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Dissonance: The Turbulent Days Between Fort Sumter and Bull Run Hardcover – May 1, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (May 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151011583
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151011582
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.1 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,213,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This fast-paced popular history of the frantic days between the attack on Fort Sumter and the Battle of Bull Run completes Detzer's "trilogy on the first hundred days of the Civil War." The earlier titles—Allegiance and Donnybrook—were critical and commercial successes, and the latest volume should also score with critics and readers. Detzer, professor emeritus of history at Connecticut State University, combines yeoman research—in official histories of the war, contemporary newspapers, journals, diaries and personal correspondence—and gritty prose. In the early days of the conflict, the nation's capital, geographically wedged between two states (Virginia and Maryland) considering secession, was ground zero for the aspirations and fears of a divided nation. If Washington had fallen to the Confederates in those turbulent days of "incredible noise"—hence the title—Detzer suggests that the war would have been lost. At the center of the cauldron, President Lincoln struggled to get his bearings: cautious, anxious and uncertain in the beginning, but gaining confidence with time. Despite a tendency to hype potential dangers, Detzer has written an engaging and comprehensive account of the early days of the Civil War that should have wide appeal. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

This concluding volume in a trilogy examines the opening weeks of the Civil War. With the bombardment and subsequent surrender of Fort Sumter, the illusion that the crisis engendered by secession could be solved by "reasonable" compromise was shattered. But what now? For Jefferson Davis, the wisest course seemed to be assuming a defensive posture while converting Southern state militias into a Confederate army. Lincoln was determined to resist secession, but his tools and options were limited. The army was small and concentrated west of the Mississippi. Four more states quickly seceded, and the allegiance of the border states hung in the balance. Washington, D.C., pinned between seceded Virginia and a hostile Maryland, was in danger of isolation. Detzer effectively utilizes diaries, letters, and newspaper articles to convey a sense of extreme tension as men and women, both prominent and obscure, strove to plan, cope, and even survive as a rapidly evolving situation seemed to present new challenges on a daily basis. This is an engrossing account of turbulent days. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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This book is really very good and nicely written.
Charles Lewis
Once Virginia did leave the Union only Maryland provided the federal government with a connection to the rest of the nation and it was a tenuous connection at best.
Dennis Phillips
Highly recommended for those interested in Civil War history.
Lehigh History Student

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Phillips on June 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
April of 1865 has been referred to as the month that saved America but April of 1861 may have been just as vital if not more so. It was during this time that Washington DC sat completely surrounded by two states that were teetering on the verge of secession. Once Virginia did leave the Union only Maryland provided the federal government with a connection to the rest of the nation and it was a tenuous connection at best.

Abraham Lincoln was clearly out of his league in this early stage of the game and he leaned heavily on General Winfield Scott. For his part, Scott was keenly aware of the danger facing Washington and began to immediately call for any militia units that could get to DC quickly from loyal northern states. The problem was that these militia units would have to travel through Maryland, a slave state that might well consider these Yankee troops to be invaders and could easily be pushed into the Confederacy by such an affront to state sovereignty. It was also distinctly possible that these militia units might be attacked by not only the people of Maryland but also ultimately by the state militia.

In the meantime Virginia forces had seized the federal armory at Harper's Ferry and the Gosport navy yard near Hampton Virginia. Rumors are rampant in DC that the Virginia militia that had taken Harper's Ferry was preparing to move on Washington and many in the Federal City were in a state of panic.

The questions that arise from this drama involve the decision making process on both sides and the ultimate question is of course whether Washington DC was ever in any real danger. Did the Confederacy in fact lose it's only real chance for ultimate victory during this time period?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By CTS 2631 on December 13, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
David Detzer's third book in his trilogy about the beginning of the American Civil War in the East will not disappoint readers. The book primarily covers the period of April 12, 1861 (the day Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina was fired on) till 24 May, 1861 (the day Union troops finally captured Arlington Heights, Virginia across the Potomac River from the District of Colombia securing the United States Capitol).

Again, the author incorporates the background, thoughts, and actions of a cast of hundreds that are involved in the events that make up this early period of the Civil War. Presidents, government officials both State and Federal/Confederate, generals and soldiers, naval officers and sailors, civilians both male and female, and blacks both free and slave are represented here giving the reader a good feel of what it was all about.

The primary places and events covered include Washington, D.C., Richmond, Virginia, Baltimore, Maryland, United States Arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, United States Naval Yard at Gosport, Virginia, the Baltimore riots as Union volunteers passed through the city, international diplomacy, and Union efforts to reinforce the Capitol. Also explores the feasibilty of Virginia/Confederate forces taking Washington D.C.

Detzer's writing is always easy to read and understand and the pages just fly by, but again, the lack of good maps makes this only a four star effort (something the author just does not worry about I guess?), a general understanding of the geography of this region will aid the reader in understanding the big picture (a few period maps included in the volume help but more are needed). Also, the author is a true wordsmith!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John J. Phelps on June 1, 2008
Format: Paperback
Like his other two Civil War books, Donnybrook Donnybrook: The Battle of Bull Run, 1861 and AllegianceAllegiance: Fort Sumter, Charleston, and the Beginning of the Civil War, this book is very readable and extremely well researched. I am an avid reader of everything I can get about the Civil War and this book reveals many things not contained in other writings. My only complaint is that there are far too many "what ifs", moving it into the realm of fiction too often for my taste
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By David W. Nicholas on May 16, 2010
Format: Paperback
David Detzer has decided to make a career out of writing about the beginning of the Civil War, apparently. This third volume in his "trilogy" on the subject is very interesting, in that it covers the period between the attack on Fort Sumter and essentially the beginning of real combat, the start of the Bull Run campaign. This period was one of considerable uncertainty. For much of it, there was concern in the North about their ability to maintain Washington D.C. as the capitol, and there was also fear that the Confederates might manage to capture President Lincoln right at the start of his administration. This of course would have been catastrophic.

Most of the author's attention is focused on the Eastern Theater, where the Union forces confronted the Confederates across the Potomac River at Washington itself. The discussion of the politics of secession--Virginia leaving the Union, and Maryland staying in--is the hear of the book, and it's very well done. The personalities involved are an interesting bunch, and author Detzer clearly enjoys showing how strange these people were, and laying bare their motivation.

I really enjoyed this book. It has a lot of good information, and the narrative is very well-written, so that you read it easily. The whole thing does feel a bit incomplete; I suspect it works better if read as the middle book in the trilogy, with Allegiance before it, and Donnybrook afterwords. Nevertheless, I recommend it.
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