A Few History-related Links

As well as being very interested in the Affair of the Diamond Necklace, I’m also interested in American history. Since I’m currently a resident of Northern Virginia, I’m particularly interested in the history of the Washington, DC area. And let me tell you, there’s a lot of history here. It’s easy to forget just how much when you look at the multitude of squat, concrete, mid-century buildings that abound here. But here are a few reminders of DC’s history:

1. Lost Watercourses of D.C.

This short blog entry shows the way that the original waterways running through the District of Columbia were submerged by development. Most dramatically, about half of the current National Mall, from the Washington Monument west to the Potomac River (including the current site of the Lincoln Memorial) were underwater until the late 19th century. The land was reclaimed from the swampy Tiber Creek where it flowed into the Potomac. The weather is still swampy, the land less so. Tiber Creek is now entirely underground. This isn’t unusual for large cities; several rivers in London, for instance, have disappeared under centuries’ worth of building.

Here is a link directly to the PDF of the city’s vanished waterways superimposed on a modern map.

2. Lincoln’s Funeral Train Was . . . Deep Maroon.

Thrilling, I know. But there is some interesting history here. I had assumed that the funeral train would be black, though when I think about it a bit, that’s a bad assumption. After all, the train wasn’t made specifically to transport a dead president. It was meant to transport a living president.Of course, I’d also assumed that no one cared a heck of a lot about exactly what color the train was painted. After all, there were,apparently, eyewitness records indicating that the train was dark red or brown. Those are pretty close, so I’m not sure anything more specific was really needed. But, someone felt it was very important to find out the exact shade¬†of dark red/brown/maroon. After decades of searching. . . success! Although I’m a bit dubious as to the necessity of this line of inquiry, the result is interesting, and the article is, too. The train was deep maroon, but more importantly we have a slightly better image of one of the most important events of the 19th century: Lincoln’s assassination and his funeral procession by train. Millions of people grieved for the President as he passed along the route. The assassination played a huge role in keeping the nation from slipping back into war. After all, the war had just ended days before, and there were plenty of Southerners not quite ready to give in. Heck, it’s been 150 years, and there are still a few Southerners who haven’t given in . . . . But the death of the president somehow seemed to put a lot of animosities to rest, and to signal the true, definitive end of a war that had literally ripped the nation apart.

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