by Margaret Leech
Margaret Leech's 1941 masterwork, Reveille in Washington: 1860-1865, presents the Civil War from the unique viewpoint of Washington, D.C. According to one reviewer, Ms. Leech's Washington is more than just the seat of government. "It was a southern city in which loyal men labored to save the Union while secessionist neighbors openly jeered at their efforts. It was at once a seat of bumbling bureaucracy, a training ground for raw recruits, a giant hospital, the habitat of Confederate spies, and, finally, the scene for the assassination of the one man who might have diminished the residue of the war's bitterness."
Within the pages of this book, you will make acquaintance with politicians, soldiers, prostitutes, spies, and scoundrels. You'll watch an endless parade of generals strut across the national stage, only to see their wounded and broken armies stream into the city's hospitals weeks later. You may find yourself wondering how the North managed to win the war at all.
At the center of this tale is Abraham Lincoln. Besieged by office-seekers and sometimes questioning the loyalty of his own cabinet, Lincoln perserveres to lead his nation to victory. You'll cheer when Ms. Leech describes Lincoln's first meeting with Ulysses Grant at the White House in 1864: "Wild cheers shook the crystal chandeliers, as ladies and gentleman rushed on [Grant] from all sides. Laces were torn, and crinolines mashed ... At last, General Grant was forced to mount a crimson sofa. He stood there bashfully shaking the thrusting hands that wanted to touch success and glory -- Donelson, Vicksburg, Chattanooga -- personified in a slovenly little soldier, with a blushing, scared face." Ms. Leech's story of Lincoln's assassination, and the subsequent trial and execution of the conspirators, is riveting.
Superbly written and meticulously researched, this Pulitzer prize-winning book is must reading for every Civil War enthusiast and anyone interested in the history of Washington, D.C.
Reveille in Washington: 1860-1865 is available in paperback from Carroll and Graf. Want to order online? Contact www.amazon.com.