Filed Under:Maryland

The Confederate Army's "Old South Ball" at the University of Maryland: Fact or Fiction?

A depiction of a stereotypical "Old South Ball." According to rumor, the University of Maryland threw one of these for the Confederates, but did this "ball" ever actually take place or is it just a campus legend?

The University of Maryland being close to the then-Confederate border with Virginia made it a site of some significance in the Civil War, when the Union and the Confederate army both stayed on campus within a three-month span; the latter would throw the University into controversy when it was accused of throwing the Confederate officers a ball. It's an established campus legend, but is it historical fact? We delve into the encampment, the Confederate sympathies at the University, and the subsequent government investigation under the cut.

Filed Under:Maryland

Remembering the Summer of 1960 at Glen Echo

Picketers, including future Maryland State Senator Gwendolyn Greene Britt, stand outside Glen Echo Park in 1960. (Photo source: NPS)Picketers, including future Maryland State Senator Gwendolyn Greene Britt, stand outside Glen Echo Park in 1960. (Photo source: NPS) You might not immediately associate roller coasters with racial equality, but more than three years before Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s March on Washington, Maryland’s Glen Echo Park was a focal point of the Civil Rights Movement. It made sense: since its opening in 1899, Glen Echo had been the premier amusement park for white Washingtonians. The park featured a number of modern roller coasters, a miniature railway, a Ferris wheel, an amphitheater, a pool: everything and more that other parks provided.

Filed Under:DC, Virginia

The Pentagon Goes Up in Flames, 1959

Smoke rises from the Pentagon on July 2, 1959. (Photo source: Arlington Fire Journal blog)The call came in to the Arlington County Fire Department at 11:16am on July 2, 1959… The Pentagon was on fire.

ACFD units raced to the scene, soon to be joined by deployments from 34 other jurisdictions including Falls Church, Alexandria, Fort Myer, the District, Prince Georges County, Bethesda and the Inter-Agency Government Pool — over 300 firefighters in all.

When trucks reached the scene, black smoke hung over the building, so thick that they had to form a human chain in order to navigate. Firemen groped, clawed and cut their way to the blaze, which had erupted in the Air Force statistical services offices between rings C and D and corridors 1 and 10.

Filed Under:Maryland

George Wallace Shot in Laurel, 1972

Gov. George Wallace addresses the crowd at his May 15, 1972 campaign stop in Laurel, Maryland. Moments after this photo was taken he was shot by Arthur Bremer. (Photo by Mabel Hobart)May 15, 1972… It was a little after 3pm when the South's most vocal segregationist stepped to the podium. Alabama Governor George Wallace was running for President of the United States and, with the Maryland Democratic primary a day away, the campaign trail had brought him to Laurel. From atop a stage in the Laurel Shopping Center parking lot, Wallace offered his distinct view of America. Suddenly, shots rang out.

Filed Under:DC

Terrorism Hits Home in 1915: U.S. Capitol Bombing

An bomb explosion in the U.S. Capitol on July 2, 1915 caused significant damage. (Photo source: Library of Congress)Shortly before midnight on Friday, July 2, 1915, police responded to the U.S. Capitol where an explosion had just rocked the Senate wing. Fortunately they found no fatalities – a byproduct of the fact that Congress was not in session and the building was lightly staffed at night. But, there was plenty of carnage and, obviously, great concern about security.

The next evening, Washingtonians opened their Evening Star newspaper to find a peculiar letter under the headline, “Letter Received by the Star Thought to Have Bearing on the Explosion.” The diatribe began, “Unusual times and circumstances call for unusual means.”

Filed Under:DC

Impressions of Washington: Marian Campbell Gouvernuer, 1845

In her later years, socialite Marian Campbell Gouverneur wrote a memoir, which provides an interesting glimpse into early Washington. (Photo source: Project Gutenberg) Marian Campbell Gouvernuer was a New Yorker who made her life in Washington in the second half of the 19th century. Her memoir As I Remember covers a period of eighty years, much of it taking place in Washington, but of particular interest is the chapter describing Gouvernuer’s first visit to Washington in 1845.

Gouvernuer gives a snapshot of the capital in very distinct time of the city — still a young city and still immersed in that peculiar institution of slavery. This description, especially concerning the haphazard city planning, falls well in line with previous Impressions of Washington we've posted on the blog. She also gives an enlightening summary of the commercial life in Washington.

Filed Under:DC

Mrs. Woodhull Goes to Washington: The First Female Presidential Candidate Petitions For Women's Suffrage

Victoria Woodhull speaks in front of the Judiciary Committee on January 11, 1871. This image is a drawing of a conference table with many suffragettes and congressmen surrounding it. Victoria Woodhull is standing and speaking. (Image Source: Library of Congress)

Tomorrow, Hillary Clinton is going to officially declare her candidacy for the 2016 presidential election (again), making her well on track to be the first woman to win a major party’s presidential nomination. However, she is far from the first woman to run for president. That distinction belongs to Victoria Woodhull, a spiritualist, suffragist, and stockbroker who ran for president on the Equal Rights ticket in 1872. We look into her campaign and her visit to DC in order to argue for women’s suffrage before the House Judiciary Committee below the cut.

Filed Under:DC

How a Failed German Spy Mission Turned into J. Edgar Hoover’s Big Break

The Nazi Saboteur trial taking place in a converted Department of Justice room, 1942. (Photo source: Library of Congress)On June 13, 1942, four Nazi spies disembarked their U-Boat on a beach near Long Island, New York. Four days later, a similar group landed on Ponte Verda Beach, Florida. Their goal: to harm American economic targets in the hope of turning the war back in favor of Germany. The men had been extensively trained at a sabotage school near Berlin and carried enough explosives, primers, and incendiaries to support two years worth of destruction. They carried plans with them that outlined attacks of New York’s Hell Gate Bridge, hydroelectric plants at Niagara Falls, aluminum plants in Philadelphia, the canal lock systems in Cincinnati and St. Louis, and other targets.

Filed Under:DC

The Oldest Profession in Washington

Map of brothels and saloons near the White House. (Source: Library of Congress)Hookers Division, located in the area around the White House, was one of Washington's major Red Light Districts in the19th century. (Source: Library of Congress) Not to cast any doubt on the virtue of our historical statesman, but for the latter half of the 1800s, at least two major red light districts were right in the center of D.C., even “within sight of the White House.”[1]

One of the most notorious of these was Hooker’s Division, on the west end of the federal triangle and right on the National Mall. With the White House to the north, the Capital to the east, and the business district within walking distance, it was pretty perfectly positioned.  The area got its name during the Civil War, when Union General Hooker moved everything seedy in the capital to a choice few spots. The name also at least partially arose from how often Hooker’s men visited the district (hint: a lot). The Evening Star had this to say of Hooker’s Division in 1863:

There are at present, more houses of this character [ill-repute], by ten times, in the city than have ever existed here before, and loose characters can now be counted by the thousands.

Filed Under:DC

Impressions of Washington: William Howard Russell, 1861

William Howard Russell in 1854. (Photo source: Wikipedia)William Howard Russell (1820 – 1907) was a reporter for The Times of the UK; he is considered the first war correspondent. In 1861, this intrepid reporter was sent to our very own capital to cover the Civil War. He recorded his arrival in his diary, which was later published and remains available to see exactly what this Irishman thought of Washington. Spoiler alert, he quite liked it!

March 25, 1861

I looked out and saw a vast mass of white marble towering above us on the left, stretching out in colonnaded porticoes, and long flanks of windowed masonry, and surmounted by an unfinished cupola, from which scaffold and cranes raised their black arms. This was the Capitol. To the right was a cleared space of mud, sand, and fields, studded with wooden sheds and huts, beyond which, again, could be seen rudimentary streets of small red brick houses, and some church-spires above them.

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