Academic journal article Military Review

Allegiance: Fort Sumter, Charleston, and the Beginning of the Civil War

Academic journal article Military Review

Allegiance: Fort Sumter, Charleston, and the Beginning of the Civil War

Article excerpt

ALLEGIANCE: Fort Sumter, Charleston, and the Beginning of the Civil War, David Detzer, Harcourt, Inc., New York, 2001, 384 pages, $27.00.

I highly recommend Allegiance: Fort Sumter Charleston, and the Beginning of the Civil War, by David Detzer, for its fresh insight into an event that led to the open hostilities that became known as the American Civil War. Not since the publication of First Blood: Story of Fort Sumter by W.A. Swanberg (Marboro Books, A Division of Barnes & Noble, New York, 1990), has there been such a scholarly examination of the events surrounding the struggle at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, in 1861.

Unlike Swanberg's account, Detzer's focus is on the fort's commander, Major Robert Anderson; the indecision in Washington, which only increased Anderson's anxiety; and the significance of the actions at Fort Sumter on the people of Charleston. Anderson, the tragic figure as well as the hero of the story, was a West Point graduate, a professional soldier, and a participant in three wars, which had instilled in him a deep dislike for war and a hatred for politicians. Despite that hatred, he had an intense sense of duty to represent the U.S. Government in the impending crisis. As Detzer points out, for Anderson to perform that duty, he needed specific guidance from his superiors in Washington. His greatest fear was that his actions would precipitate a war that could have been avoided.

Unfortunately for Anderson, neither Presidents James Buchanan nor Abraham Lincoln would provide the directives he so desperately desired. Much of the indecision was caused by both presidents having cabinet members from the South, plus the realization that the United States was too weak militarily to do much about the situation anyway. …

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