Isaac Bassett Protects Jefferson Davis's Desk during the Civil War
In the early days of the Civil War, federal troops were housed in the U.S. Capitol. Isaac Bassett, who worked in the Senate Chamber from 1831 to 1895, recalled an episode that occurred in April 1861 when Union soldiers were encamped temporarily in the Chamber. In his unpublished memoirs, Bassett wrote:
". . . as I entered the Senate, I heard a noise, as if someone was splitting wood. I looked over on the Democratic side of the Chamber and behold! There was a crowd [of] soldiers with their bayonets, cutting one of the desks to pieces. I hollered at the top of my voice, 'Stop! What are you doing?' Several answered, 'We are cutting that damn traitor's desk to pieces.' I ran in among them and told them it was not his desk, that it belonged to the government. 'You were put here to protect, and not to destroy!' They stopped immediately and said I was right, they thought it belonged to Jefferson Davis."