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[90] 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. Fort Ellsworth, 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. Fort Ellsworth was but a weak field-fortification.

The main efforts of the officers were to strengthen the

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McDowell (1)
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May 23rd, 1861 AD (1)
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