Blodget's Wilderness

That’s what the locals called it back in the 1830s, though it did have a less picturesque, more conventional name: the original 1791 L’Enfant plan for the city of Washington called for a triangular shaped area (altered to a true circle by 1818) called Iowa Circle. Grand diagonal avenues formed an inverted pyramid with the White House at its base, Iowa Circle to the northeast, and what is now Dupont Circle to the northwest. Until shortly before the Civil War, much of this area remained open farmland.

The Civil War brought change, but not exactly what you would call community development. During the 1860s, the area was said to be inhabited by a “multitude of vagrants.” Contrabanders and freedmen crowded into hastily constructed wooden shacks. The open field that is now Logan Circle became infamous as an executioner’s square where spies and deserters were hanged. One surviving sketch records the 1862 execution of Private Lanahan for killing his superior officer (an act frowned upon in the military).

Further afield, fighting Illini John Logan rose from Colonel to Major General; he fought in eight major campaigns, distinguished himself at Vicksburg (here photographed just after the battle), and commanded the Union army at the Battle of Atlanta. John Logan rose from Colonel to Major General; he fought in eight major campaigns, distinguished himself at Vicksburg (here photographed just after the battle), and commanded the Union army at the Battle of Atlanta. At the war’s end, he also saved Raleigh, North Carolina from burning at the hands of angry Union troops. Near Washington, DC in June 1865, a photographer captured this image of Major Generals Logan (second from left) and George Meade, and other Federal officers.

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