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.
proclamation, recommending that the last Thursday in November—long observed in New England and other Northern States—should be set apart as a national day of Thanksgiving. An abundant harvest had increased the prosperity induced by the boom in industry and trade. The country around Washington had a peculiar reason for fruitfulness that autumn. With the withdrawal of many encampments, farmers had returned to plow land enriched by the wastage of camps and corrals. Enormous deposits of manure in the
the sea, and was in communication with the navy at Savannah. Meantime, the Confederate army, which Sherman had left in his rear, had invaded Tennessee. Late at night, Colonel Eckert, on duty at the military telegraph office, received messages that General Thomas had attacked the enemy with success at Nashville. With two telegrams in his hand, Eckert ran downstairs, and jumped into the ambulance which was always kept at the door of the War Department. His shout of good news at the War Secretary’s
hand. It was medicine, he informed Bell. Dr. Verdi had sent him to direct Mr. Seward how to take it, and he must deliver it personally. Bell told him that he could not see Mr. Seward. It was against his orders to let anyone go up. While Bell was expostulating, the stranger was walking slowly toward the stairs. His right hand was in the pocket of his overcoat. He was very tall and broad-shouldered, nicely dressed, with a fine voice, and he “looked pretty fiery out of his eyes” at the colored boy.
to care for Negroes —Congress adjourns Mar. 4—Lincoln’s second inauguration Mar. 21–23—Troops from Wilmington and Fort Fisher join Sherman’s army at Goldsboro, North Carolina Mar. 26—Sheridan joins Grant before Petersburg Mar. 29—Apr. 2—Grant’s grand assault on Petersburg Apr. 2—Fall of Petersburg Apr. 3—Fall of Richmond Apr. 9—Lee surrenders to Grant at Appomattox Court-House Apr. 11—Mobile, Alabama, evacuated Apr. 12—Capture of Montgomery, Alabama Apr. 14—Booth shoots President
Washburne was one of Johnson’s most violent detractors. Grant rewarded his loyalty by making him Secretary of State in his Cabinet, a post which he resigned five days after assuming it, to accept the appointment of minister to France. He remained in Paris through the siege and the Commune, returning to the United States in 1877. Washburne’s friendship with Grant terminated in 1880, when a movement for his nomination for the Presidency at the Republican convention had an adverse effect on Grant’s