Civil War Stories: The Little-Known Battle that Saved Washington, D.C. with Marc Leepson

Civil War Stories: The Little-Known Battle that Saved Washington, D.C. with Marc Leepson


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Wednesday, May 12, 2021 at 3:00 PM EDT
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Known as "The Battle that Saved Washington, D.C.," on July 9, 1864, the Battle of Monocacy near Frederick, Maryland, gave the Union Army the time to fend off a potentially devastating attack on the nation's capital by Confederate General Jubal Early. Historian Marc Leepson takes a deep dive into the events before, during, and after the battle, including little-known details about the fighting in Washington on July 11 and 12 during which President Lincoln came under fire.

Outnumbered and surrounded by Union troops in Richmond in the summer of 1964, Robert E. Lee devised a bold plan that he believed could end the Civil War. He sent a corps of veteran fighters under Gen. Jubal Early to the Shenandoah Valley in June, where they routed Union troops, then headed north into Maryland, and began a march on Washington, D.C. They were held up for a day, July 9, at Monocacy Junction, four miles south of Frederick, Maryland—and 40 miles west of Washington—by the vastly outnumbered Union Gen. Lew Wallace (who went on to write Ben Hur), which gave Ulysses Grant time to bring thousands of troops up from Richmond to defend the city.

Early reached Washington on July 10, but decided not to launch an all-out assault. Confederate troops, instead, engaged in skirmishes and artillery duels with Union forces on July 11 and 12, during which there were hundreds of casualties. President Lincoln arrived on the scene and was nearly shot by a Confederate sharpshooter—the first and only time a sitting U.S. president came under fire in a shooting war.

Led by journalist and historian Marc Leepson, the author of Desperate Engagement: How a Little-Known Civil War Battle Saved Washington, D.C, and Changed American History, this interactive seminar—with many rare historical images—will illuminate the wide-ranging strategic and political impact of those three days, and how they influenced the last eight months of the Civil War. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased knowledge of two of the most colorful characters of the Civil War, Early and Wallace, and the surprising impact that the Battle of Monocacy had on the 1864 Presidential election.

Marc Leepson is the author of nine books, including Saving Monticello; a history of Thomas Jefferson’s “Essay in Architecture;” Flag: An American Biography, Lafayette: Idealist General, a concise biography of the Marquis de Lafayette; and What So Proudly We Hailed, a biography of Francis Scott Key. He taught U.S. History at Lord Fairfax Community College in Warrenton, Virginia, from 2007-2015. A former staff writer at Congressional Quarterly in Washington, D.C., his feature articles, essays, and book reviews have appeared in many magazines and newspapers, including The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Smithsonian, Publishers Weekly, Preservation, and Civil War Times. He has given scores of talks on his books and been interviewed many times on radio and television, including on The Today Show, CBS This Morning, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, Discovery Channel, The History Channel, History Detectives, All Things Considered, Talk of the Nation, To The Point, Morning Edition, The Diane Rehm Show, The BBC NewsHour, Irish Radio, and CBC (Canada), and has written entries for the Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Americana, and the Dictionary of Virginia Biography.

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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