An excellent book on the early days of the Civil War, David Detzerís historical narration of this period will intrigue the reader. He bases his book on primary sources, providing quotes throughout the book to help tell the story of this fascinating early period of the American Civil War when Washington, D.C., could have been captured, ending the war very early.
This reviewer previously reviewed Detzerís previous book, Donnybrook (2005), which is a book on the First Battle of Bull Run. The reader should consider reading Dissonance before reading Donnybrook. Detzer also authored another Civil War book, Allegiance (2002), about the beginning of the Civil War in Charleston, South Carolina, and the attack on Fort Sumter. He is also the author of The Asian Tragedy (1992), Brink: Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962 (1979) and Thunder of the Captains (1977).
The chaos of the early days of the Civil War comes through clearly in Detzerís story. The Federals and the Confederates scrambled to create an army. The United States regular army was small, and many of its officers in particular who were from the South resigned their commissions and offered their services to the Confederacy. General Winfield Scott, the commanding general of the U.S. Army, encouraged President Lincoln to call for help from the Northern states, and Lincoln followed that advice.
This action pushed more Southern states like Virginia to secede from the Union, causing further alarm in Washington since Virginia was on its border. Maryland, a slave state with many who wanted to secede, bordered the other side of the District of Columbia. If Maryland had seceded, the national capital would have been surrounded by Confederate territory. Lincoln and others worked to make sure Maryland stayed in the Union - not an easy thing to accomplish.
Detzer describes what was going on in Baltimore during this time. Baltimore, a city that Union volunteers passed through to reach Washington, was full of secessionists who rioted and attacked (killing some of) the volunteers passing through. Detzer does a great job telling this part of the story.
Detzer also covers what was going on in Richmond, Virginia, at this time, and includes the captures of Harperís Ferry by the Confederates and the capture of Gosport Naval Yard (Norfolk). Lincoln and his government would do almost anything to save the Union, even to the point of cancelling the writ of habeus corpus and other such rights. Lincoln and his government were nearly willing to take over Maryland to prevent it from seceding, but luckily its state legislature voted against secession.
Still, many secessionists moved to the South to help the Confederacy. The state song ďOh, MarylandĒ was written at this time as a poem by a man from Louisiana when he had heard about the riots and violence in Baltimore as Union volunteers traveled to Washington. The song became very popular in the South.
Washington, D.C., could have been captured if the Confederacy had realized its vulnerability - the U.S. regular army had few troops in the city and the defenses were weak - but they were too confused to gather an army to march on the city. Washingtonians formed a militia, but its members were not all to be trusted; there were many secessionists in the city. General Scott organized other militia groups, collecting men known to be Unionists who were visiting the city from other states. Some of these militias were posted in the White House and other federal buildings. Many civilians left the city thinking that it would certainly fall to the Confederacy. Luckily, the Southís army was too disorganized at this time to capture the city. They could have possibly captured the D.C. after the Battle of Bull Run but again were not organized well enough to accomplish it.
Civil War enthusiasts will enjoy this book and its lively investigation of the early chaotic days of the War. There are black and white photographs and maps, and bibliographical endnotes.