Protecting Washington, D.C. became a priority for Union forces when the Civil War began in April 1861. Northern military units convened in the nation’s capital to protect Washington and form a national army. One of the first to defend the White House was the Cassius Clay Battalion.
Cassius Marcellus Clay had been recently selected by President Abraham Lincoln, a fellow Kentucky native, to serve as Minister to Russia. When conflict first arose he quickly raised volunteers of various professions and backgrounds willing to defend the White House.
Although they were soon replaced by more experienced troops, the Cassius Clay Battalion’s spirit proved invaluable at a time when the defense of D.C. was imperative.
This image shows them assembled on the White House’s South Lawn.
[from the White House Historical Association]