Washington, DC Travel Videos, Washington, DC History Videos
The New York Times, October 4, 1863, p. 2:|
LETTER FROM WASHINGTON.Our National City, after all, has Some Big Points of Its Own--
Its Suggestiveness Today--
The Figure of Liberty Over the Capitol--
Scenes, both Fixed and Panoramic--
A Thought on Our Future Capital.
Washington, Thursday, Oct. 1 1863.
It is doubtful whether justice has been done to Washington, D.C.; or rather, I should say, it is certain there are layers of originality, attraction, and even local grandeur and beauty here, quite unwritten, and even to the inhabitants unsuspected and unknown. Some are in the soot, soil, air and the magnificent amplitude of the laying out of the City. I continually enjoy these streets, planned on such a generous scale, stretching far, without stop or turn, giving the eye vistas. I feel freer, larger in them. Not the squeezed limits of Boston, New-York, or even Philadelphia; but royal plenty and nature's own bounty--American, prarie-like...
We all know the chorus: Washington, dusty, muddy, tiresome Washington is the most awful place, political and other; it is the rendezvous of the national universal axe-grinding, caucusing, and of our never-ending ballot-chosen shysters, and perennial smouchers, and windy bawlers from every quarter far and near. We learn, also, that there is no society, no art, in Washington; nothing of the elaborated high-lite attractions of the charming capitals (for rich and morbid idlers) over sea...
THE DOME AND THE GENIUS.
We are soon to see... the putting of the Genius of America away up there on the top of the dome of the Capitol. A few days ago, poking about there, eastern side, I found the Genius, all dismembered, scattered on the ground, by the basement front--I suppose preparatory to being hoisted. This, however, cannot be done forthwith, as I know that an immense pedastal surmounting the dome has yet to be finished--about eighty feet high--on which the Genius is to stand (with her back to the city).
But I must say something about the dome. All the great effects of the Capitol reside in it... There is no place in the city, or for miles and miles off, or down or up the river, but what you see this tiara-like dome rising quietly out of the foliage...
A vast eggshell built of iron and glass, this dome--a beauteous bubble, caught and put in permanent form... the entire Capitol is a sufficient success, if we accept what is called architecture the orthodox styles (a little mixed here,) and indulge them for our purposes until further notice.
The dome I praise, with the aforesaid Genius, (when she gets up, which she probably will by the time next Congress meets,) will then aspire about three hundred feet above the surface...
The dome is tiara or triple. The lower division is surrounded with a ring of columns, pretty close together. There is much ornament everywhere, but it is kept down by the uniform white; then lots of slender oval-topt windows...
Of our Genius of America, a sort of compound of handsome Choctaw squaw with the well-known Liberty of Rome... it is to be further described as an extensive female, cast in bronze, with much drapery, especially ruffles, and a face of goodnatured indolent expression, surmounted by a high cap with more ruffles. The Genius has for a year or two past been standing in the mud, west of the Capitol; I saw her there all Winter, looking very harmless and innocent, although holding a large sword. For pictorial representation of the genius, see any five-dollar United States greenback; for there she is at the left hand. But the artist has made her twenty times brighter in expression, &c., than the bronze Genius is.
...On the Capitol generally, much work remains to be done. I nearly forgot to say that I have grown so used to the sight, over the Capitol, of a certain huge derrick which has long surmounted the dome, swinging its huge one-arm now south, now north, &c., that I believe I shall have a sneaking sorrow when they remove it and substitute the Genius...
ARMY WAGONS AND AMBULANCES.
Washington may be described as the city of army wagons also. These are on the go at all times, in all streets, and everywhere around here for many a mile. You see long trains of fifty, a hundred, and even two hundred... The main thing is the transportation of food, forage, &c. Then ambulances for the wounded and sick, nearly as numerous. Then other varieties; there will be a procession of wagons, bright-painted and white-topped, marked "Signal Train," each with a specific number, and over all a Captain or Director on horseback overseeing...
Then some smaller train of military wagons will be labeled "Officer's supplies." The magic initials U.S.A. are, of course, common. The regimental wagons have their regiment's number also lettered on them. There are generally four horses or mules, and the wagons are mostly covered with strong canvas. The drivers and teamsters sleep in them. They live a wild, hard life... Many of the teamsters are invalid soldiers...
OUR COUNTRY'S PERMANENT CAPITAL.
...It seems strange that one never meets here, in the people's talk or deeds, any consciousness of Washington's one day necessarily ceasing to be the Capital of the Union. None sees that the locale of America's Government must be permanently founded far West before many years... How can the prarie America, the boundless and teemning West, the region of the Mississippi, the California, Idaho and Colorado regions (two thirds of our territory lies west of the Mississippi River) be content to have its Government lopsided over on the Atlantic, far, far from itself--the frank, the real genuine America? How long before the change, the abandonment, will be proposed, nay, demanded?...
A SUNSET VIEW OF THE CITY.
In my walks I never cease finding new effects and pictures, and I believe it would continue so if I went rambling around here for fifty years. The city being on a great V, and the shores backed with small and large hills up and down without end, and Georgetown with elevated grounds that overtop all from the upper end. You can go on looking forever, and never hit the same combination in two places.
I often watch the city and environs from the roof of an elevated building near the Treasury. Perhaps it is sunset. Sweep the eye around now on the scene. The dazzle of red and gold from over Virginia heights there, west, is thrown across full upon us. Turning, we see the dome of the Capitol lifting itself so calmly, southeast, there, with windows yellow-red. Not far below the sombre-brown Smithsonian stands in the mist of shadows. Due east of us the severe and noble architecture of the Patent Office takes the last rich flood of the sun. The mist grows murky over in distance on the Maryland side. Northward the white barracks of the hospitals, and on a hill the Soldier's Home; southward the queenly Potomac, and the trailing smoke of a single steamer moving up this side the Long Bridge. Further down, the dim masts of Alexandria. Quite near again, the half-monument of the first President. Off far again, just visible, southeast, the low turrets of the United States Insane Asylum, on the Maryland side. But the day is fading fast.
In the street below me a long string of army wagons defiling along Fifteenth-street, and around into Pennsylvania-avenue. White canvas coverings arch them over, and each wagon has its six-mule team. The teamsters are some of them walking along the sides of the mules, with gads in their hands. Then I notice in the half light squads of the Provost Guard. Then a galloping cavalry company, in their yellow-braided jackets.
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