Reveille in Washington, 1860–1865
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1860: The American capital is sprawling, fractured, squalid, colored by patriotism and treason, and deeply divided along the political lines that will soon embroil the nation in bloody conflict. Chaotic and corrupt, the young city is populated by bellicose congressmen, Confederate
conspirators, and enterprising prostitutes. Soldiers of a volunteer army swing from the dome of the Capitol, assassins stalk the avenues, and Abraham Lincoln struggles to justify his presidency as the Union heads to war.
Reveille in Washington focuses on the everyday politics and preoccupations of Washington during the Civil War. From the stench of corpse-littered streets to the plunging lace on Mary Lincoln’s evening gowns, Margaret Leech illuminates the city and its familiar figures—among them Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, William Seward, and Mary Surratt—in intimate and fascinating detail.
Leech’s book remains widely recognized as both an impressive feat of scholarship and an uncommonly engrossing work of history.
Exchange. The humblest man could pocket a large bounty by donning the uniform of his country. If the people of the Union could not win this war, at least they were making money out of it. Two bitter years had made them callous to the loss of thousands of men; and above the sighs and the weeping arose a shrill new noise of laughter. People were beginning to spend money, to give parties, to dine and dance and be merry. Again, the wounded cumbered the Washington wharves, but few sightseers gathered
camp. The general had made a hasty survey of the northern defenses, which he had never before set eyes on. He took command of them next day. Quartermaster General Meigs had been ordered by Mr. Stanton to report for field service. The clerks of his office and the various quartermaster’s employees in the District and in Alexandria formed a sizable body of men, and Meigs was champing to lead them on active service. His ardor was dashed by General Halleck, who directed him merely to relieve the
but he was not permitted to move from Washington. Wright commanded the Sixth Corps, and Gillmore had been temporarily assigned to the arrivals from the Nineteenth. Advice and suggestions were not enough, Dana bluntly informed Grant. “Unless you direct positively and explicitly what is to be done, everything will go on in the deplorable and fatal way in which it has gone for the past week.” Without mentioning Halleck’s name, Dana could scarcely have made more plain the reason for the muddle in
Historical Collections, Vol. XI, Biographical series, Vol. 1, 1923. Clement, Edward Henry. The Bull-Run Rout, Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, March 1909. Clements, Bennet A. Memoir of Jonathan Letterman, 188?. Coggeshall, E. W. The Assassination of Lincoln, 1920. Coolidge, Louis A. Ulysses S. Grant, 1917. Cox, Samuel S. Three Decades of Federal Legislation, 1886. Cox, Walter S. “Reminiscences of the Courts of the District,” The Washington Law Reporter, Vol. 23, 1895.
and wounded soldiers, cashiered officers, friends of persons accused of disloyalty, chaplains, prostitutes, weeping wives and faltering old fathers. They were not invariably received in the order of their coming. Now and then, sometimes from caprice, Mr. Stanton would call an individual from his place. But, rich or poor, old or young, no one was permitted to delay the march of the procession. Across the stammered entreaties, Stanton’s arbitrary answer dropped like a sledge hammer. At the end of