Ball, James, “Capt. of Watchmen” Autograph Letter, Signed
Ball, James N. Autograph Letter, signed as “Capt. of Watchmen” [Washington, DC]: 2 May 1865 [docket on verso: “Reporting upon duties of the Watchman during the Month of April 1865.] To: Capt. C. L West. 4to.; 1p. Short tear at upper margin not affecting text; both upper corners darkened, probably from mounting corners; two folds; neatly written and very good.
“I have nothing of especial interes(t) to Report to you respecting the doings of the Watchmen employed on the Capitol Extension and New Dome during the month of April. I repor(t) to you Mr. Burgdorf, as having a substitute during the entire month, once found his man asleep on post. Thare (sic) was no passes granted to visitors to the Dome, during the entire month; on the day of the burial of the “President,” several persons was (sic) admitted to the Dome, by the key in passion [possession] of the Police of the Capitol. But who it was that used the key for that purpos(e) I have not been able to learn, altho I have mad(e) diligent enquiree about it. Mr. Dumar, the Dome Watchman, think(s) they war (sic) admitted by the trap in the south wing rough / All of Wich (sic) is Respectfully submitted / James N. Ball / Capt. of Watchman.”
The functions of the watchmen, as foreseen by the original Commissioners of the City of Washington, were to guard the government’s public buildings and grounds. According to National Park Service history, by 1801 here was one watchman for the Capitol and one for the Executive Mansion. The sparse staff was increased to four at the Capitol by 1827. By 1849, the watchmen became part of the Interior Department and remained so throughout the Civil War. Expansion of the original Capitol building, begun in the 1850s, continued during the War, including the replacement of Charles Bullfinch’s original dome. The new cast-iron dome, designed by Thomas U. Walter, was not completed until January 1866.