BookDesperate Engagement: How a Little-Known Civil War Battle Saved Washington, D.C., and Changed The Course of American History written by Marc Leepson
About the book
Desperate Engagement tells the story of the Battle of Monocacy, which took place on the blisteringly hot day of July 9, 1864, and is one of the Civil War’s most significant, yet little-known battles. What played out that day in the corn and wheat fields four miles south of Frederick, Maryland, was a full-field engagement between some 12,000 battle-hardened Confederate troops led by the controversial Jubal Anderson Early, and some 5,800 Union troops, many of them untested in battle, under the mercurial Lew Wallace, best known as the author of Ben Hur. When the fighting ended, some 1,300 Union troops were dead, wounded, missing or taken prisoner and Early—who suffered some 800 casualties—had routed Wallace in the northernmost Confederate victory of the war.
Early had been on the march since June 13, when Robert E. Lee ordered him to take an entire corps of men from their Richmond-area encampment and wreak havoc on Yankee troops in the Shenandoah Valley, then to move north and invade Maryland. If Early found the conditions right, Lee said, Early was to take the war for the first time into President Lincoln’s front yard.
But Early did not pull the trigger. Because his men were exhausted from the fight at Monocacy and the ensuing march, Early paused before attacking the feebly manned Fort Stevens—giving General U.S. Grant just enough time to bring thousands of veteran troops up from Richmond. The men arrived at the eleventh hour, just as Early was contemplating whether or not to move into Washington. No invasion was launched; but Early did engage Union forces outside Fort Stevens. During the fighting, President Lincoln paid a visit to the fort, becoming the only sitting president in American history to come under fire in a military engagement.
In Desperate Engagement, historian Marc Leepson shows that had Early arrived in Washington one day earlier, the ensuing havoc easily could have brought about a different conclusion to the war. Leepson uses a vast amount of primary material, including memoirs, official records, newspaper accounts, diary entries and eyewitness accounts in a reader-friendly and engaging account of the events surrounding what became known as “the Battle that Saved Washington,” its impact on the last nine months of the Civil War, and on the course of American history.
- Published June 2008
Other books by Marc Leepson
About the author
Marc Leepson is a journalist, historian and author. A former staff writer for Congressional Quarterly in Washington, D.C., he has been a free-lance writer since 1986. Since March of 1986, he has been arts editor and columnist for The VVA Veteran, the newspaper published by Vietnam Veterans of America. He teaches U.S. history at Lord Fairfax Community College in Warrenton, Virginia.
He graduated from George Washington University in 1967. After serving in the U.S. Army from 1967-69, including a year in the Vietnam War, he received his honorable discharge and went on to earn a Masters Degree in history from George Washington University in 1971. He has taught U.S. History as an adjunct professor at Lord Fairfax Community College in Warrenton, Virginia. He lives with his wife and their children in Loudoun County, Virginia.