Civil War Defenses of Washington
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Underbrush, Bushes and Vegetation

In the 1861 Army Regulations, with an Appendix containing the Changes and Laws Affecting Army Regulations and Articles of War to June 25, 1863, published in 1863, under "Care of Fortifications," Article IX, Number 42 stipulated that:

"All grassed surfaces, excepting the glacis, will be carefully and frequently mowed (except in dry weather), and the oftener the better, while growing rapidly–the grass never being allowed to be more than a few inches high. In order to cut the grass even and close, upon small slopes a light one-handed scythe should be used; and in mowing the steep slopes, the mower should stand on a light ladder resting against the slope, not upon the grass. Crops of hay may be cut on the glacis; or, if fenced, it may be used as pasture; otherwise it should be treated as other slopes of the fortification. On all the slopes, spots of dead grass will be cut out and replaced by fresh sods. All weeds will be eradicated. A very little labor, applied steadily and judiciously, will maintain the grassed surfaces, even of the largest of our forts, in good condition."

In addition, Number 43, on the same page prohibited "The burning of grass upon any portion of a fortification is strictly forbidden." War Department General Orders No. 42, February 2, 1864, in Article 20, stipulated that: "The grass-covered or sodded portions of the parapets, traverses, magazines, &c., should be occasionally watered in dry weather and the grass be kept closely cut." [46]

So, in April 1862, an inspection report showed that a hill, near Fort Mahan, commanded the inside of the fort and "was covered with trees and thick underbrush." Barnard, in September 1862, sent a memorandum to Frost, ordering that the heavy second growth should be cut immediately and to use bank scythes to do it. Later, in June 1863, in a memorandum to Colonel Haskins, Barnard suggested, "Commanding officers should be instructed to clear the bushes which have grown since the first cutting of the timber." And in June 1864, Barnard reported that he had "directed that one scythe with a stone be furnished to each fort on your line" so that "One man ought to cut all the grass on the slopes of any of our forts, even the largest, in three or four days and the scythes can then be used in cutting the grass and weeds from the slopes of the batteries and rifle pits between the forts." [47]

Actually, though, not much was said about the growth until the time of Early's Raid on Washington in July 1864. On July 5, 1864, the Department informed Colonel Haskins, commanding a division, that the Chief Engineer, Defenses of Washington, had reported " . . that brush is growing on the approaches to the works constituting your line in such quantities as to militate against the proper use of the means of defence given to them" and that he should begin removing it. On July 18, the Chief Engineer, Defenses of Washington, directed that the trees and bushes 'be cleared out of the ravines and from vicinity" of forts Dupont and Davis. On July 19, the major general commanding the Department, directed that " . . . "all men who can be spared from the garrisons of the works constituting the front, east, and south of the Eastern Branch, be employed in clearing the approaches of brush, &c., commencing on the crests, &c., where the enemy, in developing himself, would naturally establish sharpshooters and his skirmishers." The commanding general of the Department wrote Brigadier General G.A. De Russy, commanding a division, on July 28, asking him to inform these headquarters what " . . . progress has been made in clearing the approaches to the works on your line of brush, he desires also to know approximately the height of this brush." On the same day, M.D.Hardin, commanding a Division, ordered Colonel William H. Hayward, commanding the Second Brigade, to assign all the available force that could be spared "to cut brush" in his command area. Again on the same day, Hardin informed the Department:

"In reply to your communication of the 27th instant, I have the honor to report, from my observation of the line yesterday, that the brush in front of Forts Sumner, Mansfield, and Reno has been nearly cleared, although more work should be done on that front. On Rock Creek and in front of Fort DeRussy, and from Fort Slocum east to Fort Lincoln the brush is not cleared. A great amount of work remains to be done on that line. On account of the limited number of troops in this command it has been impossible to complete the work, although all my available force has been engaged on it. I most respectfully request 300 workmen, or as many as can be furnished, be sent at once to clear the brush now remaining, as above stated. The brush is from five to eight feet in height." [48]

At the end of July and into August, this activity continued. On July 31, Alexander reported that he had received a communication from Army Chief of Staff General Henry W. Halleck, to General U.S. Grant, in reference to the undergrowth of bushes springing up in front of our defensive works, and he reported to the Engineer Department that the Department of Washington issued an order on the subject, "but still the bushes do not come down as rapidly as they ought" . . . and remarked 'that scarcely any cutting has yet been done on the line over the Eastern Branch." On August 8, the Department commander directed an examination, on August 9, of the " . . . approaches to the works north of the Potomac. . . and report to these Head quarters the progress . . . made in clearing the brush away; also the probable time . . . to clear the approaches to a distance of one thousand yards from the parapet of the works." On the same day, he ordered General De Russy "to send out inspectors to examine progress of clearing brush on approaches from Corcoran to Willard," and they should specify the time to clear the whole front to a distance of 100 yards from the parapet, and their report should be received by August 9. [49]

For sometime afterwards, Alexander's reports of engineer operations, addressed the clearing of underbrush, bushes and other vegetation in the defenses. Alexander reported that in July 1864, "there has been a large amount of bushes and undergrowth cut and cleared from the front of the works, on both sides of the river." In his October 1864 report of engineer operations for the year ending September 30, 1864, Alexander wrote: "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." In January 1865, Alexander's force worked at cutting wood and brush in Eastern Branch swamps. Nearly the whole force, employed upon the North side of the Potomac River, in February 1865, completed work in clearing the brush from the Eastern Branch swamps. [50]


War Department General Orders No. 45, February 16, 1863, Regulations for the care of the Field works, and the Government of their Garrisons, pointed out the importance of sodding in Article 18:

"The garrison can greatly improve the work by sodding the superior (upper) slope of the parapet, and also the exterior or outer slope, or by sowing grass seed on the superior slope, first covering it with surface soil. The grass-covered or sodded portions of the parapets, traverses, magazines, &c., should be occasionally watered in dry weather, and the grass kept closely cut." [51]

But, maintenance and repair of sodding was continual and demanding. Barnard, in October 1863, informed the Secretary of War that the work outlined by the Commission was "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." In October 1864, Alexander reported that "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." Alexander also stated that because the works are "being built of perishable materials" they would "require constant repairs" pointing out that they "must all be sodded, or revetted with masonry before the works can assume a permanent character" and "all interior earthen slopes of traverses, magazines, bombproofs, camps, &c., should be sodded." [52]

On April 14, 1865, the Department informed Alexander that people were cutting sod in Virginia, on the property of a loyal man, Mr. Millard, for repair of Fort Foote. In November 1864, Captain George P. Thyng, commanding Fort Foote, received orders to furnish an officer and detachment of men for "daily duty in sodding." Engineer in Chief, Defenses South of the Potomac, A. Grant Childs, requested a detail of men from the various garrisons to commence, among other things, sodding, and more specifically to repair the sodded slopes on the forts to the right of Columbia Pike. Still later, in late May 1865, Alexander requested an increase in the detail for sodding at Fort Whipple to 100 men. [53]

Thus, the monthly reports of engineer operations in the Defenses of Washington, included much sodding work. In June 1864, men repaired the parapet and sodding at Fort Lincoln. In April 1865, laborers repaired the sodding of traverses and magazines at Fort Morton and repaired and sodded the magazine at Fort Cass. During the year ending September 30, 1864, Alexander reported that his work force had repaired the old revetment, parapets, and sodding at forts Lincoln, Thayer, Saratoga, Bunker Hill, and Slemmer; repaired the parapets and sodding at forts DeRussy and Kearny; and repaired and sodded the parapets at forts Reno, Bayard, Simmons, and Mansfield. At most of the works, a great deal of new protective sodding was completed. [54]

Ordnance and Artillery

In addition to the fortifications and the many structures and facilities around them, the guns, armament and associated materiel required maintenance, repair and alteration. Barnard, on October 6, 1862, reported that the defenses mounted "four hundred and forty-three guns." In December 1862, Barnard stated: "The total armament in the different works, at the date of this report, is six hundred and forty-three guns and seventy-five mortars " In October 1864, Lieutenant Colonel B.S. Alexander wrote, "The present armament is 762 guns and 74 mortars." The numbers of guns, ammunition and associated materiel were, therefore, immense. [55]

The guns in the Defenses of Washington ranged from 6-pounder field guns to 200-pounder Parrots. The armament included 24- and 32-pounder seacoast guns, 10- to 100-pounder Parrotts, 42-pounder James Rifle, 30-pounder rifles, 24-pounder flank defense howitzers, 24-pounder siege guns, and 24-pounder Coehorn mortars. Smaller guns included the 12-pounder Whitworth breechloading rifles, 12-pounder James rifle, 12-pounder heavy guns, 12-pounder mountain howitzers, 12-pounder field howitzers, 12-pounder light Napoleon field guns, 10-inch Siege Mortars; 8-inch siege howitzers, 8-inch seacoast howitzers, 6-pounder James guns, and the 4-inch rifles. Some forts had a wide range of guns meaning they required a variety of carriages or platforms and ammunition but one Artillery commander felt that three calibers of guns along with mortars, possibly making a total of five, was favored. [56]

Due to new requirements and mistakes, guns were transferred from one fortification to another. A Northern Virginia civilian, on November 27, 1862, observed: "Six heavy pieces of ordnance were taken up there [forts on the opposite hills] today." In September 1862, Colonel William B. Greene, Fourteenth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment, received an order from the Department directing him to remove a 30 pounder Parrott gun from Fort Craig to Fort DeKalb, to replace the same by one of the 24 pounders that had been left on the outside of Fort Corcoran and to put the other 24 pounder either into Fort De Kalb or Fort Woodbury. At the same time, Barnard instructed Mr. Frost, the civilian engineer, to transfer the "32 pdr looking to the right & near" "to the place of the 24 pdr on the other side" at Fort Barnard. On July 1, 1863, Colonel H.L. Abbott, First Connecticut Volunteer Heavy Artillery Regiment, reported that he had transferred the ". . . four 4-inch ordnance guns of our siege train remaining in park at Fort Ward to Ft Scott, as they will be of some service there, and are of no use in their former location." In January 1864, General W.F. Barry, Inspector of Artillery, transmitted to the Department of Washington the changes to be made in the armament of the fortifications promulgated by the Board of Officers, over which he presided, and approved by the War Department in December 1863, asking that General DeRussy and Lieutenant Colonel Haskins be directed to instruct the commanding officers of posts to pay special attention to the interchange ordered to be made and to make sure that for each gun, howitzer or mortar sent away or received, the proper carriages, implements, equipments and ammunition accompany it. Colonel Alexander, in January 1865, when "Referring again to the armament of the Block Houses," stated that "their embrasures were not made for heavy guns" and, therefore, the "boat howitzers" . . . 'now in place ought to be changed" to "12 pdr Napoleon's "or if they are unavailable, "any other field guns will answer the purpose." In the Spring, 1865, Colonel Alexander asked permission " . . . to remove the guns and ammunition from forts Haggerty and Bennett and by constructing platforms, and embrasures, to convert them into Batteries of field guns, to be armed when the emergency may require it." Much artillery materiel was transferred along with the guns, like in June 1864, when Colonel Haskins, commanding Haskins' division, directed that the necessary orders be issued "for transfer of the following surplus ordnance stores" from Battery Vermont to Fort Sumner: two 8-inch howitzers breechsights; 2 sponge buckets wood; 3-fuze mallets; 1-fuze plug reamer; 2-fuze setters (bronze); 45-fuze plugs (wood); 3 gunners quadrants (wood); 2 budge barrels. [57]

With the transfer of guns from one fortification to another, pertinent changes in the works were often necessary. In September 1862, Barnard informed Frost that at Fort Ward, the new seacoast platform was to be converted into a siege platform so arranged as to fire well to the left. Barnard, in October 1862, reported that "When these works were commenced, neither field nor siege guns could be obtained in any adequate numbers; hence the only resource was to arm them with sea-coast 24's and 32's from the arsenal" but " it is probable that many of these guns should be dismounted, and it is certain that a great many emplacements should be prepared for field & siege guns" meaning "that 200 platforms should be made, embrasures cut &c. for field & siege guns, which (earthwork included) is alone a very considerable work." In May 1863, Barnard told Gunnell that "At Fort Slocum the 2 24-pdr barbette guns on left face of old work must come down and siege platforms & embrasure be substituted" because "This face is the only one which will bring a cross fire to bear upon the heights immediately North of Fort Stevens." [58]

Such alterations and repairs continued throughout the war. In August 1863, Barnard instructed Childs that the "Embrasure to be made on flank of Fort Corcoran where the two 8" guns have been removed." General W.F. Barry, Inspector of Artillery, wrote Brigadier General De Russy, commanding the Defenses of Washington, South of Potomac, in late January 1864, suggesting that he inform Barnard what materials were required for the alteration of platforms and embrasures due to the change of armament recommended by the board of officers. Colonel Alexander Piper, commander of the Tenth New York Artillery Regiment, in March 1864, pleaded that Barnard's attention should be directed to the subject of new platforms and embrasures for his line because the ordnance already delivered is "useless otherwise." In July 1864, Gen. C.C. Augur, commanding the Department of Washington, informed General Henry W. Halleck, the Chief of Staff of the Army, that " . . . any material changes in the armament [in the Defenses of Washington] would require changes in the platforms or embrasures, involving considerable work, and be likely to produce confusion in the ammunition, besides introducing to the garrisons pieces with whose ranges they would be unacquainted." [59]

In July 1864, the Department asked Barnard to " . . send a competent officer to Fort Sumner to superintend the remounting of a hundred pounder Parrott Gun dismounted by firing yesterday" during Early's Raid on Washington. In August 1864, Major J.G. Benton, commanding the Washington Arsenal, proposed to send two working parties, in a few days, to repair 100 and 200 gun pounder platforms and the carriages of some of the flank defense howitzers in the forts around this city, and asked that commanders of the forts afford assistance in labor. Brigadier General M.D. Hardin, commanding a division, requested in September 1864, that Colonel Alexander send a man from his department to superintend the relaying of one siege platform at Fort Totten and one 10-inch Siege Mortar bed at Fort Sumner. [60]

The engineer workforce actually accomplished a great amount of this work. In July 1864, it repaired the revetment, platforms, embrasures etc. at Battery Wagner. It laid platforms at Fort Ethan Allen, cut 19 embrasures in the revetment and hewed 11 platform sleepers of which five were laid at Fort McPherson; took up the traverse circles at Fort Albany; removed platforms at Fort Worth, and mounted a 24-pounder at Fort Chaplin, in October 1864. In November 1864, it laid platforms at forts Ethan Allen, McPherson and Albany. In April 1865, it dismounted the barbette guns at Fort Thayer and prepared new platforms for siege guns. Work continued even in the Summer of 1865 as the workforce laid gun platforms and made embrasures at forts Worth and Ellsworth and raised the parapet of the right front bastion at the latter in June. In July, it laid platforms at forts Ethan Allen, C.F. Smith, Lyon and Ellsworth, removed platforms at Fort Strong and cut embrasures at Fort C.F. Smith. In August 1865, the workforce laid two gun platforms at Fort Reno and laid other gun platforms at retained forts south of the Potomac River, in August 1865. [61]

In October 1862, General W.F. Barry, Chief of Artillery, Defenses of Washington, recommended that a special order be issued directing the numbering of the guns in all the field-works constituting the Defenses of Washington: "The guns in each work to be numbered in a regular series from right to left as you enter the gateway. (And not from left to right as in the case in many instances now) and the numbers to be legibly painted either upon the breach of the gun in white paint or upon the interior slope of the parapet (if practicable) in black paint." So, in November 1863, Colonel Schrimer, commanding the 2nd Brigade and the Fifteenth New York Artillery Regiment, reported I have the honor to forward according to your request the outline sketch, of the Forts, under my command" pointing out that "The embrasures, are numbered from right to left and the Pieces at each Platform, now in position, are specified in Black Ink." The mounting of some of the guns was difficult and required special procedures so, in the spring of 1864, Alexander forwarded to the Chief of Engineers, Richard Delafield, photographs "showing the manner of mounting 15" guns by means of purchase falls" and a tracing showing the method used for mounting 200-pounder rifled guns at Battery Rodgers using the same principle for mounting the 15" gun by making the parts somewhat larger. Similarly, a circular issued by the First Brigade, De Russy's Division, on April 3, 1865, directed that "Commanding officers of Posts will at once repair the Targets belonging to their respective Forts and put them in condition for target practice."


During the war, the garrison of the Defenses of Washington changed in size, extent and composition. Likewise, the garrisons of the individual forts also changed in numbers and composition. Many troops served in the defenses of Washington for a while and then received orders to serve elsewhere. Thus, the Defenses of Washington seemed to experience frequent, if not continual, change. "Major General George B. McClellan, on October 18, 1861, directed Brigadier General J.G. Barnard, Engineer of the Defenses, and Brigadier General William F. Barry, Chief of Artillery, Army of the Potomac, to "determine the minimum strength of garrisons–artillery and infantry– required for the various works in and about Washington to satisfy the conditions of a good defense." Barnard and Barry sent a summary estimate to McClellan on the 22nd, and two days later they submitted their finalized report calling for a total of 33,795 including 11,045 total for the garrisons, based on "the rule, which experience showed to be satisfactory for the lines of Torres Vedras," of "Two men per running yard front covering line and one man per running yard of rear line, deducting spaces occupied by guns, and 22,750 reserves. Barnard submitted additional thoughts on the required garrisons of the Defenses of Washington on December 1, 1861; December 10, 1861; and January 13, 1862. [62]

In February 1862, the Army of the Potomac return showed 5,106 officers and men present in the field works and artillery about Washington, D.C. along with 160 officers and men present at Fort Washington but the total number in the Washington, D.C. area was 177,556. On March 8, 1862, President Lincoln's General War Order, No. 3., stipulated: ". . . no change of the base of operations of the Army of the Potomac shall be made without leaving in and about Washington such a force as in the opinion of the General-in-Chief and the commanders of all the army corps shall leave said city entirely secure." Brigadier General James Wadsworth, commander of the Military District of Washington, reported, on April 2, 1862, that the forces left in his command, when McClellan took the Army of the Potomac to the Peninsula, for the "defenses of Washington" was 15,335 infantry, 4,294 artillery and 848 cavalry totaling 19, 022 after subtracting those sick and in arrest and confinement but ". . . nearly all the force is new and imperfectly disciplined . . ." During the Peninsula Campaign in Virginia, correspondence between McClellan and the War Department and the President frequently concerned the Defenses of Washington and the number of men left behind to defend them; similar correspondence occurred between the Army of the Potomac commander and the War Department and the President during the Antietam and Gettysburg campaigns. [63]

The U.S. Army return, of June 30, 1862, showed 4,358 officers and men present for duty in the Defenses of Washington although the Army of Virginia, under the command of Major General John Pope, totaling 77,087, was in the vicinity. On August 31, 1862, the Defenses of Washington included 25,771 present. Major General N.P. Banks, commander of the Defenses of Washington, informed the Commander in Chief of the Army, Major General Henry W. Halleck, on September 11, 1862, that the Defenses of Washington comprised 15,515 officers and men "in garrison" with a total of 73,300 "Troops for the defense of Washington." The December 31, 1862, return of Major General Samuel P. Heintzelman, commanding the Military District of Washington, showed a total of 66,603 officers and men present for duty but a much smaller number of them were actually in and near the fortifications. [64]

As is evident from some of the numbers given above, tens of thousands of troops that were technically counted as part of the Defenses of Washington, did not serve in the fortifications but, theoretically, could do so if necessary. On January 26, 1863, Heintzelman wrote Halleck, stating "There does not appear to be much connection between the Army of the Potomac and the troops for the defenses of Washington," and asking ". . . cannot the defenses be made into a separate department with such limits as may be convenient." Thus, on March 31, 1863, Brigadier General J.G. Barnard submitted a tabular statement of, among other things, the garrisons "of the forts constituting the Defenses of Washington" as 10,305 artillery and 16,420 infantry for a total of "full garrisons for all the forts" as 26,725 men. He also included a statement addressing the required garrison for the defenses. The following extract from the "report of the commission ordered last autumn by the Secretary of War to report on the Defenses of Washington may be interesting:"

"The total infantry garrison required for their defense, computed at 2 men per yard of front perimeter, and 1 man per yard of rear perimeter of works, is about 25,000. The total number of artillerymen (to furnish three relief 's for each gun) required is about 9,000. It is seldom necessary to keep these infantry supports attached to the works. The artillerymen, whose training requires much time, having learned the disposition of the armament, and computed the distances of the ground over which attacks may be looked for, and the ranges and service of their guns, should not be changed; they should remain permanently in the forts." [65]

In his 1871 report, Barnard wrote "When Early marched on Washington in 1864 the defenses had been stripped of the disciplined and instructed artillery regiments (numbering about 18,000) which had constituted their garrison, and their places supplied by newly raised 100-day regiments, (Ohio National Guard,) insufficient in numbers and quite uninstructed. In a March 8, 1864 inspection report, ordered by the Secretary of War, Assistant Adjutant General James A. Hardie reported "Theoretically, the garrisons are not strong enough, in as much as they do not afford three relief 's of gunners and there are no reserves" and the numbers were 11,011 men for the garrisons south of the Potomac, comprising one division under Brigadier General Gustavus A. DeRussy with four brigades under colonels John C. Tidball, Thomas Tannatt, Henry L. Abbot and L. Schirmer; and 7,852 men, for the garrisons north of the Potomac, forming one division under Lieutenant Colonel Joseph A. Haskins, Aide de Camp, with three brigades under colonels Louis O. Morris, Augustus. A. Gibson and Alexander Piper, (Eastern Branch,) for a total of 18,863 men. On April 17, 1864, Henry W. Halleck, Army Chief of Staff, informed Lieutenant General U.S. Grant, Commander-in-chief of the U.S. Army, that the Defenses of Washington were garrisoned ". . . by 10 regiments and one battalion of heavy Artillery; effective force of about 14,000 or deducting regiment ordered for Burnside, about 13,000." Major General Samuel P. Heintzelman, Commander of the Department of Washington, on May 17, 1863, aptly spelled out the problems of stating numbers in the Defenses of Washington writing that "From the last morning report of the troops in the Defenses of Washington, dated May 10, 1863, the aggregate present amounts to 52,629" but, after deducting "those on special or other duty, sick, and in arrest or confinement, there are only 32,982," and of that number there are "the guards on the railroad from here to Baltimore, 1,530," the "Corps of Observation on this side of the Potomac, guarding the river as far as the Monocacy, 1,177," "[Major] General J. [ H ] Stahel's cavalry division, 3,739," and "the force under Brigadier General John J. Abercrombie, including the First Brigade of Pennsylvania Reserves, of 8,581," leaving under 18,000 men to actually man the defenses and perform related duty. That number generally remained the same until Early's Raid on Washington when the numbers swelled. [66]

Some of the troops that arrived in Washington to meet Early's Raid remained for a while but the numbers soon returned to those of pre-July. In December 1864, the Department of Washington return revealed a total of 29,741 officers and men present for duty with 13,165 staff and infantry, 4,215 cavalry, 14,207 artillery, and 76 men in a Signal Corps detachment. The February 1865 return for the Department of Washington showed a total present for duty of 28,347 comprising 12,365 artillery, 11,473 staff and infantry, 4,363 Cavalry, and 146 men in a Signal Corps detachment. But, with the war winding down and many troops falling back from the front, the April 1865 Department of Washington return showed a total of 68, 118 men present for duty. [67]

The numbers of troops stationed at the various forts, batteries and other fortifications in the Defenses of Washington also varied for a variety of reasons. Colonel Thomas D. Doubleday, commanding the Defenses of Washington, North of the Potomac, sent Lieutenant Colonel Peter Fritz, Jr., commanding the Ninety-Ninth Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, on April 16, 1862, directions for the care of works and armament under his charge instructing him that "Not less than twelve men should be stationed at any Fort and fifteen will be required for Fort Carroll and its redoubt." Army of the Potomac Assistant Adjutant-General, Brigadier General A. Seth Williams, notified Barnard on August 30, 1862, that General McClellan had learned " . . the forts on the east side of the Eastern Branch are garrisoned by but a single company each" but he " . . thinks they should be immediately occupied by garrisons commensurate with their armament and importance, and wishes you at once to call upon General Silas Casey for the troops necessary for that purpose." General Amiel W. Whipple, commanding a brigade in the Defenses of Washington, in May 1862, was so disturbed by the lack of troops in the forts that he requested authority from General James Wadsworth, department commander, " . . to recruit to the Maximum strength the regiments within this command." [68]

The size of a fortification also helped determine the number of troops assigned. In late August 1862, Major General George B. McClellan, Army of the Potomac commander, informed Barnard that one of his staff officers had reported that forts Thayer, Saratoga, Bunker Hill, Slemmer and Totten were garrisoned by "one small company" of the One Hundred and Twelfth Pennsylvania Volunteer infantry but they were all under marching orders that morning but he thought that instead of abandoning these works, " . . . they should be occupied with much larger garrisons . . ." On September 14, 1862, Barnard wrote Major General Nathaniel P. Banks, then commanding the Defenses of Washington, reporting that Fort Lyon was " . . . a very large work . . ." now garrisoned by three companies of the Third New York Artillery Battalion, numbering between 300 and 400 men, " . . requires a garrison of 1,400 men for defense, at a minimum estimate." [69]

But, ultimately, the exigencies of the war determined the number of troops assigned to each fort, battery, blockhouse or trench. In the late Summer of 1862, Barnard philosophically wrote: "My duties as the engineer do not permit me to keep myself informed as to the dispositions and changes of dispositions of troops, and I can only state the necessity [of the number of troops to garrison the defenses], without being able to say exactly how to meet it." Civil War correspondent Noah Brooks, in early July 1863, wrote from Washington: "These forts are now garrisoned by detachments of regiments . . . and it can thus be seen that the garrison in each must be quite small." In addition to the lack of sufficient troops, the quality, at times, left much to be desired as General Halleck reported, in April 1864, that of the effective force in the Defenses of Washington, "Very a few of the men have ever been under fire and one-third of them were raw recruits." [70]

Other Military Personnel

On February 2, 1864, War Department General Orders No. 42, regulations for the care of field-works and the government of their garrisons, stipulated in Article number 19: "No person not officially connected with the garrisons of the field-works will be allowed to enter them . . ." Certain exceptions were provided for in that those who were visiting the defenses on duty, or had passes "signed by competent authority" could enter. Besides actual garrisons of the fortifications and the troops officially assigned to the Defenses of Washington, that, at times, included Navy and Marine Corps personnel, other officers and men had duties that brought them into the fortifications also. [71]

Fortification construction, maintenance and repair required Engineer, Quartermaster, Ordnance and Signal Corps officers and men to visit the defenses. New recruits, before assignment to a unit; recovering convalescents; and imprisoned men and officers often worked in the defenses. Special ceremonies, military reviews, demonstrations and exhibitions brought officers and men into the defenses. Military courts- marital, inspections, investigations and the like, were additional reasons for visits by officers and men. [72]


Like non-garrison military personnel, civilians were generally excluded from the defenses but some, for various reasons, did enter them. Perhaps the most often seen civilian was the sutler, officially appointed for each post and regiment, according to Army Regulations. Located in the vicinity of the units' camps, the sutler legally sold food, clothing, tobacco, newspapers, razors, books, stationary, etc. and was generally the only source for such items unless the officers and men received a "pass" allowing them to leave the area. Article 29 of the 'Articles of War" provided that "No sutler shall be permitted to sell any kind of liquors or victuals, or to keep their houses or shops open for the entertainment of soldiers, after nine at night, or before the beating of reveille, or upon Sundays, during divine service or sermon, on the penalty of being dismissed from all future sutling." Some sutlers, who usually made good money, were also unscrupulous and, therefore, the Second Brigade, Defenses North of the Potomac, Defenses of Washington, in Special Orders No. 46, stipulated that "Sutlers will hereafter have a copy of the 29th Article of War posted in a conspicuous place in their stores." Liquor, purchased from the sutler, led to many ugly incidents and grave problems and was the cause of various incarcerations. But, ultimately, the sutler was an important, if not the only, source of a variety of necessities and extras. [73]

Many civilians, black and white, male and female, officially worked in the fortifications; some of these civilians were laborers, others were cooks or laundresses, and still others performed additional necessary functions. At times, these civilians even slept in the defenses or near them and ate their meals in the immediate area. Although their status was tenuous, these civilians were absolutely necessary for the preservation of the defenses and the health and spirit of the men. Additionally, civilians employed by the Engineer, Quartermaster, Ordnance, Signal Corps, and Commissary departments, at times, visited the fortifications while on duty. [74]

Wives, girlfriends and prostitutes visited the defenses, whether legal or not, at times. On June 2, 1863, the Second Brigade, Defenses North of the Potomac, ordered: "The wifes (sic) of Soldiers not performing the duties of laundresses beyond the allowances by regulations are hereby ordered to leave all Posts garrisoned or to be garrisoned in this command." A similar issuance, from the Second Pennsylvania Volunteer Heavy Artillery Regiment, First Brigade, Defenses North of the Potomac, stipulated: "Soldiers wives not now on duty as Laundresses will leave the garrisons" but "Those acting as cooks for officers alone [are] excepted." Girlfriends and prostitutes even served as laundresses or cooks or in some other capacity but their standing was even more tenuous that the wives. [75]

Newspaper reporters, photographers and illustrators were often observed in the area of the fortifications. Some had obtained official passes, but many others just took their chances in order to obtain a great illustration or story. Charles Moulton reported that on December 28, 1862: "An artist of one of the New York illustrated papers, Frank Leslie's probably, was here last week" sketching Camp Lyon, the new forts in the area and the scenery roundabout. A little over three months later, the officer of the day at Fort Albany observed D. Grover sketching the fort and the surrounding hills, ravines, etc. The sketch showed the guns, abatis, and contour of grounds in detail and when the "artist" was approached, he "secreted" his work. The artist was informed that if he wanted to get the sketch back, he would have to report to General Heintzelman, commander of the defenses. Most likely, the "artist" was a spy and never reported to Heintzelman. [76]

Almost anyone might show up in the Defenses of Washington. Charles Moulton noted that on April 5, 1863, a "genealogist" was visiting the different Massachusetts units in the Defenses of Washington practicing his trade. He was taking the name of each soldier, birth date, enlistment date, hometown, age, and names, including maiden surnames where appropriate, of the father, mother, grandmothers, grandfathers and earlier decedents if known. The genealogist had been at work for over a year, but had only gathered information from about 19 regiments so far due to the time involved. He hoped " . . . to form a record which will afford a great medium and render certain assistance to the soldier or his parents in procuring pensions, bounty, gratuities, etc., which might never be gotten otherwise." Moulton had furnished all the information he could but asked his parents for additional data. [77]

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Last Updated: 29-Oct-2004