Washington, D.C., stands out among American cities because it was conceived as the national capital and needed to be separated from its state counterparts. It was founded on July 16, 1790. Congress authorized the first map of Washington in July 1790. In preparation for the map, Peter Charles L’Enfant requested maps and data concerning London, Madrid, Paris, Amsterdam, Naples, Venice, and Florence from Jefferson on April 4, 1791. L’Enfant drew a map of Washington as it is today, showing streets, parks, and the site of the President’s House and the Capitol.
When Congress moved from Philadelphia to Washington in December 1800, the Capitol building, the presidential palace (now the White House), and several other government buildings were almost complete. However, the first few years for the new residents in Washington were quite unpleasant because there were few finished dwellings and few amenities. Tremendous changes occurred between 1830 and 1865, beginning with the arrival of Andrew Jackson (served 1829–37). He brought with him a retinue of new civil servants, beneficiaries of the “spoils system,” who democratized social change in the workplace and society. Several challenges faced the community at the time, including an unstable economy, silt in the Potomac River, delays in the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal construction, and epidemics.
Washington, D.C., was on the front lines during the American Civil War because of its geolocation. Following the Civil War, the capital slowly transformed into a showplace. Following Lincoln’s assassination at Ford’s Theatre just hours after the war ended, Washington was plunged into unprecedented despair and desperation. Following the Civil War, the capital slowly became a showplace.
Some stunning historical photos show Washington, D.C., during and after the Civil War.
From left to right are paymaster Lieutenant Henry T. Sisson, Sergeant Major John S. Engs, Major Joseph P. Balch, Colonel John A. Gardner, Burnside, Captain Isaac P. Rodman, chaplain Captain Augustus Woodbury, quartermaster Sergeant Elias M. Jencks, and commissary Captain William Lloyd Owers.