Washington Acropolis

The U.S. Capitol stands where it always has, but the columns that originally held it up have become a hauntingly beautiful monument somewhere else

One of the most recent and most impressive monuments in Washington, D.C., is in fact nearly two centuries old. Three miles east of the Capitol, the U.S. National Arboretum’s 444 densely planted acres fall away from Mount Hamilton to open out into a great meadow, and there, silhouetted against a curtain of dark, blue-green beech trees, stands a choir of twenty-two massive sandstone pillars. Mysterious and beautiful, the thirty-foot-high, ten-ton shafts might be some relic of classical antiquity.Read more »

The Booth Obsession

The author joins the thousands who feel compelled to trace the flight of Lincoln’s assassin

The first non-children’s book I ever read was Philip Van Doren Stern’s novel The Man Who Killed Lincoln. How it fell into my hands I cannot say. I retain a clear memory of going to my mother to inquire about what appeared on page 16: “A big buck Negro, whose black skin glistened with sweat, held in his arms a young mulatto girl who was hysterical with desire.” Very baffling. What could it mean? Read more »

A Visit With LBJ

An hour and a half of growing astonishment in the presence of the President of the United States, as recorded by a witness who now publishes a record of it for the first time

On an otherwise unremarkable evening early in September 1965, when, for the fourteenth time, I was preparing lectures for the start of the fall term at Columbia University, the phone rang, and I heard an unfamiliar woman’s voice saying, “This is the White House.” I knew any number of historians for whom a call from the White House was routine. One of them, Arthur M.Read more »

The Big Parade

Once the South was beaten, Eastern and Western
troops of the Union army resented each other so violently that some feared for the survival of the
victorious government. Then the tension
disappeared in one happy stroke that gave the
United States its grandest pageant—and General
Sherman the proudest moment of his life.

When the Civil War sputtered out early in May 1865, there were two huge Union armies within a few days’ march of Washington, D.C. One was the Army of the Potomac, winner of the war in the East, commanded by Maj. Gen. George Gordon Meade. The other was the Army of the Tennessee, or the Western Army, the men who had marched through Georgia to the sea, commanded by Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman. What to do with these two very different bodies of men was a problem that vexed politicians in Washington. Read more »

"I Had Prayed To God That This Thing Was Fiction…"

He didn’t want the job but felt he should do it. For the first time, the soldier who tracked down the My Lai story for the office of the inspector general in 1969 tells what it was like to do some of this era’s grimmest detective work.

In the early spring of 1969 I was an Army colonel recently assigned to the office of the inspector general in Washington, and I was not particularly happy about it; I have always disliked living in Washington, and I think that most infantry officers would rather serve with troops than investigate allegations about irregularities in procurement, which was most of what the IG’s D.C. office did. Our job was to look into complaints sent to us from the Executive Branch or the Congress, and seven or eight fresh ones circulated in each morning’s Read File.Read more »

Traveling With A Sense Of History

From Fort Ticonderoga to the Plaza Hotel, from Appomattox Courthouse to Bugsy Siegel’s weird rose garden in Las Vegas, the present-day scene is enriched by knowledge of the American past

To grow up in New England is to grow up with an inescapable sense of history, a heritage that a New Englander carries with him wherever he goes. Read more »

An Epitaph For Mr. Lincoln

The curiously troubled origin of a brief and fitting inscription

On February 9, 1911, Congress approved a bill authorizing construction of a monument to Abraham Lincoln in the nation’s capital. The notion of building such a memorial had long moved many people for varied reasons. The Republican party naturally wanted to honor its greatest hero. Millions of Americans saw a memorial as a way of finally announcing the end of sectional animosities as the Civil War receded into history.Read more »

I Love Washington

A noted historian’s very personal tour of the city where so much of the American past took shape—with excursions into institutions famous and obscure, the archives that are the nation’s memory, and the haunts of some noble ghosts

The only one of our Presidents who retired to Washington after leaving office was Woodrow Wilson, and for all his celebrated professorial background he certainly did it in style. Ten of his friends chipped in ten thousand dollars each to cover most of the cost of a house of twenty-two rooms on S Street, just off Embassy Row. S Street was quiet and sedate then and it remains so. But once, on Armistice Day 1923, twenty thousand people came to cheer Wilson. They filled the street for five blocks. I have seen the photographs.Read more »

In Safekeeping

The National Archives, America’s official safe-deposit box, is only fifty years old—but it is already bulging with our treasures and souvenirs

THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES has been called variously the nation’s memory, storehouse, attic, and soul. The institution is known as the place where Americans can find their roots, as the country’s Hall of Heroes, and, by cynics, as the nation’s wastebasket. All these labels are, in fact, perfectly apt.Read more »

“the First Rough Draft Of History”

… is today’s newspaper. Here the executive editor of the Washington ‘Post’ takes us on a spirited dash through the minefields that await reporters and editors who gather and disseminate a most valuable commodity.

As executive editor of the Washington Post , Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee guides and shapes one of the two or three best newspapers in America. He has been called “a born leader, a quick study … and intuitive. His paper reflects his own interest and hunches.Read more »