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Every war needs prostitutes, and between 1861 and 1865, Washington became a major hub of the world’s oldest profession. Conservative estimates at the time claimed that about 4,000 women—about 40 percent of them black—were doing business in the capital—an astonishing statistic given that the city had registered a population of about 75,000 in the 1860 census. The densest concentration of bars and brothels was in an area known today as Federal Triangle. Details such as these make Ernest B. Furgurson’s Freedom Rising: Washington in the Civil War a worthwhile read. Unfortunately, a few too many pages are spent away from these prurient depictions of street life and inside the workings of Lincoln’s White House, a topic that has been handled with more nuanced understanding of political culture in a thousand other books. Still, Furgurson does a fair job recording how the Western Hemisphere’s bloodiest conflict helped transform our town from an underpopulated, unfinished city in which farm animals roamed freely into one of the world’s major power centers. Furgurson speaks at 7:30 p.m. at Borders, 8027 Leesburg Pike, Vienna. Free. (703) 556-7766. (Paul Morton)