“12000 strong…they intend to seize the capitol” — the sad state of American intelligence at the onset of the Civil War

US Soldiers clash with civilians in Baltimore, MD 19 April 1861. Steel engraving by O. Pelton after William Momberger (1862), from Wikimedia Commons.

In early April, 1861, the possibility of civil war was growing by the day. Seven southern states had already seceded, and tensions in Baltimore and Virginia were poised to make things even worse (the attack on Fort Sumter would commence on 12 April). Intelligence gathering was a lost art…