01 May 2017


Lost Capitol Hill: A Model Monitor

I have previously written about James Buchanan’s inaugural parade and the model ship built by the men at the Washington Navy Yard for that occasion. This was, it turns out, not the only time they were engaged in a project of this nature.

While Lincoln’s first inauguration was a fairly anxiety-riddled affair, with war in the offing, his second inauguration promised to be a much more festive affair. Sadly, the weather was not cooperating. The morning of March 4, 1865, had people worried. The Washington Evening Star of that day wrote, presumably not entirely in jest:

The Engineer Corps, it is reported, made a survey and took soundings of the avenue, for the purpose of determining the practicability of laying pontoons from the Capitol to the White House, but it was found that the bottom was too soft to hold the anchors of the boats, and the project was abandoned. The police were careful to confine all to the sidewalks who could not swim. At some of the shallow crossings, a steady stream of people were passing throughout the day, some of whom dashed out into the avenue in the most reckless manner, but fortunately no one is believed to have been lost.

The weather did clear in time for the parade, though presumably the street was still far from smooth. The parade was organized along Pennsylvania Avenue north and west of the White House and set out for the Capitol. The only person missing was Lincoln himself, who was already at the Capitol, signing some bills. In his stead, Mrs. Lincoln rode in the presidential coach.

The procession consisted of a number of police, soldiers and firemen. Behind them came a “Temple of Liberty car” that was to have “a number of young ladies representing the different States of the Union, but owing to the threatening state of the weather in the morning their places were supplied by boys.”

The 45th US Colored Troops in the inaugural parade in this detail of one of the few pictures from this event to have survived. (LOC)

Behind this came the Navy Yard’s work:

East Washington Lincoln and Johnson Club, headed by William Dixon, President, and marshaled by J.C. Dulin. With this club there was a fine working model of the Monitor, drawn by four white horses. At intervals two guns were fired from the turret by George D. Dice. The Monitor had on the bow, “The Union: Our Home;” and the turret was gaily decorated with flags, one for each State. Aft the turret were two streamers, while on the turret was a captain’s pennant; forward, a Union jack, and aft, the American ensign. This was gotten up in a handsome manner, under the direction of Mr. Wm. Beron. Capt. Bowman’s battery of howitzers, maned by men from the yard, accompanied the club, and before the procession started fired a salute.

The men mentioned were all East Washington worthies, Dixon was the tax collector for the District, while James C. Dulin [pic] was a clerk in the Navy Department, and would later be Grand Master of the Naval Lodge. William Beron was a local painter who later become a long-time member of the Association of the Oldest Inhabitants of the District of Columbia.

Sadly, no pictures seems to have survived of this float.

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