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, 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

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

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

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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199931187
Publisher:
Oxford University Press
Publication date:
12/01/2012
Pages:
320
Sales rank:
1,445,949
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.80(h) x 1.00(d)

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