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The Siege of Washington: The Untold Story of the Twelve Days That Shook the Union [Kindle Edition]

John Lockwood , Charles Lockwood
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)

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Book Description

On April 14, 1861, following the surrender of Fort Sumter, Washington was "put into the condition of a siege," declared Abraham Lincoln. Located sixty miles south of the Mason-Dixon Line, the nation's capital was surrounded by the slave states of Maryland and Virginia. With no fortifications and only a handful of trained soldiers, Washington was an ideal target for the Confederacy. The South echoed with cries of "On to Washington!" and Jefferson Davis's wife sent out cards inviting her friends to a reception at the White House on May 1.
Lincoln issued an emergency proclamation on April 15, calling for 75,000 troops to suppress the rebellion and protect the capital. One question now transfixed the nation: whose forces would reach Washington first-Northern defenders or Southern attackers?
For 12 days, the city's fate hung in the balance. Washington was entirely isolated from the North-without trains, telegraph, or mail. Sandbags were stacked around major landmarks, and the unfinished Capitol was transformed into a barracks, with volunteer troops camping out in the House and Senate chambers. Meanwhile, Maryland secessionists blocked the passage of Union reinforcements trying to reach Washington, and a rumored force of 20,000 Confederate soldiers lay in wait just across the Potomac River.
Drawing on firsthand accounts, The Siege of Washington tells this story from the perspective of leading officials, residents trapped inside the city, Confederates plotting to seize it, and Union troops racing to save it, capturing with brilliance and immediacy the precarious first days of the Civil War.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Product Description
On April 14, 1861, following the surrender of Fort Sumter, Washington was "put into the condition of a siege," declared Abraham Lincoln. Located sixty miles south of the Mason-Dixon Line, the nation's capital was surrounded by the slave states of Maryland and Virginia. With no fortifications and only a handful of trained soldiers, Washington was an ideal target for the Confederacy. The South echoed with cries of "On to Washington!" and Jefferson Davis's wife sent out cards inviting her friends to a reception at the White House on May 1.

Lincoln issued an emergency proclamation on April 15, calling for 75,000 troops to suppress the rebellion and protect the capital. One question now transfixed the nation: Whose forces would reach Washington first: Northern defenders or Southern attackers?

For 12 days, the city's fate hung in the balance. Washington was entirely isolated from the North--without trains, telegraph, or mail. Sandbags were stacked around major landmarks, and the unfinished Capitol was transformed into a barracks, with volunteer troops camping out in the House and Senate chambers. Meanwhile, Maryland secessionists blocked the passage of Union reinforcements trying to reach Washington, and a rumored force of 20,000 Confederate soldiers lay in wait just across the Potomac River.

Drawing on firsthand accounts, The Siege of Washington tells this story from the perspective of leading officials, residents trapped inside the city, Confederates plotting to seize it, and Union troops racing to save it, capturing with brilliance and immediacy the precarious first days of the Civil War.

The Siege of Washington: The Twelve Days That Shook the Union

A Timeline

April 14, 1861 The Union flag is lowered over Fort Sumter in surrender. In Washington, President Lincoln drafts an emergency proclamation calling for 75,000 Union volunteer troops to suppress the rebellion and defend the capital. Lincoln tells his cabinet, “If I were Beauregard, I would take Washington.”
April 15 Lincoln formally issues his emergency proclamation. Americans in both the North and South are transfixed by a single question: Who will reach the capital first? Confederate attackers? Or Union defenders?
April 16 As militiamen begin to mobilize across the North, General Winfield Scott has only 900 U.S. Army troops and 600 District Militia under his command to defend Washington.
April 17 Virginia votes to secede from Union. South Carolina Governor Pickens writes to Jefferson Davis that the “true course is to take Washington city immediately.”
April 18 The First Pennsylvania Volunteers arrive in Washington—without weapons—and are quartered in the empty Capitol building. The danger is so extreme that emergency volunteer troops are stationed in the East Room of the White House. An assault on the city is expected that night.
April 19 The Sixth Massachusetts are attacked in a bloody riot in Baltimore as they change trains on their way to Washington. Baltimore leaders bar further Union troops from passing through the city, imperiling the arrival of reinforcements for days.
April 20 Baltimore secessionists rip up rail lines to Washington. Meanwhile, the Eighth Massachusetts and Seventh New York regiments are stalled in Philadelphia as their leaders debate the best route to the capital. One prominent Virginian telegraphs the Confederate secretary of war: “Lincoln is in a trap.”
April 21 Panic seizes Washington, particularly among free blacks, who fear that they will be re‐enslaved if the South takes the capital. Thousands of people flee.
April 22 Washington is entirely cut off by rail and telegraph. Food supplies dwindle. According to journalist Henry Villard, it seemed “as though the government of a great nation had been suddenly removed to an island in mid ocean in a state of entire isolation.”
April 23 Secessionist forces in Maryland plot an attack on Union troops moving toward Washington. The Baltimore Sun reports that “armed men [are] stationed everywhere, determined to give the Northern troops a fight in their march to the capital.”
April 24 The Seventh New York and Eighth Massachusetts set out on an epic march from Annapolis to rescue Washington.
April 25 The Seventh New York arrives in Washington and stages a spontaneous parade down Pennsylvania Avenue amid cheering residents and ringing church bells. Washingtonians exclaim their joy that the “Capitol of the Nation is Safe!”

From Publishers Weekly

Historians have long been perplexed over why the South didn't attack Washington, D.C., in the early days of the Civil War. In this absorbing history, the siege of the Union capital and the panic over an expected Confederate attack that never came—offer significant insights into the long conflict. The Lockwoods, both historians, examine the two weeks after Fort Sumter, when everyone from Southern firebrands to Abraham Lincoln thought the rebels would seize the isolated and virtually defenseless Union capital, which was surrounded by slave states and had a substantial pro-Confederate population. The rail and telegraph lines were cut by Maryland secessionists, and the capital waited anxiously for Northern soldiers to push through hostile territory to its rescue while enduring food shortages, bank runs, and rumors of approaching rebel armies bent on hanging federal officials. The authors' well-paced narrative captures the suspense of the ordeal and the Union's achievement in improvising a defense from scratch. This vivid portrait of a weak and jittery Washington turns into a story of how Northern vigor and organization trumped Southern élan, presaging the larger war. 40 b&w illus.; 1 map. (Apr.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2189 KB
  • Print Length: 249 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0199759898
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (March 16, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004UA4CPU
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  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #250,161 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
55 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real page-turner! March 3, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This play-by-play description to the turmoil that followed the capture of Fort Sumter on April 13, 1861 is exciting and comprehensive, but it is the vignettes of people north or south, famous or unknown, who put their stamp on history that I found the most intriguing elements of the book. Was it providential that in her darkest hours America had the two most perfect leaders possible- Washington during the Revolution and Lincoln during the Civil War?

The siege of Washington was highly psychological as nobody from the President on down could understand why the rebel armies did not attack Washington which was a sitting duck. Communications and railroad lines were disrupted, essential supplies ran out, stores and homes were boarded up when people fled the city. There were riots everywhere and still the rebel army did not come. Washington City was holding its breath. Finally on April 23 the Sixth and Seventh New York Regiments with enough men to defend the city managed to enter Washington and the citizens went berserk with joy. Said Theodore Winthrop "Our Uncle Sam was still a resident of the capitol."

We follow Lincoln as he orders 75,000 troops. Inside the White House two astonishingly young men, Lincoln secretaries John Nicolay at twenty nine and John Hay at twenty two not only screened all of the hundreds of letters pouring into the White House but also selected who in the hoards of people tramping in and out and right by Lincoln's office got to see the President. The White House even became a barracks with men sleeping on the floor of the East room. Nicolay and Hay were a highly effective buffer that not only protected the President but kept things rolling and things in order. Lincoln knew how to choose men, one of his greatest attributes .
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb historical analysis... March 5, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
One of most asked questions by Civil War buffs is why the South didn't invade and capture the Union capital, Washington DC when they had the chance. Brothers/writers John and Charles Lockwood answer that question in their detailed, but lively written book, "The Siege of Washington".

In April, 1861, Confederate forces captured Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina. The Civil War began and the logical first step for the Confederate Army would be to march north and capture Washington. The city, surrounded by Maryland and Virginia, both slave-owning states, was ripe for the picking because it had inadequate protection by Union forces. For twelve days, the citizens of Washington waited for the coming attack. Some residents with southern sympathies and allegiances would have welcomed Confederate takeover, while most others - with Union ties - had real cause for concern. The capture of Washington by southern forces would have dealt a crippling blow to the Union cause, both psychologically and in actual terms of warfare.

But if the citizens of Washington were of mixed loyalties, the Union forces in the north were not entirely united. Newly inaugurated president Abraham Lincoln sent pleas to the northern states to send men and materiel south to defend the city. Some governors answered the call, along with men who enlisted for a special 90 day period and troops began to move toward the capital. But, many were stopped north of Baltimore, where Confederate sympathisers had destroyed the railroad track that would give passage through the city. The story of how these Union forces reached Washington is told beautifully in the Lockwood book. Hint: find Annapolis on the map.

Why didn't the invasion take place in that two or three day period open to southern forces?
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It reads like a political thriller February 28, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is one of those books I couldn't stop reading. John and Charles Lockwood wrote a fast-paced narrative that gives the whole visual of what Washington DC was like after Fort Sumter was taken by the Confederates: chaotic on both sides. Its 214 pages make this just long enough to be interesting and short enough not to be repetitive or boring. It covers the political, social, economical and military history of these twelve crucial days, broken down by each of the twelve days.

Those twelve days after the shelling of Fort Sumter were trying times for the city of Washington, DC.

There's a lot going on in this narrative. The authors introduce the lead characters of this story, namely President Lincoln and General Scott (Mexican War hero), Governor Wiles of Virginia and Lincoln's secretarys Nicolay and Hay. Union state militia commanders also have a roll in this story, as well as Union sympathizers in and around DC, and various businessmen.

What makes this story so compelling are the many memoirs the authors used to compile this. Memoirs of eye witnesses that were published after the war, old New York Times articles of 1861, personal letters, soldiers, civilian volunteers, former slaves and freed blackmen all had a bit part in this urban defense that so easily could have failed. Troops were promised but there was no place for them outside of government homes and private estates. Few arriving soldiers had arms let alone combat experience. The city was open on all sides and it was surrounded by Southern secessionists. There were personal animosities among the commanding officers. Vicious rumors spread to distract either side. Cut telegraph wires and blocked railroad tracks were major concerns for transportation.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting book about the beginning of the civil war.
What a pleasant surprise this book was. Conveys the situation in D.C. that happened during the fist days of the war. I found this book to be very interesting.
Published 10 days ago by J. latsch
3.0 out of 5 stars Filled with errors, but still enjoyed the story (FYI this is a review...
I enjoyed the book. I do believe it is an interesting story that is not often told, unlike battle narratives of Gettysburg and others. Read more
Published 1 month ago by D.
4.0 out of 5 stars A story you didn't know.
Most people have no idea how easily the South could have taken Washington at the start of the Civil War. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Charles Ressler
4.0 out of 5 stars I bought it as a gift for a friend.
I liked this book. I didn't give it 5 stars because I didn't finish it before giving it my friend.

I've often thought that if the South had gone to full attack mode... Read more
Published 13 months ago by MikeR
3.0 out of 5 stars (3.5 stars) Page turning narrative, good analysis, but TERRIBLE TYPOS
This is a very readable account of events in and around Washington during the 12 days between Fort Sumter and the arrival of significant numbers of Union troops in the capital. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Ipy
4.0 out of 5 stars informative look at early days of Civil War
I thoroughly enjoyed this look at the worrisome first days of the Civil War in Washington, DC. For 12 days after the fall of Fort Sumter in April of 1865, Washington was virtually... Read more
Published 17 months ago by lindapanzo
3.0 out of 5 stars Good history lesson - extremely dry
I almost put this book down several times. I'm sure a student of the Civil War would find it fascinating, but I found all of the strategy of the Generals quite dry and at times... Read more
Published 17 months ago by hrchic
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great and Fast Paced Story of A Huge What If
The brothers Lockwood have presented a very good work regarding the precarious position of Washington City in the early days of the war from April 15-25. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Paul
4.0 out of 5 stars How the Civil War started out.
When the Confederates fired on Sumter, and Lincoln called up 75,000 troops for the state militias, Washington was in a bad position. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Kevin M Quigg
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating read!
The author has put words together in such a way that ones imagination can put him/her right in that time and space. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Robert Whitman
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More About the Author

John Lockwood is National Mall Historian for the National Park Service, and he has written many articles on Washington's history and the Civil War.. His brother, Charles [pictured], is the author of 10 books about American history, cities, and architecture, including Bricks and Brownstone, the definitive history of the New York City townhouse.

Born and raised in Washington, D.C., the two brothers have pursued life-long passions for history--one which began while they were still boys. When they visited the Lincoln Home in Springfield, Illinois, John and Charles walked around the house turning the doorknobs. "What are you doing?" their mother asked. "We want to touch the same doorknobs that Lincoln touched!"
As teenagers in Washington, the two brothers accompanied their parents on visits to battlefields at the start of the 1961-1965 Civil War Centennial. "Walking around battlefields like Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Spotsylvania Courthouse was a moving experience," recalls John. "Most locations were still surrounded by farmland and forest, and in some areas we were the only visitors. You could really feel the profound heroism and tragedy of these locations." On Saturdays, the two brothers left home to explore the Smithsonian Institution and the Capitol on their own. "In those days," the Capitol was wide-open," recalls Charles. "You could climb to the top of the dome, wander the hallways near the House and Senate, and explore all the nooks and crannies of the basement--all of it intact from well over 100 before."

Several years ago, John stumbled upon the story of The Siege of Washington when he was reading Winston Churchill's A History of the English-Speaking Peoples. There, he found a tantalizing reference that Washington was "dangerously isolated" in April 1861 immediately after the fall of Fort Sumter--a story that John knew little about, despite his deep knowledge in Washington history. John assumed, like almost every other episode of the Civil War, that a book had been published about the subject, but found none. "You've discovered one of the last untold Civil War stories," Charles told John . "You've found the needle in the historical haystack."

Working together, John and Charles Lockwood completed The Siege of Washington, which tells how the Confederates isolated Washington from the North, and how Southerners plotted to capture the city, imprison Lincoln and his cabinet, and put Jefferson Davis in the White House. "Only the last-minute arrival of Northern volunteer troops saved the city," says John. "If the Confederates had taken the city, it might have ended the Civil War before it had really even begun, radically transforming the course of American history.

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