Civil War Defenses of Washington
Historic Resource Study
NPS Logo


Abandonment of the Fortifications

Following Confederate General Jubal A. Early's Raid on Washington, DC, the threat to the nation s capital diminished considerably. Many units formerly stationed at one of the forts in the Defenses of Washington found themselves in the field, most likely in the Army of the Potomac, and possibly converted from artillery to infantry. No additional Confederate invasions or attacks on the Defenses of Washington occurred. [1]

After the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia's surrender at Appomattox, VA, on April 9, 1865, the Defenses of Washington performed its last military function of the Civil War. In the midst of Washington's exuberant celebrations, "The chain of forts around the city, and batteries of field artillery between, made a ring of cannons around the city which were fired in rotation for several hours. The line of cannon salutes running round and round the other always proceeded in the same direction, so that it went round and round the circuit 20 to 30 miles." [2] But, at the same time, the War Department began planning the reduction of the U.S. Army including its size, activities, property, etc. Soon, the War Department issued General Orders No. 77, "For Reducing Expenses of the Military Establishment," April 28, 1865, that included the following pertinent passages:

I. That the chiefs of the respective bureaus of this Department proceed immediately to reduce the expenses of their respective departments to what is absolutely necessary, in view of an immediate reduction of the forces in the field and garrison and the speedy termination of hostilities, and that they severally make out statements of the reductions they deem practicable.

V. That the chief engineers stop work on all field fortifications and other works, except those for which specific appropriations have been made by Congress for completion, or that may be required for the proper protection of works in progress.

VII. The Adjutant-General of the Army will cause immediate returns to be made by all commanders in the field, garrisons, detachments, and posts of their respective forces, with a view to their immediate reduction.

VIII. The Quartermaster's, Subsistence. Ordnance, Engineer, and Provost-Marshal-General's departments will reduce the number of clerks and employes to that absolutely required for closing the business of their respective departments, and will without delay report to the Secretary of War the number required of each class or grade. The Surgeon-General will make similar reductions of medical officers, nurses, and attendants in his Bureau.

IX. The chiefs of the respective bureaus will immediately cause property returns to be made out of the public property in their charge, and a statement of the property in each that may be sold upon advertisement and public sale without prejudice to the service. [3]

The Engineer Bureau had already been considering end-of-the-war dispositions and had informed the commanding general of its intentions:

Washington, April 21, 1865

Brig. Gen. John A. Rawlins,
Chief of Staff Armies of the United States,
Headquarters General Grant, Washington, D.C.:

GENERAL: I have the honor to recommend to the lieutenant-general that instructions may be given to the generals of departments to confine the labor on temporary fieldworks to such as can be performed by the troops; to avoid all further expenditure in the employment of hired operatives and purchase of material, and to collect and preserve all tools and property appertaining to the engineer service, to the end that they be held for sale or transportation to depots hereafter to be designated, or held ready for immediate use when required; also the same instructions in relation to siege material and bridge trains. The chief engineer has caused property and funds to be forwarded to the engineer officers assigned to duty under the generals commanding in the field, which commanders are the judges of the necessity and expediency of constructing the works of offense and defense, as occasion may require. Hence, the chief engineer cannot with propriety interfere in suspending any of the works in progress, and therefore suggests that the lieutenant-general call the attention of the commanders in such localities as he may see fit to the subject now presented. In every department attention may probably be given at once to the collection of tools, property, and instruments, and great saving of treasure effected by early attention to this subject. It is also recommended that the department commanders require their engineer officers to keep on hand a specified supply of tools, &c., to meet any emergency, forwarding the residue to depots.

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

Brigadier-General and Chief Engineer U.S. Army [4]

And the Engineer Bureau then issued the following circular to all Engineer officers:

Engineer Department
Washington, April 29, 1865


In conformity with General Order No. 77. AGO, a copy of which is herewith enclosed, you will cause the same to be carried into effect without delay.

Your attention is to be given first, to suspending all unnecessary expenditures for services and material. No more work is to be done on any of the field fortifications by hired labor or purchased material.

You will then give your attention to the collection and preservation of all Engineer property, books, maps, plans, instruments and papers under your charge, and that of officers and others under your command, to the end that, the resources of the government shall be preserved and disposed of to insure the greatest economy with least possible expense.

In effecting this purpose you will request the Commanding General to furnish you with such store houses, means of transportation, service of troops, and store-keepers, as shall best secure the public interest.

As much of this property as may be needed for the use of the Army and Engineer service generally will be carefully preserved; the residue will be sold or otherwise disposed of, as shall hereafter be directed— the present purpose being to collect and preserve the property.

Richard Delafield,
General and Chief Engineer [5]

The War Department followed with another order in concert with the Engineer bureau's recommendations:


Washington, May 9, 1865.

Concerning engineer property and labor on fieldworks.

Army and department commanders will at once cause to be collected and stored, at convenient depots, all tools, siege material, bridge equipage, and other engineer property not absolutely needed for immediate service with troops, and have inventories of property so collected forwarded to the Chief Engineer of the Army, with recommendation for its disposal. The latter will give the necessary instructions.

All labor on construction and repairs of field-works should now be done by troops; hired labor will not, therefore, be so employed, unless specially authorized from these headquarters or the Engineer Department; and no further purchases of engineer material for field-works will be made without similar authority, except in cases of urgent necessity.

By order of the Secretary of War:

Assistant Adjutant-General. [6]

The Chief Engineer of the Defenses of Washington, Lieutenant Colonel Barton S. Alexander, had given considerable thought to what the end of the war would mean for the fortifications in his charge. On May 1, he wrote Chief Engineer. Richard Delafield:

"I had anticipated to some extent at least, the orders of the Secretary of War, and 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 [Potomac] 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 [Potomac] 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." [7]

Later, in the same report, Alexander wrote, "In issuing the orders to which I have alluded I supposed that I had reduced the number of works to a minimum." He then queried, "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 been given and I shall in future confine my operations to finishing the work already commenced at the forts above designated. Holding these [forts] we command most of the approaches to the city and have the skeleton of a line of defence which can be readily put up again on the breaking out of a future war." [8]

Elaborating on his ideas, Alexander sent the following memorandum to the commander of the Defenses of Washington, Major General Christopher C. Augur:

List of forts and batteries arranged in classes in the order of their relative importance.

Designation of works north of the Potomac (first class): Forts Foote, Carroll, Stanton, Baker, Mahan, Lincoln, and Battery Jameson, Forts Totten, Slocum, Stevens, Reno, and Battery Reno, Fort Sumner.

South of the Potomac (first class): Battery Rodgers, Forts Lyon, Ellsworth, Worth, Ward, Richardson, McPherson, Whipple, Morton, C. F. Smith, Ethan Allen.

It has been proposed to retain permanently the forts of the first class, as they occupy commanding positions, and if maintained will constitute the skeleton of a line of defense which may be easily built up again when circumstances require. It is difficult to say which of these forts is the-most important. They are arranged, therefore, in geographical position.

North of the Potomac (second class): Forts Greble, Meigs, fort on Kennedy's Hill, Forts Chaplin, Bunker Hill, De Russy, Kearny, Simmons and Mansfield (essentially one fort), Battery Cameron.

South of the Potomac (second class): Forts Willard, O'Rorke, Farnsworth, Weed, Barnard, Berry, Albany, Tillinghast, Strong, Marcy. The forts of this class are generally in good order, and would last many years without much expenditure of labor or money. They occupy positions which must be held when the city is threatened by a land attack. They are not so important, however, as the forts named in the first class.

North of the Potomac (third class): Forts Snyder, Ricketts, Wagner, Davis, Du Pont, circular fort, Fort Thayer, Battery Morris, Forts Saratoga, Slemmer, Batteries Smead, Russell, Forts Bayard, Gaines, Batteries Vermont, Martin Scott, Chain Bridge Battery, Batteries Kemble and Parrott.

South of the Potomac (third class): Fort Williams, Battery Garesche, Forts Reynolds, Scott, Runyon, Jackson, Craig, Cass, Woodbury, Corcoran, Bennett, Haggetty, two block-houses and battery in Hunting Creek Valley, one blockhouse on Leesburg turnpike, three block-houses on Aqueduct Bridge. This class embraces the works of least importance and should be first abandoned.

Lieutenant-Colonel and Aide-de-Camp, Chief Engineer of Defenses.

Washington, DC, May 10, 1865. [9]

The Chief Engineer of the Army, Richard Delafield, had given some additional thought to the disposition of the Defenses of Washington and he wrote the Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, on May 6, 1865, offering his views:

Engineer Department
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 time Potomac: Fort Lyon and three redoubts, Fort Ellsworth, Fort Worth, Fort Ward, Fort Richardson, Fort McPherson, Fort Whipple, Fort Morton, Fort C. F. Smith, ad 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 ad arsenal, 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 time 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...

Respectfully, your obedient servant,

Brigadier-General and Chief of Engineers [10]

Stanton read the report and referred it to the Commanding General of the Army, Major General U.S. Grant. On May 10, Grant wrote, "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. [11] The War Department then implemented the recommendations in the Special Orders No. 315, June 19, 1865, in the following section:

59. First. Upon the recommendation of the chief engineer, dated May 6, 1865, approved by the lieutenant-general, the major-general commanding the Department of Washington will at once give orders for the dismantling of the field-works, &c., constructed for the defense of Washington, with the following exceptions: 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 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; also the two river forts, Fort Foote and Battery Rodgers.

Second. He will see that the forts above named are properly armed, making such changes in their present armaments as may be required by the interests of the service.

Third. He will also see that the stores not required for those forts are properly stored and cared for, using temporarily such of the dismantled forts as may be required for those stores which cannot be properly cared for by the staff departments.

Fourth. Until Fort McPherson is so far completed as to be ready for its armament and garrison Forts Tillinghast and Craig, immediately in front of this position, will be maintained.

Fifth. The ground occupied by the defenses to be abandoned will be restored to their proprietors of loyal character, endeavors being first made to liquidate all claims for occupation and damage of every kind by transferring to them all the right and title to the buildings and fixtures of timber on the bombproofs, magazines, and stockades erected thereon. In the event that such arrangement is not made to liquidate the claims in full the buildings will be torn down and material transported to and used for construction of permanent defenses elsewhere, or sold, as may be found most advantageous. A sufficient guard will be, meantime, kept to protect the property from fire and injury. [12]

Reacting to this order, the U.S. Army's Department of Washington released its own issuance:


June 23, 1865.

I. Under instructions contained in Special Orders, No. 315, current series, War Department, Adjutant-General's Office, of June 19, 1865, the following field-works are announced as composing the defenses of Washington: North of Potomac—Fort Carroll, Fort Stanton, Fort Baker, Fort Mahan, Fort Lincoln, Fort Totten, Fort Slocum, Fort Stevens, Fort Reno, Fort Sumner, and Fort Foote; south of Potomac—Fort Lyon and Redoubts Weed, Farnsworth, and O'Rorke, Fort Ellsworth, Fort Worth, Fort Ward, Fort Richardson, Fort McPherson, Fort Whipple, Fort Morton, Fort C. F. Smith, Fort Ethan Allen, and Battery Rodgers. All other forts, batteries, and blockhouses of the defenses of Washington will be at once dismantled, excepting Fort Tillinghast and Fort Craig, which will be maintained until Fort McPherson, immediately in the rear of the positions occupied by them, is so far completed as to receive its armament.

II. Under instructions to be issued through the chief of artillery of the department, and chief engineer of the defenses, division commanders will dispose of all ordnance and ordnance stores belonging to the forts to be dismantled, ad make the necessary changes in the armament of the works to be retained.

II. Fort Greble (north of the Potomac) and Fort Corcoran (south of Potomac) will be used temporarily for the storage of such ordnance and ordnance stores as the chief of ordnance may designate.

IV. As soon as the artillery, ammunition, and other stores are removed from any fort, battery, or block house, the garrison thereof will be withdrawn, and only sufficient guard left to protect the property. This guard will remain until further orders from these headquarters.

V. Such property and material belonging to the Engineer Department within the forts to be dismantled, as in the opinion of the chief engineer of the defenses may be needed for the completion of the forts to be retained, or is of such nature as would render it liable to injury, or to be stolen, will be at once removed to the works where needed, or turned into the nearest engineer depot.

VI. The chief of artillery and chief engineer of the defenses will render, with as little delay as practicable, to these headquarters reports of their action taken under the provisions of this order, and schedule exhibiting proper strength of garrison for each work to be retained.

VII. The chief quartermaster, Department of Washington, will furnish the necessary transportation for execution of this order.

By command of Major-General Parke:

Chief of Staff and Assistant Adjutant-General. [13]

So, in May and June, most of those Army officers who were involved in the ultimate disposition of the Defenses of Washington concurred, but did not necessarily agree on the way in which to achieve their goal. On May 20, Alexander admonished the Chief Engineer that, "In making arrangements for carrying into effect the instructions of the Department . . . in respect to the defence of the city, I find that if I am not allowed to incur expenditures for materials or for pay of hired men, I shall be forced to cease operations entirely in a few days from this time." [14] Then, on May 22, Alexander asked "to be supplied with twenty thousand dollars. . . to be applied to the Intrenchments for the defence of Washington for the current month. This amount will be mainly for the payment of wages of workmen. . ." [15]

Delafield replied on May 26, informing Alexander "that unless other instructions are received from the War Department no changes can be made in the orders. . . in reference to the defensive works of this city, . . ." [16] Although Alexander, and possibly others, thought that the Defenses of Washington held a special status and required more than the other defenses around the country, the War Department had decided specifically what was necessary. The orders issued to Alexander were final.

Alexander reported that during his May 1865 operations, "The force of hired workmen, mechanics and laborers was greatly reduced during the last month." He stated that this force had averaged 163 hired men and 15 enlisted men for the defenses north of the Potomac and 190 hired men and 446 enlisted men for the defenses south of the Potomac. In June, the force averaged 18 hired men and 135 enlisted men for the defenses north of the Potomac and 20 hired men and 230 enlisted men for the defenses south of the Potomac. By September 1865, the force averaged one enlisted man and 9 hired men for the defenses north of the Potomac and 15 enlisted men and 12 hired men for the defenses south of the Potomac. [17]

During this time, the work force performed a variety of renovation tasks. Alexander, in June 1865, reported to the Chief Engineer that during May his workforce had accomplished the following work on the "retained forts": sloping and sodding parapets, banquette slopes and traverses at Fort Foote; putting a stockade in front of the magazine at Fort Stanton; revetting the passageway at Fort Meigs; removing the old counterscarp gallery and erecting a new one at Fort Lincoln; reinforcing the parapet at Fort Ethan Allen; roofing, flooring, shelving and ventilating the new magazines at Fort McPherson; and repairing the lunette at Fort Strong. In June, the workforce built a counterscarp gallery and covered it with earth at Fort Lincoln; constructed an entrance and gateway, built a parapet and gravelled the terreplein at Fort Ward; laid gun platforms, constructed embrasures, built a new stone magazine and removed the old magazine, and put up a pole revetment at Fort Worth; laid gun platforms, made embrasures, and raised the right front bastion's parapet at Fort Ellsworth; built a traverse at the right end of the bombproof at Fort Lyon; and constructed two filling rooms and covered them with earth at Battery Rodgers. Engineer work on the "retained forts" in July included: sodding the parapet slopes at forts Carroll, Stanton, Baker, Mahan, Totten, Slocum, Stevens, Sumner, Whipple and Battery Reno; repairing the bridge at Fort Greble; putting a balustrade in the bomb proof at Fort Ethan Allen; laying gun platforms at forts Lyon, Ellsworth, Ethan Allen and C.F. Smith; making embrasures at C. F. Smith; constructing stone magazines at forts Ethan Allen and Worth; and making and sodding banquettes at the gateway at Fort Ward. In August, the work included laying two gun platforms at Fort Reno; laying gun platforms at various "retained forts" South of the Potomac; sodding the parapet slopes at Fort Sumner; and constructing traverses and implement rooms at Battery Rodgers. Alexander reported no further work on the "retained forts" following the August work because the Engineers were not "to incur expenditures for hired labor" and "the Major General commanding the Department declined to furnish any large details of enlisted men." [18]

At those fortifications deemed expendable, the workforce removed pintle crosses, magazine lining, brass locks, hinges, and sandbags; dismantled buildings, dismounted artillery, and collected tools and other engineer property and hauled them to one of the four engineer camps. As time elapsed, the Army chose to maintain fewer and fewer of the forts necessitating the collection of even more engineer property. [19]

Given the great number and size of the fortifications in the Defenses of Washington, the work took some time to complete. But, on January 13, 1866, Alexander reported, ". . . I closed up my office here, as far as it is possible to close it, before leaving; that I have discharged every person connected with the defenses except . . . Wm. H. Dickman . . . all money in my hands appertaining to the defences has been deposited to the credit of the Treasurer of the United States, except the sum of $159.52/100 which has been retained to pay bills yet outstanding." [20] Then on July 14, 1866, from Boston, MA, he wrote, "I have this day closed my accounts for defences of Washington by depositing in the Treasury to credit of the Treasurer of the United States, the unexpended balance of funds received by me amounting to $582.67 the original certificate of which is respectively enclosed herewith." [21] With the Civil War over, the country had quickly abandoned the elaborate fortification system around its capital.

Disposition of the Fortifications

What happened to the fortifications after the war. The Army had owned the land on which some of the fortifications were built, such as at Battery Vermont, and purchased, in January 1864, the land encompassing Fort Whipple. But, private individuals owned most of the subject land. Delafield, therefore, in his May 6, 1865 report, wrote that measures should be "taken to restore the grounds to the rightful owners." [22]

Restoring the land was only part of the problem. Besides losing control of their land during the war, the owners had suffered additional financial loss because they were unable to cultivate their fields. Many had lost even more because the Army destroyed fence rails, trees, and other property for a variety of purposes from fueling a warm fire; to furnishing materials for constructing gabions, fascines and fraise used in the fortifications; to providing a field of fire for the artillery. [23]

Colonel John G. Barnard, Alexander's predecessor as Chief Engineer of the Defenses of Washington, aptly described the Army's use of the land on which it built the fortifications:

"The sites of the several works being determined upon, possession was at once taken, with little or no reference to the rights of the owners or the occupants of the lands—the stern law of "military necessity" and the magnitude of the public interests involved in the security of the nation's capital being paramount to every other consideration. In one case a church, and in several instances dwellings and other buildings were demolished, that the sites might be occupied by forts. Long lines of rifle-trenches and military roads were located and constructed where the principles of defense or the convenience of communication required them, without regard to the cultivated fields or orchards through which they might pass. In addition to the ground immediately occupied by the defensive works, the lands in front for a distance of two miles were cleared of standing timber. At this work alone there were employed in the autumn of 1862 details of troops numbering from 2,000 to 3,000 men for a period of several weeks. The timber so cut down was used, so far as it was found to be suitable, in the construction of the forts, or for abatis.

The injuries thus inflicted upon the citizens living along the lines, in the destruction and use of private property, were in the aggregate very considerable, and there were probably individual cases of extreme hardship; but, however much these evils might be deplored, they could not be avoided. No compensation for such damages or occupation of lands was made or promised, nor was it even practicable to make an estimate of their pecuniary amount. In some instances a statement of the number of acres denuded of timber, and a general description of its kind and quality, and in others of the number and kind of trees cutdown, was given to the owners, upon request being made therefor, as a supposed basis of future indemnity by the Government; but no general system of estimating damages was attempted." [24]

Some of the owners had already proffered claims for land occupation, use and damages. On December 15, 1862, B.T. Swart wrote that the Army had occupied his farm for Fort DeRussy, preventing him from cultivating his land to support his family, and felled his timber for buildings; he asked for rent and either permission to use his wood or receive recompense for it. Mrs. Mary Walker and L.E. Chittenden submitted claims for damages and rent of land occupied by Fort Slocum, Fort Reynolds, and some camps, in 1864. In late 1863, Mrs. James C. Dwyer submitted a claim for the use of her 70 acre farm, near "Tennally Town", for Fort Reno; as a result, she received $50.00 per month rent for her land from the date of first occupation till the Army abandoned it in 1866." Mr. P.J. Buckey had received $50.00 per annum for rent of land on which Fort Bayard was erected and Samuel Shoemaker had received $50.00 per month rent for land on which Fort Mansfield was located. [25]

Realizing the possibility of numerous future claims, Delafield proposed, "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." He considered the wood and other materials valuable enough to placate the owners. [26] The following notice appeared in the August 26, 1865 issue of The Army and Navy Journal:

"An opportunity has been afforded by the Government to owners of farms upon which forts have been erected, to receive the buildings and other property left in dismantling the works as compensation for the occupation of the land. A few have already accepted the offer, but as there still remains a large amount of invaluable property unaccepted, requiring guards for its protection, it is probable that the Government will shortly withdraw the offer, remove the buildings, &c., and leave the owners of lands the unpromising alternative of getting their claims for compensation through Congress." [27]

In spite of the value of wood and other materials at the forts, some owners, including Ellen J. King (Battery Parrott), Selby B. Scaggs (Fort Chaplin), Margaret B. Dangerfield (Battery Garesche) and Gilbert Vanderwerken (Fort Marcy), among others, refused to take the buildings and fixtures as full compensation for their use and damages claims. In these instances, Delafield admonished that ". . . 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." [28]

Responding to Delafield's decision or for some other reason, many owners changed their minds. By December 16, 1865, the Government had returned forts Marcy, Chaplin, Saratoga, Baker, Worth and Williams and batteries Cameron, Kemble, Garesche and Parrott to their owners with accompanying buildings and fixtures as compensation for occupation, use and damages. Each owner, in accepting the buildings and other property left in dismantling the works as just compensation for the occupation of the land, signed a statement similar to the following:

"This Witnesses

That Whereas the United States Occupied for Military Purposes a certain piece of land in the District of Columbia and erected thereon Battery Parrott, together with sundry buildings, and whereas upon determination this day of such occupancy the aforesaid buildings and improvements were by the United States granted to the owner of the land.

Now therefore I Ellen J. King, owner in fee simple of the land so occupied, for and in consideration of the sum of one dollar, the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged as well as in consideration of the buildings and improvements granted me as aforesaid, and by me accepted in full satisfaction for the use of said lands, do hereby release and quit claim forever all right, title, interest, and claim against the United States, to any damages that have accured or may hereafter accure to me by reason of the aforesaid military occupation of said land.

In witness thereof I have herewith set my hand and seal at Washington, D.C., this 28th day of October 1865.

(Signed) X [Ellen J. King] [29]

Actually, some of the owners, including Ellen J. King, did not pay much attention to what they had signed. In May 1874, King submitted a claim for rent of her land for Battery Parrott, and for rails, posts and timber removed by the troops. In 1875 and 1876, she received compensation from the Treasury Department for rent and removal of timber [30]

In certain instances, the Army felt that the accompanying buildings and fixtures were worth too much to turn over to the land owner and offered them money instead. To liquidate these valuable buildings and fixtures, the Army held auctions. In Alexander's accounts of auction sales during the week of December 9, 1865, he reported that he had received $1490 for the sale of abatis at five forts, a flagstaff, an implement house, the stockade in the rear of one fort, and timber, lumber &c. at three forts and "All other materials in Fort C.F. Smith." Specific winning bids were $65.00 for abatis at Fort Strong, $43.00 for the stockade in the rear of Fort C.F. Smith, and $605.00 for the timber, lumber, &c. inside of Fort Ethan Allen. [31]

Retained Fortifications

The Army retained some of the fortifications for military purposes. Fort Foote, MID, on the Potomac River, near Fort Washington, MID, served as a coastal fortification until 1878. The Army maintained Battery Rodgers, at Alexandria, VA, as a water battery on the Potomac river for a few years but budget cuts caused its abandonment. Fort Whipple, with its fortifications abandoned, became the home of a Signal School of Instruction for Army and Navy officers, established in 1869, and changed its name to Fort Myer in 1881. The Signal Corps also retained Forts Greble and Carroll, in Washington, DC, for a few years but soon abandoned them. Of all the forts, Fort Foote is the only one of the 68 forts in the Civil War Defenses of Washington system, which many considered the strongest defenses in the world when in use, that the Army maintained as a fortification for any period of time. [32]

Disposition of Related Property

The Army had constructed numerous roads during the Civil War to supply the fortifications in the Defenses of Washington, D.C. and to facilitate the movement of troops around, to, and from them; generally those military roads that aided the movement of traffic continued in use, as civilian roadways, including Military Road in Northwest Washington and in Arlington, VA, which today generally follow the routes of their original Civil War predecessors. [33] After Early's Raid on Washington, the Quartermaster General, Montgomery C. Meigs, took possession of 1.033 acres, for the Government, as the future Battle Ground National Cemetery, and Congress acquired title to the land in February 1867. [34] Other sites, mostly associated with Early's Raid, existed in private ownership for several years after the war. [35] Examples include the seventeen Confederate dead of Early's Raid buried beneath a Confederate monument at Grace Church, in Silver Spring, MD, and nearby, the Francis Preston Blair's mansion. These related sites and others are discussed in subsequent chapters.

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

Last Updated: 29-Oct-2004