-laden treasure . . . The Siege of Washington adds to our sum of knowledge about the war by putting those earliest days on a well-lighted stage and focuses our attention on just the right actors." —Roll Call

"[A] remarkable look at a rarely told bit of our history." —Lincoln Star

"[A] lively and thoroughly researched account of how local residents, government leaders and military officers reacted to events—real and imagined—occurring around them. Their narrative, sprinkled with colorful and mostly little-known anecdotes, adroitly captures the uncertainty and tension pervading President Lincoln's capital." —America's Civil War

"[A] fascinating work of micro-history." —Atlanta Journal Constitution

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199759897
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
04/11/2011
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

John Lockwood is the National Mall Historian and works for the National Park Service.

Charles Lockwood is an architectural historian and the author of seven books, including Bricks and Brownstone.

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The Siege of Washington: The Untold Story of the Twelve Days That Shook the Union 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Sycamoetree More than 1 year ago
I was fascinated by this book outlining the panicky first days of the civil war when the safety of the capital was in doubt. I have read a few general histories of the civil war but somehow I didn't grasp how tenuous the hold on Washington was. Just the riots on the troops passing through Baltimore was enough to unnerve any president in the position Lincoln was in. Since a lot of general histories accelerate into the hardcore fighting stages of the war, you don't always have it presented to you in anything like this sort of detail. For the first time I realize how very different this country might have been if just a few things might have turned the other way in those first few weeks. Highly recommended.