The city that greeted the Lincolns was a study in contrasts, which grew as the war dragged on. A southern town, from which many Confederate sympathizers fled, it swelled with Union troops and a flood of northerners. Job seekers and businessmen, doctors and nurses, and abolitionists and ordinary citizens arrived, eager to join the war effort. A reverse migration brought southern deserters, spies, and runaway slaves. And from the battlefields of nearby Virginia and Maryland, wagons bearing the dead and wounded began to pour in.
Washington also embodied the nation's most divisive contrast. Although a great majority of the black population living here was already free, the city still stood at the outset of the Civil War as the slaveholding capital of the mostly antislavery Union. This stark contradiction endured until Abraham Lincoln signed the congressional act ending slavery in the District of Columbia on April 16, 1862, almost nine months before the Emancipation Proclamation.
"If people see the Capitol going on, it is a sign that we intend the Union shall go on."
-- Abraham Lincoln, July 1863
A large Capitol dome, begun in 1835 and still unfinished in 1861, [???] war weary Washington after the federal government halted all non-war construction. In 1862, President Lincoln signaled his determination to preserve the Union by ordering work to resume. The dome was completed on December 3, 1863.