Washington has been developing the somewhat eerie feel of a ghost town over the past few weeks and months, and to make matters worse one finds evidence of official insecurity spreading outward from the White House. Snipers have been seen in the foliage on the grounds of the modest Presidential palace and careful attention perceives increased security throughout the town.
War seems increasingly inevitable, and may well begin with an attempt by the South to take Washington. This writer has received information that Varina Davis, wife of Jefferson Davis, President of the so-called Confederate States of America, has invited her New York society friends to attend her reception in the White House on May 1.
Is an attack on Washington coming? Attentive parties are well aware that, of the 16,000 troops in the US Army, over half are west of the Mississippi and are occupied with the Indians. Reports indicate that President Lincoln might have fewer than 1000 troops to defend the city. Meanwhile, Southern sympathizers in Maryland and Virginia – and in the capital itself – have been observed openly practicing military maneuvers.
Related reports argue that an attack on Fort Sumter is inevitable because it would be the signal, from Mr. Davis, to his sympathizers to rise up in Washington and to take the capital.
While Washington is not a secure city and could be taken rather easily by a determined foe, President Lincoln does have the support of General Scott, Colonel Stone (who placed guards on the Anacosta and Potomac in January) and at least some state governors. For example, Governor Andrew of Massachusetts has made his militia available to President Lincoln in case of an attack.
The tension in Washington seems to grow daily, and may be best personified by the untended appearance of the many empty homes, abandoned by southerners who left between the election and inauguration of President Lincoln. We hope that the ominous feel of a ghost town will never become more than a mere feeling.
Cicero for Republican Government
April 8, 1861