Aide-de-camp: (French for field assistant) also known as a Chief of Staff is a personal assistant or secretary, to a person of high rank, usually a senior military officer or a head of state. This is not to be confused with an adjutant, who is the senior administrator of a military unit. The first aide-de-camp is typically the foremost personal aide.
Armory Square Hospital: One of the largest Civil War hospitals in the area was located on the National Mall, where Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum stands today. Constructed in 1862, the medical facility was named after the Armory of the District of Columbia, erected in 1856. This 1,000-bed hospital complex, with twelve pavilions and overflow tents, spread accross the Mall and included quarters for officers, service facilities, and a chapel. The wounded from the battlefields of Virginia were brought to the nearby wharves in southwest Washington and taken to the Armory Square Hospital. After the war, the Armory Building was used as storage facility, and later housed the offices of the United States Fish Commission (after 1903, Bureau of Fisheries). It was demolished in January 1964.
Clara Barton: a pioneer American teacher, patent clerk, nurse, and humanitarian. At a time when relatively few women worked outside the home, Barton built a career helping others. Her father convinced her that it was her duty as a Christian to help the soldiers. In the April following his death, Barton returned to Washington to gather medical supplies. Ladies' Aid societies helped in sending bandages, food, and clothing that would later be distributed during the Civil War. In the August of 1862, Barton finally gained permission from Quartermaster Daniel Rucker to work on the front lines. One of her greatest accomplishments was founding the American Red Cross. This organization helps victims of war and disasters. She was never married, but had a relationship with John J. Elwell.
“beat swords into ploughshares”: King James Bible, Isaiah 2:4 “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
The Blue Room: one of three state parlors on the first floor in the White House, the residence of the President of the United States. It is distinct for its oval shape. The room is used for receptions and receiving lines, and is occasionally set for small dinners. President Grover Cleveland married Frances Folsom in the room on June 2, 1886, the only wedding of a President and First Lady in the White House. The room is traditionally decorated in shades of blue. With the Yellow Oval Room above it and the Diplomatic Reception Room below it, the Blue Room is one of three oval rooms in James Hoban's original design for the White House.
John Wilkes Booth: a famous American stage actor who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre, in Washington, D.C., on April 14, 1865. Booth was a member of the prominent 19th century Booth theatrical family from Maryland and, by the 1860s, was a well-known actor. He was also a Confederate sympathizer, vehement in his denunciation of Lincoln, and strongly opposed the abolition of slavery in the United States.
Decatur Bronson: His name is a combination of two war heroes who fought bravely for the Union: James H. Bronson (1838-1884) and Decatur Dorsey (1836-1891). The real-life Dorsey and Bronson were both recipients of the U.S. military’s highest decoration, the Medal of Honor, respectively for their courage and heroism in The Battle of Crater and The Battle of Chafin’s Farm. They were both born into slavery, and upon obtaining their freedom, instead of relishing in it, chose instead enlist to in the Army.
Contraband: smuggled goods, or former slaves freed by fleeing to the Union during the Civil War
Damascus: On September 12, 1862, U.S. Federal troops marched through the "village" of Damascus, Maryland via what is now Route 27 on their way to the town of Sharpsburg, where they engaged Confederate troops commanded by General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Antietam.
Edward’s Ferry: Early in the Civil War, General Charles Stone set up a large Union encampment here, and established a commissary on the canal. Several units from Minnesota and New York were sent across here in October 1861 as a "demonstration" to draw attention from the more serious foray at Ball's Bluff. Some of the wounded from Ball's Bluff were brought down to the hospital at "Camp Stone" after the battle. When Major-General Hooker determined that Lee was moving through Maryland to Pennsylvania after the battle at Chancellorsville, he decided to make a major crossing here (June 25-27, 1863), based on the recommendations of the Army Engineers. The day after the crossing was completed, June 28th, Major-General Meade learned that he had been appointed commander of the Army of the Potomac in place of General Hooker, and it was Meade who led the Union forces at Gettysburg a week later.
Fort Pillow: In what proved the ugliest racial incident of the war, Confederate forces under General Nathan B. Forrest captured Fort Pillow in Tennessee on April 12, 1864, and proceeded to kill all the black troops within; some were burned or buried alive. Though most of the Union garrison surrendered, and thus should have been taken as prisoners of war, the soldiers were killed. The Confederate refusal to treat these troops as traditional prisoners of war infuriated the North, and led to the Union's refusal to participate in prisoner exchanges. A Federal congressional investigating committee subsequently verified that more than 300 blacks had been slain after the fort surrendered. After the incident, black soldiers going into battle used the cry “Remember Fort Pillow!”
Fort Stevens: Fort Stevens, now partially restored, was built to defend the approaches to Washington from the 7th Street Pike (now Georgia Avenue) which was then the main thoroughfare from the north into Washington. Originally called Fort Massachusetts by the soldiers from that state who constructed the fort, it was later named after Brig. Gen. Isaac Ingalls Stevens, who was killed at the Battle of Chantilly (Fair Oaks), Virginia, September 1, 1862. The Battle of Fort Stevens was an American Civil War battle fought July 11–12, 1864, in Northwest Washington, D.C., as part of the Valley Campaigns of 1864 between forces under Confederate Lt. Gen. Jubal A. Early and Union Maj. Gen. Alexander McD. McCook. Although Early caused consternation in the Union government, reinforcements under Maj. Gen. Horatio G. Wright and the strong defenses of Fort Stevens minimized the military threat and Early withdrew after two days of skirmishing without attempting any serious assaults. The battle is noted for the personal presence of President Abraham Lincoln observing the fighting.
Gettysburg: The Battle of Gettysburg was fought July 1–3, 1863, in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania between Union and Confederate forces during the American Civil War. The battle involved the largest number of casualties of the entire war and is often described as the war's turning point. Union Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade's Army of the Potomac defeated attacks by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, ending Lee's invasion of the North.
Ulysses S. Grant: the 18th President of the United States (1869–1877) following his highly successful role as a war general in the second half of the Civil War. Under Grant, the Union Army defeated the Confederate military; the war, and secession, ended with the surrender of Robert E. Lee's army at Appomattox. As president he led the Radical Republicans in their effort to eliminate all vestiges of Confederate nationalism and slavery. Upset over uncontrolled violence in the South and wanting to protect African American citizenship, President Grant effectively destroyed the Ku Klux Klan in 1871. His reputation was marred by his repeated defense of corrupt appointees, and by America's first industrial age economic depression (called the "Panic of 1873") that dominated his second term.
Hack Carriage: A hackney coach or carriage for hire. These basic coaches were generally used by the middle and upper classes. “Hackney coach” comes from the French “haquenée” meaning a horse for hire.
John M. Hay: An American statesman, diplomat, author, journalist, and private secretary and assistant to Abraham Lincoln. Hay's highest office was serving as United States Secretary of State under Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt.
Kid gloves: a fine, soft leather glove usually made from a young goat (kid)
Elizabeth Keckley: Born a slave in Dinwiddie County, Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley (1818–1907) purchased her freedom in 1855 and supported herself as a seamstress, first in St. Louis and then in Washington, D.C. Her skills brought her to the attention of Mary Todd Lincoln, who hired Keckley in 1861. She became Mary Lincoln's favorite dressmaker and later her personal companion, confidante, and traveling companion. It was a remarkable friendship between two very different women, but it ended with the publication of Keckley's memoir in 1868. During her White House years, Keckley organized relief and educational programs for emancipated slaves with the help of Frederick Douglass. Her only son enlisted in the U.S. Army and was killed at the battle of Wilson's Creek, Missouri.
Ward Hill Lamon: a personal friend and self-appointed bodyguard of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln. Lamon was actually absent the night Lincoln was assassinated at Ford's Theatre on April 14, 1865, having been sent by Lincoln to Richmond, Virginia. Lamon's professional association with Lincoln started in 1852, when he became Lincoln's law partner in Danville, Illinois. Lamon and Detective Allan Pinkerton famously clashed over the President-elect's protection.
Robert E. Lee: was an American career military officer who is best known for having commanded the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia in the American Civil War. When Virginia declared its secession from the Union in April 1861, Lee chose to follow his home state, despite his personal desire for the country to remain intact and despite the fact that President Abraham Lincoln had offered Lee command of a Union Army. His abilities as a tactician have been praised by many military historians. Lee's strategic foresight was more doubtful, and both of his major offensives into the North ended in defeat.
Abraham Lincoln: 16th President of the United States, serving from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. Lincoln led the United States through its greatest constitutional, military, and moral crisis—the American Civil War—preserving the Union, abolishing slavery, strengthening the national government and modernizing the economy. Contrary to expectations, Lincoln proved to be a shrewd military strategist and a savvy leader during what became the costliest conflict ever fought on American soil. His Emancipation Proclamation, issued in 1863, freed all slaves in the rebellious states and paved the way for slavery's eventual abolition, while his Gettysburg Address later that year stands as one of the most famous and influential pieces of oratory in American history.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: an American poet and educator whose works include "Paul Revere's Ride", The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline. During the American Civil War, Longfellow's oldest son Charles Appleton Longfellow joined the Union cause as a soldier without his father's blessing. Longfellow was informed by a letter dated March 14, 1863, after Charles had left. “I have tried hard to resist the temptation of going without your leave but I cannot any longer," he wrote. "I feel it to be my first duty to do what I can for my country and I would willingly lay down my life for it if it would be of any good.” Charles soon got an appointment as a lieutenant but, in November, he was severely wounded in the Battle of New Hope Church (in Virginia) during the Mine Run Campaign. Coupled with the recent loss of his wife Frances, who died as a result of an accidental fire, Longfellow was inspired to write “Christmas Bells.” He first wrote the poem on Christmas Day in 1863. "Christmas Bells" was first published in February 1865 in Our Young Folks, a juvenile magazine published by Ticknor and Fields. He was also the first American to translate Dante Alighieri's The Divine Comedy and was one of the five Fireside Poets. Longfellow was born in Portland, Maine, which was then a part of Massachusetts. He studied at Bowdoin College. After spending time in Europe he became a professor at Bowdoin and, later, at Harvard College.
Long Bridge: the bridge which connected Arlington, Virginia to Washington D.C., now known as one of the 14th Street bridges, eventually leading north between the Washington Monument and the National Mall.
Minyan: literally “count,” the quorum of ten Jewish male adults required for certain religious obligations
John Mosby: nicknamed the "Gray Ghost", was a Confederate cavalry battalion commander in the American Civil War. His command, the 43rd Battalion, 1st Virginia Cavalry, known as Mosby's Rangers or Mosby's Raiders, was a partisan ranger unit noted for its lightning quick raids and its ability to elude Union Army pursuers and disappear, blending in with local farmers and townsmen. The area of northern central Virginia in which Mosby operated with impunity was known during the war and ever since as Mosby's Confederacy. After the war, Mosby worked as an attorney and supported his former enemy's commander, President Ulysses S. Grant, serving as the U.S. consul to Hong Kong and in the Department of Justice.
John G. Nicolay: a German-born American biographer, secretary of US President Abraham Lincoln, and later United States Consul at Paris. Nicolay and John Hay, who had worked alongside Nicolay as assistant secretary to Lincoln, collaborated on the official biography of the 16th President.
Ely Parker: a Seneca attorney, engineer, and tribal diplomat. He was commissioned a lieutenant colonel during the American Civil War, when he served as adjutant to General Ulysses S. Grant. He wrote the final draft of the Confederate surrender terms at Appomattox. Later in his career, Parker rose to the rank of Brevet Brigadier General, one of only two Native Americans to earn a general's rank during the war (the other being Stand Watie, who fought for the Confederacy). President Grant appointed him as Commissioner of Indian Affairs, the first Native American to hold that post.
Lewis Payne: also known as Lewis Paine or Payne, attempted unsuccessfully to assassinate United States Secretary of State William H. Seward, and was one of four people hanged for the Lincoln assassination conspiracy, and given his home state, Alabama, was the only assassination conspirator executed who had been from the Deep South.
Point Lookout: The southeastern tip of Maryland. In 1862 during the American Civil War, much of the land around Point Lookout was transformed into a bustling port, temporary city of civilians and military personnel and numerous buildings, a large army hospital, an army garrison at Fort Lincoln, and a Union prisoner of war camp to hold Confederate captives. Of the 50,000 soldiers held in the army prison camp, who were housed in tents at the Point between 1863 and 1865, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, nearly 4,000 died, although this death rate of 8 percent was less than half the death rate among soldiers who were in the field with their own armies.
Potomac River: The Potomac River is the fourth largest river along the Atlantic coast and the 21st largest in the United States. It runs over 383 miles from Fairfax Stone, West Virginia to Point Lookout, Maryland and drains 14,670 square miles of land area from four states and Washington DC. The Potomac River flows into the Chesapeake Bay and now affects more than 6 million people who live within the Potomac watershed, the land area where water drains towards the mouth of the river. George Washington envisioned the nation's capital as a commercial center as well as the seat of government. He chose to establish the “federal city” along the Potomac River because it already included two major port towns: Georgetown and Alexandria. "Potomac" was one of two Algonquin names for the river forming the northern boundary of Virginia, and it meant "great trading place" or "place where people trade." The Potomac's common spelling through the 18th century was "Patowmack." An earlier spelling was "Patawomeke." The spelling of the name was simplified over the years to "Potomac.” Washington, DC began using the Potomac River as its main source of drinking water with the opening of the Washington Aqueduct in 1864.
Quakers: Members of the Religious Society of Friends, a faith that emerged as a new Christian denomination in England during a period of religious turmoil in the mid-1600s, and still practiced today in a variety of forms around the world. Quakers are known also for their refusal to participate in war.
Quartermaster: an officer who provides troops with quarters, clothing, equipment, etc.
Phillip Reid: A slave who worked in the foundry contracted to cast the bronze Statue of Freedom atop the Capitol. He received his freedom on April 16, 1862 when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act that released certain persons held to service or labor in the District of Columbia. It is not known if he witnessed the event, but Reid was a free man when the last piece of the Statue of Freedom was put into place atop the Capitol Dome on December 2, 1863.
Sic Semper Tyrannis: Latin meaing “Thus Ever to Tyrants.” It is the state motto of Virginia, and was allegedly said by J.W. Booth after assassinating A. Lincoln.
Seder: a Jewish ritual feast that marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover. It is conducted on the evenings of the 14th day of Nisan in the Hebrew calendar, and on the 15th by traditionally observant Jews living outside Israel. This corresponds to late March or April in the Gregorian calendar. The Seder is a ritual performed by a community or by multiple generations of a family, involving a retelling of the story of the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt.
William Tecumseh Sherman: an American soldier, businessman, educator and author. He served as a General in the Union Army during the American Civil War (1861–65), for which he received recognition for his outstanding command of military strategy as well as criticism for the harshness of the "scorched earth" policies that he implemented in conducting total war against the Confederate States. At the end of this campaign from Atlanta to Savannah, known as Sherman's March to the Sea, his troops captured Savannah on December 21, 1864.
John Surratt: accused of plotting with John Wilkes Booth to kidnap U.S. president Abraham Lincoln and suspected of involvement in the Abraham Lincoln assassination. His mother Mary Surratt was convicted of conspiracy and hanged by the United States Federal Government. She owned the boarding house where Booth and fellow conspirators planned the scheme. John Harrison Surratt, Jr. avoided arrest immediately after the assassination by fleeing the country. He served briefly as a Papal Zouave before his arrest and extradition. By the time he returned to the United States the statute of limitations had expired on most of the potential charges and he was not convicted.
Mary Surratt: an American boarding house owner who was convicted of taking part in the conspiracy to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln. Sentenced to death, she was hanged, becoming the first woman executed by the United States federal government. She was the mother of John H. Surratt, Jr., who was later tried but was not convicted in the assassination.
Walt Whitman: Walt Whitman was a well-known writer by the time he arrived in Washington at the close of 1862. His Leaves of Grass—an unabashed love letter to America first published on its 79th birthday, July 4, 1855, then followed by second (1856) and third (1860) editions—celebrated the sacred everydayness of what Whitman called "the divine Average" American life. Butcher boys, opera divas, Manhattan firemen, Indians, God masquerading as a loving bedfellow, runaway slaves, mothers of sons and daughters, ship builders, prostitutes and preachers were just a few of the characters who inhabited Whitman's America. Loafing, sweating, gabbing, wrestling, singing, farming, fishing, healing, and copulating were some of their activities. Sexual love between a husband and wife, and passionate same-sex friendships (with or without sexual love) were the glues that bound Whitman's Americans together.
Wilberforce College: Founded in 1856, Wilberforce University can trace its origin to a period of history before the Civil War, when the Ohio Underground Railroad was established as a means of escape for all those blacks who sought their freedom in the North from the yoke of slavery, one of the destination points of this railroad became Wilberforce University. As the Underground Railroad provided a route from physical bondage, the University was formed to provide an intellectual Mecca and refuge from slavery's first rule: ignorance. Wilberforce University, the nation's oldest private, historically black university, was named to honor the great 18th century abolitionist, William Wilberforce.
James Wormley: Born in Washington D.C. on January 16, 1819, James Wormley was the son of free-born citizens Lynch and Mary Wormley. As a young boy, Wormley’s first job was working with his family’s hackney carriage business. This job would help Wormley gain skills and an appreciation for hard work involved in business ownership which he put to good use in post-Civil War Washington. After owning a successful restaurant, Wormley decided to purchase a hotel in 1871 which he called the Wormley House. Located near the White House, at the southwest corner of 15th and H Streets Northwest, Wormley House soon became popular among the wealthy and politically prominent in the nation’s capital. Wormley’s experience as caterer, club steward and traveler in Europe helped him to perfect his culinary skills while his keen eye for detail ensured that his hotel guests were satisfied during their stay. The hotel was most famous for its well-managed rooms, early telephone and the dining room where Wormley served European-style dishes.
1864: The Longest Year of the War
The war of attrition between the North and South reached harrowing limits during 1864 which saw victories for both sides. Now in command of the Union army, Ulysses S. Grant committed to attacking Confederate Robert E. Lee’s forces wherever they went until they were destroyed. This strategy proved ultimately successful, but would result in costly casualties and long months of hard war. In the same year, Lincoln had to fight for reelection against his former general, George B. McClellan.
8. Timeline of 1864
April 12: Battle of Fort Pillow. With approximately 2,500 men, Major General Nathan Bedford Forrest attacks this Union garrison comprised of about 600 men—half of whom are African American. Confederate policy was to give no quarter to armed blacks and their officers. Forrest massacred the majority of the soldiers who were forced to surrender that day.
May 5-6: Battle of the Wilderness. The Union & Confederate armies battle inconclusively for two days in eastern Virginia. Grant’s forces suffer 17,667 casualties. Lee’s casualties, while uncertain, were less than this; unlike Grant, however, Lee receives no replacements for his losses.
May 8-12: Battle of Spotsylvania. Grant’s forces continue to attack Lee’s, fighting for five days at Spotsylvania Court House, Virginia. Nearly 11,000 Union casualties and an uncertain but similar number of Confederate casualties are the price of the battle.
June 1-3: Battle of Cold Harbor. Grant attacks Confederate positions at Cold Harbor, and his forces are savagely repelled. More than 7,000 men on both sides are killed in the worst twenty minutes of the firefight; total Union casualties are 12,000. Although it is the last clear victory for Lee during the war, his army never recovers from Grant’s relentless attacks.
June 15, 1864 to April 2, 1865: Siege of Petersburg. Grant hopes to quickly capture Petersburg, Virginia, a vital rail center south of Richmond, then advance on the Confederate capital from the south. This attempt fails, costing him 16,569 casualties, and bogs down into a ten-month siege in which thousands more soldiers on each side are killed or wounded.
Atlanta Campaign, 1864: By 1864, Sherman had become convinced that preservation of the Union was contingent not only on defeating the Southern armies in the field but, more importantly, on destroying the Confederacy's material and psychological will to wage war. To achieve that end, he launched a campaign in Georgia that was defined as “modern warfare,” and brought “total destruction…upon the civilian population in the path of the advancing columns [of his armies].” The success of the campaign ultimately helped Lincoln win reelection. After the fall of Atlanta, Sherman left the forces under Thomas and Schofield to continue to harass the Confederate Army of Tennessee under John Bell Hood. Meanwhile, Sherman cut off all communications to his army and commenced his now-famous “March to the Sea,” leaving in his wake a 40-60 mile-wide path of destruction through the heartland of Georgia. On December 21, 1864, Sherman wired Lincoln to offer him an early Christmas present: the city of Savannah.
Read more about Sherman here.