Allegiance: Fort Sumter, Charleston, and the Beginning of the Civil War

ISBN: 015600741X
ISBN 13: 9780156007412
By: David Detzer Gene Smith

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About this book

Original and deeply human, this tense and surprising story, filled with indecisive bureaucrats, uninformed leaders, hotheaded politicians, and dedicated soldiers, is a clear and intimate portrait of the prolonged drama that unfolded at Fort Sumter and incited the first shot of the Civil War on April 12, 1861.The six-month-long agony that began with Lincoln's election in November sputtered from one crisis to the next, and finally exploded as the soldiers at Sumter neared starvation. With little help from Washington, D.C., Major Robert Anderson, a soldier whose experience had taught him above all that war is the poorest form of policy, almost single-handedly forestalled the beginning of the war until he finally had no choice but to fight.Skillfully re-created from a decade of extensive research, Allegiance exposes the passions that led to the fighting, the sober reflections of the man who restrained its outbreak, and the individuals on both sides who changed American history forever.

Reader's Thoughts


An excruciating history is revealed here, reminiscent in some ways of the prelude to World War I. Detzer tells the story of the shelling of Fort Sumter. We have all heard about this event in school, but little do we know of the political matters and the vainglorious romance that prefaced it.The first few chapters move slowly as statesmen probe and waffle, soldiers do their duty to the best of their understanding. No one wanted this, but it happened. As Detzer points out, not a single actor had participated in or even heard the details of an internecine conflict. They went ahead anyways, the South with secession, the North with its refusal to turn over Federal property to the rebels.Detzer gives us the city of Charleston as it unexpectedly was in 1860-61, the Southern sympathizing officer who became a hero to the North, and the frenzy that led to the emplacement of guns around Charleston’s harbor, all aimed at the brick bastion positioned to choke off all shipping to the port. We see the slaves and the freemen, the white working class, the gentry who climbed up onto their rooftops to watch the bombardment in the early hours of the morning.When it gets to the action, the author tells us of the intricacies of manning the guns and the extreme exhaustion of the Federal garrison. Civil War buffs will find this an interesting read that will fill in their knowledge of the months that led to war and the first days of a conflict that would ultimately wreck a whole section of the country. Read this slowly for the details, Savor the blunders, the blindness, and the prejudices that cleaved a nation.


This was a very informative book about the days leading up to the start of the Civil War at Fort Sumter. I was suprised at how much back-and-forth there was between the Confederates in South Carolina and the Union troops at Fort Sumter. There was almost 2 years of tension between these two groups about who would attack first. I was also suprised to learn that the Union troops were literally starving to death in the Fort. Anyone who is interested in the minutiae of the Civil War should read this book.


Most people know that the American Civil War was sparked by the events at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Detzer delivers the details and the stories behind the history in this in depth look at the beginning of the conflict.


I just finished this, and I'd give this about a 4.2. It's fairly well-researched, and the author does a decent job of breathing new life into a much-published topic. He obvious feels, and wants to convey, sympathy for Major Robert Anderson, the poor commander of the Federal forces in Charleston who was left hanging by both the Buchanan and Lincoln administrations, unable to act on his own behalf yet forced to deal personally with the increasingly hostile secessionist elements in the town.The comedy of errors that surround this event speak volumes about the ineptitude of government bureaucracy, the interference of maverick, yet well-meaning individuals, the fortitude of individual character, and the fiery nature of a group of amateur soldiers caught up in the excitement of attacking a symbol of detested authority. This is a very fast read, and I recommend it for anyone interesting in studying the opening days of the most tragic period in US history.

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