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

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

Synopsis

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.

Excerpt

When Major Robert Anderson, the commander of the Union garrison at Fort Sumter, surrendered to Confederate Brigadier General Pierre G. T. Beauregard on April 13, 1861, many Americans in both North and South expected that the first real battle of the war would soon be fought over Washington. Surrounded by the slave states of Maryland and Virginia, the nation’s capital was largely bereft of defenders, lacked any fortifications within its borders, and seemed an easy target for Confederate attackers. “From the 15th to the 25th of April the nation held its breath in anxious suspense,” wrote journalist and West Point graduate Edward D. Mansfield in 1862. “All eyes were upon the capital … with enemies within and advancing armies without, the fearful trembled for its safety, and the most sanguine were held in doubt.” Even President Lincoln feared that Washington might be captured: on April 15, he startled his cabinet by telling them, “If I were Beauregard, I would take Washington.”

For the twelve anguished days between Sumter’s surrender and Washington’s rescue, the city’s fate hung by a thread. When Lincoln recalled these days one year later, he stated simply that Washington was in the “condition of a siege.”

In the end, the city was not attacked, and the first battle of the Civil War would occur at Bull Run, two months later and some thirty miles from the capital. Washington’s escape from near-certain Southern capture appeared a miracle, and many Northern leaders could not understand why the Confederacy had not attacked the lightly defended city. in his book The War of the Rebellion, published in 1884, General Theodore B. Gates called it “one of the unsolved riddles of Confederate policy.” General Benjamin F. Butler, who played a central role in the drama, noted his own puzzlement in his 1892 . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.