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Old residents who were in the city at the time give interesting reminiscences of the scenes and incidents of the siege. As a rule, the Department clerks took up arms and manned the defences with spirit and courage. One, a perfect giant in form, is remembered for his pusillanimity.
He first excused himself on the ground that he had false front teeth and could not bite a cartridge, but was told he would be furnished with a breech-loader. This failing, he pleaded heart disease, and finally was excused by taking an overdose of physic, which made him really ill. The veteran reserves marched to the trenches in various stages of dismemberment. The tale is told of a group of five who held a clump of timber on the skirmish line in advance of Fort Stevens, from which they poured deadly missiles into the enemy's line. Had he known their disabilities he might easily have taken them, there being but five sound legs and six good arms in the entire five.
On July 11th there was sharp skirmishing a mile and a half beyond Tenallytown-in front of Forts Reno, Kearney, and De Russey,—and at Silver Spring, just north of Fort Stevens, where the enemy entrenched. Demonstrations were also made against Fort Lincoln, on the Bladensburg road. On the evening of this day-July 11th-Washington was a beleaguered city. The booming of cannon resounded from along the northern and northeastern borders of the District, and the enemy's shells could be distinctly seen and heard bursting in air to the southward of Forts Stevens, Slocum, and Totten, telling the frightened inhabitants that the enemy was slowly but surely drawing nearer. From Fort Stevens the opposing skirmish lines even could be seen in close contact, while the smoke and rattle of musketry were plainly discernible. For two days, while the Second Regiment of District militia held the line between Forts Stevens and Slocum, thousands of civilians drove out there to view the situation,-President Lincoln and Secretaries Seward and Stanton being among them. As showing the proximity of the enemy, it is related that while Messrs. Koontz and White, attachés of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company, and Dr. Du Hanul of Washington, were standing with two soldiers on one of the forts guarding the approaches from the north, they were discovered by the enemy's sharpshooters, who shot the two soldiers simultaneously, killing one outright and mortally wounding the other. The civilians hastily retreated, and shortly after orders were issued forbidding non-combatants to approach the lines.
On the evening of the nith the enemy's advance was within a inile of Fort Stevens, and the situation became extremely critical. Early was evidently massing his forces in three columns for attack upon the Seventh Street road, where the defences were weakest, and where the greatest pressure had been brought to bear. Every thing pointed to an assault on the morrow.
But at four that afternoon-just in the nick of time—the two divisions of the Sixth Corps arrived, with the Nineteenth just behind. Up the streets they marched, as only veterans can
march — company, battalion, regiment, brigade, division, the gallant General Wright cominanding, and greeted with exultant cheers, swinging of hats, and display of handkerchiefs by the relieved inhabitants. “ Just in time, old Sixth Corps !” shouted
“ vet.” from among the bystanders. “You bet,” was the grim response, as the soldiers shifted their muskets and marched to the defences, there to be greeted by the defenders with still more triumphant cheers. The enemy was quick to discover the presence of the “fighting Sixth.” That night on the outposts the rebel pickets recognized the men whose fighting qualities they had learned to respect. “Hello, old Sixth Corps," they shouted; "where in thunder did you come from?” “ Come from Richmond! What are you Johnnies doing here? ” replied the boys of the Sixth. “Oh! Early 's brought a lot of wooden furloughs for your bummers, but they won't come out and take 'em,” was the reply.
Next morning, however, the Sixth went out and took them, Wharton's brigade engaging Early's skirmish line, and driving it back after a pretty fight of an hour, President Lincoln and a number of prominent officials viewing the affair from the ramparts of Fort Stevens. That night the invading army disappeared. Early, finding, in the expressive language of the soldiers, that “he had taken a bigger contract than he could fill," had retreated to his Virginia fast
It is well to remember, however, that but for Wallace's gallant stand at the Monocacy, the Sixth Corps would have been a day too late.
Richmond fell on the 4th of April, 1865. On the 8th Lee surrendered his army; and Grant and his victorious hosts came marching back to the city
they had so long and bravely defended. Washington was mad with joy over the event. Orders went swiftly out from the War Department, announcing the overthrow of the rebellion and the return of peace. Recruiting and drafting were stopped, the blockade was raised, restrictions on commerce removed. On April 13th the city honored the event with a grand celebration. The Capitol, the White House, and other public buildings, with many private residences, were gay with bunting; business was generally suspended, and citizens met each other with congratulations. All day at intervals the heavy siege guns in the forts thundered salutes. In the evening there was a general illumination and bonfires, and President Lincoln, standing on the portico of the White House, addressed an immense audience which heartily applauded his expressions of peace and good-will to all.
But the city soon learned that mourning often crowds closely on the heels of rejoicing. The newspapers of Friday, April 14th, announced that that night President Lincoln and General Grant would attend Ford's Theatre, where the popular comedy “Our American Cousin "was to be enacted. General Grant was invited by the President to form one of his party, but a prior engagement obliged him to decline. About nine o'clock President Lincoln, with a few friends, entered the theatre. The play was stopped, and the orchestra played “ Hail to the Chief," while the audience vociferously applauded. An hour later, while every one was watching the actors on the stage, a pistol-shot was heard, seemingly in the President's box, and a moment later a man leaped from it to the stage, flourished a dagger in full view of the audience, and with the exclamation Sic semper tyrannis, disappeared by the