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Desperate Engagement: How a Little-Known Civil War Battle Saved Washington, D.C., and Changed the Course of American History Paperback – June 10, 2008
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More About the Author
My other books include Lafayette: Idealist General (2011), a concise biography of the Marquis de Lafayette; Desperate Engagement (2007), a history of the Civil War Battle of Monocacy; Flag: An American Biography (2005), a history of the Stars and Stripes from the beginnings to the 21st century; and Saving Monticello (2001), a history of Thomas Jefferson's house that concentrates at what happened after Jefferson died. I also edited The Webster's New World Dictionary of the Vietnam War.
I am a former staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, and have been a full-time free-lance writer since 1986. I have written for many publications, including the Washington Post, New York Times, New York Times Book Review, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Smithsonian, Military History, Civil War Times, and Preservation Magazines, the Encyclopedia Americana, and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography.
I am senior writer, arts editor and columnist for The Veteran, the magazine published by Vietnam Veterans of America.
I have been a guest on many television and radio news programs, including All Things Considered, Morning Edition, On the Media, Talk of the Nation, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, The History Detectives (PBS), The History Channel, Discovery Channel, CBC (Canada), The BBC NewsHour, RTV-1 (Russian television) and Irish Radio.
I have given talks at many colleges and universities, including the University of Maryland, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Miami, Mary Washington University, Sweet Brian College, Longwood University, Appalachian State University, the College of Southern Maryland and Georgetown University.
I tought U.S. history at Lord Fairfax Community College in Warrenton, Virginia, from 2007-2015.
After graduating from George Washington University in 1967, I was then drafted into the U.S. Army and served for two years, including a year in the Vietnam War. After my military service, I earned an MA in history from GWU in 1971.
If you would like to know more about my writing career, I invite you to go to my website: www.marcleepson.com
Top Customer Reviews
In short, Jubal Early and the 2nd Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia were sent to the Shenandoah, to clear it of Northern troops, as Generals Sigel, Hunter, and Crook had been attacking the area. And, if the opportunity arose, to advance on Washington, D. C. itself, to (perhaps) free Confederate prisoners, to force General U. S. Grant to divert soldiers from his siege in Virginia to relieve pressure on the Capitol, maybe to even occupy parts of the city.
This book outlines why Early was given this assignment and how he carried it out. Incompetent generalship by Generals Sigel and Hunter allowed Early to cross the Potomac and head toward Washington in summer, 1864. The threat was real, but the Unions forces in Washington, D. C. were few in number and poor in quality. Many were recovering from wounds suffered on the battlefields of the East; others were brand new troops without any real training; others were simply subprime in one way or another. The center of government was surrounded by powerful forts--but there weren't the troops to make these forts formidable obstacles to the Confederates.
General Lew Wallace had pretty much a desk job; he had been shelved as a battlefield commander after Shiloh (and one could argue that his poor response was as much due to Grant's bad staff work as to Wallace's own ineptitude on that occasion). This was long before he penned "Ben-Hur"! Seeing the danger to Washington, D. C.Read more ›
The Battle at Monocacy, fought between Jubal Early and Lew Wallace of Ben Hur fame, took place four miles South of Frederick, Maryland. Early, who was on his way to threaten the Union capital in Washington, D.C., was ordered to engage Wallace at Frederick, diverting Union troops from Lee's advance. Early did not want to fight this battle, but he won it.
The controversy was that Jubal Early, after his victory over Wallace, should have advanced toward Washington without delay. Leepson points out that Washington was poorly defended at the time and could have been taken during this crucial window of opportunity. Instead, Early chose to rest the remainder of his army, which was wounded, ill-fed and exhausted from being on the march since June 13th. This allowed Grant some two days to send reinforcements to the capital. When Early did attack, he was defeated.
Lincoln, who was visiting Fort Stevens in Washington at the time, became the first and only President to come under fire in active battle. Standing on the parapet of the fort, he was enjoying the spectacle until an officer in charge insisted he take cover.
Leepson's track record for capturing history is impeccable ("Flag: an American Biography" ; "Saving Monticello"), and this latest foray will put you right in the middle of one of the strangest conflicts of the Civil War. If you enjoy being a General from the safety of an armchair (like I do), expect to be challenged by some very troubling questions about timing versus the well-being of your troops.
He provides short but enjoyable biographies on all the main actors in this campaign, and his favorable description of Lew Wallace makes me want to finally read Ben Hur. In short, I think that anyone who knows very little about the campaign can gain a lot from reading the book, and anyone who knows a lot about it will still appreciate the book and pick up a number of new insights. He provides notes and OBs in the back of the book, for those keen on more details.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Before visiting Monocacy Battlefield I read this book. I am so happy I did as it gave me great insight on the events leading up to and on that day. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Moonshiner
Detailed and very readable account of a lesser known battle. I had not heard of the battle prior to this reading but now feel I have an understanding how it unfolded and it's... Read morePublished 17 months ago by BRENT THOMAS
Combines very poor production qualities with numerous historical inaccuracies and mistakes. Clumsy writing style too. Also: crappy map. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Historian
Enjoyed the history of this battle. Written for the layman so as not to be overwhelming with the military speak.Published 18 months ago by T R
Having visited the Monocacy Battlefiled, I wanted to learn more about the events leading up to and the results that took place after the battle. Read morePublished 18 months ago by David Johnson
It has been 150 years since I found out my great granddad(s) were part of the 100 day men of the Maryland 11th Regiment. Read morePublished 22 months ago by William S. Tyson
That confederate forces were so close to Washington DC. A very well written account of the events in the war.Published on January 6, 2013 by Phill R. Upp
This is a perfect companion to Fighting For Time. This is an excellent historical rendition of these two battles that should never have been fought except that the entire federal... Read morePublished on June 25, 2012 by kutchlaw@bellsouth
Many years ago I started reading books on the American Revolutionary War and became facinated with that time in our history and how well reseachered and written the historians are... Read morePublished on November 6, 2010 by K. Swedun