The Siege of Washington: The Untold Story of the Twelve Days That Shook the Unionby John Lockwood, Charles Lockwood
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On April 14, 1861, following the surrender of Fort Sumter, Washington was "put into the condition of a siege," declared Abraham Lincoln. Located sixty miles south of the Mason-Dixon Line, the nation's capital was surrounded by the slave states of Maryland and Virginia. With no fortifications and only a handful of trained soldiers, Washington was an ideal target for the Confederacy. The South echoed with cries of "On to Washington!" and Jefferson Davis's wife sent out cards inviting her friends to a reception at the White House on May 1. Lincoln issued an emergency proclamation on April 15, calling for 75,000 troops to suppress the rebellion and protect the capital. One question now transfixed the nation: whose forces would reach Washington first-Northern defenders or Southern attackers? For 12 days, the city's fate hung in the balance. Washington was entirely isolated from the North-without trains, telegraph, or mail. Sandbags were stacked around major landmarks, and the unfinished Capitol was transformed into a barracks, with volunteer troops camping out in the House and Senate chambers. Meanwhile, Maryland secessionists blocked the passage of Union reinforcements trying to reach Washington, and a rumored force of 20,000 Confederate soldiers lay in wait just across the Potomac River. Drawing on firsthand accounts, The Siege of Washington tells this story from the perspective of leading officials, residents trapped inside the city, Confederates plotting to seize it, and Union troops racing to save it, capturing with brilliance and immediacy the precarious first days of the Civil War.
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."
"[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 eventsreal and imaginedoccurring 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
- Oxford University Press
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Meet the Author
John Lockwood is the National Mall Historian, National Park Service and writes frequently about the history of the nation's capital. Charles Lockwood is an intellectual historian and the author of ten books, including Bricks and Brownstone. The authors were born and raised in Washington.
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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.