Civil War 150: DC

Civil War 150 : District of Columbia and Freedom Rising

~ Elisa Babel, MLS

Fort Sumter

This month marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War–the opening salvo was at Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor in the early morning hours on April 12, 1861.

The war not only changed the nation–it also changed Washington, DC as a capitol and hometown.

Last month I read Ernest Furgurson’s Freedom Rising, a nonfiction book about DC during the Civil War years. Since I work in DC, the 150th anniversary seemed like a great time to discover the city at that time.

Furgurson writes a fascinating and informative story of how the Civil War impacted the city and shaped it to what is today. When President-elect Lincoln arrived for his inauguration in February 1861, there wasn’t much about DC to attract people for a visit. As the book progresses through the war years, Furgurson introduces the reader to the people, events, and places in the city as well as what happened officially. 

I enjoyed the descriptions of city life and neighborhoods at the time.  The landmarks mentioned are either still standing today or long gone. I recognized some of the people who came to DC for one reason or another while others I didn’t know. 

By April 1865, DC is no longer the sleepy town it once been. Black and white maps of the city are included. I enjoyed this book and learned more about DC along the way.

Around the city and in Maryland and Virginia, you can find Civil War heritage sites to discover and enjoy.  The Washington Post is featuring a special section online  of the 150th anniversary.

On April 15, Emancipation Day will be observed in the District of Columbia.  This city holiday commemorates the signing of the DC Emancipation Act signed by President Lincoln in 1862,  freeing all slaves in DC. 

This Emancipation was enacted  nine months before the more famous Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

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