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Reveille in Washington, 1860-65

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  207 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
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
ebook, 624 pages
Published June 7th 2011 by NYRB Classics (first published 1941)
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Jan 21, 2015 Tony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
31. REVEILLE IN WASHINGTON. (1941). Margaret Leech. *****.
Ms. Leech garnered the first of her two Pulitzer Prizes for History with this exacting story of the city of Washington during the years of the Civil War. She begins just as Buchanan was leaving office and Lincoln was slated to be sworn in. Even this simple statement gives rise to numerous tales of the ordeals that Lincoln had to go through just to get to Washington for the ceremony. The city itself was in the process of becoming a capitol
Apr 09, 2016 Steve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an in-depth, highly detailed look at life in Washington D.C. during the Civil War. From James Buchanan's intense desire to get the heck out of town to Edward Stanton's horrific mistreatment of the conspirators who in ways small and large helped John Wilkes Booth to achieve eternal infamy, it's ridiculously enthralling. Packed with tales of soldiers waiting for war, of politicians jockeying for position, of prostitutes plying their trade, of theaters and hotels making money, of secessioni ...more
May 31, 2009 Raymond rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“That winter, the old General moved from the rooms he had rented from the free mulatto, Wormley, in I Street to Cruchet’s at Sixth and D Streets. His new quarters, situated on the ground floor–a spacious bedroom, with a private dining-room adjoining–were convenient for a man who walked slowly and with pain…
“In spite of his nearly seventy-five years and his increasing infirmities, the General was addicted to the pleasures of the table. Before his six o’clock dinner, his black body servant brough
Sep 01, 2014 Ed rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was interested in reading this book as one that would give me a feeling for the 'home front' during the Civil War. Drawing on newspaper accounts, memoirs etc, it does do that. Much of what Leech presents is quite interesting. Unfortunately my tastes, it was simply too anecdotal. Some sections as, for example, descriptions of the tent hospitals prisons were engrossing. In other places Leech goes on about particular people in a way that seemed gossipy. Her presentation of the way various battles ...more
Paul Haspel
Jul 31, 2015 Paul Haspel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: washington-dc
Reveille, as every American soldier knows, is the sunrise bugle call that tells every fighting man and woman in the United States’ armed forces, every day, that the time has come to get up and go to work. And when historian Margaret Leech gave her magisterial 1942 study of Civil War Washington, D.C., the title Reveille in Washington, 1860-1865, she may have meant more by her title than simply indicating that the notes of reveille -- what soldiers have often described as you’ve-got-to-get-up, you ...more
This is a wonderful book about how the Civil War changed the city of Washington from a derided and lampooned muddy "village" with a scattering of buildings to the hub of a national, centralized, federal government. The War itself is discussed only to the extent it affected the residents of the City -- how news came to the residents first from the streams of casualties coming to Washington hospitals up the Potomac River from the front; how Confederate sympathizers continually disrupted daily life ...more
Leech’s Reveille in Washington is a full-strength view of the times and temperament of the capital during the Civil War years 1860–1865. It conveys that the difference between the sympathies of the North and the empathies of the South weren’t always that great. While at times the narrative seems more like an order of battle for the Army of the Potomac and its ever-changing leadership, the book touches on many topics: such as the civilian attempts of Lincoln and Stanton to direct the military bat ...more
Susan Roueche
Feb 05, 2013 Susan Roueche rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I very much enjoyed Reveille in Washington. Margaret Leech brought to life for me what Washington was like during the days when Lincoln walked those streets. I feel like I could walk down 1860's streets of the city then and somewhat understand the politics, social issues and concerns broiling in such a combative and controversial time. I enjoyed learning about those leaders serving around Lincoln and am reminded of how a person's political and personal ideas can impact history. I can look at the ...more
Nov 13, 2012 Bruce rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I’ve long had a vague impression of the Civil War as a protracted war of attrrition, pitting an undermanned and undersupplied, but resourceful South against a politically-disorganized Union whose floundering efforts were exacerbated by an ever-changing series of inexperienced military incompetents. Little information is presented here to alter or inform this view. Either the Civil War was a tedious, meandering parade of daily urban trivia, or this book is a massive disappointment.

It’s beautifull
May 18, 2011 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book in preparation for a Civil War Round Table trip I was to take but was unable to do so. It is a GEM! Anyone interested in the Civil War, or Washington D.C. will be fascinated by Margaret Leech's very readable scholarly description of life in our nation's capitol during one of our country's most defining moments. Washington D.C. then, was not the beautiful pristine place it is today. The capitol building was not complete the dome looking like a cracked egg shell. The Washington Mo ...more
Nicholas During
Jul 12, 2011 Nicholas During rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most readable history books I have read in a long time. I usually steer clear of Civil War books, they connote a Christmas present for Grandfather too much. But I was pleasantly surprised at both how much I enjoyed reading this book, and how interesting the subject was.

The focus is Washington D.C. during the Civil War, both the politics happening in the Lincoln and local administration, and also the battles fought in the surrounding areas. Leech gives the characters great pers
Louisa Smith
Mar 03, 2014 Louisa Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An exhaustive look at Washington DC during the Civil War years. I'm typically a fast reader, but it took me 6 weeks to read this book. There are so many names to keep straight and battles and different political factions and dates. (I should have made more use of the handy appendices in the back of the book.) It was written in the forties, so some words and phrases are out of date, so I had to stop and look things up in the dictionary.

I grew up on the West Coast and came away with the simplistic
Tom Wascoe
Jan 22, 2016 Tom Wascoe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well researched topic. Deals with Washington during the Civil War years. Does not focus on the main events such as Lincoln's death or on Gettysburg but rather uses these historical events to discuss the reaction of the populace, politicians, military leaders, etc. to the events. Fascinating book although clearly an historical work.
Washington Post
Although written more than 70 years ago, this remains one of the finest histories of what life was like in the capital during the Civil War.

“There were people who loved Washington, not alone with an habitual affection for warm firesides and growing gardens, but because they found enjoyment in the particular life the town afforded. They derived a vicarious excitement from the proximity of Government, and from the many rumors of which Washington was the sounding box. They watched with pride and pl
David Bird
Nov 04, 2012 David Bird rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I recommend this especially to other DC locals. It tells the familiar story from a unique perspective; events unfold not according to straight chronology, but rather the order in which news of them reached the city. The effect of this for a modern reader is the stark reminder of the great difference of an age in which news was not instantaneous, when setting off on a voyage could lead to gaps of years in getting word about family and friends. Leech selects many evocative sources, and follows viv ...more
Nov 30, 2014 Jeff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent book. The book describes life in Washington during the Civil War and reveals valuable insights and anecdotes of a different era in this "southern" city during a time of national crisis. Well-researched and well-written (the book won a Pulitzer Prize) the book was published around 1940. Its writing style reflects the time when it was written; slightly more formal than books hitting the market today. This book is now long forgotten by the public--unfortunately--but it left an ...more
Nov 12, 2015 George rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic picture of Washington during the Civil War and portrait of poor mr Lincoln beset on all sides
Jennifer Steinhoff
I loved that this book was totally DC-centric; it's a perspective on the Civil War that you don't get very often, but it was one that allowed me to better understand and grasp how the War changed America. You don't get much information about individual battles (I think Antietam gets about a paragraph and Gettysburg gets about a half a page), but you do get extensive analysis of Washington's reaction to the wins and the losses. This book gives a fuller picture of what it was really like to be liv ...more
Aug 19, 2016 Constantine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Think you've read all you want to or can stand about the Civil War? Read this. It's great.
Nov 17, 2012 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked up this book in a used bookstore, with no previous knowledge of it. What a serendipitous choice!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book as a portrait of Washington in the 1860s. The author's choice of words is a bit out of kilter with the words we would use today (her terms of reference to African Americans would not be today's choice) but her description of the electrifying impact of the Emancipation Proclamation could have been written yesterday.

Hats off to Margaret Leech for a well-written a
Alvin Steingold
Mar 08, 2013 Alvin Steingold rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
At the time I read this book it was considered a classic and the book and its author had received a Pulitzer.

Until I saw it listed I had not thought about it in years. Now I am anxious to find a copy for a re-read.

My memory of the book is that it was incredibly well written, entertaining yet scholarly, and gave me the feeling that I was living in the period. Of course I was sixteen when I read it. After I read it again I'll write more.
Dec 02, 2012 Allyson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent... Having always been an avid history nerd, this book lent a totally new perspective to the years surrounding the civil war. Events I'd always understood from within the context of the war itself, made totally new sense from the story told from within the capital. It also added considerable depth to my understanding of how the federal ideals transformed prior to this test of our union...
Michael Roueche
Jun 16, 2012 Michael Roueche rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It’s a wonderful read about the history of the District of Columbia during the Civil War, factual but with the feel of quality fiction. The book has been around since 1941 and won the Pulitzer Prize. The latest edition, which I don’t have, has an introduction by James McPherson. Because of the nature of the District, it is a mix of the national and local story of the war.
Jan 06, 2014 Lori rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a thorough history of the District of Columbia during the Civil War years. Although it generally kept my interest, I read it over a period of time while reading other books. It was difficult to read straight through perhaps since it was a vast survey of persons and material.
Nov 02, 2015 Ellen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a delightfully written book (marred by casual references to "darkies" and the like, sigh). Leech's focus on Washington provides a unique perspective on the Civil War, focusing on how the war changed the capital from a sleepy backwater to the true heart of the Union.
Feb 28, 2013 Ian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A revelation, how to write history books that are factual, interesting and a good read. Anthony Beevor take note.
It may be 600 pages of dense text about the town of Washington during the Civil War, but somehow it is very accessible.
Jul 18, 2012 Vincent rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding!! Margaret Leech was an incredibly beautiful writer. I really enjoyed reading this book. This is a must for anyone interested in the Civil War & Washington D.C. I can't wait to read more of her work.
Aug 10, 2013 Kay rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A nice history that features the city during the civil war. Many incidents about Lincoln, but not focused on him. A lot on the difficulty finding adequate generals and how much authority would be given them.
Troy Johnson
Mar 02, 2015 Troy Johnson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very colorful and descriptive book about the happenings inside of Washington DC during the civil war.
Aug 29, 2010 Osborneinri rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Terrific history of Washington DC during the Civil War.
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NYRB Classics: Reveille in Washington: 1860 - 1865, by Margaret Leech 1 7 Oct 30, 2013 11:56AM  
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Margaret Kernochan Leech also known as Margaret Pulitzer, was an American author and historian, who won two Pulitzer Prizes in history, for her books Reveille in Washington (1942) and In the Days of McKinley (1960).
More about Margaret Leech...

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