its four stories could many a tale unfold worthy special record of life at our National Capital in those comparatively primitive days.
At the breaking out of our civil war they were not occupied, having, for lack of care, fallen into that neglected, down at the heel, slipshod condition of many buildings in Washington then
, and there existed in their appearance little evidence either of their past greatness or future notoriety.
Both buildings were of a size to indicate that they were built either for very large families, with many servants (which is probable, inasmuch as they were erected in the days when slavery made servants plentiful), or for boarding-houses, and contained in all forty or fifty rooms each-many of them quite large.
Their tenantless condition, added to their roominess and location, doubtless, recommended them to a government suddenly and unexpectedly called upon to provide a place of confinement for many prisoners, and little outlay was needed to fit them for the purpose, as they always depended more upon the vigilance and care of the guards for the safe keeping of prisoners than upon bolts and bars.
To be sure, there were iron bars at some of the windows; but as they were only inserted in the soft wood of the window frames it will be seen that they were only an apparent, and not real addition to security.
Locks were attached to each door, and, with some addition to the cooking apparatus, the hotel was ready for its guests.
A guard of about sixty men, under the command of a captain or lieutenant, was daily detailed from a neighboring infantry regiment, to each prison, doing regular guard duty, two hours on and four off, day and night.
The character of the prisoners was. a matter of wide variation, differing in this particular from any other place of confinement.
Especially is this true of the Old Capitol, where were held the prisoners of State particularly, such as parties charged with active disloyalty at the North
, bounty frauds, counterfeiters of United States
notes and other issues, contractors who had swindled the government, and, I doubt not, men who were arrested by detectives upon trumped up charges simply to blackmail them, and who were wholly innocent.
In fact, it would be quite unfair to assume that because one had been a prisoner here, that he was, therefore, a criminal, for I met many gentlemen there, as prisoners, too
, whose claims to regard as gentlemen and men of refinement and social standing is to-day
, there were a few, and but a few, who gravitated naturally to a prison.
In saying this I refer strictly to the civil prisoners, as among the prisoners of war there was the usual variety of humanity-generally of the better class — as very few privates of the Southern
army found their way here, except they