Newt Gingrich, William Forstchen

Grant Comes East

Ch apter One

Cairo Illinois

July 16 1863

A cold rain swept across the river. To the east, lightning streaked the evening sky, thunder rolling over the white-capped Ohio River.

The storm had hit with a violent intensity and for a few minutes slowed the work along the docks, but already sergeants were barking orders at the drenched enlisted men while rain-soaked stevedores were urged back to their labors. Dozens of boats lined the quays, offloading men, horses, limber wagons, and field pieces.

To the eyes of Gen. Herman Haupt, commander of United States military railroads, the sight of these men was reassuring. They were the veterans of the Army of the Tennessee, the victors of the great campaign that had climaxed ten days ago at Vicksburg, a victory that had come simultaneously with what was now seen as the darkest day of the war, the day Lee defeated the Army of the Potomac at Union Mills.

The soldiers disembarking on the banks of the Ohio were lean and tough, their disciplined, no-nonsense carriage conveying strength and confidence despite their bedraggled, tattered uniforms, faded from rainy marching in the muddy fields of Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Tennessee. Headgear was an individual choice. Most wore battered, broad-brimmed hats for protection against hot southern sun and torrential rains. Regulation field packs were gone; most were carrying blanket, poncho, and shelter half in a horseshoe-shaped roll, slung over the left shoulder and tied off at the right hip. Except for the blue of their uniforms, they looked more like their Confederate opponents than the clean, disciplined, orderly ranks Herman Haupt was used to seeing in the East. Few if any would ever have passed inspection with regiments trained by McClellan. These Westerners were rawboned boys from prairie farms in Iowa and Ohio, lumberjacks from Michigan, mechanics from Detroit, and boatmen from the Great Lakes and Midwest rivers. The unending campaigning had marked them as field soldiers. Spit and polish had long ago been left behind at Shiloh and the fever-infested swamps of the bayous along the Mississippi.

They already knew their mission… pull the defeated Army of the Potomac out of the fire and put the Confederacy in the grave. They came now with confidence, swaggering off the steamboats, forming into ranks, standing at ease while rolls were checked, impervious to the rain and wind, their calmness, to Haupt's mind, a reflection of the man that he now waited for.

He could see the boat, rounding the cape from the Mississippi River into the Ohio, the light packet moving with speed, cutting a wake, smoke billowing from its twin stacks, sparks snapping heavenward, carried off by the wind following the storm. The flag on the stern mast denoted that an admiral was aboard, but mat was not the man Haupt was waiting for.

The diminutive side-wheeler, a courier boat built for speed, aimed straight for the dock where Haupt was standing, the port master waving a signal flag to guide it in.

Haupt looked over at the man accompanying him, Congressman Elihu Washburne, confidant of the president and political mentor of the general on board the boat Elihu, who had joined Haupt only the hour before, was silent, clutching a copy of the Chicago Tribune, out just this morning, its front page reporting the disaster at Union Mills, the advance of Lee's army on Washington, and the riots which had erupted in New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore.

"I sure as hell am glad I don't have his responsibilities," Elihu sighed as the side-wheeler slowed, paddle wheels shifting into reverse, backing water in a dramatic display by its pilot, who had timed to the second the order to reverse engines.

Its steam whistle shrieking, the boat edged in toward the dock, half a dozen black stevedores racing along the rough-hewn planks, ready to grab lines tossed by the light packet's crew.

Ropes snaked out across the water were caught as the boat edged into the dock, brushing against it with a dull thump that snapped through Haupt's feet, the dock swaying on its pilings.

The stevedores tightened the lines, lashing them down to bollards, and within seconds a gangplank-was run over, slamming down on the deck.

There was no ceremony or fanfare, no blaring of trumpets, no honor guard racing down the dock and coming to attention with polished rifles. The door to the main cabin swung open and he came out.

Haupt had never seen this man before but he knew instantly who he was. He was short, grizzled-looking, with an unkempt beard of reddish-brown flecked with gray; his face was deeply sunburned, wrinkled heavily around the eyes, which were deep set and sharp-looking. His dark blue private's four-button coat free of all adornment except for the insignia of rank, which, Haupt quickly noted, was still that of major general in spite of his recent promotion. Slouch hat pulled low against the storm, he came down the gangplank and Haupt came to attention and saluted.

The general nodded, half saluted, looked over at Elihu, and extended his hand.

"Congressman, good to see you."

"General Grant, I'm damn glad to see you," Elihu replied. "This is General Haupt, the man who makes the railroads work."

Grant looked up at Haupt and nodded.

"Heard of you. You do good work, General."

"Thank you, sir, the respect is mutual."

Grant said nothing, gazing at him appraisingly for a moment. Behind Grant two more men came down the gangplank, and again began the ritual of salutes and introductions to Admiral Porter and General Sherman, who towered over Grant, standing as tall as Haupt, returning his salute without comment

"Let's get out of this rain," Grant said.

Haupt led the way off the dock. As they passed a regiment of troops forming up in the mud in front of a steamer, there was a scattering of cheers, nothing wild and demonstrative, just a respectful acknowledgment, which Grant responded to with a simple half wave, and nothing more.

The wind reversed for a moment, another gust of rain sweeping down, the air thick with the smell of wood and coal smoke. They climbed a slick, mud-covered road, corduroyed with rough-hewn planks, stepping aside for a moment as a gun crew labored up the slippery track, horses straining, pulling a three-inch ordnance rifle.

Haupt studied the crew as they passed. They had obviously seen hard fighting; the limber chest was scored and pocked by bullets, paint faded and scratched; the horses were lean like the men.

Reaching the crest to the bluff looking down on the river, Haupt paused for a second, letting the officers behind him catch up.

The view stirred his heart. A dozen steamboats were tied up along the dock; out across the Ohio and around the bend that led to the Mississippi came more, a long line of ships, the view lost in the mists and swirling clouds of rain.

Before him was the rail yard. Before the war, Cairo had already been a thriving port town where the rail line that led into the vast heartland of the Midwest terminated at this connection to the river traffic of two great waterways. The war had transformed it beyond all imagining, the main port of supply supporting the campaigns up the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers, and down the broad, open Mississippi to Vicksburg and now on to New Orleans and the world.

Dozens of locomotives, marshaled here over the last four days, waited, each hooked to boxcars and flatcars, some of them brought down from as far away as Chicago and Milwaukee.

The authorization the president had given Haupt had been far-reaching, beyond the scope of anything done until now in this war, or in any war. He had federalized half a dozen lines, argued with scores of railroad executives, and made it clear to all of them that they would be compensated, but as of right now he was running their schedules, and resistance would be met with arrest. Haupt reminded more than one of them that Lincoln had suspended the writ of habeas corpus and would not hesitate, if need be, to throw a railroad president in jail if he, Haupt, should request it. Elihu had already shown Haupt the editorial in the Indianapolis Journal denouncing him as the "Napoleon of the Railroads."

At the same time orders had streamed out as far away as Maine and northern Minnesota, pulling in reserves of tent-age, uniforms, shoes, rations, bandages, field pieces, serge bags for powder, pistol ammunition, horses, mules, oats, chloroform, canned milk, tinware, cooking pots, rifles, packaged cartridges for Springfields, Sharps, and Spencers. Any boxcar to be found on a siding, any wheezy locomotive that could still pull that boxcar was coming in as well, commandeered from across the country to bring forth what was spilling out of the cornucopias made of brick and iron and steam.

The nation was stirring as it had never done before, even as it reeled from the disaster dealt to it by the legions of Robert E. Lee.

The rail yard rumbled with noise, whistles shrieking, cars banging together as they were hooked up. The crews were laboring to load up wood, water, stacking up boxes of rations under open-sided warehouses. Frightened horses cried out and struggled as they were forced into boxcars, men cursing and yelling.

It looked like chaos, but Haupt knew better. He had brought with him more than four hundred of his best men from Alexandria on one of the last trains to get out of Washington before the line was cut just north of Baltimore. They knew their business and, in what appeared to be chaos, there was order. Inbound trains were being shifted to side railings, engines disconnected, run to a turntable, shifted around, greased, oiled, refueled, water tanks filled, then moved up a side track to pick up an outbound load. With the arrival of the first division to come up from Vicksburg, this machinery of a nation at war would surge into motion.

A small rail yard office, which Haupt had selected for the meeting, loomed up through the swirls of smoke and rain, the guards posted out front snapping to attention at the approach of so many stars. A gathering of hangers-on, curious citizens, and a dozen or more reporters stood back at a distance, kept there by a provost guard with direct orders from Haupt, fully supported by Elihu, to arrest anyone who tried to break through.

The reporters shouted their questions, which were all ignored, Sherman looking over at them with a jaundiced eye and muttering a curse under his breath.

"Damn them, now it will be in every paper in the country that we're here," Sherman snapped.

"They knew already," Elihu interjected. "Word of it was coming up the river your entire trip. No use in hiding it; besides, the country needs to hear it."

"Just for once I'd like to move without everyone, especially the rebs, knowing about it first."

Still muttering under his breath, Sherman followed Haupt into the room, the door closing behind them, window shades pulled down.

A fresh pot of coffee rested on a sideboard, bread and slabs of cut ham on tin plates. Sherman and Porter helped themselves, Grant simply taking a cup of coffee and sipping from it as he walked up to the table, upon which was spread a railroad map of the country. He gazed at it for a moment, then went to the wall where Herman had put up a map of northern Virginia, Maryland, and southern Pennsylvania. Red and blue pins, with small foolscap notes under them, marked the latest positions of forces.

Grant turned to Elihu.

"What's the latest?"

Elihu tossed the Chicago Tribune on the table, then pulled a notebook out of his pocket and opened it

"Washington has been cut off from all land communications for the last three days. Stuart's cavalry has cut all telegraph lines and rail lines to the capital. The line into Baltimore was patched yesterday but went down again this morning. Last report from Baltimore was of rioting. Rioting reported as well in Philadelphia, New York, and Cincinnati."

"The hell with the rioting," Sherman said coldly. "What about Lee?"

"He moved from Westminster five days ago, heading toward Washington. He's put up a good screen, no solid reports as to disposition. A courier boat out of Washington docked at Port Deposit on the north bank of the Susquehanna this afternoon with a report that Confederate infantry was reported ten miles to the north of Washington, at Rockville."

"Of course," Grant said quietly. "He has to try it. It's his one chance to win quickly."

"The rain has slowed him down," Haupt interrupted. "Every river is at flood, otherwise Lee could have been into the Washington area three days ago. Old Sam Heintzelman is in command of the garrison in Washington. He sent out some pioneer troops in front of Lee's advance. They've destroyed every bridge and mill dam north of the city and made a real mess of things."

Grant nodded approvingly and sat down at the table, a signal for the rest to join him.

Haupt sat down directly across from him, Elihu at his side.

'Tell me everything, start at the beginning," Grant said quietly, leaning back, rubbing his eyes, then putting down the cup of coffee. Fishing in his breast pocket, he pulled out a cigar, struck a Lucifer, and puffed the cigar to life.

Haupt began his narrative, describing the maneuvers that led to a meeting at Gettysburg, the flanking march of Lee to Westminster, the chaos at the supply head, the debacle at Union Mills, the disintegration of the Army of the Potomac, and the hellish retreat of the survivors to the Susquehanna, finishing with his meeting with Lincoln.

Grant did not interrupt, sitting quietly, wreathed in smoke, stubbing out the end of his cigar and lighting another one, the smoke drifting thick around the coal oil lamp that hung from the ceiling.

While Sherman stood silent, Porter stood up to stretch, walking over to study the map, reaching into his pocket for a flask, which he half emptied into his coffee. He made eye contact with Grant, motioned to the flask. Grant shook his head.

There was a moment of silence and Elihu cleared his throat.

"The political situation, General, to put it bluntly, is on the point of collapse." "Go on."

"First off, the riots. It's reported that New York is controlled by the mob; scores, perhaps hundreds dead. More than half the city has gone over to the rioters."

"What's being done?"

"General Sickles has been dispatched with a brigade of troops from his corps."

Haupt said nothing. Sickles's move had not been authorized by any real order from above. He had simply announced that as a general from New York he was going there personally to straighten things out and Herman had reluctantly agreed to give him ten trains to move his men from Harrisburg to Jersey City.

"No one had said it openly yet, but the president will most likely face a delegation from Congress, perhaps already has done so, calling upon him to seek a negotiated settlement."

"He won't do it," Grant replied.

"I know he won't. But if Washington should fall, the point might be moot"

"Then we move the capital back to Philadelphia," Sherman said. "During the Revolution we did that. The British burned us out in 1814, and we survived it."

"The capital cannot fall," Elihu replied sharply. "It cannot. If we lose that, I can promise you that the members of Congress from every border state will back off from this war, as will more than one from the Midwest. That is what you must prevent."

Grant shook his head.

"I can't guarantee that we can save Washington. President Lincoln will not want me to throw away an army on a forlorn hope, and if I rush into this fight without preparation, it will be a forlorn hope. To defeat General Lee will take time, sir, and cannot be done with the snap of a finger. If we lose this army now"-and he gestured out the window toward the boats discharging the soldiers of the West-"we will lose this war."

"Congressman Washburne," Grant turned toward his old friend and mentor, "you must convey to the president that I fully understand the political crisis we are in and I will do everything I can, as quickly as possible, in response. The mere fact that we're coming east, even if with but one division to start, will send a message to Lee, and exert pressure on him as well. It will tell him we have not given up, not by a long shot, and will force him to perhaps act rashly.

"However," Grant nodded toward Haupt, "as General Haupt can verify, it will take weeks to move a force of significant size and to assemble the fighting power needed to engage Lee.

"The president should do all he can to protect Washington but be prepared to evacuate down the Potomac and shift the capital to Philadelphia if that becomes unavoidable.

"Personally, I do not believe Lee can take Washington. Sherman and I spent months seizing Vicksburg and it was not nearly as well fortified as Washington.

"I think Lee will presently discover he can bite at our capital but he can't swallow it in the time available before I arrive in the East."

Grant reached into his pocket, pulled out a neatly folded telegram, and opened it up.

"This was from the president," he announced, and put it on the table. "It authorizes me to come east, to take command of all forces, and, as the president himself said, to defeat General Lee's army. That, sir, is my mission."

"And the capital?"

"I hope it holds but I can do nothing for it now or for weeks to come. In fact I hope it barely hangs on."


"Because it will keep Lee in place," Sherman said with a grin. "It'll be like the snake trying to swallow the hog. It's a meal too good to pass up, but once it is halfway down, he won't be able to swallow any more and he won't be able to disgorge and crawl away. He'll be stuck."

A trace of a smile crossed Grant's features.

"My mission is to destroy Lee, to bring this damned war to an end. That, sir, will take time."

"Can you and Sherman not go to Washington now, sir?" Elihu asked. "Your presence would do much to boost morale."

"It sounds like General Heintzelman is doing a good enough job as is, even though, from what I've heard, he's no great shakes as a field commander. Besides, Haupt, how long would it take to get me there?"

"Four days at least, sir, if I cleared the line all the way to the Port Deposit on the Susquehanna. Then fast packet to the Anacostia Naval Yard."

"It will already be decided by then," Grant replied, gaze fixed on the map. "Let's review the situation in Washington. What forces does Heintzelman have?"

"The garrison in the city is approximately twenty-five thousand. Mostly heavy artillery regiments, several good units. Also some small naval and marine detachments."


Haupt turned the pages on his own oversized notebook and found the information.

"Three thousand men have been dispatched from Fortress Monroe. They should be there by now. Halleck ordered that operations in front of Charleston be scaled back, half the men there, nearly ten thousand to be transported up as well. If need be, the operation in front of Charleston can be abandoned and the rest of the force brought up as well."

Elihu cleared his throat and looked over at Grant.

"Concerning Halleck."

Sherman walked around behind Grant, who sat unperturbed, silently puffing away.

Everyone knew of the deep tension that ran between Grant and Sherman on one side, and Halleck on the other. The year before, Halleck had worked vigorously to remove Grant from command of the Army of the Tennessee, blaming him for the first day's debacle at Shiloh.

"Go on."

"He has been removed from command, sir. The president will have accepted his resignation as of today; in fact the resignation was effective the moment you arrived here in Cairo."

Sherman grinned and slapped his thigh. "About damn time, I say."

Elihu reached into his breast pocket and produced an envelope bearing the letterhead of the White House.

"This, sir, is authorization by the president. As stated in the previous telegram, you are in command of all forces of the United States; Halleck's position is now yours, and, sir, you will answer directly to the president of the United States."

"Not through Secretary Stanton?" Elihu shook his head.

Herman looked over at Elihu with open surprise. Something big, profound must have happened between Lincoln and Stanton for the president to have cut Stanton out of the direct chain of command.

Grant said nothing; it was obvious that Elihu would brief him privately, later.

"Attached as well," Elihu continued, "is a statement from the secretary of the navy. Admiral Farragut will now have overall command of all naval forces, but when it comes to coordination and support of troop movements, he will defer to your orders, sir."

Grant took the envelope but did not open it. Haupt was deeply impressed by the fact that not a flicker of a smile, not the slightest gesture of self-gratification showed. Instead he looked over at Admiral Porter and nodded.

"John, I'm sorry there wasn't something in this for you," Grant said. "God knows you deserve it. We never would have had Vicksburg without you."

John Porter extended his hand.

"That's reward enough, sir, to hear that from you."

There was a long moment of silence, interrupted only by the ticking of a station clock on the wall and the shrieking train whistles out in the yard. Grant gazed at the map of the country and Haupt watched him. This man had just been given the responsibility of running the entire war. All power to do so was now focused in this room. He was not given to flights of fanciful imagination, but he found himself wondering for a second if perhaps someday a painting might be commissioned of this moment, a pensive Grant leaning over the map of the country, thinking upon what blood still needed to be shed, what destruction wrought, to bring it together again, if indeed it could be brought together again.

The second cigar burned down, a third was lit. Haupt got up, poured himself a cup of coffee that was now cold, pulling back the window shade for a moment to look out at the rain lashing down, flashes of lightning illuminating the dark river below.

"I am bringing up three corps from Vicksburg," Grant said, breaking the silence at last.

"McPherson is already coming up." He paused, looking up at Sherman. "Ord's Thirteenth Corps will follow, then Burnside's Ninth Corps along with the men he detached to Kentucky. I also want Banks's Nineteenth Corps from Port Hudson and New Orleans."

"Isn't that stripping the Mississippi down to nothing?" Elihu asked. Even Sherman seemed surprised by the announcement.

"The issue will be decided in front of Washington and Richmond, not on the banks of the Mississippi. Besides, General Sherman here will continue to play havoc with them and I'm also leaving part of your brother Cadwallader's Sixteenth Corps with him.''

Elihu smiled.

"I'd like to see my brother again," Elihu replied.

Sherman looked over at Grant with outright dismay.

"Sir, I really think I could better serve going with you," he protested. "Let me loose on Bobbie Lee and we'll show those Easterners how to fight."

Grant shook his head emphatically.

"No, Bill, you're staying in the West. Besides, this is what you wanted, a chance at independent command. You'll have a tough job. You've got to keep what we've taken, then drive what's left of the rebs out of the region with only a third of what we had before."

"Sir," and there was almost a note of pleading in his voice, which surprised Haupt.

A look from Grant silenced him.

"Hear me out, Bill. You're taking command of the Army of the Tennessee."

"What's left of it. I'll have only my own corps, Cadwallader's, and some detached units to cover five hundred miles of river."

"I want someone out west I know I can count on, who can command independently. Ord with the Thirteenth is brand-new to corps command. McPherson is superb as a second in command, but frankly I trust you more in an independent role, and that means command of forces in the West."

He fell silent again, puffing on his cigar, studying the map, and then stirred.

"Where we have failed from the beginning is in concentration. Combined, we outnumber them on all fronts, but we have piddled away our numbers. How many are garrisoning St. Louis right now, Memphis, Louisville, wandering blindly on the coast of Texas, in Florida, even in front of Charleston?"

Haupt smiled and was prepared to go into his notebook, but then realized that the question was a rhetorical one; the hard numbers could be discussed later.

"I want pressure; I want it where it will hurt them the most, at the same time to prevent Lee from being reinforced even as I prepare to meet him. Bill, that's why I'm leaving you out here. Your job will be to keep the pressure on the rebels in the West and never allow them to shift any resources to the eastern theater. We can go over the details later, before I head east."

"What about old Rosecrans and Chattanooga?" Sherman asked pointedly. Grant smiled, knowing what Bill was trying to lead him toward, and shook his head.

"Later. Your mission at first will be to mop up what's left near Vicksburg; then we'll talk about Rosecrans and eastern Tennessee."

Grant looked back at Haupt.

"I want to move the troops coming up from Vicksburg eastward from here. McPherson's First Division is, as you know, disembarking now. That's just a symbolic gesture for the moment The real effort will start in another week and they already have their orders to move."

Haupt stood and leaned over the table, moving his notebook to where he could read from it

'To where?" Haupt asked.

Grant pointed at the map.

"Harrisburg," and Haupt smiled. It was where he assumed Grant would want to move, and Haupt had been planning accordingly.

"I assumed, sir, that you would be bringing at least two corps up, and I have developed the following plan."

He quickly flipped through several pages.

"We'll need close on to a hundred trains to move the men and primary equipment for one corps, including artillery, limbers, some ambulances. Horses, except for officers' mounts, will have to be left behind, or moved up later, they take up too much space, and the forage support for the animals makes it difficult, slowing us down. Anyway we can requisition horses in Pennsylvania as needed. Pennsylvanians are angry and will do almost anything to get even with Lee for invading their state.

"I'm planning on convoys of ten trains to move in a block, the line cleared as they go, each convoy spaced three hours apart, to give time for westbound traffic to at least move a stage back up the line. We still have to keep some traffic moving west. Additional equipment is being pre-placed along the line to clear any breakdowns or blockages. The convoys will move from here to Springfield, then to Indianapolis, to Columbus, then Pittsburgh, then to Harris-burg, detouring north through Williamsport, Pennsylvania, since we cannot guarantee safety of the line skirting the Cumberland Valley. We'll have to transfer trains at a couple of points where lines don't join; that will be difficult but I'm setting equipment in place now. I've also factored in an additional locomotive with empty cars for each convoy of ten in case of breakage.

"Men will be issued three days' cold rations, barrels of water set in each car; civilian organizations are being solicited at each depot where trains will be refueled and watered, to try and provide hot food for the men, but there is no guarantee of that. Transit to Harrisburg should take three days."

"Security?" Sherman asked.

"At every major switching and bridge, state militia will be turned out to guard, also at points of transfer. Since the lines are federalized, orders have been posted that any attempts to block or delay trains by civilians will be dealt with as a capital crime."

He hesitated for a few seconds, then continued.

"I can promise completed delivery of your First Corps to Harrisburg in ten days."

"And the rest?"

'Ten days per corps after that. If the Nineteenth goes by sea to Philadelphia, that will make their movement rather easy. The bigger problem of course will be horses, mules, wagons, forage for the animals, but as I said, it's easier to find those in the East than to try and move them all the way from Vicksburg and New Orleans to Harrisburg."

Grant gave a quick nod of agreement.

"Logistical support, supplies?"

"I'm pulling mat together even as we speak. Full stockpiles of ammunition, rations, medical and auxiliary equipment are being brought in from across the Union. At the same time, what is left of the Army of the Potomac is being refitted, twenty batteries of artillery, forty thousand rifles, all necessary ammunition."

"What's left of it?" Sherman asked, the slightest hint of disdain in his voice.

Haupt could not help but bristle. The prejudice held by the western armies for the East was well-known. The Army of the Potomac was, however, his army, the one he had supported for nearly two years, and though he would not say it out loud, neither of these men had yet to face up to Bobbie Lee.

"Approximately thirty-five thousand men," Haupt replied, "counting those men that General Sickles took to New York. The bulk of them come from Sickles's Third Corps, Sykes's Fifth, and Howard's Eleventh."

"Point of concentration?" Grant asked.

"Still scattered, sir, from Harrisburg, which Sickles was holding clear down to the Chesapeake; some men are still drifting in. Every bridge over the Susquehanna from Harrisburg to the Chesapeake has been dropped, and the river is in flood; so, scattered or not, once on the north side of the river, they're safe from Lee."

"An army isn't supposed to be safe," Sherman sniffed. "It's supposed to be out there fighting."

"Sir," Haupt said quietly, forcing control, "they put up one hell of a fight. I know, I saw some of it. They lost, to be certain, but they most certainly chewed a hole into Lee as well."

Sherman bristled but Grant extended a calming hand.

"Gentlemen, we are all on the same side. Bill, we got whipped more than once ourselves, so let's not judge yet"

Sherman said nothing, shifting his unlit cigar in his mouth.

Grant looked back at Haupt.

"So you can move my corps to Harrisburg in how long?"

'Thirty days tops, for everything. I can prioritize the infantry, have all of them there within fifteen days, but it will take at least fifteen days, realistically more likely thirty to forty-five additional days, to bring up the necessary support to wage offensive operations."

"I want this done right."

Grant looked back at the map.

"There will be more, Haupt, a lot more."

"Sir, combined with the Army of the Potomac, that should give you the numerical edge."

"I don't just want the numerical edge," Grant replied, and for the first time his voice was sharp, a touch of anger to it.

"Bill, you said it two years ago, that it would take a quarter of a million men, just in the West, to crush this rebellion. That General Haupt is the edge we've always had but have never used, our numbers and our industry. By God, from day one we could have crushed this thing, at a fraction of the cost in blood, if only we had concentrated.

"General Lee is a brilliant tactician, but it seems that we have all become focused on what Lee is doing, and not on what we should be doing."

He placed a sharp emphasis on the word we, a note of anger and rebuke. Elihu, who had been sitting quiet while tactics and logistics were discussed, looked up at Grant and smiled.

"I have but one goal before me," Grant continued, "and that is the task set for me by the president of the United States."

He looked back down at the map of the Union. 'To defeat General Lee and to end this war, and with God's help we will get this job done once and for all."

Chapter Two

Headquarters Army of Northern Virginia, Rockville, MD

July 16,1863

Gen. Jeb Stuart pulled off his poncho, water streaming on to the floor. Mud was clinging to his boots as he stomped them on the entry way rug.

"God, what a mess out there," he sighed. Looking up he saw the disapproving glance of his commander at his choice of words. "Sorry, sir."

Gen. Robert E. Lee motioned for Stuart to come to the table. Gen. James "Pete" Longstreet was by Lee's side, sipping from a cup of coffee; on the other side of Lee stood Gen. John Bell Hood, newly promoted to command of the reorganized Second Corps. The room was dimly lit-half a dozen candles around the table-the small house at the edge of Rockville abandoned at the approach of Confederate forces and now serving as Lee's headquarters. Jed Hotchkiss, chief cartographer for the Army of Northern Virginia, stood behind Lee, his map of the area spread out on the table.

Lee, sighing, rubbed his eyes. He was tired, having been up all day riding slowly, weaving his way through the bogged-down ranks of his exhausted army, which had been slogging for six weary days to mate less than sixty miles. His uniform was soaked clean through, change of clothes lost somewhere back on the road, the headquarters wagon stuck in the mud.

Col. Walter Taylor, Lee's aide, offered Stuart a cup of coffee, which the general took eagerly, blowing on the edge of the tin cup and then sipping.

"Your report, General Stuart," Lee asked, putting his glasses back on to look up at his young cavalier.

"As ordered, sir, I rode a circuit of their outer fortifications and started back here as soon as it got dark. It was a difficult ride, sir. The Yankees have destroyed every bridge, mill dams are blown, one of my men drowned trying to ford a stream. Dozens of horses are crippled-broken legs, mostly-had to destroy them."

"Did you get any prisoners?" Lee asked.

"Yes, sir. Six men. Three from the First Maine Heavy Artillery, two from the First New York, and one officer, a captain, shoulder straps indicate staff, but he's as tight as a clam, won't say a word. The enlisted men were well fed, arrogant, said they hope we attack."

"Their strength?"

"Still not sure, sir. It was impossible to try and develop the situation, to trigger an open skirmish outside their fortifications. No regimental flags were shown."

"Smart on their part," Lee said, "keep us guessing."

"We did pick up a lot of newspapers in a post office at Beltsville, Washington papers mostly, printed this morning, a Harper's Weekly reporting on our victory at Union Mills and a New York Tribune from four days ago. One of the Washington papers said there's nearly thirty thousand Yankees garrisoning the city."

"Sounds about right," Longstreet said quietly.

"It also said that Lincoln's ordering up reinforcements from as far away as Charleston."

He has to, Lee thought to himself. He knows I have to come here, and now all other fronts are secondary.

"The fortifications?" Hotchkiss asked.

Stuart nodded to the army cartographer.

"Your maps are excellent sir. Just as you indicated. They're damn …, excuse me, sir, they are massive. Ditching ten feet deep, abatis, earthen walls twenty feet high in places. The fortresses are all within mutual support of each other, and connected by communication trenches. One of the heavy-artillery prisoners said they've got thirty-pounders, even some eight-inch guns, Columbiads, heavy mortars, and hundred-pound rifled Parrott guns in them. It was hard to see through the rain. Fields of fire are well laid out, each fortress covered on flanks by its neighbors. There are no weaknesses anywhere along that line, sir. They most likely have good interior roads as well and can shift to meet any threat."

As he spoke, Stuart traced out on Hotchkiss's map the perimeter of fortifications guarding the landward approach to Washington.

"Well manned?" Lee asked.

"Again, sir, hard to tell in the rain. I pushed skirmishers forward at three points and they were met with brisk firing, no lack of ammunition; they were firing heavy guns at my skirmish line from half a mile out."

Lee nodded. Of course they would. The stockpile of equipment in the capital would be unaffected by what happened to the Army of the Potomac, and their gunners would be eager to get some shots in, their first chance for real shooting since the war started.

"I placed a brigade to cover the Rockville Road, another on the Seventh Street Road, and ordered two more brigades down to cut the Blandenburg Road, the railroad to Baltimore, and anchor our line down to Uniontown. By tomorrow morning the city will be completely cut off."

"Thank you, General Stuart, you've fulfilled your orders handsomely."

"Sir, I must tell you this will be one hard nut to crack. It makes our works around Richmond pale in comparison."

"The difference is," Hood interjected, "it is us doing the attacking, not McClellan. We'll put in the best infantry in the world against third-rate garrison troops."

"Still, sir, when you get a look at those fortifications," Stuart replied, "well, it will be a hard nut, as I said."

"Do you suggest we not attack then?" Hood asked.

Stuart looked at Lee.

Lee took his glasses off again and rubbed his eyes. The hour was late, he was tired. Without asking, Walter put a fresh cup of coffee on the table beside him, and Lee sipped from it meditatively for several minutes.

"Gentlemen, the hour is late," Lee finally said. "We've had another hard day of marching. The rain and mud are exhausting all of us. I think we should get our rest Tomorrow, General Hood, Major Hotchkiss, and I will go forward to survey the lines ourselves. General Stuart, I would like for you to join us. General Longstreet, I ask that you stay here to oversee the movement of the army."

"One final thing, sir," Stuart said, and, fishing into his breast pocket, he pulled out a soggy, folded up newspaper and spread it out on the table.

"A Washington newspaper, sir, this morning." Stuart pointed to a column on the front page.

Adjusting his glasses, Lee leaned over to read it

"Halleck has been removed from all command positions and is retiring; Gen. Ulysses Grant is in command and is reported to already be in Cairo, Illinois, with his troops following."

Lee scanned the rest of the front page for a moment Reports on rioting in northern cities, a rumor that Stanton was to be fired, a report that thirty thousand reinforcements were rushing to the aid of Washington, that four batteries of guns surrounded the Capitol and two more guarded the White House. He sifted through the densely packed columns, some of it hard to read, the ink smeared, and then took his glasses off.

"I don't know this Grant," Lee said, looking around at his staff, "but his reputation is known."

"Sir, I don't think fighting against Pemberton, or even General Johnston, is indicative of his ability against us," Hood interjected.

"Still, I wish I knew more of him."

"It'll be weeks before he can mount anything effective," Longstreet said, leaning over the table to scan the newspaper.

"That is why we must act quickly, decisively, without hesitation," Lee replied.

He drained the rest of his coffee and put the cup down. He did not need to say another word. There was something in his gesture that indicated dismissal, and one by one the three generals bid good night and left, the sound of rain drumming down, echoing in the room as the door swung open. A humid breeze filled the room. As the door closed, the room regained a warm feel as the fireplace drove out the humidity.

Taylor and Hotchkiss hesitated and Lee smiled.

"Walter, I have a comfortable spot right here." Lee nodded to where a blanket had been spread on a sofa. Even though the house had been abandoned by Union sympathizers, he would not take the bed without the express permission of the owner. It bothered him, as well, that outside, most of his army was bedding down in the pouring rain, their dinner cold rations. To sleep in a comfortable bed, under a dry roof, struck him as the wrong example this night, the compromise of a sofa as far as he was willing to go.

Taylor and Hotchkiss saluted, bid Lee good night, and retired to the kitchen, where the rest of his staff were already fast asleep on the floor.

Standing, Lee removed his jacket and unbuttoned his vest. His boots were already off and he stretched, back cracking. He looked down at the map, his gaze following the traces in pencil of the route taken by his army down from Westminster, skirting to the west of Baltimore and now down to here, with Longstreet's men concentrating toward Rockville, and Hood on the road to Claysville and Beltsville.

He looked out the window, a lantern set on the road to mark headquarters barely visible as a sheet of rain lashed down, rattling against the panes.

The miserable weather, which ultimately had played such a crucial role in the entrapment of the Army of the Potomac, now was hampering his own movement. Even the macadamized pikes were becoming difficult to move on, the road surface not designed for the pounding of hundreds of artillery limbers, a thousand supply wagons, over forty thousand men, and ten thousand cavalry. The very rain that had made his decisive victory possible was now making the exploitation of that victory very slow and very exhausting, robbing him of precious time when swift and decisive movement was essential to achieve the final victory.

He let the curtain drop and returned to the table, sitting down, half glancing at the newspaper. Opening it up and spreading the single sheet out since it was uncut, he turned the paper around, pausing for a moment to look at the casualty lists for the Washington, D.C., area posted from Union Mills.

Familiar names, old comrades from Mexico, Texas, and East Coast garrisons, cadets from his days as superintendent of West Point, were there in soggy ink.

Three weeks ago they were still alive. How much all has changed, he thought. Dispatches, three days old, had come up this day from Richmond, and there was the Richmond Enquirer heralding Gettysburg and Union Mills as the greatest victory in the annals of war, rival to Waterloo, Yorktown, and Saratoga.

Maybe so, but still it continues, the war still continues. One of the dispatches, in a sealed leather pouch, was from President Davis, congratulating him for a victory unparalleled in the history of the Southern republic, and informing him that he would come north to review the victorious army and to offer, as well, a conference with Lincoln to discuss an ending of hostilities.

The implication behind President Davis's letter was clear enough, Lee mused as he picked up the coffeepot and poured half a cup. The president expects this war to be over within the month, but that means the taking of Washington, the collapse of the Union's will to fight, the draft and anti-war riots in northern cities spreading. Then Lincoln will have no choice but to seek an end to it.

It was obvious now, however, that the near destruction of the Army of the Potomac had not swerved Lincoln from his path. Lincoln had endured the frustrating repulse of McClellan in front of Richmond, the destruction of Pope at Second Manassas, the bloodbath of Union soldiers in front of Fredericksburg, and now the crushing defeat of the Army of the Potomac along the Pipe Creek line between Westminster and Gettysburg.

Somehow Lincoln had this ability to focus on the positive and to endure no matter what pain was inflicted on the Union forces. Now he was clearly pointing to Vicksburg as proof that the Union could win despite the failures in the East. He was a hard man and forcing him to negotiate was going to take extraordinary effort

In the last fight, it was the mind and spirit of General Meade and of his generals that I had to probe, to analyze, to defeat. The opponent is different now. Grant? Not for at least two weeks or more, most likely a month before he will become a factor. No, my opponent now is Abraham Lincoln, it is he I must break.

That meant Washington. If the city fell and Lincoln was forced to abandon the city, where would he go? New York? Out of the question, with that city ripped by anarchy. Philadelphia? Yes, most likely there, a symbolic move to the birthplace of the United States. But according to the paper before him, rioting had broken out in the City of Brotherly Love as in its bigger cousin to the north. A president fleeing to a city that would need to be placed under martial law would be a crippling political blow, one he could not recover from.

He looked at the map but by now there was no need to do so. Every detail was memorized, burned into his mind, every approach, every possible avenue of attack thought out, and thought out yet again.

It was indeed, as Stuart put it, "a hard nut to crack." Yet it had to be done and done swiftly. We must force Lincoln out while the northern cities still burn, while a nation scans its newspapers, reads the tightly packed rows of fine print, recognizes names of the fallen, and asks, "Why?"

He thought of the night of June 28, his epiphany as he realized that the army was not completely under control, under his direct hand, and from that realization, he now knew, had come the victory at Union Mills. He had driven his army beyond the brink of exhaustion, but that driving had taken them to heights undreamed of.

I must do that again, in spite of all, in spite of the weather, in spite of the fortifications and that waiting garrison. This was a test of nerves and the target this time was not the Army of the Potomac, it was the mind of the president of the United States.

He remembered his military history, how after Cannae Hannibal had inexplicably hesitated, giving Rome time to prepare, so that when the Carthaginian army finally did march up to the gates of that city, it could not be taken. Thus the fruits of that great victory were in the end squandered; the war had dragged on for another decade and led to ultimate defeat and finally to the destruction of Carthage.

I must strike now, it must be one solid blow, every available man must be brought forward. The cost will be horrific, a frontal assault straight in, most likely on Fort Stevens. How many will I lose? Five, perhaps ten thousand, upward of a quarter of my men in half a day. One final, terrible price. With luck the garrison will panic once the outer shell breaks and the city itself can be taken then without the grim prospect of a street-by-street fight.

Lincoln? Any dream of capturing him was remote. He would remove himself, take ship, and escape. It would not be the act of a coward. It would be a political necessity, though the abandoning of the capital would spell his doom nevertheless.

He knew that was yet another reason why President Davis was coming north, with the hope of a triumphal march into the White House, there to receive the ambassadors of every European power.

That would be the deciding moment, when word of the fall of Washington was passed on to Europe. Recognition, at least by France and the Hapsburgs, would be certain and, as it was in the winter of 1777 after the British surrender at Saratoga, so it would be in the late summer of 1863. Military victory would lead to diplomatic recognition and support that would then lead to the final victory.

England would not join the others. The antislavery movement in England outweighed any economic or balance-of-power considerations.

He knew that with the perception of victory now so close, any suggestion that the South counter the Emancipation Proclamation with its own announcement of some form of manumission would fall upon deaf ears. But to do so at this moment of victory would strengthen their hand, and perhaps sway England as well. Then it truly would be a final blow.

This is not my arena, he realized. This is a political, a social question; I must focus on the military-and he pushed the contemplation aside.

Take Washington, then let Grant come east to that news. With good fortune there would be no fight with him, for the war would already be over.

Lee blew out die candles, left the table, and knelt on the hard, rough plank floor, lowering his head in silent prayer.

"Thy Will be done," he finally whispered and, curling up on the sofa, he drifted into exhausted sleep.

The White House

July 16 1863

It was nearly midnight. President Lincoln stood alone, gazing out of the second-floor office window. The grounds of the executive mansion were a garrison this night, artillery pieces positioned at the four corners, a second battery positioned and unlimbered on Pennsylvania Avenue, along with four companies of regular infantry encamped on the lawn facing Lafayette Square. Stanton had actually wanted the troops to dig in, to build barricades, an indignity to the building and to the position. The president had refused.

Across the street the lights of the Treasury Building were ablaze, couriers riding up with a clatter of hooves, muddy water splashing. Officers came and went, each one with purposeful stride, as if the entire fate of the nation rested upon them this night as indeed it might.

He looked back over his shoulder. John Hay, his twenty-five-year-old secretary, was asleep, curled up on a sofa. The house was quiet. Mary had insisted, earlier in the evening, that at least Tad should be evacuated, and there had been a row. It had dragged on for nearly an hour, her in tears, saying that he didn't care for the well-being of Taddie and was only thinking of what the newspapers would say.

She had finally settled down, calling Taddie in to sleep beside her, and now there was peace.

In part she was right and he knew it, the realization troubling. Every paper would scream a denouncement if he did evacuate his family, ready to point out that while he worried about his own kin, tens of thousands of others had died.

Evacuation was out of the question, and besides, if it ever did come to capture, he knew that Mary and Tad would be treated with the utmost deference by Lee.

An outrageous report had just come to him this morning, that Lee's son, taken prisoner last month, was languishing in a dank cell in Fortress Monroe, nearly dead from his wound. He had sent a sharp reprimand to the commandant, and ordered that the prisoner be slated for immediate exchange as a wounded officer. It was not to curry favor. It was simply the civilized thing to do. He knew Lee would do the same without hesitation.

Strange that the two of us are enemies. I did offer him command of all the Union armies in 1861. A tragedy he turned me down. With his leadership the Union would have been restored quickly and decisively. From the west-facing windows of the White House, he could see Lee's old home, inherited through his wife and now confiscated by the Union, dominating Arlington Heights. Though they were of different backgrounds and social status, he felt an affinity toward the man. He sensed that Lee wished this thing to be ended as well, while across the street there was more than one officer this night who revelled in the power and in the sheer destruction, the opium-like seduction that war could create, the smoke of it seeping into the lungs to control and to poison the mind.

McClellan was like that, so was Hooker, they loved it, the power, the pageantry, the shrill dreams of glory. Perhaps in another age that illusion might have been real, in the time of Henry V, or of Julius Caesar. At least it seemed that way upon the stage and in paintings. But he remembered Antietam, the first battlefield he had ever walked upon, the air thick with the cloying stench of decay wafting up out of shallow graves, soldiers still burning the carcasses of dead horses, the hospital tents overflowing with wounded and hysterical boys struggling before the final fall into oblivion.

He had seen it in the eyes of so many women, young girls, vacant-eyed fathers dressed in black. No longer would the gay tunes of a martial band bring a smile to their faces, only the memory of a son, a husband, a boy who had heard that music and marched off… never to return.

"God, will this ever end?" he whispered.


It was Hay, stirring, looking up at him, ready to return to his desk to write down another memo, another order.

Lincoln shook his head and made a soothing gesture with long, bony hands, motioning for his loyal secretary to go back to sleep.

He went back over to his desk and sat down, absently sifting through the pile of papers, documents, and newspapers awaiting his attention. The flow was far heavier than usual, a pile awaiting him every morning, and no matter how fast he attempted to clear it, yet more came in throughout the day and night He pushed the papers back, tilted his chair, and rested his long legs up on the desk.

The entreaties from members of Congress, those few still in the city and the rest from around the country, would have to be answered, but that could wait The majority were simply doing the usual posturing for the home press, so they could thump their chests and announce how they had advised the president most carefully on this latest crisis.

The implied threat in more than one letter from Congress was clear. Some were already seeking a way to disenthrall themselves from support of the war, so they could claim all along that they knew the effort to save the Union would be a failure. Others were thundering about who was responsible for the disaster at Union Mills. Several members of the Committee on the Conduct of the War had announced that hearings would be held.

There was even the issue of who was now in command of the Army of the Potomac. Meade was dead; Dan Butterfield had just made it back through the lines this morning, Hancock barely surviving. In his own mind he wondered if that army even still existed or should be quietly disbanded, survivors shifted into other commands. Troops were scattered from Harrisburg to the Chesapeake; the only thing protecting that broken remnant and the cities of the North from Lee was the flooded Susquehanna. Nominally, Couch, who commanded the twenty thousand militia hastily gathered at Harrisburg, controlled the district, but the job was far beyond the capability of a general who had asked to be relieved of field command only two months ago.

Secretary of State Seward was reporting requests from a dozen ambassadors for interviews. Already dispatches were winging to the courts of Europe, with lurid details of the collapse of the Army of the Potomac, and tomorrow more would go out, announcing that the capital was under siege.

How long?

Stanton, puffing and wheezing, had arrived earlier in the evening, announcing that Stuart had been spotted in front of Fort Stevens, and then predicting that rain or not, Lee would strike tomorrow.

He looked back out the window. The steady patter of rain had eased, a damp fog was beginning to roll in from the flooded marshland just below the White House.

If he attacks, will Heintzelman be able to hold?

The general was confident, but then again, nearly all of them showed confidence until the shock of battle hit Still, the positions were strong, the men within them dry, well fed, rested, ammunition in abundance. Though they were inexperienced compared to the battle-hardened men of the old Army of the Potomac, his sense of them was that they would fight. They had endured two years of jibes and, when they came into the city on furlough, even brawls with the men of the field army, who denounced the heavy-artillery units as garrison soldiers afraid of a fight.

Dug in as they were, they'd fight, but there would be precious few reserves, with every fort on a perimeter of thirty miles having to be manned.

He stood and walked back to the window.

He wondered how President Madison had felt, standing here, watching as the couriers came riding in, announcing the disaster at Blandensburg, the fact that the British would be in the city by nightfall.

And yet the republic had survived that. There was never a question of surrender then, nor with George Washington after the fall of Philadelphia, when Congress moved to the frontier outpost of York.

For Washington in 1777 and Madison in 1814 it had been a question of will. It was the same challenge for him this night

Tonight, he knew that in a fair part of those states still loyal, will was evaporating, burning away under the heat of this war. As the horrific tally from Union Mills was tapped out to distant telegraph stations across the land, the victory at Vicksburg would be washed away in a sea of mourning and recriminations.

He was almost grateful that the city was now cut off. The chattering of most of the voices of condemnation or outright surrender would gratefully be silent in this office.

I could end this tomorrow, he thought. End it and send those boys home. A month, a year from now they would still be alive, for chances are, if this continues, they will die, if not tomorrow or the day after, they will perish nevertheless in the battles still to be fought.

He thought again of Antietam, the washed-out graves, rotting corpses half out of the ground. He remembered one in particular, obviously a boy of not more than sixteen, face visible in the clay, wisps of blond hair, decaying lips drawn back in a death grimace, silent, granite-like eyes gazing up at him as he rode past Somewhere-in Maine, Ohio, or Indiana- there was a family, sitting in a parlor, who read of that boy, the name in small print, the only sound the tick-tock whisper of the clock marking out the passage of their lives, and in their hearts was the question of why did their boy die? And they were asking that again tonight with more news of defeat Why did my boy die for a cause that seems lost?

Perhaps they hoped that there was some meaning, some cause, a dream beyond that of any individual, that their son had been drawn into that storm and disappeared forever, and yet there would be ultimate purpose, a deeper grief, that in the end would be replaced by a knowledge that through him, others now lived, that from the rich earth of his grave, something now was given back to all… forever.

What would they think this night? A logic he had always held in contempt was that the sacrifice to Mars must, at times, be sustained by yet more blood sacrifices to assuage those already dead. To give in was to render meaningless the sacrifice of all those who had already died.

And yet, this night, he did see truth in it If the war could still be won, then to surrender now would be to render meaningless all the sacrifice gone before, even that sacrifice upon the bloody slopes of Gettysburg and Union Mills.

Can it be won?

He thought of two conversations of the last week, both of them so clear in intent, not the self-serving maneuverings of the political circles about him, rather the simple statements of two soldiers who had been there. Henry Hunt, who had witnessed all of it, and in tears had asked that leaders be chosen that were worthy of the men who served beneath them. He and General Haupt, who so coolly and without emotion had said that if the men could be found, he, Haupt, could marshal the supplies and equipment to support them within a matter of weeks.

That now focused him.

Grant, more than any other, had proven his worth, and he knew without doubt that here was the general he had sought for two long years. A general who understood what he as the president of a free republic expected to be done by the army of that republic. He knew that Grant fully understood the relationship between a civilian government and its general in the field… that upon accepting command to scrupulously follow the orders of the president, which were simple, at least in concept… relentlessly move forward, unleash the full power of the North, and implement a coordinated military plan to bring about a speedy victory.

Ultimately though, that decision-the decision to refocus the industrial might of the nation, to place that might into the hands of those few men still willing to volunteer, and to let the frightful dying continue-now rests with me. Do I have the will to see it through?

He looked down again at the soldiers on the lawn. Several were gathered around a lantern, playing cards, another crowd leaning against a lamppost, trying to read the latest newspaper.

They will die by my orders, if I have the will to give that next order.

If I don't, then all meaning to what has gone before is lost. Our continent will fracture apart-and with a sudden clarity he could see all that would follow. Two nations would quickly break into three, for Texas would go its own way again, followed by four, perhaps five nations, as western states broke away. Then there would be war in Mexico and Cuba, for surely the South would turn that way, and war on the West Coast as those states sought to drive out the British north of them. And at some point war yet again, for vengeance, for control of the Mississippi, or over servile revolt and abolitionists who would not give up their cause.

Yet hundreds of thousands more dead in the century to come. And what of Europe? France would try to stage a return, would goad Spain in as well. The "last best hope of mankind" would become simply like the rest of the world, warring states drenched in centuries of blood, rather than a power that might one day step forward to transform, perhaps even to save, the world.

And it all rests with me tonight.

Though the burden was almost beyond a man's ability to tolerate, especially as he gazed down upon those who, tomorrow perhaps, would pay that price, he knew with a startling clarity what he had to do, what history now charged him with doing. With that clear, there was no longer room for doubt.

"Thy Will be done," he whispered.

Sitting down on the sofa opposite from Hay he slipped off his shoes, wrapped a shawl around his painfully thin, hunched shoulders, and, lying down, drifted off to sleep.

Chapter Three

New York City

July 17 1863

The ride up from the Jersey City Ferry had been a sobering experience for Gen. Dan Sickles. On the west side of the Hudson River it looked as if all of Lower Manhattan was an inferno. Even from across the river he could hear the rattle of musketry, a sound to be expected on the battlefields of Virginia and Maryland, but here, in his home city?

Coming up West Fourteenth Street he was confronted by chaos, a torrent of refugees, dragging trunks, pushing wheelbarrows, clutching children, pouring down the thoroughfare, trying to get off the island.

Stores lining the street had been looted, bolts of cloth from a millinery were draped over lamp-posts, taverns had been completely cleaned out, shattered glass crunched underfoot as the column advanced, while to either side a dozen or more buildings were burning.

His lead regiment, the Fifty-seventh Pennsylvania, had pushed ahead an hour ago while he waited for the other trains to disembark. He now marched in surrounded by his boys from the Sixty-third Pennsylvania, the other regiments disembarking behind them. Two companies from Berdan's old command of sharpshooters were along, as well as two batteries of artillery. He had originally planned to use his old Excelsior Brigade but then wisely thought better of it; to bring in New York boys to shoot down their neighbors might cause a backlash. His boys from the old Keystone State, having just fought a losing battle on their native soil, would be in a fierce mood to deal with traitors in their backyard. Also, since there were few Irish in these regiments, that would not become an issue as well.

As they marched, the Pennsylvania boys, most of them from farms and small villages, looked around wide-eyed at the towering four- and five-story buildings that lined the street, block after block. He could sense they were nervous. It was dark, except for the glare of the fires; panic was in the air, this was not like hunting rebs in the forest or standing on the volley line.

The column finally turned on to old familiar territory for Sickles-Union Square, Delmonico's at one corner. The Fifty-seventh Pennsylvania was already deployed out into company lines, the men standing at ease, looking about in wonder.

From every direction civilians were swarming toward them, frightened, crying, asking for shelter. Beleaguered policemen and a few state militia were trying to keep order, telling people to head for the ferries, to get out of the city.

Up around what he took to be Twentieth Street it sounded like a pitched battle was being fought, flashes of gunfire, buildings burning, a window shattering above him from a bullet.

His regiments continued to file into the square, the heavy tramp of their hobnailed boots echoing from the cobblestones, a reassuring sound to Dan, a sound of order, of discipline, of his army.

He edged across the square, there was still time before his meeting, and besides it was best to keep his "host" waiting for a few more minutes. On the far side of the square a commotion was erupting, and as he drew closer he could see an angry gathering, a bunch of toughs, brandishing sticks, clubs, cobblestones, taunting the troops.

They moved in and out like an undulating wave, pushing halfway across the street, some just drunk and shouting obscenities, others filled with some wild animal rage, shaking clubs, screaming at the soldiers to come on in and fight, then edging back, and some were just consumed by the madness that comes over a wild crowd, some of the participants laughing, dancing, shouting gibberish.

The men of the Fifty-seventh stood nervously, having formed a front of two companies at an angle just inside the park, bayonets fixed and lowered.

The mob started to grow, more pouring in from back alleys. Looking up, Sickles saw some leaning out of windows, looking down; he was not sure if they were rioters or just onlookers.

Dan rode up behind the two companies, a nervous major looking up at him.

"They just started coming in like this, sir," the major said, voice actually shaking. He couldn't remember the man's name but recognized him, a good soldier when the battle was in a field or woods, but this situation was unnerving him. He could sense it in the men as well.

A brick came sailing across the street, a soldier cursing, dropping his rifle, falling back from the line. A cheer went up from the mob.

"Are your men loaded?" Dan asked.


"Primed and loaded?" "Yes, sir."

Dan waited. In his years working the wards of New York he knew these people on the other side, perhaps more than one had voted for him for Congress so long ago. He knew their tempers, their moods, their gutter leaders. With luck, one of those leaders would know whom he was facing and call his mob back. But if it was going to start for real, here was as good as any place.

The mob did not disperse, more bricks started to fly, the two companies backed up a dozen paces, and there was a momentary standoff. And then the moment came.

A drunk rioter staggered out, holding a battered American flag aloft, threw it to the ground, unbuttoned, and started to urinate on it, the mob roaring with delight

An angry cry went up from the Pennsylvania soldiers. Among them, even a captured rebel battle flag would have been treated with far more respect. It was a sacrilege to any who had followed the colors forward into battle. Dan stood in his stirrups.

"Boys, we've shed blood for that flag! Our brothers have died for that flag! Take aim!"

With a resolute will, a hundred rifles were brought to the shoulder and lowered.

The mob hesitated.

"Disperse now, you damn bastards!" Dan shouted.

Some of the mob turned and started to run; he gave them enough time to get off and away, but the rest actually stood there, taunting, some beginning to surge forward again.


The volley swept the street comer. Dozens dropped. "Reload!"

There was a sharp, practiced precision to their work as they drew cartridges, reloaded, brought their weapons to the ready.

The street corner was cloaked in smoke, dozens were on the ground in front of them, the mob was gone. Dan turned to the major.

"If they come back, don't hesitate to shoot. Now get those wounded taken care of, find that flag and have someone clean it."

The major, a bit startled by what had just happened, could only salute.

"Remember, men," Dan shouted. "These are traitors and rebels, the same that we faced in Virginia. The difference is, at least our enemies in Virginia were soldiers like us, who fought with honor."

To his surprise a ragged cheer went up, as if his words had calmed their fears about what they had just seen and done.

He turned and rode back across the square. A bullet hummed by, striking and chipping the brick wall beside him. He looked across the square. It was impossible to see where it had come from.

Hell of a note, he thought, get shot by some drunk Irishman after surviving so many battles.

More troops were continuing to pour into the square; another volley thundered from where he had just been, he didn't bother to look back. Reaching Delmonico's, he reined in and dismounted, several staff waiting there anxiously for him.

"The governor and Mr. Tweed are inside," he was informed. "Sir, they say you're an hour late." Sickles grinned.

"Pass the word to the regimental commanders. I want a cordon around this square, — reinforced companies at each intersection deployed and ready to fight I want some of Berdan's sharpshooters to get into buildings and watch for bushwackers, one almost got me a minute ago, just make sure they don't start shooting each other in the confusion. I'll be out shortly."

Adjusting his sash and saber, Gen. Dan Sickles strode into Delmonico's, one of his favorite haunts since the early days when it had first opened farther downtown. The owner was nowhere in sight, and he chuckled, simply nodding to the maitre d', who even in all this madness was properly decked out in full formal evening wear, though the entire restaurant was deserted except for a small gathering in a darkened corner.

Dan approached, smiling, and "Boss" Tweed stood up, his ever-expanding girth making it difficult for him to get out from behind the table.

Tweed offered a perfunctory handshake as Dan looked around. Governor Seymour with a couple of his staffers half rose, nodded, and then sat back down.

Dan inwardly grinned. He knew Seymour did not want him here. Though the man was terrified, still he would want the credit if the situation was restored.

"The mayor, where is he?" Dan asked.

"How the hell should I know?" Tweed replied. "I guess either trapped down at City Hall, or hiding."

"I sent a telegram to meet me here."

"At three in the morning, Sickles?" Seymour grumbled. "Aren't we getting a little high-and-mighty? And besides, you are the one who is an hour late."

"It took time getting my men across the river and I won't have a spare moment once daylight comes.

"Just be glad that I'm here."

Dan smiled. No sense in getting important patrons upset.

"My apologies, gentlemen, we're all tired, thank you for meeting me."

"Besides, it's a good chance for a free meal."

A waiter brought over a bottle of brandy; Dan nodded. Once the bottle was open, he took it, poured his own glass, and sat down.

"The situation here?" Tweed shook his head.

"I think we've lost control of the city. Maybe if you boys had won at Gettysburg and Union Mills, it might never of happened, or it wouldn't be so bad. But between that, the casualty lists, and the draft, the city just exploded. Except for some areas around City Hall, the financial district, and where a lot of militia were posted in the wealthier neighborhoods, the city is in anarchy."

Dan drained his glass and poured a second one.

Even within the darkened confines of Delmonico's, the air was heavy with the stench of smoke from the dozens of fires raging out of control across the city. An exhausted fire crew, walking behind their hook-and-ladder wagon, limped past the doorway, several of the men bandaged, one nursing a bloody arm in a sling. One could hear a steady rumble echoing, and it quickened Dan's blood; it was the sound of men shouting, so similar to the sound of a battle from a mile or two away. An explosion thundered, loud enough that many of the men in the square stood up, pointing to the north, and Dan could see a glimpse of a fireball soaring into the early-morning sky.

"I could have won it at Gettysburg and we wouldn't now be dealing with that mess out there," Dan announced. Tweed said nothing, intent on his opening course of smoked oysters, pausing between bites to drain his glass of champagne. The governor, flanked by his two aides who actually had more the look of bodyguards, sat with hands folded across his lap.

"I'm telling you, I had Lee square in my sights that second morning at Gettysburg," Dan continued. "I knew he was beginning to flank us. Berdan, God rest him, confirmed it just before he died. They were strung out on that road for miles and I'd of cut through them like a whipsaw. Then we could have turned and destroyed each wing of his army.

"But no, damn him! Meade and all the others just stood there like wooden Indians. Damn West Point bastards. Same thing on the march down to Union Mills. I should have been allowed to move to the right flank as I told Meade, rather than march on Union Mills. But again, no! If I had, Fifth Corps would have been reinforced rather than annihilated. And that last bloody charge, my God, what idiocy, it was worse than Burnside at Fredericksburg."

"That's past and the White House and its patronage are still in the future," Tweed grumbled, looking up from his meal. "I'm worried about now," and he gestured toward the open door.

"We let this continue, we lose this city, the blame will come down square on Tammany when it's done. You know damn well the Republicans will blame us for it, say they were knifed in the back by these riots. They will seize any excuse to blame the Irish and the Democrats."

"That's why I'm here," Sickles said. "Somebody's got to restore order and if I do it we get the credit instead of the blame. I will be the man who saved the Union after our defeat at Union Mills."

"One more day and we'll have that rabble under control," Governor Seymour snapped back angrily.

Dan leaned back in his chair, raising a brandy snifter, and smiled.

"If you wish to give the order, Governor, I will withdraw my troops immediately," and he pointed to the square.

Worried looks were exchanged around the table between Seymour and Tweed, the silence of the moment disturbed by the distant echoes of shots, another fire engine racing past, the cries of those fleeing the anarchy out in the street.

"Let's not be hasty, Dan," Seymour replied.

Dan smiled.

"We have to be hasty, Governor, or we'll lose your damn city and with it the war. For or against it at this point, you don't want to be the one blamed."

"You actually think this goddamn war can be won?"

"Think it? I know it," Dan replied coldly.

"And you're the one to do it?"

"You're goddamn right I'm the one to do it"

"Lincoln will never let you take command, didn't you see Greeley's paper today? It's Grant now."

"A drunkard and yet another West Pointer," Dan announced, loud enough that his staff and the infantry guards at the door could hear.

"You honestly think he can do anything?"

"He did take Vicksburg," Tweed offered. "He's got powerful friends, Congressman Washburne for one."

Dan snorted derisively.

"Fighting against rabble out west is one thing. Let him try and tangle with Bobbie Lee. One fight and he'll be like all the others, running with his tail between his legs…." He paused for a moment, looking into his brandy glass, "or dead."

There was no response. Staring at the glass Dan felt a flicker of pain, the memory of that field at Union Mills, watching good men go in by the thousands, only to be cut down in their turn. If only they had listened, it all could have been avoided. The revelation that had just come out, that Lincoln had actually sent a dispatch advising Meade to use discretion, that he was not required to attack, was useful in his own campaign, but at the same time struck hard into that side of him that wished to see Union victory, to see an end to it all.

If only Meade had listened; his own advice had been a reflection of Lincoln's.

"I can end this war," Dan whispered, as if to himself, taking a sip of brandy and setting it back down.

He looked back up at Tweed and the others.

"I've watched the professionals mismanage this for two long years. They don't understand volunteers. I do, for I am one of them."

"But you are not in command," Tweed replied.

"I can be."


"I want Meade to be taken care of by the Committee on the Conduct of the War."

"Good God, man, Meade is dead. Leave it rest," Seymour gasped.

"No. His memory still lingers. John Sedgwick is angling for that job, blaming me for his failure. Get your people in Congress to take down Meade before the committee and Sedgwick is hung with the blame as well."

"You forget about Grant," Tweed said. "Remember, he commands the armies."

"He's new, just a day at it. If the word comes from the White House that I now command the Army of the Potomac, he'll accept it He can't put his own people in yet"

"What Army of the Potomac?" Seymour asked sadly.

"It's still out there," Dan said heatedly. "Most of my corps is still intact. That's going to be the heart of it. I want that appointment confirmed before Grant gets east. I also want sufficient reinforcements assigned to me, the troops coming up from Charleston, Burnside's Ninth Corps; I can bring the number back up to sixty thousand in a fortnight and have the army ready to fight within the month. Then I'll cross the Susquehanna and drive Lee back into Virginia before Grant can even stir. If the rains hold I might even be able to pin Lee against the Potomac and annihilate him."

Seymour and Tweed looked at him with disbelief.

Dan smiled.

"Damn all of you. Think beyond this city for a moment. I take command of the army, defeat Lee, and all opens up. Lincoln and his cronies will be blamed for all that happened before. Even if the war drags into the following year, come next spring I take the Democratic nomination for president, and then, gentlemen, I give you the White House. Think of all that Tammany could do if we moved our headquarters there."

More than one nodded.

"If," Tweed said meditatively. "That's a very big if."

"It starts here, this morning," Dan said sharply. Draining the rest of his brandy he stood up, took the bottle that was on the table, corked it and then tossed it to one of his staff.

"Gentlemen, I'm putting this riot down and I want your people the hell out of the way."

Dan could see that he had them cornered. It was beyond their control and they knew it

"What are you going to do?" Tweed asked.

"What should have been done two days ago. I have a brigade forming up right now. I'm deploying them across the width of the island; we will seal every north-south avenue. Then sweep north."

"Why north?" Seymour asked. "The worst is in the southern wards, Five Points."

"Because that's where the money is, you idiot," Tweed interjected. "Save their backsides and we're heroes."

"My men are veterans," Dan continued, "and I'm cutting them loose. They're angry as hell after Union Mills, and I've told them this riot is provoked by rebel agents. At this point they will not stop and they will not be gentle."

No one spoke. The implication was clear.

Chapter Four

July 17 1863 9.00am

The morning fog was burning off, revealing a slate-gray sky that promised yet more rain. Taking off his hat, General Lee wiped his brow with a handkerchief. The day was already humid, the air still, warm. Mounted skirmishers rode ahead, fanned out to either side across a front of several hundred yards. A company of cavalry rode behind him, ready to spring forward if there was the slightest indication of trouble. He could see that Jeb was being cautious. During the night mere had been several probes by Union cavalry coming out of the city. There was always the chance that a unit could have slipped around the loose cordon of gray-clad troopers.

Cresting a low ridge he could see the forward line, horses tied, men sitting around smoking fires, springing to attention as word leapt ahead of his approach. Orders had been given that there was to be no fanfare, no recognition, but it was hard to contain the troopers that came down to the road, grins lighting their faces, young boys, old men, trim officers snapping to attention at his approach.

"You sleeping in the White House tonight, General, sir?" a wag shouted and a subdued cheer went up. Lee extended a calming hand as he rode past.

"The boys are eager," Jeb offered.

He could see that Most of them had fresh mounts taken in Pennsylvania; they'd been living off good rations for over a month. They had seen victory and in spite of the painful marching in the rainy fields, they were in high spirits, ready for anything. He knew that if he but whispered a few words, ordering them to form up and charge the fortifications, they would do so without hesitation.

Pressing on, he rode down into a tree-clad hollow, the muddy stream, which for most of the year was most likely nothing more than a brook that a boy could leap, now swollen, dark, coming nearly to Traveler's chest as they plunged across.

Several dozen troopers were at work, fashioning a rough-hewn bridge across the stream out of two logs and heavy planks torn from the side of a nearby barn. An ambulance lay on its side downstream, obviously flipped over when its driver had attempted to ford the torrent.

Traveler, slipping, gained the opposite side of the stream and with a quick jump took the muddy slope. The skirmishers, moving ahead, had slowed and Jeb nodded.

"We're there," he announced.

Lee nodded and without comment pressed on. Walter fell in by his side, as did Hood and Hotchkiss, the rest of the staff staying back under the canopy of trees.

"We're inside the District of Columbia now," Hotchkiss announced with a hint of ceremony in his voice.

That close, Lee thought and there was a memory of his home, of Arlington. Not ten miles away now, ten long miles and then it is oven How many hundreds of miles have we marched from Richmond, to Manassas, to Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Union Mills, and now to here? All of that, to gain this moment, at this place. One final lunge and it ends it. This one final lunge.

A couple of the scouts ahead stopped, turned, and came cantering back, the rest of the line slowing to a walk then reining in.

A messenger came up, saluting.

"It's ahead, sir, you'll see their line in a minute. Sir, it's rather close."

Lee smiled at the boy's caution. The message was clear, he'd prefer it if the general would stop now.

"I need to see," Lee said softly. "Lead the way, Captain."

The captain saluted and turned his mount, Lee following, with Taylor, Hotchkiss, and Hood following behind.

He could already see the vague outlines of the fortifications, an unnatural straight line, horizontal, cut like a razor's edge a quarter mile away. Gradually it came into clearer view as he reached the forward skirmish line. Most of the men were dismounted, carbines raised, the troopers looking anxiously toward Lee at his approach.

"Sir, would you please dismount?" the captain asked. "They've got plenty of ammunition over there and they like using it."

As if to lend weight to the argument, there was a flash of light from a gun emplacement, followed a couple of seconds later by the whoosh of a shell passing overhead, to detonate a hundred yards behind them.

Lee nodded but did not get off Traveler, who barely flinched as another shell streaked past

The young captain positioned his mount between Lee and the fort

Lee smiled.

"Captain, you are blocking my view." The captain looked to Stuart who nodded, and the captain moved.

"Sir, if they realize who we are, it means they'll shift troops here," Stuart said.

Lee said nothing, but he knew Stuart was right and, dismounting, he moved down into a shallow ravine, walked up a few dozen paces, and uncased his field glasses.

Stuart and Hood were quickly by his side.

He scanned the fort It was a significant work, a dozen gun embrasures, what looked to be thirty-pounders, perhaps heavier. He caught glimpses of troops along the parapet, Union soldiers curious, looking over the earthen wall in his direction.

A dull thump echoed and he saw the sparks of a mortar shell lazily rising up, trailing smoke, fuse sputtering. It climbed, seemed to hover nearly overhead, then came plummeting down, striking a hundred yards behind him in a splash of mud, the fuse smothered and going out.

Hotchkiss knelt down by his side.

"Fort Stevens. It always has at least one battery of heavy guns, we're told thirty-pounders, rifled. Also a battery of eight-inch mortars as you can see. Garrisoned also with a regiment of infantry. You can't see them in this mist but the forts to either flank are within easy gunnery range, enfilading the approaches with at least one hundred-pound Parrott gun in each. Anyone attempting to cross this field will be hit by guns from at least three fortifications."

Lee nodded, stood up looking to the flanks, but the mist concealed the positions.

"The military road just behind the fortifications links all positions and is well maintained, macadamized in parts or corduroyed. They can easily shift significant reinforcements in and move them back and forth to counter any move. I would assume they are doing so now and will bring up additional troops from the center of the city."

Lee focused his field glasses back on Stevens, ignoring another mortar round as it struck fifty yards to the front, this one detonating with a flash just before striking the ground.

"Good gunners," Hood muttered, "cut the fuse right."

"Might I suggest we move," Jeb said, "they've bracketed you, sir."

That caught him. It wasn't "us," it was "you "

He nodded without comment, cased his field glasses, and walked into the hollow. Seconds later a third round whistled in, striking and detonating within yards of where they had been standing.

He looked over at Jeb and smiled.

"Excellent recommendation, General," Lee said.

"They've been firing away since last night, sir. They're garrison troops but well practiced, at least in gunnery." After mounting up they rode a few hundred yards farther on and, crossing the main road, the group reined in again. Lee raised his field glasses once more, scanning the fort, which was half-concealed in the fog.

Ramparts stood at least ten to fifteen feet high, a dry moat, most likely a muddy swamp now with all this rain, six lines of abatis, sharpened stakes ringing the position like a deadly necklace, earthworks running outward, connecting the position to the next fort to the east, a low blockhouse of logs and rough-hewn barriers blocking the road. It was formidable!

A rifle ball hummed dangerously close and then another. One of his escorts cursed and clutched his arm.

"They might have some sharpshooters over there armed with Whitworth rifles," Hotchkiss said. "Sir, I think we should pull back to safety."

Lee reluctantly agreed, and turning Traveler he regained the road and cantered back into the mists. A parting shot from one of the thirty-pounders shrieked overhead.

Near the stream where troopers still labored to build a bridge over the swollen creek, he stopped, Jeb pointing the way to a tarpaulin spread taut in a stand of chestnut trees, a table and chairs beneath.

Dismounting, the group gathered around the table. Hotchkiss reached into his oversized haversack and pulled out a map on rough sketch paper, folding it out on the table.

"I drew this up last night," Hotchkiss said, "after talking to some of Stuart's men and interviewing some locals who claim to be on our side.

"This is Fort Stevens, which you just saw," he said as he traced out the necklace of fortifications that were like beads on a chain embracing the city.

"Are there any weak points at all?" Lee asked.

Even as he spoke and looked at the map, the moment struck him as strange, tragic. This was once his home. He remembered a Washington without fortifications, lush meadows and fields surrounding the city, blistering in the summer but delightful in autumn and early spring.

Hotchkiss shook his head.

"They've covered every approach. Trees and brush cut back in places for nearly two miles to give clear fields of fire and deny concealment. The Virginia side is even worse."

Lee said nothing. He knew Arlington had been turned into a fortified camp. The approach to Alexandria, where the main military railroad yard was located, was an impossible position to storm.

"It has to be here," Lee said softly. "We must stay in Maryland; to cross back over the river and attempt it from the Virginia side is impossible, if for no other reason than the Potomac cannot be forded."

"It will be the same here or over toward Blandensburg or down along the river. The fortifications will be the same."

He looked over at Hood, who was silent, staring at the map.

"General Hood, do you think you can take that fort?" Hood looked up at him. "When, sir?" "By tomorrow."

There was a moment of silence.

"Sir, I'm strung out along twenty miles of road, my men are exhausted. Pettigrew is in the lead, I could have him up by late in the day, but it won't be until midday tomorrow that I can have all my divisions ready. If it should rain again today, sir, I can't even promise that. You saw the roads."

Lee had sympathy for Hood on this. He had indeed seen the roads, the thorough job that the Union forces had done destroying bridges and mill dams from here halfway back to Westminster.

He thought back to just before Gettysburg, the sense of hesitation in his army in spite of their high spirits, the sense that he was not fully in control. Was that setting in again now that the euphoria of victory was wearing thin because of exhaustion and the unrelenting rains? Am I pushing too hard now, should I wait?

He stood gazing at the map of the fortifications.

This is the only chance we will ever have, he realized. We must take it now. I must push the army yet again.

"It has to be here," Lee said. 'To try and maneuver now would be fruitless. They have the interior lines and maintained roads; wherever we shift, they will be in front of us. That and every hour of delay will play to their advantage."

He looked over at Stuart, who nodded.

"We've had half a dozen civilians get through the lines during the night," Stuart announced. "Reinforcements are starting to arrive in Washington from as far away as Charleston. Their newspapers are reporting that as well. The garrison is most likely at twenty-five thousand now; before the week is out, it could be forty thousand or more."

"Then we have to do it now," Lee replied, "Every hour of delay only strengthens them."

"I can't hope to have any artillery support for at least two days," Hood said, his voice pitched low. "They're stuck in the mud from here clear back to Westminster."

"General Hood, the artillery we have will do little if anything against those fortifications."

"So we are to go in without artillery support, sir?"

"Yes, General, without artillery."

"Sir. Respectfully, sir, you know I'm not one to shy away from a fight," and he fell silent, head half-lowered.

Lee looked at him. I need dissent, I need to listen. It was listening to Longstreet, the first night at Gettysburg, that had set victory in motion.

"Go on, General Hood, please speak freely, sir."

"Thank you, General. Sir, I have a bad feeling about this one.

Hood looked over to Stuart as if seeking support. Lee followed his gaze and could see Stuart lower his eyes. He was troubled as well.

"Why this bad feeling, General Hood?" Lee asked, his voice pitched softly, almost deferential.

"Sir, we won the most glorious victory of the war little more than two weeks ago, but it came at a terrible price. Pettigrew, who will lead off the assault here, took nearly fifty percent casualties. My other divisions, on average, still are down by twenty percent or more."

"Reinforcements are promised," Lee offered and instantly regretted the statement. It sounded like an attempt at justification. Hood was talking about tomorrow, not what Davis had promised and what most likely would not arrive for weeks.

"Go on, General," Lee said.

"Though well fed these last six weeks, the men are exhausted; many are ill from the weather and the heat. If I go in tomorrow, sir, at best I can muster twenty thousand rifles."

"I am aware of that, sir. The question is, with those twenty thousand, can you take those works?" He pointed back toward the city.

Hood looked around at those gathered, the staff standing deferentially in the background. No general ever wanted to admit that he could not do the task assigned. He took a deep breath.

"I can take the works, sir."

"Good. I will leave the details to you, General. Fort Stevens will be the center of the attack; I need this road to move up our following units. General Longstreet's men will push into the city once you have cleared the way."

The look in Hood's eyes made him pause. Yet again it was rivalry, the sensitivity of who would claim what. He offered a smile.

"General, when we take the White House, you will be at my side."

"It's not that, sir." "What then?"

"Sir, I will have no command left to march into Washington." "Sir?"

"Just that, General Lee. I have twenty thousand infantry fit for duty in my divisions. I will lose half of them taking that fort and clearing the way for General Longstreet. The men will be charging straight into thirty-pounders loaded with canister; they throw nearly the same weight as all the guns we faced atop Cemetery Hill two weeks ago. There are some hundred-pounders on that line; a single load of canister from one of those guns can drop half a regiment."

Lee lowered his head, the memory of that debacle still haunting him.

"General Longstreet, sir, has barely twenty thousand under arms as well and, sir, once the outer ring cracks, we might have to fight Washington street by street, clear down to the Naval Yard. I must ask, sir, after that, then what?"

All were silent. Lee looked from one to the other and knew that General Hood had asked the most fundamental question of all. The answer had seemed easy enough two weeks ago; the objective was to destroy the Army of the Potomac, to take it off the field. They had achieved that… but still the war continued.

If we take Washington, then what? For over a year he had fought under the assumption that if indeed Washington fell, the war was over, but now he wondered. The thought of capturing Lincoln, of having Lincoln and Davis then meet, like Napoleon and the czar at Tilsit, to talk and to sign a peace, was that realistic? He rubbed his eyes, picked up a tin cup of coffee someone had set by his side, and sipped from it, gazing at the map, but his mind was elsewhere.

I must keep this army intact. That is what Hood is driving at. If we take Washington but bleed ourselves out, if we have only twenty thousand infantry left, the victory will be a Pyrrhic one. We would be driven from the city and lose Maryland within the month. I must now spend this army wisely. It is all that we have and we cannot form another the way the Union is most likely creating a new one at this very moment.

"General Hood, you were right to ask that, to remind me," Lee said softly, setting down the cup of coffee.

"Our objective is to win this war before autumn. We cannot sustain ourselves at this pace much longer. We must try, however, for Washington. This is the best chance we will ever have to take it"

Hood sighed, then slowly nodded in agreement.

"President Davis will be here within the week. If we can take Washington and present it to him, it will be the fulfillment of the campaign we started a year ago before the gates of Richmond. It will demonstrate to our people, to the North, and to the world that we are a viable nation."

He was silent for a brief moment, then continued.

"But we cannot bleed ourselves to death while doing it"

"Then we attack and pay the price?" Hood asked.

Lee stepped away from the table and walked out from under the awning and back toward the road. The men laboring on the makeshift bridge were still hard at work, struggling to drag the second tree trunk into place. He walked slowly up the slope. The fog was breaking up, swirling coils burning away in the morning heat. The dim outline of Fort Stevens was visible as he reached the top of the low rise.

The ground ahead was clear cut, trees removed; the fields that had once been orderly, planted with corn or wheat, were now weed choked, barren, offering no cover. He could imagine his lines going forward across those fields, the guns of the forts tearing gaping holes into the ranks, the charge hitting the abatis, men tangled up, stopping to cut their way through, stumbling into the moat thick with mud and slime. Even the greenest of troops behind those fortifications would turn it into nothing more than murder, the finest infantry in the world mowed down in a stinking moat by garrison soldiers in spotless uniforms.

He shook his head. Hood was right. His men were too precious for this. Yet he had to do it. If he did not, that in itself would be a victory for the North. Davis would not understand, though that was not his concern at this instant. He had to conceive a victory here, a victory that justified the blood shed at Gettysburg and Union Mills.

He studied the field intently, the open ground free of obstacles, the unfinished dome of the Capitol most likely visible once the fog lifted. It would be lit up with gaslight at night, a beacon, a dream so tantalizingly close, and just beyond that, Arlington and home. How many nights did I sit on the porch, the boys playing in the front yard-not yet soldiers, one of them a prisoner-the lights of the White House just across the river.

He stood there and the plan formed at last.

Looking back over his shoulder he saw Hood and Stuart waiting expectantly, the others standing behind them.

He forced a smile.

"We go in at night, gentlemen. That is how we will take it. At night." He smiled as he gave the order.

"At night, with surprise, we'll be into their works before they know it."

Hood and Stuart smiled and, turning, they left him, already giving orders, leaving him alone with his thoughts and dreams

July 17 1863


Gazing out the window of the train as it raced across the broad, open countryside of Ohio, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant found his attention wandering for a moment He tried to ignore the pounding intensity of the migraine headache that had bedeviled him since last night. But of course nothing would work except for that oblivion from a bottle, which he most definitely could not indulge.

As the train took a gentle curve, heading southeast, long shadows of the cars, cast by the setting sun, reached out across the open fields. The land was rich, the last of the winter wheat being harvested, fields of corn more than waist-high, weeds and honeysuckle engulfing the split-rail fences that bordered the railroad. The train raced past a barn; a farmer and his two boys driving cows in for the evening milking paused, looked up, took off their hats, and waved.

Thoughts drifted back to his own boyhood as he absently rubbed his temples, to the hardscrabble farm not far from here, and his desire to escape its labors, a desire that had taken him to West Point, an institution that glorified a business that would sicken many a butcher. The army had been, at first an escape, then a burden so intense he had left it Only this war had brought him back into uniform. And now he was in command.

For a moment his mind wandered across the empty years, the war in Mexico, the bitter loneliness of California. He impatiently pushed those thoughts aside. A danger to think of that now; self-pity compounded by the headaches was an almost certain first step back to the bottle, and now was not the time, though the temptation was always there.

"What are you thinking, Sam?"

Grant turned and offered a faint smile.

"Nothing much, Elihu, just drifting."

Congressman Elihu Washburne smiled and said nothing.

He was a good friend. Grant knew that It was through Elihu that he had received his first commission in this war, from a man who was one of the mentors behind the president's rise to power.

Like him, Elihu had come from a farm, up in the bitter cold of Maine. But unlike the Grants, the Washburnes seemed destined from the start for greatness. Five brothers, all of them now in positions of power and influence. One was a general commanding a corps under Sherman, another a captain in the navy, another the governor of Maine.

He envied Elihu for his relaxed, easy air, his nonchalant movement through the halls of power, his urbane manner. He was dressed casually-jacket off, wine-colored vest unbuttoned, linen shirt spotless. Elihu was the type that no matter what the situation would always look and smell clean. And yet he was not a dandy. He had visited Grant during the exhausting winter campaign of the previous year and exclaimed more than once that the rigors of the field were a tonic. He could sit up to dawn with the staff, mount then spend an entire day visiting units, shaking hands, and like any politician, when he came across constituents, make the most of it, passing out cigars and canvassing for votes with vigor.

As Grant looked over at him he realized yet again that he had a true friend in Elihu, an absolute rarity in the game of politics, where too many congressmen would blow with the wind of newspaper coverage and abandon friendship if doing so got them more votes. Elihu had been the one to back him when there was the falling out with Halleck the year before and Halleck's people had openly spread stories about his drinking. The fact that Elihu was one of the men behind Lincoln was a help, not something he had ever deliberately calculated on… but it was a help.

He knew the reasons Elihu was here, riding with him on a train headed east Elihu was an observer from the White House, sent to evaluate him. That didn't bother him. He was also here as a shepherd, to keep an eye on him and the bottle. The last thing the republic needed now was for their new commander to break down. That didn't bother him either. And finally Elihu was just here as a friend, and that was a pleasure. Once he was fully in command, Grant's nature was such that he would take counsel from no man but the president But it was good to have Elihu here now.

Though the president had directed that the war would continue no matter what the cost it was now his job to bring an end to it in the field. Every death, whether it was a death that accomplished something or a death wasted, as so many now were, would be upon his shoulders, and his alone.

As he contemplated this, he reached into his breast pocket, pulled out a battered cigar case, and drew out a Havana. Elihu struck a match on the side of the table that separated them and, nodding a thanks, Grant leaned over and puffed his twelfth cigar of the day to life.

The open window of the car drew out the swirling smoke and flickering bits of flaming ash.

Grant looked around his staff car, actually a railroad president's car that Haupt had "borrowed" for the "emergency." The appointments were rich: red-silk wallpaper, heavy, ornate tables, stuffed leather chairs, and a plush burgundy sofa upon which Ely Parker, a full-blooded Seneca whom he had just "drafted" on to his staff, was fast asleep. He had known Parker casually before the war in Galena. In his mid-thirties, Parker was well educated, a lawyer by training, articulate, and a paragon of organization, capable of keeping the vast mountains of paperwork moving smoothly. Behind his back, some of the men ribbed Parker about his Indian blood, claiming he kept Confederate scalps hidden in his haversack. Parker took it good-naturedly, to a point then his cold gaze shut them down, something Grant admired.

Since leaving Cairo the day before, Parker had not known a moment's rest until Grant finally ordered him to take a break. Within minutes Parker was out, his snoring almost as loud as the rattling of the train as they raced east

Ornate, cut-glass, coal oil lamps with what looked to be real gold gilding lined the walls of the car, the carpet underneath his feet, also burgundy, had been thick and clean, though tracked dirty now with the constant coming and goings of staff from the other cars.

Elihu had laughed when they first boarded, claiming that the car had a certain look to it. Naively Grant had asked what it looked like, and smiling, Elihu said it reminded him of a bordello in Chicago. That had actually embarrassed Grant. He had never stepped foot in such a place, even during the agonizing loneliness out in California, and though Elihu tried to act sophisticated, Grant knew him well enough to believe that while the man might have been in the lobby of such an establishment Elihu never went "upstairs."

There was even a private compartment in the front, with a real bed. He was tempted to try and find a few minutes' solitude there but knew it would be useless, his head throbbing to every beat of the iron wheels. Besides, like many a man who has been in the field for months, he found a soft bed with clean cotton sheets to be uncomfortable, and a reminder as well of other times, when such a bed would be shared.

There had only been a brief moment to spare with Julia before heading east to take up command. She would come along later, and as always the separations from her were an agony. If nothing else, he missed her soothing touch when the headaches came, how she would hold his head in her lap, whisper softly, hour after hour rubbing his brow with a cool, wet cloth until he drifted to sleep.

The door to the privy at the back of the car opened and Herman Haupt stepped out looking a bit pale.

Elihu chuckled softly.

"Still got it?" the congressman asked.

Haupt nodded grimly as he slipped his jacket back on, not bothering to button it

"General, if you don't mind, I think our railroad man needs a little Madeira; it's good for his stomach complaint"

Grant nodded, saying nothing. Around his headquarters the custom of asking if a drink was all right had evolved. It was a subtle reminder, as well, that he should think twice before indulging himself.

Haupt at first hesitated as Elihu opened an ornate, inlaid cabinet set against the other wall and pulled out a decanter and two thick crystal goblets. Elihu poured the drinks himself, handing one to Haupt, who sat down by his side, across from Grant

"Feeling all right Haupt?" Grant asked.

"It'll pass, sir. I've had worse."

Grant actually smiled, remembering the agony of the army in Mexico, when nearly all the men were down with either dysentery or the flux. More than one man had been reduced to cutting the bottom out of his trousers, so frequent and violent were the attacks, and many a man had died, more than from Mexican bullets. He motioned for Haupt to go ahead and indulge himself with the drink.

Haupt settled back in the leather chair, nodded his thanks to Elihu, and downed half the glass of Madeira. He looked over at Grant

"How is the headache, sir?"

Most of his staff had learned long ago to never inquire on that subject His pale features and the cold sweat should be indication enough and it always set his temper on edge. But he indulged Haupt who was new to working with him and obviously not feeling too well himself.

"It should run its course by tomorrow," Grant said quietly, trying to force a smile.

Grant looked down at the reams of paper piled up on the table between them, accounts from nearly every railroad in the North reporting on available rolling stock, supplies, particularly armaments waiting at factories for pickup, locations of nearly every garrison, training depot, and recruiting station from Kansas City to Bangor.

They'd gone over it for hours, and the sheer waste was appalling. Well over a hundred thousand troops were scattered in remote posts and garrisons up north, or wasted on meaningless fronts. Many of these would not be ready for combat, having lived a soft life for too long, but they could still serve a better function than the one they now occupied, and they'd learn combat soon enough.

Elihu had pointed out to him how damn near every governor would howl when their pet units were pulled into federal service, men occupying forts in Boston Harbor, watching supplies in Cleveland, guarding river crossings in Iowa. The men who had these assignments usually had some friends in politics who had arranged a safe berth for them to sit out the war in comfort.

When Parker awoke, he'd pick up the writing of those letters that would set governors howling throughout the North.

Lincoln had tasked him to end the war and now, after two futile years of watching the stupidity, waste, and outright corruption, he would change anything that kept the Union from winning the war.

For the first couple of days after receiving notice from Lincoln, he had been overwhelmed by the responsibility of it all. For two years the republic had waged war to heal itself, to re-create a single nation, but had done so at cross-purposes with itself, and often to its own detriment.

McClellan had been given the best chance to do so the previous year, marshaling close to two hundred thousand men in Virginia and Washington, then had wasted his supreme effort, with only a fraction of those men ever effectively engaged before Richmond.

The president had not helped, hobbling McClellan with orders to keep an entire army stationed near Washington. Yet it had gone far beyond that Officers had plotted against each other, jockeying for power. Congress had played its usual games of maneuvering and deal-making, even while men died in the swamps below Richmond. Never had there been a single unifying purpose, a single will shaping the republic to this war. A war that had to be fought with brutal, direct efficiency.

He had sensed from the very beginning that this war would be profoundly different from any other in history. After the bloody battle at Shiloh he had often talked about it with Sherman, late at night… that Sherman who had been called mad when he declared that in the West alone a quarter of a million men would be needed. A poet named Whitman, whom Julia would often read aloud and whom he hoped someday to meet, had sung of it, of a sprawling, muscular, urban nation of factories, and riches undreamed of. In some ways, like the poet's, his own vision was of a republic stirring, rising, waging a war not of glory, for he loathed that concept, but doing it grimly and efficiently and relentlessly until the job was done.

Here was the new strength, the new kind of war of men and machines to be forged and then used. He had seen it clearly the night Porter ran his fleet down below Vicksburg. Dozens of ships, sparks snapping from boilers, heavy guns firing, shot bouncing off armor, the sky afire, passing unharmed below the Confederate fortifications powerless to stop them. This was the final extension of power created in the smoke-filled factories of Albany, Cleveland, Boston, and New York, directed by men who but a year before were civilians, drawn from factories, fields, counting-houses, and forests to see it through.

He sat back, rubbing his forehead, looking down at the reports, and then shifted his gaze back, out the window, puffing meditatively on his cigar, a shower of ashes cascading down the front of his jacket

The troops stationed in major cities, however, would have to wait. The dispatches picked up early in the afternoon as they stopped for wood and water at Dayton were grim. All telegraph lines out of New York City had been cut, but indications were that the entire city was in anarchy. A New Jersey newspaper had claimed that the entire lower part of Manhattan was engulfed in flames, and ferryboats, packed with panic-stricken civilians, were docking in Jersey City reporting that insurgent rioters had taken the city.

Riots were reported in Philadelphia and Cincinnati as well, and troops in every other city across the North were on alert. The troops deployed to suppress or prevent rioting would have to be held in place for now, and that thought filled him with frustration.

The train slowed as it approached a sharp curve, and dropped down into a narrow valley to rattle across a trestle bridge. There was a glimpse, for a couple of seconds, of half a dozen tents, troops gathered in formation as if waiting for review, the men saluting as the train raced over the bridge.

Here was yet more waste, but until the movement of troops and equipment from Cairo to Harrisburg was completed, every bridge on this vital line had to be guarded, especially here in Ohio and Indiana, where rumors abounded of Copperhead conspiracies and even of Confederate raiders coming up from Kentucky.

This was the core of the problem. Where could he pull troops out, and yet at the same time maintain some level of safety? The motley-looking garrison on the bridge could do precious little if a real force of raiders showed up, but they were still a deterrent against the lone bridge burner or a drunken mob. It was the problem that had bedeviled the Union cause since the first days of the war, exasperated by panicky governors or, worse, selfish governors concerned only with their own state even if it hurt the Union. The thirty men on that bridge, multiplied a thousand times, could be yet another corps facing Lee.

His frustration was compounded by the entire system of mobilization, of state governors responsible for recruiting troops and only then transferring them over to the federal government The regiments recruited for three years were obviously destined for the front but for each of them created, there would usually be a three-month regiment that never left their state capital, and nine-month regiments that barely had time to learn their jobs before being demobilized.

Everyone knew the three-month regiments were a farce, a dodge for those who had political connections to avoid service yet wanted to be able to thump their chests and claim they had served. The hundreds of thousands of men who so briefly wore the blue uniform were worse than useless-in fact a drain on the entire system, taking uniforms, rifles; rations, and pay, while lounging about in garrisons as far north as the Canadian border.

He smiled grimly at the thought of the reaction that would come when those men were indeed called upon to serve.

Though he had never put much stock in the idea when it was first proposed, he found that now, in this crisis, colored troops might very well have a role to play, and he looked back at the pile of papers spilling off the desk, remembering the report stating that enough colored men for an entire division would soon be mobilized out of the northeast and Ohio. He looked back over at Parker, still asleep. Once he was awake, a message would have to be sent to the training center in Philadelphia. A division was a division and to hell with its color, as long as it would fight.

And thus he thought and plotted, a vision of the vast change that an industrial age was creating, a new concept of war, wherein the application of mass upon a single point would transcend the old vision of the past, of lone armies led by an inspired genius fighting but for an afternoon on sunlit fields to decide the fate of nations. He knew that many would claim that this was unfair, but he had nothing but contempt for those who thought thus and had never seen a battlefield the day after the guns fell silent. The job of war was to achieve victory, and in so doing end the slaughter as quickly as possible. How it was achieved, still within the parameters of some basic humanity, was secondary to the final act, the creation of that victory no matter what the cost or how long it took.

Haupt drained the rest of his Madeira and looked out the window. The shadows were gone now, replaced by a deepening twilight. Already the air drifting in through the open window was cooler, a welcomed relief from the hot, blistering day spent crossing the open farmlands of Indiana and Ohio.

"We should be passing through the station in Columbus in about ten minutes," Haupt announced.

Grant said nothing.

Elihu motioned for Haupt to have another glass, and the general, at first reluctant, surrendered and accepted the offer. Reaching into his own breast pocket, he produced a slightly bent cigar and looked at it.

"Have one of mine," Grant offered and Haupt smiled and thanked him.

They were passing the outer edge of the city, transitioning from open farmland to smaller fields of vegetables, a cluster of homes around a church, a blacksmith shop with sparks swirling up into the evening air, several boys, riding bareback astride a heavy plow horse, waving at the train as it passed.

No sign of war here, no burned-out villages, no rotting abandoned farms with bloated bodies lying in the fields-all was neat, orderly, filled with prosperity.

More homes now, streetlights, a large warehouse, a siding packed with cars loaded down with the freshly harvested wheat, civilians out for an evening stroll, the distant sound of a band, growing louder as a shudder from the brakes ran through the train, its bell ringing, whistle sounding.

Elihu leaned out the window for a second to look and ducked back in, grinning.

"Welcoming committee," he announced.

Grant shook his head and said nothing, looking over at Haupt.

"We're scheduled to keep right on rolling," Haupt said, "just slow to pick up dispatches."

Grant offered a smile of thanks. The last thing he wanted now was a waste of time shaking hands, offering some poor excuse for a speech, and then listening to the endless replies, with every city councilman ready to tell him how to win the war. Other generals, he knew, basked in this.

'Too much speechifying and not enough fighting," Sherman had grumbled to him once when they were caught at such an affair, and the memory of it made him grin, forgetting the headache for a moment.

Sherman was furious at being left behind, swearing up a storm right till the moment he had left. But Sherman knew better than anyone that the decision was the right one, and would throw himself into the task of Commander of the western theater with a mad passion to see it through and not let his friend down. It would have been fine to see Sherman by his side, commanding a corps, but far better to have him out west, commanding an army, cleaning up what was left of resistance along the Mississippi and then, when the time was right, heading east into Tennessee and Georgia.

Three- and four-story buildings now crowded in to either side of the tracks, a rail yard opening out to the right, filled with dozens of lattice-like boxcars. Half a dozen locomotives ready to pull trains were in the yard, several of them wreathed in smoke. Haupt pointed them out, mentioning quietly that they were most likely ladened with rations, pork, cattle, freshly made hardtack, ready to be shipped east In a nearby stockyard several hundred horses were waiting to be loaded.

What Lee would give for this one depot, he thought Just for those half dozen locomotives, the supplies, and an open track to move them on.

A mix of smells wafted in, of the barnyard and steam, oil, wood, and coal smoke.

The whistle of their train sounded again, louder, the engineer playing it, easing it in and out so that it almost seemed to carry a tune, counterpointing the swelling noise of the band.

Haupt stood up, buttoning his uniform jacket, went to the rear of the car, paused, and looked back at Grant

"Sir, I suspect there's a crowd of well-wishers out there. Do you want to greet them?"

Grant looked at Elihu and shook his head.

"In spite of the press reports that give my location by the minute, this move is supposed to be secret," he announced.

Elihu grinned and said nothing, pouring another glass of Madeira for himself. He hesitated, then poured half a glass for Grant

"It'll help with the headache, General."

Grant took the glass and downed it in two gulps. It was sticky, far too sweet, but he welcomed it and nodded his thanks.

The train drifted into the station, its platform and the grounds around it packed with a band, dignitaries-several wearing ridiculous red, white, and blue sashes-a line of troops at attention, and, spilling to either side, a crowd of several hundred or more.

He looked back and saw Haupt leaning off the side of the back platform, reaching out to grab a satchel handed up by the stationmaster, and then waving.

The engineer of their train, seeing Haupt's signal, blasted his whistle again; there was a lurch as he poured in steam, and the train edged forward, rapidly picking up speed.

Grant, sitting in the shadows of the car, did not even give an acknowledgment as they sped up, pulling out of the station, the sound of the band receding, the music falling apart as musicians lost their beat in the confusion. Several of the well-wishers ran alongside the train, waving valiantly. Catching sight of several boys racing to keep up, Grant finally waved back. The boys shouted exuberantly.

Rattling and swaying, the car passed over a switch, more stockyards in the shadows, sidings packed with westbound trains waiting for the express to pass. Turning into a curve, the station was lost to view.

It never ceased to amaze him how so many, even now, thought war was a celebration, a party, a time for speeches and bands. They should have been at Chapultepec, Shiloh, or in the stinking trenches before Vicksburg. That would have disabused them soon enough.

Haupt sat down again at the table and pulled open the small canvas bag snatched from the stationmaster. Twenty or more telegrams, simply marked "Grant" on the envelopes, spilled out.

Grant sighed as he looked at the stack of papers and gazed over at Parker, who had slept through the entire commotion. It was just about time to wake him up.

There was also a copy of the Columbus Gazette and Haupt opened it up.

"Sir, look at this," Haupt said. Grant looked down at the paper but the car was dark. Elihu struck another match, stood up, and lit a coal oil lamp, which flared to life, golden shadows bobbing and weaving as the train raced on.

"Lee Sighted at Washington," a headline in the upper-left corner announced.

"Panic in Capital," a second headline declared in the center of the paper.

Grant picked the paper up and scanned it. The report was from Port Deposit, a ferry crossing on the north bank of the Susquehanna in Maryland, dated five in the afternoon. It was the nearest telegraph station to Washington in operation. Most likely the dispatch had been run up from Washington by a fast courier boat.

"It states, that General Lee, escorted by Jeb Stuart and numerous staff, was sighted in front of Fort Stevens this morning," Grant said, looking back up at Elihu as he put the paper down.

"So he's there," Elihu replied after a moment's pause. "Of course he's there. That's what he has to do." He looked away for a moment. 'That's what I would do."

He continued to look out the window, headache forgotten for the moment.

"The president said he'd stay in the city no matter what," Elihu said.

"He has no other choice now. I just wish I had someone in command there other than Heintzelman."

Neither Haupt nor Elihu replied.

The headache did seem to be fading. Whether it was the glass of Madeira or the newspaper, he wasn't sure.

"It's right where I want him now," Grant said softly.

"Who, sir?" Haupt asked.

"Why, Lee, of course."

Chapter Five

In Front of Fort Stevens, D.C. July 17,1863

10:00 p.m.

Sergeant, the regiment will form over here in column by companies."

Sgt. Maj. George Hazner, of the Fourteenth South Carolina, Scales's brigade, Pender's, now Perrin's division, saw the bobbing circle of lantern light and pushed his way through the confusion, shouting for his men to follow his lead. Colonel Brown pointed the way and Hazner saluted without comment

'Remember, Sergeant, keep the men quiet; I'm going over to get some information and will call you when I'm back. Let the men fall out, in position. No fires and stay in place."

Passing along the colonel's orders, Hazner watched with a critical eye as the small regiment staggered off the road and out into the cornfield.

Decimated at Gettysburg and again at Union Mills, the Fourteenth was a shadow of its former self, barely three hundred men under arms. After Union Mills the colonel had promoted him to sergeant major of the regiment, to fill one of the many gaps, a position he didn't really want since it kept him with the color company in battle, a decidedly unhealthy place to be. As for the increase in pay, it didn't really matter, it was in Confederate money anyhow and that kept buying less and less.

Hazner shifted the wad of tobacco in his mouth, nodded, and watched as Brown disappeared into the mist that was beginning to rise up from the damp ground.

The day.had been hot, humid, fortunately without rain. The march, a nightmare. The road was a mad confusion of troops, all funneling down this one pike, which had been chewed apart by the passage of the army, so that the macadamized surface was all broken up, turning into a gummy, white soup.

Every bridge was down, replaced in some cases with roughshod affairs of beams and planking torn off barns, but in several cases the men simply forded through the torrent At the last fording, just at twilight a drummer boy had been swept away, and then tangled under a log, where he had drowned before his comrades could pull him out

Hell of an irony, to survive Gettysburg and Union Mills, and then die in some no-name creek by pure bad luck.

He had no idea where the hell they were, where they were going, or what was coming, though he did have some strong suspicions.

The regiment was drawing itself up in a trampled-down field of corn, the rest of the brigade falling in around them, deploying out into line of regiments in company front. All around him he could hear murmuring, swearing, the muddy, slippery sound of shoes getting half sucked off in the gluey ground, stalks of chest-high corn getting knocked down.

Some stars were out, and by their dim glow he could barely catch the silhouette of their regimental flag being held aloft, marking the front of the column.

"Where's H Company?"

It was a lieutenant. He recognized the voice, Maury Hurt from H Company, wounded at Gettysburg but still in the ranks, arm in a sling.

"Back of the column, sir."

"Hazner, that you?"

"Yes, sir, Lieutenant."

Hurt drew closer, a match was struck, and Hurt puffed a half-smoked cigar to light, his drawn face briefly illuminated in the glow.

"I think your company is forming up behind us, sir."

"Thanks, Hazner."

He hesitated for a second. "Sergeant, do you know what the hell is going on?"

"Damned if I know, sir, but from the looks of it, I'd say we're forming up for an attack."

"Sure looks mat way."

"But on what?"

Hazner looked around at the confusion, the dim outline of a column continuing forward on the road they had just filed off.

"I think it must be Washington, sir. Heard a cavalry trooper pass by a while ago, claiming he'd seen the dome of the Capitol up ahead."

He didn't need to add that since late in the afternoon everyone had been hearing artillery fire as well, some experts proclaiming that it had a deeper thump to it, meaning heavy guns.

The cigar tip glowed and Hazner looked at it longingly. One thing the Army of Northern Virginia had been well supplied with was tobacco, but they had long ago been disconnected from their supply lines back to Virginia and the coveted weed was now in high demand. The plug he had been chewing on was his last and he had been working it all day.

As if sensing his desire, Hurt took the cigar out of his mouth and offered a puff. The end was chewed, soggy, but Hazner gladly accepted and took a long, deep drag, inhaling the smoke so that his head swam for a moment.

He offered it back.

'Too bad about Major Williamson. I know he was your friend."

"Thanks," was all that Hazner could say.

The memory was still strong, the final moments of the battle before Union Mills, that last look at Williamson and then the ghastly impact of a mini6 ball shattering his skull. He had died wordlessly, not a sound, just slumping backward into the trench.

He didn't even know where John was buried. They had advanced, leaving their dead and wounded behind. Before moving out, he'd gone through John's pockets and found his diary. It was in his haversack now. He had been debating ever since whether to send it home or just simply burn it. The revelations about his comrade's fears, his failing of belief in the cause, even his desire for his fiancee-Hazner just didn't know how to react to it all.

Writing was something special. His friend had the gift for it After all, he was the son of a judge, educated, had even gone to college. Words, written words came easy to him. Writing- for Hazner that was a hard task, to be used simply to tell the folks back home you were all right maybe say how much you love them, but that should be it. To go on for pages about being afraid, confused, somehow it just didn't seem right

Even as he thought about it, his hand drifted to his haversack and the bulk of the diary inside, its cover stained with blood that had spilled onto it from Williamson's gaping wound.

"You write to his folks yet?" Hurt asked and the question startled him, as if the lieutenant were reading his mind. George shook his head. "I ain't got the hand for it."

"I'll help you if you want The judge needs to hear his son died valiantly, facing the enemy." "Yes, something like that." Hurt shifted comfortably, looking about. "Think we go in tonight?"

"Sure looks like it Column by companies usually don't mean we're settling down for the night." The cigar tip glowed again.

"By God, if this is Washington, tomorrow night we'll be eating oysters, drinking wine, smoking some damn good cigars, and the war will be over. Should be back home in time for harvest"-

"If we break through. Word is they've got fortifications all around the city like none we've ever seen."

"They're beat, Hazner. Beat I tell you. You saw them run at Union Mills."

"Yes, sir. I seen them run."

He said the words quietly, not reveling in it the way Hurt did. And for an instant he wondered if the jitters Williamson had were in some way transferred now to him through the diary he was carrying.

"Hazner, company officers' call. Pass the word/'

George turned to see Colonel Brown running back. He offered a hurried salute to the lieutenant and then passed through the ranks, men looking at him as he pushed through the formed lines, some asking what he knew, for Hazner was always one who knew what was going on.

He ignored them, quickly going back through the lines, letting the few company captains know the colonel wanted them. Most of the companies were commanded by young lieutenants, boys filled with ardent dreams of glory. They usually didn't last long.

He followed the officers back up to the front of the column where the colonel stood, holding a lantern but keeping it hooded with his cloak, the regimental color-bearer standing next to him, the flag marking the commander.

The men gathered around. As regimental sergeant major, Hazner knew he was now part of the group, so he edged his way in.

Brown took off his hat and wiped his brow on the back of a sleeve.

"We're in front of Washington," he began. "The outer line of fortifications is less than two miles ahead on this road."

"I knew it," one of the men said, a touch of glee in his voice.

"We go in two hours before dawn." The group fell silent.

"We're the second wave. Pettigrew's division is in the lead, they're already filing into position ahead of us. At one in the morning," he hesitated, opening his watch and holding the lantern up to check, "three hours from now, we move to the forward position in a streambed, six hundred yards short of the enemy lines."

"A night attack, sir?" someone whispered, the surprise in his voice evident.

"General Scales said that General Lee decided it this morning. He wishes to spare us unnecessary losses."

"We don't know this ground at all, sir," the questioner replied.

"Damn it, Jones, I know that. Now shut the hell up and listen to orders." No one spoke.

"Each regiment will have a guide from the cavalry. They've been occupying this ground since yesterday and know their way around. The men are to move in absolute silence. I want every man checked to make sure his musket is not capped. Canteens to be kept full and secured with straps under the belt. Tin cups and anything else that might rattle to be left behind. Again, we must have absolute silence."

He looked around and the men nodded.

"If some damn fool drops a musket and it goes off, I'll run him through and come looking for you later. General

Scales made that clear to me. No talking, not even a whisper. Absolute silence.

"As I said, Pettigrew will be in the lead. They will move out at exactly three and storm the enemy line. We are to be in reserve to follow up, or lend support Once the line is broken, Hood's division will follow through and expand the break. Longstreet's entire corps is behind us and will be up by early morning. They will exploit the break and then move into the city."

He hesitated.

"Pettigrew's division will face an open field of nearly six hundred yards. There are several rows of abatis, then a moat, which is believed to be at least twenty feet wide and ten feet deep. The fort dominating the position has earth walls ten to fifteen feet high above the moat and is believed to hold a battery of heavy thirty-pounders, mortars, a regiment of at least a thousand infantry, and most likely additional artillery support. It covers an acre of ground. Enfilading fire will hit from forts of similar dimensions to either flank.

"Beyond the fort is a well-paved road from the city and a military road that runs inside the enemy lines. We must assume the line will be heavily manned. The attack will go in silently, without any bombardment All is dependent on stealth and gaining the wall of the fort before the enemy is alerted."

There was a long silence. Hazner looked around. By the glow of the single lantern he saw that some men, especially the younger officers, were eager, whispering among themselves, but the older men were silent

"Gentlemen, I will tell you my honest opinion. Darkness or not Pettigrew's boys will get torn apart It will be our job then to follow through, take the fort and open the road up to the city.

"I know we've never done a night attack before, gentlemen. It's unheard of. Let's trust in General Lee's leadership as we always have and all will be well. Gentlemen, I promise you that by the end of tomorrow the war will be over. We will march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House and throw that slave-loving bastard out and hang him from the nearest tree."

The men knew better than to give a cheer but there was a bit of bracing, a few backslaps and nods.

"Now go back to your men. Brief them on what's coming, then get them to settle down and try to get a little sleep. That's all."

The group broke up and headed back to their companies. Brown turned away, setting the lantern on the ground. It was a praying army and Hazner was not surprised when Brown went down on his knees and lowered his head.

He stepped back respectfully and looked at the color-bearer, who had returned to his comrades, the men gathering around him to hear the news.

All was shadows and rising mist, lending a ghostlike quality to the world around him. He heard muffled talk, some laughter, but not much. These men, even at eighteen, were no longer boys. They had charged at Gettysburg little more than two weeks ago, and held the line through the long, bitter day at Union Mills. They were tired, they had seen far too much, and now they would see more. They knew that they were being called upon once more, for but one more effort, a supreme effort

One more effort But one more and it is over. The Yankee capital just one battle away and then the war would be over.

Reaching into his haversack, Sergeant Hazner touched the journal of his old friend, dead at Union Mills. He sat down on the damp, muddy ground, leaned back, and tried to get a few minutes' sleep… but sleep came hard that night.

July 18 1863


Mr. President, General Heintzelman is here." From his desk piled high with papers, Lincoln looked up to his secretary, Hay, who stood in the doorway. The exhaustion on Hay's face was obvious; in the glare of gaslight he looked more like a ghost than a young man, his tie and collar off, a clear sign that he was about ready to collapse.

"Thank you, Mr. Hay. Now listen to your president, go in the next room and get some sleep."

Hay, who normally would have protested, actually nodded in agreement and closed the door behind the general.

Heintzelman, who was older than the president, stood to attention. His hat was off, under his arm, wisps of gray hair plastered to his skull with sweat His eyes were dark, almost hollow; the man was breathing heavy and, like everyone else, obviously exhausted as well.

Lincoln stood up and motioned the general to take a seat and Heintzelman gladly complied, letting out an audible sigh as he settled into the high-backed leather chair.

"Your report sir," Lincoln prompted, and Heintzelman fumbled to his breast pocket for his spectacles and then started to open a sheaf of papers.

"In your own words, General," Lincoln said patiently. Heintzelman cleared his throat nervously and, though he wasn't reading, adjusted his spectacles yet again.

"Will they attack?" Lincoln finally prompted, his own tiredness causing his patience to wear thin with Heintzelman's fumbling nature.

"Oh, most assuredly, sir," Heintzelman replied. "There is no doubt of that now. We have enough reports of Lee's army coming straight at us. It is confirmed without a doubt that Lee was indeed scouting our lines personally this morning. A prisoner and a deserter corroborated that information. We know that there are at least four brigades of rebel cavalry encircling our northern front, and we had sure sightings of infantry as well. A civilian of good quality, a Union man who was vouched for by his congressman, managed to get through to our lines and reported that the roads coming down from the north are simply packed with infantry. He reported crossing through a column of Hood's corps on the Seventh Street Road, about five miles outside the District of Columbia. They should be forming up to attack shortly after dawn."

"How did he get through?"

"He acted feebleminded."

Lincoln actually smiled at that one. So we are dependent on reports from civilians acting feebleminded. What next?

"The question confronting us then is when and where? Can you answer that for me? Did our feebleminded friend find that out, too?"

Heintzelman cleared his throat.

"I would judge it to be Fort Stevens, sometime later today."

"You're certain?"

"Mr. President, one versed in the military arts can make certain, how shall we say, projections, but never an assumption that is foolproof."

The president turned to look at the general in command of the Washington garrison. He felt nothing but exasperation at this moment. He had dealt with Heintzelman for months, ever since he was, for all practical purposes, relieved of field command and sent back to the safety of the capital's defenses. A crony of McClellan, he had been proven incompetent as a field commander, and thus the reward of this posting. Now the man was clearly rattled.

Lincoln had to admit though that Heintzelman had a good engineer's eye and had thrown himself with vigor into the task of enhancing the already formidable defenses of the city. The military road had been improved, turned into a virtual highway. Additional lines of entrenchments were dug, moats deepened, fields of fire cleared, rows of abatis set in place, and ammunition stockpiled. In that respect Heintzelman had done his work well. Heintzelman had often boasted to the newspapers and anyone else who would listen that he wished Lee and his army would show up for a fight, for surely they would dash themselves to pieces on his fortifications.

His wish had been answered, and like many a boaster, when confronted with reality, he was now having serious second thoughts.

"Fort Stevens then, later today?" Lincoln pressed.

Heintzelman paused and then finally nodded in agreement.

"And your preparations?"

"I've placed one of my better units, the First Maine Heavy Artillery, in that fort, supported by the First New York Heavy Artillery. Well over two thousand men. Two additional regiments are into the entrenchments to either flank, and garrisons are manned in the neighboring forts."

"Garrison troops though."

"All the men with fighting experience were sent out of here long ago, Mr. President"

He had looked over the regimental reports yet again, only this evening. Though the information was not public, most of the regiments in Washington had taken far more casualties from "Cupid's disease" than from any enemy bullets. Most had never even heard a shot fired, except on the practice range. They were well drilled, and looked smart, as garrison troops of the capital were expected to look. But the question was, Could they stand up to Lee's veterans? He knew that no matter how much he pressed on this question, neither Heintzelman, nor, for that matter, anyone else truly knew the answer. But they were about to find out

Lincoln nodded.


Heintzelman shook his head wearily.

"Not many, sir. A brigade deployed just north of the Capitol, which I’ll move up once Lee's intentions are clear. We have to maintain the entire line. Their cavalry have been probing all along the front since yesterday. I can't strip any more men out to place in reserve."

"But if they break through, General, the rest of the line will be meaningless."

"If I strip too many men out and the attack on Fort Stevens proves to be nothing but a feint, while Lee is in fact shifting to one flank or the other, we will be broken anyhow."

Lincoln turned to look out the window. The guard around the White House had been increased; the grounds of the executive mansion were carpeted with tents, most of the men asleep but many standing uneasily in the mist, gathered around open fires. Out on Pennsylvania Avenue two batteries of light guns were drawn up, horses hitched to limbers, ready to move.

Always it was about what Lee would do. Though Heintzelman had declared that the attack would strike at Fort Stevens, well over eighty per cent of their strength still manned lines along thirty miles of front. The city could fall and most of them would likely never fire a shot.

And yet the general was right To abandon parts of the position would leave them open, the city being then taken without a fight. It was, he realized, the classic problem of defense, to have to man all positions while the attacker could choose the time and place to strike.

"Any word on reinforcements, sir?" Heintzelman asked.

'Two transports moving up from the Carolinas came into Chesapeake Bay yesterday before dark. No word on how many men they are carrying."

It was beyond hope to think that the vanguard of the force could already be arriving. Several thousand had come in via transport from Wilmington and Philadelphia, all of them ninety-day militia. Maybe they would fight maybe not It was the troops from South Carolina, men with hardened battle experience, that he wanted.

So it will be today, he thought, still looking out the window, and the reinforcements are still not in.

Of course it had to be. Lee had only this one chance to take the city. Reinforcements were indeed racing in from Charleston, Philadelphia, even Boston. Grant was coming east with his army and additional troops were being called in from as far as New Orleans.

It was a race for time for both sides. It was hard to envision that today the city might fall, but he had to brace himself for that very prospect. Gideon Welles had been in earlier in the evening, yet again urging him to prepare to evacuate to an ironclad tied up at the Anacostia Naval Yard, or at least to send his wife and son there. Welles had reported, in confidence, that a number of senators and two members of the Cabinet had already been down to the yard to demand passage out the moment the attack started.

He had not bothered to ask who they were and he wondered if Seward or Chase had been one of the two. Most likely. After all, to be a senator or Cabinet member usually meant to be a survivor. He had already sent Vice President Blaine out of the city, on the pretext of attending a recruiting rally in his home state of Maine. It would be like Seward though, who still dreamed of higher office, to get out and then somehow try to declare himself in charge if Washington fell and the president was taken or killed.

If they did bolt when the first gun was fired, it would trigger a panic. He thought about rats abandoning a sinking ship, almost uttered the sentiment in front of Welles, but thought it too cruel. It was Welles who then said the same words with a grin.

"So should I abandon my own ship?" he had then replied and Welles, ashamed, lowered his head.

That had ended the conversation.

And now it was Heintzelman who bore the responsibility, and looking at him, he realized that like so many of his generals, the task exceeded the man. Heintzelman should have been out, throughout the day, boosting morale, projecting confidence, being seen by his men and by the populace, rather than holed up in the war office and then coming here at two in the morning, expressing doubts.

It was too late now to change this command. He had to ride this horse to the end of the race.

"General, get some sleep. It will be a long day," Lincoln said, the dismissal in his voice obvious.

Heintzelman stood up and bowed slightly.

"Yes, sir."

"And, General."


"This city will not fall. I am depending on you for that We will fight for it street by street if need be. If we lose Fort Stevens, every man is to fall back into the city, barricade the streets, take to the houses, and then fight. I will not run from them. Do you understand that? I will stay here to the end. I would rather see the Capitol and this house burned in smoking ruins and ashes than that they should be tamely and abjectly captured."

Heintzelman looked at him wide-eyed.

"Sir, I understand the secretary of the navy has suggested that you remove yourself and your family to the naval yard."

"I will not do that sir," Lincoln snapped, and the tone of his voice rose to a high tenor, nearly breaking.

"That would be," he hesitated and then said it, "that would be one hell of a statement to our men out there. To ask them to fight while I hide. I will not withdraw, I will not leave. At the end of the day, sir, either you or General Lee will find me in this building. Do I make myself clear to you, sir?"

"Yes, Mr. President"

"Fine, now get some sleep and then see to your duties."

Heintzelman bowed again, put his hat on, and left the room, closing the door behind him. Lincoln watched him go, and then waited. After a minute the door did not open. Hay was asleep, and there were no more callers. He sighed with relief.

He went back to the window and gazed out Then on impulse he left the room and walked down the darkened stairs. The White House was quiet, all were asleep except for a black man who looked up expectantly at his approach. It was Jim, one of the White House servants.

"Good morning, Mr. President"

"Morning, Jim."

"A cup of coffee, sir? I have a fresh pot brewing in the kitchen. Maybe a scrambled egg and some fresh ham?" "No, thank you, Jim. Just want to go outside for a walk." He stepped past."Ah, Mr. President?"

Surprised, he turned back. Jim was standing there, nervous, waiting, a look almost of mortification on his face over this breach of White House protocol.

"Go on, Jim. What is it?"

"Sir. Well, me-I mean the others here and me-we were wondering."

"About what, Jim?"

"If the rebs take the city, sir. What should we do?" "They won't, Jim."

"I know that, sir. But we've been hearing that the rebs are rounding up colored folk, sending them down south to be sold back to slavery."

He had heard the reports as well, there was no sense in lying about it.

"Yes, Jim, I have heard the same thing."

Jim looked at him expectantly and for an instant he felt an infinite weariness. Here was yet someone else looking for reassurance and he felt as if the well was empty. He looked down at the floor.

"Sir. We here, the colored men who work here that is. We want to fight"

Lincoln looked back up and into the man's eyes.

"What do you mean, Jim?"

"Just that, sir. Myself, Williams, Old Bob, the other men. We plan to fight if they come." "Jim, how old are you?"

"Nearly sixty, as near as I can reckon. No one ever told me for sure when I was born. My mother said she worked for Mr. Jefferson when I was born. I started working here the year the British burned it down. Helped to plaster the new walls, covering over the scorched ones."

Lincoln could not help but smile, awed at this bit of history living with him. He had never taken notice of Jim, who had quietly served him for two years and never once had he taken the time to talk to him, to find out more of who he was, and all that he had seen. The realization made him uncomfortable and he wondered, if Jim were white, would that conversation have come, the way it usually did, for he loved talking with working people, finding out their stories, driven in part by the instinct of a politician who through such conversations won the votes, one at a time, but also out of his genuine love for and curiosity about common men.

Jim was well-spoken, articulate, his English perhaps even better than his own, which was still mocked by effete Easterners.

"So you've worked here for nearly fifty years?"

"Yes, sir. Every president since Mr. Madison. When my eldest boy, Washington Madison Quincy Bartlett, was born, President John Quincy Adams even gave him an engraved silver cup for his baptism. We still have that."

"Where is your oldest?"

"Up north. He went to join a colored regiment forming up in Pennsylvania. He's the sergeant major. His son, my grandson, joined up as well."

He said the words proudly.

"Any other children?"

"No, sir," and he shook his head sadly. "My second eldest died of the cholera. My two girls both died as well, one of the typhoid, the other, well the other, my youngest, just died."

He fell silent Lincoln sensed there was an even more tragic story about the youngest but he did not press it I’m sorry.

"You know that burden, sir. I'll never forget the night your youngest died. We wept with you, sir, and Missus Lincoln. We loved that little boy, too." 'Thank you, Jim."

He lowered his head to hide his own emotions, and the dark.memories of Mary wandering the White House, night after night, shrieking as he sat alone, horrified at the thought of his baby being placed in the cold ground, unable to comfort her, to stop her wild hysterias, so paralyzed was he by his own grief, came flooding back.

"Our children are together now with the Lord," Jim said softly.

A bit surprised, Lincoln looked back up and saw tears in the man's eyes. The comment struck him hard and he was filled with a profound question. Did white and black children play together in Heaven? Did they mingle freely, no longer servant and master? Inferior and superior? What would Christ say of that question?

"Thank you, Jim, I'll take comfort in that tonight."

"I will, too, Mr. President. In fact I think it and pray about it most every night"

Lincoln was silent uncomfortable, not sure what to say next.

"About us fighting, sir," Jim said, pressing back to the original issue. "Yes?"

"Do we have your permission, sir? Some of the soldiers out front said they'd loan us guns if it came to that"

"Jim, if you are caught with a weapon and not in uniform, you'll be hung on the spot."

Jim shook his head.

"Sir, we'd all rather be killed here, or hung here, than be sold into slavery."

And then he smiled and looked straight into Lincoln's eyes.

"Besides, sir. It'd make a great illustration in the papers, a dozen dead colored hanging from the balconies of the White House. It'd show the world what this war is really about"

Startled, Lincoln could not reply. Grim as the thought was, he knew that Jim was right

"Let us pray it does not come to that," was all he could offer.

"With you here, sir, I don't think it will. But if it does, sir, we want to fight"

He looked at the man carefully, wondering for an instant if it was the old flattery coming through now. But he could see it wasn't, it was genuine.

"We here, sir, we all know you'll hold the course to the end, no matter what. If it comes to it, sir, we want you to leave and continue the fight elsewhere. My son would want that and I do, too."

The president reached out and put his hand on Jim's shoulder. Unlike so many of the colored, Jim did not lower his eyes, or involuntarily shrink from his touch. He continued to look straight at him.

He wanted to say that he would stand and fight beside him and have his gaunt figure added to the illustration, but did not That was melodrama, posturing, as far too many did. What this man said had come straight from his heart, without artful reflection and seeking of some heroic end as if he were on the stage. It came as a tonic, a deep and profound reminder not just of his responsibilities, but of how he must continue to face those responsibilities to the end. That was his duty now, to not flinch, to not give back a single inch until it was done.

"You have my permission, Jim. I am honored to give it to you, and God be with you this day."

He squeezed the man's shoulder, nodded, and then turned to walk out Jim, again the servant followed him, offering his top hat and shawl from the coat rack by the door, which Lincoln took without comment Jim opened the door and the two guards outside, who had been wearily leaning on their rifles, snapped to attention.

He looked around. A scattering of men were milling about, ghostlike in the mist and in the hissing glare of gas lamps that cast dull, golden circles around the porch of the White House and out onto the street A captain started to come toward him and he gestured with his hand for the officer to remain at ease.

He started to turn away from the door, to walk around the grounds, the captain softly hissing a command, calling on a detail to "escort the president," and then he heard it, a dull thump, like someone was beating on a carpet away off in the mists.

The captain froze in place, turning, cocking his head. Another thump, then another

and another, until it merged into a steady, continual rumble.

Men who had been sitting on the lawn were up on their feet, looking about A murmur of voices arose, tent flaps opened, men sticking their heads out

The rumble continued, growing, echoing.

He stood silent, hat in hand, shawl draped over his shoulders.

It had begun.

Chapter Six

In Front of Fort Stevens

July 18,1863 4:45 a.m

In the predawn light Sergeant Major Hazner saw them coming back. One or two at first, then dozens, and now hundreds. Most were wounded, cradling shattered arms, dragging a broken leg, or staggering, bent over, clutching a stomach wound, which all knew was inevitably the beginning of the end.

Moving up to the starting position occupied by Petti-grew's division before they went in, the men of the Fourteenth South Carolina, along with the other regiments of Scales's brigade, had deployed into a shallow defile, cut at the bottom by a flooded stream, and there they had waited for more than an hour. All was confusion, the last mile of the advance through brush, an orchard, a farmer's woodlot. At least a third of the men in the regiment had disappeared in the advance, to be replaced by men from several other regiments. He had simply pushed them into formation with his own companies. They could fight now and sort it out later; he promised them that the colonel would give them affidavits confirming that they had not deserted or dodged the battle. Some of the men were strays from Pettigrew, and as they saw their comrades coming back, more than one expressed outright relief that they had become lost during the advance to the final line before going in.

The roar of battle ahead was continuous. When the first shots had been fired, a wild, hysterical cry went up, the rebel yell, but gradually that had been replaced by the more disciplined, almost mechanical "huzzah" of the Union troops.

Colonel Brown was gone, called forward to an officers' meeting, and, now alone, Hazner paced the line, moving from company to company, offering reassurance to the men, who looked up anxiously, faces pale, as they heard the inferno roaring just ahead.

A panicked lieutenant came staggering back through the lines, blood from a head wound covering the front of his jacket

"Gone, all gone. My God, my men! My men!"

He staggered through the ranks, spreading dismay, no one touching him or offering help, for they were forbidden to do so.

Hazner watched him disappear into the mist and smoke. Young Lieutenant Hurt came up to join him, obviously nervous.

"It looks bad."

"It always does, Lieutenant. Watch a battle from the rear, it always looks like defeat."

"Pettigrew should have broken through by now." "Most likely he has."

Hazner knew it was a lie. Someone would have come back down the road by now, proclaiming victory, the rebel yell echoing through the fog from the battle line. All that could be heard was the continual staccato of musketry, cannon fire, and the whirl of spent canister cracking through the trees overhead, clipped branches raining down.

Mortar shells were coming down at random, detonating in the treetops, some crashing down into the assembled ranks of the division, screams following each explosion. It was obvious that their gunners knew of this defile, assumed it was packed with troops, and knew the range to hit it. Though sporadic, the shelling was unnerving.

"Fourteenth South Carolina!"

He looked back to the front rania and saw the color company standing up, the regimental flag bearer shaking out his colors, holding them aloft Without comment to Hurt, Hazner pushed his way back through the ranks of men still lying on the ground.

Colonel Brown was back, sword drawn. Hazner came up and saluted.

"We're going in, Hazner." "What's the news, sir?"

Brown looked at him appraisingly and then wiped his face. In spite of the morning chill, he was sweating.

"Bad. Pettigrew was repulsed all along the line. Some of the men broke through into the fort, we were almost sent in to expand it, but they were thrown back. Pettigrew is down, they say he's dead. A bad day for North Carolina."

He hesitated.

"Now it's our turn. We'll set it right."

Brown stepped past Hazner and held his sword aloft

"South Carolina! Men of the Fourteenth! Up men, up!"

The regiment came to its feet, officers and sergeants moving through the packed ranks, which were deployed in a solid square, the men of A Company in two ranks forward, followed by B Company, and so on, back to the last line, three hundred men in a small phalanx, fifteen men wide and twenty deep. To either flank were their comrades of the other regiments of Scales's brigade … men who had taken every field of battle they had ever advanced across.

"Fourteenth South Carolina! Now is our time! We will advance in column and take that damn Yankee fort. Once we are into it, Washington will be ours and on this day this war will be won. Do you wish history to remember that it was South Carolina that won this day?"

A shout went up from the ranks. Hazner looked around and saw that the hours of silence, of watching, of fear, were swept away. The battle lust was upon them again.

"Parson. Say some words!"

A graying captain, unofficial minister of the regiment, stepped through the ranks and took off his hat, the men following, all lowering their heads, even Hazner.

"Hearken to the word of our Lord. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day…"'

As the preacher continued to recite from the Ninety-first Psalm, Hazner looked up. Most of the men stood with heads bowed, eyes squeezed shut. Many had their Bibles out, clutching them fervently. More than one was shaking. A young boy, ashen-faced in the dawning light, suddenly bent double and vomited; a comrade, his older brother, reaching out and gently rubbing his shoulders. A few of the men, those without faith, stood in respectful silence, one meditatively chewing on a wad, waiting to spit, a couple of others silently passing a nearly empty bottle back and forth. A sharp look from Hazner caused the one holding the bottle to shrug, take the last sip, and then without fanfare quietly lay it down on the ground.

"Have faith in our Lord this day and remember that they who do not camp with us this evening will sup instead in Heaven."

"I'll skip that meal if I can," one of the drinkers whispered, and a few of the men around him chuckled, even as they continued to keep their heads lowered.

In the regiment beside the Fourteenth, a group of Catholics, men from Ireland, were on their knees, reciting a prayer "… Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, amen." They made their sign of the cross and stood up, many of them taking their rosaries and hanging them around their necks.

Hazner found he could not say anything, he could not pray, he could not beg for intervention now. If the preacher said that a thousand shall fall by one's side, then surely someone who prayed here would be among those fallen. How could one beg God now to change that? To save his miserable hide while one of the devout stood praying, Bible in hand. Williamson had spent many an hour contemplating that and what did it get him in the end? … a bullet in the head and now he was gone.

He wanted to have faith, but found that now, standing here, waiting to go in, he did not. He wished with all his heart that he could have the simple faith and the calm assurance of the preacher, who, as he went back through the ranks, took the hands of many a man, smiling, as if what was to come was no longer a concern, for all had already been decided.

A muffled shout went up. It was General Scales, riding across the front of the column, sword out, held aloft, pointing toward the fight He swung down off his mount slapped its rump, and sent it running.

"Follow me, boys! Guide on your colors!"

"The Fourteenth!" Brown roared. "Remember, don't cap your muskets till ordered. Keep your ranks closed and guide on the flag of South Carolina!"

A shout went up as the column stepped forward, the line lurching at first, men in the forward ranks taking half a dozen steps before the men at the back finally began to move, double-timing until they caught up. The regiment to their left stepped off a bit late and then raced to form a solid front Hazner ran to come up to the front of the column and fell in just behind Brown, who was walking backward, sword aloft

"Hazner. To the rear of the column," Brown announced. "I want you back there, keep the men moving, no matter what!"

Hazner breathed a sigh of relief, for he knew what would happen to the first rank once they were within canister range. And yet, as he looked at Brown, he felt regret The man was caught up in the moment He was at the center of the charge, out in front, and Washington was before them. If he survived this day, if they took the fort, it would be remembered forever.

Impulse seized him, and before moving back he ran up to Brown and extended his hand. Grinning, Brown took it "I'll see you in the fort, Sergeant!"

"Yes, sir."

Hazner ran to one side, to the gap between his regiment and the one on their left flank, and stood awestruck as the column passed. They were wide-eyed, rifles at the shoulder, already hunching forward slightly as if going into a storm, but they came on relentlessly, some of the men shouting, others cursing; even the ones trembling with fear staggered forward, for none would dare to turn back now. The column passed. He ran to fall in at the center rear, where two drummer boys were beginning to tap out a beat He shouted for them to stop and go to the rear, but both looked at him defiantly and pressed on. He could not stop them, they were fey.

They swept up past an open grove of trees where a tarpaulin was spread, glistening with the heavy dew of morning. Coming out from under the tarpaulin was a knot of officers, and all immediately recognized who was in the center of the group. In spite of orders a shout went up

"Lee … Lee… Lee!"

The column swept along the edge of the grove and there he stood, hat off, hand raised in salute.

Hazner saluted as they marched by, and for an instant he thought the general was looking straight at him. He had a foolish thought that perhaps Lee would remember him, the meeting on the road, the first day at Gettysburg when he and Williamson had brought the word about the enemy guns on the Cemetery Hill. He knew that Lee most likely did not even see him, but nevertheless he felt a renewed strength. If Bobbie Lee was ordering them in, then surely victory was ahead… for when had they ever failed?

The first casualties dropped, a mortar shell, most likely fired at random, exploding in the air above the middle of the column, men collapsing. The ranks behind them opening, pushing to get around the bodies, then closing back up. He watched carefully. Nearly a dozen men were down, but once the advance had cleared the fallen, six stood up and started to run. The usual cowards, taking advantage of the first shots to try and get out.

He let them go. To try and kick them back into the ranks was a waste of effort They'd bolt again once the real fighting started. But he recognized several and would be certain to remember their names, along with the name of one of the men lying there dead, Tom McMurtry-he had once fished with him in summer and hunted in the fall, years ago-the top of his head smashed in by the exploding shell.

The gradual slope began to shallow out into level ground All ahead was smoke, fog, shadows. To the east the horizon was a dull gray, a bit brighter than the rest of the heavens, the ground fog having risen during the night, obscuring the stars.

The grass beneath his feet was trampled down, soaked with dew. Bits of equipment littered the ground, a blanket roll, a discarded musket, and now the first casualties, men crawling back, the column opening then closing to step. around them. One of the wounded held up an imploring hand, only one, for his left arm was torn off at the shoulder, the man begging for water. All ignored him, pressing on.

Bullets snicked the air overhead, fluttering by like angry bees, random shots from the fight up ahead; a shell fluttered over, fuse visible, sputtering and trailing sparks.

More men on the ground, dead, twisted up, torn apart, blood streaking the grass. A lone artillery piece, how it got there was a mystery, abandoned, its team of six horses dead, the column having to slow for a moment as it moved around the wreckage, then double-timing to move back up to the fore.

"Double time!"

The cry echoed up and down the swaying columns. The drummer boys picked up the tempo of their beat. Up at the head of the column the flag bearer was holding his banner high, waving it back and forth. A man at the rear went down, the smack of the bullet hitting him in the forehead clearly audible. He flipped over backward, nearly knocking Hazner over. Hazner staggered, then ran to catch up.

Still nothing in the mist. He wondered how Scales knew which way to go. How long had they been moving? Five minutes now, seven, ten? They should be almost there. There was nothing but mist, smoke, scattered bodies. Where were they going?

The tension seemed unbearable again. For a few minutes, in the initial excitement, he-for that matter, all-had forgotten what was coming. Now, as they moved at the double, some of the men beginning to pant for breath, staggering, the fear was returning, the dread of the moment of impact.

And still nothing but mist

As if in answer to a desperate, terrible prayer, the mist seemed to part. The head of the column actually slowed, men in the rear ranks pressing in, some cursing, shouting. Hazner moved from the center over to the side of the column, looking up through the twenty-yard gap between his regiment and the one to their left.

A dark line seemed to be traced across the low horizon ahead. He caught glimpses of men moving along the top of it. The ground before them was nothing but a mad tangle of bodies, men writhing in agony, others lying prone, hunkered down, curled up, hands and arms covering their heads, a few with poised rifles raised, continuing to fight. The ground was a shambles of torn-up grass, mud, blood, thousands upon thousands of torn cartridge papers, twisted rifles, dead horses, an officer lying against the stomach of a dead mount, head bowed, weeping hysterically.

"Charge, boys! Charge!"

A wild shout erupted from the column; the drummer boys, all sense of tempo gone, began to beat furiously. Men surged forward, the spine-tingling rebel yell rising up in a wild shriek, Hazner picking up the cry, which sounded like wolves baying at the scent of blood.

A flash erupted from atop the parapet, then another and another. The first spray of canister, two hundred iron balls fired from a thirty-pound rifled gun, tore into the flanking regiment, cutting a murderous swath across the front of the line. A second later the next blast struck the Fourteenth. Something slapped into Hazner's face. Warm, sticky, and he was momentarily blinded. Horrified, he wiped his eyes clean, feeling bits of flesh between his fingers, the taste of blood salty in his mouth. He fought down the reflective desire to gag, to vomit, as the realization dawned that it was the entrails of a man he was wiping away.

"Come on!"

Amazingly he could hear Colonel Brown screaming. He was still alive.

"Come on!" Hazner picked up the cry, now edging in, pushing the man in front of him as the column regained momentum, pressing up and over the torn remains of a score of comrades cut down by that first blast.

He caught a glimpse of the preacher, gasping, sitting up, blood gushing from his chest, the man feebly holding his Bible and pressing it to the wound.

In the smoke just ahead Hazner saw the first lines of the abatis. In many places the sharpened stakes had been torn out or pushed down. There were six rows of them, the outer rows broken or knocked down, but the inner rows still intact in many places, here and there with narrow lanes cut through them. More than one dead man was impaled on the stakes. To his horror he saw a wounded man pierced through the stomach, but still alive, screaming.

The column slammed into the first line of stakes. He had heard that some of Pettigrew's men had gone in armed with axes, but they had not fully cleared the way, and he caught glimpses of them, dead, some with axes still in their hands. He was tempted to toss aside his musket and pick one up, but decided against it. He needed to stay with the men, not get diverted.

By sheer brute strength the column was forcing its way through, men slamming at the stakes with the butts of their muskets to knock the barriers aside, squeezing through the openings. The column stalled; men from the rear ranks began to spill around to the flanks of the column pushing up against the stakes.

Rifle fire now erupted from the wall of the fort with deadly effect, men dropping to either side of Hazner as he ran along the flank of his regiment, pushed through the remnants of the first two lines of abatis, and pressed his way into the third.

More cannon fire. He heard a strange, hollow rattling and looked back. One of the drummer boys was standing there, gazing down. His drum had been blown in half but he was still alive.

"Get down, boy! Get down!"

The boy looked up at him, then, without a sound, collapsed. The shot that had destroyed the drum had all but torn off his leg at the knee.

Turning, he began to batter at the stakes, screaming with rage, pushing his way through. A stake directly in front of him was all but split in half by a rifle ball that would have hit him in the stomach. He pushed it aside.

"Come on!"

A mortar shell, fired with only a few ounces of powder, came down silently, striking the ground in front of him, the fuse going out in the muck.

"Come on!"

He looked to either side. The regiments were swarming together, any semblance of formation gone, officers screaming, waving swords, men cursing, heaving, pushing, many- far too many-falling, shrieking, clutching at arms, heads, chests, stomachs.

They surged through the last barrier line. The moat was before him. It was a sight of horror. The filthy, muddy water was pink, the color clearly visible even in the dim light… filled with the dead, wounded, and dying. The wounded looked up imploringly, some shrieking for them to go back, those still game urging their comrades forward, a few still unhit rising up, struggling to claw their way back up the muddy wall of the fort.

He saw the flag bearer of the Fourteenth go down. Before the colors had even begun to fold up and drop, someone else held them aloft, screaming for the men to follow, Colonel Brown at his side. The colonel and the flag bearer jumped, skidding down the outer slope of the moat, the regiment surging after them.

Hazner was knocked off his feet by a man behind him jumping. He skidded face-forward down the slope, hitting a body on the way, turning to slide feet-first into the slime.

"Keep your cartridge boxes up!" he screamed, even as he clawed at his own and dropped waist-deep into the moat. Some of the men were already doing that, but far too many, caught up in the madness, simply waded in. With the first two steps he lost his shoes, sucked off in the mud.

He felt as if he was running in a nightmare, each slow step an eternity, water geysering around him. He stepped on a body pressed down into the mud, his bare feet sensing the back, the man's head, and he was glad the body was there, giving him enough footing to leap the last few feet on to the inner wall of the moat.

The nightmare sensation was still there. He tried to stand, to run up, but the ground had been churned into a morass by Pettigrew's men, whose bodies littered the slope.

He looked up and saw the barrel of a thirty-pounder being run back out, barrel fully depressed. He flung himself down, the roar of the gun stunning him, the deadly impact striking the far slope of the moat, cutting down dozens.

He stood up.

"Now! Now!"

He repeated the cry over and over as he staggered up the slope, losing four steps for every one gained. Stepping atop a legless body he gained enough footing to fling himself up nearly to the crest. He paused, looked back, saw that Brown was still up, sword still held high. The flag bearer was up as well, pressing forward; then he dropped. Another man picked up the flag, following Brown, a wedge of men, like an inverted V, pushing behind them.

The crush of men pressed up beside him and Hazner fell in with them. They were almost at the embrasure. He pushed up the last few feet to one side of the gun opening, clawing his way to the top. He caught a glimpse of heads, some wearing blue kepis, most of them hatless, the rammer for the gun withdrawing the staff, screaming for the crew to run the piece back out.

He stood up, aimed at the man less than five feet away, and squeezed. Nothing happened; his rifle was still uncapped.

A gunner, shouting, raised a revolver, and he dropped down atop the crest of the wall, the pistol round cutting a neat hole into the brim of Hazner's hat

He lunged forward, tumbling over the wall and into the fort. All was madness, confusion. Landing on the firing step, a Yankee, standing above him, screamed, using his musket like a club, swung down, trying to crush his skull. Hazner rolled, avoiding the blow. Kicking with his bare feet, he caught the man on the knee; the Yankee, cursing, staggered back. He tried to stand up, but then was knocked down as another man landed on top of him. He caught a glimpse of the inside of the fort, bodies sprawled everywhere, many of them in gray or tattered butternut A line of infantry, bayonets poised, were in the center compound, light field pieces deployed across the small parade ground, aimed straight at the wall.

The man atop him grunted, cried out, then rolled off. He came to his feet, saw the man that had been atop him thrashing, screaming, a bayonet stuck in his back, the Yankee who had caught him fighting to pull the bayonet back out

Holding his musket at the butt, Hazner swung it like a club and brained the man, who collapsed, falling off the firing step into the compound below.

It was now a murder match, men fighting like primal animals, no quarter given or asked. Fumbling, he pulled out a percussion cap, thumbed it on to the nipple, cocked his gun, and swung it around, firing from the waist into the stomach of a man lunging at him.

More men were swarming over the top of the parapet; the few Yankees atop the firing step began to jump off, running. He was about to jump down after them and then saw, to his right that the crew of the thirty-pounder were still at their position, a sergeant slapping a friction primer into the breech, pulling the lanyard taut screaming for the crew to jump back.

Colonel Brown was up into the embrasure, turning, looking back, shouting incoherently. He was so close that Hazner could almost touch him. Lunging out he grabbed Brown by the arm, which was covered with blood, and then fell backward, dragging the colonel with him. Behind Brown the flag bearer was coming through the embrasure, colors still held high.

The gun went off with an earsplitting thunder crack, the flag bearer disappearing, screams echoing up from beyond the wall.

Dropping his grip on Brown, Hazner crouched, animal-like, looking around, taking it all in, his senses suddenly sharp, clear, the world momentarily focused.

Trie infantry in the center of the fort's parade ground were firing away, independent fire, picking their targets as they came up over the wall. One of the field pieces erupted with a sharp kick, leaping backward, canister sweeping the top of the fort to Hazner's left, sweeping down a dozen or more men, some of them Union, on the open parapet.

Yankees deployed along the far side of the wall, facing in toward Washington, were turned, crouching down, firing as well; a light field piece over there was turned, pointing straight at them, ready to sweep any charge that came into the parade ground.

He stood up for a brief instant, looking back over the parapet, back across the ground they had just stormed. It was carpeted with the dead and wounded of two divisions. Scattered groups of men were still pushing forward; down in the moat, hundreds, perhaps a thousand or more, floundered about. Any semblance of command was lost in this nightmare.

Where was the next wave? The mist revealed nothing.

"We're getting out!" Hazner shouted. He stood up, pushing his dazed colonel up on the wall. The gunners, not ten feet away, were furiously reloading their piece. For an instant he thought of taking them, but knew it was useless. Bullets were smacking into the earthen wall to either side, fired from the troops assembled below.

He violently pushed Brown, who was still dazed.

"No!" Brown cried, but Hazner ignored him, leaning down, lifting him up with his blacksmith's strength, slamming him over the parapet.

He leapt up, grabbed Brown, and rolled off the top, skidding halfway down the slope. Brown tried to stand back up.

"Goddamn it, Colonel. Lay down!"

"We can still take it!"

"Not yet, damn it. Wait for the next wave!"

"We can still take it!"

Brown tried to stand up, blood pouring from his wounded arm. Exasperated, Hazner reared back, punched him with a numbing blow on the side of the head, and Brown fell, tumbled into the mud, and was still.

Fumbling into his cartridge box while lying on his back, Hazner reloaded, awkwardly pulling out the ramrod, pushing the charge down while his musket lay on his stomach, then rolled over, capped the nipple, and poised his weapon.

Pressed flat against the slope, he knew that for the moment he was safe, though those on the far side of the moat were trapped in hell. Hundreds of men, thinking as he did, had pressed themselves down into the forward slope of the fort, the ground defilade that could not be hit. The thirty-pounder, only feet away, could sweep the far slope and the fields beyond, but it could not touch him, though the roar of it would leave him deafened. Any infantry that tried to pick him off would have to stand atop the parapet, and several did try in the next few minutes, only to be riddled, as a hundred or more fired on them, offering back some small measure of revenge for the carnage. It was a stalemate.

Hazner looked around, recognizing some faces from his regiment.

"We stay here!" he shouted. "Stay here, don't fall back, or you'll be slaughtered. Stay here till the next wave comes, then we go back in!"

He reached down to his canteen. Uncorking it, Hazner lifted it up. It was light, empty. A bullet had cut it nearly in half.

Cursing, he flung it aside, and then hunkered down to wait for what would come next

He looked back to the east The sun was breaking the horizon, dull red as it shone through the smoke and the fog, which would soon burn away. It was going to be a hot day. It was going to be a very long day.

July 18th 1863


The smoke of battle was drifting down Fifth Avenue. A gutted mansion to his right burned fitfully, its brownstone walls scorched black, glass from the broken windows lying scattered along the sidewalk, smoke pulsing out of the empty window frames soaring up in coiling plumes. Two bodies dangled from a lamppost in front of the mansion, hand-lettered signs tied to their feet… rebel arsonists, the signs twirling slowly as smoke drifted around them.

The artillery fire had stopped just after dawn, only the occasional rifle shot echoing now in the gloom. The haze of smoke hung low on the street, a fitful rain splashing down, the rain thick with soot, ash, the smell of wet wood smoke.

Maj. Gen. Dan Sickles walked purposefully down the middle of the street, his escort, a company of green-clad Berdan's sharpshooters, fanned out around him in a circle, moving like the veterans they were. Instead of stalking through woods and fields they now moved from doorway to doorway, rifles poised, scanning rooftops, open windows, abandoned barricades, racing forward, going down on one knee, then up again. Disdaining such caution, he walked upright, unafraid, setting the example he knew had to be set. Twice assassins almost got him, one of the shots nicking his hat. Of course he made sure that an illustrator from Harper's Weekly knew about that event; with luck it might be on the cover next week, with him standing as a hero in the middle of the street, the skulking coward leaning over from a rooftop. He had made a point of drawing his revolver and firing several shots back-missing, of course, but still it set the right pose. The country needs a hero in a time of crisis, he thought, and I am going to give them one.

A scattering of cheers and applause greeted him as he strode down the avenue, frightened civilians peeking out of windows, then coming outside to greet him. A beautiful young girl in a soot-darkened silk dress of bottle green came out from a doorway, carrying a flower. Shyly she curtsied and handed him the blossom.

Smiling, he bowed gallantly, took the flower with one hand, and then, taking the girl's hand, he bent over and kissed it gently.

"Thank you, my dear."

"The honor is mine, General."

She scurried back into her house, several of the veterans accompanying him looking at her, grinning slyly. He turned, handed the flower to one of his adjutants, and smiled at the knot of reporters walking behind him.

"You're a popular man this morning, General," a reporter from the Tribune shouted.

He smiled, thinking the nation needed a modest hero.

"It's the men, my men who deserve the credit," he replied diplomatically, saying it loud enough so his escort could hear it

They crossed Thirty-fourth Street, heading south. The four corners of the intersection were piled high with barricades, torn-up cobblestones, upended wagons, dead horses, a streetcar pushed over on its side… and dozens of bodies, many of them hideously riddled from the blasts of canister and solid shot, which the evening before he had directed into this rebel stronghold.

He paused at the middle of the intersection to watch as a company of infantry, New York State Militia, and several dozen firemen and policemen emerged out of the smoke and passed by, heading west. The lieutenant leading the group saw Sickles, slowed, and saluted.

"Where are you coming from, Lieutenant?" Dan asked.

"Over on the East Side, sir, down by the docks. Hard fighting, I lost half a dozen men, but we routed them into the river."

"Good work, son."

"We've been ordered over to the West Side now."

Dan nodded. There were still a few pockets of resistance down toward the Hudson, and apparently some of the rioters were trying to seize boats to get out of the city now that the insurrection was collapsing.

The lieutenant motioned to the back of his column. Four bedraggled civilians, hands tied, were being prodded along at bayonet point

"We captured these men, sir, in a burning warehouse. They claim they're innocent. I'm not sure, sir, what to do with them."

Dan looked over appraisingly at the four. One was fairly well dressed, broadcloth jacket velvet vest, looked like a clerk or young merchant in his early twenties.

Dan walked up to him, ignoring the other three, who were obviously ruffians, Irish street-sweepings.

"What's your story?"

"I got trapped in the mob, sir," the young man said nervously. "I don't know how I wound up in that warehouse; I was trying to get out but couldn't."

"Why aren't you in the army?" Dan asked pointedly. "Men your age should be up at the front, serving their country."

As he spoke, his gaze shifted to his escorts. They were looking at the young man with cold eyes. It had not been difficult at all to unleash his men, survivors of the Union Mills disaster, on this mob. The resentment that had been building for two years against stay-at-home slackers was already at the boiling point before the riots had even started.

The young man said nothing, eyes a bit unfocused, obviously still drunk.

Dan turned away and looked at the lieutenant.

"If he were an honorable soldier of the South, like those my comrades and I faced openly on the battlefield, I would risk my own life if need be to save him if he were wounded."

He looked at the men of his escort, who were now watching the drama.

"You there, Sergeant," he nodded toward a veteran, beard flecked with gray, an ugly crease across one cheek from a bullet that had almost killed him the night before.

"Should this man be treated the way we treated prisoners after Antietam or the other battles we were in, where we shared our canteens with wounded rebs?"

The sergeant glared at the captured man, chewing meditatively on a wad of tobacco.

The dazed man looked at him hopefully.

"Hang the son of a bitch," the sergeant growled and spat, the juice striking the man's boots.

Sickles turned away with a dramatic flourish.

"Hang them all."


"You heard me, Lieutenant. They are insurrectionists not in uniform. The rules of war are that they are to be hung."

Without waiting for a reply Dan started to walk away, ignoring the young man who, stirring out of a drunken stupor, began to hysterically scream for mercy.

He did not even bother to look back and, scrambling over the barricade, pressed on south. The Tribune reporter came up to his side.

"Isn't that rather harsh, sir? Resistance is collapsing."

Dan pulled a cigar out of his pocket and offered it to the reporter, who refused. Dan then bit off the end and paused to strike a match against a lamppost.


"The rioting is all but finished, sir. Isn't it time now for some mercy?"

"Riot? Sir, this was not a riot, it was an insurrection in support of the Confederacy. I wish you reporters would get it right. The size of it, the sheer destructiveness-no unorganized mob could do what was done here to our city, three hundred miles away from the front lines. You see around you the hand of the Confederate government and their secret agents. New York has become just as much a battlefield as Union Mills or Washington."

The reporter did not reply.

"Write that down if you please, son."

The reporter complied

The screaming of the young man was suddenly cut short, and they looked back up Fifth Avenue. At the corner of Thirty-fourth Street, a body seemed to leap into the air, half a dozen men pulling on the rope, the young man kicking and thrashing. A rifle shot exploded, one of the other three trying to escape, scrambling up over the barricade, collapsing, then half a dozen more shots, the soldiers deciding to dispatch the rest without the ceremony of a hanging.

Dan turned away and continued to walk.

"It doesn't seem to bother you," the reporter said, his features now pale.

Dan took off his hat, which was rain-soaked and covered with greasy soot He looked up at the morning sky, breathing deeply. It did smell like a battlefield; the smoke, the faint whiff of rotten eggs from the volley just fired, a distant thump of a cannon counterpointed by more musketry.

"You ever seen a battle, son?"

"No, sir."

"You should. Young man your age." "Are you going to hang me, sir, because I didn't join the army?"

Dan looked over at him and laughed. "You think that's it? Why I hanged that scoundrel back there?"

"I think it contributed to it."

"At Union Mills I saw the ground carpeted with our dead, and we lost. I saw the same at Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, where the bodies froze into the ground. Dead, wasted dead, and still the war continues."

He fell silent, the memories sharp, crystal clear. The stench of the field at Chancellorsville, bodies bloating in the heat Waste, all of it waste. Back here it was just numbers, names in fine print filling page after page of the papers. He had seen it and felt the anguish as men, his men, died. They were his men being wasted, and if ever there was a chance to change all that, it was now. By God, the republic had to be saved, and the saving of it would start right here, in the streets of New York. Set the example here that traitors stabbing the army in the back will not be tolerated And then let his men who fought here return back to the Army of the Potomac and spread the story of what he accomplished. That will affect the morale of all his men for the better.

"If I had but one day in command," he whispered, "and fifty thousand more men, men even like that slacker back there, who I could have turned into an honorable soldier, the war would be over."

He puffed on his cigar for a moment, still looking at the dark-gray sky.

"These are hard times, son. Hard times. We've lost two hundred thousand men in this war and still it goes on. I want what happened here to be a message to our nation. The times have changed forever, the traitors down South forced that on us, and now I shall finish it"

"You, sir?"

He looked back over at the reporter and smiled.

"After today? I saved this city, son. Saved it from becoming a wasteland."

As he spoke, he gestured up and down Fifth Avenue. The refuse of the riot was everywhere-broken storefronts, gutted buildings, bolts of cloth trampled into the filth, smashed-in barrels, broken bottles, torn-up pavement dead horses, and, from a lamppost at the comer of Thirty-third Street, two more bodies dangling, one with trousers burned off to the knees, the skin blackened.

"If we had lost New York we would have lost the war."

"Isn't it lost already? There's reports that Lee will take Washington today."

Sickles took the cigar out of his mouth and blew a ring in the still air.

"I don't like that kind of talk, son."


"Just what you said. 'Reports,' you say? Who filed these reports? The government, or some newspaper?" The reporter was silent

Not wanting to antagonize this important mouthpiece to the public, he smiled.

"Son. When we see an official dispatch from the government declaring mat the capital has fallen, then print it, but not before. Such talk might only lend encouragement to the rebels here in this city. That girl who gave me a flower back there. Do you want her to fall into their hands?"

"Of course not"

"Fear is the enemy here this morning. We've got it under control; let's leave Washington out of it for now and wait until there is official word."

The reporter said nothing.

"And if by chance, if by remote chance the capital does fall, I will lead the Army of the Potomac, in its fury, across Maryland and teach Bobbie Lee a lesson he will never forget"

"Sir, what Army of the Potomac?" another reporter interjected, coming up to join the two. Sickles smiled dismissively.

"That, young man, is a military secret Believe me, the Army still exists, I know, for even while here, I am working to rebuild it You will see it crowned with the laurels of victory before all is done."

Before another question could be asked, he walked away, continuing his inspection tour. Inside he was seething. If Lincoln did allow the capital to fall, there was more than a good chance that peace would be the end result, and then his own aspirations would be dashed. The capital had to hold out so that ultimately he could march into it as its liberator. Of course he had to be the one that was in command.

At first there had been rumors that the Army of the Potomac would be folded into Grant's new Army of the Susquehanna. Congressional pressure was putting a stop to that Grant was bringing Westerners in to fill up his new army. Eastern congressmen and senators weren't about to have the East's contribution to the Union cause submerged in a western command.

Lincoln was being forced to accept that. There would have to be a reconstituted Army of the Potomac which, yes, would serve under Grant, but which must have its own commander. Now Lincoln was considering whom to appoint to that position.

That hash would be settled before the week was out, of that he was certain. In the end Lincoln would have to turn to him to command the Army of the Potomac. Lincoln needed the War Democrats more than ever, and Dan was their candidate to command the Army of the Potomac. Yes, he thought to himself with satisfaction, in the end it will come out just fine and I will command the army.

Once he was in command and the army reconstituted, the stage would be set for him to whip Bobbie Lee… that would end the war as it should be ended.

Reaching Twenty-third Street and the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Broadway, he saw a knot of men, infantry, a section of guns, two bronze Napoleons, a troop of cavalry, and an ornate, black-lacquered, four-horse carriage, curtains drawn, a militia colonel leaning against the side of it, talking with someone inside. At his approach the colonel stiffened, saluted, and whispered a comment.

The door to the carriage popped open and Dan stepped in, the carriage swaying slightly as he settled in across from Tweed. The carriage was filled with cigar smoke and the scent of whiskey.

"Have you seen the reports?" Tweed snapped angrily, waving a sheaf of papers.

"Which reports?"

"My God, Dan, it states here that over two thousand bodies have been picked up for burial. They're getting hauled over to Brooklyn, even loaded into barges to get dumped at sea."

"Fine. Two thousand less ruffians terrorizing the streets."

"This will cost us a hundred thousand votes, Sickles. They'll blame us!"

"Not when I'm done," Sickles replied calmly.

"The war was a Republican war. We could always hang that on them. But now?"

"We can still do that. I was acting under orders, Tweed. Did my military duty."

"But two thousand dead. The entire Five Points burned to the ground. And what's this about military executions?"

"I wouldn't call it that. Military executions are for soldiers. These were secret agents, insurgents hiding in civilian garb."

'Two thousand of them?"

"Goddamn it, Tweed, what the hell would you have me do? Slap them on the wrist? Give mem a nursery bottle filled with brandy and send them home to their mommas? This is a war, damn it A war."

He shouted the last words, and Tweed, slightly intimidated, fell back into his seat.

"You don't see the broader picture. Back up on Fifth Avenue a girl gave me a flower."

"Channing sentiment, did you get her name?"

"You don't see it. To those Uptown I'm the savior this morning. Not a Republican, just a general doing his duty. Besides, we broke the back of the gangs that have terrorized this city for too long. They're on the run now and I plan to drive them straight into the East River and the Hudson. The average citizen of this town will turn out a week from now and offer us a victory parade. The times are changing, Tweed; this is a new age, an age of power, of industry, of the men who drive them. We saved their hides and they will remember that; I will be certain to remind them when the time comes."

Tweed said nothing.

"We can still play the lower classes, and the best way to do that is to bring this war to its conclusion without the draft. Hang that on the Republicans, that they let it drag on too long, they created the draft while lining their pockets from it and all the wartime graft. We will end the war and then see who is in the White House after the next election."

Tweed puffed on his cigar.

"You heard about Washington?"

"That Lee is attacking."

"That's the word."

"Just rumor for now, but he does have to strike and do it now."

"And if it falls?"

"Heintzelman is no genius, but he's no fool. Put twenty-five thousand into those fortifications and even he can hold it, as long as he doesn't panic."

"But Lee."

"Goddamn it. Everyone always talks about Lee. He can't fly over the fortifications, he has to go through them and it will cost him. All I am worried about now is getting confirmed as the new commander of the Army of the Potomac."

"It's a wreck, Sickles."

"It's all we got now here in the East. Do you think Grant will give me a command? I doubt it. In three months' time those damn Westerners will be dominating this entire region. I need that army command now. I need to act now, to achieve what we should have achieved in front of Gettysburg, or even, before it was thrown away completely, at Union Mills. I need that army, Tweed, and you will put the best face on what happened here in New York and make sure it happens."

"The governor is furious over the destruction and the losses. Said you were like Napoleon in Moscow."

"Well, maybe this country needs a Napoleon right now," Sickles snapped.

He hesitated, pulling back the curtain to look outside, suddenly fearful that one of the reporters might have heard. They were milling about, talking with the militia colonel, no one looking this way.

He looked back at Tweed and smiled.

"Just tell the governor that in a month this will be forgotten, especially after I've personally defeated Lee and put an end to this war. And when I am in the White House, his state and our city are going to be taken care of, really taken care


He smiled and patted Tweed's arm.

In Front of Fort Stevens

July 18 1863


“General Hood, is your old division finally ready to go in”

Lee looked at his corps commander with unveiled exasperation. The attack was supposed to have been launched with three full divisions in place, instead only two had been ready to go before dawn, and even then, Perrin's division had taken a full hour longer than expected to attack. The third division, Hood's old command, was only now completing its deployment off the road.

"General, the road is a nightmare; I still don't have Law's brigade in place."

"Send everything you have in now or we shall lose our chance!" Lee snapped.

Hood looked over at Colonel Taylor, Lee's most trusted adjutant Taylor gazed back with unfocused eyes, as if he wasn't there.

"General Lee, the attack is failing. I ask that we hold my division back."

"No, sir. You will commit immediately." Hood hesitated.

"Now, General! Now! We've lost two divisions trying to breech their line. Are you telling me that the sacrifice is to be wasted? One more push and we break through."

Hood said nothing. Looking past Lee he saw General Longstreet approach, without fanfare, mount covered in sweat and dismount

"Have we taken it?" Longstreet asked.

"No, we have not taken it," Lee replied sharply, "yet"

Longstreet nodded sagely, saying nothing, looking over at Hood.

"It was not coordinated as well as we could have wished," Hood said softly. "Night attacks on this scale are simply impossible to coordinate well in the dark and the mud."

Lee looked at him sharply and the commander of the Second Corps fell silent.

"You have my orders, General Hood, now execute them."

Hood saluted and without further argument left the grove, his staff running before him, the deployed troops coming to their feet. There was no cheering now, but the men were game, ready for what was ahead.

Lee turned to Taylor.

"Remind General Hood in no uncertain terms that he is not to go in with the assault. I need my generals, we've already lost Pettigrew this day. Keep an eye on him till the attack goes forward."

Taylor saluted and ran after Hood.

"How goes it, sir?" Longstreet asked.

Lee wearily shook his head.

"It was not properly coordinated, General. Pettigrew went in nearly an hour late. It appears the Yankee pickets had advance warning, at least enough so that their artillery opened before the attack had even hit the abatis. Perrin's men got tangled up moving up to the start position. Now Hood's old division is starting late as well; he claims the road was all but impassable."

"It is, sir."

Lee looked over at him coldly.

"Your lead division, is it ready to exploit the breakthrough?"

"Sir, it will be an hour or more before McLaws is in position; they're filing off the road even now on the other side of the creek."

"An hour? I ordered you to have McLaws up by dawn." "Sir, we are trying to move our entire army down a single road, at night, through an ocean of mud."

"We won't win with excuses, General Longstreet"

The rebuke in his voice was obvious to everyone within hearing distance.

"We have fought two major battles in little more than a fortnight. We have destroyed one of their armies, and the capital is within our reach. We cannot lose our nerve this day, General. We must hold our nerve if we are to win. I propose to win this war today, sir, because never again will we have such a chance."

A cheer went up… the rebel yell. Hood's division

was going in.

The Moat in Front of Fort Stevens

Here they come!"

Sergeant Hazner cautiously raised his head to look back to the north. A corporal who had gone up on his elbows to look, only a minute before, was now sprawled in the bottom of the moat, the top of his head gone.

He could hear them, but the smoke was still too thick to see anything. The muzzle of the thirty-pounder ran out again, this time elevated higher, to sweep the field

"Lower, you bastards," Hazner shouted. "You're aiming too high."

"We'll get you soon enough, reb," the taunt came back from the other side, "once we kill off what's coming."

He lay back down, rolling on his back, looking down at the edge of the moat Hundreds of men were still alive, pinned along the slope of the fort and down on the inner side of the moat He held his hand up, risking that it would get shot off, and waved it in a tight circle to draw attention. Some of the men looked his way.

He pointed across the field, to the top of the fort, and then to himself. Some of the men nodded, pulled caps down tighter, clawed at bodies that they had piled up as barricades, fumbling through cartridge boxes to find a dry round and reload.

Colonel Brown, lying beside him, groaned weakly. After knocking him cold, Hazner had feared for a while the blow had been too hard, perhaps he had broken his skull, but the colonel had finally stirred. Brown had tried to get up on to his knees to vomit and he had knocked him back down, and for his troubles the vomit had splattered all over him.


"Just lie still, sir. The next wave is coming, then we'll get you back."

"No, I'm going in." "Just lie still, sir."

Hazner looked up at the sky; the sun was far higher, red through the smoke, but already hot. He hoped that one of the men coming up would have a full canteen.

He could see them now, battle flags emerging out of the smoke and mist, again the formation in columns of regiment in company front.


The heavy guns inside the fort recoiled back, Hazner hugging the ground, arm over his colonel, the shock wave knocking his breath out.

Screams greeted the salvo; he looked back and saw the entire front ranks collapsing, officers, one on horseback, going down, flags dropping, one with a broken staff tumbling through the air, a hundred or more men falling.

God, that was like us, he realized, that was just like us.

The charge wavered then pressed forward, men scrambling over the fallen ranks, color guards picking up fallen flags.

"Volley fire on my command!" The cry echoed from within the fort

Hazner held his arm up, waving it again, and he prayed that someone down below saw him.


The volley rippled from the top of the parapet, more men dropping across the field less than fifty yards away.

"Now!" Hazner roared. "Charge, Carolina, charge!"

He stood up, cursing himself even as he did so. His own heroics surprised him; it was an act of wild stupidity. And yet something compelled him, forced him beyond all reason or sanity to do so.

For a few seconds he stood there, naked, exposed, and no one seemed to move.

One. man, then another stood up. By his side Colonel Brown tried to come to his feet, sword held feebly up. And then a wild roar erupted from the men of Perrin's and Pettigrew's divisions, who had endured hell in front of Fort Stevens. Officers were up, waving swords. A wild rage was released and a wall of gray and butternut began to surge forward yet again, crawling, kicking, climbing their way up the blood-soaked muddy slope.

"Come on!"

It was only a few dozen feet to the top, the longest yards he had ever attempted or endured. He came up eye-level with the top of the parapet; a rifle slapped down on the top, aimed straight at his face. He grabbed it by the end of the barrel and jerked it hard, pulling it toward him. He heard a curse; the gun did not go off. He pulled harder, using it as a handhold; the owner of the gun released his grip as Hazner came over the top of the parapet. With one hand he hurled the weapon at the gun crew of the thirty-pounder and then used his own weapon to parry a bayonet thrust.

Suddenly more men were up around him, the first few jumping atop the parapet, gunned down even as they leapt up. More came and yet more. He swung his own musket around, aimed at the battery sergeant, and fired, knocking the man backward.

Yet again he rolled off the top of the wall and into the fort. The Yankees lining the firing step were stunned by the sudden onslaught; most were still fumbling to reload. Several turned and jumped off the firing step and ran across the open parade ground to join the companies still deployed in the middle of the field. This time Hazner did not hesitate. He leapt down, knowing that his only protection was to charge right on their coattails.

He looked to either side; several dozen men were with him, all driven by the same realization.

The shock of hand-to-hand battle exploded in the middle of the fort as the feeble charge slammed into the enemy formation.

He heard cannon fire behind him but did not look back as he waded in, dodging, parrying, slashing, kicking, screaming, the madness of battle upon his soul.

A boy charged straight at Mm, bayonet lowered. He blocked the blow, driving his own bayonet into the boy's chest. The young soldier gasped, staggered backward, and Hazner lost the grip on his rifle, letting go.

He caught a glimpse of a clubbed musket and dropped to the ground, the blow missing. All was confusion, feet-some barefoot, others in shoes with sky-blue trousers-and he feigned that he was down and out of the fight. More feet, all with sky-blue trousers, stormed around him. He curled up, as if hit in the stomach.

Looking back he saw scores of men gaining the top of the parapet

"On the wall, volley fire on the wall!" The feet around him stopped; a ramrod came down, stuck into the ground beside him. The men atop the wall paused, rifles dropping down to the firing position. A scathing volley erupted, the man standing within inches of Hazner's face shrieking, falling backward.

Again the rebel yell, this time louder, confident as the men atop the parapet slid down to the firing step, jumped off, and charged across the courtyard.

Another melee, the harsh sound of wood striking wood and wood striking flesh and bone. Screams, men falling, staggering past, cursing, huzzahs, rebel yells, all commingled together into a terrifying roar that seemed to be trapped within the confines of the fort.

A flash of butternut-clad feet this one wearing only one shoe. More swarms of men were coming over the fortress wall, shouting, screaming. A field piece in the middle of the parade ground erupted, canister cutting down dozens. Still the charge pressed in, survivors climbing over bodies.

The carnage that ensued was beyond Hazner's worst nightmares. Driven to madness by the slaughter, the men of three divisions, who had endured hell since before dawn, exploded in rage. The sally port at the rear of the fort was clogged with Union soldiers trying to escape. In the close confines of the fight no one had time to ask or give quarter, nor was anyone capable of it anymore. Hazner stood up, in shock, watching as the garrison was slaughtered, many of the men of the First Maine and First New York Heavy Artillery fighting to the end, many bayoneted in the back, more than a few bayoneted or clubbed even as they tried to surrender.

Sickened, exhausted, Hazner collapsed back to the ground and sat unable to move or speak.

A flag bearer came up to his side and stopped.

"First Texas, rally to me! Rally to me!"

Hazner looked up at the man and caught his eye.

"You got water?" Hazner croaked.

The flag bearer nodded, unslung his canteen, and tossed it down.

He uncorked it, leaned his head back, half the water cascading down his jacket as he greedily gulped it. There was a bit of a taste to the water, whiskey, just what he needed. He emptied half of it, and then fought down the sudden urge to vomit.

He passed it back up.


The First Texan grinned.

"I saw you. By God, I saw you go over the wall, the men following you! Hell of a thing, took the fire off of us. Got us in here."

Hazner couldn't speak.

"You hurt?"

Hazner looked up at him dumbly, and then at the tangle of bodies, many of them writhing in agony, which completely carpeted the parade ground of the fort

He shook his head. No, compared to them I'm not hurt, he thought

The sergeant from the Texan regiment took his canteen and slung it over his shoulder even as he continued to scream for his regiment to rally on the colors.

The Texan suddenly extended his hand.

"Lee Robinson, First Texas. Look me up after this is over, I'll give you a drink in the White House."

"Sergeant Major Hazner, Fourteenth South Carolina, and thank you."

A knot of men were gathering around the Texan, and with a wild cry he urged them forward, to continue the fight.

Hazner stood up, watching as the Texans reformed, groups of a few dozen here and there, and then pressed forward, little organization left but still game.

He turned and walked back to the parapet that they had just stormed, the tangle of bodies so thick he could barely find ground to step on.

"Sergeant Hazner!"

It was Brown, walking like a drunk, coming toward him.


"Re-form the regiment, we're going in."

Hazner looked at the parade ground, at the gun emplacement for the thirty-pounder, the crew dead. He actually felt regret at the sight of that. The gunner who had been taunting him, he'd have liked to find him and offer a drink, but they were all dead. — "Re-form?"

"Yes, Hazner, we can't let the glory of the taking of Washington slip past us. We can't let Texas have this moment. Now re-form the regiment."

"Sir, what regiment?" Hazner asked woodenly.

In Front of Fort Stevens

8:30 a.m.

'T'hat's it," Lee cried. "Go, Texas, go!"

He had come forward from the grove, standing where he had first seen the fort the day before.

It was as if a vision was unfolding, a recurring dream that one forgets upon awakening, that yet hovers at the edge of memory throughout the day, only to return again in sleep. For two years he had dreamt of this moment, the final door unlocked, the end now within sight. Washington was there for the taking; it was the end.

"General Longstreet Now, bring your men up now!"

Longstreet was silent and there were tears in his eyes.

"General Longstreet?"

"Sir, it will be another half hour before I can even hope to commit McLaws."

"Then send in what you have!" "A brigade, maybe two, sir." 'Then send them in!" "Yes, sir."

He turned and rode back and Lee watched him leave. His gaze shifted to the east, to the sun.

"Oh, God, freeze it in the heavens as You did for Joshua before Jericho. I beg You please let it freeze, for time to stop, to give me but one more precious hour."

The smoke swirled, obscuring the sun for a moment, and then it came clear again… and to the southeast, he could see the dome of the Capitol.

To the Rear of Fort Stevens


I can't let you go any farther, sir!" The captain of his cavalry escort reined around, blocking the middle of the road. Lincoln said nothing for a moment. He had always felt uncomfortable on horseback, and this mount was no exception … a mare, far too small for his long, bony frame, stirrups pulled up too high, so that he was crouching in the saddle rather man sitting.

He had left the White House shortly after dawn in a carriage, but the tangle of troops heading into battle, and the civilians fleeing it, clogged all the roads, making passage impossible. After a difficult argument with the commander of his escort, a trooper had offered a horse, but there had been no time to adjust the stirrups before setting out again.

They were north of the city, close enough to the battle now that the air overhead hummed with shot and spent bullets. A trooper riding at the front of the column had been knocked unconscious by a spent bullet, which had struck him in the forehead. After that the cavalry escort had ringed him in even tighter, using their bodies as shields. The gesture had both touched and annoyed him.

Battered soldiers were coming back, many wounded, all of them panicked, spreading the word that Fort Stevens had fallen.

He could hear the roar of battle just ahead, the sound shocking, a continual thunder, so close now that the rebel yell was clearly heard.

"Sir, we must go back!" the captain shouted.

"No, Captain, we stay here for the moment."

"Mr. President. I am responsible for your safety. I urge you, sir, let's retire to the naval yard; I will send a courier to fetch your family."

He thought of the servant Jim, at this moment most likely rounding up the other servants, telling them to get guns and prepare.

Lincoln looked over at the captain.

"My family will not be fetched," Lincoln said coldly.

"Sony, sir. I didn't mean it as an insult. They will be escorted with all dignity."

"No, Captain. They will not be escorted, nor will I. They stay where they are, as I plan to stay right here."

The captain started to open his mouth. Lincoln forced a smile, leaned over, and touched the captain on the sleeve; the young officer startled, looking at him wide-eyed.

"Son, if I run now, what will my soldiers say?"

The captain looked at him, unable to reply.

"I'm the commander of this army, am I not?"

"Ah, yes, sir."

"Fine then, son. Let's just calm down, stay here, and do our duty. At the moment my duty is to be calm, as is yours. We can't go running about like headless chickens, can we?"

The captain actually forced a smile.

"No, sir," he responded with an emphasis on the "sir."

Lincoln patted him on the arm.

"Fine, son. Let's just stay here for the moment and see what we can do to make sure this wrestling match turns out a victory for the Union."

He smiled again and the captain nodded, turning away, but ordering his men to form a barrier in front of the president, the captain himself taking position directly in front of him.

Lincoln had to admit that inwardly he was terrified. He had only heard battle from a distance before, the two fights at Manassas, the distant thunder from Union Mills. He never imagined it could be so loud, so all-consuming, and so frightening.

His mount, however, did not even flinch as a shell fluttered overhead and detonated with a thunderclap, the captain looking back anxiously to see that he was not harmed.

He smiled yet again.

"Sir, at least take that hat off." And the captain hesitated. "What?"

"Your hat. You're tall, sir, that hat marks you. A rebel sharpshooter might see it"

He realized the captain was right. He had somehow retained his stovepipe hat on the ride out No, if it marked him, others would see it as well; his boys would see it and that was what he wanted.

He shook his head. Exasperated, the captain turned to face front

A cluster of officers came down the road, riding back from the fight, one of the men swaying in his saddle, blood covering the front of his jacket. In the lead was Heintzelman. The general reined in and saluted.

"Mr. President, just what are you doing here?" Heintzelman shouted.

"Watching the battle, General."

"Sir, battle is not a spectator's sport. The rebs are not a quarter of a mile off and coming on fast"

"What is the situation, General?"

"They've taken Fort Stevens; they have a breakthrough across a front of more than a quarter mile."

"The flanking forts?"

"Still holding for the moment, sir, but it's getting shaky." "And you propose?"

Heintzelman did not reply, looking back to the north. "Your plans, General?"

"Sir, we should abandon the line and pull back into the city."

"What has General Lee put in?" "Sir, it's hard to say. Looks like three divisions, but more will be coming." Lincoln nodded.

"Like trying to pour a hundred gallons of buttermilk through a funnel. It'll take him time, General."

"Sir, I know that, but the men are running, sir," and even as he spoke he gestured to the open fields, the battered remnants of defenders heading back into the city.

"Calm, General. Let us be calm."

Heintzelman looked at him wide-eyed, as if about ready to explode.

"Calm, General. If we lead we can rally those men. They will invest their fears in our courage. But they must see our courage and rally to it"

Heintzelman lowered his head, nodded, wiping his eyes, and Lincoln was startled to see that the man was actually in tears.

"I'm sorry, Mr. President Sorry. You are right sir. We can rally them."

Lincoln felt an infinite exhaustion. He thought of the pictures he had seen of General Washington, the forlorn hope of crossing the Delaware, of the bitter winter of Valley Forge when nearly all had given up hope. The mantle of that now rested upon him, the sacrifices made to create this republic now upon his shoulders.

He said nothing, features now stern, bony shoulders braced back.

"Let us just stay here," Lincoln said softly.

Heintzelman looked back up, nodded, and fell in by his side.

Men continued to pass, falling back, but at the sight of the two, here and there a soldier slowed, stopped, a few calling out Lincoln's name, others silent, as if ashamed. Gradually a cluster of men gathered around them. A flag bearer came out of the smoke, carrying the dark blue banner of Maine. The soldier stopped and without comment planted the staff of the flag in the ground and turned to face back North. Within minutes hundreds were gathering. There was no cheering, no singing, no heroic gestures, just grim determination.

As he looked at them he wept inwardly, struggling to hide his tears. Here was the republic, his country, which he had sworn to defend and which those men were now defending, without fanfare, without much hope of seeing the day through to the end, but which they would now die for. The cause of the United States of America was reduced to this band of nearly defeated men who were gathering new courage, reorganizing themselves, and beginning to gird for battle in front of his eyes.

He took heart from these rallying troops, as he had taken heart from a servant of a race who till now were exempt in the minds of so many from that solemn pledge that all men were indeed created equal.

Another flag bearer, from New York, fell in carrying the national flag. A militia regiment, easily distinguished by their bright, clean uniforms, came up the road at the double. Sweat streaked their faces; many were gasping for breath, many trembling with fear, and yet they swung into line.

Heintzelman looked over at Lincoln, nodded, and then, with proper flourish, drew out his sword and saluted.

Lincoln could only nod.

The ragged formation stepped off, following Heintzelman. They went back into the inferno. He caught glimpses of battle, his first sight of that blood-red banner of the South coming forward, a dimly seen line of men advancing. A round struck one of his escorts, the man swearing, turning away, clutching a shattered arm. The wounded trooper looked at Lincoln, then pushed his mount back into the formation around the president, reassuming his post

The roar of battle swelled, expanding, racing outward to either flank, Union huzzah counterpointed by rebel yell.

And then they started to fall back, giving ground slowly, men dropping, but none running.

"Sir, we must move back. Now."

His attention was so fixed on the battle that he had not even noticed the captain by his side, reaching over to take his reins.

"Not yet"

"Sir, they're a hundred yards off, they'll be on us in a minute."

He shook his head.

The captain started to pull his mount around and Lincoln angrily jerked his reins back.

"We stay here," Lincoln said sharply.

The captain looked at him, wide-eyed, and then with a flicker of a smile raised his hand and saluted.

"Yes sir, Mr. President."

And then a distant cheer rose up behind them.

Lincoln looked back over his shoulder; even as he did so, another trooper of his escort collapsed, falling from his horse, dead. Behind them, though, he saw something coming. A column on the road from the city, running, bayonet points held high, tin cups and canteens clanging, an officer riding at the front ahead of the colors.

The officer came on fast, now urging his mount to a gallop and then reining in hard, and with an elegant gesture raised up his sword and saluted.

"Mr. President, I'm Col. Robert Shaw, Fifty-fourth Massachusetts."

"Colonel, it warms my heart to see you and your men; you may be just in time to save your nation's capital." "Mr. President. We're from Charleston. We arrived at the naval yard two hours ago. My brigade commander, General Strong, ordered me to move my regiment to the sound of the guns. He and the rest of the brigade will be coming up shortly."

Lincoln looked back and saw the column of veterans beginning to shake out into battle line, the men professional-looking, moving sharply … and they were colored.

Unable to speak, Lincoln faced Shaw again.

Shaw could not help but smile.

"We loaded up from Charleston the day the message arrived about Union Mills. There's a full brigade of combat-experienced troops behind me, sir. Now just tell me where to go.

He still could not speak.

'To the sound of the guns, sir!" the captain exclaimed, reaching out to grasp Shaw on the arm.

Shaw saluted, turned, and galloped off. A minute later the regiment swept past, and at the sight of the president, the men burst loose with a thunderous cheer. "Lincoln… Lincoln… Lincoln!" The charge went in.

He watched them go forward, still unable to speak. Behind them, back down the Seventh Street road, he saw more troops coming on at the double, a battery of artillery galloping across the open field beside the road, caissons leaping into the air.

He turned back to say something to the captain. But the saddle was empty, the young officer down on the ground, a couple of his troopers around him, kneeling, one looking up anguish-stricken at Lincoln.

He dismounted and knelt down by the captain. The man had been struck in the chest, was struggling to breathe.

Lincoln took his hand.

"Will we hold, sir?" the captain gasped.

"Yes, son, we'll hold. You have helped save the Union this day."

In Front of Fort Stevens

July 18,1863 10:00 a.m

General Lee, I beg you, sir, call it off." He turned to look at Longstreet and Hood, who stood beside him. He could not reply.

"Sir," Hood interjected, "it's finished. They're closing the breech. They have a colored regiment in the line now; one of my staff says it's the Fifty-fourth Massachusetts. General Beauregard reported that same regiment as being in front of Charleston two weeks ago. It means, sir, that they have fresh troops, experienced troops in the city now."

"Can we not sweep them aside?" Lee asked, and even as he spoke he realized his own will was breaking, he was asking now for some final reassurance.

"Sir," Hood continued. "My divisions are a shambles, one of them my own former command; if they cannot take it, no one can."

Longstreet shifted uncomfortably at this unintended slight. "General Longstreet?"

"I agree with General Hood, sir. I'm sorry, sir, but that road, in places the mud is knee-deep; we just can't bring men up fast enough to exploit the breakthrough."

"What about somewhere else along the line? They must have stripped their defenses to the bone elsewhere."

"Sir, we have no infantry along the rest of the line. We don't have enough men as is, even if we do force our way into that city. Sir, we've lost five, maybe ten thousand this day; we'll lose that much again, even more if we press it"

He paused, as if seeking a dramatic effect

"Sir, we just might take the city by the end of the day if you press it, but the Army of Northern Virginia, our last hope, will be destroyed doing it"

"I beg you, sir," Hood cried, his voice close to breaking. "Stop it now, our chance has passed for this day."

Lee looked toward the fort, that accursed fort Wounded, demoralized, pitiful fragments of broken units were coming back out of the smoke.

He lowered his head and nodded.

"Pull them back," he whispered.

He looked back to the southeast. The Capitol was still visible, its nearly completed dome standing defiant.

He turned and walked away.

Chapter Seven

In Front of Fort Stevens

July 18,1863 10:15 pm.

General Lee walked with infinite sadness and weariness through the hospital area. As he passed, those around him, even the most hideously wounded, fell silent.

General Pettigrew had been found, just before dusk, when Lee had asked Heintzelman for a truce. Contrary to the first reports, the general had still been alive. He was no longer; Lee had held Pettigrew's hand as he died.

Perrin had been more fortunate, hit twice, in the arm and leg; the limbs had not been broken. Perrin had wept at the sight of his commander, asking forgiveness for not going in "more sharply."

How did one answer such a statement when it was obvious where the fault truly rested?

Lee finally broke the silence, looking over at "Pete" Longstreet, who respectfully walked by his side.

"It was my fault, General Longstreet."

"General Lee, you did all that any man could do."

"I should have waited another night. I attacked too soon, I asked too much of these men."

"Sir, the reason you attacked this morning was clearly confirmed. Reinforcements are pouring into that city." He nodded in the direction of Washington. "If you had waited another night, the results would have been the same, perhaps worse."

"Then I should have realized it was impossible." "Sir, how? The only way to confirm the impossibility was to attempt it. If we had not attacked at all, what would we

have then thought? It would have haunted us, the thought that we might have been able to take it. It would have undermined morale. What would all have said across the South if we had not tried?"

"A terrible confirmation, General," Lee sighed. "Eight thousand or more dead, wounded, or captured. I might as well strike the divisions of Pettigrew and Perrin off the roster. After the losses suffered at Gettysburg and Union Mills, and now this, they are fought out."

Longstreet nodded in agreement. The two divisions, since July 1, had sustained over eighty per cent casualties. All of the original brigade commanders, except for Scales, were dead or wounded. All but three of the regimental commanders were down as well. As fighting units, the two divisions were finished. They would have to be pulled from the order of battle, rested, consolidated, and reorganized.

The two walked back toward the grove that had been his headquarters for the last two days. With the truce, the enemy had stopped shelling the position, but when morning arrived Lee would have to move. As they approached the roughly fashioned bridge of logs and barn siding, the two stepped aside as a convoy of a dozen ambulances passed. The shrieks and groans of the wounded within cut to Lee's soul and he stood with hat off as they passed, in the darkness no one recognizing him.

The grove was illuminated by several dozen lanterns, officers and staff standing silent. There was no frolicking this evening, no banter or music. All were silent. All were oppressed by the cost of this day's fighting and the friends dead and dying. At his approach whispered commands echoed, men coming to attention, some taking off their hats, others saluting.

He looked around at the gathering he had called- Longstreet, who was already at his side, Hood, arm in a sling from a rifle ball that had nicked his shoulder, Stuart, Walter Taylor, Jed Hotchkiss the cartographer, Scales as the senior surviving officer of the first two assault waves. Staff retreated to a respectful distance as Lee stepped under the overhanging tarpaulin and sat down in front of the rough-hewn table that had been dragged over from a nearby house.

"A terrible day, gentlemen," he opened without fanfare.

No one spoke.

"I take full responsibility for what happened here today." "General, we all must take responsibility for it," Hood interjected.

"I will hear no more on that, General Hood. I ordered the attack, it was my decision and mine alone."

He held his hand up for silence and Hood lowered his head.

Yet Hood was right to a certain degree. It was his first attack as a corps commander. The assault waves should have been better coordinated, sent in directly one after another. The attack had kicked off an hour late, the second wave going in late as well.

Hood should have informed him of that confusion before the attack commenced. But oh the other side of the ledger it was a night attack, something the Army of Northern Virginia had never before attempted, except after already being committed to action at Chancellorsville, and that was against a beaten foe … and in the confusion that action had cost him Jackson. The single road up was indeed a quagmire; the fog and friction of war were at play. He should have sensed that, made closer watch on the preparations, but he knew that he, too, had been exhausted and in his exhaustion had trusted the judgment of those beneath him.

That was his responsibility and his alone.

"There was no alternative," Pete said even as he puffed a cigar to light "We had to try and strike before reinforcements came in. The men that counterattacked us in the final assault were veteran units pulled all the way up from Charleston. We knew they were coming and had to attack before they arrived. If they are moving the entire besieging force up from there, that could mean twenty thousand additional men are now in the city or will be within the next few days. General Lee, that is why you had to attack today, and not tomorrow. Today was our only hope of taking the city by a coup de main."

"Is it true there was a regiment of niggers with them?" Stuart asked.

Lee looked up at him sharply. "You know I don't like that word, General."

"I'm sorry, sir. Colored then."

"I saw them," Hood interjected. "It must be that regiment from Massachusetts. Now we must deal with that as well."

"If we take any of them prisoners," Lee said softly, "they are to be treated like any other soldiers. I want that clearly understood. I disagree with General Beauregard's statements and that of our government that they will be sold as slaves and their officers executed. I will not have that in my army and I want that clearly understood by all."

No one spoke.

"We drift from our topic, gentlemen," Lee announced. "And that is to decide our course of action."

He looked at the men gathered at the table.

'Two of our divisions are no longer fit for service, at least for a fortnight or more. What is left of Anderson's division is still in Virginia, escorting prisoners back. In our remaining six divisions of infantry I would estimate that we have barely thirty thousand men under arms."

He looked at Taylor, who sadly nodded in agreement.

"That does not include artillery and cavalry, sir," Stuart said.

"No, of course not, General Stuart, but when it comes to siege operations and assault, it is infantry we need." No one replied.

"It is safe to assume that their garrison in Washington, now receiving yet more reinforcements, numbers at least thirty thousand, perhaps as many as forty thousand by tomorrow. Their heavy artillery, well, we saw what but three forts defended with heavy artillery can do to our men out in the open."

"Are you saying, sir, that the hope of taking Washington is finished?" Stuart asked.

"Do you see any alternative, sir?"

"They are still strung out defending thirty miles of front, sir. We can maneuver, feign, probe. Sooner or later, we'll find the weak spot and push in."

"That will take days, maybe weeks," Longstreet replied, "and every day means yet more men in their garrison to repulse us. They have the interior lines. Even if we did break through, they can muster a force sufficient to face us at the edge of the city or inside of it.

"I must say this now, sir," Longstreet continued. "Our army, unfortunately, is not an army that can fight a siege, or take a city the size of Washington; we are a field army that survives by maneuver, surprise, and agility. That other type of warfare fits our enemy, with their limitless numbers."

He sighed. "It doesn't fit us and never will."

"Then you believed we would not take that city?" Lee asked.

Longstreet hesitated, then finally nodded his head. "I didn't think we could take it if they were prepared to fight block by block and house by house."

"I wish I had heard that from you yesterday, General, or a week ago before we even marched down from Westminster."

Longstreet could sense the rebuke and his features reddened.

"We had to try, sir. After all, their army might have lost enough morale after their shattering defeat at Union Mills. The green troops in the forts might have broken down. The reinforcements might have come a day later. We had to try, General Lee. Maybe it was a forlorn hope, maybe not. But we had to try. Everyone, our men, the government, the people of the South, expected it and therefore we had to try."

Placated, Lee nodded and leaned back in the camp chair.

History would have expected it, he realized. After the triumph at Gettysburg and Union Mills history itself would have expected him to march on Washington and take it. He had to have tried.

The dream of taking Washington had been the goal ever since the start of this campaign, the thought that with the final defeat of the Army of the Potomac, Washington would fall and then it would be over. Was that itself an illusion?

If so, what now? Was everything this campaign was predicated upon an illusion? Was there nothing that could force the North to negotiate a peace?

Walter stepped away from the group for a moment and returned with a tin cup brimming with coffee. Lee nodded his thanks, lifted the cup, blew on the edge and took a sip, then set the cup back down.

Hotchkiss had already spread the maps of northern Virginia, Maryland, and southern Pennsylvania out on the table. Lee examined them. At Gettysburg this had been a defining moment, when the map seemed to come alive with movement, of troops marching on roads, enemy positions marked, all leading to a place where victory awaited.

But nothing stirred within his heart and mind. All was still and silent, except for the creaking of the ambulances passing nearby on the road, the distant cries of the wounded piercing the night.

"We have three choices," he finally said, rubbing his eyes, then taking another sip of coffee. "We either stay here and continue the action or we pull back into Maryland, maybe toward Frederick, and in so doing reorganize, see to our logistical needs, and then perhaps consider Baltimore. We can also retire back into Virginia and reorganize and refit until Grant and his new army come after us."

He had laid it out cleanly and no one spoke, though he could see that all were now forming their responses, each ready to set forth his opinion.

"Continue it," Stuart said sharply. "I still maintain that we can maneuver, shift some of our forces toward Blandensburg, others down along the Potomac, stretch them out using my cavalry, then when the weak point is found, go in."

"Not again." This time it was Scales. Though he was only a brigade officer, now in command of a shattered division, all looked over at him respectfully. He was the only general to come back out of today's inferno.

"Go on, General Scales," Lee said politely.

"Sir, as you know, I was there today and saw it all. My men, sir, they did everything humanly possible, beyond humanly possible. They stormed through six rows of abatis, waded a moat, charged a muddy slope, and finally took Fort Stevens. We lost two divisions just doing that, and now it, too, is back in their hands.

"I actually thought that after two hours of firing, the garrison inside would run out of ammunition. I looked in one of their bunkers once the fort was taken, sir; they could have kept up that rate of fire with canister alone for another three or four hours, and with shell and solid shot for the rest of the day.

"Sir, taking those forts is pitting mere human flesh against earthworks and steel. Maybe if we had a hundred thousand more men, and, God forgive us, the cruelty to use them without thought or compassion, we could do it, but I for one, sir, could not give such an order ever again."

"I agree, General," Lee said softly. "I will not order such an assault, ever again, unless I am certain that the sacrifice is worth the final reward."

Stuart started to raise an objection, but Lee's tone indicated that this line of debate was finished. The attack on Washington was over.

He could see though that what he had just admitted was that the raison d'etre of the entire campaign was now in question and he could not leave it there.

"If we had reinforcements, and with them the proper equipment to conduct a successful siege, only then would I now consider it. We took the gamble, we did our best, but things have come out against us."

A gloom settled over the group.

"I cannot believe," Hood finally interjected, "that to withdraw back to Virginia is our only remaining option."

Grateful for the comment, Lee nodded for Hood to continue.

"That would be the ultimate admission of defeat. All our people's hopes coming out of our triumph at Union Mills will be dashed if we now turn our men south, especially after this defeat. The Yankee press will crow that we've been turned back without hope of ever returning. It will give them time as well to rebuild the Army of the Potomac once more and to combine it with Grant's new force. I think, sir, if you do that now, you will lose the war."

"I agree," Stuart announced and there were nods around the table.

"We have good supplies here," Hood said. "If we can maintain ourselves here through the fall harvest, it will give all of Virginia, especially the valley, time to recover and then, if need be, support us through the winter and following spring. We still have a good stockpile of ordnance supplies taken from Union Mills as well, so there is no concern for that at the moment."

"Our numbers though," Longstreet said, and his words dampened the first sign of renewed vigor.

"Go on, General Longstreet."

"As we already discussed, we are down to roughly thirty thousand men in the infantry. We know that on the Yankee side thirty thousand or more are, or shortly will be, in Washington. Though we might scoff at them now, the Army of the Potomac will rebuild. Perhaps as many as thirty thousand got out and are somewhere north of the Susquehanna. They are undoubtedly funneling men into that army even as we speak. And then there is Grant. He is bringing in troops as well. We might very well be facing a hundred to a hundred and fifty thousand in fairly short order."

"Grant?" Hood snapped. "An amateur from the West compared to the caliber of what we have here in the East. At this moment, I think McClellan would be a bigger threat."

"An amateur who defeated Johnston and then took Vicksburg? I wouldn't call the victor of Pillow, Donelson, Pittsburgh Landing, and Vicksburg an amateur, General Hood," Lee commented.

"It will be months before he can marshal a force capable of meeting us," Hood pressed.

"General Hood, they brought up troops from Charleston in a matter of days. What is to prevent them from bringing troops to Grant from as far afield as Texas, Florida, or even his own army from Vicksburg, battle-hardened men fresh from a major victory?"

"That would strip every other front clean," Stuart replied, coming to Hood's support

"This is the only front that matters now," Longstreet countered. "If we take back the Mississippi, New Orleans, and all of Kentucky, what does it matter if this army is defeated and, by logical deduction, Richmond then falls?"

"Then we take it to the hills, the mountains, and down into the deep south until they finally give up."

"A dozen or more years, is that it?" Longstreet snapped.

"Gentlemen," Lee interjected, extending both hands in a calming gesture.

The arguing generals looked to him.

"Both of you are right. We must be concerned about this Grant, the potential that he can form around him another army. But I do not see that happening tomorrow, or even in a month. We still have time to consider that when the time comes. Let us hold ourselves to the immediate, to our concerns of tonight and the next few days."

Hood and Longstreet gazed at each other and then looked back to Lee.

They both nodded in reply.

"I think, gentlemen, that we have some sense of things this evening. We cannot storm Washington, nor is retreat back to Virginia a viable choice."

No one raised an objection.

"Then let us rest our men in place tomorrow. General Longstreet, pass the word back to your corps to stop where they are on the road. General Stuart, continue to observe their lines to either flank; if something remarkable develops we will of course act on it, but by that I mean they all but abandon their lines. I do not want you to bring on any sort of general engagement without my direct orders."

He shifted and looked over at his aide.

"Colonel Taylor, meet with our medical staff and see to arrangements for the proper evacuation of our wounded.

General Stuart, you will have to detail off at least two or three regiments to escort our injured back to Virginia. The truce along this front lasts till dawn and I expect all to observe that Colonel Taylor, at dawn I want a letter to be sent to General Heintzelman extending my thanks for his courtesy. If need be, we might ask for a truce till noon but we'll decide that in the morning."

He looked around at the gathering.

"Any other questions?"

"Sir," Hood pressed. "I understand that we have decided to stay in Maryland, but to what end now, sir?"

Lee sat back with a sigh. In truth he simply didn't know. Ever since crossing the Potomac he had moved with the next goal clearly in sight, first to find the Army of the Potomac and position it on suitable ground for a decisive blow. After that to try and take Washington. That had been decided this day.

What next? Hold in place and hope they attack? They would be fools to do so until their strength was again overwhelming. Pull back up into central Maryland, toward Frederick perhaps? That would significantly shorten his lines of communication, but for the moment that was not a major concern. The windfall at Westminster, and the richness of the surrounding farmlands, could support them right into early autumn. Try for Baltimore? It would extend him, widening his flank to the north, and leave in his rear a gathering enemy strength in Washington. His instinct of the moment was to draw back toward Frederick, but he was not yet ready to give that order.

He could not decide that tonight, not after this bitter day.

"We'll talk again at dusk tomorrow, gentlemen," was all he could say. "I think we all need a day of rest."

One by one they saluted and stepped away from the table. He could see that Pete wanted to continue the conversation, but a gentle shake of his head was signal enough. Pete saluted and withdrew until finally only Walter was left

"Sir, your bed is ready," Walter said. "May I suggest some sleep."

"In a little while, Walter."

Walter made as if to argue. The general touched his aide lightly on the arm.

"I think, Walter, I'm going to order you to bed. You can see to your duties before dawn."

"Yes, sir."

Walter knew better than to press the issue. He touched the brim of his hat and withdrew.

Alone, at least as alone as he could ever be with this army, Lee sat back down but then, after a restless moment, he stood up and walked out of the grove. The ever-present troopers who served as his escort stirred.

"Just walking," Lee said. "Stay off your mounts, let them rest at least"

A sergeant with the detail saluted, called for a dozen men, but then kept them back at a respectful distance.

Lee slowly walked up the slope. The tangled grass, brambles, and corn had all been trampled down in the assault, the debris making his footing somewhat difficult As he went along he could see dozens, perhaps a hundred or more lanterns, now pale and ghostlike in the light mist that was rising, ambulance crews and stretcher parties sweeping the ground for the fallen.

In the faint glow of starlight he finally saw the outline of the fort, easy to pick out by the lanterns atop it, several signal flares sputtering on the breastworks, casting a sharp, metallic light.

He could hear distant moans, cries, a hysterical shriek, "Don't touch me! Don't touch me!" He lowered his head.

"Merciful God, forgive me my many faults," he whispered. "Grant repose to those who fell here this day. Grant peace to the families of the fallen, and lay Your gentle hand of peace upon those who suffer this night Forgive us, Oh Lord, for what we have done to each other this day. Amen."

He looked back up at the fort Beyond it he could see the unfinished dome of the Capitol, the lights of the city. For a moment he wondered if a more distant light was the front porch of his own home, but knew that was fanciful illusion, though the thought of it caused his eyes to sting. He turned and walked away.

Fort Stevens

July 18,1863 11:45 p.m.

Lincoln slowed his pace as he walked into the fort. Now he was seeing it up close for the first time. Torches flickered on the parade ground, which had been turned into a temporary hospital, the men waiting for the ambulances that would take them back into the city and out of harm's way if the battle should resume tomorrow.

It was a enamel house, thick with the stench of torn flesh, vomit, excrement, gun smoke, with the faint whiff of ether and chloroform. He wanted to shut out the sound of a surgeon at work, taking a man's leg off, operating on a rough plank set up on sawhorses right out in the open, two assistants holding lanterns to either side of him.

He spared a quick glance; the surgeon did not even see him, so intent was he on his work, struggling to loop a string of catgut around a hemorrhaging artery. A male nurse, middle-aged, white-flecked beard, was beside the surgeon, ready to hand over more looped strings of ligatures. The man looked somehow familiar, and their eyes met It was the poet he had heard so much about and read. The poet smiled, and the gesture was strange until he realized it was a look of encouragement, an almost fatherly gaze. Lincoln nodded and turned away, fearful that if he actually saw the operation in its entirety, the leg dropping off, he would become ill.

He carefully stepped around the wounded, most of them so preoccupied with their personal hells that they did not know who was walking past them. To the east side of the parade ground there was a long row of still forms, the dead; a couple of orderlies staggered by, carrying a body away from where the wounded were spread out. They dropped the body and went back, walking slowly.

He saw a knot of officers gathered on the parapet, and approached. One of them turned, whispered, and the others came about, coming to attention. He recognized Heintzelman in the middle of the group, arm in a sling.

He had not held much confidence in this man, and still had doubts as to his fitness to manage an independent command, but Heintzelman had proven in the moment of crisis that he had courage, personally going back in to lead the countercharge, getting wounded in the process.

Heintzelman fumbled for a second to salute, grimaced, letting his right arm drop back into the sling, and then saluted with his left hand as Lincoln carefully ascended the steps to the gun platform where the officers were gathered around the thirty-pounder.

"They're still out there, bringing in their wounded," Heintzelman said.

The president didn't need to be told. The ground before him at first glance looked like a summer meadow covered with fireflies. The lanterns swung back and forth, bobbing up and down, some not moving, resting on the ground, casting enough light to reveal a stretcher-team bending over to pick up their burden. Ambulances were lined up alongside a row of torches, men being lifted into the back. Cries of anguish echoed across the field.

Bright flares were set along the top of the fortress wall, illuminating the moat below and the wall of the fort. Men were sloshing through the muck, pulling out bodies, dragging them up the opposite slope.

"Sir, perhaps it's not wise for you to be this close. Those are rebs working out there," Heintzelman whispered.

A bit surprised, Lincoln suddenly realized they were indeed rebels, not thirty feet away, moving like ghosts in the dark. One was humming a hymn, "Rock of Ages," as he helped to pull a wounded man up out of the moat. But his hymn was all but drowned out by the low, murmuring cries, sounding like the damned trapped in the eternal pit below.

"I'm safe here," Lincoln replied softly. "General Lee is scrupulous about a truce, his men will honor it"

"Sir, I took the liberty of loaning them twenty ambulances with teams; they were short"


"One of their doctors told one of my staff that their army was bogged down on the roads, leaving all their baggage and nearly all their artillery behind. The ambulances were left behind as well. They only had a few dozen with them."

"It was right of you to do so, General."

It was an interesting bit of intelligence, explaining perhaps why they had not attacked with more strength.

"I also sent over several wagons of medical supplies. We've got warehouses full of ether, bandages, medicine; I just couldn't stand to see brave boys like those out there suffering needlessly now that they are out of the fight"

Surprised, Lincoln looked over at the general and nodded his approval.

"You did the proper thing, General, and I thank you."

He stood silent and no one dared to interrupt.

"If they want more time after dawn, do not hesitate to give it to them. The same stands for ambulances and medical supplies. I will not have wounded men out there suffering."

"Yes, sir," Heintzelman lowered his head, "and thank you, sir."

"Thank you?"

"This morning, sir. What you did on the road. The entire army is talking about it."

Lincoln felt himself flush. He had done nothing out of the ordinary and he was still a bit shocked by the terror he had felt when the enemy battle line came into sight, flags held high, that terrible screaming yell resounding. Certainly his three months in the militia years ago had not prepared him for this moment of crisis and the overwhelming emotions that came with it. That was play soldiering. This was the real thing. It was not just terror for himself, but terror as well that here was the ending of it, that he had lost the war, that the republic would be forever sundered, and centuries of division, woe, and yet more war were now the fate of this world.

He had hardly been able to think of anything else, even as the reinforcements stormed up the road, deployed, and then struck with such terrible fury, losing a third of their numbers, but hitting with such ferocity that the enemy attack had faltered and withdrawn.

He started to turn and leave but then recognized a diminutive officer standing at the edge of the group. He approached, the officer stiffening, saluting. Lincoln extended his hand.

"Shaw, isn't it?"

"Yes, Mr. President."

"I know your parents."

"Yes, sir, they are honored to have your acquaintance."

"As I am now honored to have yours, Colonel. Your men were magnificent this day. The entire nation shall know of them."

"Thank you, sir, but we were just one regiment out of many who did their duty here today."

He could sense that the other officers were watching. Some might be jealous of the attention, but Shaw's words had the proper diplomatic effect and he could see a couple of the generals behind Shaw nodding with approval.

"Your men proved something today, Shaw. In this time of crisis I hope we can raise a hundred thousand men of color in short order. Your example will open that way."

"Thank you, sir."

"Once the crisis of this-moment has passed, Shaw, I'd like you and several of your enlisted men to visit me in the White House."

Shaw grinned.

"An honor, sir."

"I will confess to being exhausted tonight. I might forget this invitation, so please send a messenger to the White House. Have him ask for Mr. Hay, and an appointment will be made."

"Thank you, Mr. President"

Lincoln lightly took his hand, shook it, and then left the gun position. He could hear the chatter behind him, one of the generals offering Shaw a cigar, telling him that he was certainly the "trump card" tonight.

As he stepped off the ladder, the horror was again before him. Half a dozen ambulances were lined up, stretcher-bearers swinging their loads in, four men to an ambulance on stretchers, one or two lightly wounded sitting up and riding the buckboard, another upright wounded man forward on the seat with the driver. As the ambulances jostled into motion, cries and groans erupted. Men who had struggled so hard to hide their pain as they believed soldiers should, once inside the confines of the ambulance and concealed by the canvas walls, could at last give voice to their pain-and most did.

He took his hat off, watching as the ambulances moved out of the sally port. "Mr. President." He turned. It was the poet "Yes?"

"Mr. President, I was just helping a boy. He saw you come in and asked to speak with you. He says his ma knows your family."

The escort of cavalry that had trailed behind him at a respectful distance came in a bit closer. A lieutenant, who had replaced the young captain who was now dead, tried to interrupt

"The president has had a hard day, sir, perhaps another time."

"Mr. President, he won't live much longer. I feared to leave his side to help that surgeon you saw me with even for a moment. He's dying, shot in the stomach."

Lincoln nodded.

"Yes," was all he could say, not sure if he could bear what was coming.

The poet led the way, weaving past hundreds of wounded lying on the ground, makeshift surgical stations set up under awnings, a pile of arms and legs stacked on the ground so that he slowed, wanting to offer a protest; decency demanded that these shattered limbs should be hidden away. But how can you hide away a hundred limbs when every second was precious, every orderly staggering with exhaustion, the surgeons slashing and cutting as fast as they could to stop hemorrhaging, plug holes in gasping chest wounds, dull the pain of a chest so badly shattered that the broken ends of bare ribs were sticking out, push back in loops of intestines, or still the hysterical babbling of a man whose brains were oozing out?

The poet slowed, then looked back at the president "Sir, one thing." "And that is?"

"He's a Confederate soldier, sir." Lincoln slowed, paused, and then nodded his head wearily.

"That doesn't matter now."

The poet offered a reassuring smile, took him gently by the arm, and guided him the last few feet

The boy was curled up on his side, panting like an injured deer, in the flickering torchlight his face was ghostly pale, hair matted to his forehead with sweat. His uniform was tattered, his butternut jacket frayed at the cuffs and collar, unbuttoned. The boy was clutching a bundle of bandages against his abdomen. In the shadows the stain leaking out seemed black. He looked up, eyes unfocused.

"I brought him to you," the poet whispered, kneeling down beside the boy.

The boy looked around, a glimmer of panic on his face, and he feebly tried to move, then groaned from the pain.

'I can't see."

Lincoln knelt down, then sat on the ground, extending his hand, taking the boy's hand, touching it lightly. The skin was cold.

"I'm here, son, I'm here." "Mr. Lincoln?" "Yes, son."

"Private Jenkins, sir. Bobbie Jenkins, Twenty-sixth North Carolina."

"Yes, son. You asked for me?"

"My ma, sir. She was born in Kentucky. When she was a girl she took sick with the typhoid."

He stopped for a few seconds, struggling for breath.

"Your ma, Mrs. Hanks, helped take care of her. You were a boy then, sir, she told me, she remembered you bringing some soup to her. Do you remember her?"

"Of course I do," he lied. "A pretty girl, your ma."

The boy smiled.

"Mama," he gasped, and curled into a fetal position, panting for air.

"It hurts," he whispered.

Lincoln looked at the poet sitting on the other side of the boy.

"Anything for the pain?" Lincoln whispered.

"As much as we dare give him," the poet replied softly, leaning over to brush the matted hair from the boy's brow.

"In spite of this war," the boy sighed, "Ma always said you and your kin were good folk."

"Thank you, son, I know you and your ma are good folk, too."

"The man here, he told me I'm going to be with God soon."

Lincoln looked up at the poet and was awed by the beatific look on the man's face as he gently brushed back the boy's hair, using a soiled handkerchief to wipe his brow.

"I'm afraid, sir," the boy whispered. "Please help me. Will you write to her? Tell her I died bravely."

"Yes, son."

"Help me," the boy whispered, his body trembling. "I'm afraid."

Lincoln lowered his head, slid closer, and took the boy into his arms.

"Do you remember the prayer your mother taught you? The one you said together every night when she tucked you into bed?"

The boy began to cry softly.

"Let's say it together," Lincoln whispered.

The boy continued to cry.

"Now I lay me down to sleep," Lincoln began.

The boy's voice, soft, already distant, joined in.

"I pray the Lord my soul to keep…

"If I should die before I wake …

"I pray the Lord my soul to take…"

Even as the last words escaped the boy's lips, he shuddered, a convulsion running through him.

Lincoln thought of his own boy, of Willie, his last strangled gasp for air.

There was a gentle exhaling, the tension in the boy's body relaxing, going limp, his last breath escaping, washing over Lincoln's face.

He held him. He tried to stifle his own sobs as he held him. He knew others were watching, watching the president, not a tired, heartsick old man; they were watching the president, but he didn't care.

He felt a gentle touch on his shoulder, the poet, up on his knees, leaning over the body.

"I'll take him, sir."

He didn't want to let go, but knew he had to.

He leaned over and kissed the boy on the brow, the way he knew the boy's mother had kissed him every night.

"God forgive me," he whispered.

He sat back up, letting the poet take the body. The poet ever so gently closed the boy's eyes, folded his arms. He reached into his pocket, took out a notebook and a pencil. He scratched the name of the boy and his regiment on a slip of paper. He drew a pin out of the binding of the notebook and fastened the name on the boy's breast pocket. Lincoln realized that this little ritual was an attempt to identify a body so it would have a marker, something the poet had done innumerable times before. The boy, however, would most likely go into a mass grave with hundreds of his comrades.

The poet took another piece of paper and again wrote the boy's name and his hometown in North Carolina upon it, and handed it to the president

"You promised him, sir," the poet said. There was no reproof in his voice, no questioning, just a gentle reminder.

"Thank you," Lincoln whispered.

The poet stood up and Lincoln came up as well. He looked around and saw that all were silent. Dozens had been watching, Union and Confederate, lying side by side, all silent, some weeping.

He lowered his head, struggling to gain control of his voice.

"Let us all pray together," he said, his voice suddenly calm.

"Oh, God, please lift this terrible scourge of war from our land. Let all here return safely home to their loved ones, and together let us learn to live in peace."

Chapter Eight

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

July 19,1863 3:30 a.m.

The train drifted into the station, its bell ringing, the steam venting and swirling in the still morning air.

He sat hunched over, wrapped in thought, headache still throbbing. At least the trip was finished, eight hundred pounding miles, the incessant click-click of the track a numbing repetition, every bump of the train as it lurched its way through the mountains of Pennsylvania resounding in his head like a cannon shot

Haupt, Washburne, and Parker were up, looking at him, and with a muffled groan he rose from his seat and went to the rear platform. A cloud of wood smoke washed around him as he stepped out. A small guard was waiting, a dozen men snapping to attention, a captain with drawn sword saluting as he stepped off the platform.

After more than two days on the train his legs felt unsteady, the ground shifting and swaying beneath his feet A wave of nausea hit and he fought to keep it down; the last thing needed at this moment was to vomit in front of the men.

"Welcome to Harrisburg, sir," the captain said, voice quavering a bit nervously. "Thank you, Captain."

"Sir, General Couch sends his regards. He regrets not being here to meet you but will report at your earliest convenience."

Grant said nothing. Couch was most likely fast asleep. The rail yard was a bustle of activity with half a dozen trains being off-loaded, crates of rations piled up under an open-sided warehouse, horses being driven off boxcars, a dozen Napoleons on flatcars ready to be dragged off and then matched up with crews.

The captain reached into an oversized haversack dangling from his hip and drew out a sheaf of envelopes, bound with a coarse string.

"Sir, these letters are waiting for you."

The captain handed them to Grant.

"Any word from Washington?" Grant asked.

"They beat off Lee's attack. It's all in there, sir."

Grant took the package and looked around.

"Sir, there's a desk in the yardmaster's office." Leading the way, the captain took him across a set of tracks, around a locomotive that was ticking like a teakettle, with heat radiating from its boiler, and into a well-appointed clapboard-sided office. The obligatory pot of coffee was brewing on a small wood-stove and Parker immediately took down four tin cups from a shelf, filled them, and passed one to each of the travelers.

Grant settled into a wood-backed chair, laid the package on the open roll-top desk, took out his whittling knife, and cut the package open. Twenty or more letters and telegrams spilled out and he opened the top one.

He leaned back in the chair and a thin trace of a smile creased his face.

"What is it?' Washburne asked.

"The captain's right, Lee failed to take Washington. It's a report from Stanton. Heavy assault on Fort Stevens this morning, just before dawn. Estimate eight to ten thousand casualties for the rebels. Our losses estimated at four thousand. Reinforcements from Charleston decisive. Enemy driven back out of our lines by midday."

"Will they attack again?" Elihu asked.

He shook his head.

"I doubt it. Cut the estimate of their losses in half and it's still a devastating blow. If they couldn't take it yesterday, Lee knows it would be even worse today. I think that finishes their hopes of taking the capital for now."

He opened the other envelopes, scanning through them, lingering over one for a moment, then continued till the last was read and laid down on the desk. He finally took up the cup of coffee, which had cooled, and drained it in several gulps.

"Most are repeats of the same message. The rioting in New York, for the moment, has been suppressed. Haupt, your efforts are bearing fruit; we have trains ladened with supplies, rations, remounts, artillery, wagons, coming from as far away as Maine."

Haupt smiled and nodded.

Grant looked around at the small gathering.

"I'm to report to Washington immediately," he said and stood up.

"You just got here," Elihu said.

"I know. Stanton wants a conference and I'm to take the fastest train to be found down to Perryville on the Susquehanna, where a dispatch boat will be waiting to take me to the capital."

"Stanton?" Elihu asked cautiously.

"Congressman, I'd like you to accompany me," Grant announced. "Parker, I want you to stay here. The First Division of McPherson's corps should start coming in later today. Set up my headquarters. I want it in the field, not in town. Find an appropriate place. Haupt, I think it best if you accompany me as well."

"An honor, sir. I'll go over to the dispatch office now and clear a line for an express. We can take the same train that brought us here."

Grant picked up the first telegram he had read and reviewed it one more time.

So Lee had tried. Well, he had to. Even on the slimmest of bets, the chance to take Washington by a bold assault could not be ignored.

He might try again a few days hence, to probe around the fortifications and look for a blunder by Heintzelman. All Heintzelman had to do in response was to keep the exterior forts reasonably garrisoned and shift reserves along his own interior lines to wherever the threat might develop. A child should be able to do that, but then again, more than one general in this army had sunk below that level during the last two years.

The question is, what will Lee do next?


He looked up. The captain of the guard detail stood in the doorway, holding another telegram.

"This came in for you. It was dated nearly six hours ago but was in code. Sorry, but it took a while to find the translator book."

Grant took the telegram and opened it. A message out of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, a hundred miles to the southwest along the Pennsylvania Railroad. The message was from a Pinkerton agent claiming to have come in from behind Confederate linesJefferson Davis was reported as being

seen two days ago at Greencastle, a small town in the Cumberland Valley, just inside the Pennsylvania state line, riding to meet Lee.

Now, if true, that was news, revealing much of what was to come. In fact, it was damn good news. Haupt was back.

"I've ordered the line cleared. We can leave as soon as our engine is watered, oiled, and fueled."

Grant stepped out of the office, lit a cigar, and looked heavenward. It was a clear night, the stars were out, shining through the faint overcast of fog drifting up from the river.

"How's the headache?" Elihu asked.

"It's gone."

Three Miles North of Fort Stevens

May 19, 1863 2:00 p.m.

General Lee, President Davis is on the road just north of here, he'll be arriving in a few minutes." Startled, Lee looked up from the map spread out on the table. Having moved his headquarters out of artillery range, he had just settled in under an awning spread on the front lawn of a modest, two-story home facing the Seventh Street road. Under the shade of the awning he had been contemplating a nap after the sleepless night that had bedeviled and exhausted him.

"Are you sure it's the president?" he asked.

Taylor nodded excitedly.

"One of Stuart's boys saw him and galloped back here with the word."

Lee came to his feet looking down at his uniform. His jacket was off, vest open, pants stained with mud. He felt clammy, sweat-soaked, realizing it had been a week or more since he had been out of these clothes. It was scorching hot out, and he dreaded having to get back into formal attire, but there was nothing else he could do. Taylor had already picked up his jacket and helped him get into it. Next came the boots, replacing the comfortable slippers. A black servant with the staff knelt to help him with his boots, then produced a stiff brush and worked on the trousers for a moment before helping him to wrap his sash and then snap on his belt.

He already felt confined, sweat breaking out There was a flurry of activity up the road; on the low ridge a half mile to the north men were on their feet a distant cheer echoing. It had to be Davis, nothing else could stir the men on this day of rest of disappointment, and heat.

There was a momentary flash of frustration, even anger. There had been no notification that the president was so close, just a vague message after Union Mills that he would come north at his earliest convenience to inspect the troops and discuss future plans. It was obvious now that this visit by Davis was in anticipation of the news that Washington had already been seized, or was about to fall. Still, there should have been more formal notification so that he and his men could prepare.

'Taylor, get some sort of formal guard out there. Also, send messages to Generals Longstreet, Hood, and Stuart that the president is here and I expect them to report in as soon as possible."

Taylor, obviously a bit flustered for once, saluted and ran off, shouting orders. The headquarters company, Virginian cavalrymen, were already forming up, the rumor of the president's arrival having swept the camp. There wasn't time to saddle and mount, so the men simply formed up by the road, brushing off each other's uniforms as they waited.

A troop of cavalry were coming down the road, riding at a swift trot. Their uniforms of dark gray jackets and light gray trousers were stained and muddied from the long ride. The escort reined in, Taylor down on the road to greet them Salutes were exchanged.

A second troop came in, and in their midst was Jefferson Davis, riding a black gelding, trailed by civilian staff. To Lee's surprise, Judah Benjamin was with them, the secretary of state for the Confederacy. He looked haggard, wincing with every jolt as his mare trotted behind the president's horse.

The group reined in. There was a flourish of salutes from the escorts, men racing up to hold the reins as the civilians dismounted.

Lee came forward, stopping a half dozen feet from the president and saluting. He wondered if Davis would feel some offense at the paltry nature of the greeting, no band, no flags displayed other than the headquarters insignia, no brigades of troops lining the road.

Davis stepped away from his mount, moving stiffly, looking around He bowed slightly in acknowledgment of the salute.

"Mr. President, welcome to the Army of Northern Virginia, sir," Lee said formally. "An honor, General Lee."

There was a moment of awkward silence. The other civilians were gathering behind Davis and Benjamin, jockeying for position, a couple of them obviously reporters, notebooks already out.

"My headquarters are rather spartan, sir, I hope you don't find it too uncomfortable"

As he spoke, Lee gestured toward the canopy of tarpaulins spread out on the front lawn of the house. A couple of servants were racing about, dragging more chairs out from the house, another setting out a fresh pot of coffee and tin cups and surprisingly a pitcher of what looked to be iced lemonade.

"Not at all, in fact this reminds me of my own days in the field during the war with Mexico. Lead the way, General," Davis said.

Lee guided them the few dozen feet to the table. The entire crowd of civilians tried to close in and follow. Davis turned to one of his military escorts and whispered a few words. The escort nodded.

"Gentlemen. The president wishes a few moments alone with General Lee and Secretary Benjamin. I believe General Lee's staff will offer some refreshments in the house."

"General Lee," one of the civilians shouted, stepping around the escort. "I'm with the Richmond Examiner. Is it true you were repulsed yesterday in front of Washington with heavy losses?"

Lee looked at the man out of the comer of his eye. Several others were crowding around behind the reporter, notebooks well.

"I first wish to make my report to the president, gentlemen," he said, forcing himself to remain polite. "I will be more than happy to talk with you later."

"Sir, just five minutes please. Will you renew the assault?"

He turned away, ignoring the man, who smelled of whiskey and bad cologne. Several guards from his own staff stepped between Lee and the reporter, there were whispered comments, and Lee inwardly smiled.

There were several muffled protests, but the reporters, staff, and hangers-on were led away.^

Davis was already sitting in the chair Lee had occupied only minutes before. Benjamin was standing, looking down at the map.

Lee approached, glad to be under the awning, at least out of the direct sunlight, though the heat was stifling.

"Gentlemen, something cool to drink? Perhaps you'd care to rest a bit before we start?" Lee offered, even as he poured a cup of lemonade and offered it to Davis.

"I'd like to hear what happened first," Davis replied, looking up at him.

He wasn't sure if there was a tone of reproof in Davis's voice. He set down the cup that he had offered to Davis and then poured another for Benjamin, who gladly took it. Benjamin took his hat off and with a sigh pulled out a handkerchief and wiped the sweat from his brow.

"Thank you, General," he gasped and drained the lemonade in two gulps. Seconds later he winced, rubbing his broad forehead from the shock of the cold beverage.

He forced a smile.

"Foolish of me, should always take it slow," he said and then unbuttoned his jacket, removed it, and placed it over a chair. His shirt was plastered to his body with sweat, and as a soft breeze wafted by he actually sighed with delight

"General, make yourself comfortable, sir," Judah said. "Our president has an iron fortitude, but I'll tell you, in those last ten miles I thought I would die from the heat It is worse up here than in Richmond."

"I agree," Lee replied, glad for the moment of the small talk, which was customary and polite before getting to business. "Washington has its own unique climate, which in midsummer is worse than anything to be found farther south."

Judah poured another cup of lemonade and sipped it slowly. It was obvious that Davis wanted to press straight in, but Judah was diverting him for a moment

Lee had always liked this man, and he could tell that Judah was trying to give him a few minutes to organize his thoughts.

"The ride up was gruelling, General. Train to Winchester, where, I should add, we passed the convoys of Yankee prisoners from Gettysburg and Union Mills. I- tell you, I've never seen such a sight It was biblical in its proportions. I'm told there were ten thousand or more in that one column.

Then by horseback up the Cumberland Valley and across to here.

"We dodged several of their units, mostly militia, but some regulars as well, cavalry patrols. That's why you didn't hear of our coming. We felt it best to keep such intelligence to ourselves."

Lee nodded, glad to hear the explanation. Of course it was obvious, the way Judah stated it, and he relaxed a bit; sending heralds ahead might only have served to alert a potential enemy. It told him as well that while he was focusing on Washington, his tenuous line of communications to the South was even more fragile than he had thought. There was really nothing at the moment to prevent enemy patrols from wandering freely right down into northern Virginia.

'Take off your jacket," Benjamin pressed, "let's get comfortable. If you keep yours on, sir, I will be forced to put mine back on, and that I would not care to do."

Lee smiled, and Taylor was quickly behind him, helping him to remove the heavy wool coat. He breathed an inner sigh of relief and nodded his thanks to Judah.

He beckoned to a chair and Judah took it. Davis, who had remained silent through the interplay, removed his jacket as well, having been outvoted on the dress code for the meeting.

"We rode past General Longstreet's headquarters about three miles north of here." Davis said, his voice quiet, even-toned. "General Longstreet was not there, but his staff told me that yesterday our army was repulsed in front of Washington with heavy casualties."

"Yes, that's true," Lee replied.

"What happened?"

Lee gave him a brief review of the action. He spared the details of Hood's failure to properly coordinate the attack. He knew Hood was a favorite of the president, and besides, it would be unfair to lay blame.

Davis listened without comment, taking a sip of lemonade while Lee talked.

Finished, Lee sat back in his chair.

"Can you renew the assault?" Davis asked.

"I would prefer not to, sir. I've asked for a full muster and review of all units, which should be in by the end of the day, but I think it's safe to say that we are down to roughly thirty thousand infantry capable of bearing arms."

"You came north, sir, with over seventy thousand men. What happened?"

"That was over seventy thousand total, sir, including artillery, cavalry, logistical support, medical personnel. Our victories at Gettysburg and Union Mills came at a price. Anderson's division, as you know, was fought out, and I detailed it to escort the prisoners back to Virginia. There have been the usual losses as well to disease, accidents, desertions, and just simple exhaustion. Just the march from Westminster to here cost us nearly five hundred men from accidents and the rigors of the road, and now the heat."

"If you did renew the attack," Judah asked, "what do you estimate our losses would be in order to press through and take the city?"

"I can't begin to even guarantee that another attack would take Washington," Lee replied. "We tried our best yesterday, lost eight thousand, and could not press it to a conclusion."

'To take the city, how much?" Davis asked, repeating the question.

Lee lowered his head.

"Perhaps half our remaining force," Lee finally replied. "With what little we'd have left, I daresay that within a fortnight we'd be forced to abandon the city and retire back into Virginia."

Davis looked over at Benjamin, blew out noisily, and sat back in his chair.

"I came north, General Lee, under the assumption that by the time I arrived you would be into Washington, and that our secretary of state here would be discussing terms of peace with the Yankees and opening negotiations with the various embassies of Europe. I am gravely disappointed by this turn of events.

"When you proposed this campaign to me back in May, it was to serve several purposes. One was to relieve Vicksburg, an intent that has failed. A second was to defeat the Army of the Potomac, and in that you succeeded brilliantly. Yet a third was to hopefully bring Washington into our grasp; it appears that has failed as well."

Lee listened, trying to maintain an air of patience and deference, but he felt an anger building. He knew he was tired and the day so hot that the heat was getting to him as well. He had to stay calm.

"Sir, are you dissatisfied with the results?" he asked.

"Let us say I expected more, much more, General Lee. The reports that came back to Richmond indicated that we were on the brink of a final victory that would conclude this war."

"I never said such a thing in my reports, sir. Perhaps public enthusiasm, generated by our friends of the press, elaborated on what I reported to you in my dispatch after Union Mills. I stated in that report that I would march on Washington and probe its defenses; never did I indicate that I felt confident that I could take that position."

"It was implied however, General Lee. Else why should I travel here, enduring the hardships of the road, and the unexpected threat of being captured."

"We had a bit of a skirmish near Frederick," Benjamin said. "Nothing serious, as it turned out, just some Union militia that stumbled into us, but they gave us a few minutes of concern."

"I'm sorry if you had such difficulties," Lee replied, "but I thought it would be evident that our lines of communication are by no means secure. What force I have left needs to be concentrated here, it cannot be spared elsewhere."

"I would think the security of the president of the Confederacy would be of some concern, General Lee."

"Sir, if I had been made aware of your intent to travel, beyond the rather vague dispatch sent up by the War Office, I would have detailed off the necessary men regardless of my needs here at the front lines."

He knew he had transgressed with that last statement. He caught an ever-so-worried glance from Judah. Davis's features darkened but he did not reply.

"I'm sorry, sir," Lee said. "Do not take offense. Know from my heart that if I was aware of your presence in Maryland, I would have moved to more closely ensure your safety. You are here safe, however, and I daresay the journey in and of itself will be noted and remembered as an adventure worthy of you."

He knew it was outright flattery but it had the proper effect. Davis seemed placated.

"Then back to the question of the moment," Davis replied. "Can you take Washington regardless of cost?"

"Sir, with but thirty thousand infantry, I believe we are, as of today, outnumbered. A day ago I might have questioned the fighting ability of their garrison troops, but no longer. They fought well; in fact, with courage and honor. You know as well as I the old adage that against a fortified position the attacker should outnumber the defender by at least three to one. That in a full assault the attacker can expect to lose a number equal to the total number of defenders. With those two factors alone, I would say the taking of the city would be impossible. We no longer have enough men."

"Suppose I ordered it."

Lee hesitated. Along the road he could see where hundreds of men had gathered, his headquarters company and Davis's military escorts forming a cordon to hold them back. Men were coming down from farther up the road to join the throng.

I cannot order these men into a fruitless attack, he realized. They are too precious to spend thus, merely to demonstrate to Davis the impossibility of the task. They deserve better. I learned a bitter lesson yesterday in the assault; I will not allow another just to prove yet again the futility of it all to the president.

"Respectfully, sir, I would have to refuse that order."

"If I made it a direct order?"

"Sir. Please don't do that. It would force me to tender my resignation. If I thought there was a semblance of hope that such an order would bear fruit, I would be the first to try, but I can tell you now, without hesitation, the opportunity of the moment has passed, unless General Heintzelman makes an extremely foolish mistake, such as venturing forth to try and fight us in the field, and I know he will not do that."

Davis sighed and poured himself another cup of lemonade.

"I had to be sure," Davis said. "I will confess, it was a grave disappointment to travel so far to find this failure."

"The army tried, sir, it did all that was humanly possible. And please do not dismiss the victory they brought us at Union Mills."

"The destruction of the Army of the Potomac. Yes, though I did hope for more results to emerge from that. It appears that Mr. Lincoln still will not waver from his course, regardless of how much blood he spills."

"Sir, we crippled the Army of the Potomac, have taken it out of action for at least a month, perhaps two, before it can reorganize, but it has not been totally destroyed. Except in the most rare of circumstances, that, sir, is impossible."

Davis said nothing and Lee felt his own frustration growing again. Who had been talking to this man? Never had he said in his reports back to Richmond that the Army of the Potomac had been totally destroyed. His after-action report made that clear enough. Yet again he could see how wishful thinking in the War Office and the government bureaus, combined with the press, was generating false assumptions. Yes, the news of July 4 was indeed heady stuff. It was fair to assume that it could be the forerunner of yet more victories, perhaps even greater ones, but to assume that it truly signaled the end of the war, that was foolhardy.

"A remarkable achievement, General Lee, your victory at Union Mills," Benjamin interjected. "It will stand in history alongside the victories of Wellington and Marlborough."

"Thank you, sir."

Davis stirred, looking over at Benjamin. "I for one would like to hear the details from you, General, of how it was achieved," Benjamin continued, obviously enthusiastic, "but perhaps we should focus on the next step, given the realities you have just shared with us."

Davis nodded. Lee said nothing, waiting for the president to lead the way.

"I have given some thought to alternatives in case our hopes did not come to pass here."

"My staff and I opened discussions on that last night," Lee replied. "We were to meet again tonight to come to a firm conclusion. I thought it best to first give everyone a day of rest. Our activities have been nonstop since the evening of June 28. The men, their officers, my staff are all exhausted."

"And your thoughts as to what will come next?" Davis asked.

"Sir, it is obvious we must remain on the offensive and continue the campaign in Maryland, but to attack Washington is out of the question at the moment, given our numbers. To withdraw back to Virginia is out of the question as well. We cannot allow ourselves to fall back into a strategic defense and give those people the time to concentrate their forces and come after us again."

"What if I were to tell you that even now twenty thousand additional infantry and five thousand cavalry are mobilizing to come to your side?" Davis asked.

Surprised, Lee could not respond, and for the first time Davis actually smiled.

"I've ordered General Beauregard to bring up half of his garrison from Charleston. Additional troops are being drawn from North Carolina and Virginia, including the brigades left behind by Pickett. Governor Vance has pledged ten thousand men, including the releasing of significant logistical support. They should be here within a fortnight I am strongly suggesting that Beauregard be given a corps command in your army."

A fortnight? Two more weeks. Even now the Union was moving tens of thousands of men in a matter of days. In one sense it gave him renewed hope. Twenty thousand, plus the return of some of Anderson's men and lightly wounded from the other divisions, could bring the active numbers back up to the strength prior to Gettysburg. Enough for one more good strike, even though the replacements, both in terms of men and officers, were not of the caliber he had two months ago. Perhaps there just might be a chance for renewed action against Washington. If the weather would clear up, the roads dry, he might be able to play out a campaign of maneuver against the capital that would draw the Union forces out.

If the reinforcements arrived in time and proved to be of sufficient caliber to stand in the line against veteran Union troops, he would actually be tempted to try a second assault on Washington.

There was no sense in playing that game at this moment. War was not won on "ifs." He had to focus on the here and now.

"So, your intentions, General Lee?" Davis pressed.

"We must maintain our presence in Maryland, if for no other reason than logistical ones. The supplies here are rich and the movement of the center of operations out of Virginia will give our farms time to bring in their harvests unmolested."

Davis nodded and Lee knew that his answer had been a weak one.

"Baltimore, General Lee, are you considering that?"

Lee did not reply for a moment. Yes, he had been considering moving on that city, it was to be the main focus of his conversation this evening with his staff and generals. He had hoped not to bring this conversation on prematurely with the president without careful analysis, but it was obvious that he could not avoid it.

"Yes, Mr. President, we were to discuss Baltimore as an option this evening."

"I'd like to discuss it now, especially in light of the fact that for at least the next two weeks Washington is out of the question," Davis replied.

"Sir, my first thought was to draw back toward Frederick."


"Several reasons. Primarily because it would shorten our logistical lines. From Frederick we might even be able to establish some rail connections, if only temporarily. The land and supplies there are good, not heavily foraged by either side. It would give us a secured area from which we could exclude Union attempts at intelligence-gathering, and from there we could respond to any movement toward "Virginia out of Washington, or from farther north." "And Baltimore?"

"I am quite open to that suggestion, sir. However, I should caution that I do not want to see our army enter into an urban battle for possession of a city. Second, it would extend us significantly, with a hostile force in our rear and the potential of those Union forces gathering north of the Susquehanna threatening us as well. Such a move would make our lines of communication vulnerable and would add upward of a week to the consolidation of reinforcements of which you have just informed me." "

"But you are not adverse to the idea?" Davis asked pointedly.

"If it means a brutal street-to-street fight, we cannot afford such losses. I would also want to think through the question of the ultimate purpose and how long we would be expected to hold that city."

"Permanently," Davis replied.

Lee raised a quizzical eyebrow but said nothing.

Davis cleared his throat and nodded significantly toward Benjamin, who was watching the exchange with his usual soft genial smile.

"The president and I did discuss this eventuality as we rode north," Benjamin announced. "I will say that I for one was not optimistic that Washington would fall easily into our hands. Its fortifications may be the most formidable in the world. However, Baltimore does not have that kind of protection."

Lee wanted to offer his thanks for that comment but remained silent, pouring another cup of lemonade and sipping from it while Judah talked.

"Though Washington is out of the question at the moment, I believe that Baltimore is a viable target, the taking of it perhaps ultimately achieving certain political goals at a fraction of the cost in men."

"I'm intrigued, sir," Lee replied.

He had always liked Benjamin, angered at the low, anti-Semitic prejudices that far too many had demonstrated against this brilliant man. In his brief tenure as secretary of war, from late in sixty-one to the spring of sixty-two, Benjamin had tackled with ability the Herculean task of marshaling the resources of eleven semi-independent states into a common cause, a task that by its nature had earned him the enmity of most of the governors.

Few realized that Benjamin's fall from grace as secretary of war had actually been a brilliant subterfuge. When Union forces threatened the coast of North Carolina, there were simply no resources available to meet them, other than a few state militia units. Rather than admit to the paucity of Confederate resources, Benjamin had silently accepted the blame and the charges that his incompetence had allowed a significant portion of the Carolina coast to fall without a fight Militarily, the ground taken was next to useless anyhow, and it had preserved the secret of just how weak the South was at that moment. For his loyalty and silence, Davis allowed him to resign as secretary of war and then immediately appointed him secretary of state.

He was Davis's silent partner, constantly at his side, and though Lee would never admit it even to his most intimate of friends, if there were any really useful intellectual concepts or decisions put form and then acted on, it was most certainly Benjamin who was behind them.

For that reason alone Lee was now more than glad to hear what this man had to say.

"I think we should look at Baltimore for several reasons," Benjamin continued, voice pitched low, as if sharing a deep personal secret.

"The political considerations first. On an internal level, meaning within this state, the taking of Baltimore, and with it a side action that took Annapolis, would give us a legitimate stance to declare a state convention and in short order establish a state government that would vote for admission into the Confederacy. Our base of support in Maryland is in the eastern region anyhow. Our presence last year in western Maryland aroused no support or even a remote opportunity to call for such a convention, as we then occupied the region that in fact is strongly Union in sentiment,

"Bringing Maryland into the fold would be a major coup, gentlemen, a crowning laurel for the Army of Northern Virginia, which of course will now be seen as liberators who have come to free their Southern brothers from the tyranny of Lincoln. It would be a political sensation."

He continued to smile and Lee found himself nodding in agreement. Yes, it would provide an immediate justification for this campaign and for the great victory won on the soil of Maryland.

"It would also present a major political and dare I say to you, General Lee, military setback as well for the Union. If Baltimore is taken, Washington will continue to be in isolation and threatened.

"The amount of supplies to be seized would be significant as well, undoubtedly enough to easily maintain our army for the remainder of the campaign. And, I should add, the industrial resources of Baltimore are almost beyond counting. Rolling mills, shipyards, iron mills, boiler works, foundries, all these resources can be brought into our efforts."

Lee nodded but felt he now had to raise a point.

"I've considered that very point, sir," Lee replied, "but the question would be how to move those resources south. We don't hold the railroads and even if we did take a section of the Baltimore and Ohio and repair it, there is still no direct link back to our own lines. They would be useless to us in Baltimore, at least in the immediate future."

"If we hold Baltimore," Davis interjected, "and, when we reach an armistice, Baltimore and with it Maryland become part of the Confederacy, it will be invaluable to us. It will mean our hold on the Chesapeake is secure; we will have a major port and industrial base and the wherewithal to defend ourselves in the future if the Yankees should ever contemplate a second war against us."

A second war? That was too far in the future for Lee to even try to contemplate. His only concern now was the immediate, the campaign of this moment and the bringing of it to a successful conclusion.

"As to the primary consideration," Judah said, taking the conversation back from Davis, "it is the international one."

Lee nodded.

"When the culmination of this campaign results in the taking of Baltimore, I would be present as secretary of state. We, of course, would announce for all the world to hear that this indeed had been our intent from the start. The attempt on Washington was perforce necessary from a military standpoint, but we never seriously contemplated the taking of it. Baltimore from the start was our goal. Realize, sir, that in Baltimore, though there are no ambassadors there, there are several consular offices watching over trade issues and such. The French have a consulate there, as do the British. I would meet with them at the earliest possible moment and present yet again the case for their intervention.

"By international law the federal government cannot hinder their open communications with their governments. I can promise you that within three weeks after Baltimore is in our hands, lengthy dispatches from the president and myself will be in Paris and London. Couple that with the news of Union Mills, and the transfer of Maryland to the Southern cause will present an image of inevitable Confederate success to European statesmen."

He sat back, his perpetual smile turning into a broad grin.

"Sir, I think we would then stand a reasonable chance of recognition, at least by France."

This was indeed heady news, Lee thought, unable to hide his own smile of approval.

"England?" he asked.

Judah regretfully shook his head.

"There are other issues hindering us there."

As he spoke, he looked over at Davis, whose features were now wooden and unresponsive.

"Why France, then?" Lee asked.

"Because of the nature of their emperor, Napoleon III We know he is trapped in a deepening quagmire in Mexico. That ill-advised campaign is going into its second year without any real results. Napoleon knows that a Union victory would result in an immediate turning of the wrath of the Yankees upon that troubled country. A war will result, and the Yankees will drive the French out and take the country for themselves."

"There is, of course," Davis added, "the simple desire of many European powers to meddle in our affairs in any way whatsoever to damage us, both North and South. But we can turn that to our distinct advantage at the moment, to play France in the same way our revolutionary forefathers did. Only a fool would think they aided us out of altruistic dreams to advance the cause of liberty. They did it to hurt Great Britain. But no one will intervene if we do not present them with the reality that we can indeed win this war. Taking Baltimore, bringing Maryland into the fold, and opening direct communications via their consulates from a city we've freed from Yankee tyranny will be of incalculable benefit to the cause. I think, General Lee, it will mean a final victory thanks to the brilliance of all that you have achieved."

"Is it realistic to think France will intervene?" Lee asked.

As he spoke, he looked past the two men to the road. A thousand or more troops were standing there. The men were his men, tough veterans even at the tender age of eighteen. Their features were sunburned, uniforms filthy; in the summer heat and mud many had taken their shoes and socks off, the precious footgear tied around their necks. They were watching this conference, hopeful, expectant, most of them knowing that without a doubt their own fates were being decided here.

I owe them everything, Lee thought Everything including my very life. They were the ones who stormed the cemetery at Gettysburg, then force-marched fifty miles and held the line at Union Mills. What we talk about now was created by their blood and sweat. I must not fail them. I cannot fail them. "General?"

It was Judah, looking at him.

"Just thinking," Lee said absently.

Judah looked over his shoulder at the troops watching expectantly, turned back to Lee, and nodded.

"We must see that their efforts are rewarded with final victory," Judah said softly and Lee smiled.

"In answer to your question about France," Judah continued, "yes, I think it is realistic, and it will bring immeasurable aid to those young men of yours. Troops from France? I doubt it. Logistically it would be difficult, and besides we don't need them, as General Washington once did. Our soldiers are the match of any Yankees we'll ever face, as long as they are backed up with sufficient supplies and equipment"

Lee nodded his thanks at this compliment.

"It is the breaking of. the blockade that matters. The diversion of Yankee naval forces to counter Napoleon. If but one convoy of supplies got through to Wilmington or Charleston, loaded with artillery, ammunition, guns, medical supplies, that alone would be worth it.

"The political consternation it would create for the Union would be incalculable. It would exert profound pressure for negotiations on Lincoln and his government

"The thought of the French ironclad La Gloire arriving off New York Harbor would send the entire North reeling and divert their assets from us. That, sir, would be a fitting result of your campaign against the Army of the Potomac. That would be the beginning of the end for Lincoln and his cronies. Congress would force them to seek an armistice with us."

He smiled softly.

"Perhaps even to then find a common front against a foreign foe."

He laughed softly and Lee could not help but admire the adroitness of this man's thinking. Yes, American selfcenteredness and its ultimate distrust of Europe could very well engender a peace and then a common front afterward. How ironic, but also how sad.

"We must take Baltimore. That is the road to peace," Davis announced.

Lee stood up and as he did so there was an audible stirring from the men out on the road, as if they sensed a decision was about to be made.

He looked down again at the map. A two-day march would place them into the city, as long as there was no more rain. There were some fortifications to the southwest of Baltimore, but they were, at last report, manned only by some local militia. Yes, it was feasible, but would it also prove to be a trap? Once into the city, they were wed to it for the duration of the fight. Could he occupy it, but still maintain a presence in the rest of Maryland and facing Washington? But Davis had promised twenty thousand more infantry. If only it were forty thousand, he would not hesitate.

We must achieve something decisive here, he thought And he knew that with Washington impossible there was now no other choice.

He leaned over, studying the map, nodding slowly. Details would have to be worked out this evening with Hood and Longstreet Stuart's command would have to be split, half to stay here, shadowing Washington. A division of infantry would have to stay behind as well, to feign an attack. At least a division toward Annapolis, leaving five divisions in his main force, with the rest of Stuart's command racing back north to act as a screen and to scout out the enemy's dispositions. Supplies were not a concern at the moment and yes, Judah's assertion that there was a virtual cornucopia waiting in Baltimore was undoubtedly true.

Not given to hasty decisions, he knew that he must make one now. He would have preferred a day or two to contemplate this, for it was a profound shift in all his thinking of the last three weeks. It would tie the Army of Northern Virginia to an occupation role, and the effects of that might be profound. But there was no other choice. He could not pull back to Frederick and adopt a waiting-and-watching role, not after this conversation.

"We move on Baltimore tomorrow morning," he said, looking at Davis and Benjamin.

The two smiled and stood up. Davis, aware of the gathering crowd that was watching them, leaned over and shook Lee's hand. A wild shout went up from the watchers. From somewhere a band had come up and immediately broke into a slightly off-key rendition of "Dixie," which was greeted by the piercing rebel yell.

Davis came out from under the awning and walked toward the men, the crowd breaking through the cordon of escorts to surround their president. Lee, always uncomfortable with such displays, held back, Judah by his side.

"You really believe it can still be done, don't you?" Lee asked.

Judah smiled his inscrutable smile and nodded.

"With luck, General Lee. Tonight I shall appeal to my Old Testament God while you pray to your New Testament Savior. I don't think though that He takes sides based upon a few feeble prayers. So I shall have to trust in luck, your skill, and the courage of these men."

He hesitated.

"For if we appealed to Him on moral grounds alone, well, I think I would be concerned."

Startled, Lee looked over at Judah, who shrugged his shoulders and then walked off to follow his president Not wishing to join in the display of exuberance, Lee stepped back and walked off in the opposite direction in order to contemplate what Judah Benjamin had just said.

Chapter Nine

July 20,1863

4:00 a.m.

The sudden lurching of the boat as it bumped against the dock roused him from a deep, dreamless sleep.

Ulysses Grant sat up and instantly regretted it, as he banged his head on the overhead deck. Softly muttering an obscenity, he lay back, disoriented for a moment. He was in a narrow cabin lit by a coal oil lamp turned down low. The space was little bigger than a coffin, just enough room for a bed, with the deck only inches from his face. Beside the bed was a small nightstand, with a basin of water on it Under the stand was a chamber pot In the comer sat a small chair with his coat draped on it.

Rolling over, he slipped out of the bed and found that even at his stature he could not stand upright The boat swayed gently; topside he heard shouted commands, the scurrying of feet

There was a knock on the door, it was Elihu. "We're here." "I'll be right out"

He splashed some water on his face, buttoned the plain four-button coat of an infantry private, and looked down at his uniform. The only mark of command was the hastily stitched shoulder boards with three stars. The third star for each shoulder had been cut out and sewn in between the existing two stars, since no official three-star insignia could be found. The uniform was stained, rumpled, smelling of sweat both human and horse, but there was no changing to a fresh uniform now. In the hurried confusion in the dark at Port Deposit his trunk had never been transferred from the train to this courier boat. There was nothing to be done about it now, and he opened the door.

Elihu was hunched over in the corridor.

"What time is it?" Grant asked.

"Just after four Philadelphia time, not exactly sure what it is here. We really flew down the Chesapeake. That young lieutenant in command has nerves of steel; I couldn't see a damn thing and yet he was puffing along, boilers wide open."

The journey had gone by in a blur for him. Express train to Philadelphia, where they changed trains, and from there down to Perryville on the north bank of the Susquehanna, where they had transferred to a waiting courier boat.

"You get any sleep?" Grant asked.

He had felt a twinge of guilt when the young naval lieutenant in command of the boat insisted that Grant take his coffinlike cabin, leaving Washburne and Haupt to fend for themselves aboard the toylike boat.

"Haupt slept on the deck, in the pilot's cabin; I played cards with the crew."

"Win anything?"

"You know it's against regulations to gamble aboard a naval vessel," Elihu said with a grin. "How would it look for a congressman to be caught trying to take the earnings of our gallant sailors?"

He shook his head.

"They cleaned me out. I lost fifty dollars."

Climbing a half dozen steps up a ladder, Grant and Washburne came out on the deck. The open boiler aft was ticking and hissing, steam venting out. All was wrapped in a thick, oily fog, muffling sound; the dock they were tied to illuminated by gas lamps that cast a feeble golden glow. The air was thick with a fetid, marshlike scent, mingled with the stench of sewage.

The young lieutenant and his crew of five stood at attention by the narrow gangplank. Haupt was already on the dock, disappearing into the shadows.

Elihu stepped down the gangplank, two of the sailors grinning and winking at him. Grant followed, stepped on to the dock, and looked around. It was as if he had walked into a ghost land. A lone sentry on the dock was the only living presence, the sailor looking at him nervously and then snapping to attention.

"No one knows we're here," Elihu said.

"Fine with me."

They stood in the fog, Grant not sure at the moment what should be done next Haupt returned a moment later.

"No one knew we were coming. It's a bit chaotic, casualties being brought in from the fight at the fortifications, but I'm having three horses brought to us. They should be here in a few minutes."

Grant slowly walked along the dock, hands behind his back, the point of his cigar glowing. A shallow draft ironclad was tied off just ahead of where they docked, guns protruding fore and aft, a wisp of steam and smoke venting from the stack. A detail of half a dozen sailors approached out of the fog, running hard, a naval ensign leading them. They drew up short, and the ensign saluted, the men coming to attention.

"Sorry, sir, no one told us you were coming," the ensign gasped.

"No problem, Ensign. What has been going on here?"

"The fight, sir?"


"We could hear it, hell of a barrage. Our artillery really put it to them. The barracks have been converted over to a hospital for rebel prisoners. A dirty lot, sir, covered in lice most of them."

Grant said nothing. The navy was used to a far different standard of living, and the sight of a real infantryman, who had been campaigning for weeks in the field, would of course come as a shock to them.

"Is it true, sir, you're coming from the West with fifty thousand men?" the ensign asked excitedly.

"You know I can't discuss that with you," Grant replied, a note of reproach in his voice.

"Sorry, sir. Just that's been the word around here the last few days."

There was a clattering of hooves, and several cavalrymen approached, leading their mounts. The sergeant in charge of the small detail did not look all that pleased.

"Are you General Grant, sir?" he asked coolly after saluting.

"Yes, Sergeant."

"Some general just came up and said he was requisitioning three horses."

"That's right, Sergeant. Don't worry, I'll make sure we get them back to you by midmorning."

"Sir, I don't like being dismounted at a time like this."

"I understand, Sergeant."

The trooper reluctantly handed over the reins of his mount, a towering stallion.

"He's a tough one, sir, sensitive mouth, so be careful."

Grant smiled, took the reins, and quickly mounted. The horse shied a bit, tried to buck, and he settled himself down hard in the saddle, working the bit gently but making it clear he was mounted to stay. The horse settled down.

Elihu and Haupt mounted as well. Grant looked around, totally disoriented.

"I know the way," Elihu announced.

The sergeant looked up at him, and Grant sensed the man was a bit disappointed, half hoping that the mighty general would wind up on his backside for having taken his horse.

Elihu led the way, moving at a walk down the length of the dock, passing another ironclad, this one rigged with lanterns hanging over the railings and boarding nets strung around its circumference.

They eased past a line of wagons, several carriages, and a couple of ambulances. The main barracks were aglow with a light that cast dim shafts of gold out the windows to dissipate in the cloaking fog. From within he could hear low groans, a sudden cry of pain. Naval sentries, half-asleep, stood outside the building, leaning on their muskets. Four bodies were lying on the lawn, bare feet sticking out from under the blankets, the corpses, like all corpses, looking tiny and forlorn.

Elihu broke into a slow trot as they went through the gates of the naval yard, the sentries looking at them wide-eyed as they passed.

"Hey, was that Grant?" one of them asked as they passed, their conversations muffled and then lost in the fog. They trotted up a broad avenue, passing a convoy of wagons parked by the side of the road. No one was about The streets were empty, the soft glow of streetlights marking their way. Two- and three-story houses lining the road were dark. Several street corners had small patrols stationed, three or four men. Some were up, standing, more than one man curled up, sleeping in a doorway while a lone comrade fought to stay awake, keeping watch.

A black cat darted across the street in front of Grant, causing his horse to shy, arid he fought it back down, urging it forward.

Elihu chuckled.

"Not superstitious, are you?" he asked.

Grant said nothing, letting go of the rein with one hand to reach into his pocket pull out a match, and strike his cigar back to life.

A wagon rumbled past them, going in the opposite direction. Inside, piles of newspapers were stacked high. The road slowly climbed up a slope, the narrow confines of houses giving way to a broad, open expanse of lawn. He didn't need to be told; it was the Capitol.

Dim lights glowed from within, the fog breaking up slightly to reveal, in the first early light of dawn, the great iron dome that was still under construction.

Elihu slowed a bit, reined his horse in, and stopped for a moment

"No matter how many times I see it, it still gives me a lump in the throat," he whispered.

Grant said nothing, looking up at the towering heights. Even now, at four-thirty in the morning, the building was open. A row of ambulances was parked in front of the east portico, stretcher-bearers carrying their burdens up the steps. Civilians were coming in and out, some moving slowly, wearily, after what must have been a long night of labor, others hurrying in.

He was tempted to stop, if only for a few minutes. It had been years since he had trod these halls, and within were men who had suffered, some enduring the final agony of having paid the ultimate price for the preservation of what this building represented. But other matters pressed, and he slowly rode on.

They skirted around the south end of the Capitol, dropping down to the broad, open, almost marshy ground below the building. Directly in the middle he stopped again and looked up.

The structure towering above him was imposing, solid, conveying a sense of the eternal… the temple of the republic for which he fought

Whether it would one day stand as a hollow testament to the failure of the dream, or remain the central hall of freedom, now rested squarely upon his shoulders. It was a responsibility he had not sought but which fate seemed to have thrust upon him. Strangely, he found himself wondering how this place would look fifty, a hundred and fifty years from now. Would it be barren, a city abandoned like so many capitals of the ancient world, or would it be vibrant, alive, the dream continuing, a place of pride, a republic that would endure this time of crisis and emerge yet stronger?

He pressed on, following Elihu, who had slowly ridden ahead, Haupt at his side. They reached Pennsylvania Avenue and turned left. There was a light scattering of traffic, the first streetcar of the morning slowly making its way up the hill to the Capitol. A company of troops marching in route step passed on the other side of the road, rifles slung over shoulders, the men bantering among themselves, barely noticing the two officers and a congressman trotting past A barricade blocked off most of the street farther on, with two twelve-pound Napoleons deployed behind it, sentries standing at the narrow opening. No comments were exchanged as they rode through, though one of the men looked up curiously at Grant as he saluted.

As they dropped down off Capitol Hill, the fog thickened again. Riding in the middle of the street, they could barely see the buildings flanking either side. A drunk sitting on the curb was being soundly dressed down by a policeman who was hoisting him to his feet. A few ladies of the evening, or in this case the early morning, loitered under a streetlamp, looking over hopefully as they passed, but offering no comments.

They passed by the bright lights of the Willard, a small crowd gathered outside, mostly officers, but none looked over at his passage. He was glad of that, otherwise the rumor would explode like wildfire. With his private's sack coat, collar pulled up against the morning damp, he was barely distinguishable, except for the three stars on each shoulder.

Directly ahead was the War Department, Elihu leading the way. In the fog he caught a glimpse of the White House, troops deployed on the front lawn. The sky was brightening, shifting from indigo to a sullen gray.

They reined in before the dark somber mass of the War Department building. The sentries out front, in spite of the hour, were well turned out, uniforms smart, brass polished and reflecting the glow of the streetlights.

As he swung down off his mount, several orderlies came out of the doorway and at the sight of him slowed, stiffening to attention.

"General Grant?" one of them asked.

He returned the salute and nodded.

"Sir, the secretary of war is in his office; he told me to escort you in the moment you arrived."

Haupt dismounted with him, but Elihu stayed on his horse.

"Think I'll wander over to the White House," Elihu announced.

In spite of the hour, Grant knew that Elihu would rouse the president, and he was grateful. Stanton had no real love for him, and at this crucial first meeting it would be good to have Lincoln present.

Grant followed the orderly into the building after telling one of the sentries to find a way to return the horses back to the cavalrymen at the naval yard.

The corridors were brightly lit with gaslight, the floor beneath his feet sticky with tobacco juice, cluttered with scraps of paper, and even what appeared to be splotches of blood. Even at five in the morning it was bustling with activity, staff officers running back and forth; a lieutenant with his arm in a sling-the blood on the floor obviously from the leaking wound in his elbow-leaned against a wall, pale-faced, not even noticing as Grant walked past him. In his good hand he was clutching a roll of papers.

They went up the stairs, turned down another corridor, the air a bit stuffy and damp, and without fanfare were ushered into the outer office of the secretary of war.

A well-dressed colonel, sitting behind a desk, stood up as Grant and Haupt came in.

"Good morning, General, we were expecting you," the colonel announced in a soft, silky voice. "The secretary is asleep but I have orders to wake him the moment you arrive. Please make yourself comfortable."

The colonel slipped through a doorway, barely opening it, and the etched glass panes of the inner office, which had been dark, now glowed from a light within.

There was muffled conversation. Grant settled back in the leather-bound seat and looked over at Haupt, who was obviously exhausted.

They didn't wait long. The doorway opened, the colonel beckoning for them to enter.

Stanton was up, hair rumpled, feet in carpet slippers, an unmade daybed in the corner, with blankets kicked back. He wheezed slightly as he came up and shook Grant's hand.

"You made good time, sir.".

"General Haupt is to be thanked for that. We had an express with track cleared all the way from Harrisburg to Perryville."

Stanton beckoned to a couple of seats across from his desk as he settled down. The colonel reappeared bearing a silver tray with a pot of coffee and one of tea. He poured the tea for Stanton and coffee for Grant and Haupt, then withdrew.

Stanton opened a desk drawer and pulled out a pocket flask.

"Would you care for a bracer in that, General?" he asked.

Grant, features expressionless, shook his head. Stanton put the flask back in the desk.

"Give me a minute to wake up, General," he said, and leaning back in his chair, Stanton noisily sipped on his cup of tea, draining it, then refilling it.

Grant waited patiently.

"Did you hear what happened here the last two days?" Stanton asked.

"Just the telegrams you sent up to me and the usual newspaper reports."

"We bloodied them. Two divisions, Perrin and Pettigrew, were all but destroyed. It was a major defeat for Lee and his men."

"That's what I heard."

"We have some reports that Jefferson Davis is in their camp."

"I heard that as well, sir."

"If he's there, I think that means he will renew the attack." Grant said nothing, making no comment about Stanton's observation.

"We are getting stronger pretty fast," Stanton continued. "All of Strong's brigade is up from Charleston. Two more brigades are slated to arrive today, along with some additional units out of Philadelphia and several ninety-day regiments that were mustering in New Jersey. I hope the rebels do try it again."

"I don't think they will," Grant ventured.


"If Lee failed in his first assault, and did so with the casualties you are reporting, I cannot see him trying the exact same attack again. One attempt against a fortified position might be justified, but a second one on the heels of a failed attack would be folly. And Lee is not given to folly."

"Are you certain of that?"

"No one can ever be certain in war, but it's what I would do and I think Lee is a professional who avoids self-destructive mistakes."

"Suppose Davis orders another attack? He obviously came north to be here and gloat over their final victory. I cannot see him turning away from us now. The political repercussions would be significant."

"I think, sir, that General Lee would resist any such order. In spite of their victories of the last month they cannot afford any more serious losses. If he takes Washington but drains his army's manpower, it will be an even worse defeat in the end."

"And you are certain of that?"

Again Grant shook his head, knowing right here at the start that Stanton was trying to force him into a commitment to his own vision of what would come next.

"And again, sir, nothing is certain in war."

Stanton coughed noisily and then looked over sharply at the cigar in Grant's hand.

There was an ashtray at the comer of the desk and he put it out.

"Do you know why I summoned you here?" Stanton asked.

"I would assume, sir, to review the plans of the forthcoming campaign."

"Yes, General. Since your appointment to field command of all armies, I have not the slightest inkling of what your intentions are."

"Sir, I thought it best not to entrust such delicate information to either the telegraph or dispatches. I was going to prepare a full report for you once I was in Harrisburg."

"Why Harrisburg?"

"Sir, I plan to make that the base of my operations." Stanton coughed again and then poured another cup of tea. "You did not get my approval for making that your headquarters."

"I know that, sir."

Haupt stirred uncomfortably by Grant's side and Stanton looked over at him. "What is it, Haupt?"

"Sir, Harrisburg is an ideal location to constitute a new field army. Its rail connections are some of the best in the North. It offers easy access not only to upstate New York and New England, but to the Midwest as well. We will have to run literally thousands of trains in the next month in order to create this force, and I suggested Harrisburg almost immediately as the place to marshal. Besides, though not a field commander, I think it evident that by organizing at Harrisburg, we maintain a potent position to strike into the rear of Lee's lines of communication, thus ultimately forcing him to battle."

"Thank you for that analysis, Haupt, but there is another consideration that carries far more weight, and that is the political consideration of maintaining Washington no matter what the cost."

"Mr. Secretary," Grant interjected, glad that Haupt had offered a moment's diversion with a very pointed and cogent argument, "I think it is fair to state that Washington is secure now."

"Are you certain, General Grant? We've had reports that a massive Confederate column, maybe upwards of fifty thousand strong, is already marshaling in Richmond; advance elements even now are moving into the Shenandoah Valley, coming up to reinforce Lee or to act as an independent striking force."

"And who commands this?"

"Our agents report it is Beauregard."

Grant said nothing. He had faced Beauregard once before, at Shiloh, and did not hold him in the high regard that others did.

"I would think they are destined to merge with Lee's forces," he finally offered in reply.

"Whether with Lee or not, such a force could very well tip the scale and take the capital."

"I would not place this new force in the same caliber as the Army of Northern Virginia. They are scraping the bottom of the barrel. Chances are many of the units are state militias, about as useful as our ninety-day regiments. It could take them weeks, a month or more, before their numbers will even be noticed."

"Sir," Haupt said, pressing back in to the conversation. "The Confederate railroad system is a shambles. Several different gauges on their lines hinder any transfers when moving long distances. They have to stop and transfer men and equipment between trains every time they encounter a new gauge. Last winter, when the Army of Northern Virginia was encamped in front of Fredericksburg, they could barely move half a dozen supply trains a day, forcing Lee to scatter his forces across hundreds of square miles for forage. The task of moving that number of men north, if that is indeed the number, will strain them to the breaking point."

"The number is valid," Stanton snapped.

"As reported by whom?" Grant asked.

"I've sent Pinkerton agents into Virginia."

Again Grant did not reply. Some of the agents were good, obviously the one who had sent the message to him about Davis was doing his job, but most of them were amateurs when it came to doing field reconnaissance. It was similar reports, early in 1862, claiming the rebels had two hundred thousand in front of Richmond, that had crippled McClellan. In his own mind, he cut the numbers in half. At most Lee would get twenty-five thousand.

"I think, General Grant, that you should stay in Washington, establish your headquarters here, and make this your main base of operations. Sickles, up on the banks of the Susquehanna, is even now reorganizing the Army of the Potomac. Between your force and his, Lee can be trapped."

"Sickles? Dan Sickles?"

"Yes, Dan Sickles. I signed the order this afternoon promoting him to command of the Army of the Potomac."

He felt his face flush at this news.

"Sir, as commander of all forces in the field, I feel I should have been consulted on this."

"General Grant, you've been incommunicado ever since this debacle unfolded. I was forced to act and act I did."

Before I could countermand it, Grant thought

"Why General Sickles?" he finally asked.

"I don't like him any more than you do, Grant," Stanton replied. "But he has powerful friends in Congress. We need the continued support of the Democratic Party and he is firmly in their camp and now their hero of the hour. His after-action report for Gettysburg and for Union Mills has been printed up and circulated, even the newspapers have it."

"I've yet to see this report, who was it forwarded to?" Grant asked.

"It came straight to me. With Meade dead, he had the excuse to bypass proper channels. Copies were leaked as well. I do have to admit mat the man had a point about Gettysburg. If Meade had allowed him to go forward on July 2, he would have plowed straight into Lee's flanking march and perhaps destroyed it. He argued as well that if he had been allowed to march to the support of Fifth Corps in front of Taneytown, rather than ordered to proceed to Union Mills, he could have turned Lee's left flank and forced the rebels to withdraw. It's causing an uproar. He was scheduled to appear before the Committee on the Conduct of the War to testify."

"But if he was appointed to command of the Army of the Potomac that hearing would be canceled?" Haupt asked.

That ploy was something he had never considered, and Grant shook his head. Yet again, the political maneuverings. Command in the East was clearly much more political and complex than command in the West Distance from Washington might have been a bigger advantage than he had thought.

"Yes, something like that He won't have time to testify now.

"Besides, he suppressed the rebellion in New York City and even the Republican papers are hailing him as the savior of the city."

Grant looked at the crushed cigar in the ashtray, wishing he could relight it.

"You are stuck with him, Grant" Stanton said.

"But nevertheless he will still answer to my orders," Grant said softly.

"In proper coordination with this office," Stanton replied.

Even though Grant's thinking rarely turned to outright guile, he could see that Stanton was trying to outmaneuver and box him in. He wondered if perhaps his old foe, Halleck, licking the wounds of public humiliation at his dismissal from supreme command, was even now lurking in a room down the hallway, waiting to rush in once this meeting was over.

The doorway opened and he almost cried out with relief. Elihu was there with President Lincoln behind him.

Obviously a bit flustered, Stanton stood up as Lincoln came in. His features were pale, eyes deep-set with exhaustion, black coat rumpled as if he had been sleeping in it, trousers stained with mud.

"Mr. President, General Grant and I were just discussing the forthcoming campaign."

"Yes, I can well imagine," Lincoln said.

He looked over at Grant and a genuine smile wrinkled his face.

"General, so good to see you," and he extended his hand.

His contacts with Lincoln, up to this moment, had been only remote. He had never stood like this, so close, almost a sense of the two of them being alone. He looked straight into the man's eyes and liked what he saw. Homey, down-to-earth, the prairie lawyer without pretense.

The handshake was firm, strong, with a touch of an affectionate squeeze just before he let go.

The colonel in the outer office came in, dragging two straight-backed chairs, hurriedly deployed them, and left, closing the door.

Lincoln went to the window and looked out. Dawn was breaking, wisps of fog curling up, the sky overhead visible now with streaks of pink and light blue.

"A long night, gentlemen," Lincoln said, and then turned back, "but hopefully a better day now. General Grant, I'm delighted to see you at last"

"I am honored to be here, sir."

'Tell me of Vicksburg and your journey to here. I need to hear some good news for a few minutes."

Grant briefly reviewed the climax of the campaign and his hurried journey east, Lincoln smiling and nodding as if all other cares had disappeared for the moment.

"Remarkable, when you think of it gentlemen. When I first came to Washington almost twenty years ago, the trip took weeks. When I was a boy, my trip to New Orleans, traveling with a raft of cantankerous hogs, took well over a month. And now we can all but leap across the country in a matter of days."

"After this war is over, sir," Haupt said proudly, "we'll go from Chicago to San Francisco in less than a week."

'Think of it," Lincoln said with a smile. "I read in Scientific American just a few weeks back how some tinkerers are talking about balloons powered by steam engines that will traverse the skies, perhaps even crossing to England in a matter of days. I would love to see that."

Stanton coughed and shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

"Our good secretary is reminding us, gentlemen, that we must deal with business before we can play with our dreams. Is your health well this morning, Mr. Secretary?"

"No, sir. The cursed asthma again."

"I'm sorry to hear that, but yes, down to business."

"Mr. President, I was just discussing with General Grant our wish that he establish his headquarters and operational base here in Washington. It will serve to defend our capital, but also has a logic in terms of logistics, with our superior water transport moving the men and equipment he might desire."

Lincoln nodded thoughtfully, crossing his legs to reveal a pale white shin, his sock having slid down to pile up atop his shoe.

"And, General Grant, your opinion on this? I should add that though the secretary speaks in the plural with his statement as to 'our' wishes, I will admit to not having discussed this with him yet at length."

Stanton bristled slightly and Grant saw the interplay between the two, and the opening Lincoln was providing him.

"Sir. I think Harrisburg is the better choice."

"Enlighten me."

He presented his argument in a concise, clear manner, both in terms of the plan he was formulating and the logistic issues, which Haupt weighed in on. Concluding his presentation, which took no more than five minutes, he fell silent.

"I think, sir, that establishing the base in Harrisburg would be redundant," Stanton replied sharply. "We already have Sickles north of the Susquehanna. It would divert from him resources and rolling stock needed for his own efforts."

"I thought all efforts were for the same goal," Lincoln said softly, looking back out the window.

"A renewed Army of the Potomac, a hundred thousand strong, coming down out of the north," Stanton pressed, "with General Grant here in Washington acting as the anvil, would force the conclusion we want."

Lincoln looked back at Grant.

"Your reply to that?"

"A hundred thousand for the Army of the Potomac?" Grant asked.

"They are the army of this theater, sir," Stanton replied.

"And have lost," Grant said quietly without condemnation, just a simple statement of fact.

"Are you saying they should be disbanded?" Stanton asked heatedly.

"No, sir. They have a role, which I've already mentioned just now to the president. But a hundred thousand strong?"

"You disagree with the number?" Lincoln asked.

"Sir, you've appointed me commander in chief of all forces in the field. To do that task I must be in command, and in the field, not trapped in a besieged garrison. Washington will hold just fine for the moment. If another crisis appears, I can quickly shift men here as needed. But if I stay here, I will be cut off, only able to communicate with all the other field commands by a tenuous line of courier boats racing from here up to Perryville and back. The delay will be crippling in and of itself, and will render me ineffective in my post"

"You answer to the War Department, General Grant" Stanton said heatedly. "General Halleck found it workable to run things from Washington. If you do not like that arrangement, sir…"

And his voice trailed off as Lincoln held up his hand for silence.

No one spoke as Lincoln stood back up and walked to the window. He gazed out for a moment. Grant looked straight at Stanton, who was obviously angry, breathing hard, each breath a labored struggle.

Lincoln finally turned.

"General Grant, I give you full discretion."

Stanton shifted, looking over at Lincoln, about to protest

"Mr. Secretary, you've done an admirable job these last two weeks."

Grant could detect a certain strain in Lincoln's voice. He knew of the controversy that had blown up about the contradictory orders sent by Stanton and Halleck to Meade, after Lincoln had ordered Meade not to risk his forces recklessly in an attempt to re-establish contact with Washington. He could see that there was a complex battle now brewing between these two men, and his own position was a major piece in that fight.

"Sir, I must protest" Stanton replied.

"And your protest will be duly noted. You are right that General Halleck managed things from here, but he did not win from here. I want General Grant out in the field. It's good to hear for once a commander asking for that, and not hiding behind his desk. I think General Grant is right: if he stays here in Washington, his position will be rendered ineffective, and we do not want that now, do we, Edwin?"

The secretary, flustered, was unable to respond.

"Good then, that's settled. Gentlemen, I've been up all night and would like to find some sort of breakfast So if you will excuse me."

The group stood up as Lincoln headed to the door. He stopped and looked back.

"Grant, would you care to join me?" he asked.

"Mr. President, I have numerous details to go over with the general," Stanton protested.

"I think General Haupt could be of more assistance to you at the moment Don't worry, I'll have our commander here back to you later today."

Without waiting for a reply Lincoln was out the door. Elihu beckoned for Grant to follow.

Lincoln waited in the hallway as the door closed behind

Grant. Not a word was spoken as they went back down the stairs. The corridor was packed, word having raced through the building that the president and Grant were in with Stanton. Men snapped to attention, saluting, Lincoln smiling, shaking a few hands until they were out in the street.

To Grant's dismay he saw several reporters racing up, notebooks out, shouting questions. A provost guard was waiting, however, rounding the reporters up, pressing them back against the wall of the War Office. The press howled, especially when a captain of the guard shouted a reminder that the city was still under martial law and they were to keep quiet about whom they saw, under penalty of arrest.

Lincoln set off at a brisk pace, crossing the street, heading back to the White House, a mounted guard detail forming a circle around them, but moving at a discreet distance, allowing the three to talk without being heard.

"Well, that was interesting," Elihu offered.

"Stanton wanted to chain you to that building," Lincoln said, shaking his head. "He wanted you where he could watch you and control you. You would think that we all would have learned by now."

"I smell Halleck in this," Elihu replied angrily.

"All of them are jealous," Lincoln said, shaking his head. "Grant, I'm afraid there are some here who are not pleased by your promotion."

"I'm sorry if that is the case."

"Don't be. It's not a time to be sorry about stepping on toes. Especially big toes sticking out from under the safety of their desks."

"Yes, sir."

"I think I'm going to like working with you, Grant," Lincoln replied. "You're from the West, as I am; we see things differently. None of this flummery and posturing. I'm sick to death of it, while good boys are dying. Why everyone needs so dang much gold braid to play dress up for what is after all the business of killing is beyond me."

Grant spared a glance down at his own soiled tunic and trousers. He had been a bit embarrassed while riding through the city. He was glad now his dress uniform had been left behind.

"Smoke, if you feel like it, Grant; I know it bothers our poor secretary with his lung sickness, but it's fine by me. When we meet Mrs. Lincoln, however, I'll ask you to refrain."

"Yes, sir."

He reached into his breast pocket, pulled out the last of his cigars, and paused for a second to strike a match on the side of his boot. He puffed it to life and nodded his thanks.

"That's Grant. I know it!"

The streets were beginning to fill with early-morning traffic. Several companies, in columns of fours, were marching by in the other direction, and a cheer went up for Lincoln and Grant.

Grant did not acknowledge it; it was something he hated and it was clearly evident these men had never served under his command. Lincoln tipped his hat, nodded, and pressed on.

The last wisps of morning fog were breaking up, the sun hot and low on the eastern horizon, casting long shadows.

They approached the front entrance to the White House. The troops who were camped on the ground were getting rousted out, the word of who was approaching obviously having raced ahead. Orders were shouted, men falling into ranks, forming twin lines across the front lawn and snapping to attention. Lincoln stopped and put a hand on Grant's shoulder, causing him to turn.

"A few comments and questions before we go in," Lincoln said softly.

"Anything, sir."

"You are to be in sole command, General. We have lacked that for too long. To be frank, I felt that General McClellan saw the armies as nothing more than his personal escort I made mistakes as well then; I was patient when I should have interfered and I interfered when I should have stepped back. I think any president would be tempted to do so, but I've learned my lessons. I think as well I should have been far more forceful in finding a general that would fight, then letting him go do his business. You are my expert at battle, so unless there is a profound issue that cannot be avoided by me, I will stand back and let you see to your business."

Grant could not reply to that. The reality was simply too startling. But three short weeks ago he was handling a siege on the Mississippi, all that he commanded almost within direct view at any given moment. Now every soldier as far afield as Texas or the Indian Territories was under his command

And yet it did not overwhelm him. He thought of the many cold, rainy nights, sitting alone with Sherman, talking of how the war should be fought, how if allowed to do so they could bring the bloodletting to an end. The price, up front, would be cruel, and yet in the end it would spare all of the nation endless years of half measures and unrelenting agony. This president had just given him that power.

"The secretary is not happy with your appointment. Frankly, it was done without serious consultation with him. Some claim it was the spur of the moment, the night I learned of the destruction of the Army of the Potomac. Maybe so, but I will tell you, Grant, that the thought had been building for some time."

"I appreciate that confidence, sir, I hope I can live up to it."

"All right, then. To speak bluntly and no whispers on the aside. I know about your problem with drinking."

Grant flushed and lowered his head.

"I know as well that you have kept it under control in spite of the vicious rumors launched by your enemies, including some back in that very office we just left.

'I'll only say this once and the matter will never be spoken of again. Until this war is finished, not another drop, sir. If you shall fail in that pledge, your enemies and mine will howl for your head and I doubt if even I will be able to save it. I have placed a confidence in you and I expect it to be observed."

Grant looked back up into his eyes and saw there was no recrimination. The gaze was almost fatherly as Lincoln reached out and squeezed his shoulder.

"You have my word of honor on that, sir," Grant replied humbly.

"Good. Nothing more will be said on that," and Lincoln smiled.

"Now, establish your headquarters where you will. If Harrisburg is your choice, so be it"

"And General Sickles, sir?" Lincoln sighed.

"My hand was forced on that point. He might be a thorn in your side, the last of the old guard of McClellan's time, but then again, he seems to have conducted himself well in division and corps command. And like it or not, he was right about the second day at Gettysburg. If he had been allowed to advance, the same request he had made at Chancellorsville, all might be different now."

Lincoln smiled.

"Perhaps we would not even be meeting like this if he had been listened to. Some philosophers muse on the idea that history can take many paths, and perhaps that is true. It might very well have been the case at Gettysburg. So General Sickles now has his chance, but he is to answer to you."

"And if I find it necessary to relieve him?"

Lincoln sighed and looked away.

"Grant, you are the supreme military commander, but in this one case I will have to ask for your forebearance. Can I ask you to trust me on this score? The ramifications would, unfortunately, go far beyond the military issues and affect our entire war effort. I hope you understand."

He could not refuse the request as Lincoln had just made it, as if he was a neighbor asking for a favor.

"Yes, sir. Whatever you wish."

"Fine then. Are you hungry?"

Grant smiled and nodded his head.

"Yes, sir, to tell the truth I'm starving."

"We have an excellent cook. Perhaps some flapjacks with maple syrup, a good slice of fried ham, and some coffee?"

"I'd be delighted."

"We'll talk more later, when we are alone. But let's relax for the moment. I just met this remarkable fellow I'd like you to meet Hope you don't mind that he's colored."

"Of course not, sir."

"Been learning a lot of history from him these last few days; he's known every president since Madison. Has some delightful insights."

'It would be a pleasure to meet him."

"Good then. Elihu, I know you're looking for a meal as well at taxpayers' expense."

"Thank you, Mr. President."

Lincoln started to lead the way again, but then stopped and it seemed as if a visible weight had suddenly come back down upon his shoulders. He looked back at Grant, eyes again dark, careworn.

"May I ask a question, General Grant?"

"Yes, sir, anything."

"Can we win? Can we end this madness before it destroys us all, North and South?"

The intensity of the question, the look in Lincoln's eyes struck him. Rarely given to sentiment, he found his own voice choking for a moment, and he was unable to speak. It was as if a mystical bond was, at that moment, forged between them. As if in whatever way possible, he had to lift some of the infinite burden off this man's shoulders, and even as that thought formed he felt the weight, the awesome responsibility of knowing that the republic, its very survival, its fate over the next hundred years, rested on him as well.

He slowly nodded his head, looking straight into Lincoln's eyes.

"Yes, sir, we can win."

Chapter Ten

Near Leesborough, Maryland

July 20, 1863 2:00 p.m.

The last of the storm was passing to the southeast, dark clouds bristling with lightning. Stepping down off the porch of a pleasant frame house whose owner had offered him coffee and biscuits while waiting out the blow, Lee stretched, looking around, breathing deeply of the cool fresh air that came sweeping down out of the northwest.

After three weeks of unrelenting heat, humidity, and rain, he could feel that the weather had indeed changed, that this last blow had swept the air clean. The rain had come down in torrential sheets for a half hour, swamping the road, but now, as a column of men from Pickett's division were filing out of the woods where they had sought temporary shelter from the blast, he could see their renewed vigor. The temperature had dropped a good fifteen to twenty degrees, the air was crystal clear, sharp, a pleasure to breathe. It sent an infectious mood through the men, who were joking, laughing, splashing around in rain-soaked uniforms, boots tied around their necks. For a few minutes they seemed almost like schoolboys again.

He mounted Traveler, staff falling in around him. He waited patiently for President Davis and Secretary Benjamin to come out of the house, the two climbing into an open four-horse carriage that had been "borrowed" from a wealthy landowner near where they had camped the night before. The owner was furious about the requisitioning until he heard who would be using the carriage, then simply asked for a receipt, along with an affidavit to be given back with the carriage, confirming who had ridden in it. It was obvious he planned to make a commercial venture out of the carriage when it was finally returned.

Lee edged out onto the road, Traveler kicking up muddy splashes. Behind him the lead brigade of Pickett's division, Armistead's men, were forming up. Turning, he headed north, the road clear for several hundred yards ahead. His staff, the headquarters wagon, and the president's carriage followed. With Taylor and his guidon-bearer just behind him, he urged Traveler to a slow canter, enjoying the ride, the cooling breeze, a shower of heavy droplets cascading down around him as he rode under a spread of elm trees that canopied the road. Reaching a gentle crest he saw the village of Leesborough, a small, prosperous community with several stores, a couple of dozen homes, rich farmland surrounding it. The winter wheat had been brought in, but the orchards, especially the peach orchards, had been severely damaged by the passing army, nearly every tree plucked clean. Fences were broken down and gone as well, wet circles of ashes and partially burned wet wood marking where men had camped the night before.

At the intersection with the Rockville Pike in the center of town a regimental band stood, playing patriotic airs. A spotter for the band, having seen the approaching cavalcade of the army headquarters and the president, was running back to the center of town, waving his arms.

Lee slowed, looking over at Walter.

"It's good for morale," Walter said with a smile.

Lee nodded and waited, letting his staff ride on, then edging back on to the road alongside the presidential carriage.

"It's turned into a lovely day," Benjamin announced, gesturing to the sparkling blue sky overhead.

"That it has, sir. By evening the roads should dry out a little, and hopefully tomorrow we'll make good time."

Up ahead the band struck up "Bonnie Blue Flag," and a cheer rose, a regiment that had been coming down the road from Rockville stopping, men spilling out of column to swarm behind the band.

Lee said nothing, though this would play havoc with the marching order, stalling the troops farther up the road, but it couldn't be helped now. Besides, Walter was right. They needed a boost after the misery and frustration of the last week.

The reporters traveling with Davis were off their mounts, notebooks out; one of them produced a large sketch pad and, with charcoal stick in hand, began to furiously scratch at his paper.

Lee fell in behind the carriage, Walter at his side, as they rode into the small village. Cheer upon cheer greeted them. From the rear, Armistead's men were splashing through the mud, coming up on the double to take part in the show, slowing at a respectful distance, breaking ranks, holding caps in the air, and yelling.

Davis, obviously pleased, ordered the carriage to stop in the middle of the intersection and stood up. Lee reined in behind him, and troops from the two columns edged closer, yelling and waving. Davis held his hands out and the men fell silent.

"Gallant soldiers of the Confederacy. I salute you!"

Another roar went up, the roads now clogged with men breaking ranks, pushing in closer.

"You, the victors of Union Mills, have crowned your reputation with undying glory. You march now to yet a greater victory. A victory that shall soon end this war. And then, as conquering heroes you can return to your homes and loved ones, where you shall be forever honored for what you did here."

Yet more cheers greeted this statement. General Longstreet approached the edge of the crowd from the west, coming down the Rockville Road. He pushed his mount through the crowd, falling in alongside of Lee, saying nothing, but his gaze was anything but happy over this disruption. Lee smiled softly and said nothing.

"I have a request of our wonderful band," Davis cried.

The bandmaster saluted with his staff.

"An honor, sir. What do you request?"

"In honor of our gallant friends, who even now are rallying to the cause of Southern freedom, I would appreciate hearing 'Maryland My Maryland.'"

The bandmaster turned with a flourish, passed the command, instruments were raised, and the band began to play. It was obvious after several measures that they were not as well practiced with this tune. Davis stood solemn, listening, ignoring the more than occasional off-key notes. The newspaper artist, standing on a porch, sketched away furiously.

The band finished. Davis was about to continue to speak but Longstreet, with less than the required diplomacy and politeness, loudly cleared his throat. Davis looked out of the corner of his eye toward Old Pete and then Lee.

"Perhaps our gallant General Lee would care to address you," Davis offered, pointing toward him.

More cheers erupted, and under the cover of the noise Lee moved to the side of the carriage.

"Sir, I think General Longstreet was reminding us that we have an army on the march and this crossroads needs to be cleared if we are to continue."

Davis flushed slightly but then nodded. Benjamin, obviously enjoying himself, just smiled and said nothing.

Davis extended his hand again; the men fell silent.

"God bless and keep all of you." He sat back down and told the driver to move on. The driver hesitated and looked at Lee, obviously not sure of what direction to take.

"North," Walter said, and with a crack of reins the carriage passed through the crossroads, escorts arid guards galloping ahead.

Longstreet turned to a provost guard standing mud-splattered in the middle of the road.

"Clear the rest of this division from Rockville," Pete said angrily, pointing back to the west. "Then, have General Pickett file in behind it."

The provost saluted and started to turn.

"And tell that damn silly band they can play but get the hell off the street, move them out of the way."

Anxiously, the provost saluted again and ran off, shouting orders.

"Shouldn't be too hard on them today," Lee said. Longstreet shook his head.

"The roads are still a mess and we're funneling not just my corps, but Hood's as well through here. That little demonstration tied things up for a mile in each direction."

"Still, the men needed it and so did the president."

"Sorry, sir. I think once we're clear of here, I'll feel better again."

"I know. I feel the same way. It was a bitter march to here and a bitter defeat, but now we are moving again, doing what we do best."

He could again see the movements on the map engraved in his mind's eye. The army was reduced to but six divisions, and all of those were under strength to varying levels. Longstreet, with four divisions, Pickett, who was coming up even now, McLaws, who was behind Pickett, Johnson, and Doles, commanding the division coming down from Rockville, formerly Rhodes's division (Rhodes died in the final moments at Union Mills), were to push on toward Baltimore until twilight Once they had cleared Leesborough, Hood would follow, leading Early's tough veterans and Robertson, who was now in command of Hood's old division. Hood's corps would turn east from here, move to Beltsville astride the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, turn north, then east again to Annapolis.

The shattered remains of Perrin's and Pettigrew's divisions would stay behind just north of Fort Stevens as they were being reorganized into a single division under Scales.

Stuart's command was being split up as well. Half his strength was to shadow Washington, probe, demonstrate. The other half was to sweep north up the two lines of advance, cutting telegraph lines and securing the way clear up to the outskirts of Baltimore and Annapolis.

He looked back up at the sky. If the weather should hold like this, sunny with a dry, cool evening, by midmorning tomorrow the roads should be dry enough to swing his massive artillery reserve, usable guns captured at Union Mills, and his regular artillery train on to the roads as well. He could have them in position to bombard Baltimore's defenses by nightfall.

The march would be a leisurely one, only thirty miles in two days, nothing at all like the blistering pace of the previous campaign. Officers had been told not to push the men hard, keep a standard pace of two miles to the hour, with ten-minute breaks. Forage parties were to move ahead and, following proper custom, offer payment vouchers for any supplies taken. His general order of the previous evening had emphasized that yet again. They were here to entice Maryland into the Confederacy, not to come at bayonet point, strip away its rights, and then rob it, as the Yankees had done throughout Virginia.

He hoped that Baltimore could actually be taken without a fight. Once his lead division was in place, a message would be sent in to the mayor offering full protection to the city if the civil authorities would surrender without a fight. He knew the army garrison would most likely refuse, but directing his appeal to the civilians might help win their support when they pushed in.

The band, now standing in a field at the edge of the village, broke into a cheery polka. Longstreet looked over at them with displeasure.

"Rather see them carrying rifles. Better use of those men than their tooting away like that; they can't even carry a tune."

"They're hospital orderlies when the fight is on," Lee said soothingly, "and besides, the men do like them." Longstreet shook his head.

"I'm going to push on, sir, move up to the head of the column. My staff will be back here to keep an eye on the crossroads."

"I'll ride with you then, General Longstreet." "A pleasure, sir."

He looked over at Longstreet and felt a surge of approval. Old Pete was now the aggressive one. The victory at Union

Mills, with praise heaped upon him for the brilliance of the flanking march throughout the South, was overshadowing the legend of Jackson at Chancellorsville. This last campaign had transformed the man. He was more confident, aggressive in movement, hard-driving the way Jackson had been.

Hood would still bear watching. Like Ewell and Hill before him, he was new to corps command. He was a brilliant division commander in the field, but his fumbling before Fort Stevens, though by no means entirely his fault, meant he was still not up to corps command. Lee had given him the Annapolis assignment for two simple reasons. First was the route of march. He wanted Pete's greater striking power to hit that major city. Pete had to clear the road up here to Lees-borough before Hood could even begin to move. Hood's actual fighting strength was barely half that of Longstreet's, with two of his remaining divisions under strength and a third division detailed off to Virginia. His Fourth and Fifth divisions, Pettigrew and Perrin, were being left behind for now. Annapolis was obviously suitable for Hood's smaller formation.

The second reason was that it would give Hood a chance at a semidetached command in an operation that was not all that crucial. If he won, it would reinforce his confidence and serve as a good test If he failed, it would reveal his faults, which, if serious enough, would mean he would have to be relieved; yet such a defeat in and of itself would not be a threatening or terrible blow.

The two generals rode on, the day an absolute delight. An actual coolness was in the air as the last vestiges of the storm raced south-eastward, the trees swaying, leaves rustling in the breeze. The fence rails flanking the road were piled high with weeds and honeysuckle. The pastures beyond, though empty of cattle and horses, were rich, the tall grass flattening down before the wind.

Several children were sitting atop a fence, wide-eyed as they approached. One of the boys, standing, balanced himself, saluting. Smiling, Lee saluted back. Two girls, giggling and blushing, stood at the gate to a farmhouse, both of them waving National Flags of the Confederacy. This time Long-street tipped his hat, as did Lee. An infantryman, sitting on the side of the road, barefoot, nursing what looked to be a broken ankle, looked up balefully as the two approached.

"Sorry I can't stand and salute, sirs; it's broke. Fell out of a tree picking peaches."

"An ambulance will be along to see to you," Lee said in a kindly voice. "But next time, son, don't go foraging like that Take it as a lesson."

"Give it to 'em in Baltimore, sir," the boy shouted as they continued on.

"They weren't supposed to know where we were heading," Longstreet said, apologizing.

"No matter, any man who knows his geography can figure it out now. If we'd turned west at the Rockville Road, it would've meant western Maryland or back to Virginia. That's why their spirits are up; they know we're not retreating."

He caught a glimpse of the president's carriage just ahead around a gentle turn in the road, guards trailing behind.

He slowed his own pace, not wanting to catch up quite yet

"Strange to have him marching with the army," Pete said. "To be expected now."

"I could tell he wanted Washington. In fact, he assumed he could ride straight in."

"God willed differently."

"I don't think he likes God's will," Pete replied.

Lee did not respond to what could be considered to verge on blasphemy.

"Frankly, I wish he had stayed back till we finished the job," Longstreet persevered.

"I will admit the thought," Lee replied. "However, Mr. Benjamin's arguments for taking Baltimore were cogent and persuasive."

"It's just that we should be clear to do our job without someone second-guessing our decisions, or, for that matter, countermanding them."

"I don't think the president will do that. He is an old military man himself, remember. He will stay back and only observe. He'll leave the job to us."

"I hope so, sir."

"Let's not be troubled by it now," Lee replied soothingly. Catching up to the rear of the president's cavalcade, Lee reined in, and returned Old Pete's salute as his second in command spurred his mount and continued on.

It was a most pleasant day, and for the moment he rode alone, glad to not be noticed, glad to just enjoy the cool, windswept afternoon.

Port Deposit, Maryland

My 20,1863 6:45 p.m.

The train glided into the station, bell ringing and whistle shrieking. A full brigade, his old Excelsior, was drawn up along the siding to greet him. Though standing at attention, the men let out a tumultuous roar of approval as he stepped out on to the back platform, eyes sparkling with delight.

Gen. Dan Sickles had returned to his beloved Army of the Potomac.

The brigade broke ranks, swarming around the train. Grinning, he waved for them to gather in, ignoring this breach of discipline. Scarred battle flags were held aloft and waved overhead, the cool evening breeze rushing down the Susquehanna Valley causing them to snap and flutter. He held up his hands for them to be silent, but the cheering continued, climaxing with a rousing three cheers for "Old Dan!"

Finally they fell silent, looking up at him, some with visible tears in their eyes.

"My comrades, my friends," he began, and for a moment his voice choked, so he lowered his head. A bit of it was required melodrama, but in his heart, it was real as well. These were the men he had recruited back in sixty-one, and how few of them remained. How many ghosts now stood around them. He truly loved this brigade, and he would see that now it was done right, that they would be led to the victory they deserved. He raised his head again.

"As you know, yesterday I was appointed to command of the Army of the Potomac."

Again three cheers greeted him and he basked in the glow of it.

"And yet I must now ask. Where is the Army of the Potomac?"

His words were greeted with silence, many of the men standing stock-still, some lowering their heads.

"Where are our gallant comrades of the old reliable First Corps? Our brothers of the Second Corps, who we watched go bravely forward at Union Mills? The men of the Fifth? The Eleventh, which, better served, could have shown their mettle, and the Twelfth, who valiantly charged on that terrible Fourth of July. Where are they?"

No one spoke.

"You and I would willingly give our lives for that dear old flag," and he pointed toward one of the national colors, a regimental flag, torn, battered, stained.

"We would do so without hesitation if we knew that our lifeblood would nourish it, protect it, and cause it to be raised high in final victory. That we would not hesitate to do!"

A ripple of comments greeted him, but no cheers. These were veterans who had seen far too much.

"Perhaps, my comrades, you and I are fated to fall, but here and now, I promise you this, I promise you that if that should be our fate, it shall happen as we charge forward to our final victory against the traitors and not ignominious defeat and withdrawal as we have seen too often in our past!"

The men looked up at him, nodding in agreement.

"For too long our beloved Army of the Potomac has borne the weight of generals' follies upon its shoulders. And I tell you this plainly. I stand here to declare, before the entire world, that the fighting men of our gallant army have never lost a battle!"

For a moment there was confusion over his words. For, after all, what of Chancellorsville, of Union Mills? And then the meaning of what he said was realized and a deep, throaty roar of approval greeted him.

"You, my dear comrades, have never lost a fight It is others that lost it for you. Those of you who stood with me at Gettysburg, who marched across that field on the morning of July second, who saw the chance for ultimate victory, and then saw it torn so basely out of our hands when we were ordered to pull back, you know what I mean and you know who lost it!"

The men looked at him, stunned. Never had a general spoken so plainly to them, spoken the very words they had snared around the campfires and on the march. Their cries now knew no bounds, as if the frustration and rage of the previous two years were at last given vent. He let them roar for more than a minute, then held his hands up again.

‘I promise you this. The Army of the Potomac even now is forming its ranks again. Those who are left, our old brothers from other corps, who cut their way out of the debacle, even now are rallying back to our side. The vacant ranks will indeed be filled.

"And I promise you this as well. Soon, far sooner than many ever dreamed of, we shall march forth. This time no one will hold you back, because I will be in the fore as your commander. There shall be no hesitation. No doubting. No stab in the back.

"We will show the world, we will show the North and the South, we will show all those who ever dared to doubt us, that the Army of the Potomac will drive the enemy before it, not just back to Richmond, but clear down to the Gulf of Mexico. And upon your heads shall be crowned the laurels of the final victory!"

He finished his words with a flourish, arms held wide, and the men went wild, hats in the air, the cheering breaking into a steady chant…

"Sickles … Sickles … Sickles!"

He stepped down off the train. Staff officers were waiting for him, including Meade's old chief of staff", Dan Butterfield, who looked at him coldly. Sykes was there as well, as was Howard of the Eleventh Corps, whose gaze was icy. Sedgwick was nowhere to be found. He had already been relieved.

Butterfield pointed the way toward the station. Sickles was glad to see his surviving division commanders waiting for him at the doorway to the station. He paused, looking out over the expanse of the Susquehanna. Ferries for bearing entire trains were docked on the north side, as were tugs, lighters, and barges. Half a dozen small gunboats and ironclads were drawn up in mid-river, pennants fluttering in the stiff evening breeze, the broad expanse of the river covered in whitecaps.

He walked into the station, the other officers crowding in, one of his staff closing the door. Without preamble he turned to Butterfield.

"Your report, sir."

"Which report, sir?" Butterfield replied coolly. "The current status of the Army of the Potomac." Butterfield looked around the room, like a man on the docket.

"Sir. I have the returns and after-action reports from all surviving units," and he pointed to a leather-bound case on the table in the middle of the room.

"In your own words, and briefly."

"The only viable fighting units left are your corps and the Fifth Corps with a strength of less than forty per cent, the Sixth Corps with about the same numbers, and the Eleventh Corps at fifty per cent. It is my advice that the First, Second, and Twelfth Corps be disbanded, the men consolidated into other units.

"We have less than eighty guns that are serviceable; nearly the entire Artillery Reserve was captured. Of cavalry, we still are not sure, but I would say less than forty per cent are effective. Your total strength therefore is at approximately forty thousand men, that is for all three branches under arms.

"As for support services, we have none. Our entire baggage train is gone, medical supplies all but gone, along with every ambulance. Specialized units, such as pontoon trains, engineering, they are gone, too."

Sickles nodded, his gaze cold, unwavering, as he struck a match and puffed a cigar to life.

"Thank you, General Butterfield. I will read your reports tonight. You are relieved from duty, sir."


"Just that, You'll have new orders in the morning. Hold yourself available for a briefing with my new chief of staff later this evening. Good day, General Butterfield."

Butterfield looked at him without comment, eyes narrow, features flushed.

"Yes, sir," he finally snapped. Saluting, he turned on his heels and walked out, slamming the door.

Dan looked around the room, his gaze fixing on Howard.

"You, General Howard, are relieved. Thank you for your service. You as well will receive new orders in the morning."

"On whose authority?" Howard replied softly, speaking each word slowly.

"On my orders."

"I understood that General Grant is now the commander of all forces in the field. The decisions regarding who shall command corps must therefore be in his realm."

"I am commander of the Army of the Potomac now. You are under my authority, and by that authority I am relieving you. You have a choice now. You can take that removal with my blessing, thanks, and recommendation for further posting. Or you can choose to fight me. But by God, sir, if you try to defy me, I will destroy you. You failed your men at Chancellorsville and failed them again at Gettysburg. I wouldn't give you a regiment after that, but perhaps the War Department will see it differently."

"How dare you?" Howard's features were flushed, eyes wide, his one hand resting on the table, drawn up in a fist.

"How dare I? Easy. I am now in charge here. That's how I dare. Now we can do this as gentlemen or we can do it another way."

"You, sir, are no gentleman."

"You're damn right I'm not," Sickles roared. "I'm sick to death of all this damned talk about gentlemen while those good soldiers outside die in the mud. To hell with gentlemen, sir, and to hell with you if you don't obey my orders now!"

Howard drew his balled fist up and slammed it on the table.

"You are a reckless amateur. You think you know how to fight Lee. Maybe so, but I truly doubt it. I daresay it was luck more than anything else that got you as far as you have. Luck and politics of the lowest sort. God save this army with you in command."

"You are relieved, General Howard," Dan said coldly, stepping toward Howard so that his old division commanders moved to his side, ready to restrain him.

Howard looked around the room.

"God save us all if this type of base man is the one that we feel can lead us to victory."

Howard stepped past Dan and went to the door. With his hand on the doorknob, he turned and looked back.

"God forgive me for saying this. But with a man such as you, a man who would gun down your wife's lover on the street while he was unarmed? And now you are in command? I think it is time I do retire."

"God damn you!" Sickles roared, turning, fists raised.

Staff gathered around him, holding him back as Howard gazed at him coldly, waiting several seconds as if ready to accept the challenge to a fistfight or a duel. Finally he opened the door and left.

All were in stunned silence as Sickles, breathing hard, was pushed to the far corner of the room by his staff. He struggled for composure. No one in this army had ever dared to fling that at him. In any other position he would have challenged Howard to a duel on the spot, but now he knew he could not. One of his men drew out a flask, and, angrily, he shook his head, returning back to the table. Sykes stood silent, watching him.

"And am I to be sacked, too?" Sykes asked.

"Hell, no," Dan growled. "You, sir, put up one hell of a fight. The type of fight I want to see. By God, if I had been allowed to march to your aid at Taneytown, we'd have finished Lee then and there."

"I'm not sure of that, General Sickles."

"I am. You are a fighting general, like me. I respect you, General Sykes, and forgive me for what had to be done here."

Sykes said nothing and Dan smiled.

"I want this army ready to march within the month," Dan said, "and your corps will play a leading role."

"In a month? I would think it will not be until fall before we can even hope to have things reorganized. Beyond our loss of men, over half our brigade, division, and corps commanders fell in the last fight or were captured. The army is a shambles, sir."

"Not for long," Dan said. "And besides, some of those generals are no real loss as far as I'm concerned. I will fill the vacant slots and then we shall see how they fight."

He drew out a sheaf of papers from the haversack at his side and tossed them on the table.

"On the train ride down here I've been drawing up the reorganization. The First and Second Corps, God bless them, will unfortunately have to be disbanded. The men will be consolidated into my old corps and yours. The men of the Eleventh and Twelfth will be organized around the Sixth Corps. After its streak of hard luck, the Eleventh must be disbanded. We had too many corps in this army anyhow, some barely more than the size of one of Lee's divisions. We were cumbersome, slow to move and act. We'll take that leaf from Bobbie Lee's book and use it. It will be a more effective command structure, fast-acting and — moving. We were cumbersome in weight as well. The loss of the Artillery Reserve was a terrible blow, but we can live with it"

He paused and looked over at Henry Hunt, who stood in the corner of the room.

"I have no complaint against you, Hunt But the artillery reserve is finished. All artillery is to be operational at the corps level with only a small reserve left under my direct command. Do you have any objections?"

Hunt shook his head slowly.

"Sir, I think we should talk about this later."

"I assumed that's how you would feel, Hunt. No insult to you but I feel that General Grant, if he ever arrives and builds an army, will need a good artilleryman to advise him. Would you care to be transferred?"

Hunt was silent for a moment and then wearily lowered his head.

"Yes, sir, if there is no Artillery Reserve I no longer see a role for me here."

"Fine then, Hunt, report to my headquarters in the morning and I'll see what I can do for you."

Glad to be rid of that minor detail, Dan turned back to the rest of the gathering without waiting to hear Hunt's reply.

"We have a lot of work cut out for ourselves, gentlemen. First I want the Army of the Potomac concentrated here. There is to be no siphoning off of units into the command that Grant is supposedly trying to form up at Harrisburg. I repeat, that is final, not one man wearing the corps insignia of our gallant old army is to be taken. As we get the lightly wounded and missing back into our ranks, they will rejoin their old regiments.

"For the morale of the men, even though four of the corps are to be disbanded, they will retain their old corps badges. Regiments are to be consolidated into new regiments from their home states and will retain their colors. I know these men, and those badges and their flags are sources of pride that must be honored by us."

The men gathered around him nodded with approval.

"I want the best damn rations down here now. None of this hardtack and salt pork while we are in camp. I want good, clean field kitchens; I want fresh food; I don't care how we get it, but I want it. The men are to have fresh bread daily, all they can eat, fresh meat on the hoof; by God we have the transportation here with the railroads and rivers, and I want it. Nothing is to be spared.

"One out of every ten men from each regiment is to be granted two weeks' furlough. Three weeks for our regiments from the Midwest. The enlisted men of each regiment will select among themselves who receives these furloughs. For every recruit they bring back from home their company will be given a cash bonus of fifty dollars, the men of the company to spend it as they see fit."

"Where are we going to get that kind of money, sir?" one of the staff asked.

"Don't worry about it. I have friends in the right places. If we bring in five to ten thousand that way, it will be worth it. The new recruits will be men from hometowns standing alongside their neighbors and kin in the next fight, not the riffraff to be found by the draft boards. It will play well with the veterans, who will look after them and teach them the traditions of the Army of the Potomac.

"I want a liquor ration to be given every Saturday night as well. Half a gill of rum or whiskey per man."

"The temperance crowd will scream over that one," someone chuckled.

'To hell with the temperance crowd. These men have been through hell and deserve a touch of liquor. To be certain, it might cause a few problems, but it will bind them to us the stronger.

"I've got more orders as well, regarding sutlers, equipment, outfitting of select regiments with breech-loading rifles, new uniforms, shoes, drill, reviews. We have thirty days to build this army back into a fighting force, and by God we will do it."

No one spoke.

"Fine, then. Staff meeting at eight in the morning."

His tone carried a note of dismissal.

"General Sickles." It was Sykes. "Did you see the latest dispatches from Baltimore?"

"Not since I left Philadelphia just after noon."

"It's reported that Lee is abandoning his position in front of Washington."


"Civilian reports only. President Davis is confirmed as being with him. Baltimore and Annapolis are in a panic. It appears that Lee is marching north."

Dan grinned.

"Good! Damn good! My one fear was that he would slink off before we could give him the treatment he deserved."

"Also, General Grant came through here late yesterday and took a courier boat to Washington. There's been no report on him since."

Sickles’s features darkened.

"Who was with him?"

"General Haupt and Congressman Washburne." "Who saw him?"

"Just the guard detail down at the wharf." "Did he ask former'

"No sir, not a word. He got off the train and was on the boat and gone within five minutes." Dan nodded.

With luck, Grant would be ordered to stay in Washington. More than one of his friends would be pulling strings for that even now. If not, it would mean he would return through here. That was worth knowing, and of course Dan would make sure he was unfortunately unavailable when Grant came through. The last thing he needed now was for that man to be interfering in his own plans.

Everything would fall into place in due course, of that he was certain.

Washington, D.C.

July 20,1863 8:00 p.m.

Come in, Elihu," Lincoln said, waving for the congressman to sit down in the seat across from his desk.

Elihu, moving slowly, obviously beaten down with exhaustion, exhaled noisily as he took the seat. Lincoln smiled, stocking feet up on his desk.

"Did you see him off?"

"Yes. Both he and Haupt are on their way. Same courier boat that brought us here."

"And the meeting with Stanton before he left?"

'Tense, to say the least It's obvious Edwin wasn't pleased with how you outmaneuvered him."

Lincoln chuckled softly and shook his head.

"Edwin means well, most of the time. It's just that Grant is not part of his circle. He felt a need to control him."

" 'Means well most of the time'? I do think that Edwin believes he is running the war by himself. He'll try to somehow knock Grant off his tracks."

"One of the advantages of being a city under siege," Lincoln replied. "Communications between us and Harrisburg will be difficult for now. Grant can do as he wishes with my authority behind him."

Lincoln sighed, looking up at the ceiling.

"I would have thought that by now we would all see the situation clearly and bury our differences. In the next eight weeks we will either win this war or lose it Gettysburg and Union Mills focused that clearly for me. The crisis has come. We're like the two farmers who hitched two sets of mules to a wagon pointing in opposite directions and then fell into arguing about it for the rest of the day. We've got to get them all pointed in the same direction, with only one driver on top.

"Grant sees that. In the East he will point everything at Lee, and Haupt will give him the means to do it In the West we stand in place on the Mississippi, just hold what we have for the moment Any thoughts of taking Mobile, Charleston, Texas, and Florida are to be abandoned, the men shipped here. The second big effort will be with Rosecrans on Chattanooga and then Atlanta. Once Sherman has consolidated our hold on Vicksburg, he will join Rosecrans and take command. That will be it No other campaigns this summer and fall. Every available man here, to face Lee and no one else. If we lose some gains elsewhere, that will be in the short run.

"Grant understands this new kind of war, Elihu. It's frightful. War is now a machine, a steam-powered juggernaut God save us, in a way, the old image of war did have its appeal, even though boys wound up dying, often in droves. Grant can guide this juggernaut, pushed by a thousand factories and locomotives. It's ghastly, but if in the end it saves this republic, and perhaps scares everyone so badly that we will never see a war here again, then the sacrifices will be worth it"

Lincoln sat back, precariously balanced with feet up on the table so that his chair almost tipped over. He pulled a small paring knife out of his pocket, opened it and went to work on his fingernails.

"And yet the political games still play out," he sighed.

"It's always been that way, sir. We're no different from the Romans, the Greeks. Remember Alcibiades? Even though the city-states knew they were collapsing under the weight of their wars, still Athens worked at cross-purposes with itself and squandered its best generals. We're no different"

"I hoped we could be. I believe we can be," Lincoln said softly. "A fair part of the world, at this moment wishes us to fail. They are praying even now for it, because we represent something different. A belief that the common man is the equal of any king, of any despot of any fanatic claiming mat God is behind him. If we fail now, if we let this continent sink into divided nations that ultimately will fight yet again and divide yet again, then the dream of our forefathers will be for naught."

He shook his head and chuckled self-consciously.

"Sorry for the speech, Elihu."

"I rather like them at times, Mr. President. When they come from the heart they remind me of why I first got into politics."

Lincoln chuckled.

"I wonder at times how many out there believe that idealism did drive some of us to this path. To hear our opponents and the press behind them, one would think that we did it simply to grasp for power and money. I'll be hanged, Elihu, but if I wanted that, I'd have stayed in my practice and charged the railroad companies exorbitant fees."

"It's always that way, sir. When they can't fight you on principles, the only recourse is to smear you or to kill you."

Lincoln said nothing for a moment, slowly nodding his head.

"Do you think Grant will measure up to the job?" Lincoln asked.

"Yes, I do believe he will. His record already indicates that As you asked, I observed him closely the last week. There was no puffing up the way so many would have, like McClellan or Hooker. He took his responsibilities calmly, without pomp or fanfare. You saw that touch of his private's uniform. It wasn't posturing; it's just the man is so simple in that sense that he believes that is how he should dress and behave. I like that."

"So do I."

Lincoln smiled and nodded to his stocking feet on the tabletop.

"Mrs. Lincoln is always telling me that George Washington never would have put his bare feet up on a table, but Elihu, I think he did."

Elihu laughed softly in reply.

"Well, sir, when it comes to George Washington, honestly I can't see him in stocking feet Andy Jackson, of course, but not Washington."

Lincoln smiled.

"Grant's staff, the generals under him, they worship the man," Elihu continued, "but he will tolerate no open displays. As you said, he sees this war as a grim, filthy business. And the quickest way to resolve it is to apply every ounce of strength we have into one terrible blow at the key point. We talked a lot about that He says that war has changed forever. It is now an entire nation, its industry, its strength, applied to the battlefield. He grasps that our strength might not be in terms of certain generals, such as Lee, but rather in an unrelenting combination of manpower and industry. That he sees as the key to victory."

"You like him, don't you?"

"Yes, I do. I remember him from before the war. Poor man, washed up from what had happened to him. We talked several times; he was gentle, quiet, soft-spoken; hard to believe he had been trained as a soldier. I think he was haunted by what he saw in Mexico, and frankly I liked that, in spite of his turning to the bottle as an answer.

"He hates war. He hates the waste and the blood. Someone told me that in one of his first battles in Mexico, a close friend, standing by his side, was decapitated. It has given him nightmares ever since."

Lincoln said nothing.

"There is no talk of glory in this man the way we heard with McClellan, Hooker, Pope, and too many others."

"Will he see it through and not lose his nerve?'

"Sir. The question is more will you see it through?"

Lincoln looked at him quizzically.

"Many of the papers up north are howling. The riot in New York was a near run thing, as were the riots in Cincinnati and Philadelphia. If we lose one more fight like Union Mills, you might be facing a collapse, the Democrats in Congress will call for a meeting with Davis, who, as you know, is this night not a dozen miles from here. If You refuse, they might seek to impeach you, and I fear that more than one member of your Cabinet would go along with it"

Lincoln shook his head.

"Thank God for the Founding Fathers," he said softly. "Sir?'

"In their wisdom they gave the executive four years in office. Until that term expires, I will hold the course. I swore an oath before God to defend our Constitution and I shall do it Congress can howl, they can scream. I don't care what they say now. Congress might be swayed by the passions of the moment but I will not be. If my Cabinet turns against this course, I will fire them. If need be, I will stand alone. As long as Grant can field an army, I will support him and I will hold this course. If the people, in their wisdom, or because of the fears and lies of the demagogues, should vote me out, then so be it but until then, I will plow the furrow I am in."

Elihu smiled.

"Then Grant is your man."

Baltimore, Maryland

July 20, 1863 11:30pm

The knock on the door was in code-three taps, three times. Sitting in the semidarkness with George Kane, one of the city's former commissioners of police, ex-mayor George Brown looked up nervously. He moved to blow out the coal oil lamp on the table between them, but Kane shook his head.

"Do that and they'll come barging in." "What if it's Federals?" Kane forced a smile.

"Then it's back to prison. Go answer the door." Brown stood up, his wife standing at the top of the stairs looking down at him, eyes wide. "Stay up there," he hissed.

He went to the door, checked to see that the chain latch was hooked in place, undid the bolt and cracked it open. "The Honorable George Brown?" The man standing on the steps was wrapped in a dark cloak, broad-brimmed hat pulled down low over his eyes. He smelled of horse sweat

"Who is asking for him?" Brown asked.

"A friend."

"How can I be certain?"

"Mr. Brown, I don't know any of the damn silly passwords, but I beg you, let me in." "I'm armed," Brown said.

"You should be, on a night like this; now please let me in."

He hesitated, the man in the doorway looking around nervously. A patrol marched with shouldered rifles, passed on a side street, a crowd of several dozen behind them, shouting, obviously drunk.

"Damn it, sir, don't leave me standing out here."

The stranger opened the top button of his cloak and Brown caught a glimpse of a uniform collar. It was light-colored, not the dark blue of a Union jacket, which looked black at night.

Brown unhooked the chain and opened the door wider. The lone man slipped in, Brown latching the door shut behind him.

"This way," Brown announced and pointed to the parlor. Kane was on his feet, hand in one pocket of his trousers. "Who is it?" Kane asked.

The man stood in the doorway and looked around cautiously.

"Sir, I will have to ask who you are first"

"This is a friend of mine," Brown interjected, "and you are a guest in my house. So please, no more tomfoolery, identify yourself."

"Sir, I am Lieutenant Kirby of General Stuart's staff and with the First Maryland Cavalry, Confederate States of America. I grew up here in Baltimore; my father worked on Mr. Howard's newspaper as a typesetter. If you wish for verification, I know where Mr. Howard is and will find him, but I would prefer not to be back out on the street"

Kirby unbuttoned his cloak, revealing a stained jacket of the Confederate army, and reached into his breast pocket

Kane stiffened slightly at the move. Kirby slowed and drew out a sealed envelope, with several matches welded to the paper in the wax seal so that it could be destroyed quickly.

"Sir, this is a letter of introduction from General Stuart. It is not addressed to you for obvious reasons, but I was instructed to place it in your hands."

Brown took the envelope, broke the seal, and read the contents. It was the standard sort of letter, asking for the kind reception of the bearer, some general platitudes, nothing more. Brown looked carefully at the signature.

"I regret to say I do not know General Stuart's hand," Brown said cautiously.

"We didn't expect you to, sir."

"How did you get here?" Kane asked

"I was part of a troop sent forward to gather information about the defenses of this city. The men are all Marylanders and we know this place well. My orders were that, given the opportunity, I was to try and slip into the city and establish contact with you."

"In uniform?" Brown asked, a bit incredulous.

"He's no fool," Kane interjected "If captured, he's a soldier and cannot be hanged as a spy. Most likely your cover was that you were just sneaking through to visit a dying mother or auntie. Is. that it?"

Kirby grinned boyishly and nodded

"And your passage in here?"

"Sir, I don't mink I should tell you my exact path. But as a boy I used to come out of the city to hunt and fish, so I know my way about It didn't get dicey until the last ten blocks or so. Loyal League patrols are out in force, raising a ruckus, many of them drunk. I bluffed my way past one group; it cost me the bottle of whiskey I had in my pocket I fear though there could be violence before much longer; they seem frightened."

"They are frightened, Lieutenant Kirby, and perhaps you can enlighten us as to why. We were visited by the guard this afternoon and ordered to stay inside after dark under threat of arrest If more than two of us are seen together, we will be arrested as well for conspiracy to incite rioting."

'The real message is a verbal one, Mr. Brown. I am ordered first of all to find out whatever you and your friends can share with me about the current state of military affairs in Baltimore. Size of the garrison, state of readiness, and armaments. The political situation as well. And finally to ask if you would be willing to place yourself at the disposal of our forces for a service, which as of yet cannot be discussed"

Brown finally started to warm to him. The young lieutenant looked and sounded sincere; his enthusiasm for this shadowy work was clearly evident

"What news, first?" Kane asked, warming up as well.

"We're coming," Kirby said with a grin. "I can't tell you exactly how or when, but the army is on the march, heading straight to Baltimore. By this time tomorrow this city will be free of the Yankee tyranny."

Brown and Kane looked at each other and broke into grins. Brown, with a flourish, opened a sideboard and produced a thick-cut glass decanter and three heavy tumblers. Pouring three shots of brandy, he passed them around and silently held his glass aloft

To hell with the ban on saying it" Kane snapped, "here's to the glorious Confederacy."

Brown looked over at Kirby. If this was indeed some sort of elaborate trap, to get the two of them to utter a so-called traitorous oath, Kane had just done it Kirby simply grinned

To the glorious Confederacy," the lieutenant said drained the glass, then was hit an instant later by a spasm of coughing.

To the glorious Confederacy" Brown whispered still not quite sure if he could believe what was happening. A little more than two years ago he had been dragged out and arrested his right to habeas corpus denied incarcerated without charges in Fort McHenry, and then transported like a common slave, to Fort Warren up in Boston. There he had languished for over a year before finally being released last fall. Never an apology, never a comment about what he had been charged with, just sent home with a stern warning that if he ever uttered a word against the Union, it would be back to prison, and this time they would throw away the keys.

Hundreds of others in Baltimore and eastern Maryland had endured the same fate, recalling to many of them the worst of the tyranny of kings, and a stunned disbelief that the principles of the Constitution could be so basely abused. If anything, the Federal government's abuse of power was proof positive of the righteousness of the Confederate cause.

It had, up to this moment, broken the spirit of the city of Baltimore, a place of fear, with armed bands patrolling the street, a place where ruffians lorded over them, their women were insulted in the street, and none dared to speak in what was now a Southern town under the fist of a foreign power.

God willing, that was about to change at last The day of liberation was at hand. The city had been seething with rumors ever since Union Mills, waiting, hoping. Though all understood the need to take Washington first, still there had been consternation that not a single brigade of Jeb Stuart's famed cavaliers had made the attempt to free Baltimore as well. If this boy was to be believed though, they were coming at last!

He set his glass back down.

Kirby nodded.

"Now please tell me what you think might be helpful to General Stuart"

"The guard," Kane started. "The Loyal League. I would guess it numbers around five thousand. They're good at beating up defenseless old men and terrorizing women, but against any kind of disciplined military force? They'll scurry like rabbits."

"The garrison?"

"What little was here was all but stripped out and sent down to Washington last week. There's the First Connecticut Cavalry based at Federal Hill, several other regiments scattered around the city. It's been hard to keep track of things the last week. Anywhere we attempt to go we are followed by traitors and spies. We are stopped far outside the range of any of the forts or headquarters."

"The hospitals are packed with wounded coming in from Gettysburg and Union Mills," Brown interjected. "A thousand or more, I heard. Also, there are maybe five hundred paroled Union prisoners downtown as well, waiting for the final paperwork for their exchanges along with several hundred Confederate prisoners. At Fort McHenry at least a hundred civilians are being held under guard as well."

"So your estimate of the fighting strength?"

"As I said," Kane excitedly jumped back in, "some of the troops were ordered down to Washington by General Heintzelman. I'd estimate roughly two to three thousand infantry, the regiment of cavalry, some heavy artillery, and that's it"

Kirby smiled and then gladly accepted a second glass of brandy poured by Brown, but this time only sipped from it

"We heard you attacked Washington but not a word of the results. All telegraph lines into and out of Baltimore in every direction are down. Did you take it?"

Kirby shook his head.

"I rather assumed that given you were coming here," Brown interjected.

'Tell General Stuart this," Kane said forcefully. "Come on quickly. There are rumors that the Army of the Potomac is reorganizing at Perryville. If they have word of your coming, they could rush trainloads of troops down here in a matter of hours, man the fortifications, and it will be a bloody price to get in here."

Kirby smiled.

"We're aware of them, sir."

"I'll sketch out the fortifications for you if you want, son," Kane said.

Kirby shook his head.

"Sir, I was told not to be caught carrying any maps or such on me, so I think I'll refrain from that. Just what I can carry in my head. But if you'd draw some rough sketches, I'll try and remember the details."

Kane nodded and, returning to the table, he called for Brown to bring some papers and a pencil. Minutes later he had produced rough sketches of the primary fortifications guarding Baltimore, Kirby leaning over the table to examine them carefully.

"There are over seventy heavy guns in Fort McHenry, a dozen heavy guns on Federal Hill," Kane said. "The garrisons are definitely not front-line troops, but behind fortifications they could be formidable."

"Suppose rioting should break out in the city?" Kirby asked. "We don't want anything serious, I'm told to convey that to you. Nothing that could get out of hand, but sufficient to clog roads, prevent the movement of troops, perhaps spread panic with the garrisons."

Kane looked over meaningfully at Brown.

"Yes, there are thousands waiting for this day."

Kirby said nothing more, and the two civilians looked at each other and smiled.

Chapter Eleven

In Front of Baltimore

July 21, 1863 3:00pm

General Longstreet, what is the situation?" General Lee, reining in Traveler, looked expectantly at Old Pete, who had been busy shouting orders to several staff officers. The staff, clearly aware of Lee's arrival, hurriedly saluted, turned, and galloped off.

"McLaws's division is deployed for action, sir," Long-street yelled, in order to be heard above the thunder of a battalion of artillery that was firing less than fifty yards away.

The battalion was wreathed in smoke; General Alexander, newly promoted to command of all artillery for the Army of Northern Virginia, was racing back and forth along the line of guns, motioning another battery into place along the low ridge.

On the flank of the guns, McLaws's division was ready to go, haversacks and equipment dropped in regimental piles, battle lines forming up, officers pacing back and forth nervously. Having ridden up from Ellicott Mills, Lee had just passed Pickett's division, coming on at the double across the open fields.

"Jeb did his job here," Longstreet announced. "You can hear his skirmishers forward even now, probing their line."

'Taking the bridges at Ellicott Mills was a feat," Lee said in agreement.

His young cavalier was at his best again, the failure before Gettysburg still a goad, a blemish to be redeemed. In a predawn charge he had personally led a brigade into Ellicott, seizing the town, leaving garrison and bridges intact, a feat that had laid Baltimore open to mem. Throughout the day the men of Longstreet's corps had been storming across the bridges, deploying to approach Baltimore from the west side of town.

He raised his field glasses. The town was clearly in sight, high church spires, smokestacks of factories, warehouses, rich homes, all of it wreathed in smoke.

"Is the town burning?" Lee asked.

Longstreet nodded.

"Started around noon."

"Who started it?"

"It wasn't us, sir. I've held fire back to hit just their fortifications. It must be inside the dry."

"We've got to get in there before it goes out of control."

"Here comes Jeb" Longstreet announced

It was indeed Stuart, riding hard on a lathered horse, staff trailing behind him, plumed hat off; he was using it to strike the flank of his horse. Troops seeing him approach let out a rebel yell in greeting.

Grinning, he reined in before Longstreet and Lee.

"A lovely day!" Stuart exclaimed, waving his hat to the sparkling blue skies overhead.

They're abandoning the lines, running in panic, General Lee! Some of my men are already into their fortifications. We need that artillery fire lifted, General Longstreet"

Longstreet shouted an order to a waiting staff officer, who ran off toward Alexander.

"One of my young spies just came through the lines," Stuart announced, pointing to a sweat-soaked lieutenant behind him.

"Lieutenant Kirby, sir," and the boy saluted with a flourish.

"Your report, Lieutenant?" Lee asked.

"Sir, it is chaos in the city. The panic started midmorning with the reports that Stuart's cavalry was in sight I tried to get back through during the night but got trapped in an attic loft when I was chased by one of their Loyal League patrols. Fortunately I knew the neighborhood, and a friend of my family hid me. I'm sorry I didn't get back through earlier."

'That's all right son. I'm glad you are safe."

"Sir, their garrison is not more man several thousand, but a panic just exploded around noon. Deserters are pouring into the city, many of them heading down to Fort McHenry. Word is the commander there is threatening to shell the city."

"He wouldn't dare," Stuart grumbled "That's against all rules of civilized warfare."

"He just might," Longstreet replied.

"Is that what started the fires?"

"I couldn't tell for sure, sir. I did hear some artillery fire. The family mat was hiding me, they said that fighting is breaking out in the streets between the Loyal League and those on our side. It's getting ugly."

"How so?'

"Burning, sir. Hangings, executions." "General Stuart, did you leave the northern roads open as ordered?"

"Yes, sir. I have patrols watching them, but there are no troops moving in."

"I want those roads kept open. If we cork the bottle, those people in there just might turn and fight I want them to know there is a way to get out safely. We can chase their infantry down later, out in the open, but I don't want them barricading themselves into the city."

"I'm certain it is still open, General Lee."

"Sir," Kirby interrupted. "I urge you to go in now. It is getting out of control in the city. Your presence will stop it; otherwise all of Baltimore might burn to the ground."

Lee nodded, looking over at Longstreet.

"Send McLaws in now, General Longstreet"

"Sir, I'd prefer to have Pickett up on the line before we attack."

"There is nothing organized in front of us to attack," Stuart announced. "As I said, my boys are already into some of their fortifications."

Longstreet nodded toward Lee.

"As you wish, sir."

He urged his mount away from the group and raced off to where McLaws and his staff were waiting. Orders were shouted. Thousands of men stood up, rifles flashing in the brilliant afternoon sunlight Drums rolled, officers, most of them mounted, riding up and down the lines, waving their swords.

The division lurched forward, five thousand strong; as the men cleared the crest, passing through Alexander's guns, which had fallen silent a cheer went up.

Caught up in the moment, Lee fell in on their flank, standing in his stirrups, urging them on.

The day was glorious, bright, crystal-blue sky, a touch of breeze whipping out the flags, men cheering, the city of Baltimore before them.

First Church of the Redeemer (AME), Baltimore

July 21, 1863 3:15 p.m.

John Miller stood in the nave of the church along with many of the other elders, his wife and three children gathered fearfully around him.

It was chaos. The small, clapboard-sided church was packed beyond overflowing, hundreds more gathered out in the streets and yard around this center of their community. A white officer from the army was up at the pulpit trying to be heard, Miller and the other elders shouting for those around them to fall silent to hear what was being said The officer looked down at Miller, exasperated, and then actually motioned to his revolver, as if ready to draw it and fire it into the ceiling. John shook his head, pushed his way up to the side of the pulpit, and cupped his hands. "Everyone! Shut up!" he roared

His tone, his bull-like voice, a voice of command gained from years working in the heat and thunder of the Abbot Rolling Mills, cut through the chaos. At this moment the shy, soft words of a preacher just would not have done it. The church fell silent though the tumult out in the street still rolled in to them, counterpointed by the distant nimble of artillery fire in Baltimore. What was to be their fate? No one said. Some of the Loyal League, the pro-Union militia that had taken over the city, claimed that black men would hang from every lamppost in Baltimore if the rebels came. John knew that was just talk to stir up passions, but there might be a grain of truth to it. More than one whose loyalties were with the South had said the exact opposite, that all would be as before. There were some though that muttered that "the niggers had gotten the upper hand," and a day of reckoning would come.

He looked at his friends and neighbors, his own family huddled in the crowd, and knew something would have to be done. They could not just stand here like sheep waiting for the slaughter, praying that the good mercies of their white neighbors would see them through. Yes, most of them were good neighbors, but one lone wolf could still slaughter them all or take them back into slavery.

He had never known that bitter bondage. He was a skilled man, helping to oversee one of the rolling mills that turned out iron plate for the navy. He would die before a slave catcher would ever place a hand upon him, or his skills would ever be turned to feeding the Confederate cause.

"Major, which way is your army fleeing?"

"Some to McHenry, others on the road north, following the tracks of the Philadelphia and Wilmington Railroad. Why?"

"I'm leaving," John announced, his voice raised so all could hear. "I'm taking my family and going north."

The major looked at him and men nodded with approval.

"Don't go down to the Fort There will most likely be fighting there. Boats are already taking many out; I doubt though if they will allow you colored to board. Get on the road north and stay on it. There are some troops moving on it who should protect you."

"We'll protect ourselves," John said harshly. "Some of us have guns."

"Don't do that; you know what will happen if you are caught with weapons."

"Major, if you were me, wouldn't you carry a gun?"

The major, taking no insult as some white folk would have, looked at John and men smiled.

"The army, as you know, is recruiting for colored regiments. Go to Wilmington. Better yet, Philadelphia, where the recruiting and training camps are for the colored regiments. Go there, become a soldier, then come back and fight to liberate Baltimore from the Confederates!"

John listened but said nothing. For the moment all he cared for was to get the hell out of this town and move his family to safety.

John left the pulpit, garnered his wife and three children under his arms, and headed for the door.

‘I’m leaving now," he shouted "Any who want to go with me, pack up some food, leave everything else behind, and let's get out of this God-cursed city before the rebels get here."

Near Federal Hill, Baltimore

July 21, 1863 3:45 pm.

Brown, things are getting out of control!" Former police commissioner Kane came staggering into the hotel lobby they had established as temporary headquarters for their new "Sons of Liberty" militia.

Hundreds had rallied to their call in the hours just before dawn. Street fighting had erupted almost immediately. At first it was nothing more than scuffles, taunts, which had then moved to boys throwing "horse apples," to an occasional brick, and in short order had escalated to showers of rocks, men armed with clubs, and in the final step to pistols, rifles, and now several artillery pieces taken by both sides from the regular troops who were now only themselves trying to get out of the way.

The sound of glass shattering was a continual accompaniment to the cacophony of noises, intermixed with gunfire, screams, the panicked braying of mules, the pitiful shrieks of wounded horses, one team trapped under an overturned carriage that had crashed into a building burning across the street

Kane stood in the doorway, blood pouring down the side of his face, which was puffed up, swollen from where he had been struck by a piece of cobblestone. A bullet nicked the frame of the open doorway, splinters flying. Another round hit the chandelier over Brown's table, shattered crystals raining down.

A volley erupted, ragged, the report greeted by guttural cheers. A group of men stormed out of an alleyway alongside the hotel, charging across the street, colliding with a mob of Loyal Leaguers, who turned and started to run. Brown stood up, watching the mad scuffle, musket and pistol butts rising and falling. A giant of a man armed with a pickax handle fighting like Samson in the middle of the fray, going down, a moment later his body rising back up, held aloft by half a dozen men, several boys looping a coil of rope around his neck, throwing the other end over a lamppost and then straining to hoist the dying man aloft.

Disgusted, Brown turned away.

"It's this way all over the city," Kane gasped. "Murders, beatings, reports of rape; entire blocks are burning now. My God, the city has gone insane."

Brown, obviously overwhelmed, could not speak. He knew this was far beyond anything he could have ever imagined. Yes, there would be fighting, but these were neighbors before the war, friends even. Have two years of this war so coarsened all of us that we have sunk to this? he thought. All the talk of glory and freedom now tasted bitter and stale.

"Can't we stop it?" Brown asked weakly.

"Not now," Kane shouted as an explosion down the block rocked them, flames gushing out of a tavern. Several men \ were running out of the open doors, as if emerging from the pit of hell, their entire bodies on fire. They ran shrieking, flailing, then collapsing.

"Hate, liquor, half the mob out there is drunk, the other half drunk on blood."

Brown lowered his head.

"What are the Yankee troops doing?"

"Fort McHenry is threatening to open fire. The road down to the fort, however, is packed with refugees."

A "Son of Liberty," Brown recognized him as a former police captain, came through the door, eyes wide, the stench of liquor on his breath.

"The niggers are rioting" he shouted. "They're killing white folk!"

Brown looked at him, incredulous.

Before he could even respond, the man was back out the door, holding a pistol aloft, shouting for men to follow him.

Brown retreated back to his table in the comer of the lobby and slumped into his chair, covering his face.

If this was war, he wanted nothing to do with it It had all sounded so bright and wonderful last night In his fantasies, it would be done with chivalry, a few dead perhaps, but done cleanly, the cowardly Yankees fleeing under a gauntlet of taunts, the Loyal League retreating to their basements to hide, the gallant Army of Northern Virginia, with Lee at the fore, riding into the center of town, where he, as the provisional mayor, would ceremoniously hand him the keys to the city.

Another explosion rocked the room, but he did not even bother to look up.

Outskirts of Baltimore

July 21,1863 4:00 p.m.

General Lee, I think we should hold back here for the moment," Walter Taylor announced, coming up to the general's side.

Reluctantly, Lee found he had to agree. They were into the edge of the city, a district of neatly built homes. He did not recognize the neighborhood; it must have been built after his tenure supervising the building of fortifications for the defense of Baltimore. So ironic that the very defenses he helped to build and upgrade were now the object of his attack.

If the fortifications were properly garrisoned, he knew there would be a formidable battle ahead. So far, however, his hope that the outnumbered, second-rate garrison would take flight seemed to be coming to pass.

He always had a fondness for this town, Southern in so many ways, but also bustling, sophisticated, with orchestras, theaters-a place of culture. It had been a comfortable posting.

He did not recognize any of it now.

Crowds were out in the street and panic was in the air. McLaws's men had stormed up and over the outer perimeter of fortifications with ease; barely a shot was fired. The men were exuberant, for the works were indeed extensive though nowhere near as well designed as Washington's, and to the last instant there had been fear that somehow it was a trap, that the guns, visible in their emplacements, would suddenly open up, turning an easy advance into a shambles.

The only Yankees to be found were drunks and a few sick and injured who had been abandoned by their terrified, retreating comrades. There had been a few shots from houses at the edge of town, the advance line of skirmishers rushing in, the shooters bursting out of the homes, casting aside their rifles, and running for their lives. He had already intervened personally at the sight of a couple of young boys, not more than fourteen or fifteen, surrounded by an angry knot of his soldiers. The boys had apparently decided to try and hold back the Confederate army on their own and shot a soldier, fortunately only a graze to the arm, but the wounded man's comrades were getting set to string the boys up.

"Give them a good spanking," Lee had announced good-naturedly, his suggestion breaking up the angry mood. "Then send them home to their mama."

He could hear the two boys howling as the men set to them with a will.

But as they got a few more blocks into the city, the mood turned darker. Several houses were burning, no one bothering to try and put the flames out, the owners standing outside, shocked, one shouting to the passing troops that the damn Loyal Leaguers were burning the town, a half block farther on another victim hysterically screaming imprecations at the soldiers and at "all goddamn rebels."

An occasional report of a rifle or pistol echoed ahead. Walter and his guard detail looked around nervously. Though Lee hated to put a special distinction unto himself, he felt the need for it now. He had no hesitation about riding into the storm of battle; there were times that he sought the challenge or knew that his duty required it, but to be gunned down by a hidden assassin lurking in a darkened window struck him as obscene, and inwardly he had to admit that it did frighten him a bit Somehow he still clung to the notion that battle should be fought in open fields and woods. There it was pure, no innocents caught in the middle, the only ones present men who had volunteered to be there, and who in general fought with honor. To die at the hands of a drunken assailant was not a worthy death.

He reined in and waited, his guards, with pistols and carbines raised, forming a tight circle. Down the middle of the street a regiment from Pickett's division came by on the double, Virginia state flag at the fore.

"Your orders, Colonel?" Lee shouted as the regiment came abreast of him.

Startled, the colonel looked up, saw Lee, stepped from the front of the column, and saluted with a flourish.

"We're leading Armistead's brigade, sir. Our orders are to occupy Federal Hill."

"Carry on."

The men cheered as they passed, more regiments coming around a bend in the road behind them

Their enthusiasm was overflowing, the men yelling, cheering, drummers struggling to keep up while at the same time beating out the pace. A troop of cavalry riding on the sidewalk across the street trotted by, pistols drawn.

The wind shifted slightly, carrying smoke on it a distant rumble, almost like battle but not quite.

A courier came tearing back up the street lashing his mount shouting for the infantry to clear the way. He rode straight past Lee, went half a block, then reined in hard, horse skidding. He turned his mount and came racing up to Lee, breathing hard

"General McLaws's compliments, sir. He begs for you to come forward with as many men as possible."

"What is wrong? Are the Yankees standing?"

"No, sir. It's the civilians. Sir, it's a riot like nothing we've ever seen. I'm supposed to find General Longstreet and report this, sir."

"How bad is this riot?"

"Sir, I've never seen anything like it Whole blocks are burning; there's people a-hanging from trees. They're fighting so hard neither side will stop."

"Our men?"

"They're trying to stop it now, sir, but we're getting hurt some. General McLaws got hit by a rock and is down."

A thundering explosion suddenly washed over them. Startled, Lee looked up to see a massive fireball climbing heavenward, mushrooming out Windowpanes farther down the street shattered, glass tinkling down onto the street

"Longstreet's farmer back," Lee said, pointing back up the road. "He might be riding with Pickett's headquarters."

The boy saluted and galloped off.

He took a deep breath.

"We better go in."

"What was that?" Taylor asked, pointing at the still-mushrooming cloud

"Might be the powder reserves at Federal Hill; if so, there's going to be a lot of damage down in the center of town," Lee announced

Taylor shouted for the guard to keep a sharp watch, and Lee did not object as several of the men moved in closer. He knew he had to put on an imperious air, to project a calm authority, but still he found himself looking nervously about After so long in the field this environment was alien, disquieting.

Crowds were out at every street corner, some cheering the passing troops, others standing by, sullen and quiet Confederate flags appeared at some windows and porches. A lone defiant girl stood in her doorway, holding a Federal flag up in her hands, weeping.

Moved by her bravery, he saluted, then told Taylor to detail off a soldier to gently take the girl inside for her own safety but offering his compliments as well.

They turned the corner in the road leading down to Federal Hill, and he reined in again. The scene was apocalyptic, something from the Bible. Fire was soaring up from the center of the old fort, buildings beyond the fort shattered, in flames. But what he saw at the next street corner truly sickened him. A body was dangling from a tree, another lying in the gutter. The house the bodies were in front of was engulfed in flames, the side of the neighboring house already scorched and smoking.

The body hanging from the tree was a black boy, not more man twelve or thirteen, the body in the gutter a woman, her throat cut, blood spilled out in a dark, ugly pool.

Sickened, Lee looked over at Taylor.

"Damn it," he shouted, "this will not be tolerated!"

The use of even a mild profanity startled Taylor, who, ashen-faced, stiffened in the saddle.

"I want the provost guard in this town, in force now! This will not be tolerated! I want that boy cut down. His family and that of the woman to be found, our condolences offered, and funerals paid for! I want someone to find out what happened here!"

Angrily he turned Traveler away. His fear of the moment before gone, he pressed farther into the city.

Even as Pickett's regiments stormed along the street beside him, he caught glimpses of side streets and alleyways. Some were empty, others lined with nervous groups of civilians watching, and then the next one would reveal a raging battle, mobs swaying back and forth, storefronts being broken into, looted, crowds fighting with each other, bricks flying, rifle shots echoing. The column of infantry suddenly stopped, half a dozen blocks from the center of town, the men who were now stalled leaning over, panting hard, looking around nervously, not sure of what should be done next

"General Lee!"

McLaws, with Stuart by his side, was forcing a way through the columns of infantry. The main thoroughfare just ahead was littered with debris, a rough barricade blocking half of it, a storefront burning. A man came running out of a building directly behind Stuart and began to raise a rifle, aiming at Stuart's back, incredible, since dozens of Confederate infantry stood only feet away.

A flurry of shots dropped the man in his tracks. Stuart, not even bothering to look back, approached Lee, unaware that in another second he would have been dead. Lee's escorts, seeing the drama, became more tense, most of the men now cocking their revolvers, looking around warily.

Stuart came up, features pale. McLaws by his side had a bandage around his forehead, left side of his face puffy and swollen, with his eye half-shut.

"There's hell to pay up there," McLaws shouted. "It's madness. You'd think the entire city's sold itself to the devil."

"What is the situation, gentlemen?" Lee asked sharply.

'To be honest, sir, we're not sure," Stuart interjected. "We got in without a fight, as you saw, but about four blocks back it started getting ugly. The fort blew a few minutes ago; guess you saw that. The garrison is making a run for the harbor."

"I no longer care about that!" Lee snapped. "I want this city intact, not a smoking ruin. And I want it done peacefully. What I've seen so far is barbaric."

"It's not us, sir," Stuart said defensively. “It's these damn civilians, both sides. You think all the hatred these last two years is boiling out They're killing each other without mercy."

"I want it stopped now, General Stuart Now!"

He shouted the last word, half standing in his stirrups.

"Get your men fanned out along every street and thoroughfare. I want the word passed that everyone is to return to their homes. The city is now under the martial law of the Confederacy and a twenty-four-hour curfew is in place. I want that done now."

"Sir. I don't think many will listen."

Lee looked around, exasperated. From a block away, up a side alley, he saw two men pointing toward them One lowered a pistol and fired several shots. At such a range, of course, the rounds missed, but two of his guards set off in pursuit He wanted to shout for them to come back, but they disappeared around a corner. More shots, and no one came back.

His army was not trained for this, had no experience at all in how to take a city and then control it Even as he thought that, one of his attempted assailants stepped back from around the corner, making a rude gesture and a defiant wave. This time he had a carbine and lowered it to take another shot A volley from some of Pickett's men dropped him.

We are out of our depth here, Lee realized. For the first time in a very long while he was flustered, not sure how to act, what orders to give. This was not as easy as simply ordering a division out of line and sending them in. They'd done that a hundred times; everyone down to the dimmest private knew his role. But here?

"General Stuart Cavalry to stay together in troops; do not let your men split up or get lured off. Infantry to move in company strength. I'll establish headquarters …"

He hesitated. Where?

"Mount Vernon Square. It's half a dozen blocks from here. I'll be at the center of the square. General McLaws, you are to advance down to the harbor. I want a courier sent down to Fort McHenry. We will offer a temporary truce. Ask the commander to please cease any thoughts of firing upon the city and to aid us in containing the fires and the rioting. Any Union troops still in organized formations and attempting to maintain order will be granted free passage back to their lines once order is restored."

"I doubt if he'll go for it sir," McLaws said. "He's a real firebrand."

"Then that is on his head, not ours. If he goes for it or not any Union troops you see in formation or attempting to control this madness, grant them a truce, assistance if they need it then the right to leave."

"With arms?"

"Yes, with arms," Lee replied, exasperated at such a picky detail. "They'll need them against this madness. I want those fleeing to be aided and assisted with safe passage."

"Sir, what about the…" Stuart began, then hesitated, "the colored?"

"The what?"

"The colored, sir. Some of my men just reported that thousands of them are fleeing north. Many of them are slaves, sir, or runaways from Virginia. By right they should be returned to their masters."

"Like the two I saw several blocks back?" Lee asked.


"I just saw two dead Negroes, one of them a boy hanging from a tree, the other a woman with her throat cut; is that what you mean?"

Stuart lowered his head and said nothing.

Another explosion rocked the plaza ahead, debris soaring heavenward, tiny fragments raining down around them long seconds later.

"I want the colored left alone. Let them flee if they wish."

"But the slaves?"

"General Stuart, just how in God's name will you tell the difference?"

All were again startled by his rage.

"I don't know, sir," Stuart said woodenly.

"Then don't bother with it."

"Sir," Taylor said softly. "Remember, the president is just outside the city. If he hears you've willingly allowed slaves to escape, there could be problems."

"Then, sir," Lee snapped, "I suggest you go back out of this city, bring the president here, make sure he sees that hanging, and let him pass the order as to what to do. We are a Christian army that has fought with honor, and I still propose that we maintain that honor. I will not tolerate what we just saw back there."

Taylor, absolutely crestfallen, lowered his head.

Lee took a deep breath. The fear of earlier, the confusion as to what to do in this strange, new battlefield, then the outrage had overtaken him for a moment He turned away, mastering his passion; and looked back.

"I apologize, Walter. You were doing your job."

"No apology needed, sir."

Lee leaned over and in a gesture of remorse lightly patted him on the arm.

"Gentlemen. Remember, we are gentlemen," he said softly. "I want this city brought under control. As I said, I will establish headquarters at Mount Vernon Square. General McLaws, pass the message to the commander down at Fort McHenry. General Stuart start moving your men out as ordered. Taylor, locate General Longstreet and ask him to come to my headquarters. Finally, locate Pickett and order him to start spreading his division out and make sure they understand my orders as well."

The gathering looked at him for a moment trying to process all that he said. Again there was a flash of exasperation.


The group scattered.

With his escort pulled in tight around him, Lee pressed into the city.


July 21 1863 5.00pm

Hey, niggers!" John Miller slowed. At the street comer ahead, a cordon had been set up. A rough barricade of tom-up cobblestones, an overturned delivery wagon, and bits of lumber blocked the way. Behind him hundreds of blacks from his community were surging forward. Behind them the city looked like something out of the Bible, of Sodom and Gomorrah, flames soaring heavenward, explosions rocking the harbor, and now this line of men armed with clubs and guns.

To his dismay he did not see any indication that they were the Loyal League, who had freely let them pass several blocks back, though more than one taunt was hurled about a black Moses leading his children.

He slowed.

"Where you going, boy?" one of the toughs asked, stepping out from behind the barricade.

"Out of this city. We're going north."

"Oh, no you ain't. You're runaways. Now git back home where you belong."

"We're freemen, and we can go where we please."

"Don't back-talk me." The man came forward, raising an axe handle threateningly.

All was silent for a long moment.

"We're leaving the city," John said quietly, looking the man straight in the eye.

"God damn you!"

The handle came down. The man was clumsy, obviously not used to the type of dark-alley brawls that John had grown up with. He easily dodged the blow and with a single strike from a curled-up fist knocked the man flat

"The son of a bitch hit George!" someone screamed from behind the barricade.

John looked up and saw a rifle being leveled, aimed straight at him. Before he could even begin to react, the gun went off. He heard a scream, looked, and saw his young son stagger backward from the blow.

A wild madness now seized him. He raced the dozen feet to the barricade, reaching into the haversack by his side, drawing out an antique pistol, an old flintlock that his grand-daddy claimed to have carried against the British in 1814. He cocked it even as he ran. Stopping on the far side of the barricade, he leveled the piece straight at the man who had shot his son, and squeezed the trigger. The gun went off with a thunderous report, kicking his hand heavenward. The rifleman seemed to leap backward.

The next couple of seconds were mad confusion. Hundreds charged around him, swarming up over the barricade. Shots rang out; the flash of knives glinted in the sun; rifle butts were raised, slammed down; the wild, hysterical crowd pushed forward, clearing the barricade.

Stunned, he just stood alone and then looked back to where his wife, Martha, knelt in the middle of the road, keening softly, cradling the body of young John, his two daughters standing wide-eyed, looking down at their mother and dead brother.

He walked back to her as if in a dream, taking her by the shoulders and pulling her back up.

"We have to go," he whispered.

"No!" She started to flail wildly at him.

"For our two who are still alive we've got to go! We stay here now we'll all be killed."

She stiffened, nodded, but her face was still buried in her hands.

He knelt down, picked up his boy, and carried him to the side of the road, to the entry of a livery stable. A couple of hands in the stable looked at him nervously, bitterness in their eyes.

He gazed at them, saying nothing as he reached into his haversack, drew out a pad and a pencil, wrote the name of his son and their address on it, then tucked the paper into the boy's breast pocket

In a way he could not believe what he was doing, so casually marking the body of his son before walking away. He folded the boy's hands and kissed him lightly on the forehead, drew out five dollars from his pocket nearly all he had, and put it into the boy's pocket then stood back up.

"His name is John Miller Junior. I put five dollars in his pocket for his burying."

"So what?" the younger of the stable hands growled.

John looked around meaningfully then back to the two.

"If you have any Christian sense to you, you'll see that my son is buried proper."

"And if not?" the young one laughed.

"I'm going to join the army now. And after this is over, I'll be back. If he isn't buried as I want, I'll track both of you down and kill you."

The older of the two, gaze lowered, nodded his head.

"I'll see to it. I'm sorry for your loss."

"Thank you."

John turned without looking back down at his boy. He knew if he did so he'd break, and there was no time, no luxury for that now.

He gathered Martha under his arm, his two sobbing daughters clinging to her skirts.

Hundreds were still passing over the barricade, which was carpeted with a score of dead and wounded, black and white. Lying on the ground was a rifle, a new Springfield. He looked down at it, and the man still clutching the weapon, the man who had killed his son. He picked the gun up, testing its heft, then bent back over to pull off the cartridge box the man was wearing, the brass plate on its side an oval with us stamped in the middle. He put it on, picked up the cap box, and slipped it on to his belt.

He had seen it done often enough. He drew a cartridge, tore it open, poured in the powder, rammed a ball down, half cocked the gun, and capped the nipple with a percussion cap.

Some had stopped to look at him, wide-eyed. None had ever seen a colored man do this or seen a colored man with a cartridge box stamped us on his hip.

He scrambled over the barricade, then turned to help his wife and daughters. Shouldering his rifle, he headed north.

Mount Vernon Square, Baltimore

My 21, 1863 6:30 p.m.

You, sir, have let this go out of control," General Lee snapped, looking up at the quaking civilian standing before him.

The Honorable George Brown stood crestfallen, shirt open, tie gone, fine broadcloth jacket streaked and burned. "Sir, if only I could explain."

"You've tried to explain," Lee said, "and I find your explanation unacceptable.

"Young Lieutenant Kirby here tells me that you were told to help us enter the city but to keep things under control. Do you call that control down there?"

Lee pointed back down toward the center of the city, which was a raging inferno. Fort McHenry beyond was concealed in the smoke.

"General Lee, we did not want this, either."

"I should hope not."

"Sir, you have not been here these past two years," Brown said defensively. "It has been a place seething with hatred, with midnight arrests, a city under occupation. The passions simply exploded, sir."

Lee sighed wearily. He had no authority to deal with this man, but if he did, he'd have him under arrest, if for no other reason than to set an example.

"I want you to go back out there. General Stuart will provide you with an escort. You are to try and help us stop this, because if you don't, my provost guards most certainly will. I have issued orders to shoot to kill anyone caught looting or setting fires, and I don't care which side they are on."

"What about the Loyal League?" Brown asked. "Aren't you going to arrest them?"

"No, I will not. Do you want to set off yet another explosion? They are to go home. Tomorrow I will offer them amnesty if they turn in their arms."

"Amnesty, sir? They should be thrown in jail the way we were!"

"Don't you understand, Mr. Brown? I am trying to restore order here. I will not follow the practices of the Lincoln government in the process. If we act with forebearance now, it will reap rewards later. As long as they comply with military law, they and their property will not be harmed."

"At least round up their ringleaders. I have their names, sir," and Brown fumbled in his pocket, pulled out a sheet of paper, and placed it on Lee's desk, which had been set up under an awning right in the middle of the square.

Lee angrily brushed the note aside.

"No, sir. No! I want their help at this moment. If they will help us to restore order, no matter how naive that might sound, then they are free to live peacefully. I would think that together, both sides would wish to save this city before it burns down around your ears."

Brown said nothing.

"Now go do your duty, sir."

Brown, obviously shaken by the interview, withdrew.

Lee stood up and walked out from under the awning. The city he had loved so much was going under. The entire central district was in flames, the fire department all but helpless to contain it, since so many of the firemen had fallen in with one side or the other during the rioting.

He now had most of Pickett's division either fighting the fires or struggling to suppress the rioting. A report had come in of one company from the Fourteenth Virginia all but wiped out in an ambush, dozens more injured or killed fighting either the rioters or the flames.

It was early twilight, and as he watched the fire, he wondered if this was now symbolic of their entire nation, North and South, so consumed with growing hatred that they would rather destroy all in a final orgy of madness than band together to save what was left.

If this is indeed what we are sinking to, then we are doomed, he thought Even in victory we will be doomed, for God will surely turn away from us.

We have to retrieve something out of this, he thought. There has to be something saved out of these ashes. I must still set the example and lead if we are to restore what we have lost.

July 23 1963


The constant stream of engines pulling the long convoy of trains coming down through the gap above Marysville, Pennsylvania, filled the Susquehanna Valley with smoke. The shriek of train whistles echoed and reechoed. The mood all along the trackside was jubilant, civilians out to watch the spectacle, boys waving and racing alongside the long strings of flatcars and open-sided boxcars packed with troops.

The veterans of McPherson's corps, riding east to save the Union, seemed to be delighted by the spectacle as well. Regimental flags were unfurled, hoisted up, the staffs tied securely in place, each train thus festooned with battle-torn standards from Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, emblazoned on them in gold letters the names of campaigns that to the Easterners were a mystery, except for the freshly lettered, triumphant vicksburg.

Rumbling down out of the mountain gap toward the broad, open plain of the Susquehanna Valley just ahead, the veterans looked about with approval at the rich farmlands, the open vista, the cool air of the mountains wafting down around them. It was indeed a far cry from the heat, swamps, ague, and snake-infested landscape of the lower Mississippi. These farms looked much more like the neat, well-kept farms of their Midwest.

They were, as well, coming now as saviors and heroes, and they basked in the glory of it. At crossroads and whistle-stop stations young women waved, sang patriotic airs, and passed up baskets of fresh-baked bread, biscuits, pitchers of

cool water and buttermilk, and older men, with a glimmer in their eye and a wink, would hand off bottles of stronger stuff. The reception across the Midwest had been a warm one, especially when a regiment was passing through its home state, but here at the edge of the front lines the outpouring of enthusiasm was bordering on the ecstatic. These were the men who were going to save central Pennsylvania from the Confederate army, and the local citizens were thrilled by their arrival.

The trains passed over the massive viaduct that spanned the Susquehanna a dozen miles north of the city. Earthworks and freshly built blockhouses guarded the approach to the bridge on the western shore. Fortunately, this bridge had not

been dropped, the furthest advance of the Confederates stopping down at the gap just above the city.

Along the narrow road just south of the bridge more fortifications were in place, two batteries of rifled pieces guarding this precious crossing in case any rebel raiders should now try to attack.

The river beneath the bridge was still swollen and turbulent from the torrential rains of the previous three weeks, the water dark, littered with debris that tossed on the waves. As the lead train shifted through a switch and on to the bridge, they passed out of the morning light on the west bank of the river into the shade on the steep slopes of the eastern side, the air cool and refreshing.

Spirits were up. The word had passed that their journey of almost a thousand miles was at an end. Fifers picked up songs. Here and there men joined in, some of the tunes patriotic, more than one off-colored, with loud coughs and throat-clearing at every sight of girls lining the track. A group of young women from a nearby female academy, dressed in patriotic red-white-and-blue dresses, triggered an absolute frenzy of coughing, cheers, and more than one friendly, ribald comment that set the girls to blushing but also giggling in response.

The train thundered out of the pass into the broad, open panorama of the Susquehanna Valley, directly ahead the dome of the state capitol, church spires, and factory smokestacks of Harrisburg. All could see the flame-scorched piers of the destroyed covered bridge dropped during the Gettysburg campaign, and the approaches to the pontoon bridge that had been swept away in the flood. Several artillery batteries lined the bank of the river, the guns well dug in, the crews lounging about, waving as the first train passed, the veterans replying politely but holding themselves a bit aloof. For, after all, they were fresh from victory, and the ones waving were not. The armies of the West were now here to teach them how to do it right

Interestingly, a small knot of horsemen was stationed on the far bank, sitting in a clearing partway up the slope of the mountain… advanced rebel scouts, signal flags fluttering. The Confederate outpost had been dislodged several times by small raiding forces coming over from Harrisburg, but as quickly as the Yankees withdrew, the rebs came back to continue their observations of the goings-on inside the state capital.

At the sight of the rebs, the men stood on the flatcars, taunting and waving, shouting that Grant's boys were now here to set things right. Several of the rebel cavalry waved back.

The lead train began to slow, the engineer merrily playing his whistle with a skilled hand, trying to squeeze out the opening bar to "Rally Round the Flag." The tune didn't carry too well, but the rhythm was plain, and some of the men picked up the song, though this was an army that didn't hold much with such patriotic mush. And anyway, in their minds that had been a marching song of the Army of the Potomac and not of the armies of the West.

The crowds along the siding were increasing, people rushing down side streets, cheering, waving, Union infantry joining in, their greeters dressed in bright, new, unstained uniforms.

In contrast, these boys of McPherson's corps were a hard, grizzled lot. Uniforms had long ago faded in the harsh Mississippi sun, the color all but bleaching out to a light, tattered blue. Pant legs were frayed; many had patches sewn on thighs and knees and had backsides stained darkly from countless nights of sitting around campfires. Headgear was non-distinct; few wore kepis, most favoring broad-brimmed hats of brown, black, or gray, which were just as faded and holed as the uniforms.

Hardly a backpack was to be found, the men having long ago adopted a simple horseshoe collar roll of vulcanized ground cloth, with a shelter half, one blanket, and a few changes of socks and a shirt rolled inside. Haversacks were stuffed with some rations; extra food-such as a heavy slice of smoked ham, or a chicken waiting to be plucked-was tied to the strap of the haversack. Of course cartridge boxes were crammed with forty rounds, ten or twenty extra cartridges stuffed into pockets. Maybe a Bible was in the breast pocket of their four-button wool jackets, sometimes riding alongside a deck of cards, a flask of good corn liquor, or some of the new picture cards from Paris. Given the largesse of civilians along the way, most canteens were filled with a mixture of water and whiskey, rum, applejack, or, from the hills of western Pennsylvania, a good solid load of clear, white mountain lightning.

They were veterans, easy in their self-confidence, inured to hardship, long ago disabused of any vague dreams of glory. They had seen what glory led to. They knew their job and would see it through to the end, but they would do so with a quiet, no-nonsense determination. They had signed on for three years, back in the heady days of 1861. Shiloh, Corinth, Fort Donelson, the swamps of Louisiana had forever dimmed the visions and dreams of those early days. What compelled them now was the pride in their regiments and the friendship of their comrades, and no vainglorious words of beribboned generals would sway them one way or the other. It was their job and that was it. War no longer held any illusions for them.

These veterans of the West held the Eastern soldiers who were greeting them with a sort of bemused contempt. Granted, they were on the same side in this war, but it was beyond their understanding how anyone could let a rebel drive them out Where they came from, it was the rebels who did the running, and so it would be here as well. They had come to save the East and they found that concept amusing. They would lord it over the Eastern boys as was their right but then they would see it through to the finish.

They held Grant in supreme confidence. He was one of them. In the shadows of evening, when he would at times walk through their camps, few would actually notice his passing. He was as rumpled as they were, unshaven, battered hat pulled down low, a man you would never notice in a crowd, the only giveaway the almost-permanent cigar clenched in his teeth, glowing like a smokestack. As quickly as it burned to a stub, another would be lit. On a rainy march you might see him sitting astride his horse by the side of the road, eyes watchful, hat brim soaked and dripping, silent, perhaps offering an occasional word of encouragement, but woe betide the man who cheered him; the response was always an icy stare.

He gave no speeches, disdained reviews, which to both him and them were a waste of time, dealt summarily with fools in command, and though they knew he would not hesitate to feed them into the cauldron, he would do so only when there was something to be gained. Their lives, they thought, did mean something to him.

They were of the armies of the West, a different kind of American than those who dwelled in these lush farmlands and burgeoning cities. Many had helped their fathers to clear land on the edge of the frontier. If they were bom in Ohio or Illinois, the stories of Indian raids, of virgin forests, and trackless wilderness were still real to their families. If they were from western Minnesota or Iowa, the frontier was indeed real to them; just beyond the western horizon was a limitless world yet to be explored. Such a vista affected a man, how he thought, what he believed, what he knew he could do, what a hundred thousand thousand of them could do if ever they set their minds to it.

Most had schooling, but not much. Perhaps, like their president, a few months in "blab school." They usually had four, maybe six years tops in a one-room structure that they walked miles to each day. A few, very few, were schooled in the classics and spoke almost like their cousins in the East. Some of these were now officers, but they learned quickly to speak like the men they commanded, to think like them and respect them, or they did not last for long.

Some came from the emerging cities of Chicago, Springfield, or Indianapolis, while others came from the new factory cities springing up around the Great Lakes, and in those regiments could be found mechanics, iron pourers, toolmakers, men who could fashion anything the army might need, or fix anything broken or taken in conquest Men like these could put twenty miles of track back in operation in a matter of days, salvage a locomotive, restore a gasworks, or repair a burst steam boiler.

A sprinkling of Irish were with them, laborers who bent double fourteen hours a day in prairie heat or driving snow, laying the track that was lacing the country together, and some were river men, working the steamships or guiding the flatboats on the Mississippi, the Missouri, and the Ohio. From the far north, more than a few only spoke German, or Swedish, or Norwegian, farmers who had cleared the cold northern land or lumberjacks still felling the great, silent forests. Their new country reminded them of ancestral farms back in northern Europe. Such men were inured to the harsh winters they had always known in both the Old and New Worlds.

Until the start of the war few had ever traveled farther than their county seat to attend a fair or a Fourth of July parade, and nearly all could remember at least one old man riding there in a carriage, eyes dim, but proud and erect, a man who had so long ago marched with Washington, or Wayne, or Morgan.

They were used to vast, open vistas, the limitless plains, or the deep northern woods. This East was almost a different nation, cities to be mistrusted or hated, rich merchants and counting-houses of the railroads, which even at this time were wringing the profits out of their farms.

Ironically, if given a choice, they would have felt far more in common with their foes from Tennessee, Arkansas, and Texas than their comrades from Boston and New York City. The Southern boy might sound strange, but still, he could talk of crops, and raising hogs, and trying to spark a girl behind the barn at a cornhusking, and knew the feel of the damp, rich earth on bare feet when you did your first plowing of spring.

If they had their eyes set anywhere for when this was finished, it was not to the East but always even farther West, maybe mining in Colorado, or perhaps all the way to California. The East was the past, the West was the future, and they were eager to see this war done so they could embrace that future.

There were no illusions now among them. Losing was a concept that was all but impossible for them to contemplate, but they knew the vagaries of battle might bring hard losses. Yet they would see it through even as they knew victory would carry a price. Comrades laughing beside them might be dead in a month; for that matter they themselves might be dead, but at this moment it seemed almost worth it. They were free of the heat and stench of Mississippi, they were back north, treated as saviors, and, as veteran soldiers, they knew how to enjoy the moment

The lead train drifted into the rail yard, bell ringing, whistle blowing. Behind the lead train were fifty more, spaced at ten-minute intervals, the convoy stretching clear back nearly to Pittsburgh, an entire corps with its artillery.

Few contemplated all that had gone into this move, brilliantly designed and orchestrated by Herman Haupt. Entire trainloads of firewood had come along the track ahead of them, replenishing stockpiles at fueling stations. Where it was felt mat watering tanks could not fill the need, hundreds of buckets had been left for the men to haul water up from the nearest stream. Patriotic civilian committees had been raised to bake bread, set out food, pack hampers to greet the soldiers at each of the refueling stops along the way, all of it choreographed so that a train could pull into a siding to take on wood and water and back out in the required ten minutes. Replacement steam engines had been set at major rail yards, ready to rush out and clear the track of breakdowns. This had only happened twice in the long journey. Countless chickens had been slaughtered, fried, and packed, tens of thousands of loaves of bread baked, barrels of fresh drinking water delivered, beeves by the hundreds slaughtered and cooked over open fires alongside the station. Hospitals had been established to take care of the sick or injured, of which there were more than a few. Guards had been posted at key bridges. All of this under the watchful gaze of Herman Haupt, who sat for endless hours by the telegraph in Harrisburg, monitoring every step of the great movement This was the largest, fastest movement of men and equipment in human history and Haupt was determined to make it work.

Supply wagons, ambulances, and nearly all horses and mules had been left behind. Remounts, mules, replacement wagons were coming in from other sources to meet up with this corps, the logistics of it far easier than shipping the same all the way over from Mississippi.

It had come together smoothly, and now the first of these trains could slow to a stop.

General McPherson stepped down from a passenger car at the front of the lead train, stretching, looking around, accepting the salute of the guard detail and then smiling as he saw Grant approach, hat brim pulled low, cigar clenched firmly in his mouth.

"General Grant, it is a pleasure to report to you," McPherson said. "My entire corps should be here by the end of the day."

Grant offered nothing more than a salute, a nod of approval, and a brief "welcome to Harrisburg," and, turning, led McPherson back to his headquarters. It was the type of greeting McPherson expected, and he smiled at the unpretentious simplicity of it.


July 23,1863 Noon

The band, the same one that had serenaded the troops at Leesborough, was yet again playing "Maryland My Maryland," though it was evident that they had spent quite a bit of time practicing since their last performance.

The carriage bearing President Jefferson Davis, Secretary of State Judah Benjamin, and Gen. Robert E. Lee came down the thoroughfare, which was lined shoulder to shoulder on either side by the men of Pickett's division. The troops looked exhausted, uniforms filthy, soot-stained, more than one of the men with blistered hands and face.

Smoke still coiled up from dozens of fires, sometimes an isolated house that had been torched through accident or the ire of a neighbor. But in the downtown district entire blocks were gone. Smoke still coiled heavenward, and over the entire city there hung a pall, bits of black ash covering houses, streets, and even trees.

The troop of cavalry riding escort was strictly adhering to orders, riding almost nose to tail, two ranks deep around the carriage so that Davis grumbled more than once about not being able to see anything.

"Sir, I am responsible for your security and I felt it prudent to exercise caution," Lee replied calmly.

The fact that Jeb Stuart had been winged by a bushwhacker only that morning had sobered everybody. The bullet had narrowly missed the bone in his upper arm, causing Lee to remember how a similar wound had taken Jackson from him.

The assailant had not been caught, and it took serious restraint and the arrest of several of Stuart's troopers to prevent the burning down of the entire block where the attack had occurred.

The carriage turned on to North Holliday Street and stopped in front of City Hall. Cavalry troopers lined the approach from the street and up the front steps with carbines drawn. The ceremonial guard was at attention, but behind them dozens more faced outward, eyes on the windows of buildings up and down the street, and yet more men, selected sharpshooters, were atop the roofs.

A small gathering of well-wishers were out in the street, the band thumping away as the carriage came to a halt, a feeble cheer going up, small Confederate flags fluttering. Twelve girls dressed in white stood on the steps of the building, each wearing a sash hastily lettered with the name of one of the states of the Confederacy; the twelfth, wearing the sash of Maryland, curtsied and gave a bouquet of flowers to Davis, who formally bowed and then kissed her hand, the girl blushing and drawing back.

The president had already been briefed in the strongest of terms by Lee and did not pause on the steps, instead going straight inside, the foyer of the building cool after the noonday warmth of the sun.

An escort led them down the main corridor and into a side office. The table before them was neatly arranged with flowers, pitchers of lemonade, and an ornate coffee-and-tea setting in silver. A black servant stood at the ready, softly asked what each gentleman would prefer, poured the refreshments, and left Davis settled down at the head of the table, Benjamin at the middle, and Lee across from him.

"General Lee, I will confess to expecting a bit more ceremony on our triumphal entry into Baltimore. We arrived almost as furtively as Lincoln did when he passed through here two years ago."

"Sir, I would rather err on the side of caution this day. You already know about what happened to General Stuart."

"Yes, how is he?" Judah Benjamin asked.

"He'll mend. It is a clean wound. Several inches more to the left, however, and we would have lost one of our best generals this morning. If there is one man gunning for General Stuart I daresay a dozen, a hundred would be aiming at you, sir."

"But nothing happened," Davis said a bit peevishly.

"Because, sir, you had a full division of my finest infantry on guard. This city is not yet secured and will not be so for at least a fortnight."

"And the delegates?"

"Sir, the former mayor, the former chief of police, half a dozen former state legislators, various citizen groups are waiting for you in the next room."

"Good. I look forward to meeting with them. The news this morning, in spite of your caution here, has been fortuitous beyond our dreams of but three months ago. We need to act swiftly."

Lee nodded in agreement.

"And the state of the city?" Benjamin asked. "I can barely hope to carry on negotiations if we are in the middle of a battle zone. It would not look good at all; I hope you understand that, sir."

"Yes, Mr. Secretary, I do understand, and am making every effort to facilitate your wishes.

"I've sent another envoy to the garrison at Fort McHenry this morning. I have begged the indulgence of the commander there to refrain from any consideration of shelling the city. To do so would only damage civilian property and not serve his cause. I've offered him, as well, free passage out of the fort, troops to bear arms and colors. Union soldiers waiting for parole are to be free to go as well, along with any Union soldiers that sought refuge there, without need for parole."

"Generous terms, General Lee."

"Yes, sir, but necessary. If I took you down near the waterfront, you would see half a dozen gunboats in the harbor."

"What about the guns we captured at Federal Hill? I understand we have six eight-inch Columbiads."

"Yes, we do, sir, but precious few men trained to man them. To begin a formal siege will be an exercise in yet more bloodshed at a time, I would hope, when we both should be looking to stem that flow."

"There are over seventy guns in Fort McHenry, General Lee," Davis retorted. "Heavy siege guns. If we could seize them intact, they just might be the key to taking Washington."

"I know that, sir. That was one of the terms, that the guns in Fort McHenry are not to be spiked or damaged. But I think that will be a sticking point It would give us a fort that controls Baltimore and armament that would threaten Washington. Sir, he will not surrender the fort, of that I am all but certain."

"Then we must storm it and take the guns by force. Their garrison surely cannot be strong enough to withstand you."

"At a cost of yet thousands more, which we simply cannot afford," Lee replied forcefully. "I lost nearly three hundred more killed and wounded taking this city."

"A small price."

"Not if you have General Lee's numbers," Benjamin said quietly.

Davis nodded reluctantly.

"The state of the city, General Lee?"

"Sir, there are still scattered pockets of rioting and looting, but no organized resistance. It should be noted that the retiring Union soldiers behaved with honor and I was more than happy to grant them free passage. Several of their companies, when they realized they would not be taken prisoners, pitched in with helping to contain the rioting and put out the fires. We then escorted them to the north side of the city and set them on their way."

"Why did you leave the roads to the north open?" Davis asked.

"Sir, never trap an opponent in a place you want to take. Give them a way out and they will take it. The capture of several thousand more soldiers would have served us little, and in fact burdened us with yet more men needing to be guarded."

"I understand though that tens of thousands of civilians are fleeing as well, that many of them are escaping slaves."

Lee said nothing. It was a topic he was hoping to avoid.

"This newspaper from Philadelphia came through our lines this morning," Lee said, reaching into his dispatch pouch and placing it on the table. The headline proclaimed that the rebel army was looting and burning the city.

'To be expected."

"Still, sir, it is not the image we want with the world at this time. We need to show forebearance now." Benjamin cleared his throat

"I would suggest that we allow some members of the Northern press to enter the city and interview civilians who witnessed the rioting," the secretary of state declared. "There are no real military secrets we need to conceal now. Perhaps, Mr. President, you should agree to an interview as well, to lay out our proposal for peace talks."

"I'll consider that" Davis replied.

Davis shifted back to face Lee.

"But I am disturbed that valuable property is escaping north. These are people that we can put to work helping our cause. Many of them are able-bodied men, and the Yankees will press them into their colored regiments."

"Sir. There have been a dozen or more incidents of hangings, rape, torture, outright murder in the colored community. I would much rather see those people leave this town than to have the stain of blood on our hands by forcing them to stay."

"I heard a report that some colored killed white citizens."

"Yes, only after they were attacked."

"Nevertheless, that is intolerable."

"Perhaps intolerable, but I would say intolerable on both sides. Sir, I beg you. Declare an amnesty in this city. It will stand well with the European press and derail the efforts of the Northern press. Declare that all free blacks are to be unmolested as long as they obey martial law. All slaves to stay with their owners."

"And the contraband, the runaways from Virginia?"

"I beg you, sir, do nothing about that now."

Davis looked over at Benjamin, who nodded in agreement with Lee.

"Let it rest for now, sir. Let it rest To do otherwise will trigger yet more panic and rioting."

Davis said nothing.

"The city itself?"

"I think we can have the fires under control by this evening, as long as Port McHenry and the gunboats do not shell us. We've captured dozens of factories all but intact, including the Abbot Mills. Thousands of colored work in them and we need them to get the mills back in production, yet another reason to go easy on them. There's enough food to sustain our army for months. Thousands of rifles, artillery, powder, shoes-more shoes than we ever dreamed of. I've ordered our quartermaster to take control of one of the printing presses and print up vouchers for all supplies taken. What we have here, on top of the supplies taken at Westminster, can sustain the Army of Northern Virginia clear through the winter."

"Good, General Lee, very good. Do you see now why taking this city was crucial?"

"Yes, sir. The question though is how long can we hold it?"

"Why, until peace is negotiated, General Lee."

Lee said nothing, hands folded, looking down at the desk.

"You look distressed, General. What is it?"

"Sir. It'll take at least two divisions, for the next fortnight, to keep order here until we can turn it back over to a reorganized police force. Ten thousand or more are homeless and it is our Christian duty to give them aid and help find shelter. My army is a field army, not an occupation army. There is still the question of the reports of the Army of the Potomac reorganizing on the Susquehanna and the reports that Grant is mobilizing a force at Harrisburg. I must have the latitude to maneuver with my forces if need be."

"Baltimore is our key now," Davis replied forcefully. "Mr. Benjamin will reinforce that, won't you, sir?"

Benjamin nodded reluctantly.

"I'm preparing dispatches to be given to the French consulate here in Baltimore, outlining our position. We cannot just seize Baltimore, send the dispatches, and withdraw. We must be here for the replies. The factories here can be of incalculable service to our cause. We must hold this city, and perhaps, with the armaments taken, renew the threat on Washington.

"The political situation is ripe as well. The fall of Baltimore, the third largest city in America, will reverberate across the North as well. I think, General Lee, we are here for the duration."

"Is there any chance you can get the B amp;O line re-established back over to Harper's Ferry?" Davis asked.

Lee had never seriously thought of that. It would speed up communications to Richmond and help as well to bring up reinforcements.

"I don't have the railroad people. I wish I did," Lee replied, "but I will see what I can do. Yet again, it will stretch us. We'll need to garrison key points, draining yet more men, but yes, it would be a great help."

"If you could open that line all the way back to Winchester, it would mean little more than a day's journey back to Richmond. It would be a major statement as well that Maryland is now firmly linked to our South.

"The news you gave me this morning from General Hood, that Annapolis has fallen, the governor and his pro-Yankee lackeys in the legislature fleeing to the east shore of Maryland, has set the stage for us. Tomorrow I will call a convention for the establishment of a new state-governing body for Maryland with its capital here in Baltimore, declare the prior state administration as illegal and disbanded, and appoint a provisional governor. It is my intent that within the week this new legislature will declare for the Confederacy. If we do that, General Lee, I can promise you twenty thousand more troops within the month, rallying to defend their home state."

"Sir, that would be a boon, but nevertheless they will be barely trained militia." "Men, nevertheless." "Yes, sir."

Lee sat back wearily in his seat All was happening far too fast The city was barely under control; there was the threat that the gunboats and fort might open fire. It was not as easy as Davis wished

"General Lee," Benjamin interrupted. "I received a most gracious invitation this morning from Rabbi Rothenberg of the local Jewish congregation. Would you be interested in joining us for dinner? I think your presence would be of interest to him and the congregation, and helpful as well."

"Me, sir?"

"You are noted for your piety, sir; a visit with one of the leaders of the Jewish community would be a positive example."

"Yes, sir. But of course."

"He has invited us to dine with his family tomorrow night I think you would find him remarkably interesting and the meal more than adequate."

"If he is a friend of yours, I would be honored to join you," Lee replied.

Davis looked at the two, obviously wondering for a second as to why he was not invited.

"The delegation is waiting in the next room?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then let's get started," Davis announced. "This should be most interesting."

Chapter Twelve

Richmond, Virginia

July 23, 1863 6:00pm

Gen. Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard paced up and down the railroad siding, his anger clearly visible to all who were watching. He pulled out his pocket watch, snapped it open, at least the tenth time he had done so in the last hour, and then snapped it shut.

"Just where the hell is my damned train?" he snarled, looking at his thoroughly harassed staff.

"It's coming," one of the staff replied woodenly. "The dispatcher said that once they get the broken switch repaired, it will be here."

Beauregard looked at the milling crowd of spectators who had gathered at the station to see him off. The afternoon had gotten quite warm, and the group was beginning to thin and drift away.

The send-off was to have been a grand affair, band playing, troops lining the track, his departure in command of what he already called the Army of Maryland a major social event.

Troops had been slowly streaming into Richmond for the last week, more than five thousand following him up from Charleston, eight thousand more from garrison duties in North Carolina and south-eastern Virginia, several thousand more dragged in from state militias as far as Georgia. He judged about half of them to be fit for combat; the others were going to have to learn, and damn quickly. The two brigades that had been detached from Pickett prior to the invasion were already up in Winchester, waiting to move forward.

Except the damn railroads were failing to deliver as promised. Engines were breaking down; sections of track were in such an abysmal state that the trains could barely move at ten miles an hour; the new uniforms and shoes promised by Zebulan Vance of North Carolina had yet to materialize. Again, because of supposed "problems with shipment," no artillery was available, and the remounts for cavalry were one step removed from being converted into rations as an act of compassion.

Yet still it was his army. He had exulted when the telegram came from Davis, ordering him north, to leave as soon as it was evident that the Union was abandoning the siege of Charleston.

Technically his rank was equal to Lee's, and while the implication was that his command would constitute a new Third Corps for the Army of Northern Virginia, he just smiled at that assumption. There would be more than enough room in Maryland, both politically and militarily, to assert his own position. His arrival would be seen as that of the savior sent to bring succor to the battered Army of Northern Virginia in its hour of need. He alone of all the generals in the East had faced Grant and knew his ways. That expertise could not be denied, and he would make the most of it.

The shriek of a whistle interrupted his musings. A lone train was coming around the bend into the station, and on cue the band struck up "Dixie." The crowds, which had been drifting off, came hurrying back, children waving small national flags.

Wheezing and hissing, the locomotive drifted into the station, behind it three passenger cars for himself and his staff.

He climbed aboard, remaining on the rear platform of the last car as staff and an escort of a company of infantry scrambled on to the train. It was already more than an hour late, so there was no time for final, lingering farewells. The last man barely aboard, the train lurched, a shudder running through the three cars. The band struck up "Maryland My Maryland," a tune that everyone seemed to be singing these days.

Striking the proper pose on the back platform, the South's "Little Napoleon" set forth for war in Maryland, the train forcing itself up to ten miles an hour as it left the station, and then settling down to the slow, monotonous pace, railings clicking, cars swaying back and forth on the worn rails and crumbling ballast.

Chapter Thirteen


July 24,1863 8:00 p.m.

I Hope, General Lee, that you would consider attending our Sabbath day service this Friday. My congregation and I would be honored by your attendance."

Lee smiled warmly at his host and nodded his thanks.

"Rabbi, I would indeed be honored."

"Please, just Samuel, General Lee."

Lee could not help but respond to this man's natural, warm hospitality. In spite of his preference for formality and tradition in nearly all social occasions, he felt he should let it drop this evening.

"Then Robert for myself, sir."

Rabbi Samuel Rothenberg bowed slightly while remaining seated, then offered to refill Lee's glass of wine. Lee motioned for just a small amount to be poured, but the rabbi filled the glass nearly to the brim anyhow.

"What did you think of dinner, General Lee?" Judah Benjamin asked.

"Delicious. I'm not paying a false compliment when I declare it is the best meal I've enjoyed since the start of this campaign."

Judah laughed softly.

"So we have converted you to kosher cuisine?" "Sir?"

"Everything tonight was kosher."

"I am relieved not to have to eat salt pork for once, sir, if that is what you mean."

"Not in this house, sir," Samuel laughed, holding up his hands in mock horror.

"Well, sir," Lee grinned, "I wish you could teach our army cooks a few things. I think the Army of Northern Virginia could benefit from a kosher diet."

The three laughed good-naturedly at his joke.

As Lee looked over at his host sitting at the head of the table, and his attractive wife at the other end, their two young children sitting wide-eyed and respectful to either side of their mother, he was warmed by the situation. It was a blessing to sit in a friendly home, tastefully decorated, the food well prepared, the host and hostess so congenial, cultured, and well educated.

The children had been a relaxing pleasure, quickly warming to him when he expressed interest in their studies, and he had sat, fascinated, when the elder of the two recited from the Torah in Hebrew, the boy obviously delighted by the attention, while the younger was beside himself to talk about trains and all the names of the locomotives he had seen. It had been a wondrous pre-dinner diversion and he had insisted that the parents not interfere for, in fact, he was truly enjoying himself.

Prior to his arrival, under a heavy escort that even now loitered outside, guarding the house, he did have to confess to a slight trepidation over this engagement that Judah had so casually offered him. He had never taken a meal in a practicing Jewish household, and he wasn't sure what to expect The prayer, however, except for no mention of Jesus, was familiar and comfortable to him, drawing on the Psalms. The conversation over dinner was sophisticated, urbane, with the rabbi quickly sharing memories of New York City and his knowledge of military history, which was quite extensive, especially when it came to Napoleon's campaign of 1805.

The house was appointed with a bit of a Germanic Old World touch to it the rabbi having emigrated from Prussia during the unrest of the 1840s. At times his English did have a slight accent, but his command of his adopted language was superb. He could claim acquaintances with a number of noted personages in America, including several senators, both North and South, and was proud of the literary discussion group that he hosted each month.

Samuel was fascinated by a poet and short-story teller of whom Lee had heard, a washed-out cadet from the Point who had attended the Academy shortly after Lee graduated and who had taken to writing tales of the macabre until his premature death from excessive drinking. The rabbi even had one of his original poems, unpublished, which the poet had given him as a thank-you for a weekend's lodging and several meals shortly before his death. The work, "The Nightmare of the Wandering Jew," was interesting, but upon reading it when Samuel showed it to him before dinner, Lee felt it to be somewhat overblown, yet out of politeness he expressed admiration for this rare literary item.

"Samuel and I go back some years," Judah declared as he accepted his second glass of Madeira. "I tried to convince him to come to Richmond to help me when the war started."

Samuel laughed and shook his head.

"Come now, Judah. Two Jews in the Confederate government? Some would say it was an outright conspiracy of our people to take over."

"Still, you have a sharp mind, Samuel; I could use some of your advice now and again."

"Such as tonight?" Samuel asked with a smile.

Judah fell silent and looked over at Lee.

"I think it is time that you gentlemen excused us," Mrs. Rothenberg announced. "The children need to do their evening studies and then to bed."

Both instantly raised vocal protests, but, smiling, she rousted them out of their chairs. Lee and Judah stood, both bowing to Mrs. Rothenberg and then taking delight in shaking the hands of the two young boys. One embarrassed both his parents when he blurted out that he wished for General Lee's signature; the other then demanded a keepsake as well. Lee, grinning, pulled out his pocket notebook and addressed a brief note, formally commissioning Lt Gunther Rothenberg to his staff, and then did the same for David. Clutching the notes, the boys bounded off to their rooms; their mother followed.

"Thank you, Robert, they'll treasure that forever, in fact, our entire family will treasure it."

"You have sons to be proud of, sir. And I thank God for you that they are still young enough not to be in service. My own boys are a constant source of worry."

"Yes, I heard about your son being taken prisoner."

"I pray there are some of my old friends on the other side who will see after him."

"This tragedy dividing my adopted country," said Samuel as he shook his head. 'T fear if it does not end soon, the only thing both sides will gain is a divided and hate-filled land, setting the stage for a repeat of Europe, states constantly warring against each other."

"My fear as well, sir" Lee replied forcefully. "That is why I pray that the successes of the current campaign will soon bring the fighting to an end, and then calmer heads, such as my friend Judah here, can negotiate a peaceful solution that is fair to all."

"May I speak freely, gentlemen?" Samuel asked and Lee sensed a touch of nervousness in his voice.

"Samuel, when did I know you not to speak freely?" Benjamin said, chuckling softly. "That's why I came here tonight and brought my friend along. You are a leading citizen of this city and we've known each other for years. I want to hear what you have to say about our cause, how we can bring Baltimore into that cause, how we can win and achieve a peace that is just and lasting."

"You might not like what I have to say."

"When did that ever stop you, Samuel?"

Samuel was quiet for a moment, and lowered his head, as if praying, then raised his gaze, fixing Judah with it

"It has not been easy the last two years," Samuel said, his tone suddenly serious. "As a leader of my community, a community as divided as all others in this city, I've tried to maintain a neutral position, and, as you know, to be neutral often antagonizes both sides. The position of ray people, in spite of the promise of this country, can be a precarious one at times, and thus one must tread softly. I do see both sides of the issue though. I chose to live in the South, I understand many of its ways, and I do agree with the argument that the economic inequities between the two sections needed to be addressed."

"So at least you are with us on some points then," Benjamin interjected.

"Of course. But I don't think you wish for me simply to sit back now and offer platitudes when I suspect, my dear friend Judah, that you've come to me wanting something else."

"Samuel, whenever I come to you, I expect a sharp lesson at some point."

"I hope it is not too sharp," Samuel replied.

"Please, Samuel, go ahead," Judah said.

"You're going to lose the war unless you take radical steps," Samuel said, almost blurting the words out.

Lee settled back in his chair, not letting any reaction show. Samuel looked over at him nervously, as if expecting some sort of angry or defensive response.

"Please continue, Rabbi," Lee said quietly. "I am eager to hear your reasoning."

"I will not delve into any philosophical debates here. I think too many focus on the lightness, or wrongness, of then-causes, and thus waste effort that should be devoted, instead, to the far more pragmatic question of simply how to win."

"Your reason for predicting our defeat?" Lee asked.

"You will fail because of three central points-material, numbers, and, most important, the fundamental moral issue behind this war."

Lee said nothing, looking over at Judah, who had settled back in his chair.

"When it comes to material, you feel you have gained a momentary advantage, which indeed you have. The supplies you garnered in the last month must seem as if you have indeed stumbled into the Garden of Eden before the fall."

"Not quite that good," Lee said with a smile, "but yes, it can sustain our efforts through the rest of the year and give Virginia time to recover from the Union depredations of the last two years."

"And yet such a loss for the North, their supply depot for an entire army, this city, which is the third largest in the nation, the riches of the state of Maryland, do you think it affects them at all? Will one of their soldiers go hungry or shoeless because of your brilliant successes of the last month? Does it even matter to them?"

Lee reluctantly shook his head.

"Yet if a similar blow was inflicted upon you, it would have spelt the doom of your army."

Lee did not reply, but he knew it was true; to have lost his supply train at the start of the campaign would have been a disaster almost impossible to recover from.

"Gentlemen, I think that tells us volumes about which side is better suited to war, a new kind of war that Napoleon never dreamed of. If you were fighting fifty years ago, I would say your victory would be assured. Perhaps even ten years ago, but railroads and industry have changed all of that forever. Your opponent can overcome his tactical weaknesses in the field by the mobilization of his masses, wherever he might so desire. That is something the legs and courage of your men can never overcome."

Lee did not reply. It was a sharp analysis, plainly spoken, but he had just spent the last year overcoming this disadvantage through the courage and the legs of his men, shifting the war from the banks of the James to the banks of the Susquehanna. Politely he shook his head.

"I might disagree, sir, but continue."

"I will be the first to express admiration for the prowess of you and your command, General Lee; it is the wonder of the world, and even your opponents admire you for it. But how long you can sustain that, General, is open to debate. Imagine Napoleon with all his brilliance, facing a Prussian or even an Austrian army that could move a hundred thousand men at will from one front to another in the twinkling of an eye. I think you know what would happen in the end, even with him."

"Yet, was it not Napoleon who said that morale was more powerful than any other factor upon the field of battle?" Lee replied, his voice calm and even, in spite of the tension he felt. "Every army they have thrown against us, in the end it was the morale of my men that was crucial."

"And, sir," Samuel interjected, "your leadership, which helps to bring that morale into play."

Lee nodded his thanks.

'That is why we hope that Union Mills, and now the fall of Baltimore, will be defined by some as our Saratoga," Benjamin interjected.

Samuel frowned, looking down at his glass of wine, tapping his fingertips together.

"You mean the intervention of France, or perhaps England?"

Benjamin laughed softly.

"I don't wish to be quoted on such issues at the moment, Samuel, not even in confidence to you."

"Still, it is evident I've heard rumors you will meet with the French consul for Baltimore tomorrow morning."

"Do you know everything in this city?" Benjamin exclaimed.

"Almost everything," Samuel grinned. "And yes, the analogy is a good one, your hoping that like the victory at Saratoga during the Revolution, Union Mills and the capture of Baltimore will bring France and others into the war. What our valiant General Lee and his doughty warriors achieved this month stands alongside Napoleon in his march from the Rhine to the Danube or Washington in his move from New Jersey to Yorktown. Union Mills has achieved a profound military victory of the moment. The question unanswered though is, Will it break the will of the North to continue the fight? Whatever happens next on the battlefield, realize this, that for the next year it comes down to but one man, and one man only."

"Lincoln," Benjamin sighed.

"Yes, Lincoln. The entire Congress could turn on him, most of the state governors as well, but as long as he maintains his will, if but twenty per cent of the populace and the troops in the field stand by him, the war will continue until the next election. The army, especially this Grant, will stand by him and thus the war will indeed continue."

Lee said nothing. This man was sharp, clear in his logic, and also disturbing. He had struck to the core of his own campaign, to break Lincoln's will to fight.

"Now to the third part of my thesis," Samuel said. "It is the moral issues but relates to numbers as well."

He shifted slightly, fixing his gaze intently on Judah.

"You must mobilize Negroes into your army, offering those who serve immediately freedom, full rights of citizenship, including the right to vote, hold property, and hold public office. That freedom must also be extended to their wives and children. As for the rest of your population in slavery, you must offer a solemn pledge of manumission once the crisis of the war has ended."

There was a long, almost stunned silence, as if the unspeakable had just been pronounced.

Lee sat silent. The conversation had turned to a political issue and as a general in the field, he was solemnly bound to leave such issues to his government, regardless of personal feelings.

Judah shook his head wearily, as if a sudden weight had been dumped upon his shoulders.

"I've heard this before," Judah replied. "General Cleburne, a brilliant field commander in our Western armies, said the same thing last year. It forever ruined his career in the army, and it will never happen as long as this war continues."

Samuel looked over at Judah.

"My friend, I know that somewhere hidden within you, you've entertained the exact same thoughts." Judah nodded in agreement

"Several months back, when it was evident that Vicks-burg would fall, and after the terrible casualties from Chancellorsville, I ventured this proposal, in private, to one of our senators, who shall remain nameless," Judah said. "His response, 'My God, Judah, if we maintain that the black man is only fit to be a slave, and then give him freedom and arm him, what will that say of everything we once believed in?'" "I am urging you to reconsider the very core issues some on your side believe in," Samuel continued. "For if you do not, I predict ultimate defeat. You will be forced, at bayonet point, to change anyhow. Why not do it now, on the crest of the incredible victories General Lee has given you? It would change the course of the war, in fact, I predict it would end the war."

'To turn that into a political reality?" Judah asked and shrugged his shoulders. "Do you realize there would be some who would actually suggest secession from the South if our government tried that move?"

Samuel chuckled sadly.

"Once the precedent has been set, it is hard to stop. If that was threatened, then I would urge you to face it down, to challenge them to go. Their will would collapse and reality would be faced.

"The tens of thousands of colored who have fled Baltimore these last few days, how many of those young men will wind up in Union army recruiting depots?" Samuel asked. "How many will come back here in a month, two months, rifles poised, men filled with a terrible resolve."

"Some have said that the black man would not make a good soldier," Judah replied.

Samuel shook his head.

"Any student of military history would tell you different. Would you not agree, General Lee?"

Lee was silent, not wishing to get drawn into this conversation, which had turned so political.

"The reports I received of the black regiment in the defense of Washington indicated they fought with ferocity and were a crucial element in our defeat," he finally replied. "My own father spoke of the role played by men of that race in the Revolution. No, sir, I think if motivated, they will fight.

There are thousands of freemen and even slaves in our ranks now, usually as cooks, teamsters, and servants for officers, but more than one has stood on the volley line."

"Some point to the anarchy in Haiti as an example of how the black man can never be trained to be an efficient soldier and have an effective army," Samuel interjected. "But then again, one could point to a hundred wars where white soldiers were rabble or worse. But in direct response the black men of this country were good enough to fight for America in 1776 and 1812. They have served by the thousands in our navy with valor since the first days of the republic. Elite units in many of the nations of the Middle East are made up of Africans. I could offer yet more examples but I digress.

"Judah, in direct response to those who question my proposal, I would reply they are placing the cart before the horse. Recruit them, train them, put them into battle, and then judge the results. If they then fail, the argument would, in fact, be settled forever. But if they succeed? Then you will have not just divisions but entire corps of men equal to any soldier of the Army of Northern Virginia, or more important, the Army of the Potomac."

Lee looked at the two and shifted uncomfortably. Was this conversation real, or in some way was Judah playing a subtle game, to impact on his own thinking about the war?

"Why was the president not invited to this conversation?" Lee asked.

Samuel and Judah looked at Lee.

"Let's just say it would inhibit conversation. Besides, he has other duties to attend to this evening," Judah replied. "Discussions about the new state legislatures, appointment of a provisional governor."

"My sense of duty obligates me to raise a question about the appropriateness of this conversation. It is not the place of a soldier to discuss politics."

Judah laughed.

'Tell that to, let's see, Braxton Bragg, our dear friend Beauregard, for that matter, nearly every general under your command. There is a difference, sir, between the ideal and the real in this war, as there is in every war."

"Nevertheless, I prefer to hold myself above that."

"General Lee," Samuel said softly, "if ever there has been a political war in history, it is this one. It is the heart and soul of this conflict."

"I cannot do that, sir," Lee replied sharply. "What you suggest has the taint of Napoleonism in it, and I would rather die than see my army become a tool of that kind of thinking."

"Do not misconstrue Samuel's words," Benjamin continued. "I, sir, in spite of your gallant record, would urge your removal from office if ever I even suspected you were breaking the code of the professional military officer. Nor is there that faintest suggestion that you dabble in politics, as too many of your brother officers do, but perhaps we should hear Samuel's arguments nevertheless, purely as an intellectual exercise, a chance to hear the views of a learned man who has lived behind the enemy's lines for two years."

Lee nodded and settled back again. If anything, curiosity now compelled him to hear, even more than Samuel's challenges, the reply of the secretary of state of the Confederacy for which he fought.

"Go ahead then, gentlemen."

"General Lee, I hope I have not offended you in any way," Samuel said, his concern obvious and heartfelt.

"No, sir, I always prefer plain truthful speaking, and it is obvious to me you are a man of courage to do so."

"Thank you, General. May I continue?"

Lee reluctantly nodded agreement.

"The North has outflanked the Confederacy on two points in relationship to the black man," Samuel continued. "First, and most clearly evident, Abraham Lincoln's decree of emancipation, whether it is legal or not, has redefined this war from one that is a constitutional question to a more fundamental question that I think goes back to the Declaration of Independence…. Are all men indeed created equal?"

"Lincoln's political maneuverings are a fraud, sir," Judah replied sharply. "It is a diversion from the real issues of this war, the constitutional issues that created this fight."

"Yes, in some ways, it is a fraud, for if the full intent was equality, it would have applied to all states where slavery exists, including here in Maryland and Delaware. It does not, but that point is moot."

"How so?" Judah asked.

"Because Lincoln has created a new moral perception, a different reality. The North, with that one act, with one signature on a document, has changed the political and moral dimensions of this war. One must admit that prior to the proclamation, the argument was almost an abstraction. Yes, men of both sides could rally to the cry for a single Union or Southern Independence, but the deeper complex issues evaded the minds of many."

"I'll consider that point," Judah replied, "but it is simplistic to think that slavery alone caused this war."

"Consider the Talmud."

Judah smiled.

"Remember Samuel, I am a Jew by birth but have not devoted myself deeply to the teachings of my faith."

"I wish I could change that," Samuel replied. "You're a good challenge for a rabbi."

"Perhaps after this war is over," Judah said with a smile, "I will come and sit in your library, and you can attempt to bring me back to my roots."

" Talmud'?" Lee asked. "Please enlighten me, sir."

"Writings of learned Jewish scholars. It is fascinating stuff, the most complex of arguments, page after page on the most minute of topics. Learned men devote their entire lives to but one passage of Scripture and the arguments that could be derived out of it.

"I find it fascinating, but ultimately, what will God ask of me and of all those brilliant scholars when we stand before Him?"

"I don't follow you," Judah said.

"Will God ask of me, 'Samuel, did you study Talmud?' or will He ask, 'Samuel, were you a good man and did you honor God?'

'Too many of my friends, great thinkers, become caught in the arguments of the Talmud, forgetting that ultimately the question God will put to us is, 'Are you a good man, did you honor God, and did you lead a righteous life?'

"The same is true of the causes of this war. Right or wrong, the complexities of the Constitution, the issues of States' Rights, the wishes and desires of the Founding Fathers, the legality of secession, all of it is moot compared to the more fundamental question, 'Is this morally right and is it good for the common man?' All the other arguments are like the Talmud when compared to that most basic question of all. For, my friend, the founding of America is based upon that, the dream that it is a nation for the common man."

No one spoke for a moment.

"Whether Lincoln's proclamation is a fraud or not," Samuel continued, "whether it is sleight of hand, whether he believes in it or not, though honestly I am convinced he does believe in it, Lincoln has seized the moral initiative of this war. He is now asking his own countrymen, does the founding document, the Declaration of Independence that we all hold sacred, have meaning? Do Jefferson's, and for that matter Locke's, immortal words about the equality of man carry with them a fundamental truth?

"I remember one of Lincoln's speeches before the war, and I will confess it stirred me. He raised the question as to what the words 'all men are created equal' actually meant. He then reasoned that if we, in America, created exceptions, by saying that all men are created equal, except for Negroes, then what was to prevent us from saying that all men are created equal except for Irish, Catholics, or Jews. Lincoln asserted that if such was the case, he would rather go to Russia, where he could breathe the air of tyranny free of the taint of hypocrisy."

"Words when compared to the reality of what Lincoln has forced us to, the devastation he has wrought against hundreds of thousands of common men of the South," Judah replied sharply.

"Words are weapons in war, just as the bayonet or gun. It is with such words that Lincoln will bring hundreds of thousands of men of color into the ranks of his legions, while the South continues to bleed itself dry."

"So, to cut to the core of this," Judah replied. "You are actually proposing our own Emancipation Proclamation."

"Exactly. Do that, gentlemen, and you will have cut out the props from under Lincoln. You will have a profound impact on foreign intervention, and you will bring to your ranks hundreds of thousands of men of color, who will see that here is their chance for honorable freedom and a future in the South as equal citizens. You could mobilize hundreds of thousands of fresh troops within months. That answers then the other point, the one of numbers.

"I daresay, gentlemen, it would bond the men of the South, black and white, into a bond of blood that will forever change the social dynamic of your newly freed country. When men bleed side by side on the battlefield, they become brothers in peace."

Lee sat silent, gaze fixed on Judah. Till this moment he had never considered the issue in this light. For a brief instant he let his imagination run with it; a hundred thousand fresh troops, even fifty thousand at this moment, would most certainly tip the scale once and for all to his side. But the barriers … and as quickly as his mind turned to those realities, the dream flickered and died. Davis and the Confederate Congress back in Richmond would never agree.

"Let me finish quickly, my friends, for I know the hour is late," Samuel said. "I asked my servant to take some coffee and biscuits out to your guards, but I can imagine those young lads are weary and would like to return to their rest, so I shall try to keep it short"

Lee looked out the window and saw that his troop of cavalry escorts were, indeed, enjoying coffee served on fine china, while out in the street a small crowd of the curious had gathered.

"Thank you for seeing to my men," Lee said. "Such kind treatment will be remembered by them and by me. I must add now, sir, that I am posting several of them here for the next few days, just in case our visit should cause subsequent problems."

"If it was only myself, I would insist against it, but I know Sarah was worried about this, so I thank you, sir."

Samuel sighed. 'Tragic isn't it that we must take such precautions in these times?"

"I hope soon that we will not," Lee said with a smile.

"I will raise another point that stops us," Judah interjected. "The slave owners themselves. They are a minority in our country but a powerful one. I do not see them readily agreeing to this."

"I've thought of that as well," Samuel replied. "First off, ask them to speak to the slave owners in what is now territory occupied by the Union. They have lost what they held forever. That tidal wave is coming down upon the rest of the South, a storm that cannot be stopped. So I would argue that now, before it is too late, you should offer them compensation."

"With what?" Judah asked. "We are bankrupt as it is."

"Think creatively, Judah. I daresay you might even be able to get foreign funds for such a venture; the liberals of England would rejoice at such a pronouncement, perhaps even be willing to fund some of it. Your economy is stagnant because of the blockade. After such a proclamation France will undoubtedly come in, and, I think, England as well. Trade will generate some of the funds necessary."

"This stays here," Judah replied, "but I think we will see that anyhow."

Samuel sniffed and shook his head.

'Too little, too late. France? Their only concern is expanding their empire in Mexico and doing what damage they can to both of us, North and South, to prevent our intervention after our own war is over. The impact of France, at best, would be limited.

"It is England you want, and as long as you embrace slavery, nothing you achieve on the battlefield will bring them to your side. Besides, I think they see that as long as Lincoln stands firm, the war will continue. No, shake Lincoln with your offer of freedom. England will see the Union cause tottering and at that moment, they just might consider breaking the blockade. If for no other reason than to win your gratitude once the war was over.

"The sale of the tens of millions of dollars in cotton rotting on our wharves could be used to help offset the temporary financial loss of the slaveholders and keep them in your ranks.

"The South must make some hard decisions within the next few weeks if it is to survive," Samuel said, pressing his argument. "Perhaps, if both sides have declared for emancipation, then what the North now claims is one of the fundamental issues of the war has been resolved. Doing it now, at a moment of strength, on the coattails of victory, will add even more weight, rather than to do so as a final act of desperation.

"You can then argue that there is no longer any point to the war. Lincoln altered the terms; you have agreed to those terms; the issue is settled. I daresay that the will to continue the fight on the side of the North, to venture yet another battle with your army now reinforced with tens of thousands of black soldiers, will evaporate."

Samuel spoke now with open enthusiasm, as if his proposal could actually become a reality if the three of them sitting about the table would agree.

"Our government will never accept it," Judah replied, "more so even now because victory seems all but assured."

"You mean President Davis will not accept it"

Judah shook his head.

"Samuel, you have been my friend for fifteen years, but you must know that there are lines drawn by my office, and I will not discuss that here."

"And my suggestion?"

"The realist in me knows that our president, our Congress, and those in power will not yet agree to such a measure."

"As I feared," Samuel said wearily.

Lee stirred, sliding his chair back. He had listened to the debate with interest, and he knew it would trouble his thoughts, but the more immediate concerns of command called, and the hour was late. His gesture was a signal to both.

Samuel stood up and bowed graciously to Lee.

"I hope, sir, that two old friends talking politics have not dulled the pleasure of this evening."

"On the contrary, sir, you have been a wonderful host."

Samuel guided them to the door, on the way pointing out several small items of his collection: documents signed by Napoleon, Wellington, a framed locket of Napoleon's hair.

"I will pray for both of you," Samuel said. "Know that my heart is with you."

Samuel opened the door and the three stepped out. The guard detachment, who had obviously been enjoying themselves, surrounded by admiring citizens and more than one attractive young lady, quickly snapped to attention. The captain of the guard called for orderlies to bring Judah and Lee's horses.

The two mounted, bid their farewells to Samuel, and rode off, the detachment surrounding them.

"Gentlemen, just a little room please," Lee asked. "The secretary and I need to talk for a moment."

The captain of his guard detail looked over at Lee with concern. The street was dark, there was no telling what danger lurked in side alleyways, but Lee's forceful gaze won the argument and the detachment spread out. Lee brought Traveler over closer to Judah's side.

"Any thoughts, General Lee?"

"Sir, respectfully, but I must ask, was part of that conversation staged for my benefit?"

"What do you mean, General Lee?" Judah asked innocently.

"Sir, you are noted for your subtle abilities."

Judah laughed softly.

"I am not sure if I am being complimented or insulted."

"A compliment, Mr. Secretary. But the question I raised earlier, about the president not attending, and now my question for the reason I was invited at all."

"I wanted you to meet Samuel. He is a sharp wit In less troubling times, I know the two of you would have enjoyed talking history."

"But we are in troubled times, sir. I wonder how much you knew about the direction tonight's conversation would take."

"Oh, I assumed it would go in the path it took. I've had several letters from my old friend come through the lines since the war started."

"Then why was I there?" Lee asked, and there was a slight touch of anger in his voice. "You placed me in an uncomfortable position. I will admit I was quite taken by our host and his family. I would love to sit with him again, but to talk of other things. I am a field commander who must answer to my government. It is not my position, sir, to discuss the policies of our government."

Judah held up an apologetic hand.

"Do not chastise me too harshly, General Lee."

"I am not chastising you, sir. Merely making a point, a tradition that any general must maintain."

"General Lee, some words from my heart."

"Go on, sir."

"You have become the soul of our cause."

Now it was Lee's turn to hold up his hand, shaking his head as if not wanting to hear what would be said, for the words, as always, were a burden he did not want.

"Hear me out, please. You are the soul of our cause. Every Southern household hangs on your exploits. Where we face defeats on so many other fronts, you bring victory. You have built perhaps the finest army in history and led it to victories unimagined. The survival of our cause now rests with you. Not with the president nor our Congress, nor my own feeble attempts at foreign policy. It rests with you."

"It rests with the men of the army, sir. Always it rests with them," Lee said forcefully. "It is their blood that will buy us liberty."

"I know," Judah said sadly. "But the blood of how many men? We know it cannot go on much longer. We have only so much of that blood to give. There isn't a home in the South that has not paid for this damnable war. And we are running out of that blood.

"Samuel was right. Even as we bleed, and prepare to bleed again, Lincoln holds fast. I fear sir, he has indeed seized the moral high ground from us. He has shifted the reasons for this war far beyond what many of us believe started it. Samuel proposes a way to put an end to it, and, perhaps, as well to end the division of the races in our homeland. I would like to think that if the black man were given his chance, in defense of the South, it would change forever how we see each other. Perhaps it would give us a chance to rebuild a nation together. And in so doing, give to you two, maybe three, more corps of men for the battles yet to be fought."

"It is not my decision, sir," Lee replied sharply, a touch of anger in his voice. "It is the president's and yours, not mine."

"I know, General Lee. But I must say this. Perhaps, someday, the burden will be yours. That is why I asked you to join us tonight to hear what someone who is astute has to say, and also what I have dwelled upon since this conflict started."

"Sir? You have felt this all along?" "Just that, General Lee, but I think I've said enough for one night"

The two rode on in silence, disappearing into the night.

Chapter Fourteen

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

Headquarters Army of the Susquehanna

August 3,1863 10:30 a.m

Grant looked around at the gathering in his oversized command tent. A photographer from Brady's had just finished-taking several images of them outside, and now from a distance was doing a fourth and final shot of them gathered in the open-sided tent. The group remained still until it was done and the photographer ran off to his black wagon to develop the plate as an assistant picked up the heavy camera and lugged it away.

The day was warm, another heat wave setting in, and his officers were grateful to get their jackets off, sitting about the long oak table in shirtsleeves and vests.

Maj. Gen. Edward Ord, who had arrived only yesterday with the last of the men from his Thirteenth Corps, was relaxed, sipping from a tall glass of iced lemonade. Beside him was McPherson, commander of the Fifteenth Corps, the first unit from the West to arrive in Harrisburg. Burnside, who had reassumed command of his old Ninth Corps, which had served in part of the Vicksburg campaign, sat quietly to one comer. He had arrived ahead of his two small divisions, which were still crossing Indiana and Ohio. Couch, commander of the twenty thousand militia and short-term regiments that had gathered in Harrisburg at the start of the Gettysburg campaign, was fanning himself with an oversized, wide-brimmed hat Several divisional commanders and the usual staff were gathered as well, while in the far comer sat Ely Parker, Grant's adjutant, taking notes. Beside him sat Elihu Washburne, who had arrived from Washington only within the last hour.

"It's time we started laying out our plans," Grant announced, "and I want to know our state of readiness."

"My men are ready any time you give the word, sir," McPherson said confidently. "But it is a question of supplies, remounts, support equipment."

The other generals nodded in agreement.

Grant looked over at Haupt. The general was actually dozing and Ord, smiling, nudged him awake.

"Sorry, sir."

Grant smiled indulgently. Haupt was working himself into a state of collapse. He had lost weight, his features pale, the dysentery draining him of all energy.

"Are you ready to report, sir?" Grant asked.

"Yes, sir."

Haupt stood, leaning against the table for support, and pointed to the map of the entire eastern United States, which was spread on the table.

"We've moved over forty thousand men east in the last three weeks and I must say that it is a unique accomplishment in the history of warfare. It has of course created certain problems, which my staff did anticipate but could do nothing about during the movement of forces, and now it will take some time to straighten out."

"What problems?" Burnside asked.

"Locomotives and rolling stock. We commandeered over two hundred locomotives from different lines and over two thousand flatcars and boxcars. Repositioning them back into useful service after their express run east is taking time. I could not ship them back while the entire road, involving several different lines, was cleared for eastbound traffic. Therefore these last two weeks have created some depletion o'f available trains in the West. Once the last of Burnside's men are in, we need to take a breather, to reposition that rolling stock back to their owners, who are screaming bloody murder."

"Can't they wait?" Ord asked. "We still need to bring more men in, tens of thousands more."

"Yes and no, sir. We will continue to bring in troops. I'm preparing for the next big trans-shipment of Nineteenth Corps from Philadelphia as they arrive by sea from New Orleans, but in order to keep other activities moving, including industrial and even commercial movement, we have to slow the pace slightly."

He paused, looking over at Grant, who nodded his approval.

"Go ahead, General. I'm in agreement. Our presence here, at this moment, has at least alleviated any defensive concerns; in that capacity we are fully ready to fight. It was beyond my hope that General Lee might actually attempt to sally forth from Baltimore and try to strike us here. We knew that wouldn't happen, but our friends over in the state capitol building are now relieved. We are not yet however, an offensive army."

Ord grinned, chewing meditatively on a wad of tobacco, leaned over, and spat on the ground.

'Tell that to my boys; they're eager to get at it, sir."

McPherson grinned and nodded in agreement

"Our little skirmish a couple of days ago got their blood up, sir; I kind of agree with Ord. Perhaps a demonstration down towards Carlisle?"

Grant shook his head.

"General McPherson, your men did admirably driving back Stuart's pickets. One brigade across the river, to deny them the ability to see us, is sufficient for now. We move when ready, and not before."

"I concur," Haupt said, taking out a handkerchief to wipe the sweat from his face.

"The big problem of logistics now is horses. As General Grant said, we are a defensive army at the moment; we can fight in place, but to move? Not yet, I am sorry to say."

"How soon?" Ord pressed.

"Sir, we need over twelve thousand more horses and at least six thousand mules for our supply trains, and we don't even have the wagons yet for the mules to be hitched to.

"Moving men is simple in comparison. Pile a regiment on a train, get patriotic civilians to pass up hampers of food at every stop, have wood and water in place for the locomotive, and you can go clear from Wisconsin to Maine in a week if you wish. Horses are a hell of a lot more difficult.

"At best we can maybe load a hundred horses to a train, but that is pressing it, a hell of a lot of weight for the steeper grades. They have to be unloaded every day, exercised, fed, watered. We can't go too fast A bad bump or shift, and you have a trainload of horses with broken legs. A trip of three days to move five hundred men will equal a week or more with five trains with incredible amounts of fodder placed along the way. Then, once here, sir, ten thousand horses means four hundred thousand pounds of fodder a day. Granted, we can pasture a lot of them in nearby farms, but they'll eat that out in a couple of weeks."

He shook his head wearily.

"How many of our own horses from Vicksburg will come up?" Ord asked. "A lot of my men in the cavalry and artillery are upset about losing their old mounts and trace horses, which are trained to their tasks."

"I'm having near five thousand moved by steamers up to Wheeling. From there they'll be loaded on trains. That cuts six hundred miles off the train run, but it's a lot slower and the Ohio is still in flood from all the rains, so it's even slower than expected. The first trainload should be coming in next week."

"And the others?" Grant asked.

"I'm ordering in trainloads of remounts from as far as Maine. It's a little complex, since the actual purchasing of horses is not in my department, only the transporting of them. I can have a procurement officer in Vermont tell me that he has a hundred mules, the train gets there, and half of the poor beasts are on their last legs, shipping them here a waste. The system is riddled with corruption, paybacks, purchasing of animals just about ready to drop; it's a nightmare."

Grant tossed down the butt of his cigar after using it to puff a new one to life. "When?"

"I think by the end of the month, sir." Grant exhaled noisily.

"I'd prefer sooner. That gives me only four to six weeks of campaigning weather before the onset of autumn."

"I know that, sir, I'm moving hard on it."

‘I know you are, Haupt. What else?"

"Sir, with the delay we'll need to start shipping in fodder as well for the horses already here, not much at first but it will quickly increase to ten to fifteen trainloads a day. Three to four times that amount if we are stuck into late fall. Purchasing agents are combing upstate New York for fodder, which is our best route for bringing it down to here."

"We won't be here by late fall," Grant snapped and then nodded for Herman to continue with his list.

"We need fifteen hundred wagons for supplies. Again that has to go through a different department than mine. I can cram twenty-five of them onto a train. We have orders in to factories and suppliers across the country. I think we can make good on those in short order. Fortunately there's a lot of wagon-makers right here in Pennsylvania and we're offering a premium for quick delivery. There's a purchasing agent in Reading buying them up now. He's efficient, and as fast as a trainload of them is assembled, they're shipped here. We also need three hundred more springed ambulances, twenty more forge wagons for the artillery batteries, roughly a hundred wagons for headquarters baggage, and, most important, two hundred heavy wagons for the pontoon trains."

"Why so many?" McPherson asked. "We never had that many down in Mississippi."

"I want two pontoon bridges across this river when we move," Grant interjected, "and I want enough bridging material together to throw two more bridges, across the Potomac. If the campaign then presses into Virginia, we will need additional bridging for half a dozen rivers from the Potomac down to Richmond."

"You plan to go that far this fall?" McPherson asked, surprise in his voice.

Grant looked up at him and shook his head.

"I'm not ready to discuss that yet, and let me remind all of you here that what is said in this tent stays here. I misspoke to even mention the bridging requirements."

Haupt, who by the simple process of planning the transportation of supplies already had a good sense of what Grant was indeed planning, lowered his gaze for a moment He knew men like Ord, McPherson, and Burnside were burning with curiosity about the forthcoming campaign, and though he could surmise what was to come, he would never breathe a word or give something away. Haupt knew Grant would reveal his plans in his own good time, and he was not about to risk Grant's wrath by hinting at anything.

There was some grumbling, but all three of the corps commanders knew the issue was closed.

"The army has orders in for the necessary pontoon boats with shipbuilders on the Hudson and along Lake Erie. Filling the order is relatively easy, but they are big, cumbersome affairs and only ten will fit on a train. I should have them down here though, at least enough for two bridges within three weeks."

"Good work, Haupt," Grant said. "Anything else?"

"Yes, sir. Railroading equipment."

"Railroading equipment?" Burnside asked, a bit surprised. "For what railroad?"

Haupt looked over at Grant, who nodded his approval.

"The Cumberland Valley Railroad ran from here clear down to Hagerstown," Haupt said.

"That's gone now," McPherson replied. "I understand the rebs are tearing up the rails, hauling them south to repair their own lines."

"If, gentlemen, and I have to emphasize the word 'if,'" Haupt continued, "our primary axis of advance is down the Cumberland, I propose to repair the line as rapidly as possible. The rebs cannot destroy the grading. As for every bridge on the line, fortunately the management of that line has records stored here in Harrisburg, so we have the specifications, and I'm ordering replacement bridges to be precut and ready to be loaded for the entire length of the line. I believe that if we advance down the Cumberland Valley, within two weeks we can have the entire line up and running again as long as I have the necessary manpower of trained personnel."

"You'll have them," Grant said sharply. "We must have a couple of thousand men in our ranks who've worked the rails before the war; we can temporarily detach them."

"That's a lot of manpower," Burnside interjected.

"Well spent," Haupt replied. "Twenty trains a day on that line could sustain the army while it advanced, cutting down drastically on our need for wagons and mules. I'm stockpiling over a hundred miles of track, twenty thousand ties, material for water tanks and switching. The Cumberland line managed to get five of its locomotives back here before the bridge was burned, and we'll get additional rolling stock and locomotives from the Pennsylvania and the Reading. The bridge a dozen miles above Marysville is still intact to the west shore, thank God, so we can run supplies directly down to you once the campaign starts.

"If, and again I'm only saying if, the campaign takes us down to the Potomac, once into Harper's Ferry, your new supply line can run out of the west from the Baltimore and Ohio. I'm stockpiling replacement bridges for that line as well. I only wish I had enough men and material. I think I could throw a connecting line from Hagerstown across down to the B amp;O in less than a month if I had five thousand men."

"We'll see," Grant said with a smile.

This man was the type of soldier he liked, and he was amazed that Haupt's skills were never fully appreciated here in the East. Haupt had only confessed to him the day before that he had been seriously contemplating retiring from the army, fed up with its bureaucracy and backstabbing. Fortunately Grant had been able to convince him to stay on to the end of the campaign, promoted him to major general, and given him complete control of all military operations on all railroads in the country.

And Haupt was indeed right. If the campaign did take them to the Potomac and beyond, it would be worth the effort to run a railroad track from Hagerstown the twenty miles to a hookup with the Baltimore and Ohio. Such an accomplishment would give him a link from Harrisburg to Harper's Ferry, and from there clear down to the Shenandoah Valley, linking as well back to the Midwest. It was the type of project undreamed of five years ago, to run a line twenty miles in one month, solely for the purpose of supporting an army in the field. Today, if need be, it could be done, and if he gave the order, it would be done. "Other supplies?" Grant asked.

Haupt stood silent for a moment and seemed to sway. Grant looked over nervously at Elihu Washburne, who sat quietly, unobtrusively, in the corner of the tent. Elihu and Haupt had formed quite a bond over the last month. The way Haupt had stood up to Stanton had won his admiration, along with the wonders he had created in terms of bringing this army together.

Elihu shook his head.

"Perhaps later, General Haupt."

"No, sir. Just a minute more, and then, yes, I think you will have to excuse me."

Haupt took a deep breath, sweat glistening on his face.

"Ammunition. Enough stockpiled now for a strong defensive action but sustainable for only two days at most. Just over one hundred rounds per man in the ranks, two caissons of assorted solid shot, shell, and canister for the field pieces. The "suppliers in New York and Massachusetts are working twenty-four hours a day, and we should be up to the levels you will need in four weeks as well.

"Artillery. You have a hundred and ten pieces with you now, a mix of Napoleons, three-inch ordnance rifles, and Parrotts, two batteries of twenty-pounders, and one battery of thirty-pounders. Again, you should have a hundred more guns in a month."

"Billy Sherman is up to his ears in guns," Ord interjected. "He must have three hundred pieces with him between the guns we left behind and the ordnance captured at Vicksburg."

'Too difficult to ship now. I'd rather use the shipping for horses and get the guns from New York," Haupt replied.

"What about all that artillery still down in Mississippi?" Ord asked. "Surely Sherman can't use all of it?"

"I told him, if it's a burden, put what he can on boats to haul north and dump the rest in the Mississippi," Grant replied coolly.

No one spoke. Such a profligate waste of material, perfectly good field guns, shocked none of them anymore. If the guns were dumped, others could be made.

"Rations?" Grant asked.

"That's going ahead of schedule; it's convenient that we are near Philadelphia and New York. Hardtack is almost up to the level to support us for a month in the field, the same with salted pork, coffee, sugar, tobacco, tea. Farmers from as far away as Berks County to the east are driving in herds of cattle and swine; we'll have a good supply of food on the hoof. Medical supplies as well are more than sufficient."

He hesitated for a moment and again seemed to sway.

"I talked with the head of your medical corps this morning. Hospitals sufficient for twenty thousand casualties will be constructed here in Harrisburg. Mostly open-sided sheds and tents to start; bedding is being shipped in; volunteer nurses are being recruited through that Miss Barton that everyone is talking about."

Twenty thousand casualties. No one spoke. Though they were hardened by the campaign for Vicksburg and even Shiloh, the sheer magnitude of so many wounded and sick was still daunting, but after Union Mills, the larger number had to be anticipated.

"Another reason I want the railroad repaired," Grant interjected. "We had hospital boats for our wounded at Vicksburg. Hauling wounded men back on a hundred miles of dirt road would be a nightmare."

"The other supplies-ether, chloroform, morphine, medical tools, stretchers, bandages, splints, crutches-all of it should be in place."

Haupt fell silent and looked over at Grant.

Grant could see that the man was about to have another violent attack.

"General Haupt, you are excused, sir, and please, will you get yourself over to my doctor and then take some rest?"

"Yes, sir," Haupt gasped and, bent over slightly at the waist, he staggered out of the tent.

Grant followed him with his gaze. Over two years of war he had learned to become hard when it came to the using of men. He had looked into the eyes of far too many, knew he was ordering them to their deaths or the destruction of their commands, and then told them to go, never hesitating, never showing sentiment. War had no room for that, no matter what it might do inside his heart. Haupt was valuable, far too valuable to use up, but it was obvious that the dysentery that was tormenting him was beginning to drain his life away. And yet he had to continue to use him rather than order him back to a hospital in the rear. He had tried that once, and the following morning he had found the man in the telegraphy station, dictating orders as fast as four scribes could take them down, his mind some sort of strange calculating machine that could not stop whirling.

Grant looked back to his three corps commanders and the various staff and division commanders gathered around the table.

"I want this army ready to move within a month," he announced.

There were nods of agreement, though he could see that Ord, if given the order to jump into the Susquehanna today, would do so.

"We are constrained, as are all armies, by our supplies. General Haupt is doing his best to see us through."

"And additional men?" Bumside asked. "I am still one division short of a standard corps. I would have liked to have brought along the Twenty-third Corps from my old command in Kentucky."

"I understand, Burnside. I would have preferred it as well, but we have to maintain some kind of force in Kentucky. You will receive an additional division by the end of the month."

"From where, sir?"

Grant hesitated for a brief instant.

"Eight colored regiments, currently being recruited in Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania, are to report here. They'll be at nearly full strength. That should be six thousand additional men. Do you object?"

He watched Burnside carefully. More than one general would flatly refuse such an offer, even if it meant his command remained under-strength.

"No problem with that at all, sir," Burnside said and then he actually smiled. "Freemen or slaves?"

"Mostly freemen from the North, though we might have a regiment or two of untrained refugees from Maryland. Why?"

"Slaves are used to the toughest work; army life is a picnic in comparison."

"Until the minie balls start whistling," McPherson interjected.

"Still, I think the black man will prove to be a tough soldier. I'll take 'em."

"Fine then, they're yours. You appoint the division and brigade commanders. Make sure they are of like mind and can inspire these men. I suspect the president will be watching this closely. I don't want these men held back, nor do I want them thrown away as a sacrifice, but they will be expected to fight when the time comes."

As he spoke, he looked over at Elihu, who nodded in agreement

"What about the Nineteenth Corps?" Ord asked.

The men around Ord nodded in agreement and anticipation. Nineteenth Corps was a familiar command to all of them. Though unfortunate to be under General Banks, they had campaigned well farther south on the Mississippi, misused at times by their leader, but good fighting men, nearly all from New England and New York. It was ironic that they, rather than western troops, had wound up on the lower Mississippi, a fate decided by the ability to ship them from northern ports to support Farrugat's naval assault up the river. The men had suffered terribly. For every battle loss, half a dozen were felled by ague or yellow fever. The men were ecstatic to be coming back north again, and would be eager for a fight on familiar terrain rather than the muddy swamps and bayous, which had bedeviled them for over a year.

Even now the convoy bearing them was coming from New Orleans, supposedly to begin docking at Philadelphia in a matter of days. The original command had close to thirty thousand in their ranks; a brigade of infantry, the locally recruited Corps d'Afrique, and some other militia to be left behind to garrison New Orleans. The famed Grierson, commander of their cavalry, a match for Stuart's men, was coming with his brigade as well, to be remounted in Philadelphia once they arrived.

Their arrival would increase his army by over thirty per cent, giving him four solid corps of combat-experienced troops, all of them used to victory.

'The Nineteenth will fall in on Harrisburg within the week. We have to be careful with all these forces coming from the western theater. I don't want any slacking off over this next month," Grant said, and now his voice was sharp. "I've seen a bit of it already, some of the men swaggering around, lording it over the militia and the ninety-day regiments."

As he spoke, he turned and looked straight at old General Couch, who had come to him repeatedly with the complaint. There were still twenty thousand militia with him in Harrisburg, and the old general wanted to take them into the field, to convince as many as possible to reenlist for the duration of the campaign, or "the current emergency," as he was calling it. A number of fistfights had already broken out between the western veterans and the green recruits from the East. The camp of one Pennsylvania militia regiment had been raided only the night before, the men actually stripped of their uniforms, shoes, rifles, tentage, and choice rations, with the culprits running off into the night, hooting and laughing. The hospital was filled this morning with several dozen cases of broken bones and one man lingering near death with a fractured skull.

"Well," Ord interjected, "the boys have a right to be proud."

Grant glared at Ord. Damn! Ord knew it was his boys and was trying to cover up for them.

"I want an army that is united," Grant snapped. "It's why I left the name Army of the Tennessee behind when we got off the boat at Cairo. This is a new army. Do you understand that, a new army, the Army of the Susquehanna."

Everyone was silent

"Do we understand each other? Any more thievery, any more brawls like last night, and I'll have the culprits bucked and gagged, then drummed out of the army, their regimental commander stripped of rank, and right up to corps someone will pay for it."

No one spoke, even Ord lowered his head, though Couch did smile, but his grin disappeared when Grant caught his eye.

"And by heavens, General Couch, if you can convince your men to sign on for the duration, enough to field another corps, they will march and they will fight like soldiers. I rode past your camp yesterday, and a pig wouldn't live in it. As for your men, if that is how they plan to look and fight, I'll ship every last one of them across to the rebels and have them sign up with Lee. With men like that in his command, it will only help us to win."

Now it was Couch's turn to look crestfallen.

"You have commanded a corps in the field, General Couch. I understand your reasons for resigning because of General Hooker. Given your experience, I expect you to whip your men into shape; militia, ninety-day regiments, I don't care. They are to be turned into soldiers ready to face Hood, Pickett Scales, and Early. You've faced them before, Couch, and I'm asking you now, will your men be able to stand on the volley line a month from now? I know the mettle of the rest of my men, but yours I am not sure of, and by God if they break and we lose this war, I will hold you responsible."

Couch nervously looked around the room, the other three corps commanders all glaring at him. "I will do my best, sir."

"You haven't answered my question, General." Couch hesitated, cleared his throat, then finally nodded. "I will have them ready, sir." Grant turned away from him.

"Remember, we are one army now, all of us. There will be no room for mistakes either on your part," and he paused for a moment, "or mine."

He caught Elihu's eye, the congressman sitting intent, soaking up every detail.

"Our republic cannot sustain another Gettysburg or Union Mills. If this army is destroyed, our cause is finished. We are stripping every available soldier from our other fronts for this action. We might very well lose some of the gains made in the past year, perhaps a length of the Mississippi, maybe even New Orleans. But that, at this moment, is not of consequence to us. I have for us one goal and one goal only, to destroy General Lee's army in the field and to take Richmond."

No one muttered an approbation, or, worse yet, gave some sort of foolish patriotic reply. All were silent.

"Gentlemen, when we cross that river and move, I do not ever want to hear again someone worrying about what Lee is doing. I want Lee to worry about what we are doing. I do not want anyone worrying that an action taken might lose a battle, and thus the war. I want everyone focused on one thought, that the actions we take will win the battle and win the war. Do I make myself clear?"

Again no response, only a few nods, though a subtle smile did crease the faces of McPherson and Ord, men who had been with him for over a year.

"I've said enough. I want full drill every day except Sunday. I expect to see the roads east of here filled with men marching daily, full packs, good march discipline, and the men in shape. They've had their time to relax, and that is finished. I want to see good food and plenty of it, but no waste. The discipline against strong drink is to be kept in force, and that goes for my officers as well."

His glare moved from man to man; some met his eyes, some lowered their heads.

"We meet again three days from now, same time. Dismissed."

The men cleared the tent; outside he could hear them immediately start to talk, comments about the "old man's ready for a fight" Ord's distinctive, high-pitched laugh about a good chewing-out making a few men nervous.

"That certainly had some heat to it."

Grant looked up to see Elihu smiling at him.

"It was needed."

Grant extended his hand and stood up. Elihu had arrived just at the start of the meeting, fresh from the arduous roundabout journey to Washington and back.

'Tell me everything," Grant said, motioning to the chair by his side.

Elihu, who had sat through the meeting in formal attire, gladly took his jacket and tie off, his finely ruffled shirt plastered to his body with sweat He groaned with delight, took a glass of lemonade, the precious ice long ago melted, and drained it off before sitting down.

"Some good, some bad."

"Go on."

"As you ordered, I brought Dan Sickles up here with me," Elihu said. Grant nodded.

"His reaction when you told him you were escorting him to meet me?"

"He wasn't pleased, tried to beg off, said duties of command, all the usual. I handed him your written order and that took the wind out of his sails, though he did mutter about having to check with Secretary Stanton."


"The letter from the president informing him he was to comply with all your orders settled his hash. He's waiting in a tent just down from here."

Grant looked over at his adjutant, Parker, who had remained silent in the corner of the tent throughout the meeting.

"Give Mr. Washburne and me about ten minutes, then go fetch General Sickles for me."

Parker grinned. "Yes, sir." And he left the tent.

"How are things in Washington?"

"In an uproar. The siege is wearing nerves thin."

"They're most likely facing no more than one division of infantry and some cavalry."

"Still, Heintzelman is ordering all troops to stand in place within the fortifications; he fears a ruse and Stanton agrees."

Grant nodded his head.

"Fine for the moment but he should still be probing, making Lee a bit nervous, maybe forcing him to send some troops back that way."

"I carried that suggestion to the president; he said it's like watching a blind woman trying to catch a goose and cut its head off."

Grant chuckled softly.

"But Heintzelman did put up a good fight defending the city."

"Yes, he's good for a defensive fight," Grant said softly.

"Any thoughts on that?"

"Not yet, perhaps later. But what else?"

"You heard about President Davis and the state convention in Baltimore?"

"Just that they were meeting yesterday."

"The rebels have convened a new state legislature. It was sworn in late last night. Its first act was to officially declare that Maryland has withdrawn from the Union and joined the Confederate States of America. Admiral Franklin Buchanan was appointed provisional governor until an election can be held. Judge Richard Carmichael is provisional lieutenant governor and acting as governor until Buchanan can come up from Mobile."

"Interesting turn of events," Grant said noncommitally.

"A smart move by Davis. Carmichael is held in high regard, even by some pro-Unionists. I don't know if you are aware of this, but he was the presiding judge of the Seventh Circuit Court. Some damn coward and two of his cronies pistol-whipped the man nearly to death because of his pro-Southern leanings. It was an outrage felt across the entire state. He's acting as governor for the moment until Buchanan, who is a Maryland native and the highest ranking officer in the Confederate navy, comes up to take the post."

"The fact he commanded the ironclad Virginia will play well with some. Besides, I heard he's an able administrator."

"Exactly. You have a war hero with naval tradition that appeals to Baltimore. In fact, the man was born there, and is a well-respected judge who can work the political angles. A smart move by Davis."

"What about Fort McHenry?"

"Still holding out. That's a strange truce neither side wants to break at the moment. If Lee tries to seize it by a frontal attack, he'll lose thousands; the garrison is well reinforced now. On the other side, President Lincoln has ordered the garrison commander not to fire unless fired upon. If we set off another conflagration in Baltimore, it only will serve the other side."

"The heavy artillery captured around Baltimore?"

"Hard to get accurate reports on that. Some say the guns positioned up on Federal Hill are now all 'Quaker guns, just painted logs, but with so many civilians around that would be hard to conceal. There are some reports that Lee will dispatch the heavy-siege equipment toward Washington; others say he'll finally be forced to try and reduce McHenry.

"Frankly, I hope he fires on McHenry."


"The symbolism of it, General Grant The site of our gallant star-spangled banner remaining defiant against the British. Every artist and editorial writer in the North will have a field day with that one."

Grant had never really thought of it in that light. As for the song, he found it far too difficult to follow, the latter stanzas rather overblown.

"So far the news you bring is bearable; what's the bad news?"

Elihu smiled and shook his head.

"Lee is reportedly starting to get reinforcements. The first of Beauregard's men are reported to be in Baltimore. There are accounts he'll get upward of thirty thousand fresh troops."

"We'll see," Grant replied without any emotion.

"We know as well that he is absolutely burdened with artillery. His standing force, the guns taken at Union Mills that weren't spiked, additional field pieces at Baltimore. Word is he has two hundred and fifty guns and the ammunition to keep them firing for days. They're converting some of their infantry over to artillerymen."

Grant said nothing. In an open-field fight, the type of terrain to be found in a fair part of Maryland-expansive fields and pastures-combined with good roads to move the guns rapidly, this could be a problem.

"Sickles," Elihu continued. "He's cut up a fuss with Stanton that the Nineteenth Corps should be incorporated into his command, and Stanton agrees."

"Damn him, Stanton has to quit interfering," Grant muttered softly.

"The president said it's up to you though, since you have direct command in the field." "Thank God for that."

"Sickles is also diverting trainloads of equipment and supplies, at least that's the rumor. His Tammany friends have raised five regiments; they paid a lot for them, too. The governor of New York, when he had them sworn in, specifically stated they were taking duty with the Army of the Potomac."

"We're going to put a stop to that"

"Be careful, Sam. Even Lincoln conceded that for the moment Dan Sickles cannot be touched, so I have to ask that you tread lightly."

"I know, I know."

"That's it in rough form. The president is keeping his nerve up to the hilt. At least fifty papers up North have already declared, or will after today's announcement of Maryland's secession, that the president should negotiate a cease-fire with Davis."

"His response?"

"In confidence?"

"Of course."

"He said he wished it was winter; that way he could use the papers as kindling to warm his feet."

Grant could not help but laugh at the image it conjured. Elihu grinned.

"He made another reference to how he might use them as well, but good taste forbids me from citing him."

"More in line with what I was thinking."

"I won't quote you, either, General."

Both men smiled, the interlude interrupted by the clearing of a throat outside the open flap of the tent. It was Parker, General Sickles by his side.

Grant took a deep breath and stood up.

"General Sickles, please come in and join us."

His tone was neutral, not genial, nor cold in the manner in which he had just addressed some of his closest companions only minutes before.

Sickles stopped at the entryway and formally saluted, Grant returning the salute then motioning for the commander of the Army of the Potomac to come in.

Elihu went through the motions of being a proper host, pouring a glass of lemonade and offering it to Dan, who politely refused.

"If you don't mind, sir, after such a hot and arduous trip up here, I'd prefer something a little stronger."

"We don't serve liquor at this headquarters, General."

"Oh, really. Too bad. If you should need some, sir, do let me know; I keep an excellent selection at my headquarters. It is good for morale at times."

Dan reached into his hip pocket, pulled out a flask, picked up an empty lemonade glass, poured several ounces of brandy, and took a drink.

Grant said nothing, eyes cold.

Sickles drained half the glass and put it back down, his features going slightly red, and he smiled.

"It is good to see you, General Grant."

"I'd like a report, General Sickles, on the status of the Army of the Potomac."

"It is moving along, sir, but slowly, I regret to tell you. As I indicated to you in my report filed last week, the army has been reorganized into three corps, the old Third, the Fifth, and the Sixth. I have a little more than thirty thousand men now under arms, nearly all of them veterans of the best sort I have eighty guns, four thousand men mounted."

He fell silent.

"That's it?"

"Yes, sir, there is not much else to say. The men are still recovering from the, how shall I say it, mishandling they suffered from last month, but morale is improving, the men training for the next campaign. May I ask when that will begin?"

"When we are ready, General Sickles, and not before."

Sickles nodded thoughtfully, on the surface taking no offense from the obvious rejection regarding a discussion of operational plans.

"You heard about the traitors in Maryland switching sides," and Sickles looked over at Elihu.

"Yes, the congressman just told me."

"Some sort of demonstration, perhaps on your part" Dan offered, "might be of advantage now, to show them we will not take this lightly."

"As I just said, General Sickles, when we are ready and not before."

Sickles nodded and drained the rest of the glass. He started to open his flask again, but the look in Grant's eye made him stop.

"Is there something you wish to tell me, General Grant? I have traveled a long way to meet with you, time that frankly I had hoped to spend with my command."

"My command," Grant said softly.

Sickles froze, eyes unblinking.


"The Army of the Potomac is my command as well, and will obey my orders to the letter." Dan forced a smile.

"Sir, but of course. However, you being new to the East, sir, I daresay that there are unique aspects to the Army of the Potomac that will take time to fully understand."

"It is but one component of the armies of our republic. It will be run like any other army, will fight like I expect every army to fight, will answer my commands, and will see this war through to its proper conclusion."

Sickles said nothing, the smile frozen on his face.

"You, sir, have direct field command; that was the decision of the secretary of war and President Lincoln. I hope, sir, that you fully understand that responsibility and live up to the obligation of your command and the obligation to lead your men properly."

Sickles's features darkened.

"Sir. I fought with those men through the Peninsula and every campaign since right to Union Mills," his words coming out forced, through clenched teeth. "I think, sir, I do not need to be lectured on my obligation to my men."

Grant sat back in his chair, the silence in the tent chilling.

"I don't think General Grant meant any offense to you personally," Elihu interrupted.

"I should hope not I know my men and they know me. If I had been listened to at Chancellorsville, at Gettysburg on the second day, at Union Mills, we would not be in the fix we now find ourselves in."

"I will not dispute your suggested decisions in those battles, General Sickles," Grant replied. "I am just stating that in the future you will coordinate your actions with my direct orders. If we understand that, sir, I know we will work together well."

"Fine then, sir," Sickles responded, voice still strained, "I understand what you are saying. Is there anything else you wish to discuss?"

"Regarding the Nineteenth Corps."

"Sir?" Now his features shifted in an instant to open-faced innocence. "Is there a problem with their shipment to Philadelphia?"

"No. It is just that they will be detailed to this army here in Harrisburg."

"Sir. Is that prudent? I am outnumbered and Lee's army is little more than thirty miles away while you are here, a hundred miles from the front"

"You have the mile-wide Susquehanna between you and him, that river patrolled by gunboats. I doubt seriously if General Lee will make any demonstration against you, and the men you have, who as you said are all veterans, would certainly be more than a match if he tried to force a crossing. I am confident you can hold with the numbers you have."

Sickles's features were again frozen, as if he was calculating his chances of winning the argument.

"I understand, General," he said quietly.

"Fine then, I hope you may join my staff and me for dinner tonight."

"Yes, thank you, sir."

Sickles stood up to leave.

"And, General Sickles, one more thing," Grant said casually, as if he was about to address a minor issue. "Yes?"

"A week and a half ago I passed through Perryville after my visit to Washington. I went looking for you, in order to have this meeting. Your staff claimed you could not be found."

"Sir, I was surprised to hear that you were in the area. I was out inspecting units in the field. I hurried back but you had already taken train and left."

"Next time, sir, when I visit the Army of the Potomac, I expect to see its commander as well."

"I apologize for the failure of my staff, sir." "Fine then, that's all."

Sickles stiffened, features red, saluted, which salute Grant returned while remaining seated, and left. Elihu exhaled noisily.

"I hate to say it, Grant, but even I could use a drink after that."

Grant looked over at him coldly, and Elihu smiled in apology.

"Well, you certainly blistered the paint off of him."

"Had to be done. Let's hope he toes the line now. In private I'll admit he has the makings of a good general in him, a good tactical sense. I studied the reports on Chancellorsville, and the man was indeed right. If he had pushed forward as he wanted, he'd have taken Jackson apart on that flanking march. He has the stomach for a fight

"But he's too much like our old friend McClernand; he doesn't know when to keep his mouth shut and is always looking for his own political gain."

"And you fired McClernand," Elihu said.

"I hope that was different. Frankly, if I could bring that man to be part of my command, he might prove his mettle as well. At least he fights, and that's more than can be said for a lot of corps commanders. I'm willing to give him his chance. He had the guts to give it back to me a bit, which I respect. Let's see if he can give it back to Lee when the time comes."

"That comment about the liquor, that was uncalled for," Elihu replied sharply.

"You just asked for a drink yourself."

Elihu shrugged.


"No need to apologize. I'm past that now. Remember, I made a promise to Lincoln on it and I find he's one man whose respect I want"

Elihu smiled.

"I know what you mean. He's grown. He's not the same man at all I put up for nomination three years ago. He's only seven years older than me, and yet I feel like he's ancient now."

Elihu looked off and smiled.

"I know you won't lose your nerve. I think that in what's to come, their president really doesn't matter. It's down to Lee or Lincoln and who will break first. That's what will decide it."

Grant said nothing. His cigar had gone out and he tossed it aside, fished in his pocket for another, and, striking a match, he puffed it to life.

"It's going to be a hot day," he said quietly.

The band played "Dixie" for what must have been the tenth time as the last of Beauregard's men marched past, hats off, cheering. As Lee watched, yet again he was caught up in that fleeting moment when war did indeed have glory to it.

The Army of Northern Virginia, except for Pickett's division, which had been assigned garrison duty within the city, and Scales's, which still shadowed Washington, was encamped in the fields west of Baltimore, along the line of fortifications that had been so easily pierced three weeks before.

The parade ground for this grand review had been carefully chosen by Walter Taylor. A gently sloping ridge, where the famed divisions of the Army of Northern Virginia could deploy across a front of nearly two miles, regiment after regiment, the hard-fighting battalions from Virginia, Georgia, Texas, the Carolinas, Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama. The heroes of Fredericksburg, of Gettysburg, and of Union Mills. Shot-torn standards were proudly held aloft, whipping in the stiff afternoon breeze. The day was still bathed in sunlight, though the western horizon was dark with approaching storms.

Before them, across the broad, open valley, the twenty thousand men that Beauregard had brought to Maryland had advanced in columns of company front, the men in general ragged and lean, veterans of the hard-fought campaigns in the swamps around Charleston, their uniforms sun bleached to light gray or butternut. A few regiments were neatly at tired, militia units from Georgia and North Carolina that till now had known only soft duty, the occasional chasing down of deserters or Unionist bushwhackers up in the hills. These men were dressed in solid gray, carried backpacks, their muskets shiny.

The arriving units had paraded down the length of the Army of Northern Virginia, passing beneath sharp, hardened eyes, veterans, some only seventeen years old but still veterans, who looked appraisingly, nodding with approval at the boys from Charleston, remaining silent at the sight of the militia, in their hearts concerned but also smugly glad because the stay-at-homes were now going to see the "elephant" for real.

The unwritten orders from Lee's headquarters had been sharp and clear. The men of Beauregard's command, now officially the Third Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, were to be greeted as brothers, no taunts, no airs; if victory was to be finally theirs, their blood would be needed as well.

As the last of Beauregard's men marched the two-mile length of the review, Wade Hampton's brigade put in their appearance, Jeb Stuart in the lead, his arm still in a sling from the bullet taken in Baltimore. The troopers deployed out, drew sabers, forming a battlefront a quarter-mile wide, keeping alignment, advancing first at walk, bugles sounding the walk to trot, and then a canter. The waning sun, disappearing behind the roiling storm clouds, reflected off a thousand drawn blades. "Charge!"

Stuart was in the lead by half a dozen lengths, hat blown off, mouth open, shouting the command, then roaring with delight as the troopers, leaning over in their saddles, blades pointed forward, broke into a mad gallop. A wild rebel yell erupted from the charging line, to be greeted by the enthusiastic roar of the watching army, tens of thousands of voices commingling, battle flags held aloft, waving back and forth, the music of the band drowned out, even the musicians now lowering their instruments and joining in the cheer, the music far more piercing and soul-stirring than anything they could ever hope to create.

On the slope above the army, tens of thousands of civilians from Baltimore, who had come out to witness the show, joined in the cheering as well.

Unable to contain himself, Lee stood tall in his stirrups, Traveler's head up, ears pricked back, as if ready to join in the mad dash sweeping before them, the thunder of the charge echoing, and then drowned out as ten batteries, deployed to Lee's left, fired a salute of fifty guns, the thumping roar booming down the line, the cheering of the men redoubling at the thunder of the guns, stirring the blood, filling all with the vision of all that they had done, and all they would still do when next the guns fired for real.

The last echo of one of the heavy thirty-pounders drifted away. The smoke swirled and eddied eastward, driven by the wind of the approaching storm, the distant heavens matching the reports with the roll of thunder, the shimmering golden light of the sun now disappearing behind the dark, gray-green clouds.

Stuart, turning out from the charging line, cantered up to Lee, sweat glistening on his face, and with drawn saber he saluted; his mount, with a gentle urging, lowering his head and lifting a front leg in salute as well.

Grinning, Lee returned the salute.

"Magnificent, General Stuart," he proclaimed, "a fitting climax to a glorious day."

All along the two-mile line, commands echoed from division generals, to brigadiers, to regimental commanders.

Hundreds of fifers and drummers picked up the beat, music playing, regiments forming into dense columns to march back to their encampments. Those closest to Lee, parading past, holding hats aloft, cheered him and the president of the Confederacy by his side.

Lee looked over at Davis, normally so sphinx-like. He was smiling, breathing hard.

"By the Almighty, General Lee, with an army such as this we can lick the world," Davis proclaimed.

And for a moment he believed it as well, swept into the passion of it all, the tens of thousands of his men, rested, fit, well fed, eager now to go back into the fray and finish it. They had never known real defeat, they had taken Baltimore without effort, they had brought another state into the Confederacy, and now they were reinforced back up to a strength of over fifty thousand rifles and two hundred and fifty artillery pieces. He knew that in the next action they could sweep the field again. He could see it in their eyes, these men confident of victory. And their spirit leapt into his soul. They were ready.

A pavilion of open-sided tents had been set up atop the slope, the tents linked together to form a vast covered area that could accommodate several hundred people. Tonight there would be a ball, the finest of Baltimore invited to attend with their ladies. Dinner would be a "special repast in the tradition of the Army of Northern Virginia"-fried and basted salt pork served with a sprinkling of ground hardtack, the first sweet corn of the season, and "Confederate coffee" made with chickory. It would be seen as delightful and quaint, the talk of a city so used to dining on far better fare. The cooks, of course, were substituting fresh bacon for the salt pork, the topping was made with real bread crumbs, and since the army was awash in captured coffee, the real treat would be provided instead, but still the officers and guests would wink at the substitution. One of the famed Booth family, who by chance was in Baltimore when the city was taken, would provide the after-dinner entertainment with dramatic excerpts from Shakespeare's plays, and then the

Regimental Band from the Twenty-sixth North Carolina would offer a selection of waltzes, polkas, and reels.

Lee with Davis, Beauregard, Benjamin, and Stuart at his side rode up to the pavilion. Longstreet and Hood, coming over from their respective commands, arrived at the pavilion just behind Lee.

Hood was positively beaming; he had always been one to enjoy such pageantry, and for once the mood between him and Stuart was openly jovial. Dismounting, Lee looked over at Longstreet, who stood to one side, and approached.

"Did you enjoy the parade?"

"You know I find them to be a bit tiresome, sir. Rather have the men out drilling."

"Still, it's good for their spirits. It boosts morale to see the army assembled and a proper greeting to General Beauregard's men."

"We're as ready as we'll ever be," Longstreet replied. "You could see that today."

Lee smiled; it was a concession that on Old Pete's part that the grand review had caught his soul as well.

Yes, they were ready; the question was, To do what?

One corner of the pavilion had been set aside for Davis, Lee, and his staff to have a private repast before the beginning of the afternoon's and evening's festivities. Orderlies from his staff, well turned out in new uniforms, waited, the table already spread with the finest Baltimore could offer- oysters, champagne, fried clams, half a dozen selections of wine, crabs freshly boiled and spiced crab cakes, French brandies, thinly sliced beef, sweet corn, and, of course, fried chicken.

For once he did not feel guilty as he looked at the cornucopia of food spread upon the table. His men had been indulging in the same, except, naturally, for the spirits, eating as the Army of Northern Virginia had not eaten since the hard, bitter days before Richmond, the year before.

Already spoiled by Yankee largesse in their march north to Chambersburg, and then to Gettysburg and beyond, they had known true luxury the last three weeks. With President

Davis ready to sign a voucher order, the warehouses of Baltimore had been stripped clean of anything that would feed and boost the morale of this army. The men had marveled at the cans of condensed milk issued to them to lighten their coffee. And coffee! Not just any coffee, but a selection of beans from Jamaica, Brazil, Colombia, so that a lively trade had developed between regiments issued one or the other.

Every man now had new shoes, hats, blankets, even trousers and jackets, the milliners conveniently ready with gray dye to convert trousers that only the month before had been destined for the armies of the North. Canvas for tents had been found, including the very canvas that now covered the pavilion, along with hundreds of saddles, wagons that had escaped from the rout at Westminster, ammunition for both artillery and rifles, two hundred additional ambulances for the medical corps, thousands of mules, yet more remounts for the cavalry, forge wagons for artillery, even portable bakery wagons containing ovens and steam engines "borrowed" from fire departments, which might prove of use in some unexpected way.

For an army that had marched for far too long on lean stomachs it was as if they had gone to heaven while still alive. Bullocks by the hundreds had been driven into the camps; each night the regiments offered choices of fresh beef until they could eat no more. Wagons loaded with sweet corn came in from the countryside, and fresh-faced girls made it a practice to visit the camps, bearing loaves of home-baked bread, cakes, and cookies, greeted with reverent respect, at least on the surface, by these hard-fighting veterans. They had endeared themselves to the citizens of Baltimore, who were now eager to compare the valiant and yet humble Christian boys of the South with the hawk-faced Yankees of Massachusetts and New York.

Far more than any diplomatic efforts of Benjamin, or cool leadership of Davis, the ordinary rank and file of the Army of Northern Virginia, so hard and remorseless in battle, had shown themselves, at heart, to be really nothing more than boys and young men, desperate for home, for the simple things in life, and in so doing had won Baltimore back to the South.

Already dozens of requests for the right to marry had come up from the ranks, and Lee had been forced to pass a strict injunction that such things would have to wait until the war ended, unless it could be proven that the couple had known each other before the war and were now, by this circumstance, reunited. As a gesture of this new joining of Maryland to the cause, both he and Davis had attended a wedding only the day before, between a young boy on Stuart's staff, the same Lieutenant Jenkins who had infiltrated into Baltimore, and the object of his affection, the charming young daughter of a Methodist minister, the couple separated for two long years. Their wedding had become the social event of the month and was widely reported in all the newspapers.

As he looked around the pavilion he saw young Jenkins, still dressed in his formal uniform, and as he caught the boy's eye, he smiled as the young man blushed and lowered his head, having come from his all too brief honeymoon to participate in the review.

The entourage settled down under the pavilion, the breeze sweeping in now cool, the storm front approaching. Orderlies and staff scurried about, offering fresh pastries, coffee, wine, raw oysters, and even small, crystal shot glasses of brandy.

President Davis, showing his delight at the proceedings, accepted a glass of French wine and raised the glass high.

'To the success of our cause," he announced.

The group stood, Lee taking a glass as well, though merely swallowing a drop or two for the toast

"And to France," Benjamin added. "May they soon stand by our side."

'To France!"

The group sat down, and for a moment there was only polite conversation, commentary about the grandeur of the review, and anticipation for the evening's festivities.

Davis, sitting beside Lee, leaned over.

"I must say, never have I seen the men so fit, so eager, General Lee."

"Thank you, sir, the past weeks have indeed been a tonic for them. Our boys deserved it after all they have accomplished."

Davis nodded, sipping from his glass of wine. Benjamin came around the table to join them. "The French consul is waiting to see us, sir," he said. "In a few minutes, Judah. After all, we can't go running to him."

Judah smiled.

"He finally shared with me the dispatch he sent to the Emperor Napoleon III."

Davis, eyes sharp, looked up at Benjamin.

"I transcribed it as best I could after meeting with him this morning." Judah reached into his breast pocket, pulling out a sheet of paper, which he then handed to Davis.

"His report predicts that by the middle of autumn the Army of Northern Virginia will meet and defeat the new army being created by Grant He also predicts that General Johnston in the West will recapture Vicksburg."

Davis said nothing. The report had just come in the day before that Johnston had indeed ventured such an attack, now that most of the Army of the Tennessee, except for Sherman's corps, had come east Sherman had handed Johnston a stunning defeat, routing his army and driving it clear across Mississippi and into northern Alabama.

"Well, the dispatch went out a week and a half ago," Davis said.

"Fortunately. I think that the dispatch, combined with the dozens of newspapers, both north and south, which were sent along with it, might do the trick. Napoleon's forces are stuck in Mexico. His promises to the Hapsburg have drawn them into the fray; there are even regiments of troops from Austria being dispatched to Mexico. If ever he has a chance to ensure his success and prestige in both Europe and the New World, it is now, at this moment He will commit to us because a Union victory would be a disaster for French policy. They would be forced to abandon Mexico if Lincoln wins. We are their only hope."

Lee shifted uncomfortably. The thought of European soldiers again tramping across the Western Hemisphere left him uncomfortable. It struck at the almost hereditary spirit, inculcated into his blood, that this hemisphere was a world to be left alone by the monarchies of Europe.

Davis smiled as he scanned Judah's notes.

"How long?" Davis asked.

"It went out under a fast packet, flying French colors so it could not be stopped by the blockade."

With that, Judah grinned. Fort McHenry still held, a ring of Union warships lying out in the harbor. No ships had been allowed in since the city fell, but through a nice sleight of legal hand, a ship's ownership had been reassigned to a French company, and by international law it could not then be prevented from sailing. The incident two years earlier of Confederate diplomats being stopped on the high seas by the Union navy aboard a ship flying English colors had almost precipitated war, and since then the Lincoln administration had been careful to a fault to avoid a repeat. The ship had been allowed to pass, with the consul's assistant on board.

"The ship should arrive within the week in France. Maybe as early as three or four days from now if the passage is smooth. We paid extra for the fastest ship in the harbor and a full load of fuel on board. A month from now we might hear the results."

A group of civilian well-wishers came down and the president stood up, extending his hand, Lee standing as well and then backing away from the crowd, though for several minutes he had to endure a small crowd of young ladies who gathered around him, beaming, pressing him with questions, which he politely answered until Walter came up to him with the "usual" excuse that there were some "urgent issues that needed to be addressed."

Grateful as always for Walter's tactful help, he moved away from the crowd. Benjamin detached himself as well and walked over to Lee's side. Without comment the two drifted away, walking down to the line of artillery pieces, the gunners swabbing the bores clean. At Lee's approach a gunnery captain sensed that the general wanted some privacy, and detailed the men off. Lee returned the man's salute and nodded his head in thanks.

The storm from the west was coming closer and the other gun crews were laying tarps over limber chests and gun barrels. The breeze was cool, refreshing.

"I assume the president told you he is returning to Richmond tomorrow?" Benjamin asked.

"Yes, he mentioned it just before the review."