Lincoln's Citadel: The Civil War in Washington, DC

Lincoln's Citadel: The Civil War in Washington, DC

by Kenneth J. Winkle


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The stirring history of a president and a capital city on the front lines of war and freedom.

In the late 1840s, Representative Abraham Lincoln resided at Mrs. Sprigg’s boardinghouse on Capitol Hill. Known as Abolition House, Mrs. Sprigg’s hosted lively dinner-table debates of antislavery politics by the congressional boarders. The unusually rapid turnover in the enslaved staff suggested that there were frequent escapes north to freedom from Abolition House, likely a cog in the underground railroad. These early years in Washington proved formative for Lincoln.

In 1861, now in the White House, Lincoln could gaze out his office window and see the Confederate flag flying across the Potomac. Washington, DC, sat on the front lines of the Civil War. Vulnerable and insecure, the capital was rife with Confederate sympathizers. On the crossroads of slavery and freedom, the city was a refuge for thousands of contraband and fugitive slaves. The Lincoln administration took strict measures to tighten security and established camps to provide food, shelter, and medical care for contrabands. In 1863, a Freedman’s Village rose on the grounds of the Lee estate, where the Confederate flag once flew.

The president and Mrs. Lincoln personally comforted the wounded troops who flooded wartime Washington. In 1862, Lincoln spent July 4 riding in a train of ambulances carrying casualties from the Peninsula Campaign to Washington hospitals. He saluted the “One-Legged Brigade” assembled outside the White House as “orators,” their wounds eloquent expressions of sacrifice and dedication. The administration built more than one hundred military hospitals to care for Union casualties.

These are among the unforgettable scenes in Lincoln’s Citadel, a fresh, absorbing narrative history of Lincoln’s leadership in Civil War Washington. Here is the vivid story of how the Lincoln administration met the immense challenges the war posed to the city, transforming a vulnerable capital into a bastion for the Union.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393349429
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 08/04/2014
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 528
Sales rank: 610,619
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Kenneth J. Winkle, acclaimed Lincoln biographer and Civil War historian, is Thomas C. Sorensen Professor of American History at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. The Young Eagle, his volume on Lincoln’s rise, is the standard account.

Table of Contents

Preface xi

Maps xvii

Part I "Abolition House"

1 "Getting the Hang of the House": Congressman Abraham Lincoln 3

2 "At War with Washington": The Abolitionists 14

3 "A Western Free State Man": Lincoln and Slavery 28

4 "Is the Center Nothing?": Lincoln's Middle Ground 46

Part II "Cleaning the Devil Out of Washington"

5 "A Wide Spread and Powerful Conspiracy": Warnings and Threats from Washington 71

6 "The Way We Skulked into This City": Claiming the Presidency 91

7 "This Big White House": The Lincoln Family 111

8 "White and Black, All Mixed Up Together": The African American Community 127

9 "A Swift and Terrible Retribution": Striking the First Blows 142

10 "Order out of Confusion": Preparing for War 165

11 "I Was Slow to Adopt the Strong Measures": Loyalty and Disloyalty 186

12 "If I Were Only a Boy I'd March Off Tomorrow": The Tide of Sick and Wounded 213

Part III "An Unknown Something Called Freedom"

13 "Tinkering Experiments": Toward Emancipation 231

14 "Freedom Triumphant in War and Peace": Emancipation in Washington 250

15 "We Must Use What Tools We Have": Toward Total War 280

16 "On the Soil Where They Were Born": The Former Slaves 301

17 "The Step Which, at Once, Shortens the War": The Emancipation Proclamation 318

18 "Defend What Is Our Own": The Limits of Freedom 342

19 "Never Forget What They Did Here": Honoring the Fallen 356

20 "Worth More than a Victory in the Field": The End in sight 382

Epilogue: "The Country Was Ready to Say Amen" 403

Acknowledgments 415

Notes 417

Index 465

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