The Siege of Washington: The Untold Story of the Twelve Days That Shook the Union by John and Charles Lockwood

Read: August 2 - August 10
Format: Hardback 249 pages
Source: Public Library
Subject: Begnning of the Civil War
Category: The Engagement: this is getting serious
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, TIOLI, SYLL
Stars: ★★★★

At the time that the Union surrendered Fort Sumter and the war was starting, neither the Confederacy or the United States was prepared for war. Some of the southern states had yet to decide on secession (Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, Kentucky) but the major issue for the North was the location of its capital. Washington City was surrounded by slave holding states. When Lincoln requested troops from the loyal states to defend the capital on April 15th, a crisis erupted. Baltimoreans attacked the troops as they attempted to transfer trains for the capital. Riots broke out.

The residents of Washington felt threatened for the first 12 days of the war until troops arrived for its defense. Any moment they expected the Confederate Army to attack, "blow up the Capitol and Treasury Building, to burn the President's house and other edifices, and to leave in the blackened wreck of the ruined city, proof to the world that the Union was ruined." Others in the Confederacy felt that occupation of Washington and conversion of the city to the Confederate Capital held the benefits of establishing "instant legitimacy" for the new nation as well as recognition around the world. This would help the Confederacy negotiate loans and if the Union Government officials were captured, the war could possibly be ended quickly with little bloodshed.

However, the South was not prepared to make that step toward Washington. Arms were scarce in Virginia and Maryland. The Union destruction of the arsenal at Harper's Ferry had double blow - the destruction of the arms that the Virginians were hoping to capture as well as the morale of not defeating the Union troops that had been stationed there. The details of the problems of getting the troops to Washington for its defense as well as the issues of housing, feeding, and sanitation are remarkable. The reader can almost feel and smell the air of fear throughout this book.

I've been reading a great number of Civil War books, but wish that I had found this one first. It would have been a great start, explaining the issues that effected both sides militarily as well as the social issues of the surrounding area. As a Marylander, I realize that my state fell below the Mason-Dixon line, but never realized until I read this book that there were actually skirmishes when the citizens tried to support the Confederacy. Most of all for me, it helped to enlightened me as to the areas in my home state that were directly affected by the war other than the battlefields.

A definite for anyone who wants to see the problems that greeted the Union and the Confederacy at the very beginning of the Civil War.

1 comment:

Anna and Serena said...

Your review will be featured on War Through the Generations on Oct. 12.