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.
the advance, while disaster and shame lurked in the rear. With the egoist’s want of imagination about other people’s feelings, Pope expected that his address would create “a cheerful spirit” in his men. Its effect was to make him an object of dislike and ridicule, not only to the Army of Virginia, but to all the soldiers of the East. The Army of the Potomac despised him for a sneering outsider, and gibed at the boast, attributed to Pope, that his headquarters were in the saddle. Late in June,
could give them no encouragement, he told them. There was agony ahead for the people, and they were not prepared for it. The army did not realize that they were in a terrible war that had to be fought out. General Lee brought his army through the passes of the Blue Ridge, and occupied Culpeper Court-House, between the Army of the Potomac and Richmond. For Mr. Lincoln, it was the deciding factor. On November 7, General Catharinus P. Buckingham, Stanton’s confidential Assistant Adjutant General,
signals of a great renovation of the White House. All its elegance was concentrated in the parlors, where the furniture, which dated from the time of Monroe, was handsome in its antique way; but even in these much admired rooms the decorations were soiled and shabby. At the session preceding an inauguration, it was customary for Congress to make an appropriation, to be expended under the direction of the President, for refurnishing the Executive Mansion. Mrs. Lincoln had twenty thousand dollars
would send someone the next day. Wilson got action. In the small hours, Quartermaster General Meigs and his staff galloped to the Sixth Street wharf. The next morning, there was a reorganization in Fredericksburg. Meigs ordered the houses of the citizens opened to the wounded, and arranged for them to receive food from the supplies in the town. Soon after, the water route to Fredericksburg and the railroad to Aquia Creek were both opened, and the distressful transportation to Belle Plain was at
rebellious minority and clung to the hope that secession would be repudiated by the people of Virginia. General Scott cherished no such illusion. Now he spoke of the soil of his native State as enemy’s country, repeating the strange phrase over and over again. Scott had been persuaded to move from Cruchet’s to Mrs. Duvall’s boardinghouse on the Avenue above Seventeenth Street. People nervously observed that the General was keeping close to the War Department, with a guard of soldiers posted in