Defending the national capital
O. E. Hunt, Captain, United States Army
Blockhouse at the chain bridge, above Georgetown: this approach was defended by forts Ethan Allen and Marcy on the Virginia side, and by batteries martin Scott, Vermont, and Kemble on the Maryland side of the Potomac|
Colonel Michael Corcoran in a Washington Fort: and his officers of the 69th New York, in Fort Corcoran, 1861
Erect on the parapet is the tall, soldierly figure of Colonel Michael Corcoran of the Sixty-ninth New York, who was subsequently captured and chosen by lot to meet the same fate as Walter W. Smith, prizemaster of the Southern schooner Enchantress, taken prisoner, July 22, 1861, and tried for piracy.
Neither was executed.
The men pictured in their shirt-sleeves, and the heavy shadows cast by the glaring sun, indicate that the time is summer.
The soldier with the empty sleeve has evidently suffered a minor injury, and is carrying his arm inside his coat.
Several of the officers peer over the parapet, watching for the approach of danger.
The first forts located in the defenses south of the Potomac were Fort Runyon, at the land end of the approach of Long Bridge, and Fort Corcoran, covering the approach to the aqueduct.
On the night of May 23, 1861, three columns of Federal soldiers crossed the Potomac, one by the aqueduct, one by Long Bridge, and one by water to Alexandria.
The smooth-bore guns in the armament of Fort Corcoran were two 8-inch howitzers en barbette. The rifled guns consisted of three 3-inch Parrotts en embrasure. The term “en barbette” refers to the placing of a gun so that the muzzle projected over a wall.
“En embrasure” indicates a cannon in an opening in the fortification with no protection in front of it. The gun around which the officers above are grouped is an 8-inch sea-coast howitzer.
These guns were of iron, and were used principally to flank the ditches of permanent works.
They fired especially grapeshot for this purpose.
The howitzer is a cannon employed to throw large projectiles with comparatively small charges of powder.
It is shorter and lighter than most guns of the same caliber.
The chief advantage was in the fact that it could produce at short ranges a greater effect, due to its ability to throw hollow projectiles with bursting charges and case shot.
The weight of this gun was about 3,000 pounds, and the usual charge was about four pounds of powder.
It is mounted on a wooden carriage.
Before it lies a pile of grape-shot. |
Officers of the first Connecticut heavy artillery in Fort Richardson: a winter scene in the defenses of Washington
The First Connecticut Heavy Artillery was organized from the Fourth Connecticut Infantry in January, 1862, and remained on duty in Fort Richardson till April.
The regiment acquired a high reputation by serving continuously throughout the four years of warfare actively in the field as heavy artillery.
Very few of the other “heavy” regiments in the army saw any service aside from garrison duty, except while acting as infantry.
The First Connecticut Heavy Artillery served in the two big sieges of the Army of the Potomac, Yorktown, April and May, 1862, and Petersburg, June, 1864 to April, 1865. Fort Richardson lay on the Virginia line of the Washington defenses about halfway between Fort Corcoran and Fort Ellsworth, in front of Alexandria.
Its smooth-bore armament consisted of three 24-pounders on siege carriages en barbette, two 24-pounders on barbette carriages en embrasure, one 24-pounder field howitzer en embrasure and one 24-pounder field howitzer en barbette. Its four rifled guns consisted of one 100-pounder Parrott en barbette, two 30-pounder Parrott en embrasure and one 30-pounder Parrott en barbette. It also contained two mortars, one 10-inch siege mortar and one 24-pounder Coehorn. |
The following conversation took place early in 1861 between General Winfield Scott
and Colonel Charles P. Stone
of the District of Columbia:
General Scott: “Gosport navy-yard has been burned.”
Colonel Stone: “Yes, General.”
General Scott: “Harper's Ferry bridge has been burned.”
General Scott: “The bridge at Point of Rocks was burned some days since.”
General Scott: “The bridges over Gunpowder Creek, beyond Baltimore, have been burned.”
General Scott: “They are closing their coils around us, sir.”
General Scott: “Now, how long can we hold out here?
“Ten days, General, and within that time the North will come down to us.”
General Scott: “How will they come?
The route through Baltimore is cut off.”
“They will come by all routes.
They will come between the capes of Virginia, up through Chesapeake Bay, and by the Potomac.
They will come, if necessary, from Pennsylvania, through Maryland, directly to us, and they will come through Baltimore and Annapolis.”
Later, General Scott
asked, “Where are your centers?”
and received the reply:
There are three, General.
First, the Capitol, where have been stored some two thousand barrels of flour, and where Major McDowell remains every night with from two to three hundred of my volunteers.
Second, the City Hall hill, a commanding point, with broad avenues and wile streets connecting it with most important points, having in its vicinity the Patent Office and the General Post Office, in each of which I place a force every night.
In the General Post Office we have stored a large quantityy of flour.
Third, the Executive Square, including the President's house, the War, Navy, State, and Treasury departments, in each of which, and in Winder's building, I place a force every night after dusk.
The citadel of this center is the Treasury building.
The basement has been barricaded very strongly by Captain Franklin of the Engineers, who remains there at night and takes charge of the force.
The front of the Treasury building is well flanked by the State Department building, and fifty riflemen are nightly on duty there.
The building opposite is also occupied at night.
The outposts at Benning's Bridge and the pickets in that direction will, in case of attack in force, retire, fighting, to the Capitol.
Those on the northeast and north will, if pressed, retire by Seventh Street to City Hall hill, while those on the northwest and west will, in case of attack, fall back and finally take refuge in the Treasury building, where they will be joined by the detachments guarding the river front when the attack shall have become so marked and serious that only the centers can be held.
In the Treasury building are stored two thousand barrels of flour, and perhaps the best water in the city is to be found there.
The city is so admirably laid out in broad avenues and wide streets centering on the three points chosen, that concentration for defense on any one of the three is made easy.
The field-battery can move rapidly toward any outpost where heavy firing shall indicate that the attack there is serious,
The Seventeenth New York artillery drilling before the capital
In the background rises the dome of the Capitol which this regiment remained to defend until it was ordered to Petersburg, in 1864.
It appears in parade formation.
The battery commander leads it, mounted.
The battery consists of six pieces, divided into three platoons of two guns each.
In front of each platoon is the platoon commander, mounted.
Each piece, with its limber and caisson, forms a section; the chief of section is mounted, to the right and a little to the rear of each piece.
The cannoneers are mounted on the limbers and caissons in the rear.
To the left waves the notched guidon used by both the cavalry and light artillery.|
and with the aid of this battery the retreat from that point can be made slowly enough to give time for concentration on that line of the outlying companies in positions not threatened.
In case a sharp resistance outside the city may fail to prevent the advance of the enemy, we can occupy the centers until the North shall have had time to come to our relief.
All our information tends to show that the force of the enemy which can immediately act against the capital does not exceed five thousand organized men, and before that number can be largely increased our relief will come.
These District of Columbia volunteers would be fighting in defense of their homes and would fight well.
A light battery at Fort Whipple, defenses of Washington
This photograph shows the flat nature of the open country about Washington.
There were no natural fortifications around the city.
Artificial works were necessary throughout.
Fort Whipple lay to the south of Fort Corcoran, one of the three earliest forts constructed.
It was built later, during one of the recurrent panics at the rumor that the Confederates were about to descend upon Washington.
This battery of six guns, the one on the right hand, pointing directly out of the picture, looks quite formidable.
One can imagine the burst of fire from the underbrush which surrounds it, should it open upon the foe. At present it is simply drilling.|
After considering the plan outlined General Scott
thus replied to Colonel Stone
Your plan is good.
Your pickets will have to fight well, and must not try to fall back more than fifteen paces at a time and to fire at least once at each halt.
This requires good men and good, devoted officers.
These soldiers of the District will probably fight as well in defense of their homes as the enemy in attacking them.
But you have too many centers.
You cannot hold three.
You will need all your force concentrated to hold one position against an energetic force equal, or superior in numbers, to all you have.
The first center to be abandoned must be the Capitol.
It is a fire-proof building.
There is little in it that is combustible excepting the libraries of Congress and the Supreme Court, and I do not believe that any Americans will burn public libraries and archives of courts of justice.
The second center to be abandoned will be the City Hall hill.
Finally, if necessary, all else must be abandoned to occupy, strongly and effectively, the Executive Square, with the idea of firmly holding only the Treasury building, and, perhaps, the State Department building, properly connected.
The seals of the several departments of the Government must be deposited in the vaults of the Treasury.
They must not be captured and used to deceive
and create uncertainty among public servants distant from the capital.
A trip around the defenses of Washington-Fort Lyon
This photograph is the first of a series illustrating the thirty-seven miles of forts and batteries which surrounded Washington.
After Fort Lyon, in this series, one of the farthest forts to the southwest, comes Battery Rodgers, south of Alexandria; then the entrance to Long Bridge; Forts Corcoran and Woodbury, defending the Aqueduct Bridge; Fort Marcy, the farthest north across the Potomac from Washington; Fort Sumner, the farthest north on the other side of the Potomac; Fort Stevens, farther east; Fort Totten, east of Fort Stevens; Fort Lincoln, still farther south; and finally Fort C. F. Smith, to show the type of construction of the later forts.
Thus the reader completely encircles Washington, and beholds varied types of sixty-eight forts and batteries.
These mounted 807 guns and ninety-eight mortars, with emplacements for 1,120 guns more.
There were also 35,711 yards of rifle-trenches and three blockhouses.
Fort Lyon, above pictured, lay across Hunting Creek from Alexandria.
The Parrott guns were rifled cannon of cast-iron, strengthened at the breech by shrinking a band of wrought-iron over the section which contained the powder charge.
The body of the larger Parrott guns was cast hollow and cooled by the Rodman process — a stream of water or air flowing through the interior.
About 1,700 of these guns were purchased by the Federal Ordnance Department during the war and used in the defense of Washington and in the great sieges.|
Then he added: “Should it come to the defense of the Treasury building
as a citadel, then the President
and all the members of his cabinet must take up their quarters with us in that building.
They must not be permitted to desert the capital!”
This conversation, quoted from a Washington historian of the war-time period (Doctor Marcus Benjamin
), shows, in brief, the inadequate preparations for the defense of the capital of one of the greatest nations on the face of the globe!
On April 19, 1861, troops began to arrive from the North
, and the extreme apprehension was for a time quieted, until the battle of Bull Run
, on July 21st, threw the country, and especially the population of Washington
, into a state of the most intense excitement.
Except for certain river defenses, twelve miles below the city, Washington
was entirely undefended at the outbreak of the war. From a hasty glance at the topography, we find that there are no natural fortifications around the city, and that artificial works were necessary throughout.
The problem of defense was made greater, also, by the fact that the city was spread out over so much ground.
At the time of the Civil War
the effective range of the heaviest artillery was between three and four miles, and the engineers recognized the great difficulty of erecting adequate defenses.
We find also that public opinion fluctuated and affected the action of Congress in regard to these defenses, to the frequent consternation of the officers charged with their maintenance.
Obviously the first direction from which danger was apprehended was that of the Virginia
The heights commanding the river were a constant menace to Washington
until they could be occupied in force by the Federals
Since no attempts theretofore had been made to fortify the city, it does not appear that sufficient information upon which even
a tentative line of works could be planned was at hand, and engineer officers examined the ground as well as they could at the termination of Long Bridge
, on the Virginia
shore, and also at the Virginia
side of the aqueduct.
Confederate pickets were observed from the first outbreak of hostilities, and while these parties were apparently unarmed, the officers making reconnaissances to determine the location of works, had necessarily to be prudent in their movements, and accurate observations were impossible.
The first forts located were Fort Runyon, at the land end of the approach to Long Bridge
, about a half a mile from the Virginia
end of the bridge proper, and Fort Corcoran, covering the approach to the aqueduct.
These footholds were secured by a crossing in force on the night of the 23d of May, 1861, of three columns, one by the aqueduct, one by Long Bridge
, and one by water to Alexandria
The nearness of Alexandria
, and the fact that it commanded the river, made its occupation a matter of prime importance from the outset.
, on Shuter's Hill
, one half-mile west of the town, was located and fortified by the column crossing by water.
During the eight weeks following the crossing, and up to the time of General McDowell
's advance on Manassas
, officers and troops were hard at work on the entrenchments, thus established at three points, to the total neglect of the protection of the city on the eastern and northern sides.
These first three works constructed were larger than most of those which followed — the perimeter of Fort Runyon, indeed, exceeding that of any subsequent work.
Of course, these three points were intended to be only footholds for further development of the works, and were, themselves, badly located for isolated defense.
Fort Runyon was overlooked by the heights of Arlington
, as was Fort Corcoran, though the latter was better situated than the former.
was but a weak field-fortification.
The main efforts of the officers were to strengthen the
three points at which works had been begun, and no attempts were made looking to the erection of a continuous or a supporting line to stop the advance of the Confederates
The necessity for this was not realized.
But the first disaster awoke the military and civil authorities of Washington
to the grim fact that the war was not a thing of probably a few weeks' duration, and in the face of a victorious foe there was the great menace of the capture of the Nation
's capital with all the dire consequences.
It was not the extent of the fortifications that impeded the Confederate army after Manassas
, but the fact that there were
fortifications, and that the Confederates
were as badly defeated as the Federals
We were almost as much disorganized by our victory as the Federals by their defeat,
and it was conceded by everybody that disorganization and the moral deterrent effect of “fortifications” were mainly responsible for the Confederates
not pressing their victory to the logical conclusion of occupying the capital.
The stream of fugitives crowding across Long Bridge
and Aqueduct Bridge after the disaster of Bull Run
, July 21st, announced to the people of Washington
, to the people of the North
, and to the people of the world the initiation of a mighty struggle.
The echo rang southward, where the cry immediately was taken up, “On to Washington
in the North
the echo was, “On to the defense of Washington
Despair in the North
was replaced by a dogged determination to prosecute the war to the bitter end, and a few weeks' delay on the part of the Confederates
sounded the doom of their chances to take the capital, for every energy of the North
was bent, first, to organizing for its defense, and, second, to taking the field in an offensive movement against the Confederates
, who had fought in two wars against foreign foes, was bowed down with age, and the tremendous energy necessary to cope with so appalling a situation had left him; so he asked to be relieved by a younger man. All
Defenders of long Bridge — a battery drill
The little boy on the corner is not looking at the cannoneers.
Real soldiers and 12-pounder Napoleon field-guns are no novelty to him by now. He is staring at something really new in the summer of 1864--the camera.
He finds the curious looking box vastly more interesting.
The soldiers stationed at the Virginia end of Long Bridge were “caught” by the pioneer photographer at drill.
They are in correct position ready for action.
The duty of the soldiers with the long swabs on the right of the guns near the muzzle is to sponge them out, and to ram home the new charge.
The men on the left near the muzzle place the charge in the gun. The men on the right, back of the wheel, cover the vents until the charge is rammed home.
The men on the left, back of the wheel, have duties more complex.
They prick the cartridge, insert a friction primer attached to a lanyard, step back, and at the order: “Fire!”
explode the primer.
Still further to the left of the guns stand the sergeants who are chiefs of pieces.
The men behind the limbers cut the fuses for the length of time required and insert them in the shell.
It is the duty of the men at their left to carry the charge from the limber and deliver it to the loaders who place it in the gun. Finally, the corporals directly behind the cannon are the gunners who sight the pieces.
The remainder are to help prepare and bring up the ammunition from the limber, and to take the places of any disabled.
All this is familiar to their companions lounging about the hotel.
The time is evidently summer.
The boy is barefoot, and the trees are in full bloom.|
eyes were directed to General McClellan
, whose successes had already made him a marked man, and under the direction of that able organizer a more secure feeling immediately appeared.
He directed the immediate completion of the fortifications of the city, and also bent his energy to organizing the great Army of the Potomac.
Once the positions on the right bank of the Potomac
were reasonably secure through the works just mentioned and such additional defenses as Fort Albany
, Fort Scott
, and various lines of connecting fortifications, attention was given to the Washington
side of the river.
In the summer
is fordable at points not far above Washington
, and as the river became lower apprehension increased that the victorious foe, who still rested at Manassas
, would avoid the works on the Virginia
side, cross above Georgetown
, and attack from the Maryland
side of the city.
To meet the emergency, works were hurriedly thrown up without that careful preliminary study of the topography which the occasion really demanded.
The securing of the roads was the first consideration.
The main road which followed the general line of the crest between Rock Creek
and the Potomac
, branched at Tennallytown
, about a mile south of the District line, and entering and leaving the town were other important roads.
As this was on fairly high ground it was selected as a proper point for a work, and Fort Pennsylvania
(afterward Fort Reno) was placed there.
Thus was established one point of the line of works.
, commanding the Seventh Street Road, running north, and Fort Lincoln
, commanding the Baltimore turn-pike
and the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, together with Forts Totten
and Slocum, between these latter roads and the Seventh Street Road, were all simultaneously started.
All these works were on the crest of a somewhat irregular ridge overlooking the valley of Sligo Branch.
This carried the general project from Tennallytown
, within two miles of the Potomac
, around to the north and east of the capital to Anacostia Branch.
The line once established by the location of the larger forts, the process already employed on the Virginia
side was used to fill in the gaps.
Supporting works of usually less strength, were placed within rifle-range along the crest.
The problem of resting the left of the line on the Potomac
, however, was more difficult.
There were two matters of paramount importance, the consideration of which indicated a position for the line quite different from that indicated by the topography.
It must be remembered that the Chain Bridge
crossed the Potomac
about three miles above Georgetown
, and the receiving reservoir which supplied most of Washington
with water was about three and one-half miles from the latter place.
The value of the bridge and reservoir rendered their protection necessary.
But the high ground, upon which naturally the line of forts should be placed, ran toward the Potomac
on a line south of Powder-Mill Run, the stream supplying the reservoir, which approached the river at the point where the bridge crossed.
It was obvious that works placed on these heights would not protect the reservoir, and that the bridge would be in the zone of fire of any force attacking the forts.
Hence the line of works was broken, and three isolated works, afterward united into one, were placed on high ground to the north of the reservoir, and far enough above the bridge to prevent artillery fire from reaching it.
South of Anacostia Branch the problem at first appeared to be capable of solution by placing bridge-heads, or small forts covering the approaches to the bridges, on the south side.
There were two bridges, one at the navy-yard, about two miles up the creek, and Benning's Bridge, some two and onehalf miles above the first.
In addition, it appeared that there should be at least one large Fort overlooking and protecting the navy-yard and the arsenal, which latter was on the point at the confluence of the Anacostia
and the Potomac
, and which contained large quantities of war-supplies of all kinds.
A more critical examination, however, showed the necessity of
A view from Fort Marcy--company a, fourth New York heavy artillery
In front of the tent at the right of the picture sits William Arthur, brother of Chester A. Arthur, the future President.
This view was taken from the Fort down toward the camp.
The Fourth New York Heavy Artillery was organized at New York, November, 1861, to February, 1862.
It left for Washington on February 10th.
Its first Camp was five miles from Chain Bridge, and its second at Fort Marcy.
These unusually clear photographs were treasured half a century by T. J. Lockwood, a member of the regiment.|
Looking from the Camp toward Fort Marcy
Marcy was the northernmost Fort on the west side of the Potomac, lying above Chain Bridge.
Its armament consisted of three 24-pounders en barbette, two 12-pounder howitzers, six 30-pounder Parrotts, three 20-pounder Parrotts and three 10-pounder Parrotts, all en embrasure. It also mounted one 10-inch siege mortar and two 24-pounder Coehorn mortars.
It overlooked the Leesburg and Georgetown Turnpike.|
fortifying the entire length of the crest between the Anacostia and Oxen Run
, a distance of about six miles. This was done, and toward the end of the year 1861 these works were well toward completion.
Likewise were the works along the entire perimeter of the defensive line encircling the capital, on both sides of the Potomac
By the spring of 1862 there were, surrounding Washington
, twenty-three forts on the Virginia
side of the Potomac
, fourteen forts and three batteries from the Potomac
around by the north and east of the city to the Anacostia
, and eleven forts south of the Anacostia
, with the right of the line resting on the Potomac
Of these, Fort Runyon, already noted as covering Long Bridge
on the Virginia
side, was the largest, with a perimenter of one thousand five hundred yards, but the size of the remainder varied to a minimum of one hundred and fifty-four yards. Most of them were enclosed works, and some were lunettes, or partially closed works, with the unclosed side occupied by stockades.
The armament was principally 24-and 32-pounders, some smooth-bore and some rifled, with a few lighter field-guns.
Magazines were provided that had a capacity each of about one hundred rounds of ammunition, and some of the most important works had bomb-proof shelters, where about one-third of the garrison could sleep secure from artillery fire.
The curious fluctuation of public feeling toward the fortifications can be seen when we remember that, before the Manassas
campaign, they were very lightly regarded; immediately after that campaign and the defeat of Bull Run
, there was a fever heat of apprehension and demand for protection.
When General McClellan
's splendidly organized army took the field against the foe, there was a certainty that the war was about to be ended, and a corresponding decrease of regard for the defenses; and we shall see later how the ebb of the tide again caught the public and sent it scurrying behind the forts.
for the front, the act
In formidable Fort Sumner April 5, 1864
Fort Sumner, a semi-closed work, lay highest up the river of all the forts defending Washington.
It was northwest of the receiving reservoir, overlooking the Potomac, and commanded by the fire of its heavy guns the opposite shore in front of the works of the Virginia side.
Its great armament made it a formidable fort.
Of smooth-bore guns it had three 8-inch siege-howitzers and two 32-pounder sea-coast guns en embrasure, and six 32-pounder and four 24-pounder sea-coast guns en barbette. Its rifled guns were two 100-pounder Parrotts en barbette, four 4 1/2-inch rifles en embrasure, two 4 1/2-inch rifles en barbette, and six 6-pounder James rifles en embrasure. It also boasted three mortars, one 10-inch siege-mortar, and two 24-pounder Coehorns, and there were thirteen vacant platforms for field and siege-guns.
The terrain on which the work was placed was such as to enable it to shelter a large body of troops with natural cover.
The first gun on the right in this photograph is a 32-pounder sea-coast gun in an embrasure; the second is a 4 1/2-inch rifle in an embrasure; the third is a 100-pounder Parrott en barbette; and the gun on the left is a 4 1/2-inch rifle en barbette. The first and fourth guns are on wooden seacoast carriages; the second on a sieg-carriage; and the Parrott rifle on a wrought-iron sea-coast carriage.|
One of the heavy artillery regiments that Washington lacked in 1864
The Third Pennsylvania heavy artillerists, as they drill in Fort Monroe, April, 1864, are the type of trained big gun fighters that Washington needed by thousands when Early swept up to Fort Stevens, threatening to take it three months after this picture was taken.|
of Congress making appropriations for the defenses of the capital read as follows:
Be it enacted, etc., etc., that the sum of one hundred and fifty thousand dollars be, and the same is hereby, appropriated, out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated, for completing the defenses of Washington; Provided, That all arrearages of debts incurred for the objects of this act shall be first paid out of this sum: And Provided Further, That no part of the sum hereby appropriated shall be expended in any work hereafter to be commenced.
General J. G. Barnard
, who, prior to the passage of the act above quoted, had been in engineering charge of the works, was, after the disasters of the first campaign under McClellan
, placed also in command.
He says that it was evident to all that the line north of the Potomac
was not adequately defended at the time of the above act, and that after the disasters in Virginia
the work was prosecuted with all vigor, new works being thrown up and the old ones strengthened, notwithstanding the act of Congress.
Public opinion demanded these measures as imperative necessities, thus demonstrating the return of affection for forts and bombproofs.
Even with the utmost endeavors of General Barnard
, assisted by a large force of competent engineers, the defenses, in December, 1862, were far from satisfactory.
Congress had not removed its prohibition against the commencement of new works, but here we witness one of the exhibitions of the masterful nature of the great war secretary, Stanton
He authorized General Barnard
to continue the work of construction, and to begin such new works as were necessary.
It was evident, however, that the expenditures would continue indefinitely, and ultimately would amount to a very large sum. In order to have a sufficient justification in the face of the Congressional prohibition, Secretary Stanton
convened a board of officers whose judgment could be relied on for an unbiased decision.
This board spent two months in examining
Men of the third Massachusetts heavy artillery in Fort Stevens
Fort Stevens, on the north line of the defenses of Washington, bore the brunt of the Confederate attack in the action of July 12, 1864, when Early threatened Washington.
The smooth-bore guns in its armament were two 8-inch siege-howitzers en embrasure, six 24-pounder siege-guns en embrasure, two 24-pounder seacoast guns en barbette. It was also armed with five 30-pounder Parrott rifled guns, one 10-inch siege-mortar and one 24-pounder Coehorn mortar.
Three of the platforms for siege-guns remained vacant.|
Company K, third Massachusetts heavy artillery, in Fort Stevens, 1865
Washington was no longer in danger when this photograph was taken, and the company is taking its ease with small arms stacked--three rifles held together by engaging the shanks of the bayonets.
This is the usual way of disposing of rifles when the company is temporarily dismissed for any purpose.
If the men are to leave the immediate vicinity of the stacks, a sentinel is detailed to guard the arms.
The Third Massachusetts Heavy Artillery was organized for one year in August, 1864, and remained in the defenses of Washington throughout their service, except for Company I, which went to the siege of Petersburg and maintained the pontoon bridges.|
critically all the works, completed, under construction, and projected.
The findings of the board were, in brief, as follows:
That there were (in December, 1862) surrounding Washington
, fifty-three forts and twenty-two batteries; that the perimeter of the entire line of fortifications was thirty-seven miles; that the armament consisted of six hundred and forty-three guns and seventy-five mortars; that the total infantry garrison needed for a proper manning of the defenses was about twenty-five thousand; that the total artillery garrison necessary was about nine thousand, and that a force of three thousand cavalry was necessary to make reconnaissances in order to give warning of the approach of the foe. In accordance with the recommendations of the board, Congress raised the embargo on funds for further defense preparation, and, during 1863, several important new works were opened and completed, and the old ones kept in a high state of efficiency.
One of the most notable new works was Battery Rodgers at Jones' Point
, near Alexandria
, for defense against the Confederate vessels.
During 1864, one large fort, McPherson
, was commenced on the Virginia
side between Long Bridge
and Aqueduct Bridge but not completed, and some smaller ones built.
With these exceptions the time was devoted to keeping in good repair those already constructed.
These included some water batteries that had been constructed in 1862 as a supplementary aid to the forts in repelling naval attacks.
The amount of work that was expended on the defenses of Washington during the war was indicated by the fact that, at the close of the war, in April, 1865, the fortifications consisted of sixty-eight enclosed forts and batteries, whose aggregate perimeter was thirteen miles, eight hundred and seven guns, and ninety-eight mounted mortars, and emplacements for one thousand one hundred and twenty guns, ninety-three unarmed batteries for field-guns, thirty-five thousand seven hundred and eleven yards of rifle-trenches, and three blockhouses.
James rifles behind the Fort Totten ramparts
The first gun, in the foreground, is a James rifle on a siege-carriage, the second a James rifle on a sea-coast carriage, the third a James rifle on a siege-carriage, and the fourth a Columbiad on a sea-coast carriage.
Fort Totten had many magazines and bomb-proofs.|
With the Columbiads at Fort Totten
The total armament of Fort Totten consisted of two 8-inch howitzers, eight 32-pounder sea-coast Columbiads, one 100-pounder Parrott rifle, three 30-pounder Parrott rifles, four 6-pounder James rifles, one 10-inch siege-mortar, and one 24-pounder coehorn mortar.|
entire extent of front of the lines was thirty-seven miles. Thirty-two miles of military roads, besides those previously existing in the District of Columbia, formed the means of interior communication.
“Sensitiveness for the safety of Washington
influenced every combination and every important movement of troops in the Virginia
proposed, in January, 1862, to transfer the Army of the Potomac to the lower Chesapeake
, for an advance on Richmond
A council of division commanders decided that McClellan
's plan was good, but that the forts on the right bank of the Potomac
for the defense of the capital must be garrisoned by a full quota, and that those on the Washington
side be occupied in force — in brief, not less than forty thousand men ought to be left for the defense of Washington
sought to combine his own necessities with the exigencies which had arisen in connection with the protection of the capital, and included in the number of troops left for the defense those which he sent to the Shenandoah
The field-commanders always insisted that the best way to defend Washington
was to attack Richmond
However, the Secretary of War
decided that McClellan
's inclusion of the Shenandoah
troops in the defenders of the capital was not justifiable, and the recall of McDowell
from the Army of the Potomac and all the subsequent controversies growing therefrom are matters of record.
Although General Pope
's army operated between the Confederates
, there was a great feeling of uneasiness on account of the inadequacy of the works, and the fact that the garrison had been reduced to add to Pope's field-army.
But “nevertheless they deterred Lee
from pushing further against Washington
his offensive movements . . . and thereby saved the Nation from much greater calamities than actually befell us in this most disastrous year.”
The garrisons were “commanded, generally, by artillery officers of the army, and by them instructed in the service of sea-coast-, siege-, and
field-guns of the forts,” and “they soon became an unrivaled body of artillerymen.
Their long connection with particular works inspired them with pride in their perfection and preservation, while the zeal and military knowledge of their commanders prompted and enabled them to render aid to the engineers in modifying and strengthening the forts and in developing the lines.”
Such was the confidence felt by everyone in General Grant
that when, in 1864, he withdrew practically the entire garrison of Washington for his field-army — a thing that McClellan
had wanted to do and was prevented — there was little or no opposition raised.
But this very action left Washington
a tempting morsel for a daring raider, and the Confederate
commander was not long in taking advantage of that fact.
was hard pressed, and he sought to create a diversion by sending Early
to threaten, and, if possible, to capture Washington
This ruse of threatening the national capital had been successful before, and he hoped that Grant
also might be influenced by it. Early left Lee
's army under orders to attack and destroy General Hunter
's army in the Shenandoah
and then to threaten Washington
Several times during the raid, Lee
communicated with Early
, leaving the decision of returning or moving on to the judgment of Early
, according to the circumstances in which he found himself.
On the 10th of July he was within sixteen miles of Washington, in Maryland
, and defeated a small detachment of Federal cavalry.
Hasty preparations were made in the defenses to muster all the troops possible to repel the invader.
attacked the works on the Seventh Street Road but was repulsed, and during the night of the 12-13th of July, 1864, he withdrew and retired toward Conrad's Ferry, on the Potomac
He stated later: “McCausland
[one of his brigade commanders] reported the works on the Georgetown pike
too strong for him to assault.
We could not move to the right or left without its being discovered from a signal
station on the top of Soldiers' Home, which overlooked the country, and the enemy would have been enabled to move in his works to meet us. Under the circumstances, to have rushed my men blindly against the fortifications without understanding the state of things, would have been worse than folly.
If we had any friends in Washington
none of them came out with any information, and this satisfied me that the place was not undefended. . . . After interchanging views with my brigade commanders, being very reluctant to abandon the project of capturing Washington
, I determined to make an assault on the enemy's works at daylight the next morning, unless some information should be received before that time showing its impracticability, and so informed those officers.
During the night a despatch was received from General Bradley T. Johnson
, from near Baltimore
, informing me that he had received information, from a reliable source, that two corps had arrived from Grant
's army, and that his whole army was probably in motion.
This caused me to delay the attack until I could examine the works again, and, as soon as it was light enough to see, I rode to the front and found the parapets lined with troops.
I had, therefore, reluctantly to give up all hopes of capturing Washington
, after I had arrived in sight of the dome of the Capitol
and given the Federal
authorities a terrible fright.”
This was the last time Washington
was threatened; and the fortifications saved the city.
The garrison unaided could not have done so.
[The defenses of Washington presented many problems in the nature of formal fortification and concentration of troops that did not apply to the capital of the Confederacy.
Lee's army was the surest defense of Richmond whose fall necessarily followed the defeat of the Confederate forces.
Nevertheless, a scheme of defense was early adopted and this will be found discussed in an interesting chapter, in the preparation of which Captain Hunt has received the valuable assistance of Colonel T. M. R. Talcott, commanding the engineer troops of the Army of Northern Virginia.--the editors.]