In the wake of last week’s storming of the U.S. Capitol and President-elect Joseph Biden’s upcoming inauguration on January 20, an estimated 20,000 National Guard troops will deploy to Washington, D.C. This is not the first time, however, that troops have been stationed at the Capitol. According to the U.S. Senate Historical Office, troops have stayed overnight in the Capitol during the Civil War, World War II, and after the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. They have also been called on to maintain order there at least three previous times, the Washington Post reports.

During the Civil War upwards of 4,000 troops eventually occupied the Capitol. One witness, a doorkeeper, observed the soldiers’ arrival: “They were a tired, dusty, and bedraggled lot of men, showing every evidence of the struggle which they had so recently passed through . . . Immediately upon entering the Capitol, they rushed into the Senate chamber, the galleries, committee rooms, marble room, and wherever they could find accommodations.”

He continued, “Everything that was possible was done to make them comfortable as the circumstances permitted. But it almost broke my heart to see the soldiers bring armfuls of bacon and hams and throw them down upon the floor of the marble room. Almost with tears in my eyes, I begged them not to grease up the walls and the furniture.”

 

  • On April 19, 1861, the Sixth Massachusetts Regiment took up residence in the Senate Chamber following a bloody encounter in Baltimore with secessionist sympathizers. (U.S. Senate Historical Office)
  • Members of the 11th New York Infantry, May 25, 1861. (Library of Congress)
  • Members of the 11th New York Infantry quartered in the House of Representatives May 25, 1861. (Library of Congress)
  • Union troops quartered in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol, 1861. (Library of Congress)
  • Soldiers stand guard near the Capitol after the assassination of MLK in 1968. (Library of Congress)
  • Army troops guard the Capitol after riots broke out in Washington, D.C., following the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (Bettmann/Getty)
  • A soldier enforces a nighttime curfew outside the Capitol after riots in the wake of MLK's death on April 8, 1968. (U.S. News & World Report Collection/Warren K Leffler/PhotoQuest/Getty Images)
  • Members of the New Jersey National Guard secure the perimeter around the Capitol. (DVIDS)
  • A member of the National Guard reads Atlas Shrugged in the Capitol Visitor Center as the House debated an article of impeachment against President Donald Trump on Wednesday, January 13, 2021. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images)
  • Members of the National Guard walk through Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol on January 13, 2021. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
  • National Guard soldiers take a rest in the Capitol. (DVIDS)
  • (DVIDS)