Cover image for Allegiance : Fort Sumter, Charleston, and the beginning of the Civil War
Allegiance : Fort Sumter, Charleston, and the beginning of the Civil War
Detzer, David.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Harcourt, [2001]

Physical Description:
xiii, 367 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Reading Level:
1130 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
E471.1 .D48 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Foreward by Gene Smith, author of Lee and Grant

An original and deeply human portrait of soldiers and civilians caught in the vortex of war.

So vividly does Allegiance re-create the events leading to the firing of the first shot of the Civil War on April 12, 1861, that we can feel the fabric of the Union tearing apart. It is a tense and surprising story, filled with indecisive bureaucrats, uninformed leaders, hotheaded politicians, and dedicated and honorable soldiers on both sides.

The six-month-long agony that began with Lincoln's election in November sputtered from one crisis to the next until Lincoln's inauguration, and finally exploded as the soldiers at Sumter neared starvation. At the center of this dramatic narrative is the heroic figure of Major Robert Anderson, a soldier whose experience had taught him above all that war is the poorest form of policy. With little help from Washington, D.C., Anderson almost single-handedly forestalled the beginning of the war until he finally had no choice but to fight.

David Detzer's decade-long research illuminates the passions that led to the fighting, the sober reflections of the man who restrained its outbreak, and individuals on both sides who changed American history. No other historian has given us a clearer or more intimate picture of the human drama of Fort Sumter.

Author Notes

David Detzer is Professor Emeritus of history at Connecticut State University.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

The basic facts concerning the siege and bombardment of Fort Sumter are not in dispute, but historians differ substantially in the interpretation of those facts. Did Lincoln deliberately provoke the Confederacy by attempting to resupply the fort? Had he acted sooner, would South Carolina have backed down? Had the fort been abandoned, could the removal of this inflammatory issue allowed peace negotiations a chance to reach a compromise. Detzer, professor emeritus of history at Connecticut State University, examines various aspects of the Sumter crisis in a riveting and moving narrative. At the center of this unfolding drama is Major Robert Anderson, a Kentucky-born professional soldier with a disdain for war and deep devotion to the Union. Detzer portrays Anderson as an admirable and tragic figure caught up in events beyond his control. Detzer also provides an interesting portrait of antebellum Charleston, a surprisingly diverse and vibrant city plagued by progressive anxiety as the crisis deepens. --Jay Freeman

Publisher's Weekly Review

This oft-told war story has all the elements of a military epic: a divided nation, trigger-happy politicians, unruly crowds, dedicated soldiers, a change in presidential administrations. Detzer (Thunder of the Captain), Connecticut State University professor emeritus of history, spent a decade researching primary and secondary sources for this decisive moment in American history. A superb popular history is the result, bringing to life the men (on both sides) who were responsible for the first shots of the Civil War. The central figure in this drama is Maj. Robert Anderson, commander of the Union garrison in Charleston Harbor. With little guidance from his superiors in Washington, Anderson occupied the unfinished Fort Sumter in December 1860. He and his tiny command were pawns in the political game between the newly formed Confederacy and the new Lincoln administration. Detzer's writing style brings the reader into close contact with soldiers, civilians and politicians as they struggle to solve the fate of Anderson and his men. Their tense story culminates on April 12, 1861, when a South Carolina cannon opened fire on the fort, and Detzer weighs the evidence that Lincoln goaded the South into doing it. Detzer's style "As Anderson and the rest waited, alone and isolated, rasped by tension, an incident occurred that nearly crushed Robert's will" won't be for everyone, but its immediacy, engagement and basis in fact are unquestionable. 8 pages of photos not seen by PW. (Apr.) Forecast: It would take a dramatization on the big or small screen for which its characterizations make this book ripe to drum up interest in this book's narrow-focus subject. But this carefully researched book could pop up on Intro to American History syllabi, as it will prove tempting bait for ambivalent students. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Detzer (The Brink: Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962) limns the daily lives of the men and women caught in the 1861 secession crisis in Charleston, SC, to show how personalities and circumstances determined the advent of the Civil War. With a novelist's gift for storytelling and an artist's eye for detail, the author brings new drama and insight to the well-worn narrative of the "firing of the first shot" of the war. He casts as his "hero" Maj. Robert Anderson, whose military experience, intelligence, and clear sense of duty held Fort Sumter for the Union for crucial days while politicians and generals dithered. Detzer's understanding of the culture of garrison life and the limited resources and character of the regular U.S. Army, then hardly the citizen-soldiers celebrated in popular literature and song, deepens the drama and makes the defense of the Union forts all the more remarkable. Though the author sometimes overplays the significance of Anderson's maneuvers, he gives a gripping account of how many earnest men lost control of events. For public and academic libraries. Randall M. Miller, Saint Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

As every student of American history knows, Fort Sumter was the fortress in Charleston Harbor bombarded by Confederate artillery in April 1861, an event that began the Civil War. Until this splendid volume, however, few have realized the scope, intricacy, and remarkable civility of negotiations that ended in failure with the roaring of the guns. Much like the concords of generals that ended the conflict four years later, efforts made by Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard and Union Major Robert Anderson in Charleston that spring were epitomized by compassion and honor. Detzer (emeritus, Connecticut State Univ.) has brought forth a volume rich in insight and graced by uncommonly straightforward, often pithy prose. Detzer's hero is Anderson, and for good reason. This aging career officer, a Kentuckian with strong sympathies for the South and a loathing of killing acquired during the Mexican War, was given the thankless task of holding Sumter without reinforcements, provisions, or provoking armed conflict. He did his duty. As a Civil War scholar, Detzer has as well. All collections. R. A. Fischer emeritus, University of Minnesota--Duluth

Table of Contents

Forewordp. xi
Chapter 1 Asunderp. 1
Chapter 2 A Gentle Manp. 16
Chapter 3 Salad Daysp. 29
Chapter 4 The Fulcrump. 46
Chapter 5 Twilight of the Old Unionp. 65
Chapter 6 Commanders and Chiefsp. 80
Chapter 7 Slim Pickens, Stout Fortp. 93
Chapter 8 Eventidep. 108
Chapter 9 Dueling Flagsp. 123
Chapter 10 The Wolf at the Doorp. 137
Chapter 11 Hostagesp. 162
Chapter 12 The Boys on the Beachp. 192
Chapter 13 Takes Two to Tango, But One Can Do the Twist All Alonep. 210
Chapter 14 The Yellow Brick Roadp. 232
Chapter 15 That Little Bridgep. 254
Chapter 16 A Mere Point of Honorp. 268
Chapter 17 Ashes and Dustp. 287
Mystic Chords of Memory: a Postscriptp. 311
Notesp. 321
Bibliographyp. 344
Indexp. 357