The White House’s Unruly Neighborhood

Crime, Scandal and Intrigue in the History of Lafayette Square


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About the Book

Chronicling the sometimes outlandish, often tragic history of the environs of the White House, this book covers two centuries of assassinations, slave escapes, deadly duels, sex scandals, battles, brawls and spy intrigues that took place in the presidential neighborhood, Lafayette Square. The author recounts the triumphs and catastrophes of heroes and villains both famous and unsung, placing them in the context of contemporary world events of the day.

About the Author(s)

A former presidential speechwriter and writer for The Tonight Show, Edward P. Moser is the author of 12 published books and is the operator of the Lafayette Square Tour of Scandal, Assassination & Intrigue. He lives in Alexandria, Virginia.

Bibliographic Details

Edward P. Moser
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 261
Bibliographic Info: 56 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2019
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7486-5
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3693-1
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Preface 1

1. The Secretary of State Is Nearly Stabbed to Death 3

2. The Unsung Slave Whose Family Sparked a Civil Rights Revolution 7

3. The Perilous Life of America’s Greatest Foreign Friend 10

4. The Craziest Inaugural Party of Them All 17

5. The Biggest Slave Escape in American History 21

6. The “Big Cheese” Receives a Mammoth Gift 26

7. Mrs. Lincoln’s Sad Search for Her Deceased Son 30

8. The Plantation Owner’s Startling Army of Diversity 35

9. The Burning of the White House and the Rescue of Its Riches 40

10. A White House Surgery That Echoed Bullets and Brawls 44

11. The Populist Politics of Pennsylvania Avenue’s Park 49

12. The Biggest Sex Scandal in Washington’s History 52

13. The Tragic Wife of America’s Premier Thinker 57

14. The Secret Life of the Intrepid Explorer 62

15. The Cunning Craft of a Deadly Spy 68

16. The Backstory of the American Revolution’s Martinet 73

17. The Violent End of America’s Bravest Sailor 80

18. A Duel Between the Oddest and Most Famous of Congress 88

19. The King of the Camel Corps 91

20. The Enslaved Woman Who Sued the Head of the State Department 98

21. The ­War-Hero Womanizer Who Slayed the Son of Francis Scott Key 103

22. The Accursed Life of the Man Who Tried to Save the President 107

23. A Shocking Seedling from the Victory at Yorktown 111

24. The Bloody Assassination Attempt on President Truman 117

25. Lincoln Makes Lee an Offer He Could Refuse 120

26. The Wretched Life Behind the Gaudiest Place 127

27. How a Personal Vendetta and Patriotic Passion Led to America’s Most Honored Place

28. The Spook Who Spied on the President and Inspired the Formation of the NSA 144

29. The Most Criminally Inept Family in Military History 149

30. A Peerless Singer Lays the Groundwork for “I Have a Dream” 155

31. The Miracle Manse 160

32. The Lost Barracks of the National Mall 164

33. George Washington, the Flinty Scot, the Powerful Mayor, and the Children’s Angel

34. The Near Drowning of the President in the Potomac 177

35. The Forgotten Terror Attack 180

36. A President’s Brush with Death After a Deadly Navy Accident 184

37. The Poetess Behind America’s Most Inspiring Song 191

38. Hamilton! The Tour!!: A White House Area Itinerary 198

39. Murder Bay and Hooker’s Division 209

40. A Wartime Tavern Keeper’s Unwanted Guests 215

41. A Humble Cleaning Lady Gulls a Mighty Invader 218

42. The Entrepreneur and the Ingénue: A Match Made in Heaven Gone to Hell 222

43. The Black Businessman Whose Workplace Birthed Jim Crow 227

44. The Financial Wizard Who Helped Stave Off a Civil War 233

45. The Crooked Bank for the Former Slaves 238

Index 245

Book Reviews & Awards

• “Ed Moser leads a rollicking tour of Lafayette Square—the front door to the White House—and along the way enchants us with true stories of assassinations, duels, escaped slaves, heroes, scandals, spies, and a strong appreciation for one of America’s most historic spaces.”—Garrett Peck, author of The Great War in America: World War I and Its Aftermath

• “A fascinating read about an overlooked but important public space at the center of Washington drama for decades. An enjoyable read.”—Peter Schweizer, author of Profiles in Corruption

• “Turns out the White House isn’t in the best neighborhood—not if you like a life of peace and quiet. Edward Moser has discovered that the houses, streets, sidewalks, and alleys around Lafayette Square have produced as much drama as the Oval Office and have hosted an even more colorful cast of characters.”—P. J. O’Rourke, New York Times bestselling author

• “Moser takes readers on a quick-paced joy ride. From the front door of the White House and through the streets and back alleys, Moser entices with the true stories of assassinations, duels, escaped slaves, heroes, salacious affairs, and nasty double crosses. … Hidden dramas buried within the walls of the homes, taverns, and parks of Lafayette Square come alive. And his readers gain a ground level appreciation for this historic area.”—The Zebra