Civil War Defenses of Washington
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Washington, October 14, 1863.

Secretary of War:

SIR: A Commission having been ordered by you a year ago, to examine into the system of the defenses of Washington, and that report having received your approval, I feel it proper to make a brief statement of the operations on the works and their condition.

Previous to my resumption of charge of these works in August, 1862, the system was but a skeleton, so to speak, of a fortified line. In many important parts, indeed, though the works would be valuable as points-d'appui to a line of battle, they would be almost useless unless in connection with an army strong enough to be capable of giving battle. Washington required something more than this. Washington required to have all the strength that could be attained from a line of field-works; a strength which would enable it to be defended with a moderate force against very superior numbers, at the same time furnishing to an inferior or defeated army, forced to take refuge within its lines, an impregnable barrier. In accordance with this idea, I immediately commenced operations, which were approved and confirmed by the commission. I give a brief sketch.

Fort Lyon.–Four out-works, Forts Willard, O'Rorke, Farnsworth, and Weed, have been completed and armed, and auxiliary batteries and rifle-pits connect them. The position now is a very strong one.

Fort Williams.–On Traitor's (Cooper's) Hill, has been built, also rifle-pits and batteries between it and Ellsworth. With a few pieces of field artillery in these batteries and the opposite one near Fort Lyon, and some watchfulness, a cavalry raid into Alexandria would be difficult, while they complete the system of defense against regular attacks.

Battery Garesché, a small fort, has been built near Fort Blenker. It is armed and efficient.

Fort Berry, occupying an important point between Forts Barnard and Richardson, has been built and armed.

Fort Whipple.–This powerful work, one of the finest field-works in the world, was commenced in the spring, and had its batteries ready early in June. It is now essentially complete.

Fort C. F. Smith, commenced last winter, was in readiness early this spring. It is a powerful work, and is essentially complete.

The various works on the line south of the Potomac, from Fort Lyon to Fort C. F. Smith have, with few exceptions, undergone important modifications and improvements.

In Forts De Kalb, Craig, and Tillinghast, large bomb-proofs have been made (all the new works, except Berry, have extensive bomb-proofs), and in all, new embrasures and platforms have been made, magazines strengthened, &c. The works have been connected by rifle-pits (more properly covered ways for infantry), and at all points where artillery could be advantageously used, batteries for field guns have been constructed.

Forts Ethan Allen and Marcy (at Chain Bridge).–These works have been extensively repaired and improved, and large additional bomb-proofs built. They are connected and supported by covered way rifle-pits, and batteries for field guns arranged where necessary. <ar49_316>

Fort Sumner.–The three works, Franklin, Ripley, and Alexander, have been combined into one powerful work of this name.

Forts Mansfield, Simmons, and Bayard have been built between Sumner and Reno.

Fort Reno (formerly Pennsylvania) has been extensively modified, bomb-proofs added, and the powerful battery in advance constructed. Connecting the works mentioned (from Sumner to Reno) are Batteries Benson and Bailey, and several others, and lines of covered way rifle-pits.

Fort Kearny, a powerful work, has been built between Reno and De Russy, as also Batteries Russell, Smead, Terrill and covered way rifle-pits.

Fort De Russy.–Modified and improved. Between it and Fort Stevens, the Batteries Kingsbury and Sill and lines of rifle-pits have been constructed.

Fort Stevens (formerly Massachusetts) has been extensively enlarged and improved. Between it and Fort Slocum three new batteries and lines of rifle-pits have been constructed.

Fort Slocum, originally one of the weakest, has become one of the largest and most powerful works on the line. Between Forts Bunker Hill and Saratoga, Saratoga and Thayer, Thayer and Lincoln, numerous batteries for field guns have been built and constructed and supported by lines of rifle-pits.

Fort Lincoln has had additional bomb-proofs built. The spur or ridge between it and the Eastern Branch has been occupied by the powerful Battery Jameson, and by rifle-pits arranged as covered ways.

Fort Mahan has been strengthened by the construction of bastionets, for flanking.

Fort Meigs has been extensively enlarged. All other works not mentioned have, with scarce all exception, received considerable improvement and modification.

On nine different points having the most extensive command, 100-pounder Parrott guns have been mounted so as to bring every part of the ground in front of our line under their fire. Two new batteries, Parrott and Kemble, were built expressly for such guns, and their special function is, with Battery Cameron, to sweep the heights across the Potomac between the Chain Bridge and Fort C. F. Smith.

For the defense of the Potomac, the two water batteries (Battery Rodgers and Fort Foote) have been constructed. They are essentially finished, and are receiving their armament. The latter is a powerful inclosed work, and the most elaborate in its internal arrangements of all the defenses of Washington.

The work described is either finished or brought to a state of efficiency; still a system of works of this character demands constant watchfulness and expenditure to keep it up, and there are yet some works that require overhauling, and all of them ought to have their scarps either revetted or sloped and sodded. Fort Ward, in particular, a very important work, was built in great haste, and demands almost complete rebuilding.

It is a maxim among railroad men that "when the cars can go over the road it is half done." Turn-outs have to be made, depots, store-houses, offices, &c., have to be built. The track must be ballasted, tunnels, cuts, and embankments enlarged, and, finally, a second track must be laid. It is quite likely that this maxim will apply <ar49_317> fully to the works about Washington. They are, essentially, brought to a condition to render the services expected of them, as a railroad over which the trains begin to pass is brought to a condition to do the service expected of it, and, like the railroad, it is likely to turn out that they are really but half finished.

I have just before indicated, in general terms, how much I can foresee that ought to be done, besides which there will, doubtless, arise innumerable demands for repairs and removal of what was hastily and imperfectly built in the first place, as well as for modifications and improvements.

I have no disposition to magnify this work. I am ready to leave it at any moment. I relinquished command and the more exciting duties of the field at a moment when they would have brought me more palpable recompense, to carry out these works, because I felt that the security of Washington demanded their perfection, and that the security of Washington meant the security of the nation's cause, and that I was the man upon whom the duty fell.

With these remarks, I recommend that an appropriation be asked of Congress of $300,000, for completing and rendering more permanent the defenses of Washington.

I am, very respectfully, your most obedient,

Brigadier-General, &c.

ORA, I, 29, Part 2 (serial 49), 315-17.

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 4, 1864.

Brig. Gen. R. DELAFIELD, Chief Engineer. Washington:

SIR: I have the honor to submit the following report of operations on the defenses of Washington during the year ending September 30, 1864:

These defenses, as now constructed, consist, in the aggregate, of 60 inclosed forts, having an aggregate crest of 25,799 yards, with emplace. <ar91_281> ments for 956 guns, and of 93 batteries, having emplacements for 491 guns, and of 35,711 yards of infantry parapet or covered way; to which should be added about 33 miles of military roads, which have been built for purposes of communication where the existing roads of the country would not fulfill that purpose. A mere statement like this of the number of these works will convey some idea of the magnitude of undertaking to defend a great city, when it is essential to preserve it on account of its being the seat of Government, containing the Government machinery, from the long-range guns of modern artillery. And such a statement will be apt to convey to all unmilitary minds the idea of enormous strength, a strength vastly greater than we actually possess. It should be borne in mind that these works are stretched out over a long line, some 37 miles in extent, inclosing the cities of Washington, Georgetown, and Alexandria, and that we have, in most cases, only a single line of defense, which, if once forced by an enemy, we have nothing between him and the public buildings and archives but our reserves, with the chances of battle in the open field. This consideration ought to show us the 'necessity of making this line strong one; and if it does not suggest an additional interior line of defense, it will, at least, convince us of the necessity of having at all times, when there is a possibility of attack, the forts well garrisoned with practiced artillerists and a strong reserve within the defenses. In other words, if we should be attacked by a powerful army, Washington City would become, in a military sense, not a walled city with gates, but a great intrenched camp, requiring a large army for its defense, the defensive works standing for a certain number of men, enabling, perhaps, all other things being equal, 25,000 men in them to repel the attacks of 50,000, or 50,000 to repel 100,000, or 100,000 to repel 200,000.

With these remarks, I proceed to a report of the work on the defenses during the past year. I will first take up the defenses south of the Potomac. These consist of thirty-one forts, having an aggregate crest line of 12,504 yards, with emplacements for 540 guns, and 42 batteries, having emplacements for 229 guns, and 20,869 yards of riflepits or covered way for infantry. This includes only work now essentially completed or ready for its armament, and does not embrace work partially completed or in contemplation.

The present actual armament is 377 guns and 36 mortars. The work done during the past year–or from October 1, 1863, to September 30, 1864 best be detailed by taking up each fort separately.

Fort Marcy: The front parapet has been raised and newly revetted, new platforms and embrasures made, terreplein graded and paved, gutters laid, new magazine made, abatis repaired, and the interior of the fort sodded.

Fort Ethan Allen: The abatis has been removed, most of the embrasures newly revetted with gabions, platforms repaired, and a new bomb-proof 230 feet long has been built; the southwest bastion has been cut off from the main work by a line of stockade, with gateway; one of the old magazines has been rebuilt, and a new bomb-proof guardhouse constructed.

Fort C. F. Smith: This work, nearly completed at date of last report, has been completed and sodded.

Fort Strong: A new bomb-proof 280 feet long has been constructed, parapets re-enforced and newly revetted, scarp built up from bottom of ditch on 45 degrees slope, three new traverses built, and the interior of fort sodded, and new platforms and embrasures made. <ar91_282>

Fort Woodbury: Parapets re-enforced, scarp built up on 45 degrees slope; new bomb-proof constructed 150 feet long; new magazine and new filling-room constructed, and three traverses made and interior revetment rebuilt.

Fort Cass: Parapets have been re-enforced, scarp built up on 45 degrees slope, new embrasures and platforms made, one traverse built and new bomb-proof seventy-two feet long put up, old flankers torn down and caponiere put in stockade gorge.

Fort Tilllinghast: Parapets re-enforced, scarp built up on 45 degrees slope, new interior revetment put up, embrasures and platforms repaired; bomb-proof commenced at date of last report has been completed, two new traverses built, two magazines rebuilt, abatis renewed, flankers torn down, and two redans for flanking stockade gorge put up, and interior of fort sodded.

Fort Craig: Parapets re.enforced, new interior revetment put up, abatis renewed; bomb-proof commenced at date of last report has been completed, two new traverses built, interior of fort sodded, two flankers torn down, and two redans for flanking put up in stockade gorge.

Fort Richardson: The scarp of this work has been revetted with plank, and sodding repaired.

Fort Berry: A new bomb-proof guard-house has been built and fort sodded.

Fort Barnard: Scarp has been revetted with plank, new magazines built, embrasures newly revetted with gabions, and sodding repaired.

Fort Reynolds: Interior revetment has been repaired, and embrasures newly revetted with gabions.

Battery Garesche: A new traverse has been built.

Fort Ward: This fort has been torn down and newly constructed and enlarged to nearly twice its original size; three new magazines and two new filling or implement rooms have been built, all serving as traverses; one bombproof 208 feet long has been built, and another of same length is in course of construction. The new fort is now nearly completed, and is one of the strongest works on the defenses.

Fort Ellsworth: The old bomb-proofs and traverses have been torn down, two new magazines have been built, and a new bomb-proof 160 feet long is in course of construction and nearly completed.

Forts Lyon, Weed, Farnsworth, O'Rorke, and Willard: Interior revetments have been repaired, crests sodded, embrasures revetted. Portions of the exterior slopes of the four latter works have been sodded.

Battery Rodgers, nearly completed at date of last report, has been finished, inclosed, and sodded.


Fort Bennett: Magazine has been re-enforced.

Fort Corcoran: One magazine has been rebuilt and the other two re-enforced; a new bomb-proof 158 feet long has been built; interior revetment repaired; embrasures new]y revetted, and seven new platforms and embrasures made.

Fort Whipple: At date of last report this work was nearly completed; since that date two filling-rooms (traverses) and one bomb-proof guard-house have been built, the terre-pleins graded, and the interior of the work completely added.

Fort Albany: Scarp revetment has been repaired, and some alterations in platforms and embrasures made. <ar91_283>


Auxiliary to Fort Whipple four batteries–mounting respectively seven, four, ten, and four; aggregate, twentyfive guns–have been built, and 800 yards of rifle-pit or infantry covered way has been thrown up.

Across the valley of Four Mile Run, about 550 yards of heavy covered way has been thrown up, with wet ditch in front.

Around and auxiliary to Fort Williams, 1,200 yards of rifle-pit or infantry covered way have been thrown up, and two batteries, mounting five guns each, have been built.

Between Forts Williams and Ellsworth, two batteries, mounting respectively seven and eight guns, have been built, and 100 yards of infantry parapet thrown up.

A battery mounting five guns has been built to right of Fort Lyon, together with fifty yards of rifle-pit.


A new fort between Forts Strong and Woodbury, having 322 yards of crest line and mounting fifteen guns, has been nearly completed and is now nearly ready for its armament. It has one magazine, three traverses, and a bomb-proof, just commenced, 150 feet long.

A new fort between Forts Whipple and Albany, on interior line, having 539 yards of crest line and a proposed armament of thirty-three guns, has been commenced. The parapets are about half thrown up and some 100 yards of pole revetment completed.

A stockade, with gateway, has been built across the Leesburg turnpike to right of Fort Marcy, and some 150 yards of abatis laid in front of rifle-pit to the Potomac River.

A stockade, with gates, has also been built across approach to Aqueduct Bridge, and some seventy-five yards of rifle-pit thrown up in connection therewith.


The following military roads have been built during the year: Aqueduct Bridge to Fort C. F. Smith, one mile and a third; Fort C. F. Smith to Fort Strong, including branch, two-thirds of a mile; Aqueduct Bridge to Fort Whipple, one mile and a half; Camp Barnard to Fort Whipple, one mile and a quarter; Four-Mile Run to Fort Ward, two miles and a half; total, seven miles and a quarter.

Two large block-houses have been commenced and nearly completed in valley of Hunting Creek These have been built by the quartermaster department, under the direction of the chief engineer of the defenses.


With a few exceptions, the forts south of the Potomac are now very complete as to their interior arrangements. Most of them are provided with good bomb-proofs, magazines, implement and filling rooms, and traverses where required. In nearly all of them the platforms and embrasures have been repaired during the past season and are now in good order. The exterior slopes on the line from Fort Smith to Fort Berry (nine forts), inclusive, have been built up on 45-degree slopes <ar91_284> from the bottom of the ditch, and only require sodding to make them stand for many years. Three other works, Forts Albany, Richardson, and Barnard, have their scarps revetted with plank; and one other, Garesche, has its scarp revetted with stockade. Forts Ward and Williams have also exterior slopes of 45 degrees, which, when sodded, will make them permanent. Some of the older works, as Forts Worth. Ellsworth, and Lyon, yet require extensive repairs, and Forts Strong, Cass, and Craig require new magazines.


First. Work now in progress and which it is expected to complete this season:

Fort Strong: Two new magazines to be built.

Fort Ethan Allen: Bomb.proof covering to be completed, trimmed, and sodded.

Fort Morton: Bomb-proof to be built and fort to be trimmed and sodded.

Fort Woodbury: Bomb-proof to be completed and fort to be sodded. Fort Cass: Two new magazines to be built and fort to be sodded. Fort Craig: Two new magazines to be built.

Fort Ward: Bomb-proofs to be completed, terre-plein graded, and the work to be sodded.

Fort Ellsworth: Bomb-proof to be completed, terre-plein graded, and work to be sodded.

Completion of two block-houses and battery in valley of Hunting Creek.

Second. New works contemplated for the next year:

The new fort between Forts Whipple and Albany; this is an extensive work and will require many months to complete it. A battery for field guns to left of Chain Bridge to command Leesburg road and valley of Pimmit Run. A battery to left of Fort Corcoran. A fort at Columbia turnpike in front of Fort Richardson. A block-house between Fort Ward and Battery Garesche, on Leesburg pike. The commission appointed by the Secretary of War also recommended two large forts to be built in front of that portion of the line from Fort Smith to Fort Craig.

Third. Repairs necessary to be made:

The abatis requires to be renewed along the whole line from Fort Albany to Fort Lyon, inclusive, with the exception of Forts Berry, Garesche, Ward, and Williams.

New magazines will be required next season at the following forts: Albany, two; Corcoran, two; Scott, one; Richardson, one; Reynolds, one; Worth, two; Lyon, one; total, ten.

New bomb-proofs will be required at Forts Albany and Worth, and probably at Forts Barnard and Reynolds.

New interior revetments will be required at most of the old works not already revetted, probably at Forts Reynolds, Scott, Worth, Ellsworth, and Lyon.

Re-enforcement of parapets will be required at several of the old works, viz, Ethan Allen, Marcy, Corcoran, Scott, Reynolds Worth, Ellsworth, and Lyon, and in its dependent redoubts.

Revetment of scarps will be required either by sodding the whole exterior slopes at all the forts on the line not already revetted on an angle of 45 degrees by a scarp wall of brick or stone, or by a scarp revetment of plank. <ar91_285>

The repairs needed at Fort Worth are so extensive as to amount nearly to rebuilding the entire fort, as has been done at Fort Ward. Military roads are required to be built as follows: From Fort Whipple, passing to rear of Forts Tillinghast and Craig, down the ravine in front of Fort Albany, to connect with the road to Convalescent Camp, a distance of one mile and five-sixths, whence there is now a good road to Fort Ward; thence a road from Fort Ward, passing to rear of Forts Worth and Williams, to Ellsworth, a probable distance of two miles and a half. Also a road from Fort O'Rorke to Fort Willard, and branch to Fort Farnsworth, a distance of one mile and 245 feet.

In addition to the work mentioned above as in progress or contemplated to be done, there are two or three other works with reference to which no decision has been made, though the matter has been under consideration.


These consist of 29 forts, having a total length of 13,295 yards of crest of parapet, with emplacements for 416 guns, 55 batteries, having 3,516 yards of crest of parapet, with emplacements for 262 guns, and 14,842 yards of infantry parapet or covered way. The armament of these works at present is 385 guns and 38 mortars.

During the past year the force employed has been engaged as follows:

Fort Foote: Completing the fort, with its counterscarp galleries.

Fort Greble: Constructing two new magazines, bomb-proofs, traverses, and repairing parapet.

Fort Carroll: Constructing four bastions, new magazine implement room (house), traverses, platforms, embrasures, repairing old revetments, grading glacis, and renewing abatis.

Fort Snyder: Repairing parapet and constructing new platforms.

Fort Stanton: Constructing three bastions, two new magazines, bomb-proofs, traverses, platforms, embrasures, grading glacis, and renewing abatis.

Forts Ricketts, Wagner, Davis, and Du Pont: Repairing parapets and revetments, and constructing new platforms and embrasures.

Fort on hill south of Fort Mahan, proposed to be called Fort Chaplin: Constructing the fort, which is a new one and nearly finished.

Fort Mahan: Repairing and enlarging the rifle-pits and constructing a new battery.

Battery Jameson: Repairing and improving parapet, rebuilding bomb-proofs and platforms.

Forts Lincoln, Thayer, Saratoga, Bunker Hill, and Slemmer: Repairing old revetment, parapets, and sodding; completing several batteries between these works.

Fort Totten: Repairing magazine, revetment, and parapet; sodding; building a part of the scarp wall with stone, and renewing abatis.

Forts Slocum and Stevens: Repairing parapets, grading glacis, and renewing abatis; clearing trees and completing batteries between the forts; constructing a battery and infantry parapet to left of Rock Creek bridge, back of military road.

Forts De Russy and Kearny: Repairing parapets and sodding.

Forts Reno, Bayard, Simmons, and Mansfield: Repairing and sodding parapets; completing batteries and forts, and laying abatis.

Fort Sumner: Repairing the parapets and magazines; constructing two traverses in Redoubt Davis. <ar91_286>

Two new batteries near canal: Constructing the batteries, one of which is finished and the other nearly done.

In nearly all of the forts new platforms were constructed after the report of the board of officers ordered to revise the armament. Great quantities of bushes have been cut in front of the works, and some woods and orchards felled in the neighborhoods of Forts Stevens, Slocum, and Mahan.

These works are, generally speaking, in good condition, so far as their interior arrangements are concerned, the principal defect being the want of good strong abatis around some of the forts. They have all been provided with abatis, but some of it is over three years old, and so rotten and broken as to be almost useless as a means of defense, and so dry as to be easily set on fire. The parapets of some of the forts have been sloped and sodded, but in many others this has not been done, and the slopes are more or less washed out of shape in consequence. Each fort is provided with at least one good dry magazine, and nearly all have bomb-proofs. In some of the forts, however, bomb-proofs have never been built, but it is proposed to construct them as soon as the completion of more important works on the line will permit.

The present length of the military road, with its branches, is about eighteen miles. It is in a passable condition, but needs repairs in some places.

The work remaining to be done is as follows:

Fort Foote: A battery on the bank of the river in rear of Fort Foote, to flank the water approach to that work, should be constructed, and a redoubt should be built on Rosier's Hill, which is the key of the position.

Fort Carroll requires a new magazine and bomb-proof.

Fort Stanton requires a battery and some rifle-pits to sweep the ravine in front.

Anacostia Bridge requires a block-house or other protection to the head of the bridge.

Fort Baker needs an additional bomb-proof; also a battery and covered way to sweep the ravine in front.

Fort Baker to Fort Mahan: This line requires additional defenses not yet determined.

Fort Mahan requires a bomb-proof and two new magazines.

Eastern Branch: Some defenses on the west bank are required to prevent the crossing of the stream and to flank the approach to Fort Mahan.

Fort Lincoln requires a new magazine; also counterscarp galleries to flank the ditches.

Forts Thayer, Saratoga, Bunker Hill, and Totten require new magazines.

Fort Slocum requires a new magazine and bomb-proof in the old fort.

Fort Stevens: Part of the abatis of this fort wants renewing, and a flanking battery or infantry parapet on the right of the fort would add greatly to its strength.

Forts De Russy, Kearny, Reno, Bayard, Simmons, and Mansfield are all in good condition.

Fort Sumner requires a new magazine in each redoubt; also a bomb-proof.

Battery Martin Scott and Chain-Bridge Battery require repairs.

Aqueduct Bridge: A small battery should be built to sweep this bridge. <ar91_287> In addition to the work detailed above, the greater number of the present forts require sodding; many require new abatis, revetment of breast-heights, and scarps.

The new magazines stated above as needed are to replace those first constructed, which were built of white pine boards and frame, in the quickest manner, when the earlier forts were being hastily thrown up. The boards of these buildings are now rotting out, causing leaks, which render the magazines unfit for the safe keeping of ammunition. They should be rebuilt in a more permanent manner of logs and oak boards.

Some of the forts have never been provided with bomb-proofs and filling-rooms, which are very necessary.


No proper military road has yet been constructed to connect the works over the Eastern Branch. Such a road is a very useful and essential part of the system of the defenses.

Again, that portion of the military road between Fort Stevens and Fort Lincoln was made more with a view of taking advantage of the existing roads of the country, for giving facilities in constructing the different works, than with a view of getting a military road under cover from an enemy, over which troops and artillery could move unseen and in security during an attack, and, as a consequence, the location of this road could be much improved.


The defenses of Washington consist of 60 forts, 93 batteries, and 35,711 yards of infantry covered way. There are emplacements provided for 1,447 guns. The present armament is 762 guns and 74 mortars.

Notwithstanding the great number of works, and their numerous artillery, we should be careful not to allow ourselves to assume either of these as a standard by which to estimate the security they give to the city. The works are passive, and of themselves have no strength, unless they are properly manned. The line of defense is some thirtyseven miles long, and to man such a line properly against the attack or investment of a powerful army will require a large force. In such case, the works stand for so many men, enabling a smaller force to resist a larger one. Up to this time, these defenses have done all that they have been called upon to do; have fulfilled the object for which they were built. It is our duty to see that they shall be enabled to withstand any possible attacks in the future.No one would have believed twelve months ago that within a year a large force of the enemy would encamp within sight of the Capitol, and that one of our forts would be seriously threatened. Yet it has been even so, and if that fort had not been built, or had been improperly constructed, there can be but little doubt but that the enemy would have taken possession of the seat of government.

Improbable as it may appear at the present time, it is the part of prudence to remember that history repeats itself, and that we should guard against such a contingency in the future. To do this effectually, we must keep the defenses in order. These being built of perishable materials, like a railroad, require constant repairs; old magazines require to be repaired or rebuilt; new bomb-proofs are required in many of the works; decayed revetments must be renewed; worn-out <ar91_288> gun platforms require renewal; decayed abatis must be replaced by new; the scarps require constant attention–they must all be sodded, or revetted with masonry before the works can assume a permanent character; all interior earthen slopes of traverses, magazines, bomb-proofs, camps, &c., should be sodded; besides, some additional redoubts and batteries should be built in order to render these already constructed more secure. For these objects, "To keep in repair and render more permanent the defenses of Washington," an appropriation of $500,000 for the fiscal year ending July 1,1866, will be required.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Lieutenant-Colonel and Aide-de-Camp.

ORA, I, 43, Part 2 (serial 91), 280-288.

Washington, May 1, 1865.

Brig. Gen. R. DELAFIELD,
Chief of Engineers:

SIR: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of the circular of the Department of the 29th ultimo, in reference to suspending operations on field fortifications and to collecting and preserving engineer <ar97_1064> property. As I suppose the time has now arrived when the policy of the Government in reference to the fortifications of this city should be settled, I take advantage of the occasion of this acknowledgment to ask for more detailed instructions than are contained in the general circular of the Department. I have always supposed that it will be the policy of the Government, even after the termination of the rebellion, to maintain the more important works of defense around this city. It seems to me after our experience during this rebellion that a wise foresight will not permit us to allow the seat of government to become again entirely defenseless. Besides this there will probably be a considerable body of troops hereafter stationed in or around this city, at least for some years to come, and, if so, the present forts will be the best place at which to post them. At present we have seventy-four inclosed forts and armed batteries around this city, each of which requires a garrison or at least a guard to protect it. This is a war establishment, entirely too large and expensive to be maintained in time of peace. Many of these forts and batteries must be abandoned, and if it be decided to maintain some of them the question arises how many and which forts shall be so maintained?

In order to a proper understanding of the subject, I will state that before the receipt of the circular of the Department, I had anticipated, to some extent at least, the orders of the Secretary of War and the instructions of the Department by suspending operations on all new works, and as far as practicable on all the old works of secondary importance, and since that time have confined operations to the more important forts standing on prominent points and commanding the approaches to the city.

To be specific, so that there may be no misunderstanding, I will add that my instructions contemplated the keeping up of twenty forts, ten on each side of the river, viz: North of the Potomac, Fort Carroll, Fort Stanton, Fort Baker, Fort Mahan, Fort Lincoln, Fort Totten, Fort Slocum, Fort Stevens, Fort Reno, and Fort Sumner. South of the Potomac, Fort Lyon, Fort Ellsworth, Fort Worth, Fort Ward, Fort Richardson, Fort McPherson, Fort Whipple, Fort Morton, Fort C. F. Smith, and Fort Ethan Allen. This list, as will be seen, does not include either Fort Foote or Battery Rodgers, the two water batteries for the defense of the river approach to the city, which I took for granted would be maintained. Such was my idea of what ought to be done before I received the circular of the Department, and such is still my opinion. Congress having made "specific appropriations for completing and rendering more permanent the defenses of Washington," it appears to me that, as it is not desirable to keep up all the works, we will be carrying out the intention of Congress in the best possible manner by "completing and rendering more permanent" the works which I have named.

In issuing the orders to which I have alluded I supposed that I had reduced the number of works to a minimum. Though there are twenty forts it may be said that there are only thirteen positions to be held by them, two of which, embracing Forts Lyon and Ellsworth, Worth, and Ward, cover Alexandria, and one, embracing Fort Ethan Allen, covers the Chain Bridge.

The question presented for consideration is one of policy. Does the Government wish any of the works now constituting the defenses of Washington to be maintained? If so, is it desirable that the number of these works should be reduced to a minimum? If these questions are answered in the affirmative then all necessary orders have already <ar97_1065> been given and I shall in future confine my operations to finishing the work already commenced at the forts above designated. Holding these we command most of the approaches to the city, and have the skeleton of a line of defense which can readily be built up again on the breaking out of a future war.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Lieut. Col., Aide-de-Camp, and Chief Engineer of Defenses.

ORA, I, 46, Part 3 (serial 97), 1063-65.

Washington, D.C., May 6, 1865.

Secretary of War, Washington, D.C.:

SIR: The defenses of Washington at this time consist of seventy-four inclosed forts and armed batteries, each having a guard or garrison, and armed with 905 guns of various calibers, with magazine stores with powder and fixed ammunition amounting to about 200 rounds per gun, or 181,000 rounds. This system of defensive works envelopes the city, navy-yard, Alexandria, and Georgetown, and was constructed against rebel enemies who could approach by land from north, south, east, and west, and is about thirty-two miles in extent. The necessity for this extensive system of temporary works no longer exists, and I recommend that fifty-one of these forts and inclosed batteries be at once dismantled, the artillery and stores of all kinds withdrawn, and deposited either in the remaining twenty-three forts or at the arsenals, stores, and depots under charge of the different military departments of the army. After disarming, dismantling, and withdrawing the stores, a guard should remain to protect the property from fire and injury, and measures taken to restore the grounds to the rightful owners. To this end it is advisable, as far as practicable, to liquidate claims on the Government for the uses and changes made to the property by conveying to the owners the right and title to the buildings and fixtures, of timber on the bomb-proofs, magazines, and stockades of the several works; which if unacceptable to the claimants in full satisfaction for the use of the ground, changes, alterations, and removal of fences, woods, trees, and all others made by the authorities of the United States, the same shall be removed and materials in part sold in such manner as shall be found most advantageous to the public interest, and the residue stored as may be useful for the military service elsewhere. The works to be retained for the present will be:

On the north of the Potomac: Fort Carroll, Fort Stanton, Fort Baker, Fort Mahan, Fort Lincoln, Fort Totten, Fort Slocum, Fort Stevens, Fort Reno, and Fort Sumner; and on the south of the Potomac: Fort Lyon and three redoubts, Fort Ellsworth, Fort Worth, Fort Ward, Fort Richardson, Fort McPherson, Fort Whipple, Fort Morton, Fort C. F. Smith, and Fort Ethan Allen. The two river forts, to wit, Fort Foote and Battery Rodgers, will also be retained for the present. These twenty-three retained forts and redoubts occupy and command thirteen positions or lines of approach by roads or cover the cities of Alexandria, Georgetown, and Washington; its navy-yard and arsenal, <ar97_1100> and the roads from the north, west, south, and east, At a later period, after the fifty-one works and all their connecting lines of intrenchments have been vacated and ground restored to the owners, some of the remaining twenty-three may probably be dismantled and the grounds in like manner restored to their proprietors.

The preceding recommendation is founded upon the consideration that a large garrison is necessary for some time to come, and in part to be permanently stationed in and about this city for the protection of the national executive authorities, its archives, its costly and extensive public buildings, vieing with any of those in Europe for magnificence, elegance of architecture, durability, and fitness for the intended purposes; and its naval establishment and extensive ordnance depots, the value and cost of which is millions of dollars, and the destruction of which would be a serious loss and prejudice to the public welfare. Not less than 10,000 men at the present time, it is believed, will be necessary under all considerations to be retained in and about the city, and the twenty-three retained forts are selected with the view of best protecting the public interests and providing quarters and other accommodations for such a garrison. It is also considered, in connection with holding these defenses and maintaining this garrison in and about Washington, that for the maintenance of law and order and the protection of the rights of the many millions of colored people in the late slave States, garrisons will have to be established for some time near Richmond, Raleigh, Columbia, Charleston, Macon, Atlanta, Nashville, and other points not now necessary to particularize, in sufficient force to quell instantly any violation of law or threatened disturbance of the public peace, by strong detachments ordered from these central garrisoned depots. Their selection should be in the most populous districts of colored inhabitants and on lines and routes of railroad and river (steam) communication. Twenty such garrisoned depots, of 5,000 men each, would insure and secure respect for and enforcement of the laws of the land and protection of the rights of individuals, while the Veteran Reserve Corps could effectually garrison our entire seaboard defenses on the Atlantic, Gulf, California, and lake coasts, thus calling for about 125,000 of the existing national forces to be selected and retained for a time from the existing heroic armies that have enforced law against traitors and saved the Union of the States as one and indivisible. With time and established acquiescence in the new order and economy of labor, this force of 125,000 men could be allowed gradually, by deaths and expiration of term of service, to fall to the strength that the wants of the nation might demand. The next great care of the nation should be the creation of a well-organized and efficient staff for every branch of the military service, which, with well-trained and instructed officers of the three arms, would insure the nation's vitality against internal discord and foreign insult or aggression. With such a disposition of the army it will be readily perceived that much of the material of construction now belonging to the United States and in existing temporary buildings can be made advantageously available, rather than selling them at a sacrifice. The cemeteries and one of the best permanent hospitals, as the Surgeon-General can best select, should constitute a part of the military establishment to be preserved.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

Brigadier-General and Chief of Engineers.

[First indorsement.]

MAY 8, 1865.

Referred to Lieutenant-General Grant for examination and report.

Secretary of War.

[Second indorsement.]


May 10, 1865.

Respectfully returned to the Secretary of War. The recommendations of the chief engineer as to works in the defensive line around Washington and Alexandria to be dismantled and the manner of doing it are approved. It is not practicable as yet to fix definitely the permanent garrisons for cities referred to in the rebellious States.


ORA, I, 46, Part 3 (serial 97), 1099-1101.

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