Image Gallery: Washington, DC, during the Civil War

The Smithsonian Institution Building provided a bird's eye view of the Civil War from 1861 to 1865. The Castle's towers provided a clear view across to battles in Virginia and Maryland. Union soldiers drilled on the grounds surrounding the Institution. And the influx of soldiers and citizens to the nation's capital increased the number of visitors to the Smithsonian's exhibits and programs. These images show how remote the Castle was from downtown Washington and how close it was to nearby Confederate Virginia. 

Smithsonian Institution Building and The Mall, 1855, by Unknown, c. 1855, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 2004-10647 or 18603. View of the Smithsonian Institution Building or Castle from downtown Washington, c. 1855
The Smithsonian Institution Building (SIB) seen from downtown Washington, D.C., from across The Mall, around 1855. In the foreground are construction materials along 15th Street, NW for the new wing added in 1855 to the Treasury Building. The Treasury building is the oldest departmental building in Washington, D.C.having been completed in 1842 and expanded three times by 1869. Residential and commercial buildings in the foreground are between 15th and 14th Streets, NW. This area was also known in the 1860s as the red light district called Murder Bay. The canal bordering the Mall before being converted to form Constitution Avenue is the sliver at right center. The white residence at the far left is at the corner of 15th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, by Unknown, c. 1855, photographic print, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 95, Box 67, Folder: 2 and Record Unit 95, Box 30, Folder: 7, 2004-10647 or 18603.
SI Building from the Northeast with Flowers Along Mall, by Russell, Andrew J, c. 1858, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 9748-A or MAH-9748A. Smithsonian Institution Building or Castle from the northeast. c. 1858
North facade of the Smithsonian Institution Building (SIB), also known as the "Castle," from the northeast, before the fire of 1865, showing people on a path in front of the Castle and a flower-covered expanse along the Mall in front of the building, by Unknown, c. 1858, photographic print, courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 285, Box 25, Folder: 1, 9748-A or MAH-9748A.
Pres. Lincoln's Inauguration, by Peale, Titian Ramsay, 1861, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 75078 or MAH-75078. President Lincoln's Inauguration,1861
Inauguration of President Lincoln from our front door, G Street' photo was taken by T. R. Peale.  Soldiers are lined up between the sidewalk and the house.  Figures on the left are blurred, 1861, by Titian Ramsay Peale, photographic print, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 95, Box 16, Folder: 20A, 75078 or MAH-75078.
View from the Smithsonian Institution Building or Castle roof looking east toward the US Capitol, 1860s View from the Smithsonian Institution Building or Castle roof looking east toward the US Capitol, 1860s
View of the United States Capitol building from the top of the towers of the Smithsonian Institution Building, the early 1860s. The dome of the Capitol is under construction. 
View from balloon of Washington, DC, with Smithsonian Building or Castle at top center and US Capitol at bottom left, 1861 View from balloon of Washington, DC, with Smithsonian Building or Castle at top center and US Capitol at bottom left, 1861
A balloon view of Washington, D.C., 1861. The Smithsonian Institution Building can be seen at the top center, right below the river. The United States Capitol building can be seen at the bottom left, with its dome under construction. 
Thaddeus Lowe's Balloon Ascent, by Brady & Co. (Washington, D.C.), May 31, 1862, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, SIA2011-0961 and A30915H. Thaddeus Lowe's Balloon Ascent
Image of Thaddeus Lowe's balloon test of the "Intrepid" at the battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia, during the Peninsular Campaign, May-August 1862.  Lowe's balloon was used for reconnaissance for the Union Army during the Civil War.  Using a telegraph the driver could send a message about Confederate camps and troop movements to soldiers below who then gave the information to Union generals.  The test was supported by Smithsonian Institution Secretary Joseph Henry, who served as President Abraham Lincoln's scientific advisor during the war, May 31, 1862, by Brady & Co. (Washington, DC), photographic print, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 95, Box 54, Folder: 9D, SIA2011-0961 and A30915H.
Smithsonian Institution Building, or "Castle", by Brady & Co. (Washington, D.C.), 1863, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, SIA2011-1448 or 32004 or 131133 or 2002-21691. Smithsonian Institution Building or Castle looking east toward Capitol from B Street, SW,1863
View of the Smithsonian Institution Building looking east up B Street (Independence Ave) towards the Capitol. Visible amidst the trees is the Magnetic Observatory, built in 1853. Grounds are landscaped following a plan laid out by Andrew Jackson Downing, 1863, by Brady & Co. (Washington, DC), photographic print, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 95, Box 67, Folder: 4, SIA2011-1448 or 32004 or 131133 or 2002-21691.
SI Building from the West, by Unknown, c. 1863, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 80-20130 and 82-3289. Smithsonian Institution Building or Castle from the west, c. 1863
Early view of the Smithsonian Institution Building from the west. A dirt path across the grass leads toward the North Entrance at the Carriage Porch. In the distance on the left the United States Capitol Building with its dome under construction is visible, c. 1863, by Unknown, photographic print, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 95, Box 30, Folder: 8 and Record Unit 95, Box 30, Folder: 7, 80-20130 and 82-3289.
Smithsonian Institution Building, North Facade, c. 1860, by Unknown, c. 1856-1864, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 45934A or MAH-45934A. North façade of the Smithsonian Institution Building or Castle from the northeast, c. 1860
View of the north façade of the Smithsonian Institution Building from the north east, showing the landscaping in front of the building. The weather vane atop highest North Tower was installed in 1856.  The photograph was taken before the 1865 fire, c. 1856-1864, by Unknown, photographic print, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 95, Box 30, Folder: 8, 45934A or MAH-45934A.
East Wing of SIB from South Yard, by Unknown, pre 1865, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 82-3288 and 80-20131. East wing of the Smithsonian Institution Building or Castle from the South Yard, pre-1865
The East Wing of the Smithsonian Institution Building or "Castle" viewed from the South Yard, pre 1865, by Unknown, photographic print, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 95, Box 30, Folder: 7 and Record Unit 95, Box 30, Folder: 8, 82-3288 and 80-20131.
Fire in Smithsonian Institution Building, by Gardner, Alexander 1821-1882, January 24, 1865, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 37082 or MAH-37082. Fire in the Smithsonian Institution Building or Castle, January 24, 1865
People are visible standing around watching the burning of the Smithsonian Institution Building, the "Castle," January 24, 1865. The photograph was taken and heavily retouched by Alexander Gardner, as he painted flames on the photographic print, January 24, 1865, by Alexander Gardner, photographic print, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 95, Box 30, Folder: 9, 37082 or MAH-37082.
Engraving of the 1865 Fire in the Smithsonian Institution Building, by Unknown, 1865, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 2002-12222. Engraving of the 1865 Fire in the Smithsonian Institution Building
An engraving from Harper's Weekly of the burning of the Smithsonian Institution Building, January 24, 1865.  In this view there are a number of men on horseback, 1865, by Unknown, engraving, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 95, Box 30, Folder: 9, 2002-12222.
Smithsonian Institution Building After Fire of 1865, by Wakeley, G. D, 1865, Smithsonian Archives - History Div, 30792A or MAH-30792A. Smithsonian Institution Building or Castle after the 1865 fire, 1865
The Smithsonian Institution Building, the "Castle," after the fire of January 24, 1865. The roof on the Main Hall is missing. Within three days of the fire a temporary roof was installed over the Lower Main Hall to protect the collections. That roof remained in place until the spring of 1867 when it was replaced with an iron and slate roof designed by Adolf Cluss, 1865, by G. D. Wakeley, photographic print, Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 95, Box 30, Folder: 10, 30792A or MAH-30792A.