Smithsonian Issued Weapons for Protection During Civil War, , Smithsonian Archives - History Div, Shortly after the commencement of the Civil War on April 12, 1861, Secretary of War Simon Cameron authorizes the issuance of 12 muskets and 240 rounds of ammunition to the Smithsonian "for the protection of the Institute against lawless attacks." The Smithsonian Building was in a vulnerable location, cut off from the rest of the city by the Washington Canal and close to the end of a bridge across the Potomac River, which divided the District of Columbia from Virginia. On April 18 and 19, 1861, secessionists in Baltimore, Maryland had attacked regiments from Pennsylvania and Massachusetts who were on their way to Washington..