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To get as graphic a picture as possible of Washington as it appeared then, let us in fancy visit the city in March, 1862, just before the army makes its grand advance upon Richmond. Two hundred thousand men are dwelling in neatly arranged cities of white tents on both sides of the great river-cities that sleep and awake to the sound of bugle and tap of drum. The sergeant drilling his awkward squad, regiments of glistening bayonets forming blue squares on the hill-sides, ponderous parks of artillery rumbling away, squadrons of cavalry sweeping the plain, military staffs in brilliant uniform attending their chiefs, brigades and divisions in review with waving banners and bursts of exultant music from a thousand bands; yonder a line of ambulances advancing from the latest battle-field, blood trickling from them drop by drop-red against blue ;—these are the sights and sounds that greet us on every side.
A cordon of grim batteries surrounds the city. North, south, east, west, wherever we look, they confront us. On the north, stretching from the Potomac to the Anacostia, frowns a line of batteries-Sumner on Georgetown Heights near the reservoir, Reno on the Tenallytown Hills, Stevens on the SeventhStreet road, Gaines, De Russey, Slocum, Totten, Bunker Hill, Saratoga, Slemmer, Thayer, and Lincoln—the last bringing us to the Anacostia. Then across that river there are Forts Stanton, Guble, Carroll, Mahan, Meigs, Dupont, Baker, Wagner, Ricketts, and Snyder; and at the Chain Bridge, Forts Ethan Allen and Marcy. Across the Potomac at Alexandria, in addition to Fort Ellsworth, are Forts
Worth, Ward, and Lyon, and on Arlington Heights are Forts Craig, Tillinghast, Cass, Woodbury, Richardson, and Strong, to say nothing of a long series of minor redoubts. There are in all one hundred and fifty-one forts and batteries, and twelve hundred and eighty-eight guns and mortars ready to belch fires of death upon any foe of sufficient hardihood to approach the city with hostile intent.
In the hospitals we find many brisk, active men and bright-faced women in attendance-nurses of the United States Sanitary Commission, a beneficent society that had been created by private enterprise and accepted by the government in the first year of the war— June 9, 1861–“ To direct its inquiries to the principles and practices connected with the inspection of recruits and enlisted men, the sanitary condition of the volunteers, to secure the general comfort and efficiency of the troops, and provide cooks, nurses, etc., for the hospitals.” This society received contributions of money and supplies, held “sanitary fairs" in all the great cities for the same object, and spent the money thus gained in relieving the wants of the soldiers. Its agents accompanied the armies, and were at all military centres throughout the country. In Washington it established, soon after its formation, a receiving station and Soldier's Rest, and in October following, three cheap, temporary model hospitals were erected by government after plans provided by the Commission. In November following it is recorded that the Commission distributed from its Washington depot 34,481 articles of clothing. We find that it has at this time a home and temporary hospital of 320 beds on North Capitol Street, and in the city five “lodges ” for the care and refreshment of disabled and discharged soldiers--one on Seventeenth Street, a second on F Street, a third on H Street, a fourth on Sixth Street wharf, and a fifth on Maryland Avenue. The H Street building has connected with it a dormitory of one hundred beds, a diningroom of one hundred seating capacity, a storehouse, a free pension agency, a medical examiner of applicants for pensions, an office of the agent selling railroad tickets to discharged soldiers at reduced rates, and an office of the paymaster for discharged soldiers. While we have been learning these facts, a disabled soldier of the Army of the Potomac has come to the paymaster's office, presented his discharge papers, and has been paid off. From this moment the Sanitary Commission takes him in charge and protects him from the harpies who are making large sums by preying on discharged soldiers. He is fed and lodged ; if his papers are wrong, as often happens, assistance is given in correcting them; he is aided in securing his pension and bounty money, and a ticket at reduced rates is secured for him over the railroads to his home.
In this first year of the war, the first act in the general emancipation of the slaves took place in the liberation of all persons of color held to servitude in the District of Columbia. The Act providing for it passed Congress on April 16, 1862. By its provisions legal owners were to be compensated, and three commissioners were appointed to pay for the slaves liberated. They held their sessions in the City Hall, and nearly nine months passed before the business was concluded. Some of the scenes presented at the City Hall, as described by the daily press, were dramatic, and some laughable. An expert from Baltimore, a noted slave-dealer, was employed to examine the negroes, which he did with great particularity, making them dance about to show their suppleness of limb, and open their mouths to prove that they had sound teeth—which he regarded as an evidence of good health and also as an indication of age. The negroes came singing hosannas at the prospect of freedom, and submitted themselves to be examined with the greatest abandon and good-nature. Their owners were obliged to take the oath of loyalty before they were entitled to compensation. $914,942 were paid for the slaves and for the expenses of the commissioners. In all 2,989 slaves were liberated. The highest sum paid for any single slave was $788, and the lowest $10.95, the slave in the latter case being an infant. The largest slaveholder owned 69 slaves, and received $17,771 for them.
This act was important as being the forerunner of President Lincoln's great Emancipation Act, which was proclaimed the succeeding autumn-September 22, 1862,-and which declared that the slaves in all States found in rebellion against the government on January 1, 1863, should be forever free.
Although Washington was so continually threatened by the enemy, but one serious attempt was made during the war to capture the city. We refer to the raid of General Jubal Early in the summer of
1864. This event was so directly connected with the city, and might have been attended with such serious and far-reaching results, that it should be treated more fully than has been accorded it in histories of the war.
Grant at the time was busily engaged in throttling Lee on the lines about Richmond and Petersburg, and to create a diversion in his rear, and if possible capture Washington, Early was sent up through the Shenandoah Valley and across the Potomac. He had, by his own account, Lee's Second Army Corps of picked veterans, Breckenridge's division of infantry, with three brigades of infantry, four of cavalry, and nine field batteries aggregating forty guns,-in all about ten thousand men. Washington at this period was almost denuded of soldiers. Disabled veterans, those detailed for hospital duty, the department clerks, a regiment of District militia, and a few marines and employés at the navy yard were all that could be mustered,-in all not five thousand men,-a fact of which the enemy had full intelligence through his spies.
On the morning of July 9th, the city was startled by the sullen booming of guns away to the northward. Old men who were boys in 1814 recalled the famous battle of Bladensburg ; but then it was the foreign invader that threatened—now a domestic foe was at her doors. Soon rumors came pouring in. The enemy, reported from thirty thousand to forty-five thousand strong, was confronting General Lew Wallace and his handful at the railroad bridge over the Monocacy, bent on capturing the Washington pike and the National pike