1861: The Civil War Awakening
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As the United States marks the 150th anniversary of our defining national drama, 1861 presents a gripping and original account of how the Civil War began.
1861 is an epic of courage and heroism beyond the battlefields. Early in that fateful year, a second American revolution unfolded, inspiring a new generation to reject their parents’ faith in compromise and appeasement, to do the unthinkable in the name of an ideal. It set Abraham Lincoln on the path to greatness and millions of slaves on the road to freedom.
The book introduces us to a heretofore little-known cast of Civil War heroes—among them an acrobatic militia colonel, an explorer’s wife, an idealistic band of German immigrants, a regiment of New York City firemen, a community of Virginia slaves, and a young college professor who would one day become president. Adam Goodheart takes us from the corridors of the White House to the slums of Manhattan, from the mouth of the Chesapeake to the deserts of Nevada, from Boston Common to Alcatraz Island, vividly evoking the Union at this moment of ultimate crisis and decision.
and adored not for any particular accomplishments—not for being a poet or an actor or a war hero—but simply for his charisma. Looking at the surviving photographs of him, it is difficult to discern just what all the swooning was about. A short man even by the standards of his time, Ellsworth seems almost dwarfed by his own elaborate uniforms, blooming profusions of plumed hats, sashes, epaulettes, and medals. Add his hippie-length hair and droopy mustache, and he might almost be a member of a
even more blood than the flag. Once all the oilcloth was gone, they started in on the floorboards. During the next year, thousands of Union troops, passing through Alexandria on their way to the front, would make pilgrimages to the Marshall House, their relic-hunting encroaching upon the planks of the stairs, the banisters, the nearby doors and door frames, and the wallpaper, all whittled away one sliver at a time. When Nathaniel Hawthorne visited in the spring of 1862, so much of the hotel’s
Massachusetts grew ever more steadfast in the defense of “his” contrabands, to a degree that must have shocked his old political associates. In July, when the Lincoln administration asked General Irvin McDowell to issue orders barring all fugitive Negroes from the Union lines in northern Virginia, Butler immediately fired off a letter to Washington, making it known that he planned to enforce no such rule around Hampton Roads. (By now there were a thousand contrabands in the fortress.) In a long
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quoted speeches ever given. Moderates liked Lincoln’s assurance that he had neither the intention nor the desire “to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists,” and that he was committed to enforcing the fugitive slave laws. Hard-liners applauded his pledge “to hold, occupy, and possess the property and places [in the South] belonging to the Government”—which must include Sumter. Temporizers like Seward appreciated his plea to both North and South that “nothing can