Civil War Defenses of Washington
Historic Resource Study
NPS Logo


Washington, September 30, 1861.

XI. The works in the vicinity of Washington are named as follows:
The work south of Hunting Creek, Fort Lyon
That on Shooter's Hill, Fort Ellsworth
That to the left of the Seminary, Fort Worth
That in front of Blenker's brigade, Fort Blenker
That in front of Lee's house, Fort Ward
That near the mouth of Four Mile Creek, Fort Scott
That on Richardson's Hill, Fort Richardson
That now known as Fort Albany, Fort Albany
That near the end of Long Bridge, Fort Runyon.
The work next on the right of Fort Albany, Fort Craig
The next on the right of Fort Craig, Fort Tillinghast
The next on the right of Fort Tillinghast, Fort Ramsay
The work next on the right of Fort Ramsay, Fort Woodbury
That next on the right of Fort Woodbury, Fort De Kalb
The work in rear of Fort Corcoran and near canal, Fort Haggerty
That now known as Fort Corcoran, Fort Corcoran
That to the north of Fort Corcoran, Fort Bennett
That south of Chain Bridge, on height, Fort Ethan Allen
That near the Chain Bridge, on Leesburg road, Fort Marcy
That on the cliff north Of Chain Bridge, Battery Martin Scott
That on height near reservoir, Battery Vermont
That near Georgetown, Battery Cameron
That on the left of Tennallytown, Fort Gaines
That at Tennallytown, Fort Pennsylvania
That at Emory's Chapel, Fort Massachusetts
That near camp of Second Rhode Island Regiment, Fort Slocum
That on Prospect Hill, near Bladensburg, Fort Lincoln
That next on the left of Fort Lincoln, Fort Saratoga
That next on the left of Fort Saratoga, Fort Bunker Hill
That on the right of General Sickles' camp, Fort Stanton
That on the right of Fort Stanton, Fort Carroll
That on the left towards Bladensburg, Fort Greble

By command of Major-General McClellan:

Assistant Adjutant-General.

ORA, I, 5 (Serial 5), 611.

WASHINGTON, January 7, 1863.

Commanding Defenses of Washington:

GENERAL: I make the following recommendations as to the names of the fortifications around Washington:
That the name of the enlarged work now known as Fort Massachusetts be changed to Fort Stevens. <ar31_955>
The name of the enlarged work and battery now known as Fort Pennsylvania be changed to Fort Reno.
The new fort and battery first on the right of Fort Ripley be called Fort Mansfield.
The new fort next on its right, Fort Simmons
The round fort near Great Falls turnpike, Fort Bayard
The new fort between Forts Pennsylvania and De Russy, Fort Kearny
The battery between Ripley and Mansfield, and on the left of Powder Mill Branch, Battery Benson
The battery next on its right, and on the right of Powder Mill Branch, Battery Bailey
The battery between Fort Pennsylvania and Fort Kearny, Battery Rossell
The battery on the left of Fort De Russy, Battery Smead
The battery on the right of Fort De Russy, Battery Kingsbury
The battery on extreme right of Fort Lincoln, and near Eastern Branch, Battery Maine
The 100-pounder gun battery on Maddox Place, Battery Kemble.
The 100-pounder gun battery between Kemble and Cameron, Battery Parrott.
The battery in advance of Fort Blenker, Battery Garesché
Should these names meet your approval, an order is requested confirming them.
I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Brig. Gen. and Chief Engineer Defenses of Washington.

ORA, I, 21 (serial 31), 954-55.

March 16, 1863.

Chief of Staff:

GENERAL: In compliance with your request, contained in note of 28th ultimo, I now forward you the "name, rank, regiment, and battle where the officers were killed, with date," after whom certain forts in this vicinity were recommended to be named:

Brig. Gen. I. I. Stevens, U.S. Volunteers, was killed at the battle of Chantilly, Va., September 1, 1862.

Maj. Gen. Jesse L. Reno, U.S. Volunteers, captain of ordnance, died of wounds received at the battle of South Mountain, Md., September 14,1862.

Brig. Gen. Joseph K. F. Mansfield, U. S. Army, died of wounds received at the battle of Antietam, Md., September 18 [17], 1862. <ar40_141>

Maj. Seneca O. Simmons, Fourth Infantry. (colonel U.S. Volunteers), killed June 30, 1862, at the battle of White Oak Swamp, Va.

Brig. Gen. George D. Bayard, U.S. Volunteers (captain Fourth Cavalry), died of wounds received at the battle of Fredericksburg, Va., December 14, 1862.

Maj. Gen. Philip Kearny, U.S. Volunteers, killed at the battle of Chantilly, Va., September 1, 1862.

Capt. Henry Benson, Second Artillery, died of wounds received at the battle of Malvern Hill, Va., August 11, 1862.

Capt. John R. Smead, Fifth Artillery, killed at the battle of Bull Run, Va., August 30, 1862.

First Lieut. Henry W. Kingsbury, Fifth Artillery (colonel of volunteers), died of wounds received at the battle of Antietam, Md., September 18, 1862.

Lieut. Col. Julius P. Garesche, assistant adjutant-general, killed at the battle of Murfreesborough, Tenn., December 31, 1862.

Capt. Guilford D. Bailey, commissary of subsistence (colonel of volunteers), killed at the battle of Fair Oaks, Va., May 31, 1862.

Your obedient servant,


P. S.–Brig. Gen. Charles D. Jameson, after whom it is proposed to name the battery near Fort Lincoln, served as colonel of the Second Regiment Maine Volunteers, at Bull Run. He was appointed brigadier-general September 3, 1861. His brigade formed part of the army corps under General Heintzelman, and–

Distinguished himself individually at the battle of Williamsburg, being at the front rendering aid to General Kearny, though his brigade was not engaged, * * * and he particularly distinguished himself at the battle of Fair Oaks, where his horse was shot under him in battle, receiving three balls. He died [November 6, 1862] of typhoid fever (at Old Town, Me.), brought on, no doubt, by exposure and the excitement of the battles alluded to.–Extract from a letter from General Heintzelman.



February 10, 1863.

Brigadier-General CULLUM,
Chief of Staff:

SIR: I recommend that the battery which I proposed to be called Battery Maine be named Battery Jameson, after Brig. Gen. Charles D. Jameson, who died of disease contracted in the service on the Peninsula. He was a citizen of the State of Maine, was in the first battle of Bull Run, and in all the battles of the Peninsula.

I am, your obedient servant,


ORA, I, 25, Part 2 (serial 40), 140-41.

Washington, April 1, 1863.

The new or modified forts and batteries around Washington will hereafter be known by the following names:

The name of the enlarged work now known as Fort Massachusetts to be changed to Fort Stevens, after Brig. Gen. I. I. Stevens, U.S. Volunteers, of Massachusetts, who was killed September 1, 1862, at the battle of Chantilly, Va.

The name of the enlarged work now known as Fort Pennsylvania to be changed to Fort Reno, after Maj. Gen. Jesse L. Reno, U.S. Volunteers (captain of ordnance), of Pennsylvania, who was mortally wounded, September 14, 1862, at the battle of South Mountain, Md.

The fort next and east of Fort Ripley to be called Fort Mansfield, after Brig. Gen. Joseph K. F. Mansfield, U.S. Army, who was mortally wounded, September 17, 1862, at the battle of Antietam, Md.

The new fort next and east of Fort Mansfield to be called Fort Simmons, <ar40_187> after Col. Seneca G. Simmons, Pennsylvania Volunteers (major Fourth U.S. Infantry), who was killed, June 30, 1862, at the battle of White Oak Swamp, Va.

The round fort near Great Falls turnpike to be called Fort Bayard, after Brig. Gen. George D. Bayard, U.S. Volunteers (captain Fourth U.S. Cavalry), who was mortally wounded, December 13, 1862, at the battle of Fredericksburg, Va.

The new fort between Forts Reno and De Russy to be called Fort Kearny, after Maj. Gen. Philip Kearny, U.S. Volunteers, who was killed, September 1, 1862, at the battle of Chantilly, Va.

The battery between Forts Ripley and Mansfield, and west of Powder Mill Branch, to be called Battery Benson, after Capt. Henry Benson, Second U.S. Artillery, who died August 11, 1862, of wounds received at the second engagement at Malvern Hill, Va.

The battery east of Battery Benson and Powder Mill Branch to be called Battery Bailey, after Capt. Guilford D. Bailey, commissary of subsistence, U.S. Army (first lieutenant Second U.S. Artillery), who was killed, May 31, 1862, at the battle of Fair Oaks, Va.

The battery between Forts Reno and Kearny to be called Battery Rossell, after Maj. Nathan B. Rossell, Third U.S. Infantry, who was killed, June 27, 1862, at the battle of Gaines' Mill, Va.

The battery west of Fort De Russy to be called Battery Smead, after Capt. John R. Smead, Fifth U.S. Artillery, who was killed, August 30, 1862, at the battle near Centreville, Va.

The battery on the right of Fort De Russy to be called Battery Kingsbury, after Col. Henry W. Kingsbury, Connecticut Volunteers (first lieutenant Fifth U.S. Artillery), who was mortally wounded, September 17, 1862, at the battle of Antietam, Md.

The battery on the right bank of the Eastern Branch of the Potomac to be called Battery Jameson, after Brig. Gen. Charles D. Jameson, U.S. Volunteers, who was in the battle of Bull Run, and who distinguished himself at the battles of Williamsburg and Fair Oaks, and died November 6, 1862. at his house in Old Town, Me., of typhoid fever, contracted in the field.

The 100-pounder gun battery on Maddox's place to be called Battery Kemble, after the venerable Gouverneur Kemble, of Cold Spring, N. Y., formerly president of the West Point Foundry, where most of the Army and Navy heavy guns have been made.

The 100-pounder gun battery between Batteries Kemble and Cameron to be called Battery Parrott, after Robert P. Parrott, of Cold Spring, N.Y., formerly a captain of ordnance, U.S. Army, and the inventor of the Parrott gun.

The battery in advance of Fort Blenker, to be called Battery Garesche, after lieut. Col. Julius P. Garesche, assistant adjutant-general, U.S. Army, who was killed, December 31, 1862, at the battle of Murfreesborough, Tenn.

By order of the Secretary of War:

Assistant Adjutant-General.

ORA, I, 25, Part 2 (Serial 40), 186.

May 30, 1863.


Commanding Department of Washington:

GENERAL: I make the following recommendations as to names of fortifications around Washington:

That the name of the enlarged work on the eastern bank of the Potomac, above the Chain Bridge, consisting of the three forts now known as Forts Alexander, Franklin, and Ripley, be called Fort Sumner, after the late Maj. Gen. E. V. Sumner, who died at Syracuse, N. Y., March 21, 1863.

The three forts above named and incorporated into Fort Sumner to be hereafter styled Redoubt Alexander, Redoubt Franklin, Redoubt Ripley.

That the new fort immediately north of Fort De Kalb, and near the Potomac, be called Fort C. F. Smith, after the late Maj. Gen. C. F. Smith, who died at Savannah, Tenn., of disease contracted in the service, and who greatly distinguished himself at the battle of Fort Donelson.

That the new fort in progress behind Fort Cass be called Fort Whipple, after the late Major-General Whipple, who died at Washington, D.C., May 7, 1865, of wounds received at the battle of Chancellorsville, Va. <ar40_569>

That the new fort in progress at Corbett's house, between Forts Richardson and Barnard, be called Fort Berry, after the late Maj. Gen. H. G. Berry, who was killed at the battle of Chancellorsville, Va., May 2, 1863.

That the new fort in progress on Traitor's Hill, near Fort Worth, be called Fort Williams, after the late Brig. Gen. T. Williams, who was killed at the battle of Baton Rouge, La., August 5, 1862.

That the battery for field guns near Rock Creek (east side) be called Battery Sill, after the late Brig. Gen. J. W. Sill, who was killed at the battle of Murfreesborough, Tenn., December 31, 1862.

That the battery for field guns contiguous to and in advance of Fort Kearny be called Battery Terrill, after the late Brig. Gen. W. R. Terrill, who was killed at the battle of Perryville, Ky., October 8. 1862.

Should these names meet your approval, an order from the proper authority is requested confirming them.

I am, very respectfully, your most obedient,

Brigadier-General, Chief Engineer of Defenses.

ORA, I, 25, Part 2 (serial 40), 568-569

Washington, September 4, 1863.

Col. J. C. KELTON,
Assistant Adjutant-General.'

SIR: I respectfully recommend that the following works and forts, forming part of the Defenses of Washington, may be called after the officers whose names are set opposite, and who have died or been killed in the service of the United States:

Fort at Rozier's Bluff, on east side of the Potomac River, 2 miles below Alexandria, to be called Fort Foote, after Rear-Admiral A. H. Foote, U.S. Navy, who died of disease June 26, 1863, and whose distinguished services in command of the United States naval forces upon the Western rivers are well known.

Water battery at Alexandria to be called Battery Rodgers, after Fleet Capt. G. W. Rodgers, U.S. Navy, killed August 17, 1863, in a naval attack upon Fort Wagner, Charleston Harbor, S.C.

Fort Blenker, south side of Potomac, to be called Fort Reynolds, after Maj. Gen. J. F. Reynolds, killed July 1, 1863, at Gettysburg, Pa.

Redoubt A, near Fort Lyon, to be called Fort Weed, after Stephen H. Weed, captain Fifth Artillery, brigadiergeneral of volunteers, killed July 2, 1863, at Gettysburg, Pa.

Redoubt B, near Fort Lyon, to be called Fort Farnsworth, after Brig. Gen. Elon J. Farnsworth, killed July 3, 1863, at Gettysburg, Pa.

Redoubt C, near Fort Lyon, to be called Fort O'Rorke, after Patrick H. O'Rorke, first lieutenant of Engineers, U.S. Army (colonel of volunteers), killed July 2, 1863, at Gettysburg, Pa.

Redoubt D, near Fort Lyon, to be called Fort Willard, after George L. Willard, major Nineteenth Infantry (colonel of volunteers), killed July 2, 1863, at Gettysburg, Pa.

I am, very respectfully, your most obedient,

Brig. Gen., Chief Engineer Defenses of Washington.

ORA, I, 29, Part 2 (serial 49), 154.


December 30, 1862.

Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War:

SIR: I herewith present you the report of the Commission ordered by you to examine the Defenses of Washington, and report to you as to their efficiency, &c.

It will be seen that the Commission approve generally of the lines established and of the works, and that they attach very great importance to them; that they recommend some additions to or modifications of the existing works; some new works (five or six) to strengthen certain parts of the line, and that they purpose to add a new feature to the defensive system by the construction of works to defend the river from maritime attack. Their reasons are given in full, and it is not necessary for me to dwell upon them in this place.

The amount expended upon the system up to the time when I relinquished the charge last spring to take the field with the Army of the Potomac was about $550,000. This applied to the construction of upward of fifty forts and a number of batteries. Some of these works were of large dimensions, and many had, besides the usual magazine, extensive bomb-proofs, for the protection of the garrisons.

Notwithstanding the number of works built, the defensive system was in some parts still very weak, and everywhere there was need (as I stated in a report to the Chief Engineer U.S. Army a year ago) of auxiliary works, more efficient armament, &c.; and I also stated that there were important gaps in the line which should be filled.

When the Army of the Potomac retired from the James River, I was ordered to assume the command of the works and troops of Washington, and there was apprehension felt (as the result proved, rightly) for the safety of Washington.

Of course, it was my duty, both as engineer and commanding officer, to use the time and means disposable to increase the strength of the defenses. The northern side of the city, between the Potomac and Eastern Branch, which had been little exposed to attack the summer before, was, in August and September of this year, the most likely to be assailed, and from the Potomac to the Seventh street road it was exceedingly weak. <ar31_903>

When, for want of rank, I was superseded in the command, I continued to discharge the duties of engineer, under the full conviction that in that crisis (September 1) I could render no more valuable service to my country than to perfect the defenses of Washington.

I commenced on my first arrival to strengthen this part of the line. I directed the enlargement of Fort Massachusetts, and laid out forts and batteries to make a complete connection between the first-named work and Fort Alexander on the Potomac; at the same time I felled the timber to a distance of a mile in front, thus exposing the ground and making it impracticable to the enemy's movements.

On the south of the Potomac, rifle-pits were thrown up between the works, new gun-platforms laid, and the armament improved; obstructions made across the valleys of Four-Mile Run and Hunting Creek; Fort Lyon strengthened by advanced works, and batteries for field guns prepared. On the most prominent or commanding points 100-pounder rifled guns, on center-pivot carriages, were introduced, to bring under fire the whole external area an enemy must occupy in approaching our lines. These, and similar works, are fully described in the report of the Commission.

With no other assistance from engineer officers than that of a single officer (valuable, indeed–that of Lieut. Col. B. S. Alexander), it has been necessary to employ a large number of civil assistants, superintendents, and overseers, to supervise the works and troops and laborers employed. This, together with the hire of laborers, the purchase of lumber and other materials, has required a large cash expenditure. You authorized (in August, I think) the application of $50,000 from the appropriation for the contingencies of fortifications, field works, &c.; to the Defenses of Washington, $50,000 more. This last sum will have been nearly exhausted at the end of this month.

It is exceedingly difficult to estimate for this kind of expenditure, and as the exigencies of the service have, since my return here, made it impossible to furnish the number of troops required for the labor, I am obliged to suppose that much of the additional work proposed by the Commission will be done by hired labor, and, making reference to past results, to estimate that an additional sum of $200,000 will be needed; for which I ask that an appropriation of Congress be requested. I also request that, until such an appropriation be made, I may be authorized to apply an additional $50,000 from the existing appropriation for contingencies of fortifications.

There has been but one other system of field works that I know of that is analogous to this in extent and character–the famous lines of Torres Vedras. These frustrated the design of Napoleon of driving the English from the Peninsula. They consisted of a greater number of works, but the works were smaller, and much less expensive in workmanship; yet on these lines, in a country where labor commanded but one tenth of what is paid in this country, $1,000,000 was expended from first to last.

I am, very respectfully, your most obedient,

Brig. Gen., and Chief Engineer Defenses of Washington.

WASHINGTON, December 24, 1862.

Hon. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War:

SIR: The Commission appointed by Special Orders of the War Department, No. 312, dated Washington, October 25, 1862, "to examine <ar31_904> and report upon the plan of the present forts, and sufficiency of the present system of defenses for the city," report as follows:

The system of works constituting what are called the Defenses of Washington may be divided into four groups: First, those south of the Potomac, commencing with Fort Lyon, below Alexandria, and terminating with Fort De Kalb, opposite Georgetown; second, those of the Chain Bridge; third, those north of the Potomac, between the Potomac and the Eastern Branch, commencing with Fort Alexander and terminating with Fort Lincoln; fourth, those south of Eastern Branch, commenting with Fort Mahan and terminating with Fort Greble, nearly opposite Alexandria.

The perimeter thus occupied, not counting the interval from Fort Greble to Fort Lyon, is about 33 miles, or, including that, 37 miles.

In the first group are twenty-three field forts (including the small redoubts, Forts Bennett and Haggerty, and the external works of Forts Lyon and Blenker). In the second group are two forts (Ethan Allen and Marcy) and three batteries for field guns. In the third are eighteen forts, four batteries, permanently armed with heavy guns, besides about fourteen batteries for field guns, some of which are of heavy profile, with stockaded gorges, magazines, &c. In the fourth group are eleven forts (not including the outworks in progress of Fort Meigs), besides the armed battery connected with Fort Carroll. There are, therefore, in the whole system, as it now exists, fifty-three forts and twenty-two batteries.

In addition to these, is the small group consisting of Forts Ramsay and Buffalo and intrenchments on Munson's and Perkins' Hills, which do not properly belong to the fortifications of Washington.

The total armament in the different works, at the date of this report, is six hundred and forty-three guns and seventy-five mortars. The total infantry garrisons required for their defense, computed at 2 men per yard of front perimeter, and 1 man per yard of rear perimeter of works, is about 25,000. The total number of artillerymen (to furnish three reliefs for each gun) required is about 9,000. Aggregate, 34,000.

It is seldom necessary to keep these infantry supports attached to the works.

The 25,000 infantry should be encamped in such positions as may be most convenient to enable them, in case of alarm, to garrison the several works, and a force of 3,000 cavalry should be available for outpost duty, to give notice of the approach of any enemy.

The artillerymen, whose training requires much time, having learned the disposition of the armament and computed the distances of the ground over which attacks may be looked for, and the ranges and service of their guns, should not be changed. They should remain permanently in the forts. Whenever any enemy is within striking distance of the capital–able by a rapid march to attempt a coup de main, which might result in the temporary occupation of the city, the dispersion of the Government, and the destruction of the archives, all of which could be accomplished by a single day's possession–a covering army of not less than 25,000 men should be held in position to march to meet the attacking column. Against more serious attacks from the main body of the enemy, the capital must depend upon the concentration of its entire armies in Virginia or Maryland. They should precede or follow any movement of the enemy seriously threatening the capital.

The Commission do not deem it necessary to enter into a history of the construction of these works, though, fully to appreciate their merits or demerits, that history should be known (as it is presumed to be by <ar31_905> those immediately interested), and it is fully given in the engineer's report to the Chief Engineer U.S. Army, dated December 10, 1861.

The Commission deem it only necessary to remark that, in general, the lines and locations of works are well chosen; that where the works are not altogether adequate for their positions, or the lines fail to occupy the best ground, the causes are to be found in the exigencies under which the ground was selected and the works built. They find that the defects in the system, arising from these causes, were clearly understood by the engineer, and that on his reassuming charge, in August last, prompt and vigorous measures were taken to remedy them, and that at the date of the examination by the Commission some of fine most serious deficiencies in the line had been remedied; that other works had been laid out or proposed which would judiciously strengthen weak portions of the line, and they learn, from his own statements, that only the impossibility of getting adequate working parties from the troops, and the want of means for hiring the large bodies of laborers which would have been necessary, have prevented the execution during the past season of all the works so proposed. Though from such causes much remains to be done, the Commission find the line throughout its whole extent respectably strong, the works in good condition generally, garrisoned with artillerymen, and the armament in good order, and well supplied with ammunition, and well served.

With these preliminary remarks, the Commission will proceed to mention the individual works, with such recommendations as they deem necessary.

Fort Lyon.–This work forms the extreme left of our line south of the Potomac, and its function is a most important one–that of holding the heights south of Hunting Creek, from which Alexandria could be shelled and our left flank exposed. The work is the largest of all, excepting Fort Runyon. If it had been placed on the higher ground in front of its present position, it would have better fulfilled its object. The engineer is now constructing three advanced works, two on this higher ground and one to command the extensive ravine on the southeast. The Commission further recommend the construction of an interior reduit, by which the main work will be made more secure against assaults; the construction of traverses, particularly on the southern front, and of additional gun platforms, in order, if required, to bring more fire to bear on the heights to the westward. On examining the ground between the Mount Vernon and Accotink roads, the Commission recommend a small work on the spur, with an advanced battery or batteries to sweep the river fiats, the Mount Vernon road, and the ravine before mentioned. This work will better cover the Alexandria Bridge, and give great additional strength to Fort Lyon and to this left flank of our lines.

Fort Ellsworth.–This work is well situated, covering immediately Alexandria and the railroad depot. Though a work in second line, it fulfills an important purpose in closing the gap between Forts Lyon and Worth, and sweeping by its fire of rifled guns the approaches to those works, and, uniting its fire with theirs, preventing the establishment of batteries on the heights south of Hunting Creek. The work is amply provided with bomb-proofs and magazines. The Commission recommend platforms and embrasures for field guns on the flanks.

Traitors' Hill.–This is a very excellent position, forming a point d'ap-pui of the line of obstructions across the valley of Hunting Creek, and commanding the deep ravine which envelopes the rear of Fort Worth. It is important to hold it, and it is valuable as a position for artillery to fire upon the opposite heights; and the Commission recommend that a <ar31_906> work be constructed to admit of siege guns, in conformity to a plan presented by the engineer.

Fort Worth occupies a very commanding position. A larger work would have been desirable, but the site would not have permitted it, even if the exigencies of the times in which it was built had not limited the size to a minimum. The work is deficient in fire (and from its figure cannot bring a sufficient fire) upon the heights directly opposite, south of Hunting Creek. Such additional guns as its form permits, to bear in this direction, should be introduced. The work has sufficient bomb-proof and magazines. A 100-pounder is being mounted to sweep the sector from Fort Lyon around to Fort Ward. The works previously enumerated, with a chain of obstructions across the valley from Fort Lyon to Cooper's Hill, will secure Alexandria and the left flank of our general defensive line, and, by their powerful artillery, prevent the establishment of field batteries on the heights south of Hunting Creek, and make even the establishment of siege batteries a work of great difficulty and danger. The Commission recommend the introduction of another 100.pounder into this work, to be placed in the salient of the south bastion.

Fort Ward occupies a very commanding and important position, defending the Leesburg and Alexandria turnpike and lateral roads, and overlooking the country northwardly and westwardly toward Fort De Kalb and Bailey's and Ball's cross-roads. It contains a sufficient armament and ample bomb-proofs and magazines. It was built in great haste, and with too thin parapets on the exposed fronts. The Commission recommend the thickening of the front parapets to 14 feet, and the construction of counterscarp casemates, for reversed fires, at the northwest and southwest angles. A 100-pounder is being placed in this work, which will sweep a large extent of country in front of our lines, and, in conjunction with those of Fort Richardson and the batteries north of the Potomac, will furnish a flank fire upon every part of the line hence to Fort De Kalb.

Fort Blenker.–The site was selected for its command of the valley of Four-Mile Run. It is defective in trace and in having no view of the approaches from the west, the ground rising in that direction. The latter defect is being remedied by the construction of a seven-gun battery, with stockaded gorge, about 200 yards to the westward. The work being in a re-entrant, and its approaches under powerful fire from Forts Ward and Barnard, it is believed to answer sufficiently well its purpose. The ravine in rear affords much protection to the garrison against shelling, and it is not proposed to construct bomb-proofs. The magazines are adequate. The valley of Four-Mile Run is obstructed by abatis, the rifle-pits only occupying a part of the interval near Fort Blenker. It is recommended to continue the rifle-pits across the valley, and to construct a battery for field guns on the spur east of the fort, by which an important enfilading fire up the valley will be obtained.

Fort Barnard occupies a commanding position, and one naturally very strong. It covers the head of ravines, in which large bodies of troops can be collected and concealed in a favorable position for making flank attacks upon an enemy's columns assaulting our line between it and Fort Craig, or attempting to penetrate the valley of Four- Mile Run. Taken in connection with its outworks and rifle-pits, the ground may be considered well occupied, though the work itself is rather small. Its magazines are adequate, and, considering the protection given to troops by ravines in its rear, it is not considered necessary to build more bomb-proof accommodation. The Commission recommend that <ar31_907> casemates, for reversed flank defense, be prepared in the northwestern angle, and that the exterior covert-way be prepared with platforms and embrasures for a battery of field artillery.

The works thus far mentioned form a group by themselves, and can scarcely be called "Defenses of Washington," though doubtless having an important bearing on its defense. To defend Washington, strictly speaking, requires simply that the enemy shall be kept off from the banks of the Potomac to such a distance that he cannot shell the city, and this object is accomplished by the chain of works from Fort Scott to Fort De Kalb, resting its left on Four-Mile Run and its right on the Potomac. The works in question are, strictly speaking, for the defense of Alexandria and the railroad terminus. It is unnecessary to expatiate on the importance of holding these points; and these remarks are made to show that the hues of works necessarily embrace something more in their objects than the mere defense of Washington.

Fort Scott forms the left interior line covering Washington. That is, in connection with Fort Richardson, it continues the line to the Potomac, thus forming a complete defensive system independent of the works previously mentioned, which cover Alexandria. Its position is important and commanding, and the work is well constructed and provided with ample bomb-proofs and magazines. Under existing circumstances, the Commission do not find cause to recommend any modifications. They would recommend, however, the eventual filling up of the gap between this work and Fort Richardson, by a small work on the elbow of the ridge, and such other additional arrangements as may be necessary to make this interior line complete.

Fort Richardson occupies a very commanding position. It is small, but well built, well armed, and amply provided with bomb-proofs and magazines. The ravines in front will be seen by the rifle-pits in construction. A 100-pounder is being placed in this work, which will sweep a sector from Fort Ellsworth to Fort De Kalb. Considering its position (in a re-entrant) and difficulty of access, the Commission do not judge it necessary to recommend the construction of reversed flank defenses.

Fort Albany is a work partly bastioned, well built, and in admirable condition, the parapets being turfed and scarps revered with boards. It is well defiladed, and in a very advantageous position to cover the Long Bridge, and look into the gorges of Forts Richardson and Craig. It sees the high ground in front of Fort Tillinghast, and commands the valley between Forts Richardson and Scott. It is well provided with magazines, embrasures, and bomb-proofs. Some heavy rifled pieces are wanted.

Fort Runyon.–Though this work has not the importance it first had, it should not have been permitted to fall to decay, nor to be disarmed, as has very improperly been done. As a tete-de-pont, it should be re-armed, and kept in perfect condition in every respect.

The five works, Forts Craig, Tillinghast, Cuss, Woodbury, and De Kalb, extend the line from Forts Richardson and Albany to the Potomac, opposite Georgetown, covering what are usually called the Heights of Arlington, heights from which the enemy would have within long range of rifled guns the most important public buildings of the city. The line would have been better had it been thrown half a mile farther forward; but its location where it is, on ground by no means unfavorable, was not an error of judgment, but a necessity of the circumstances under which it was built. In reference to this part of the line, the following general remarks are made: The line south of Fort Richardson, <ar31_908> either by magnitude or commanding positions of works, or both, has great strength; if broken, the enemy has yet another line to carry before he can reach the bridges or the heights opposite Washington. If he attempts the left flank of the Arlington lines, by the Columbia turnpike, he takes a line of attack through comparatively low ground, swept to a greater or less degree by cross-fires or front-fires from Forts Ward, Blenker, Barnard, Richardson, Craig, Tillinghast, and Albany. The route from Ball's Cross-Roads, approaching the center and right flank of the Arlington lines, is, from the configuration of the ground, not thus closely swept and commanded. It forms the most practicable approach; it leads most directly to the point to be gained. All the ground in front, to the distance of a mile, is, however, in fact, swept in flank by the 100-pounders and other rifled guns of Fort Richardson, and of Batteries Cameron and Parrott, at an extreme range of 2 miles, and from the 100- pounder of Fort Ward and the two 100-pounders of Battery Kemble at an extreme range of 3_ miles, while it is under the direct fire, to a distance of at least 1,000 yards of the works (closely contiguous to each other), of the line.

The Commission are of opinion that this part of the line needs further strengthening, and recommend the following:

1st. A work at the red house, which shall strengthen the extreme flank of the line on the Potomac, and enfilade the long and deep ravine on the right and front of Fort De Kalb.

2d. A work on the spur behind Forts Cass and Tillinghast, which shall see into the gorges of these works, give an important fire upon the high ground in front of the line, and flank that line from Fort Woodbury to Fort De Kalb. This work will give great additional strength to Fort Corcoran, enabling it to be held, even should the two works in its front fall, and thus will enable us to maintain a tete-de-pont at the aqueduct, which cannot be held after Fort Corcoran falls.

3d. The construction of batteries for field guns along the intervals of the works, or in the lines of rifle-pits, wherever favorable locations offer themselves.

4th. The construction of sufficient bomb-proofs, to shelter the garrisons of the works named, Fort Corcoran included.

5th. The strengthening of the tete-de-pont at the aqueduct.

The Commission also recommend the construction of two works in advance of the line, at points which have been examined and indicated–one opposite the interval between Forts Craig and Tillinghast, the other opposite the interval between Forts Woodbury and Cass, and 700 or 800 yards in front, these works to have stockaded gorges.

Fort Ethan Allen.–This is a large work, bastioned on its exposed fronts, and pretty well adapted to its important position. The Commission recommend that a retrenchment be made to cross the gorge of the west bastion; that the fire on this capital be increased by placing 20-pounder rifled guns in the adjacent flanks, and two of the same class of guns on the pan-coupe of the salient; that additional bomb-proofs be built, so as to furnish sleeping accommodations for one-half the garrison; that the parapets of the northwest front be thickened to 14 feet; that additional platforms be provided for field guns, and that traverses be constructed on the northwest and south fronts.

Fort Marey.–Bomb-proofs are in course of construction, as well as additional platforms for guns. The Commission make no further recommendations.

The two works just named form no part of the Defenses of Washing ton, strictly speaking, but are of the utmost importance as a tete-de-pont <ar31_909> to the Chain Bridge, over which it is indispensable to secure a debouch. The position is strong and well occupied. The lines of rifle-pits which connect the works with each other, and with the banks of the river, afford, with the auxiliary batteries, full view and defense of the numerous ravines, and give all the artificial strength which the position needs. The heights from which the works can be commanded, and the approaches to them, are under the fire of the heavy guns (the 100-pounder Parrott, and rifled 42-pounders and 30- pounder Parrotts, and 32-pounder sea-coast guns) of Batteries Cameron, Parrott, Kemble, Vermont, and of Forts Alexander and Franklin.

The Commission suggest that some defensive arrangements are necessary immediately about the head of the bridge; probably two or three small works, or, perhaps, block-houses would suffice.

Forts on Upton's, Taylor's, and Munson's Hills.–An army falling back on Washington after defeat, or on account of inferiority of numbers, might find it advantageous or desirable on many accounts to occupy temporarily or permanently this advanced position; its left resting on these naturally strong points, its right on the works at Chain Bridge. On the other hand, should Washington be threatened while held merely by a garrison, these works are too far advanced to be held. We recommend that the existing works be preserved from dilapidation, and consider nothing more necessary.

Forts Alexander, Franklin, and Ripley.–This group of small works occupies a commanding, but advanced, position. The occupation is in dispensable to the security of the Chain Bridge, and protection of the receiving reservoir. The fires from these works add, at the same time, greatly to the strength of the works and position in advance of the Chain Bridge. The salient position of these works throws them, in great degree, upon their own unaided strength, while there are heights to the northward dangerously near, affording convenient emplacements for the enemy's artillery. The fire from the 100-pounder at Fort Pennsylvania reaches the heights in question; so, too, to a certain degree, that of the rifled guns of Fort Mansfield and adjacent batteries. The fire from the works themselves upon these heights is quite inadequate; the guns (32-pounders) crowded and wholly exposed. The Commission recommend, first, the union of the three works into (essentially) one, by connecting parapets; second, the removal of three 24-pounders now useless, from Fort Ripley, and placing them in battery behind the connecting exterior parapets; third, the building of merlons, to protect all the barbette guns bearing toward the heights mentioned; fourth, the construction of traverses on the southwest faces of Fort Alexander; fifth, the providing of platforms behind the external parapets for at least a dozen field guns to bear upon the heights; sixth, the introduction of another 100-pounder into Fort Alexander or Fort Franklin. (Part of the matters here recommended are in course of execution.) Between these works just named and Fort Mansfield are two wellconstructed and well-located batteries for field guns, for sweeping the ravine in front of Fort Mansfield.

Fort Mansfield.–The name is applied to two considerable redoubts and an exterior battery, connected by a substantial rifle-pit. The works are well located, as connecting links between Forts Ripley and Pennsylvania; are well built, and deemed adequate for their purpose. Still another redoubt (not named) is in construction on this line, near the Great Falls turnpike.

Fort Pennsylvania.–This work occupies a commanding position, at a point where the dividing ridge between the Potomac and Rock Creek <ar31_910> narrows so as to expose the slopes in both directions. It commands the three avenues to Washington which unite at Tennallytown. The work, as originally built, was deficient in size; its exposed parapets too thin, and it had not a good view of the approaches from the northward. A battery for eight guns has been constructed on an advanced point of the ridge (say 300 yards northward), with magazine and inclosed gorge. This is connected with the work by a double line of rifle-pits, with a flanking battery, making of the ensemble a very strong position. The armament of the fort has been increased, and its disposition improved; platforms constructed for additional field guns, and a 100-pounder rifled gun mounted to sweep the sector from Fort Marcy to Fort Massachusetts. The Commission recommend an increased thickness for the parapets of exposed fronts, and the construction of a bomb-proof for garrison.

Between Forts Pennsylvania and Kearny is a battery for eight field guns, very substantially constructed, with magazine, but with open gorge. It has good views of the cross valley running from near Fort Pennsylvania to Broad Branch (of Rock Creek), and sees well the ridge of high ground in front of Forts Pennsylvania, Kearny, and De Russy. The Commission recommend that its gorge be closed by a stockade, and extend this recommendation to the different batteries of similar construction between Forts Ripley and Massachusetts.

Fort Kearny (recently built), occupying an excellent position, is a necessary connecting link between Forts Pennsylvania and De Russy. It sees well the upper valley of Broad Branch, and crosses its fires with those of Forts Pennsylvania and De Russy and intermediate batteries upon the dangerous heights in front. It has a powerful armament, and is provided with ample magazines and bomb-proofs, and is well adapted to its location. A field battery, just across Broad Branch, has been built to sweep part of the ravine immediately in front of Fort Kearny; otherwise unseen.

Fort De Russy occupies a very commanding point, overlooking the deep valley of Rock Creek, and throwing a cross-fire upon the approaches to Fort Massachusetts, and (together with Fort Kearny)controlling the country roads between the Rockville turnpike and Rock Creek. It is too small, and its fire was inadequate to its position. The site does not admit of an easy extension. This defect is partially remedied by the construction of batteries on either flank, and a few hundred yards to the left, having a better view of the Milk-House Ford road and ravines toward Broad Branch; the other, on the right, sees the slopes toward Rock Creek. The Commission recommend the introduction of a 100-pounder, on center pintle carriage, in place of one of the 32-pounders, to sweep the sector from Fort Pennsylvania to Fort Massachusetts; the fire of which will be particularly important upon the approaches to Fort Massachusetts also; the construction of casemates for reverse fires in the east and west angle of the counterscarp.

Fort Gaines is a work in second line. Should the enemy succeed in forcing the interval between Forts Ripley and Pennsylvania, he could not establish himself on the secondary ridge, on which Fort Mansfield is situated, under the fire of this work, by the rifled guns of which the magazines of Fort Mansfield may be exploded. The Commission believe nothing further is required at this work.

Batteries Cameron, Parrott, and Kemble.–The first, of two rifled James 42s, the other two of one 100-pounder each, are designed, first, to enfilade the front of the Arlington lines from Fort De Kalb to Tillinghast; second, to operate on the heights between Forts De Kalb and Marcy, <ar31_911> on which the enemy could plant artillery to bear upon these works, and upon the marginal spurs on which batteries could be established, to bear on the aqueduct or Chain Bridge. Considering how important these functions are, the Commission recommend the substitution of 100-pounders for the rifled 42s in Battery Cameron, and the addition of another 100-pounder to each of the other batteries.

Battery Vermont was constructed before the other shore of the Potomac was occupied. It has a good view of the Leesburg turnpike, and the Commission recommend the substitution of rifled guns for the 32-pounders, to bear on that approach.

Battery Martin Scott sweeps the Chain Bridge. It now contains field 6-pounders. Two 8-inch siege howitzers are recommended.

Returning now to the principal line, and proceeding from Fort De Russy eastward, near Rock Creek, on the heights, on the east side, is a battery for field guns, on the line of rifle-pits, intended to command the broad ravine which crosses the interval between Rock Creek and Fort Massachusetts.

Fort Massachusetts, in conjunction with Fort Slocum, commands one of the principal avenues of approach to Washington. The original work was entirely inadequate to its important purpose. It has recently been judiciously enlarged, and, with the addition, is a powerful and satisfactory work. The Commission recommend that merlons be raised on the exposed front of the old work, which will, at the same time, defilade the rear and lateral faces; that the parapet of the exposed front be thickened; that bomb-proofs for garrison and casemates for reverse fire at the southeast angle of the old work and at the north angle of new work be constructed.

Fort Slocum.–From two-thirds of a mile to 1 mile in advance of Forts Massachusetts and Slocum the country rises to heights say 20 to 30 feet higher than the crests to those works, furnishing to an enemy most advantageous emplacements for artillery. Along the dividing ridge of this high ground, between Rock Creek and the Eastern Branch, leads the Seventh street turnpike road. These two works are, therefore, exposed to the most powerful efforts of the enemy. Fort Slocum, though originally of more respectable dimensions than Fort Massachusetts, was, nevertheless, a small work, and quite inadequate in strength, armament, and bomb-proof. The work is undergoing a considerable and judicious enlargement. The Commission recommend merlons and traverses on the exposed fronts of the old work, by which the work will be defiladed and the guns better protected. The high ground spoken of in advance of these works will be under the fire of the 100-pounders and other rifled guns of Forts De Russy and Totten, besides that of the powerful batteries of the works themselves.

Fort Totten occupies a most commanding and strong position, and exercises a powerful influence upon the approaches from the northward and those through the valley between it and Fort Lincoln. It is well adapted to its position, well built and well armed, and amply provided with magazines and bomb-proofs. The 100-pounder here placed will sweep the sector from Fort De Russy to Fort Lincoln. Merlons and traverses are not called for in this work. The position is so strong that reverse fires are not considered necessary for the ditches. No recommendations made.

Fort Slemmer.–A well-placed battery for three 32-pounder guns. No recommendations made.

Fort Bunker Hill occupies a very commanding position, but it is deficient in interior space. It should contain at least two rifled guns, and needs additional fire upon its capital. An advanced battery for field <ar31_912> guns is designed, with covered approaches or rifle-pits, connecting with the flanks of the work. A covered way would have been a valuable addition, and could have been easily made in the first construction. The Commission recommend a platform for the 8-inch howitzer, to be made in the pan-coupe, and a rifled 30-pounder to be placed on the existing platforms, on each of the two short lateral faces; also a battery for field guns upon the spur to the southward ; also the moving of the two guns on the gorge to more advantageous positions.

Forts Saratoga and Thayer are minor works, forming connecting links between Forts Bunker Hill and Lincoln. They are both lunettes, with faces of 100 feet, and stockaded gorges. The first furnishes valuable cross-fires upon the approaches to Fort Bunker Hill, and its situation is commanding. It is desirable that at least one rifled gun should be in this work, and a platform for such a gun is recommended to be made at the, salient. The heavy guns on the flanks should be moved on to the faces, and field guns placed in embrasures substituted. Merlons should be raised on the faces. It is amply provided with bomb-proofs.

Fort Thayer is located to command a spacious ravine, which otherwise would afford an ample cover and convenient approach to an enemy. The useless gun on the west-shoulder angle should be moved to the east face, to increase the fire upon this ravine. A platform for a siege gun should be made on the pan-coupe and platforms for field guns on the flanks, and merlons raised on faces. A ditch should be made along the stockade of the gorge.

Fort Lincoln is situated on an eminence, overlooking the extensive valley formed by the Eastern Branch and its tributaries, and commanding the Baltimore turnpike, the railroad, and several minor roads, which, passing through or near Bladensburg, lead into Washington. At the foot of this eminence was fought the battle of Bladensburg. The narrowness of the summit, on which it is situated, is unfavorable to a good trace. The exterior batteries and rifle-pits, however, thoroughly see the ground over which assaulting columns must pass, and the bomb-proofs and magazines, arranged as traverses, protect the long and narrow interior from enfilading fires. A 100-pounder is being mounted in the northeast angle, which will sweep the sector from Fort Slocum around to Fort Mahan. The Commission recommend reversed casemates in the northeast angle of counterscarp and a few additional platforms for guns on the western long face. An additional magazine is in construction. From the fort the ridge runs easterly to the Eastern Branch, about three-fourths of a mile distant. About midway is a half-sunk battery for field guns, connected with the work by a double caponiere. At this point the ridge falls abruptly 40 or 50 feet, and the line is continued by rifle-pits to the extremity, where a powerful battery has just been built, terminating this part of our line. A deep, and for three fourths its length impenetrable, ravine takes its origin near the fort, and runs behind and parallel to this ridge. On the spurs immediately south are two half-sunk batteries for field guns, bearing upon the margins of the Eastern Branch.

Fort Mahan may be considered an advanced tete-de-pont to Benning's Bridge, and commands the valley of the Eastern Branch as far as Bladensburg, as well as the immediate approaches to the bridge. It is situated upon an isolated hill, the steep slopes of which are unseen from the fort, and are necessarily defended by external rifle-pits. As long as this work is held, an enemy cannot bring artillery to bear upon the bridge, nor move in force along the road which leads from Baldness-burg to the Navy-Yard Bridge. Between this road and that leading <ar31_913> along the summit of the highlands southeast of the Eastern Branch the ground is very much cut up by wooded ravines perpendicular to the direction of the roads. Hence, this single work exercises a powerful influence in preventing an enemy, coming from the direction of Bladensburg, from reaching the margin of the Eastern Branch opposite Washington. It should be capable of holding out for a few days without external aid. The work is well built and sufficiently large. The Commission recommend the construction of bomb-proofs for the garrison, and to contain, besides five days' provisions, reversed casemates at three of the angles of counterscarp and a few more platforms for field guns on east and west faces; also a stockaded redan, to cover the entrance and flank the gorge. It should be remarked that Benning's Bridge itself is guarded by a tete-de-pont for infantry.

The chain of works (ten in all) from Fort Meigs to Fort Greble occupies the summit of the ridge between the Eastern Branch and Oxen Creek from almost all points at which, in this distance of 6 miles, an enemy can bring batteries to bear upon the navy-yard or arsenal.

Fort Meigs occupies a key-point to the ridge. It is the extreme point in this direction from which the arsenal and the navy-yard can be seen and reached by an enemy's batteries. To reach this point from Bladens-burg, an enemy must take the Eastern Branch and Benning's Bridge roads, or, by a considerable detour, strike the Marlborough road to the eastward. Obstructed at Fort Meigs, if he would reach the ridge at a lower point, he must make a more extensive detour, cross the valley of Oxen Creek above Fort Meigs, and recross it again; the only public road available being the one ascending the ridge at Fort Wagner and leading to the Navy-Yard Bridge. Fort Meigs should be a work capable of resisting a vigorous assault. It is not so (no isolated small field-work can be so), and no single large work on this difficult ground, even if the topography permitted, can be made so without numerous outworks. The object can only be attained by a congeries of works, which shall sustain and flank each other, and, from numerous points of view, see and guard all the ravines and otherwise hidden surfaces. To accomplish this– to a great degree, at least–several auxiliary works are necessary–say, a work some 300 yards distant, on the Marlborough road (under construction); a battery in connection therewith, near the road, to command a ravine of gentle slopes which extends from near Fort Meigs southward to Oxen Creek; a small work (under construction) on a knob a few hundred yards north of Fort Meigs (of much lower elevation), to see, in reverse, the steep slopes and ravines which approach the fort from the northward. These works, with Fort Du Pont, will form a congeries, which may be considered a single fortification or fortified camp, in which the garrison must sustain itself for a few days. The various ravines and inequalities of the ground furnish ample protection against direct or covered fires, and, as vertical fires are not to be apprehended, bomb-proofs are unnecessary., except for the ground of the forts themselves and for storage of provisions. The guns of Fort Meigs are all sea-coast 32s, and in barbette. As these guns will be useful for their distant fire, the light guns of surrounding works being depended on for flanking purposes, it may be well to let them remain as they are.

-Fort Du Pont, after what has been said, requires no especial remark. A deep ravine to the westward may, perhaps, be best defended by a block-house, which can be pretty well screened from an enemy's artillery. The system we have just spoken of may require two or three of these structures.

Fort Davis requires no especial remark. It may be regarded as an ´58 R R–VOL XXIª <ar31_914> outwork to Fort Baker, having a pretty good view of approaches on either side of the ridge, not seen from Fort Baker.

Fort Baker was designed on correct principles as a strong point on the ridge. Its site is the only one between Forts Meigs and Stanton admitting considerable dimensions. It is a strong and well-armed fort. A ravine near and parallel to its front requires a battery or block-house to guard it. The steep slopes behind it may be well defended by rifle-pits. Additional bomb-proofs are necessary for the garrison. The magazine entrances at this and several other works of this group should be screened by traverses.

Fort Wagner is a battery intended to sweep the valley through which the road leads up the heights.

Fort Ricketts is a battery intended to see the ravine in front of Fort Stanton, which it does but imperfectly.

Fort Stanton occupies the nearest point of the ridge to the arsenal and navy-yard, and overlooks Washington, the Potomac, and Eastern Branch. It is a work of considerable dimensions, well built, and tolerably well armed. Casemates for reversed fires are recommended in northwest and southwest counterscarp angles, and platforms for two or three rifled guns on the east front. The deep ravine which flanks this work on two sides requires some additional precaution, and further study of it is recommended.

Fort Snyder may be regarded as an outwork to Fort Stanton, guarding the head of one branch of the ravine just mentioned. Except additional platforms for field guns, and a ditch in front of the gorge stockade, and blockhouses, nothing further seems necessary.

Fort Carroll.–South of the ravine already spoken of, the character of the ridge between Oxen Creek and the Eastern Branch changes. Instead of a narrow ridge, it expands, at a level 60 or 70 feet lower, into a plateau of considerable width. At Fort Carroll this plateau narrows so as to afford a view of both slopes. A spur toward Oxen Creek gives a fine view of its valley opposite Fort Snyder to opposite Fort Greble. This point is occupied by a battery, inclosed at gorge by a stockade. The fort itself is large and well built. The Commission recommend bombproofs for garrisons and provisions, and additional platforms for field guns, and counterscarp casemates for flanking the ditches.

Fort Greble occupies the extremity of the plateau. It is a large and powerful work, well provided with magazines and bomb-proofs. The Commission recommend the construction of flanking casemates in counterscarp and additional platforms for field guns.

In relation to this group of works, the Commission express the opinion that an enemy will not attempt to enter Washington from this direction, and that we cannot (as a general rule) expect to be able to meet him with a line of troops. What is to be prevented is the seizure of these heights for the purpose of establishing batteries to destroy the navy-yard and arsenal. For this purpose the works should be self-sustaining, or relying only upon such aid as a small movable body of troops can furnish, and upon succor, which may be thrown over the Branch after an attack is developed. It is under this view that the considerable increase of strength to Fort Meigs is deemed necessary, and other recommendations are made.

Rifle-pits.–A line of rifle-pits commences at Fort Lyon and is continued to the Potomac near Fort De Kalb, interrupted only in the bottoms of Hunting Creek and Four-Mile Run (where obstructions replace it), or occasionally by ground so broken that continuity is not necessary. In this line are frequent emplacements for field guns, openings for <ar31_915> sorties, &c. It is not entirely completed. At the Chain Bridge the position is enveloped by a well-arranged system of rifle-pits. The line commences again at Fort Alexander, and continues to the Eastern Branch; from the first-named point to Fort Massachusetts being of dimensions enough to cover entirely a man standing in the trench, and to contain two ranks. From Fort Massachusetts to the Eastern Branch the pits are intended only for one rank. The Commission recommend that the dimensions be increased to admit two ranks. Fort Mahan is surrounded by rifle-pits, and some have been constructed in connection with other works over the Eastern Branch. The Commission recommend the construction of rifle-pits in connection with each work, or system of works, of this group, so as to view and defend its own approaches, a continuous line not being necessary.

Wells.–Generally the works are (in some cases at great expense of labor) provided with copious wells. There are yet some, however, where they are wanted, and where they should be provided.

Roads.–On the south side of the Potomac there are roads enough, or nearly so; but they require much work, such as widening, raising, constructing of culverts, &c., to make them practicable for winter. A new military road has been constructed from Fort Alexander to Fort Massachusetts, having branches connecting with the different works. The roads along the line thence to Fort Lincoln (partly made by the engineers) make the chain complete. Much work, however, is required on the main stems leading from the city, to make them practicable in the winter. A military road has been made to Fort Stanton; another is in construction behind the ridge from Fort Baker to Fort Meigs, to enable succor to be given promptly to the works. The communications with Forts Carroll and Greble are probably sufficient. It has been estimated that the work on roads about Washington requires ten regiments for twenty days, and efforts have been made to obtain this or an equivalent of labor in some other shape. The Commission further state their opinion that the Defenses of Washington cannot be considered complete without the defense of the river against an enemy's armed vessels. Foreign intervention would bring against us maritime forces, and we could not depend upon being always in superior naval force on the Potomac, and we are, even now, threatened with Confederate iron-clads fitted out in English ports. Fort Washington is too distant for defense of the river under existing circumstances, for the superiority of the enemy in the field, which would drive us behind the Washington lines, would prevent our supporting that work if attacked by land. The Commission believe that a satisfactory defense may be afforded by placing on Jones' Point, near Alexandria, a battery of six guns of the heaviest caliber, say, four 200-pounders and two 15-inch guns in casemates, and by constructing a battery of ten guns and a covering work on the opposite shore of the Potomac, at or near Rozier's Bluff. An examination has been made, revealing a most favorable and strong position on that side, easily communicated with by water. Surveys are in progress. The occupation of a point on the other shore in this vicinity will likewise protect Alexandria from cannonade, to which it would be exposed if left open to the enemy. The Commission recommend, as an additional security to Washington, the establishment of two heavy guns on Giesborough Point.

The Commission conclude their report by expressing their convictions of the great importance of this system of defenses to Washington, and by urging upon the War Department and Congress to take steps and provide means for a full and early completion of the work. <ar31_916>

The great authority of Napoleon is on record upon the necessity of fortifying national capitals. He gives his opinion that 50,000 men, national guards or volunteers from the citizens, and 3,000 artillerymen will defend a capital against an army of 300,000, and that had Vienna, Berlin, and Madrid been fortified and defended, the countries of which they are the capitals would have been preserved from the fatal results of his campaigns of 1805, 1806, and 1808 against them, and that, had Paris been fortified in 1814, his own Empire would have been saved from overthrow.

The position of Washington, on the very borders of the insurgent territory, exposes it to great danger in cases of serious reverse to our arms in Virginia, and twice already have its defensive works been the means of saving the capital and enabling us to reorganize our defeated armies.

Brevet Brigadier-General and Colonel of Engineers.


Brigadier-General of Volunteers.

Brig. Gen. and Chief of Engineers, Defenses of Washington.

Brigadier-General and Chief of Staff of the General-in-Chief.

ORA, I, 21 (serial. 31), 902-16.

<<< Previous <<< Contents >>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 29-Oct-2004