|The Treasury, c. 1860, showing the old Riggs Hotel to the left of the photo (courtesy of Library of Congress)|
|Cooking and eating arrangements for Union soldiers in the courtyard of the Treasury, Harper's Weekly, May 25, 1861 (courtesy of sonofthesouth.net)|
On April 26, the First Rhode Island Regiment under Col. Ambrose E. Burnside arrived in Washington and set up temporary quarters in the Patent Office. (The building today houses the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian American Art Museum.) Construction on the Patent Office began in 1836 and was close to completion by the time of the Civil War. Burnside's men placed bunks between the glass cabinets containing patent models. According to one account, the soldiers broke around 400 panes of glass during their stay at the Patent Office, and some men even stole the models. The men of the 1st Rhode Island were also accompanied by four women -- a camp laundress, as well as three relatives.
|Patent Office before the war, c. 1846 , showing F St., N.W. facade (courtesy of Library of Congress)|
The Rhode Island regiment was under arms in the street facing the building, and on the roof of the portico was the Washington City Rifle Corps. At noon President Lincoln, accompanied by Secretary Seward and other members of his Cabinet, appeared on the portico, and the President hoisted the flag to the top of the staff, where the breeze at once displayed its fair proportions amid the hearty cheers of the soldiers and of the multitude. Three cheers were then given for the President, and three more for the Secretary of State, both of whom gracefully but silently acknowledged the compliments. The Rhode Island regiment then gave nine cheers for the stars and stripes, and were drilled in the manual by Colonel Burnside, displaying a steadiness and unity of movement worthy of veterans. Mr. Lincoln then advancing to the front, the regiment presented arms, a salute which he acknowledged by raising his hat. He had intended to address the regiment, but the strong wind would have prevented their hearing him, had he spoken.The next day, the First Rhode Island was sworn into service by Major McDowell on the east side of the Capitol. At the end of the ceremony, the band struck up The Star Spangled Banner.
|Sleeping bunks of the 1st Rhode Island, Harper's Weekly, June 1, 1861 (courtesy of sonofthesouth.net)|
|Model room at the Patent Office (1861-65), site of 1st Rhode Island quarters during the war, as seen in the illustration from Harper's Weeky above (courtesy of Library of Congress)|
|Photo of Camp Sprague, Col. Burnside just to the left of the tree in center (courtesy of Smithsonian Institution)|
Note on Sources
The following sources were useful in compiling this two-part series:
Kenneth W. Dobyns, History of the United States Patent Office (1994).
"From the Fire Zouaves; How the Boys Put Out the Fire at Willard's," New York Times, May 11, 1861.
Steve Hawks, Civil War in the East: A Reference Guide to America's Civil War (online resource with regimental chronologies).
Richard M. Lee, Mr. Lincoln's City: An Illustrated Guide to the Civil War Sites of Washington (1981).
Margaret Leech, Reveille in Washington (1941).
Mark Leepson, "Capital Defense--Washington, D.C. in the Civil War", America's Civil War, Aug. 26, 2009.
Lehrman Institute/Lincoln Institute, Mr. Lincoln's White House (on-line resource).
Official Records, Series 1, Vol. 2, Part 1, pp. 8-9.
Benjamin Perley Poore, The Life and Public Services of Ambrose E. Burnside (1882).
Alfred S. Roe, The Fifth Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry In Its Three Tours of Duty: 1861, 1862-'63, 1864 (1911).