Civil War Defenses of Washington
Historic Resource Study
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Washington, D.C. could not be easily defended because it, and the surrounding area had, "no strong natural defensive features." During the Civil War, the Union constructed a fortification system to protect its capital. This fortification system protecting Washington, D.C. made it the best-defended city in the world at the time of the Civil War. [1]

Barnard described this system:

" . . . from a few isolated works covering bridges or commanding a few especially important points, was developed a connected system of fortification by which every prominent point, at intervals of 800 to 1,000 yards, was occupied by an inclosed field-fort, every important approach or depression of ground, unseen from the forts, swept by a battery for field-guns, and the whole connected by rifle-trenches which were in fact lines of infantry parapet, furnishing emplacement for two ranks of men and affording covered communication along the line, while roads were opened wherever necessary, so that troops and artillery could be moved rapidly from one point of the immense periphery to another, or under cover, from point to point along the line." [2]

Barnard continued, "At the termination of the war in April, 1865, the "defenses of 'Washington" consisted of 68 inclosed forts and batteries, having an aggregate perimeter of 22,800 yards, (13 miles,) and emplacements for 1,120 guns, 807 of which, and 98 mortars were actually mounted; of 93 unarmed batteries for field-guns, having 401 emplacements; and of 35,711 yards (20 miles) of rifle-trenches, and 3 block-houses." One author surmised: "Clearly, Barnard's foresighted move of transforming individual forts into an integrated system–including 60 forts, 93 batteries, 837 guns and 25,000 men by the end of 1863 contributed to the system's seeming impenetrability." Another author declared: "Washington, thus fortified, was the finest existing example of the system of defenses based upon a series of detached forts connected by a continuous trench line." Thus, "All commanding points on which an enemy would be likely to concentrate his artillery to overpower that of one or more forts were subjected not only to the fires, direct and cross, of many points along the line, but also to that of heavy rifled guns from distant points unattainable by the enemy's field guns." [3]

The number of forts, guns or other aspects of the fortifications were not necessarily important; the combination of the forts, batteries, blockhouses, trenches and guns and their interaction made the entire fortification system effective. A review of this fortification system and its components is necessary to understand why it was effective.

The Forts

Barnard declared that the general profiles, or sections, of the works were derived from those in Dennis Hart Mahan's A Treatise on Field Fortifications. Generally, the Army Engineers planned the forts for approximately a 500-man garrison and for about 16 guns. John M. Wilson, an Army Engineer who worked in the defenses, wrote that "In the construction of these works the heights of the interior crest of the parapet was from 7 to 9 feet above the parade; the thickness of the parapet ranged from 12 to 18 feet; the ditches were usually 6 feet deep, and a few feet beyond the counterscarp a glacis was constructed upon which an abattis was placed; revetments of plank, vertical posts, fascines or sod were used, the cheeks of embrasures being revetted with gabions." "In spite of differences in their size and trace (outline of horizontal configuration), the designs for each fort and large battery fit a common description: revetments, or interior retaining walls, of either vertical tree posts or sod if trees were not available . . .; an earthen parapet usually made between twelve and eighteen feet thick; a surrounding ditch, beyond which an earthen glacis sloped outward and down; and an abattis, a barricade of felled trees oriented with branches facing out, toward the attacker" and "Each work also included platforms for field and siege guns." An Army Engineer publication on "The Art of Fortification," described the forts this way:

"The profile of these forts consisted of an earthen parapet from 12 to 18 feet thick (the thickness depending upon exposure). The interior slope was revetted while the exterior slope was allowed to take the natural slope of the earth. At the foot of the exterior slope proper, there was a narrow berm, outside of which there was a ditch at least 6 feet in depth. Outside of the ditch the ground was graded so as to form a glacis with a narrow covered way fitted occasionally as an infantry parapet. On the glacis or at its foot there was usually built an abatis. When first constructed, the interior slope was revetted with planks, but these proved to have so little durability, they were later replaced by a revetment consisting of vertical posts, capped by horizontal logs which were well tied back into the parapet.

Within the forts, bombproof magazines and bombproof quarters were plentifully supplied and the earth covers of these were frequently fitted as infantry parapets." [4]

The Batteries

The Army Engineers also constructed numerous batteries between the forts. George B. McClellan wrote: " The intermediate points [between the forts] were occupied by lunettes, redoubts, batteries, etc., and in a few cases these were united by infantry parapets. The entire circumference of the city was thus protected. " The Commission that studied the fortifications in late 1862, after examining and reporting on each fortification, recommended the construction of "numerous batteries . . . in the intervals between the forts." By constructing these batteries, the intervening space between the forts was also covered by artillery fire. Not all the batteries received guns; various authors report that over ninety batteries were not armed. [5]

In his post-war report, Barnard described the batteries:

"BATTERIES.— The same section of parapet was given to batteries, whether open or closed, as to the forts. Many of them were provided with magazines, and all of them with traverses when necessary. The arrangement of embrasures and platforms, and their manner of construction, was precisely the same as described for the forts, and the revetment generally of vertical posts was of an equally substantial and durable character. In the construction of open batteries generally, no ditch was excavated, but the material for the parapet was obtained by excavating in the rear to such an extent and depth as to give a convenient area of tereplein, with a cover of 7 _ to 8 feet. The most perfect and complete batteries of this form (open works) were Batteries Parrott and Kemble, armed with 100-pounder Parrott rifles and one 15-inch gun; but the purpose of these were peculiar, and differed very much from that of the batteries for field or siege guns, armed or unarmed, of which so many were arranged along the lines of defense." [6]

The Blockhouses

During the Civil War, the U.S. Army erected numerous wooden blockhouses to protect railroad lines, bridges, roads, and important defiles. Likewise, the Army erected blockhouses in the defenses of Washington, D.C. The Army designated three of these blockhouses by numbers: Blockhouse No. 1 and Blockhouse No. 2 were located near Hunting Creek Valley, one at the north side of the valley at the Little River Turnpike and one on Telegraph Road near the bridge over Hunting Creek, and Blockhouse No. 3 on the Leesburg Turnpike near Fort Ward. [7]

In his post-war report, Barnard described these blockhouses:

"The ground plan of these structures had the form of a Greek cross. The walls were built of large logs from 16 to 18 inches in diameter, hewed on two sides and placed vertically in close contact. They were made 10 _ feet in height in the clear from the floor. The roof was made of logs extending over the walls one foot on all sides. On these logs was thrown an earth-covering four feet thick at the crown and sloping down to a depth of six inches at the ends of the logs. This was thoroughly rammed, and in it were bedded purlines, upon which was constructed a shingle roofing. Loop-holes for musketry fire were cut through the walls at a height of 8 feet above the floor, their splay being on the inside. A banquette of plank, 3 _ feet above the floor and 6 feet in width, was carried AROUND the interior; this served also as a substitute for bunks. The floors were of 2 1/2-inch plank. Embrasures for a 12-pounder howitzer were arranged on every face of the block-houses, in each of which buildings there were two such guns. The throats of the embrasures were closed, when not in use, by heavy timber doors, barred on the inside, and the banquette was made in movable sections behind each embrasure. Around the outside was dug a deep V ditch, the earth being, thrown up on a slope of forty-five degrees, as high as the soles of the loop-holes. The cheeks of the embrasures were of hewn timber, and a roof of the same was thrown across to sustain the earth slope just mentioned. Each block-house was provided with a small magazine below the floors. These structures, though not entirely bomb-proof, were so buried in earth as to be pretty secure against any artillery accompanying cavalry raids. Their garrisons consisted of sixty men each. These buildings were erected by the Quartermaster's Department, under the direction of the engineer of the Defenses at the time, (Col. B. S. Alexander.)" [8]

There were, however, additional blockhouses within the Defenses of Washington. One author reported that "a breastwork, and two bomb proof block houses of large logs two stories high were erected and pierced on all sides for musketry" guarded the "high stone bridge" on which the Potomac Canal crossed the Potomac River. B.S. Alexander submitted a memorandum "List of forts and batteries arranged in classes in the order of their relative importance" to Major-General C.C. Augur, in which the third-class works included "three block-houses on Aqueduct Bridge." In his monthly report of engineer operations in the Defenses of Washington for April 1865, Alexander declared that work was still progressing on the Aqueduct road and bridge area blockhouses. At least one additional blockhouse was planned for the Navy Yard Bridge and whether finished or not, the Army Engineers were working on it in April 1865. [9]

Also, starting in November 1864, "an advanced line of picket posts was established during the past month; the principal posts being at Prospect Hill, on the Georgetown and Leesburg turnpike; at 'Vienna' on the Loudon & Hampshire RR; at Fairfax CH on the Little River Turnpike and at Fairfax Station on the Orange & Alexandria RR." The work on these fortifications "laid out at these four points to enable the positions to be held by the infantry garrison" continued until April 1865 and consisted of "block houses, stockades, infantry parapets with epaulement for a few field guns and abattis." At least thirty some blockhouses were erected in this advanced defensive line. A few blockhouses were erected along the route of the Orange & Alexandria Railroad too. [10]

The Trenches

Barnard wrote: "In addition to the forts proper, there were between the forts [and batteries], and forming as it were the curtains, some 20 miles [approximately 35,711 yards] of rifle trenches . . ."The whole line was connected by rifle-trenches which were in fact lines of infantry parapet, furnishing emplacement for two ranks of men and affording covered communication along the line . . ." One author wrote "Washington, thus fortified, was the finest existing example of the system of defenses based upon a series of detached forts connected by a continuous trench line." [11]

Barnard described the trenches in detail:

"TRENCHES AND COVERED WAYS.–The three sections on page 74 represent different kinds of trenches used in connecting the works and forming the line of defense, or for furnishing a covered fire upon ground in contiguity to, but unseen from, the forts. The connecting lines, destitute of interior revetments, had, in place, thereof, earth slopes of about 45 degrees. The earth was thrown up from an inside excavation, which was carried to sufficient depth (usually 3 feet) to afford, in conjunction with the embankment, a cover of 71/2 feet. The banquette was made on the natural surface of the ground. To facilitate access from the trench an intermediate step, 2 feet in width, broke the continuity of the earth slope. The bottom of the trench was graded to throw the drainage to the rear, and outlets for it were provided at suitable localities. For the uses of infantry alone a width of 5 feet was given to the bottom of the trench, from which resulted a thickness, between crests, of parapet of 4 feet. Wherever it was considered desirable to provide for the passage of guns these dimensions were increased to 8 feet for both trench and parapet. Sometimes such trenches

were adapted to the service of guns, in which cases platforms of well-compacted earth were made, and on each side of the embrasure the parapet was revetted, either with wall-sodding or posts. The embrasures were revetted either with gabions or with sods. The full width of trench was cut to the rear of the platforms, with easy ramps for crossing them and for running the guns into position. When the second form of trench was used to connect a fort with a contiguous battery the interior slope was usually revetted with posts, instead of being of earth at its natural slope." [12]

The Water Defenses and Obstructions

Both Fort Foote and Battery Rodgers anchored the defenses on the Potomac Rivers' southern approach and were often referred to as water or river or shore batteries. No enemy forces attempted to ascend the river for an attack on Washington so it is difficult to assess the value of these fortifications. At the end of the war, the Army had numerous proposals for the post-war use of the fort and battery. The Army did not retain Battery Rodgers but it did keep Fort Foote, which in association with Fort Washington was to repel invasions and raids up the river. The Army Engineers remodeled and enlarged Fort Foote during its use but stopped using it as a water defense in 1878. [13]

Additionally, the Army Engineers constructed obstructions that could be moored in the Potomac River, near Fort Foote, and "render the shore batteries [Fort Foote and Battery Rodgers] more efficient for the protection of Washington against maritime attack." In July 1864, Congress appropriated $300,000.00 for the fabrication of the obstructions and B.S. Alexander designed them, " . . a series of floats holding up a 400-foot-long chain with 23 anchors . . ." that some referred to as the "Alexandria Chain," but they were unused during the war. After the war, the Army held on to the obstructions and, in 1868, offered them to the Secretary of the Navy who, it turned out, considered them worthless. The obstructions remained stored in a shed near Fort Foote, deteriorating, at least into the early 1870s. [14]

The Guns

The U.S. military built some Civil War fortifications as infantry strong-points, which did not require any artillery. Some of these fortifications were erected in the Defenses of Washington. Most Civil War fortifications, however, required artillery. The artillery could reach attacking enemy forces at a distance, long before they approached the fortification's moat [or ditch] or ascended the parapet. In addition, and especially in the Defenses of Washington, the fortifications were mutually supporting, meaning that when one fort was attacked, the guns from three, four or five others could fire on the enemy forces, often enfilading them, and driving them away as happened in July 1864 when Jubal Early and his forces approached Fort Stevens.

During the four years of war, armament in the Defenses of Washington increased and changed as the work on the fortifications progressed and more useful ordnance became available. In September of 1862, Nathaniel P. Banks, then commanding the Defenses of Washington, reported that there were 120 guns within the defenses of which forty were heavy guns, meaning that the rest were presumably field guns. B.S. Alexander, in October 1864, reported 377 guns and 36 mortars in the defenses. On May 6, 1865, the Chief of Engineers, Richard Delafield, reported that the Defenses of Washington were armed with "905 guns of various calibers" which Barnard substantiated, in his 1871 report, by writing that at the termination of the war, in April 1865, there were "emplacements for 1,120 guns, 807 of which and 98 mortars were actually mounted." [15]

The types of artillery within the fortifications in the Defenses of Washington also changed during the war. Barnard mentioned that in August and September 1862, following the Battle of Second Manassas, when Washington was in peril:

"The demand for field-guns for our armies had stripped our arsenals of them and compelled the substitution in these forts of large numbers of 24 and 32-pounders on barbette carriages. Such guns made a very improper armament. Not only were they too heavy and unmanageable, but so exposed that at close quarters they would be nearly unserviceable. To replace most of these as rapidly as possible by light field guns on field or siege carriages placed in embrasure was deemed imperative, in doing which another expedient to enhance the efficiency of the artillery fire suggested itself." [16]

In October 1863, Barnard complained: "The works which constitute the defenses of Washington have been separately (and sometimes hastily) armed with such ordnance as might be available at the moment." Changes of ordnance in the defenses occurred at times for various reasons such as in September 1862, when orders required the emplacement of coehorn mortars in a number of the forts. At other times, field guns such as the "Napoleon," the Model 1857 Light 12-pounder, was substituted for the unwieldy and improper 24- and 32-pounders already emplaced. Such actions usually required laborintensive changes in platforms and or embrasures and, therefore, did not occur too often. [17]

In late 1863, the War Department created a board of officers " . . . to examine and report upon the armaments of the works constituting the defenses of Washington," " . . . report upon the points to be presented to them in a letter of instructions, and will make any other recommendations which in their judgment may seem proper." In January 1864, W.F. Barry, Inspector of Artillery, submitted the board's report to the commander, Defenses of Washington, for execution. Basically, after the Defenses of Washington accomplished the board's changes. Few changes occurred later except under special circumstances. One such change occurred at Fort Ward which had recently undergone "extensive alterations" that were " . . . so extensive as to amount practically to a reconstruction of the work and a corresponding change is necessary in its armament" that included the removal of six 24-pounders and five 32-pounders to be replaced by six 6- or 12-pounders, four 12-pounder howitzers, four 24-pounder howitzers, and six 4-inch guns. [18]

The Defenses of Washington required semi-monthly submission of reports of the armament of the forts. Also, miscellaneous other reports listed the guns in the various forts and batteries in the Defenses of Washington. Thus, it is fairly simple to determine the types and number of guns and their disposition throughout the war. [19]


Henry L. Scott, in his 1861 Military Dictionary defined logistics as " . . . that branch of the military art embracing all details for moving and supplying armies" and went on to say that it includes "the operations of the ordnance, quartermaster's, subsistence, medical and pay departments," and "also embraces the preparation and regulation of magazines, for opening a campaign and all orders of march and other orders from the general-in-chief relative to moving and supplying armies." In its 1962 Dictionary of United States Military Terms for Joint Usage, the Joint Chiefs of Staff defined logistics as "The science of planning and carrying out the movement and maintenance of forces. In its most comprehensive sense, these aspects of military operations which deal with; (a) design and development, acquisition, storage, movement, distribution, maintenance, evacuation and disposition of materiel; (b) movement, evacuation and hospitalization of personnel; (c) acquisition or construction, maintenance, operation, and disposition of facilities; and (d) acquisition or furnishing of services." More simply stated, the American Heritage Dictionary defines logistics as "The procurement, distribution, maintenance, and replacement of materiel and personnel." [20]

Logistics, therefore, encompasses a great amount of an army's operations. This was particularly true for the Civil War Defenses of Washington. Practically every operation or event that occurred within the Defenses of Washington involved logistics. In fact, to function as the total defense of the Nation's capital, the Civil War Defenses of Washington were wholly dependent on logistics.

Within the Defenses of Washington, construction, quartering, messing, supply, troop and materiel movements and similar activities involved logistics. Throughout this study logistics have been integrated into all of the descriptions of the Civil War Defenses of Washington. From the movement by ship of Navy personnel across the Potomac to help defend Alexandria early in the war, to the use of the garrison to help erect fortifications and various buildings, mount ordnance, clear roads and construct new ones, to clearing vegetation from ramparts, to the supply of horses, wagons, etc., to move food, equipment and materiel, all illustrate the importance of logistics. [21]


The administration of logistics within the Defenses of Washington occurred at various levels. Because Washington, D.C. was the capital of the nation, the various bureaus of the Army and Navy were located in the area. At the beginning of the war, the Army's supply and service functions included the Adjutant-General, Quartermaster, Engineer, Topographical Engineer, Ordnance, Subsistence, Medical, Pay, Provost Marshal, Inspector General and Signal departments and bureaus. The Quartermaster, Ordnance, Subsistence and Medical departments accomplished most of the Army's procurement and distribution of supplies, but in certain instances, the other departments or bureaus had to perform these duties. [22]

Below the bureaus and departments, officers in the various commands, such as armies, corps, divisions and brigades, including the Defenses of Washington, served on the commander's staff in positions such as Chief Quartermaster and Chief Engineer to oversee the operation of those bureau's functions within the command. Thus, within the Defenses of Washington, the Chief Quartermaster was responsible for all quartermaster functions and operations and the Chief Engineer, who was John G. Barnard for most of the war, oversaw the engineer functions and operations. These men, for all practical purposes, had two bosses who were the commanding officer of the command in which they served and the chief of the bureau whose functions and operations they oversaw. These officers usually furnished periodic reports of operations to both their commanding officer and their chief of bureau. [23]

Often, in lesser commands of the Defenses of Washington, such as "Defenses North of the Potomac," the "Artillery Defenses of Alexandria," and fort and regimental headquarters, there were officers and men who oversaw bureau activities. That often left someone at the fort or regimental level, such as the ordnance sergeant, responsible for bureau activities at those sites. So, at most levels of command, military personnel or civilians had the responsibility for insuring the accomplishment of the bureaus' activities. During the Civil War, this was especially true because the bureaus had few service personnel, especially non-commissioned officers and enlisted men, to do the work. [24]

The Washington Area Depots and the Arsenal

For the most part, supplies, equipment and materiel was stockpiled in depots, or in the case of the Ordnance Department, in one its twenty-eight arsenals and armories, and from there transported to the troops in the field. By the end of the Civil War, the Quartermaster depot system that began during the Seminole War, included three types of depots–general, advance and temporary. The general depots were the large repositories in major cities. The advance depots were with the armies in the field. Temporary depots were for particular operations. [25]

Washington, because it was the capital of the country and the location of the various War Department bureaus headquarters, had the largest collection of supplies, equipment and materiel. One author described it:

"Hardly had war begun when camps, warehouses, depots, immense stacks of ammunition, food, equipment and long rows of cannon, caissons, wagons and ambulances began sprouting up all over town in vacant lots and open spaces. Centers of activity included the Navy Yard, the Army Arsenal (now Fort McNair), and the Potomac wharves at Sixth and Seventh Streets SW. By 1863 another hub of activity had grown along the Maryland Avenue railroad yards. These busy centers lined the southern rim of the city fronting on the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers." [26]

Near Washington's western limits, Foggy Bottom witnessed a large accumulation of supplies, equipment and materiel and storehouses, including a remount depot of roughly 30,000 horses and mules on grounds presently occupied by Watergate, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Truman Building (the State Department headquarters) and George Washington University. Also, not far from the Capitol Building, around the Baltimore and Ohio railroad depot and repair yards, a large assortment of supply buildings and yards grew up along Tiber Creek. The Washington Monument grounds housed a large Army cattle-slaughtering yard. Around the city smaller but similar operations abounded. [27]

The United States or Washington Arsenal was located at what is today Fort McNair. The "Volunteer Engineer Depot" or the "Washington Engineer Depot" was located about one half mile north of the Washington Navy Yard roughly at the foot of 14th and/or 15th streets on the Anacostia River. The present Renwick Gallery of Art housed the Army's Depot of Clothing and Equipage during the war. The Cavalry Depot was at Giesboro within the District of Columbia. These depots, the arsenal, the large Quartermaster and Subsistence depots in the city, and the branch Quartermaster depot in Alexandria served the country, the nearby armies and the Army activities in and near the city. The Defenses of Washington obtained most of its supplies, equipment and materiel from these sources. In addition, the Defenses of Washington stockpiled supplies, equipment and materiel at its four camps and other locations. [28]

Given the large area encompassed by the Defenses of Washington, perhaps the greatest logistical problem within the defenses was the movement of supplies, equipment and materiel. In a few certain circumstances, supplies, equipment and materiel could move by train, canal or river. But, as B.S. Alexander wrote in 1862, " . . . supplies must come from the city and they must go in wagons . . ." Thus, good roads were necessary. [29]

The Roads

In his 1871 report on the defenses of Washington, Barnard wrote:

"MILITARY ROADS.–The line of defensive works was readily reached by the several county roads radiating from the cities of Washington, Georgetown, and Alexandria; but there existed, at first, no adequate means of communication along any portion of the line, and none at all along some portions of it. The necessity for such communicating roads became apparent as soon as the general line of works was established. The conditions governing their location and construction were, that they should not be seen from any ground that an enemy might be able to occupy in front, that they should be as direct as practicable consistently with easy grades, and that they should have sufficient width for the movement over them of field batteries or army trains." [30]

Later in the same report, Barnard stated: "The aggregate length of military roads constructed was about 32 miles. Providing, as they did, the means of rapidly moving troops or guns, unobserved by the enemy to reenforce any part of the line that might be attacked, their importance as adding to the strength of the defensive system can scarcely be over-estimated." [31]

Further on in his 1871 report, Barnard exclaimed " . . . military roads were located and constructed where the principles of defense or the convenience of communications required them . . ." He also wrote, " . . . roads were opened wherever necessary, so that troops and artillery could be moved rapidly from one point of the immense periphery to another, or under cover, from point to point along the line." In 1862, the construction of roads was necessary so that ". . . succor can be readily thrown to any point menaced." Therefore, " . . . for moving troops to and from these defenses and between them, . . . roads were built, passing in rear of and interconnecting all the forts and crossing all the various pre-existing county roads radiating from Washington and Alexandria." [32]

The military roads and their locations, throughout the defenses, are readily visible on the maps appearing in Barnard's 1871 report. Construction and maintenance of the roads continued throughout the war. The first actual military road built, in the autumn of 1861, connected the "isolated works" at Chain Bridge with Fort DeKalb (Strong), at the right of the Arlington lines of fortifications, which was about three miles long. By the end of the war the military roads connected "the system into a complete whole." [33]

Barnard wrote that in September 1862, the men built a road from Fort Sumner, near the Potomac, to Fort Stevens, east of Rock Creek, about 5 miles long, and later extended it to Fort Lincoln, near the Eastern Branch, which was "A very excellent road thoroughly drained by side ditches and with substantial bridles and culverts, . . . to which was given a width of 45 feet and a full, rounded surface." One military observer remarked that the military roads were "well-paved" and a good example of "the defensive use of communications." If the military roads were not initially constructed well, crews repaired and improved them in a variety of ways including widening the roadway and corduroying them. Although the military roads were well-built, a contemporary author, in his The Washington Sketch Book, suggested an improvement by "a little expenditure in trees and shrubbery" that "would make them, in time, part of a beautiful and picturesque drive–the boulevards of Washington" and added "God speed that day!" [34]

In addition to the military roads, supplies, equipment and materiel moved on pre-war city, county, state and Federal roads. One author commented that the military roads crossed "all the various preexisting county roads radiating from Washington and Alexandria." In October 1862, B.S. Alexander wrote that ". . . my attention has been involuntarily directed to the great necessity of improving the roads leading from the city to these defensive positions" and he realized that "the improvement of these roads does not properly belong to the Engineers," "Nor does it belong to the Quartermaster, Commissary, or any other department exclusively but all would benefit" and therefore, he sent estimates to J.G. Barnard of the cost to do the work. In April 1861, the Headquarters, Chief Engineer of the Defenses of Washington, received a letter from the Interior Department complaining of the injury done the Washington Aqueduct by travel of heavy government wagons over it. John Tidball, commanding the Third Brigade, De Russy's Division, headquartered at Fort Ethan Allen, informed the Department of Washington that "The road along the canal between Georgetown and Chain Bridge is now in a very bad condition, and when winter sets in will be almost if not entirely impassible" but it "is important because over it not only the supplies for the defence of Chain Bridge have to be carried, but also supplies for some of the posts on the north side of the river, and the wear and tear of animals and wagons will be very great if it is left unrepaired." Thus, any road in the area was likely to be used in addition to the military roads built during the war. [35]

For good reason, the Army did not always take good care of the roads. Anne S. Frobel, an Alexandria, Virginia citizen, remarked in early June 1863 that "More barricading fixed up in the roads again to day . . ." and "These great immense piles of brush and things are fixed up here and there and every where and the roads, completely stopped . . ." In March of 1864, commanders in the Defenses of Washington were instructed that "All wood roads leading to the exterior not required for travel, to be obstructed so as to confine travel through the lines to the main roads." Other road security was possible such as, in April 1864, when the men constructed " . . . stockades on roads leading to Aqueduct, Chain and Long Bridges . . . " [36]

The Bridges

Almost as important as the roads for movement of supplies, equipment and materiel were the bridges. The only three bridges across the Potomac were Long Bridge, Aqueduct Bridge and Chain Bridge until 1864 when a railroad bridge was added, next to Long Bridge. The Navy Yard Bridge and Benning's Bridge crossed the Anacostia River, or as some called it the Eastern Branch. Fortifications and a guard unit protected all of these bridges. In addition, bridges on various roads crossed lesser streams and creeks. All the bridges required maintenance and in most instances, improvements. Without the bridges, the roads would not have been of much use. [37]

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Last Updated: 29-Oct-2004