Synopses & Reviews
A compelling re-creation of the eight crucial weeks preceding the Civil War.
In early March 1861, civil war loomed. By late April, Americans had begun to kill their fellow citizens. Cry Havoc! recounts in riveting detail the events that divided the states and reveals how quirks of timing, character, and place all conspired to transform the nation into a battlefield. Nelson Lankford, author of Richmond Burning, chronicles the eight critical weeks that began with Lincoln's inauguration through the explosion at Fort Sumter and the president's fateful response to it. Before Fort Sumter, the balance could have tipped in favor of a peaceful resolution. This book addresses the many mighthave-beens, both familiar and lesser known. What if Lincoln had delayed the proclamation calling for troops? Could wavering Unionists in the upper South have held the line?
A must read for all who wish to understand the birth of the modern United States of America, Cry Havoc! probes the fateful series of events and analyzes each of the failed possibilities that hindsight affords.
"Might-have-beens haunt this absorbing study of the opening act of the Civil War. Historian Lankford (Richmond Burning) focuses on March and April of 1861, months when the future, he feels, was up for grabs. The crucial political struggle then, he argues, was for the Upper South: the eight slave states that had not yet joined the newborn Confederacy, where pro-Union sentiment was initially strong and whose loyalties would decide the war. Lankford minutely examines critical events and their effect on Upper South Unionists and the debate over secession, particularly in Virginia and Maryland, emphasizing the importance of individual decision-making in this volatile period. For him, history is contingency if Lincoln had evacuated Fort Sumter without a fight, or not called up troops to suppress the rebellion, or if Lincoln's generals had treated Maryland less gently, then the Upper South might have remained loyal, or neutral, or plumped more decisively either for the Union or the Confederacy. His underlying historiographical point that the conflict might have been finessed so as to save the Union without a devastating war is a none-too-convincing imponderable. But it frames a lucid, often dramatic account of how the nation's confusion and anxiety finally gelled into clear-cut lines of battle. Photos." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"One of the virtues of Mr. Lankford's approach is to put readers in the minds of ordinary Americans trying to make sense of volatile events." New York Times
"[T]his well-reasoned work is a useful addition to a controversy that will be debated eternally." Booklist
"Lankford cites contemporary newspapers and journals and letters fromordinary citizens of both regions, as well as from national leaders....[A] good summary of the run-up to our nation's most destructive conflict." Kirkus Reviews
"Disturbs the time-honored march of history with a series of provocative what- ifs."
-The New York Times Book Review*
"Captures the drama and complexity of this volatile period [and] reminds readers that . . . events could have taken a different path. Anyone interested in the background of our greatest national crisis will find Cry Havoc! hugely rewarding."
-Gary W. Gallagher, author of The Confederate War
A re-creation of the eight weeks preceding the American Civil War vividly describes such events as Lincoln's inauguration, the attack at Fort Sumter, and Lincoln's call-to-arms proclamation, in an account that also considers if the conflict could have been peaceably avoided. By the author of Richmond Burning.
A "compact, engrossing narrative"* that vividly reimagines the events that led to the outbreak of the Civil War
What separates historian Nelson D. Lankford's engaging examination of the causes of the Civil War from other books on the subject is its willingness to consider the alternative possibilities to history. Cry Havoc! recounts in riveting detail the small quirks of timing, character, and place that influenced the huge trajectory of events during eight critical weeks from Lincoln's inauguration through the explosion at Fort Sumter and the embattled president's response to it. It addresses the what-ifs, the might-have-beens, and the individual personalities that played into circumstances-a chain of indecisions and miscalculations, influenced by swollen vanity and wishful thinking-that gave shape to the dreadful conflict to come.
About the Author
Nelson D. Lankford is the author of Richmond Burning and The Last American Aristocrat and the editor of Eye of the Storm and Images from the Storm. He edits The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography.
Table of Contents
Cry Havoc! Prologue: Harpers Ferry, October 1859
1. Faithfully Execute
Washington, D.C., March 4, 1861
2. Wait And See
3. Toujours La Politesse
Washington, D.C., Early to Mid-March
4. Contrivances Of Delay
5. Collision Course
Late March to Early April
6. Flash Point
Charleston, April 12
7. Tidings Of War
April 12 to 15
8. Cheated And Deceived
April 15 to 17
9. Give The Old Lady Time
Richmond, April 15 to 17
10. John Brown In Gray
Harpers Ferry, April 17 to 18
11. Burning Bridges
Baltimore, April 17 to 19
Washington, D.C., April 18 to 21
13. Broad Stripes And Bright Stars
April 18 to 21
14. Sunday Rest
Gosport Navy Yard, April 21
15. Wild Excitement
Baltimore, April 20 to 21
16. Countless Rumors
April 21 to 25
17. Dismembering The Nation
Late April to Early May
Epilogue: Spring 1865
Maps appear on pages 14, 52, 140 , and 160