The Stench of Washington

by John J. Miller on April 14, 2010

in Blog Posts

  • Sumo

April 14, 1861–an excerpt from The First Assassin:

The two men got on their horses and headed north on Fourteenth Street. They soon reached an open field, where a few cows and sheep grazed. The truncated Washington Monument was on the left. To their right was the Smithsonian Institution, a dark red castle that looked like it belonged in medieval Europe. About a mile beyond was the unfinished Capitol. Neither man paid it much heed. They were distracted by the stench of what lay ahead: the canal. It was really an open sewer pit that cut through the city. People emptied all kinds of raw waste into its filthy waters. They occasionally dumped dead animals. The smell would have been bad even if water had flowed through it rapidly, but sometimes the water appeared not to move at all. Attempts to dredge it had failed–the abominable thing kept silting up. Rook and Springfield spurred their horses to pick up the pace, and were glad to get beyond the canal’s foul reek.

Today is also the anniversary of the “second assassin”: 145 years ago, John Wilkes Booth shot Abraham Lincoln.


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