Reveille in Washington, 1860–1865
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.
Satisfied. They charged him with imbecility, cowardice and treason because he had been slow in moving from the Peninsula and had withheld support from Pope. Chase carried around a protest, addressed to the President, which he and Stanton had prepared for the signature of the other Cabinet members. It enumerated McClellan’s offenses, and demanded his immediate dismissal from the army; but Chase’s real opinion was that the general ought to be shot. In the afternoon, agitated crowds gathered around.
Fall of Washington. To prevent arms and ammunition from falling into the hands of the enemy, he had given orders to ship the Arsenal stores to New York. In Stanton’s office, the important papers had been gathered into bundles which could be carried by men on foot or on horseback. On Tuesday morning, gunboats were anchored in the Potomac. The steamer Wachusett was making her way to the Navy Yard—ready, said McClellan, to take the President and Cabinet to a place of safety. Neither then nor in any.
Stovepipe hat, was an unmistakable target, even in the dark. Lincoln sometimes walked out alone at night on informal visits to the theatre, dropping in for a half-hour of diversion at Ford’s or Grover’s. In the summer of 1862, the Lincoln family had moved to the isolated cottage at the Soldiers’ Home over the protests of the President’s friends, advised of secret service reports of assassination plots. They were especially alarmed by Lincoln’s habit of riding unaccompanied, frequently after.
Had become hysterical over the separation from her husband. Colonel Edwin Sumner was a very angry old soldier, thwarted in the performance of his duty; and Colonel Ellsworth had expected their train to be mobbed in Baltimore. To counteract the depression, Bob Lincoln had led the party in a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” as the cars crossed the Maryland line. Leaning on the arm of Mr. Seward, Mrs. Lincoln entered the hotel, and was received in the thronged hallway by the Messrs. Willard.
Lieutenant-general Mar. 12—Grant made commander-in-chief Apr. 8—Federal defeat at Sabine Cross Roads, Louisiana, forecasts the failure of the Red River expedition Apr. 12—Confederates capture Fort Pillow, Tennessee, and massacre the Negro garrison May 4—Army of the Potomac crosses the Rapidan —Western armies advance into Georgia May 5–12—Battles of the Virginia Wilderness May 9–July 17—Almost daily battles in Georgia in Sherman’s slow advance toward Atlanta May 15—Federals defeated at New.