Civil War Defenses of Washington
Historic Resource Study
NPS Logo


Individual Experiences

While constructing the fortifications in the Defenses of Washington some of the men and units had some interesting experiences. Elisha Hunt Rhodes reported that, on October 7, 1861, while erecting Fort Slocum, the digging unearthed "a bed of iron ore." While two hundred men of the One Hundred Twenty Seventh New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment "were detailed from the regiment to cut down trees in the front of Fort Ethan Allen to afford greater range for the guns of that fort," on September 24, 1862, "Private Tallman, of company A, was struck by a falling tree which he had been cutting and severely injured." A soldier in the Thirty Fourth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, on December 28, 1862, observed that "An artist of one of the New York illustrated papers, Frank Leslie's probably, was here last week, and took a sketch of Camp Lyon, the cluster of new forts and all the scenery round about, which will make a fine picture worth looking at." For the Second Pennsylvania Veteran Heavy Artillery Regiment, "hearing cannonading, and, at times, musketry, in the direction of Harper's Ferry, and later at points nearer, terminating on the 17th of September with the Battle of Antietam" stimulated "The rapid building of these earthworks." The author of the history of the Philadelphia Brigade wrote that:

"While at work on the trenches, on September 24th [1861], the troops had an opportunity of witnessing one of the uses of balloons in modern warfare. Four miles distant from Fort Ethan Allen, at a station called Falls Church, the Confederates had a considerable body of men. The United States forces at Arlington Heights sent up a captive balloon, and by means of signals directed the battery of Fort Allen how to range its rifled cannon on the camp of the enemy. After a few trials shells were thrown with precision, and the Confederates were discomfited by an unexpected foe." [73]

So much work on the fortifications was necessary that the published histories of the various regiments stationed in the Washington area commonly include statements such as "Fifteen hundred men are detailed from this brigade daily, to work on forts" [Fourteenth Vermont Regiment], "On March 3d the 127th and 144th N.Y. were sent on fatigue duty, which consisted in digging rifle pits near Fort Ward," and "At this time the regiment furnished, once in four days, one hundred and fifty men for picket duty, fifty daily to work on Fort Ellsworth, and twenty-five daily to cut trees and clear the ground for Fort Lyon" [Sixteenth New York Infantry Regiment]. The average number of enlisted men actually employed on the fortifications fluctuated by month as shown below:

December 1863375 enlisted men
March 18641022 enlisted men
June 1864895 enlisted men
July 1864580 enlisted men
September 1864696 enlisted men
November 1864385 enlisted men
January 1865108 enlisted men
February 186533 enlisted men
March 1865178 enlisted men
April 1865280 enlisted men
May 1865461 enlisted men
June 1865365 enlisted men

The numbers often varied between those employed north of the Potomac River and those employed south of the Potomac River:

South North
March 1864894128
June 1864675220
Sept. 186462769
Oct. 18643000
Dec. 186415580
Jan. 18651080
Feb. 1865330
April 186526812
May 186544615
June 1865230135[74]

Not Enough Workers

Barnard and Alexander pleaded numerous times for more of these men to work on the fortifications. On December 22, 1862, Barnard wrote, "Since I have reassumed charge of the Defenses of Washington, the history of my efforts to complete the Defenses of Washington on the south of the Potomac has been one continual demand for troops to work upon them, which have either not been furnished or furnished only to be taken away, without notice to me, by the time they got into position and acquired some little readiness in their work." On September 17, 1862, Barnard pleaded, "Can you give me a daily detail of 250 men between Forts Richardson & Barnard commencing tomorrow." Alexander, on December 21, 1862, asked for a permanent detail of enlisted men to work on projected fortifications until they are finished." The same day he wrote to Barnard, stating "I think it my duty to inform you that, except at Chain Bridge, we have now no force of enlisted men at work on the fortifications on the other side of the river." Later, in July 1864, Alexander pleaded "Can you not give us a detail of 500 men." [75]

On September 14, 1862, Barnard informed Major General Nathaniel P. Banks, commanding the Defenses of Washington, D.C., that "I need 400 men, at least (a daily detail), around Fort Lyon, and an equal number for work on lines between Forts Ward and Worth, and between Forts Worth and Lyon." In the Fall of 1862 Barnard submitted a requisition for working parties amounting to 3400 men for work along lines from Fort DeKalb to Fort Worth while Captain Henry L. Abbot forwarded another requisition for 1400 men. In September 1864, Alexander requested 600 "colored troops" from Major General Silas Casey, commanding the Provisional Brigade. [76]

The requests for troops were endless but an even greater problem was having a permanent or, at least, prolonged detail of men. In early November 1862 Barnard urged "we should have details permanently on the other side (besides that for Fort Lyon) of two or three thousand men" to complete the necessary work before the winter season. On December 21, 1862, Alexander requested a permanent detail of enlisted men to work on projected fortifications until they were finished and the next day Barnard concurred by endorsement. Barnard remarked, in mid-July 1863, "At Forts Whipple, Tillinghast, and Craig &c. where we are doing considerable carpentry it is desirable to have the details of Carpenters from the garrison as permanent as possible." Alexander, in May 1864, remarked that "The detail of Carpenters should be made permanent and should be exempt from all other duty." [77]

In requesting details of troops to work on the fortifications, Barnard and Alexander usually requested infantrymen for a variety of reasons including the fact that except when attacked, they did not have any other pressing duties unlike the artillery and cavalry. In June 1863, Alexander wrote that he had applied for men to complete work in the vicinity of Fort Thayer and "meant for you to send infantrymen." Barnard, in August 1863, remarked that he knew there wasn't an infantry force to do the work and he hesitated to request an artillery detail. Of course, artillery and cavalry troops did accomplish some of the fortification work and the Army Engineers were glad to have them assigned to the fortification work such as, on August 29, 1862, when Randolph B. Marcy, Chief of Staff of the Army of the Potomac, informed Barnard that he had ordered 300 men of the Twelfth Pennsylvania Cavalry Regiment to march to Washington and report to him for duty "as you may deem best." [78]

In an attempt to insure that there were troops available to do the fortification work, the Army Engineers attempted to influence their superiors to issue orders assigning the men to this work. In August 1863, Barnard was glad to be informed that four companies of troops had been ordered to the work at Rosiers Bluff (Fort Foote) as garrison and to assist in completing the work. In September 1864, Alexander received a copy of a Department of Washington order to Major General Silas Casey to furnish such fatigue details from colored troops as may be called for by Lt. Col. B.S. Alexander. Brigadier General C. Grover, on September 15, 1862, informed Barnard that "I am ordered to detail daily four hundred men to work under your direction on additional defences between forts Ward & Worth & Lyon." Barnard wrote the commander, Defenses of Washington, on February 19, 1863, remarking "I understand that you have recently ordered the brigades within our lines of defence on the other side of the river, and I suppose that it is your intention that these troops shall assist in completing these lines." Casey's Division, Defenses of Washington, South of the Potomac, reported on Nov. 24, 1862:

"In compliance with Circular of 21st inst. from your Head Quarters I have the honor to report that pursuant to General Orders No. 6 from your Hd Quarters the following details have been made from 1st Brigade, a detail of one hundred men per day for four days has been at work on roads from this camp to Alexandria, this work has been interrupted by the weather and is not yet finished. From 2nd Brigade a detail of fifty men per day for six days has been at work on roads from this camp to (South of Hunting Creek) to Alexandria and have put the road in good order. From 3rd Brigade, no regular detail could be sparred as every regt. In it but one were under orders to instruct and very heavy details were required for work on line of defences. The road from this camp to Fort Runyon is in pretty good order." [79]

The contents of two orders detailing troops to work on the fortifications follow:

Special Orders No. 6, Headquarters, Department of Washington, September 2, 1862

"At the request of Engineer Frost employed by Genl Barnard to supervise construction and maintenance of Defences of Washington South and West of the Potomac, Commanders of Infantry regiments of this command encamped between Four Mile Run and Hunting Creek will furnish details of men for Engineer work anywhere in the vicinity of their camps.

They are directed to make the details as large as practicable within the requirements of the Engineers.

By cmmd of MG McC

Signed JG Barnard (BG) Temporarily in command of Defenses of Washington [80]

Arlington, Va., May 24, 1864.

Brig. Gen. J. G. BARNARD:

GENERAL: I have the honor to inform you that I have complied with your request of the 16th instant, in regard to working parties on the fortifications in these defenses. Also, in compliance with your request of the 19th instant, I issued the following order, No. 76, from these headquarters:

Col. A. Piper, commanding Second Brigade, De Russy's division, will detail a guard sufficient to take charge of, say, 300 prisoners, detailed for work on the fortifications and roads within the limits of his brigade. This guard will be instructed by General Barnard at what hour the prisoners will be taken from the Camp of Distribution, and at what hour relieved.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

G.A.DE RUSSY, Brigadier-General of Volunteers. [81]

Indeed, many troops did report for fatigue duty on the fortifications. Brigadier General C. Grover wrote "am ready to furnish them 400 men daily, when, where and to whom shall they report." Col. M. Cogswell, commanding the Artillery Brigade, near Fort Corcoran, reported on January 23, 1863, that "In compliance with your instructions, I have the honor to report, that five officers, and four hundred men, this day reported to the Engineer officer, near the Red House." Col. Cogswell, on February 4, 1863, exclaimed:

"I have the honor to report that the detail for work on Fort McDowell is as follows:

From 14th Mass HA:      3. Lieutenants      5. Sergeants      12. Corporals      179. Privates

From 2d NY Arty      3. Lieutenants      3. Sergeants      8. Corporals      138. Privates"

[Cogswell to Potter, Feb 3, 1863, another letter filed with the one above]

"I have the honor to report the detail for men of this command at work on the fort styled Fort McDowell, furnished on the 2nd and 3rd insts.

The detail for yesterday was as follows:

From 2d NY Arty      180. Privates      8. Corporals      3. Sergeants      3. Lieutenants

From 14th Mass.      182. Privates      12. Corporals      5. Sergeants      3. Lieutenants

Feby 3rd From 14th Mass      178. Privates      12. Corporals      5. Sergeants      3. Lieutenants

No detail was made from the 2nd New York Artillery to day on account of the regiment being paid off." [82]

The commanders did not always comply with requests for troops to work on the fortifications. In May 1863, the commander of the Defenses South of the Potomac negatively replied to a request for troops to work on the fortifications. He stated that he could not furnish a detail from the Fourteenth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment to work on bombproof at Fort DeKalb, because the unit was required to guard Long Bridge.

On September 3, 1863, the commander of the Third Brigade, at Fort Baker, requested that Lt. Col. Haskin, in charge of the Defenses North of the Potomac, inform Barnard "the impossibility of complying with the Requisition for a detail of 300 men to work at Fort Mahan" because "The total enlisted men present at Fort Mahan is 234 of which 35 are reported sick." The Department of Washington replied to a request from Alexander for a fatigue party remarking that "garrisons are too small as they now are, it will be impracticable to furnish it." G.A. DeRussy, informed Alexander on November 19, 1864 that he was "unable to furnish the detail of 15 carpenters as requested." [83]

Even when troops did report as requested or ordered problems arose. Barnard informed Major General Heintzelmann on November 25, 1862 that two regiments, thought to be available, had been removed the week before, without notice. They had been from General Casey's command and were stationed near Fort Ward and the Columbia Turnpike for work upon the defenses. On September 27, 1862, Alexander reported that the superintendent of the new works, now being constructed between forts Pennsylvania and Alexandria, complained that the "soldiers engaged do not do their duty," and he "has never seen such indifference on part of officers or laziness on part of soldiers." On January 22, 1863, Col. M. Cogswell wrote "I have the honor to report that the detail for work at the Red House was not furnished on the 20th . . ." Civil Engineer Gunnell informed Alexander on October 28, 1862 that "the 17th Conn regiment is of no use for working on the forts . . ." [84]

Superintendent Douglass, in October 1862, reported to Alexander that on the past Monday only 400 men were at work on the rifle-pits and batteries at Chain Bridge and that "yesterday there were only 190 men at work on them." Engineer-in-Charge Childs informed Barnard on June 18, 1863 that at Fort Ethan Allen there was a detail of 30 men the day before with no officer in charge and but 13 men were working while the others sat in the ditch. Gunnell, in December 1862, reported that the One Hundred Thirteenth New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment was supposed to be working on the rifle-pits west of Fort Kearny, but of the 150 men that reported only 50 did any work." In June 1864, Lieutenant Fulkerson, in charge of the working party from Fort Worth, refused to work his men after 4 o'clock because he could not control them. He finally succeeded in coaxing his men to work until 5 o'clock, but did not make them return the tools to the tool box as instructed. [85]

There were further problems including an accident in November 1864 at Fort Runyon where one corporal was killed and several privates wounded, possibly due to the carelessness of the civil engineer in charge, A.J. Robbins.

Edward Frost, Civil Engineer, reported on November 19, 1862 "In answer to your inquiry today I have to state that yesterday morning there were two regiments detailed for fatigue duty by Genl Casey– the 107 Ohio and 143 Penna. Vols., but during the day they were withdrawn."

Superintendent Bennett informed Engineer in Charge A.G. Childs, on April 20, 1863:

"I have one soldier sixty two years old just convalescent as a guard for this camp. Please make application for a guard consisting of one commissioned officer and at least twenty five men. Or else allow me to direct this old man to return to his Regiment. The first night he reported for duty he staid in the camp alone and was nearly frightened to death by the rats. Since that time five carpenters stayed here and protected him. He may possibly be of some service to General Tyler but he is not of the slightest use here–only in our way." [86]

Of course, the troops had their own complaints. According to the Army Regulations, Paragraph 902, [both the 1861 and 1863 editions], troops were to receive extra duty pay when, among other things, they worked on fortifications. Although the men were working for Army Engineers, the Quartermaster actually disbursed the extra duty pay. Thus, for a variety of reasons, the Army was in arrears for paying the troops their extra duty pay. Captain A. Alberti, Fifth Michigan Volunteer Infantry Regiment, reported that two privates of Company K were employed as carpenters at Fort Lyon for 29 days in October and November 1861 but they had not received their extra duty pay as of October 1, 1862. In March 1863, Colonel Wells asked Lt. Col. Alexander for information as to how his men were to be paid their extra duty pay for work at Fort Lyon. [87]

Due to the demands upon them for fatigue parties to work on the fortifications, the various units suffered. In the Sixteenth New York State Volunteer Infantry Regiment, "The long hours of work, the constant vigil, and the low grounds on Hunting creek, produced much sickness, and numerous fatal cases of typhoid fever and long suffering, occurred during the Fall and Winter." On October 7, 1862, a brigade commander reported "Owing to the drain upon our numbers for fatigue duty on Fort Richardson, I do not propose having Brigade drills except on Sunday mornings until the strength of the regts is increased. The two regiments that do not furnish a fatigue party have Battalion drill at 3 pm daily Sats. And Sundays excepted." [88]

United States Colored Troop Workers

Black troops, designated United States Colored Troops, U.S.C.T., served in the Defenses of Washington. [89] The USCTs, however, did not generally garrison the fortifications in the Defenses of Washington but served in the Provisional Brigade, commanded by Silas M. Casey, encamped at Camp Casey. These troops did, at times, work as laborers, like many other Union units, on the Washington defenses. [90]

On September 15, 1864, the department commander directed that Casey furnish fatigue details as asked for by Alexander. Alexander, on September 18, 1864, specifically requested a detail of 600 men from Casey, with all their officers, to report to Engineer Camp Barnard. Superintendent Clark reported that 1700 colored troops were at Camp Casey , 800 of them unassigned and, therefore, should be able to do fatigue duty. In a June 23, 1863 letter to the chief of staff of the department, in regard to troops that could perform fatigue duty at Fort Thayer, Alexander wrote it "has occurred to me that the regiment of negroes now encamped in Anastolia Island might with perfect propriety be directed to perform it and the more particularly as they understand it well, many of the men in this regiment having left this very work to enlist in the service." [91]

Casey appeared reluctant to furnish troops for fatigue duty on the fortifications at times. On September 19, 1864, he remarked, "the regular garrison of Camp Casey, Va., consists of 343 men and they are constantly required for duty there. The others who may be at the Camp, are recruits in process of preparation for sending to the front. I have not enough officers to distribute the recruits." [92]

On September 14, 1864, the Department of Washington informed Alexander that 800 USCTs could be furnished him if necessary. The next day, then, the Department of Washington issued an order requiring Casey to furnish fatigue details from the USCTs as Alexander might request. Some USCTs, such as the Forty-Fifth U.S.C.T. did furnish fatigue details for fortification work at that time. [93]

Convalescents, Conscripts, Stragglers, Deserters and Prisoners as Workers

In addition to the men serving in the various U.S. Army units stationed in the defenses of Washington, other military personnel were available. Convalescents, conscripts, stragglers, deserters and prisoners were also encamped in the area and, in some instances, the Army Engineers used them in the construction of the fortifications in the defenses of Washington. Most of these men lived in camps near Alexandria. Cooling wrote:

"The second Camp Convalescent was located south of Fort Richardson in the valley . . . The camp replaced the infamous "Camp Misery" which was located on the slopes of Shuters Hill northeast of Fort Ellsworth near Alexandria. The camp was moved to this site and constructed in 1862." [94]

Robert McAllister described the first camp thusly:

"We moved to this place yesterday. It is right at Fort Ellsworth, overlooking Alexandria. It is a beautiful place at the outskirts of the town, and with a fine view. The cause of our coming here is that near here they have a large camp of about 15,000 troops–convalescents, recruits, paroled men, and stragglers. Some of them require guarding, which we are ordered to do. It will take about 100 men for guard duty. This detail is small compared to the detail we had that was so large we could not drill. Now we can have battalion drill. Otherwise, I would rather not have come here." [95]

Charle H. Moulton of the Thirty-fourth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment also described the first camp:

"The Convalescent and Straggler Camp which is located about half a mile out of Alexandria, when first established some three months since, occupied only a small space and has been constantly enlarging until now it covers an area of over 200 acres, for the accommodation of the convalescent when discharged from the Government hospitals, and as a rendezvous for stragglers until they can be returned to their regiments. Since the establishment of the camp, over 60,000 soldiers have been encamped there, who would otherwise have been straggling all over the country. On Friday last over 600 were dispatched to their regiments, and on Monday 400 more arrived to take the vacant places. The reason for gathering together of such an immense body of men is chiefly occasioned by the wholesale skedaddling from the army on the advance, which is increasing every day by the desertion of drafted soldiers. The sooner these men are pushed forward into an action so much the better, for they are incurring a heavy expense every-day, largely adding to the public expenditures." [96]

The author of the history of the Eleventh Regiment, Rhode Island Volunteers, described the second camp:

"The present camp is in a filthy condition, and a shame to those who have charge of it. The camp was originally located about two miles nearer Alexandria, in the region of what was called the Distributing Camp. When we took possession of Camp Metcalf they were located in the Green Valley. What was filthy before we went there, by the middle of February had become clean, and a very different affair from what it was when the government established it. It was under entirely different regulation. It grew rapidly from a small number to a moderate sized army, and what had been confusion soon became order and system."

"The government sent to this camp all stragglers, all detailed privates, all the men fit for duty at Camp Convalescent, and thence they were sent in large squads to their respective regiments. There were from five to eight thousand men then in the camp. The post was under the command of Capt. Upham. Contiguous to this camp was a camp of recruits, also under the commandant of that post.

Still nearer Alexandria, and distinct from the Distribution Camp, was the camp of paroled 'prisoners, containing not more than five or six hundred men; and we learned that somewhere between Camp Metcalf and Fairfax Seminary, was a convalescent horse camp, where horses that had been under medical treatment and were on the road to sound health, were treated to further rest and a fat pasture." [97]

Unfortunately, when the men from the Convalescent Camp worked on the fortifications, they rarely did good work. Superintendent Clark reported on October 19, 1863, that "Mr Hawkins reports that details of 212 men from the Convalescent Camp done the work of about 20 laborers. The officers informed him that their instructions were to bring the men out, not to make them work." Clark reported, on October 20, 1863, that the detail of 225 men from the Convalescent Camp wouldn't work and that the officers could not compel them to do so. On October 22, 1863, Alexander informed the Chief of Staff of the Department "You will perceive that Mr. Clark still says that the men from the Convalescent camp do not work properly." [98]

Alexander wrote Colonel E.S. Kellogg, the commander of the Convalescent Camp, in October 1863, asking him to take charge of the men to insure that they work. Kellogg declared he didn't "consider the source of the request (Alexander)of importance" and suggested that an order be issued by the Department. Exasperated, Alexander exclaimed "Some officer ought to see that these men do their duty, and there is no one who can so easily do it as Col. Kellogg." "If there is no authority to make these men work, they had better remain in their camp." [99]

Not only did the men from the Convalescent Camp not work, but they caused other problems. Alexander remarked that the convalescents great cry was Whisky and suggested that maybe they should receive 2 jiggers per day. Clark reported that they refused to work one day complaining of the quality of their rations. Barnard reported to the commander of the department that:

"On inspecting Fort Ellsworth yesterday I observed that the abattis has been much impaired by the chopping off of branches & indeed in some places had been carried off entirely. Capt. Langworthy, the Commanding Officer informs me that it was done by convalescents before he took command . . ." [100]

Actually, the convalescents' work improved considerably if a sufficient and competent guard, with good officers, accompanied them. Clark reported on November 6, 1863 that a small detail from the Convalescent Camp reported for work that day because the guard left about 3 a.m. "when there was a general stampede out of Camp." Alexander felt that "a competent officer should be placed in command with a guard strong enough to enforce his orders, and that he is instructed that it is his special duty to see that the men are kept at work." One soldier reminisced:

"Guard duty at Convalescent Camp began at once on Thursday, the 15th, and the men were on duty every other day, either at that camp, the new barracks, not then finished, or our own camp. The service was a heavy one, and the men began to see that there was work to be done more wearing than going to the front." [101]

Another type of worker on the Defenses of Washington was the conscript and substitute. As conscription began in 1863, conscripts and substitutes were sent off from hundreds of locations to ultimately join regiments. Centers for conscripts, to prepare them for their future duties and decide upon their ultimate assignments, sprang up in numerous locations including in the vicinity of the nation's capital. The Army authorities around Washington, D.C. sent these conscripts and substitutes to Camp Taylor in Northern Virginia. [102]

The Army Engineers employed conscripts and substitutes on various fortifications including Fort McPherson and Fort Lincoln. The Department of Washington ordered that the commander of the Rendezvous of Distribution "place in camp in or near the ravine between Forts Woodbury and Whipple tomorrow, July 18th all conscripts and substitutes now in your camp to answer requisitions from the Engineer department for working parties." The Commander was to provide a sufficiently strong guard "to control the occupants and prevent their escape." In September 1864, the Department informed Alexander that Camp Taylor was broken up and the conscripts and substitutes sent to their respective commands. [103]

Military prisoners were still another source of labor on the Defenses of Washington. The Army kept these prisoners, of various types, at Camp Distribution in Alexandria. These men had committed various crimes from desertion and murder to sleeping on duty or drunk and disorderly. A General Court-martial found Commissary Sergeant John Jarvis, Sixth Regiment, Veteran Reserve Corps, guilty of "Conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline" and sentenced him "to be reduced to the ranks, to be confined at hard labor on public fortifications for the period of 6 months, and to forfeit his monthly pay for the period of 4 months" and was ordered to be "sent under guard to Arlington House, Va and be delivered to BG DeRussy, Commanding Division, to labor on the fortifications of Washington." [104]

Superintendent Clark reported in mid-October 1863 that 175 prisoners in the charge of a lieutenant and 25 men were at work at Four Mile Run but "From their operations today I do not anticipate a rapid prosecution of the work." Civil Engineer A. Grant Childs informed Barnard, on August 1, 1863, that a number of prisoners were at work at Fort Ethan Allen "and that work is now progressing well." On November 5, 1863, Superintendent Clark reported that 44 deserters at Four Mile Run had "not done as well as usual. In November 1863, Superintendent Clark reported that a detail of 104 deserters, in the charge of Lt. Loomis of the Fourth Pennsylvania Reserves, had worked well. [105]

To obtain good work from the prisoners it was necessary to have a sufficient guard under the command of competent officers. This was much more true for the prisoners than for the convalescents, conscripts and substitutes,. Brigadier General G. A. De Russy reported on May 19, 1864 that it was "impossible" to furnish a guard for deserters because only one regiment was left in line between Fort Richardson and Battery Rodgers. But, on May 24, 1864, De Russy informed Barnard that he had issued Order No. 76 to "detail a guard sufficient to take charge of, say, 300 prisoners," to work on the fortifications. Testifying to the foregoing statements about guards, Private Bellard, in late 1862, wrote in his memoirs "We had now plenty of duty to perform in picket, campground, guarding parolled prisoners and in the trenches." [106]

For better control, one officer reported on September 5, 1863, that all the prisoners in the Defenses South of the Potomac were concentrated in one camp. In July 1864, under the threat of a Confederate attack, the Department ordered De Russy to collect "all the general prisoners in your command" and place "in camp or confined in such work as will be convenient access from the ground between Forts Woodbury and Whipple on which it is proposed to build a battery." Childs observed in early August 1863 that the Evening Star reported about "500 prisoners deserters &c have been sent to Genl De Russy to work on Fortifications." I would respectively suggest that this whole force be set at work to construct the covered way across the valley of four mile run." [107]

In 1864, Alexander received a December 21 Circular from the Engineer Department asking how many military convicts he could employ in the Defenses of Washington. On December 28, Alexander replied that he had no guards except those necessary to preserve order and guard against fire and, therefore, "I am convinced therefore that the defences of this city will not furnish suitable places upon which to work military convicts." Alexander continued:

"If I had a military organization as I ought to have on such a system of intrenchments say two or three regiments of Engineer troops, I would find no difficulty in working all the military convicts in the country unless the number should amount to several thousand, which I suppose can hardly be the case." [108]

Confederate Workers

In a few instances, Confederate deserters worked on the Defenses of Washington. In March 1864, Provost Marshal T. Ingraham suggested that three Confederate deserters, who had taken the oath of allegiance and desired employment on government works, could work on the defenses of Washington. On March 24, Ingraham forwarded six "rebel deserters" who desired employment on government works. The work and reliability of the Confederate deserters was not always good as demonstrated by James Dunn, an employ on the defenses, who, on a Saturday, procured a pass from the Provost Marshal near Fort Albany to visit the city to purchase clothing but did not return. [109]

Still other military personnel were available, at times, to work on the defenses of Washington. The last chapter discussed the U.S. Marines that garrisoned Fort Washington. On August 28, 1861, the Secretary of the Navy, Gideon Wells, ordered Commander Dahlgren to send 300 seamen to garrison Fort Ellsworth in Alexandria. Dahlgren dispatched 400 seamen aboard the steamboat Philadelphia to Alexandria that day. These sailors served at Fort Ellsworth until November 1861, at least, and worked on the fortifications. One author remarked that a complete frigate's crew was at Fort Ellsworth "and they have been spending the past two months in putting the fort in complete order, just as sailors do, sodding, and whitewashing everything and planting evergreens, until the inside of the works is the very picture of neatness . . ." On September 3, 1861, the Secretary of the Navy ordered Colonel John Harris, commanding the U.S. Marine Corps, to "Detail a guard of thirty marines in command of an officer to report to Commander Wainwright as part of the garrison of Fort Ellsworth under his command" and like the seamen, they also worked on the defenses. [110]

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

Last Updated: 29-Oct-2004