Learning Lincoln On-line


The Lincolns in Washington D.C. & Washington D.C. During the Civil War & General Chronology


Washington D.C.     Timeline     1754-1867


Visit the Smithsonian Civil War Timeline


Washington DC is about 1/6 the size of Hong Kong.

1754  Aug 2, Pierre Charles L'Enfant, French engineer who designed the layout of Washington, D.C., was born.
1787-1788  The Thomas Mallon historical novel "Two Moons," published in 2000, was set in Washington DC at this time.
1788  Dec 23, Maryland voted to cede a 100-square-mile area for the seat of the national government; about two-thirds of the area became the District of Columbia.
1789  Jan 23, Georgetown University was established by Jesuits in present-day Washington, D.C., as the 1st US Catholic college.
1790  Jul 16, The District of Columbia was established as the seat of the United States government.
1790  Jul 26, US Congress passed Alexander Hamilton’s Assumption plan making it responsible for state debts. Virginia had withdrawn its opposition in return for having the nation’s new capital located on its borders.
1791  Mar 29, Pres. George Washington and French architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant examined the a site along the Potomac River that would become the US capital. Maryland and Virginia had ceded land to the federal government to form the District of Columbia. Chosen as the permanent site for the capital of the United States by Congress in 1790, President Washington was given the power by Congress to select the exact site—an area ten-miles square, made up of land given by Virginia and Maryland. Washington became the official federal capital in 1800. In 2008 Fergus Bordewich authored “Washington: The Making of the American Capital.”
1791  Apr 15, Surveyor General Andrew Ellicott consecrated the southern tip of the triangular District of Columbia at Jones Point.
1792  Apr 14, Pres. George Washington appointed David Rittenhouse, the foremost scientist of America, the first director of the US Mint at a salary of $2000 per annum. Rittenhouse was then in feeble health and lived at the northwest corner of Seventh and Arch Streets, then one of the high places of Old Philadelphia, where he had an observatory and where he later died and was first buried.
1792  Jul 31, The foundation-stone was laid for the US Mint by David Rittenhouse, Esq. The property was paid for and deeded to the United States of America for a consideration of $4266.67 on July 18, 1792. The money for the Mint was the first money appropriated by Congress for a building to be used for a public purpose.

1792  Oct 13, The cornerstone of the executive mansion, later known as the White House, was laid during a ceremony in the District of Columbia.
1793  Sep 18, President George Washington laid the foundation stone for the U.S. Capitol on Jenkins Hill.
1800  Jun 4, The White House was completed and President & Mrs. John Adams moved in. [see Nov 1]
1800  Nov 1, John and Abigail Adams moved into "the President’s House" in Washington DC. It became known as the White House during the Roosevelt administration.

1800  Nov 17, The Sixth Congress (2nd session) convened for the first time in Washington, DC, in the partially completed Capitol building. Previously, the federal capital had briefly been in  other cities, including New York, Philadelphia, and Annapolis, Maryland. George Washington- a surveyor by profession- had been assigned to find a site for a capital city somewhere along the upper Potomac River, which flows between Maryland and Virginia. Apparently expecting to become president, Washington sited the capital at the southernmost possible point, the closest commute from Mount Vernon, despite the fact that this placed the city in a swamp called Foggy Bottom.

1800  Dec 12, Washington DC was established as the capital of US.

1801  Feb 27, The District of Columbia was placed under the jurisdiction of Congress.

1801  Mar 4, Thomas Jefferson was the first President to be inaugurated in Washington, D.C.

1802  May 3,    Washington, D.C., was incorporated as a city, with the mayor appointed by the president and the council elected by property owners.

1814  Aug 24, 5,000 British troops under the command of General Robert Ross marched into Washington, D.C., after defeating an American force at Bladensburg, Maryland. It was in retaliation for the American burning of the parliament building in York (Toronto), the capital of Upper Canada. Meeting no resistance from the disorganized American forces, the British burned the White House, the Capitol and almost every public building in the city before a downpour extinguished the fires. President James Madison and his wife fled from the advancing enemy, but not before Dolly Madison saved the famous Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington. This wood engraving of Washington in flames was printed in London weeks after the event to celebrate the British victory.

1814  Aug 25, British forces destroyed the Library of Congress, containing some 3,000 books.

1815  Jan 30, The burned Library of Congress was reestablished with

1815  Feb, Congress appropriated funds for the restoration of the White House and hired James Hoban, the original designer and builder, to do the work.
1817  Oct, Pres. and Mrs. James Monroe moved back into the restored White House.

1818  Jan 1, An official reopening of the White House took place after being repaired from burning by British during War of 1812.
1829  Mar 4, An unruly crowd mobbed the White House during the inaugural reception for President Jackson, the 7th US President. The event was later depicted by artist Louis S. Glanzman in his painting “Andrew Jackson’s Inauguration” (1970).
1833  The Washington Monument Association was formed to build a monument to honor George Washington.
1835  Jan 31, Richard Lawrence misfired at President Andrew Jackson (aka 'Old Hickory') at the White House. Lawrence fired 2 pistols at Pres. Andrew Jackson during funeral services for Rep. Warren Davis. Jackson wasn’t hit and Lawrence, who thought he was the king of England and that Jackson owed him money, was found to be insane.

1839  Feb 20, Congress prohibited dueling in the District of Columbia.

1839  Construction began on the Gen’l. Post Office Building. It was completed in 1847 under architect Robert Mills and later became known as the Tariff Building. In 1998 it was leased by the Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group for conversion into a 172-room luxury hotel.
1842  The 14-room Anderson Cottage was built. It was used as a home by Pres. Lincoln for 3 summers from 1862-1864.
1844  May 1, Samuel Morse (1791-1872) sent the 1st telegraphic message as a demonstration between Washington, DC, and Baltimore [see Jan 6, 1838]. The line officially opened on May 24, 1844.
1844  May 24, Samuel F.B. Morse, before a crowd of dignitaries in the chambers of the Supreme Court, tapped out the message, "What hath God wrought?" to his partner in Baltimore, Alfred Vail. Congress had appropriated $30,000 for the experimental line built by Ezra Cornell between Washington and Baltimore. American portrait artist Samuel F.B. Morse developed the technology for electrical telegraphy in the 1830s, the first instantaneous form of communication. Using a key to hold open an electrical circuit for longer or shorter periods, an operator would tap out a message in a code composed of dots and dashes. Public demonstrations of the equipment were made in February 1838, but it was necessary for Morse to secure financial backing to build the first telegraph line to carry the signal over distance. In 1843, Congress appropriated the funds for a 37-mile line between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. After underground telegraph wires proved unsuccessful, Morse switched to pole wires.
1846  Aug 10, President James Polk signed a measure establishing the Smithsonian Institution. The US Congress chartered the Smithsonian Institution, named after English scientist James Smithson (1765-1836), whose bequest of $500,000 made it possible. The Smithsonian Institute was born and Joseph Henry became its first secretary.

1847 May 1, The cornerstone of the Smithsonian Institute was laid in Washington, DC. The building was designed by James Renwick Jr.
1848 Jul 4, The Cornerstone of the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. was laid by President Polk. Each state of the union was invited to donate a memorial stone. The white marble obelisk, which is 555 feet tall and 55 fee square at the base, was not completed until 1884. The public was admitted to the monument on October 9, 1888. Architect Robert Mills (1781-1855) designed the monument.
1849 Dec 29, Gas light was installed in the White House.
1850  Apr, During the debate on the Compromise of 1850, Senator Henry Foote, a unionist and supporter of the compromise, drew a pistol on Senator Thomas Hart Benton, an opponent of the deal. Other senators intervened before Foote could fire.
1850  Sep 20, The slave trade in Washington, D.C., was abolished as a provision of Henry Clay's Compromise of 1850. Because each state had its own slavery code when the District of Columbia was founded in 1800, Washington had adopted Maryland's laws. Although the 1850 legislation made the slave trade illegal, slavery itself was still legal. Nevertheless, Washington became a haven for free blacks. By 1860, free blacks outnumbered slaves almost four-to-one. President Abraham Lincoln put an end to Washington's slavery altogether in 1862, freeing about 2,989 African Americans who were then slaves according to the slavery code.
1850 The Willard family acquired a 4-story hotel in Washington DC and turned it into the 100-room Willard Hotel at 1401 Pennsylvania Ave. In 1901 it was replaced by an opulent 389-room Beaux-Arts building. In 1968 it was closed and scheduled for demolition. In 1986 it re-opened following a $73 million restoration.
1851  Dec 24, Fire devastated the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., destroying about 35,000 volumes.
1853 Jan 8, 1st US bronze equestrian statue of Andrew Jackson was unveiled in Wash. DC. [see Mar 8]
1853  Mar 8, The first bronze statue of Andrew Jackson was unveiled in Washington, D.C. [see Jan 8]
1854  Mar, A stone, donated by Pope Pius IX, was stolen from the Washington Monument. Members of the Know-Nothing Party were suspected.

1854  Nov 6, The king of American march music, John Philip Sousa, was born in Washington, D.C.
1855  Feb 22, The Know-Nothing Party seized control of the Washington Monument Association and kept control for 3 years.
1856  Representative Preston Brooks, a pro-slavery Democrat from South Carolina, used a cane to attack Senator Charles Sumner, a Republican abolitionist from Mass. Sumner was beaten unconscious and was unable to resume duties for 3 years. Brooks resigned from his seat but was re-elected.
1858  The original board of the Washington Monument regained control after the Know-Nothing Party disbanded due to a split between pro- and anti-slavery factions.
1859  Feb 19, Daniel E. Sickles, NY congressman, was acquitted of murder on grounds of temporary insanity. This was the 1st time this defense was successfully used. Sickles had shot and killed Philip Barton Key, son of Francis Scott Key, author of "Star Spangled Banner." He shot Lee, the DC district attorney, in Lafayette Square for having an affair with his wife. Sickles pleaded temporary insanity and the sanctity of a man’s home and beat the murder rap.
1959  Northern and Southern leaders socialized together for the last time at the Napier Ball in the Willard Hotel before the start of the US Civil War.
1860  Apr 25, The first Japanese ambassador to the US, Niimi Buzennokami, and his 74-man staff arrived in Washington to present their credentials to Pres. James Buchanan.
1861  Feb 4, Winfield Scott, US general-in-chief, decided to relieve Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee as commander of federal forces in Texas and bring him to Washington DC where Lee could take command of forces guarding DC.
1861  Mar 4, The US Government Printing Office, created by Congressional Joint Resolution 25 of June 23, 1860, began operations.
1861  Apr 18, The Kansas Frontier Guards drilled and set up camp in the East Room of the White House with the mission to protect President Lincoln from a feared Rebel attack on Washington. The collection of Kansans in Washington, many office seekers and politicians, were organized and led by the state's first senator, James Henry Lane, a friend of the president and former leader of the Free State movement in Kansas. With Virginia's secession from the Union on April 17, rumors spread of an impending rebel strike on Washington. Lane organized the force of 50 men and offered their service to the War Department, arriving in the White House in the evening of April 18. As additional Union troops entered the city, the Frontier Guard was dismissed from the White House on April 19. The unofficial unit was assigned various positions in the city during the following week and, in a ceremony attended by the president, was disbanded on April 25.
1861  Aug 23, Union intelligence chief Allan Pinkerton placed Rose O’Neal Greenhow (1813/1814-1864) under house arrest for working as a southern spy working in Washington DC. She was sent to the Old Capitol Prison and then was banished to Richmond, Va., in May, 1963. She had supplied Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard with a warning that Union General Irvin McDowell was planning an attack on Manassas in July 1861. Greenhow, a 44-year-old widow with four daughters, was recruited in 1861 to be the operating head of the Confederacy’s first spy ring. A Washington socialite with many friends in high government circles, Rose was perfectly placed to gather intelligence about Federal troop strengths and movements. She drowned in a shipwreck on September 30, 1864.
1861 Oct 23, President Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus in Washington, D.C. for all military-related cases.

1861-1865 The National Museum of Health and Medicine (NHMH) was founded in Washington DC to advance medical care during the Civil War.

1862  Mar 6, Pres. Lincoln proposed to Congress a revised plan of compensated emancipation for slave-owners in the District of Columbia and the border states.
1862  Apr 3, A bill was passed to abolish slavery in Washington, D.C. [see Apr 16]
1862  Apr 13, In the Washington area volunteers led by Sarah J. Evans paid homage to the graves of Civil War soldiers. Villagers in Waterloo, NY, held their 1st Memorial Day service on May 5, 1866. In 1966 Pres. Johnson gave Waterloo, NY, the distinction of holding the 1st Memorial Day.

1862  Apr 16, President Lincoln signed a bill, passed on April 3, ending slavery in the District of Columbia.
1862  Jul 29, Confederate spy Belle Boyd (1844-1900) was arrested and confined at Old Capital Prison in Washington, DC.
1862  Aug 29, Confederate spy Belle Boyd was released from Old Capital Prison in Washington, DC.
1862  Nov 17, Union General Burnside marched north out of Washington, D.C. to begin the Fredericksburg Campaign.
1862  The Washington DC bordello of Mary Ann Hall at 349 Maryland Ave. was rated at the top of a list of 450 brothels catalogued by the office of the federal provost marshal. The city had an estimated 5,000 prostitutes, 18 of whom resided at the 3-story brick Hall house.
1863  Jul 2, Mrs. Lincoln was thrown from her carriage and spent weeks recovering at the Anderson Cottage. The seat assembly may have been sabotaged.
1863  Dec 1, Belle Boyd, a Confederate spy, was released from prison in Washington.
1864 Jul 2, Statuary Hall in US Capitol was established.
1864  Jul 11, Confederate General Jubal Early's army arrived in Silver Spring, Maryland, on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., and began to probe the Union line. Confederate forces led by Gen. Jubal Early began an invasion of Washington, D.C., turning back the next day.
1864  Jul 12, President Abraham Lincoln became the first standing president to witness a battle as Union forces repelled Jubal Early's army on the outskirts of Washington, D.C.

1864  Jul 13, Gen Jubal Early retreated from the outskirts of Washington back to Shenandoah Valley.
1865  Mar 4, President Lincoln was inaugurated for his 2nd term as President. It was held at the Patent Office, the site of a military hospital. Four companies of African-American troops and lodges of African-American Masons and African-American Odd-Fellows joined the procession to the Capitol.
1865  Mar 6, President Lincoln's 2nd Inaugural Ball was held.
1865  Apr 14, On the evening of Good Friday, just after 10 p.m.,  Pres. Lincoln was shot and mortally wounded by John Wilkes Booth while attending the comedy "Our American Cousin" at Ford's Theater in Washington DC. Southern sympathizer John Wilkes Booth burst into the presidential box and shot Lincoln behind the ear. Booth shouted out “sic semper tyrannis” (thus always to tyrants), Virginia’s state motto, after shooting Pres. Lincoln. He leaped to the stage, breaking his left leg on impact, and escaped through a side door. Lincoln was carried to a nearby house where he remained unconscious until his death at 7:22 the following morning. Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, who had kept vigil at Lincoln's bedside, said, "Now he belongs to the ages." As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.”
1865  Apr 14, A 2nd assassin stabbed the Sec. of State 5 times. George Atzerodt, a 3rd assassin for the vice president, got cold feet.
1865  Apr 15, President Lincoln died, several hours after he was shot at Ford’s Theater in Washington by John Wilkes Booth. Andrew Johnson, Vice-President under Lincoln, became the 17th President (1865-1869) of the US upon the assassination. The first Mourning Stamp was issued after his assassination, a 15-cent black commemorative. In 1999 Allen C. Guelzo authored "Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President," an intellectual biography. In 2002 William Lee Miller authored "Lincoln’s Virtues: An Ethical Biography." In 2004 Ronald C. White Jr. authored “The Eloquent President.” In 2005 Doris Kearns Goodwin authored “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln.”

1865  Apr 21, Abraham Lincoln's funeral train left Washington.
1865  May 23, The American flag was flown at full staff over White House for the 1st time since Lincoln was shot. Union Army's Grand Review began in Washington DC.

1865        Jun 30, Eight alleged conspirators in assassination of Lincoln were found guilty after kangaroo court-martial and brutal treatment by military officers.

1865        Jul 7, The trap doors of the scaffold in the yard of Washington’s Old Penitentiary were sprung, and Mary Surratt, Lewis Paine, David Herold and George Atzerodt dropped to their deaths. The four had been convicted of "treasonable conspiracy" in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, and had learned that they were to be hanged only a day before their execution. Shortly after 1 p.m. the prisoners were led onto the scaffold and prepared for execution. The props supporting the platform were knocked away at about 2 p.m. Assassin John Wilkes Booth had been killed on April 26, 12 days after Lincoln’s assassination. Other convicted conspirators—Edman Spangler, Dr. Samuel Mudd, Samuel Arnold and Michael O’Laughlin—were imprisoned.

1867        Jan 8, Legislation gave suffrage to DC blacks, despite Pres. Johnson's veto.

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