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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.

[77] [78]

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.

[79] [80]

The following conversation took place early in 1861 between General Winfield Scott and Colonel Charles P. Stone, inspector-general 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.”

“Yes, General.”

General Scott: “The bridge at Point of Rocks was burned some days since.”

“Yes, General.”

General Scott: “The bridges over Gunpowder Creek, beyond Baltimore, have been burned.”

“Yes, General.”

General Scott: “They are closing their coils around us, sir.”

“Yes, General.”

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.”


Fort Totten.

Constant drill at the guns went on in the defenses of Washington throughout the war. At its close in April, 1865, there were 68 enclosed forts and batteries, whose aggregate perimeter was thirteen miles, 807 guns and 98 mortars mounted, and emplacements for 1,120 guns, ninety-three unarmed batteries for field-guns, 35,711 yards of rifle-trenches, and three block-houses encircling the Northern capital. The entire extent of front of the lines was thirty-seven miles; and thirty-two miles of military roads, besides those previously existing in the District of Columbia, formed the means of interior communication. In all these forts constant preparation was made for a possible onslaught of the Confederates, and many of the troops were trained which later went to take part in the siege of Petersburg where the heavy artillery fought bravely as infantry

Inside Fort Totten--three shifting scenes in a big-gun drill.

Inside Fort Totten--three shifting scenes in a big — gun drill: scene 2.

Inside Fort Totten--three shifting scenes in a big — gun drill: scene 3.


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, [83]

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.

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.

[84] 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.

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 [85]

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.

[86] and create uncertainty among public servants distant from the capital.

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 side. 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 [87]

Battery Rodgers.

Battery Rodgers, about half a mile from the southern outskirts of Alexandria, overlooked the Potomac and the mouth of Hunting Creek. Its site was a bluff rising about twenty-eight feet above high water. It was armed with five 200-pounder Parrott guns and a 15-inch Rodman smooth-bore, emplaced in pairs. The parapet was twenty-five feet thick. The 15-inch Rodman gun visible above the bomb-proofs, can be studied below closer at hand. This monster of its time became possible through the discoveries made by Captain Rodman, of the United States Ordnance Department. It is mounted on a center-pintle carriage — that is, the tracks carrying the carriage are completely circular, and the pivot on which it revolves is under the center of the carriage. The timber revetment of the interior slope of the parapet affords greater protection to the garrison; the men can stand close to the wall, and are less apt to be struck by highangle fire. In the foreground are the entrances to the bomb-proofs, guarded by two sentries who accommodatingly faced the camera.


Battery Rodgers.

Battery Rodgers: its 15-inch gun

All quiet along the Potomac, May 18, 1864: an intimate view of the great Rodman gun shown on the page preceding


All quiet along the Potomac, May 18, 1864.

An intimate view of the great Rodman gun shown on the page preceding


The 15-inch Rodman gun in Battery Rodgers, near Alexandria, with a gun-detachment around it. The scene was quiet the day this photograph was taken. The gunners little thought that within a few weeks the city would be in a turmoil of excitement from Early's attack on the northern defenses of Washington. This battery was erected to guard the south side of Washington from an attack by the Confederate fleet. The distance to mid-channel was 600 yards, and no vessel of a draft of twenty feet could pass at a greater distance than half a mile. The battery also enfiladed the channel for the full range of its guns. The main face of the work was 135 feet long, and it had flanks of sixty and eighty feet. The wharf at Alexandria is visible to the left, with a steamer loading supplies and a lighter close by. The size of the gun can be judged from the little photograph, on the opposite page, of a soldier who has crawled, feet first, into the muzzle.

[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 [91]

Alexandria, Va.

When Brigadier-General Herman Haupt was put in charge of all the railroads centering in Washington in 1861 his first care was to safeguard them as far as possible from the destructive Confederate raiders. He built a stockade around the machine shops and yard of the Orange & Alexandria Railroad, with blockhouses at the points most vulnerable to raiders. The citizens of Alexandria, terrified by their exposed position across the Potomac close to the battlefield of Bull Run, entrenched themselves as best they could, before the great forts about them were completed. The lower view is looking up Duke Street from Pioneer Mill. The heavy stockade, inside the city, suggests how acute were the apprehensions of its inhabitants. The barrier is solid enough to stop a cavalry charge, with the big gates closed. A couple of field pieces, however, could batter it down in short order. Later in the war, such stockades as this would have been built with twenty-five feet of earth banked up in front of them. After the hurried preparations shown in the photograph, the tide of war rolled away into southern Virginia. The stockade for a while remained as a memento of a passing fear.

Completing the barricade at Alexandria

A stockade in the street

[92] 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. General Johnston says:

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.

General Scott, 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 [93]

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.

[94] 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 and autumn the Potomac 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. Fort Stevens, 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. [95]

The forts on the south side of the Potomac.

The forts on the south side of the Potomac, grouped immediately about the Aqueduct Bridge, were Forts Bennett, C. F. Smith, Strong, Morton, Woodbury, and Corcoran. The latter was a tete-du-pont, or defense of a bridge, covering the Virginia end of the Aqueduct Bridge. It was on a slight plateau above the river, but was itself commanded by higher ground around Arlington Heights. In the two center photographs cannoneers are loading big guns in Forts Corcoran and Woodbury. These are both cast-iron muzzle-loading 32-pounder guns, mounted on wooden carriages with front pintles. Technically, the upper part of the mount is the carriage, and the lower part, running on the traverse wheels, is the chassis. The front pintle allowed the gun to rotate through an arc of 180 degrees. An interesting aspect of the loading of the big gun in Fort Corcoran is the officer holding his thumb over the vent. This was to prevent the influx of oxygen while the charge was being rammed home. After the gun was heated by several discharges, it was possible to fire it merely by removing the thumb from the vent. Woe to the man handling the rammer if the officer inadvertently removed his thumb before the charge was rammed home! The premature discharge followsing would blow him into atoms, that is, if he should be thoughtless enough to expose his body before the muzzle of the cannon. Many distressing accidents occur in this way, both in peace and war, where amateurs handle the guns. The well-trained artillerist stands aside from the muzzle when ramming home the charge. Fort Corcoran was constructed to defend this important bridge from assault on the Virginia side of the Potomac. Fort Strong was originally Fort De Kalb and with Forts Corcoran, Bennett and Woodbury constituted the defense of the bridge at the time the capital was threatened by the Confederates after Lee's defeat of General Pope's army in August, 1862.

Union arch of the Washington aqueduct: guarding the aqueduct — forts at an upper Potomac approach to Washington

Loading 32-Pounders in Corcoran and Woodbury

Down the Potomac from Union arch


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 and Georgetown 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 [97]

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.

[98] 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. When McClellan left Washington for the front, the act [99]

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.

[100] 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 [101]

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.

[102] 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. The [103]

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.

[104] 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 theater.” General McClellan 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. McClellan 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 and Washington, 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 [105]

Fort Lincoln.

Eighteen forts, four batteries of heavy artillery, and twenty-three of light artillery were located between Fort Sumner, on the Potomac above Georgetown, and Fort Lincoln, near Bladensburg, commanding the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and the upper Anacostia. Fort Lincoln was profusely but not heavily armed. It had two 8-inch siege-howitzers, six 32-pounder sea-coast guns, one 24-pounder siege-gun, three 24-pounder seacoast guns, four 12-pounder field-guns, and eight 6-pounder field-guns en barbette, with two 24-pounder field-howitzers en embrasure. This concludes the list of the smooth-bores, but there were also a 100-pounder Parrott and four 20-pounder Parrotts. Fort Lincoln was a bastioned Fort of four faces. One of the 20-pounder Parrotts is just visible over the top of the storehouse, and the 100-pounder is in full view in the far corner of the fort. This was one of the first points fortified on the Northern lines about Washington. The spade, seen leaning against the house to the left of the pile of boxes, was the great weapon of warfare. The lower photograph shows Company H of the Third Massachusetts Heavy Artillery manning the guns. Their muskets have been leaned against the parapet, and the pile of shells to the right makes the great guns glaring down the valley seem formidable indeed. The Third Massachusetts was organized from unattached companies of heavy artillery in August, 1864, for the defense of Washington.

The interior of Fort Lincoln

Company H, third Massachusetts heavy artillery, in Fort Lincoln

[106] 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. Lee 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.

General Early 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 [107]

Fort C. F. Smith.

In these photographs of 1865, the defenses of Washington have served their turn; it is more than a year since they were threatened for the last time by General Early and his men. But the panoply of war continues. Everything is polished and groomed. During four long years the guns in Fort C. F. Smith have been swabbed out daily and oiled, to be ready for a thunderous reception to the Confederates. The fort, one of the later constructions, lay to the northwest of Fort Corcoran. Its armament of smooth-bore guns consisted of one 8-inch seacoast howitzer en barbette, four 24-pounders on siege carriages en embrasure, and three 12--pounder howitzers en embrasure. Of rifled guns it boasted six 4 1/2-inch Rodmans en embrasure, and two 10-pounder Parrotts en embrasure. It also mounted three 8-inch siege-mortars. There were six vacant platforms for further guns. The Second New York Heavy Artillery remained in the defenses of Washington till May, 1864, when it joined the Army of the Potomac. It lost 114 officers and men killed and mortally wounded, and 247 by disease.

The garrison of Fort C. F. Smith--company F, second New York heavy artillery

Company L, at drill

[108] 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.]

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