Washington During the Civil War
The city recovered from the War of 1812 and thrived again, but it soon found itself in the middle of another war — the Civil War. Although no battles were fought in Washington D.C., the city became a virtual military camp, with armed troops housed everywhere from the White House to the alleys of the Foggy Bottom neighborhood, which was referred to as “camptown.” D.C. was the main storage area for military supplies for the Union Army, as well as a medical center. Many of the city's buildings, such as the U.S. Patent Building (now the Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture), were transformed into makeshift hospitals.
As a result, the population of the city swelled from 60,000 to 120,000 almost overnight. Many of the new residents were freed slaves who came to the city for protection; many of them made their home on the grounds of the Arlington House, where they formed their own town, known as the Freedman's Village.The Assassination of President Lincoln
Five days after the city celebrated the end of the Civil War, President Lincoln was assassinated while at a performance at Ford's Theatre. As a result the country went into a state of mourning. Washington D.C. was in chaos, from both the overburdening of its resources with so many new residents and the political upheaval. Many of the city's slums formed during this time, and those neighborhoods remained in poor condition until well into the twentieth century.
Nevertheless, the government pulled through, and it made rebuilding the city one of the first orders of business. Washington D.C. became a mecca for freed slaves and a true seat of government. Federal funding literally rebuilt the city in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, giving us the marvelous monuments, museums, and parks we have today.
The tradition of rallies and protests that make our capital the political entity it is today started after the Civil War and increased through the 1960s, when anti-Vietnam War protests and civil rights demonstrations were held almost daily on the Mall. It was there that Martin Luther King Jr. made his “I Have a Dream” speech, written at the nearby Willard Hotel.