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Mr. Lincoln's Forts: A Guide to the Civil War Defenses of Washington Paperback – October 12, 2009
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At the start of the Civil War, federal troops constructed a ring of defensive fortifications around Washington, D.C. The forts saw limited military action, but many historians credit their deterring presence with saving the U.S. capital from a Confederate takeover. If the city wasn't impregnable, it was pretty close. This helpful book provides a full description of these forts--many of which have since been destroyed by farmers and suburban development. Several remain, however, such as Ft. Foote, Ft. Stevens, Ft. Ward, and Ft. Marcy (which became semi-famous in 1993 as the place where former White House deputy counsel Vincent Foster shot himself). Civil War buffs won't want to miss visiting these lesser-known but significant sites--and they won't want to miss this book, either. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
This is a very scholarly and beautifully made book that completely discusses all of the fortification defenses of Washington D.C. during our American Civil War.... Each individual fortification has a short history as to what has transpired from the day it was built up to today's protection by the United States National Park Service. These fortifications stand today as a real tribute to the ingenuity of the United States Army Engineers Corps in protecting Washington D.C. during our American Civil War. (The Lone Star)
This is a welcome contribution to the literature of the Civil War. . . . The thoroughness with which the authors treat the topic is truly impressive. . . . This volume is highly recommended for all libraries and individuals with an interest in the American Civil War. (American Reference Books Annual)
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I have read the book and am in the process of locating the sites. I am extremely happy with the results thus far.
BENJAMIN F. COOLING III AND WALTON H. OWEN II
THE SCARECROW PRESS, 2009
QUALITY SOFTCOVER, $50.00, 334 PAGES, APPENDICES, NOTES, BIBLIOGRAPHY, INDEX, PHOTOGRAPHS, MAPS, ILLUSTRATIONS
At the outbreak of The War Between The States, the U.S. Government faced many daunting problems, but the one closest to home was the situation and character of the national capital. Maryland had donated the ten-square-mile tract designated as the District of Columbia in the 1790s, when plans were made to move the capital to a Southern location. Still new and raw when the government moved operations there at the turn of the 19th Century, it remained more a plan than a realization even at mid-century. Aside from its unfinished appearance, the most striking feature about the city was its Southern character. Some feared, and others hoped, that the characteristics would translate into Southern sympathies. After the attack on Fort Sumter and Lincoln had called for volunteers, local militia was bolstered by the arrival of the 6th Massachusetts Infantry-the same regiment harassed by a Baltimore mob while changing trains in that city-but effectiveness was still low considering the capital's defensive requirements. Colonel Charles P. Stone (the first organizer of the capital's defenses) proposed to General Winfield Scott that if Washington were invaded he would defend the Capitol, the Patent Office, Post Office, and the Executive buildings, including the president's house. Scott insisted that the plan was too ambitious for the numbers at Stone's disposal. They could defend only Executive Square, said Scott, and they could only do that from the Treasury Building where a reliable water supply and stored food would allow the president and his cabinet to hole up indefinitely. Scott had a point. The city spanned a broad front across the point of the "V" formed by the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers, the latter sometimes called the Eastern Branch, and was easily approachable from a variety of directions. On the southwest, Long Bridge crossed the Potomac linking the Alexandria Road to Maryland Avenue; on the southeast, the Navy Yard Bridge crossed the Eastern Branch from Maryland. True, these could be defended with relative ease and even destroyed if necessary, but the wide arc of northern approaches was another matter. The railroad from Baltimore entered the city from the northeast, crossing the city limits at Boundary Street (currently Florida Avenue) to the railroad station three blocks north of the Capitol. The 7th Street Road headed straight north toward the Soldier's Home (a favorite retreat for Lincoln) and Silver Spring. Bridges across Rock Creek west of town linked the capital with Georgetown. Also above Georgetown there was Chain Bridge, which spanned the Potomac on the road from Harper's Ferry and Leesburg. When the rebellion wasn't crushed early, a strong fortress ring had to be developed to defend Washington, D.C. The new Union commander of the Army of the Potomac, General George B. McClellan, undertook the massive effort. The entire project would last four years. The forts built in the summer of 1861 were only temporary and had to be rebuilt because they were unsatisfactory. By the end of 1862, the fortress ring included fifty-three forts and twenty-two batteries with 643 guns and 75 mortars and, it is believed, required a 34,000-man garrison. From 1862 through 1864, the defenses south of Washington extended in an arc from Occoquan on the lower Potomac to Centerville, to the Falls of the Upper Potomac. The incessant guerrilla raids led by Colonel John S. Mosby made the U.S. War Department retain at least a full cavalry division with the Washington defenses, partly to ensure communications with the Army of the Potomac and partly to prevent any daring raids into the capital itself. The trees that surrounded Washington were rapidly felled to provide the heavy artillery with a clear field of fire. Every prominent point at intervals of 800-1,000 yards was crowned with a fully enclosed gun position. Infantry trenches with room for two ranks of riflemen ran between them. The defenses were so sited that reserves could be shuttled around behind the frontline, sheltered from enemy fire. Large-caliber rifled guns were positioned to engage likely sites for Confederate field guns should the Confederates attempt a concentrated bombardment of one sector. The heavy artillerymen taken away by Grant's Overland Campaign of 1864, more than made up for their spell in a quiet posting. These large, 12-company regiments bore the brunt of several assaults. The 1st Maine Heavy Artillery holds the distinction of suffering the most fatal casualties of any unit in one engagement during the war. Attacking a Confederate redoubt at Petersburg on June 18, 1864, the regiment sustained 210 dead. Second place in this grisly league was the 8th New York Heavy Artillery. They suffered 207 dead in their attack at Cold Harbor a week earlier. Prior to the end of the war in April, 1865, there were 68 completed enclosed forts and batteries with a total of 837 guns that formed an aggregate perimeter of 22,800 yards or 13 miles with emplacements for 1,210 guns. However, only 807 cannons and 98 mortars had been actually placed in these positions. In addition, 93 batteries for field guns had been prepared, but had not been armed; this gave a total of 401 replacements. Also, there were three blockhouses, excavated 35,711 yards or about 20 miles of rifle trenches, and 32 miles of military roads. The entire circuit of the fortifications extended for 37 miles. The Washington defenses were never seriously tested. Yet, although they absorbed thousands of troops and a considerable number of heavy guns, the forts and rifle trenches were a sound investment. The consequences of a victorious Confederate assault on the capital were incalculable. Although it would have been all but impossible for a Confederate army to have held Washington long, the political damage would have been tremendous, perhaps even fatal to the Union cause. MR. LINCOLN'S FORTS: A GUIDE TO THE CIVIL WAR DEFENSES OF WASHINGTON-NEW EDITION is a comprehensive account of the Union defenses that protected Washington, D.C. during The War Between The States. This well-researched and detailed text is supplemented by scores of remarkable photographs, technical drawings, and maps.
Lt. Colonel Robert A. Lynn, Florida Guard