An unrevealing account of an already well-studied episode in American history: the siege of Fort Sumter and the formal opening of hostilities in the Civil War.
Detzer (An Asian Tragedy, 1992) opens with a description of the Confederate siege of the Union forts protecting Charleston, South Carolina. In the main, his version of the siege adds nothing to the existing literature; readers without a background in Civil War history, however, may benefit from his explanation of the political arguments on both sides that preceded the South Carolina militia’s fateful decision to open fire on the fort in April 1861. The eruption of civil war is inevitably a dramatic business, no matter what the particular circumstances may be, and the events that led up to the attack on Fort Sumter are no exception. But this is not a well-written study, and it goes on far too long as Detzer milks the siege for every possible drop of drama. In doing so, he lays on scene-setting descriptions with a trowel, offering observations that are alternately misplaced or obvious (e.g., “Southerners in general, and South Carolinians in particular, were a prickly bunch, proud of their independence”). The best portions describe the career of Robert Anderson, the commander of Fort Sumter, whose brave leadership of the fort’s defense was followed by reluctance to serve in the war (“his heart was not in it”). He died in France some years after the war ended, having first been invited to return to Fort Sumter to raise anew the flag that he had been forced to strike.
Of limited use, and of even more limited appeal.