Uncovered History: DC Style


Murder Bay. A dangerous slum east of the White House.

It now lies generally in the area of the Federal Triangle and the Smithsonian. Murder Bay contained an area more well known to historians: Hooker’s Division. The term “hooker” for prostitute had been around before the Civil War, but legend still persists that the moniker came from Gen. Joseph Hooker and a certain destination allowed for “troop morale.

In 1863 The (Washington DC) Evening Star wrote:

“There are at present, more houses of this character [ill-repute], by ten times, in the city than have ever existed here before, and loose characters can now be counted by the thousands.”

One wonders what the details were concerning the amusingly named Louse Alley, torn down during the depression and also located in DC. 

So, what does this have to do with Capt. George W Graham? No, not the obvious. He would find himself face to screaming face with one of the more well known characters of Hooker’s Division.                                                           

In mid-December of 1866, Graham was in DC to have his physical before going on to Kansas for his assignment in the Tenth US Cavalry.                                                                                                 

Now, despite what has been said and even what I have written, he was not ALL bad.

He was on a crowded streetcar when a woman with an infant boarded near 8th Street. He rose from his seat to allow the woman to sit in it. Suddenly, a local madam, Elizabeth Burley, plopped herself into the seat. Graham told her that her behavior was rude. He must have been shocked at what the locally known “proprietress” did next. She began shrieking in his face, telling him off to the point that the conductor had to stop and throw her off. I can only imagine the look in his grey eyes… When she began yelling, “Murder! Murder!” the police showed up. They recognized her and hauled her off to the station. After Graham and another witness told the police their side, Burley was fined $10.

Research on Burley indicates she was Elizabeth Augusta Burley aka “Madame Augusta” and seemed to slip under the radar in some censuses. Apparently her business was disguised as a restaurant.

As for Graham, he passed his exam, signed off on it, and went to Fort Leavenworth for assignment.

The rest is Uncovered History.

sources: The Evening Star, Dec 20, 1866.    Ancestry.com.     Newspapers.com


New Primary Source

Excited to announce that I have purchased on payment plan a set of diaries kept daily by a soldier from the 3rd NY Cavalry during the time Capt. Graham was with them. There are earlier entries where he writes about exploits I documented in my own book. 

I hope to learn some inside anecdotes about the soldiers and possibly Graham.

I hope to have the diaries this autumn.

Stay tuned!