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Full text of "The history and construction of Fort Washington from the time of its erection until 1884 : Fort Washington, Maryland / by A. Walter Jacobson"

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/HOM HHjL nas Oi 1 IiS BHECHOII UUIIl 1884. 







JABUABY 15, 1933. 


Fort Washington is a reservation situated on tne 

left bank of tne 'otomac aoout fourteen miles below Jasaing- 

ton, near tne mouta of tne Piscataway creek. It was one of 

the first military ^osts of tne colonists, anu its estab- 

lishment dates bac'-r to 164 j. Jeor a e Washington advised tne 

building of tne fort proper in 1794. 

During tne second war wita England, on August 27, 

1814, tne iritisn sailea up the "^otouac toward the Capitol. 

.j'aen tne fleet reacneo Port Washington, without any command 

fiOu an external source, tne fore was abandoned and tne mag- 

azine blown up by tae garrison. Jot a single saot was fired. 

Ihe British took possession of the fort, ana with no otner 

obstacles in taeir way, marched Into Alexandria and lashing- 

ton. Sue commander of tne fort was court martialed shortly 

afterward, anu dissjissed from tne service. Phis was the on- 

1^ time the fort was needeu, anu it faileu i & noniniously. . 

I?he fort ?roper is an irregular be.3tioned struc- 

ture of stone and brick masonry, and has a battery of like 

materials.- fhe huge ray walls ^ive tne appearance of a 

Japanese caatle. 

In 1874 tne .aryland legislature ceued jurisdic- 

tion of the property to tne United otates. 

^n 1884 tne fort was deserted and overgrown wita 

vines, and tne builuin^s in a dilapidated condition. Jo de- 

finite plans for tne future were known. 



jj'ort ./a Sainton, known as Fort Warburton prior to 
1813, is a reservation situated on cue left bank o :' tae Po- 
tomac, about; fourteen miles below tae City of '.7asuia & toa, 
near the mouth of the Pi sea ta way creek, and contains an area 
Of 341.43 acres. 

Hue fort can lay claim to bein^ one of the oldest 
an & lo-saxoa settlements la tae Western Hemisphere as well as 
oae of tae first military )08ts of the early colonists. Its 
establisnmen t dates to 1646 Y/uea a garrison was erected at 
tae raoutii of tue Piscatsvmy creek in accordance with tae de- 
fense net of the Province o± Maryland, pas3ed ia tnat year. 
.Thomas ./arson was the first commander of the garrison aad 
freemen of Saint leorge settlement constitute- tue military 

?rior even to tae coming of tae white man was tae 
site of this fort recognized as an important strategic out- 
post. Hue inci ians nave used irs advanta fe eous location for 
defease our^oses bota ia tne wars amoa 6 sc tnemselves, as well 
a3 ia cueir later struggles a^aiast tae advancing waite set- 
tiers. Here tue/ maae taeir last stand against tue latter ia 
1696 when a force of twenty- five auncired Indians were defeat- 
ed by r lesser number of Maryland and Virginia militia under 
tue command of Colonel Joan Vifasaia fe toa, grandfather of tae 
first president. 

On the 12th of iuay, 1794, Henry inox, taen secre- 
tary of .7a r under Vita Sainton, directed Joan /ermonnet to as- 
sume coar&e over tae military works at Alexandria and Anna- 
polis, hie letter contained tae following, sentence: "Sue 
president of tne United states, who is well acquainted with 
tae river Potomac, conceives that a certain bluff of land on 
tne luaryland side, near Jr. Di^es, a point formed by tae 
Eastern brancu of tae Potomac, would be a proper situation 
for tae fortification to be erected." fhia was tae origin 
of Fort F»shington, ana it is a tradition that Jasnin^ton 
was impressed witn tne availability of tae place for a mil- 
itary sice as ne looked out of nis winuow at Mounc Vernon 
toward toe Qapitol Gity. Ehe sum to be ex^endeu for tae 
fortification, aowever, was only turee taousand dollars, ex- 
clusive of the cannon. rhis low estimate is explained in 
some decree by tae fact toat tae parapets of the work were 
to be of carta, or ';vnere that could not be obtainea of adhe- 
sive quality, tae parapets were to be faced witn strong tim- 
ber, and filled witn suca earth as could be nad. Seed of 
knot ^rass were to be sown on tne parmets to binu tne earth 
and sods to^etaer. Mr. Vermonnet was ^ery distinctly inform- 
ed toat his employment aia not confer or involve any military 
rank waatever. a*i3 compensation was four dollars ier day. 

Ihe property on waich tae new fort was to stand wao 
known as far buck as 1742, as .Var burton Lianor* In that year 
it was willed by Cnarles jji 0& e3 to nis son I nomas A. Di^es. 
fhe tnree acres whieh contained tae bluff proper were our- 


c based from the latter for taree thousand doll^s, on April 
16, 1908, although tae site was officially selected ana ne- 
gotiations be»un two years earlier. The erection of tee fort 
was immediately commenced, but evidently tae old idea of sim- 
ple earthwork was not carried out, for on June 6, 1309, Pre- 
sident Jefferson transmitted zo uon-ress a report on tae 
fortifications of tae Uni ted states in wnich ae referred to 
J?ort .Yasnington as "a new incloseu work on tae Potomac be- 
tween Alexandria ana Llount Vernon, of stone ana orlck mason- 
ry to wnich was attacned a strong battery of like materials' 1 . 
Pne latter was saia to be nearly uompleted and ready foi the 
reception of cannon and garrison, waicn had been ordered and 
naa arrived at tae fort. Tae erection of an oata on tower 
on tae eminence overlookin Che fore was well under way. Ey 
December of tue same year, nearly ten taousand dollars had 
been expended on tae work. Jne octagon tower had been com- 
pleted, together wita a brick magasine * nd barracks. In 
December, 1811, Congress was informed that tae tower was in- 
tended to a e fend fore in tae rear. It contained six 
^uns, while tnere "'ere t air teen ^uns in tae fort proper. 

But wnat -as tne condition 'of tfi« fore, wnen at 
last tne British obtaine... a footaolu in tae unites Dta„es 
and were maruuin s uion In uia^ton. On tae £5th of July, 
1814, loneral Tinker, wiose military district aad been en- 
larged to include tae District of woluinbia and a greater 
part of itfirylaad and /ir^inia conti & uous to it, and 'iao at 
once ins-^eetea Fort ifa shington, repoj ted that tne fort was 


in several respects incomplete in its prepare tion for defense. 
lie submitted a. report to Lieutenant Edwards, taen commanding, 
which was not encouraging. It called attention to the neces- 
sity of mounr,in heavy artillery in toe block uouse; stating 
tuat tne ei fc iiteen oound Columbiads were not mounted anil tflat 
there was no tackle in toe fort to mount tnem in position; 
tuat the fa -un platforms were so narrow that at tne first dis- 
cnar^e of the pieces, tne latter would turn over, and tuat 
tae five excellent ei^uteen pounders were mounted on tae wa- 
ter battery, which would be useful in time of attack, but 
there was not s single iouna of ammunition in tae fort Hot 
tnem. dome of the gun carriages, also, were out of order 
and quite useless. Colonel Vadsworth, stationed at (Jreen- 
lenf's Point, where toe present Washington barracks are si- 
tuated, sent two men to repair trie t un carriages, rnc * r2_ 
fcortsd to .Lieutenant Edwards' criticisms by sayin^ that tne 
ammunition for the eighteen pounders " had long sines been 
ordered, tinat t oe 6 un platforms vere not too narrow, and 
that tne otner ordinance could be sent if tie was directed 
to do so". Reports and communications were numerous and 

During all tnis period of voluminous letter writ- 
ing, tne people of 3t. idary's nnu Charles* counties were im- 
portuning tae government fox aid and protection. Ihey could 
look out uion tne Cnesaoea'-te and see tne fleet of the British, 
wnile at short intervals txieir and comfort would be 
disturbed by Parties wnich landed ana foraged through tne 


oountry. On the 18th of August, 1814, the observer, who had 
been stationed at J oint Lookout, sent word to Fort ffasnington 
that she enemy's fleet off that place had been reinforced 
by a formidable squadron of ahi^s and vessels of various 
sizes. Ilhe next day, General finder, realizing tne c raveness 
of the situation, as^eu the Secretary of far wiietner it would 
be expedient to have vessels ready to be sunk in the Potomac 
rz Fort /^ton or 3ome otner point, to obstruct the navi- 
gation. "Vfould it not be proper," he also asked, "to lave at 
Fort Wasaington, to transport troops, all tie boets that can 
be propelled by oars, tnat are at the City of Washington un- 
der the control of toe Hiavy?, and 170 u Id it not be wise to 
have the Jfarine eor^s reenforce the troops already at ,tae 

But tneae suggestions, if they could ns ;e availed 
anything, came too late. rhe land force of the iriti3h gra- 
dually closed in upon Washington. Ehe militia of Washington 
and J-eor^etown were mustere J in end marched bravely to a 
TOint four miles down tne ! .am branch bridge on t.*e road 
to upper Marlborough. On trie first onslaught of the enemy 
at Bladensburg, tne militia and the regulars broke ranks 
and fled ~>reci~itately, never stopping until tney were at 
lannallytown, two miles above Georgetown, and the enemy nad 
entered tile city. 

en tne denser tnu3 realized waa apprehended, tne 
few remaining members of the common council of Alexandria 
held a aeetin a ana decide*, to; t if ..he Britisn fleet saould 


ever pass jj'ort ..'psnifloton, taey would surrender uoon the best 
terms they coulu 5 et. All tueir sole bodied men nad ^one to 
tne foit, or were with tae army, and no one was left in tne 
city but a Jew wno3e ^re.-eenee waa needed, or aad secur- 
ed suostitutea, and old men, women, anci children. "'aen tae 
Britisa took possession of Washington, lae.e waa great excite- 
ment in the town. IJae President and the members of uis cabi- 
net lied and could not be found; and there waa no military 
commander 01 officer to advise. Un^er these circumstances, 
tae common council sent a delegation with a flag to Admiral 
Cockburn to mow wnat treatment could be expected of tae en- 
emy suould tney reacn tae town, lie replied tha t private pro- 
perty would be reapecteu, and that whatever provisions were 
needed would be paid for. 

"Utile fcaese things were cioin^ on in Washington, ■ 
says tae report afterward made by tne council to tae Congres- 
sional Investigating Committee, "tae British squadron had 
been gradually ascendin 6 tue Potomac, and on the 27th of 
August, c.oree days before tue battle of Blaaensbu rg, it 
reacned Fort Sashing ton. Upon t^e fort did tae safety of 
Alexandria now aeiend. the citizens looked witn great an- 
xiety upcn this ooin-c for protection, but to their great 
surprise and mortification and witnout concurrence or 
wish of tue municipal autnority of tue town or any members 
of ii, tae fort was abandoned, and the magazine blown up by 
tae Uniteu States larrison on tue evening of the 27th with- 
out firing a single un. 


Captain jordon, who was commanding the British 
fleet, u ives tae following account of cue affair; 

'Ihe follow if mornino, August 27th, to our great 
joy t^e wind becaiae fair, ana we mrde all sail up tne river, 
waiea now assumed a more pleasing aspect. It five o'clock 
in the a r'teinoon, Jbunt /ernon, tae retreat of the illus- 
trious SFashingtoa, openec to our view and snowed us for tne 
first time since we entered tne n otcnac, a gentleman's re- 
sidence. Higher ui tae river on tae opposite side Fort 
Washington appeared to our anxious eyas and to our great 
satisfaction assailable. 

"A little before sunset tne squadron ancnoied just 
out of gunshot, the bomb vessels at once took up tueir po- 
sition to cover tae frigates in the projected attack at uay- 
li c at next :ao^nin to and oe & an throwing suells. She garrison 
to our great surprise, retreated from tne fort; and a snort 
time afterwards yort Washington was blown up, wnich left the 
Oapitol of America and the populous town of .ilexanuria open 
to tae squadron, without tae loss of a man. It was too late 
to ascertain whether this catastropne was occassioneu by one 
of our shells, or waether it Had oeen blown un by the garri- 
son, but cae oninion was in favor of tne latter. Still we 
we^e at a loss to account for such an extraordinary step. 

"Tne position was good, and its capture could nave 
cost us at least fifty men or more, a d it been properly de- 
fended; besides an unfavorable wind anu many otner enanees 
were in taeir favor, anu we could have only uestroyeu it nad 


we succeeded in tne attempt. 

''At daylight the ship moored under the battery and 

completed ita destruction. Pne ^una ^ere snike ,. by the en- 
emy; we Otherwise mutilated taem and destroyed tne carriages. 

"Fort Washington was a most respectable defense; 
it mounts two I'ifty-two pounders, two thirty- two pounders, 
eight twenty- four pounders; in a raartello tower, two thirty- 
two pounders, with two loop-hole 3 for musketry; raid a battery 
in tne rear mourn in^ two twelve and six pound field pieces." 

rhe relinquishment of tne fort decided Alexandria's 
fate. The British fleet was met immediately after it passed 
Fort .'a an i n^ton by a delegation of citizens, amon^ them tne 
mayor, but were informed by Captain cordon tnat Admiral Cock- 
burn would make known his terms wnen ne got opposite tne city, 
ioon afterward, tne fleet, consisting of seven vessels, with 
a total of one Hundred and twenty-eight fc uns, were ranged in 
a semi-circle opposite tne town, ready to boaberd it. Under 
tnese circumstances, tne terms of capitulation were easily 

i ore Jashington at the time it ms blown up con- 
tained nineteen uns and a ^arrison of a bout fifty men. Tne 
officer command in u was Captain 5am r, Dyson, Me was quickly 
callea to account on the 29th of August, thirty-six nours 
after ne bad abandoned tne fort. Secretary of Jar Armstrong 
3ent an officer to aim for a written or verbal report of tne 
causes wnich led aim to vacate tne post committed to nis 
charge, tne orders under wnich be acted, and from whom re- 


ceived. Caitain Dyson's reply was as follows; 

'' iiie older s received from Brigadier ieneral Winder 
through Jajor Uite verbally on tue S4feh instant were, in 
ease T was pressed by or neard of any enemy in my rear, to 
spike my ^uns and make my escape over the river. rhe enemy 
apprcacaed by water on the 27th, and we aad learned on tnat 
day through several channels th? it tne enemy aad been reen- 
foreed at Benedict two thousand atron a , and tnat they were 
on tne marcn to cooperate witn tne fleet in addition to tae 
force which left tne city. Under all ue circumstances tne 
officers under my command were consulted and it was tnought 
best to abandon tne foi t and effect a retreat* Tne force un- 
der ay command was not thought equal to tne defense of tne 
piece. " 

Ine Court JSartial which was convened tnou^at dif- 
ferently, an- on ^ae 17tn of tne following November, tney re- 
turned a finding to tae effect that Captain Dyson "misbehaved 
himself cefoie tne enemy and soamefully abanuoned tne fort 
end post which ne tuen ana the-e commanded and wnich it '"as 
uis bounden duty to defend." Ine recommendation tn t ne be 
dismisses' from tae service o£ tae United states was at once 
approved by the Secretary of Jar. 

rue Fort fashington, as it appeared in 1884, was 
be^un in 1815 upon almost tne same site as tue old work, and 
was finisned in 1824, it> total cost up to tue letter date 
bein $dd6, 000, It is situated on a aign ridge at tne con- 
fluence of tae Piscataway Creek and tae Potomac River, f.bout 


fourteen miles below Washington, anci its picturesque stone 

Lla are familiar t ) the i.iousanus who pass it on pleasure 
trins down tne river, or pilgrimages to Llcunt Vernon. Be- 
hind the fort is a deep ravine, three hundred feet wide at 
the top, with sides sloping precipitously about eighty feet, 
terminating in a narrow plane about one hundred feet wide. 
I!na rid e is composed of clay, sand, and marl, and many 
fossils hr:Ve been found in the vicinity of the marl beds, 
whica open on one river b*mk. rhe sides of ravins were 

formerly heavily timbered but this was out away during the 
Civil far, when the fort was garrisoned by forty marines 
solely for the protection of nubile property, and n±e covered 
with a vigorous growth of youn^ trees, ->rin6ipally cresnut 
and locust. i!ne ctiannel, lowever, is not more than five 
hundred feet, and is entirely on the fort or Maryland side 
of tne river. She Maryland shore is gradual slo^in c , 3andy 
and bard, the Virginia shore being muddy and flat. Bota 
sides aie covered in summer by the ordinary rivei gn 38, 

Lch is exposed at low tide, the rise and fall of whica is 
between five and 3ix feet. 

rue fort proper is an irregular bestioned struc- 
ture, with a water battery in front. It has high walls of 
stone and brie"*, and its exterior view is said to resemble 
in ma ay particulars the old feuual castles in Ja^n. It 
commands the rivei fir a point considerably below Blount fer- 
aon, wnile looking toward tue city from Festern -i^ra ^et, 

the Quae of the Capitol, the e*ashin 6 ton Monument, and otner 


lpnd marks are plainly seen. It; was garrisoned during tne 

war, although, fortunately, its services T '?re never needeo. 

rna Alexandria iazette published the following article on 

January 7, 1861: 

By lelegraph co the 'jazette. 
Washington, D.G., Jan. 6, 1861. 

Extrac t: 

" of the President in garrisoning Fort 
Washington is severely condemned, pnd toe Abolitionists who 
have brought all this trouble upon us will -isve a terrible 
crime to answer for.'' 

Local Items. 

"joit Sasnington - Within a few years oast tnis 
work has been put in a condition of complete uefense against 
attack by land as well as by water. 

"It is a bastionefl work, unaccessible to escslade 
in tae rear, end Protected from assault in the front by a 
ditch whicn is cc-iiaanued in all its parts by flank vines of 
^rape and eannister. the greater part, if not all of its 
armament is understood to be at the work, and tne magazine 
i3 also understood to be amply su • -lied with all the munitions 
necessary for its greatest efficiency- '* 

rue fort ".'as always moxe or less unhealthy, and in 
August, 1870, every man, woman, and child on the re-servation 
-.fas attacked with intermittent ox remittent fever. Phe fort 

i evacuated in September, 1872 , In December, 1878, leneral 
Ayres wa3 placed in charge, but on the 31st jf ^b.j, 1384, the 

fort v/83 turned over to toe Engineer Department for modifi- 
cation -m^i repair, /ram 1872 to 1084 its c arrison consist- 
ed of one ordinance sergeant. On At 11 11, 1874, an act of 
the Maryland legislature was approved, ceding jurisdiction 
over t&e property to tae United States, tae state ress±rvin fc 
the right to serve criminal ana civil processes within the 
limits ol" tae reservation. She provisions are as follows: 

"Sect. 1. ^e i i. enacted, etc. 

"That tne jur isdic tion and control over the resi- 
due of the lands o"?ned b t v the United States, and constitut- 
ing tie site of Fort Washington, in tne county of Prince 
jieDr^e, and tne jurisdiction and c nirol over tne lands 
hereinafter described, or any portion thereof, in said coun- 
ty, that may be nereafter conveyed by dead, duly executed, 
acknowledged and recorded to t.*e United States, and t is water, 
water rignts, and ell otnes riguts appertaining fenereto, be 
and the same is hereby ceded and vesced in tae United states 
of America for military and naval purposes; tne said cession, 
H9 t ; said land that may hereafter be conveyed, to cake ef- 
fect whenever tae same snail be so conveyed; beginning for 
the said land to be hereafter conveyed. ******** jfa Q Sfir n Q 
corner isin = tne two parcels of fe round, aarta from tae 7arbur- 
ton -Jano-: , and mentioned and conveyed in • deed from Jonn 
Jonnson a ad xaomas a. Alexander, trustees, to ".Yilliam lerley; 
recorded under tae land records of Prince leorge's oounty, 
liber J.B.B., Ho. 4, folio 806, etc:, provi ^e d alway s, tuat 
this cession and juj. isd action aie granted uion tne express 


condition that t le state shall retain a concurrent jurisdic- 
tion witn tne Uni tec States in and on tue said ceded lands 
and territory so far as that all civil and sue a criminal 
process as may issue under the authority of tnis State, a & ain- 
st any person or persons with crimes committed without said 
lanus and ceued territory, may be executed therein, in tne 
same "way ! .;nd manner as though tnis cession and consent nad 
never been mace or granted, except so far as sue a process, 
the real ant- personal property of tae United states witain 
tne said ceded territory. 

"Be it enacted tnat tae said len^s over ra.ica tne 
jurisdiction is granted bj tnis act, together witn all ner- 
sonal uoperty wnicn may thereafter be witnin tne bounds 
thereof, belon^in^ to tae United states, s.jall be exonerated 
end disc narked from nil taxes and assessments w.^ica nay be 
at any time imposed by the autaority of tnis State, wnen and 
so lon as tae said lands* or portion t^e-eof, respectively, 
are ana shall remain tne iro-ierty of tne United States, and 
be usee for tae our->ose aforesaid." 

£ne officer in charge of the fort in 1384 was Or- 
dinance Sergeant H. S, Joyce. Eis life at tae fort a ver^ 
quiet one, oonsiuei in to tn i oe iad soent twenty-eignt years in 
tae army, sixteen of wnicn "'ere on the lexas frontier, at 
i'oris ^eclntosn anu Ringgold, fighting Indiana. He was de- 
tailed to tae fort in December, 1883. 

If Fort Washington has nevei known a battle of pow- 
der and shot, it Has been tae subject of lengthy conflict in 


Which peas and paper forme a the ammunition. She reservation 
on wnicu it is situated haa a history of litigation extend- 
ing over ten years. On the 31st of August, 1815, some nine 
acres were purcnased from I. A. ji 00 e3 and ffilliam J). Digges 
for 58,461 for tne purooae of enlar^in^, tne reservation upon 
which the new fort was to be built, Anotaex strong consid- 
eration urged for the purcnase was tu i tne small area pre- 
viously occupied oad enabled an eazei '"orising >e±son to r^n 
a tavern and grog-snop immediately tne walls of tne 
fort, "defeating the most zealous efforts of tne officers to 
ire serve discipline among tne men. " In surveying tue lanu 
conveyed to tne United states, nowever, a oiece was left to 
tne proprietor, with singular improvidence, between the fort 
and tne river, and in erecting tne fort, with still gre ler 
improvidence, a numcex ol' briefc buildings were ereetea on 
this land. Part of tne fortification was irojeeted, ana nad 
ocen. partially erected on tae property, when tne discovery 
was made tnat it did not belong co the government, anu tne 
work suddenly stopped. 

A lon^ litigation between tne United states and 
-Jioo^ 3 ensued. i'ue property in question measured everal 
acres, anu Cue first arbitrators appraised tne value at 
$£9,600. Ibis was afterward objected to by Secretary of Far 
Barbour as excessive and it oein 6 found tnat ^i^-,es owed the 
$ vernment $13,000 with $7,000 interest additional, oo a 
judgement a^ainot him, it was proposed to him that his ">ro- 
lervy be taken as payment of tne debt. He objected but Con- 


& resa would acceu no other 8rrRH c e...ent, not even though his 
council, Hoses i'abbs, in a memorial to that body saia that 
"ever the slumbering 3piiit of justiee . area Lues uoon tae 
claims of Dudley Digges." Afterward Dirges died, and bis 
widow, Ho rati, in ISay, 1833, finally accented tae ^overnme tits 
proposition and toe lon^ dispute was ended. 

In 1084, A Wasiin ton newspaper Man u escribed the 
for i a s follows: 

'An air of desertion uan e 3 over fort /• shlngton to- 
day. Its buildings, saiu to bave been imnorted from England, 
still stand in a remarkable state of preservation, but they 
are old and teoantless. Fhe Picturesque ^ace, wita its draw- 
bridge over the moat, is overgrown wi tb vines, sno>-*? creep 
through the tsll rank j, ana lizards of brilliant nues 

are tae only sentinels who mount ^uard upon the wells. Can- 
nons of patterns lon_ since obsolete, lie imbedded in the 
earth and ^rass, or frown, wi tn unconcious impotence from 
t is casemate windows. ?rom little crevices between piled up 
cannon bolls tie lon^ stalks of -olden rod find their upward 
way. Ihe brick passage ways pre overgrown wita grass and 
weeds, and scarlet trumpet flowers and otaer cree'in^ vines 
are fast covering the walls. 

w There Sxe no incidents connected wita tae fort Co 
oiJt it tragic interest. It never fired a snot in its own 
defense. At best tne sergeant who accompanies you in tne 
round of tae examination can only point out the old ^uard 
rooms, one of tae floors still indented with a brick torn 


up from the flooi by a drunken 'in;- excited -orisoner. Or if 
you notice that the steps lea.>in to tae ilatform over the 

nridge ^n te aie niched, sergeant tells you that some- 
time be f -ire he eame in cnar a e, a sarty of uen landed from a 
boat, entered the fort from tae rear, and c*rrle< :; off tae 
brass gun whica was >nce used t fire the morning and evening- 
salutes, e steps leading flown to casemates are also chip- 
ped, bu t tnis was done by children on picnic parties rolling 
cannon calls from the top to the bottom. Hot even the offi- 
cers w no command the fort ■■t various times bi d lives of more 
tipn ordinary inter. at. 

'. wooden sundial upon two sides of a chimney is a 
relic of ancient times in tae fort, and is remarkable in be- 
ing upri^ it, the majority of sundials being horizontal. 

'Ammunition as old as tne fcrt and utterly useless 
ia stored in t. zine. ^very noo~k Find corner In tne fort 

is a quaint picture in itself, but peroapfl one of the pret- 
tiest subjects of an artist' - pencil is a at semate rescued 
by an underground passage* lere four bmss howitzers point 
outward with apparent fierceness, but a graceful network of 
a reen vines, tae leaves delicately transparent in tae sun- 
lit it, almost obstruct tne view through the portholes. It 
is as pretty i s a poem." 

lime ass made many ehan&es in Fort Washington. On 
February 2, 1825, lent xal Hacomb, Chief of Engineers, made 
a ieoort in wuicn ne said: 

"Tne position of Fort Washington is exceedingly 


otron^, sad tne work i3 "built of tie mo;i t durable materials 
and executed In the best manner. Its batteries command com- 
pletely the channel of tne Biver ?otomsc tnJ cover the Dis- 
trict or Columbia, including tie National Capitol, from at- 
tack by water. S"ort Washington, on the land sideis very 
strong, being def ended by high walls pnd a deep ravine. It 
is ao well situated taat it cannot be tnVen unlesi invested 
and regularly besieged, and even then it may be considered 
competent to hold out until properly relieved by trie forces 
of cae country. It may be proper to remark tiiat t;e selec- 
tion of tne site was made in 1606 before cue council of the 
Boa x d of Bng ine era . " 

It was believe', in 1684, that if the selection for 
the si^e was taen o^en, a oositi^n further down tne river, 
about Geuar Point, "?ould be chosen, not because tne position 
was itself stronger on tne land side, or that it more com- 
pletely commanded the river, but simily because it commanded 
to t^e enefflj a ioint of attack at a greater di stance from tne 
Capitol, find even as to this soint, J'ort Washington bein^ re- 
tained, and completely commanding the liiver, would enable the 
government, o^ temporary works at tne lower point, erected 
at a small cost, to prevent an enemy from passin & . that posi- 
tion, as he would nave no adequate inuucement to run t 
slightest nazard when knowin^ that the batteries of Fort "Yaso- 
in^ton would put it out of his power to do any injury. 

On tne 1st of August, 1684, Llajor Peter C. Hains, 
after inspeetioa of the place, made a report to the Gaief of 


^n ineers in wnioh tie saiu : 

"iiie masonry of tlie olu works is still in good coa- 
dition, but as t^e fort was designed moj.e than one-half a 
century a.,o, it is not adapted to receive guns of mooern 
size, or to defensive purposes against aucn & uns. ***** 
At tne present time the defences rno-n as Jfort rashington 
consist practically of four fifteen foot gun platforms, with- 
out a parapet in front of them nnd without magazines. Ine 
twenty- four -oound barbette b uns in fcne old fort are prac 
cally worthless, as they coulu do no harm, fnis fori;, to- 
gether with Jort ?oott, a work of leas stren^tn, if that be 
possible, constituted toe defenses of the capitol of s ^reat 
nation. Hue buildings unoccuoieu by troops, are generally 
in a uilapidated condition, out no repairs are recommended 
as it is of mo- e importance to mount a few guns and to 
finish une magazines ana paranets. 

"It is thus probable tnat tue fort, a 3 it is at 
esent constructed, will soon ce r tning of tne oast, of 
course tne site 111 no c be abandoned, but t^e c^rse *er of 
tie fortification will be almost entirely enanged. en tne 

work of remodeling will begin is a ma tier dependent upon 
Congressional appropriation. Already, however, proposals 
have been invited for tne removal to governor's Island, iiew 
lork, of twenty-si^ tnousand pounds 0? old orainance in tne 
fort. fhe greater portion of this material will be sold as 
old iron a: half a cent a oound, altnougn it will cost at 
least t'iree-qua cers of a cent a ^ound to transport it. 7aen 


it nas been removed t^e fort will be ready for remodeling. 
Ihe battery, previously mentioned, w ien was be fa un upon nlans 
approved in 1870 and upon wnicu "'c:k waa sjs^ended for lee* 
oT funds, will be fini3ued; as it is modern in construe tin. 
Ins ; otO:.iac way be oenrived of a "picturesque spot, b-it tnere 
will be more safety in tide of war." 












1. "United States Reservations, national Cemetaries and 

Military Parka" - 1916. 

2. "Army agister of tixe United 6t*tea - 1779 -1879" 

T. H. S. Hammer sly. 

3. Alexandria iazette - January 7, 1861. 

4. faanington ?o. ; c - August 17, 1884. 

5. ifar 3e pertinent Records.